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Hail Hilary the Brave

July 2008

Cowardly MPs

Politicians usually crumple when pressurized by the mighty farmers’ unions. They got their own way in Wales with a proposed irrational cull of badgers. The science concludes overwhelmingly that culling does not work.

They slaughtered almost all the badgers in Ireland and Bovine TB has returned with a vengeance. The culls of 10,000 badgers in England produced little evidence of benefit and no evidence of long term benefits.


Yet this afternoon in the Commons, Conservative and Lib Dems MPs queued up to demand mass slaughter – all because they are too cowardly to confront the farmers. This is schoolboy politics – seeking a cheap headline by advocating a popular policy that they know will not work. Some hypocritically shed crocodile tears claiming that mass slaughter was meant kindly - for the benefit of the badgers.

I was fortunate to be called today to congratulate Hilary Benn the Brave. The main reason for the spread of Bovine TB is cattle movements. These peaked along with bovine TB levels when farmers were restocking after the Foot and Mouth epidemic. The best way to ensure that farmers behave responsibly is to treat them like every other business and make them pay their own insurance against losses. Forcing the taxpayer to cough up encourages irresponsibility. If they paid out of their own pockets they would pursue practical solutions.

Unnecessary cattle movements should be restricted. Markets could be replaced with video sales as they were in the Foot and Mouth epidemic. Farmers should not transport cattle to agricultural shows. Plus the search for an effective vaccine, cutting movements will reduce the risk.

Meanwhile, spare us the hand-wringing hypocrisy. MPs know that culling does not work.

I have tabled this well deserved bouquet to Hilary Benn.

That this House applauds the courageous decision of  the secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs to reject the irrational, evidence-free calls for the mass slaughter of badgers; notes that after a wholesale cull of badgers in the Irish Republic bovine TB levels are  higher there than in Northern Ireland where no cull took place; agrees with the Independent Scientific Group’s conclusion after a ten year study, that badger culling cannot meaningfully contribute to the future control of bovine TB; welcomes the Government’s search for an effective vaccine; calls on farmers to reduce unnecessary cattle movements that increase the risks of cattle to cattle infections and regrets the cheap populism of those who demand a cull of badgers that is likely to increase the spread of bovineTB.