The RSPCA is delighted that a resounding majority of MPs of all parties today voted to scrap plans for badger culling. We now demand that the Government listens and acts on this loud and clear message from MPs, which reflects the strength of public feeling and scientific opinion on this issue.
The vote took place after a six-hour debate in the House of Commons and saw a majority of 147 MPs supporting good science, biosecurity and vaccination as the way forward in controlling bovine TB in cattle, rather than a cull. A mere 28 voted in favour of the cull.
The debate was prompted by a massive campaign and after a record number of more than 150,000 signatures were gathered against the cull in a Number 10 e-petition in just two weeks. It follows the news earlier this week that plans for a badger cull in Somerset and Gloucestershire, which had been due to start any day, had been put on hold.
Chief executive Gavin Grant said: “It is fantastic that MPs have voted in overwhelming numbers to scrap these foolish and cruel plans to cull badgers. Now the Government must listen to the voice of the house, of leading scientists and of the people and confine all ideas of a badger cull to the history books for the sake of badgers, cows, dairy farmers and rural communities alike.
“The Government’s temporary reprieve must now be made permanent. This vote must mark an end to all cull plans.
“Science, the public and MPs from all parties have said very clearly that a cull is no answer to bovine TB.
“The RSPCA stands ready to play a full part in working with farmers, land owners, the Government and conservationists to move forward rapidly and constructively to tackle this dire disease in cattle and wildlife. We must now drive forward to ensure that cattle vaccination is used, that badgers vaccinated, that the test which differentiates between vaccinated and infected cattle is approved and end the scourge of bovine TB in England.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of people who have contacted their MPs, signed petitions and became the compassionate voice of the animals that needed to be heard I’d also like to acknowledge not only the 147 MPS who voted to end the cull but also those many MPS who were unable to attend the vote today because of constituency commitments but who have also have pledged their support to stop the cull.”
Independent study into badger culling
More than 70% of badgers, most of them healthy, would have been killed in the two pilot zones and then across large areas of the countryside. This was despite an independent 10 year scientific study showing a cull would have been of little help to controlling TB in cattle and even suggested that it could make it worse in some areas.
The research, which was undertaken by the Independent Scientific Group, took nearly a decade, cost approximately £50 million and the lives of 11,000 badgers. It concluded ‘badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain’.
The Stop the Cull/Team Badger campaign has been pushing for the UK Government to follow the Welsh Government which, using the same scientific evidence as Defra, has begun a five-year vaccination program of badgers in Wales.
Campaigners have also called on the Government to implement a vaccination programme for badgers and cows, along with increased levels of testing, improved farm biosecurity and the introduction of stricter controls on the movement of cattle rather than culling 70% of the badger population, the vast majority of which are disease free. The RSPCA pledged to work with farmers and all those dealing with the challenge of bovine TB, working towards the rapid vaccination of badgers and approval of an appropriate vaccination for cattle.