Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lib Dem MP says public "appalled" at coalition policy on badger cull

A Westcountry Lib Dem MP has become the first in the region to publicly criticise government policy.

Torbay MP Adrian Sanders condemned the coalition's plans for a cull of badgers in the region to deal with the spread of TB, saying people would be "appalled" at the idea.

Such a move would be a “massive waste of public money”, Mr Sanders claimed.

And he pinned his hopes on a government u-turn after reports new Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman was blocking the policy – a claim denied by the minister.

A targeted cull of diseased badgers in the areas where bovine TB is at its worst was both Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy before the election.

Last year, 40,000 cattle were destroyed nationally as a result of the disease, with almost half in the South West region.

The coalition agreement, published last week, pledged: “As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis.”

On the same day a national newspaper claimed the policy was being “blocked” by Ms Spelman while she “reviews the scientific evidence”.

But at a press conference Ms Spelman insisted there was no change in stance, and warned “time has been lost in dealing with this issue” while Labour refused to sanction a cull.

The Western Morning News understands that officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have already begun drawing up plans for a cull in England, after the Welsh Assembly begins its own programme.

But Mr Sanders, Lib Dem deputy chief whip, said: “So many Torbay constituents are appalled by the idea of a badger cull; there is not enough scientific evidence that it would make any difference and any cull would simply be a massive waste of public money.”

“Culling badgers simply is not the right way forward.”

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