The Government suffered an embarrassing defeat over its plans to cull badgers as MPs voted for the policy to be scrapped in a debate led by Green MP Caroline Lucas.
The Brighton Pavilion MP had tabled a motion calling on the Government to "stop the cull and implement a more sustainable and humane solution" of vaccinating against TB, and improved testing for the disease. MPs from all three main parties signed up to it, and a six-hour debate was granted by the Backbench Business Committee after more than 160,000 people (incl myself and many hundreds locally) put their names to an e-petition.
In the final non-binding vote yesterday, the majority of MPs backed the motion, with 147 voting for and only 28 against. Neil Carmichael our Stroud MP was one of those 28.
The Government confirmed last July that it would introduce a major cull of British badgers in an attempt to control the spread of bovine TB in cattle – despite a weight of scientific evidence exposing the method as ineffective. It announced on Tuesday that it planned to delay the cull pilot until 2013.
Caroline Lucas MP said: "This is a fantastic result for all of those who have campaigned tirelessly against the Government’s ill-judged, unscientific and deeply unpopular badger cull policy. Bovine TB is an incredibly serious problem which causes real hardship and distress for farmers, so it’s crucial that Ministers put in place the most effective evidence-based policy to tackle it. Scientists are queuing up to state categorically that badger culling is not the solution. We don't need any more trials or pilots when such a wealth of evidence already exists.
“The message to the Government from MPs and from the public is now clear: a postponement of the badger cull isn’t enough – this discredited policy must be stopped for good. Rather than cruel and ineffective mass culling, restrictions on cattle movement and contact between badgers and cattle should be given high priority, in addition to far greater efforts to introduce a vaccination programme and improve testing.”
Speaking in the debate, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said it was "completely essential" the Government continued with the cull. He told MPs he had "every intention that these culls go ahead. There will be time to prepare, there will be no hitches next year, we shall deliver this policy.”
A number of news outlets reported that the minister later walked out of the debate before time, exclaiming ‘I can’t stand any more of this’. See Caroline's comments here.