Neil Parish welcomes Government's decision on badger cull

Neil Parish welcomes the Government’s decision to go ahead with the badger cull and he cites the experience in Ireland where the Republic conducted a cull and the number of cases of bovine TB fell, yet in Northern Ireland the number of cases doubled over the same period.| Parliament TV

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): This debate has shown that the Secretary of State and the Minister have taken a brave decision to go for the cull, which is absolutely necessary. Farmers in my constituency and elsewhere in Devon feel that during 13 years of Labour Governments they were told that a vaccination was just over the hill. When Labour came to power, 6,000 cattle had TB, but when it left there were 30,000 with the disease. It is the duty of this Government to take action.Farmers in my constituency are at their wits’ end. There is hardly a cattle farmer in Devon who has not been touched by TB—either it is affecting them at the moment, or during several tests they have not been able to sell cattle because TB is in the herd. All the time, we are removing cattle from herds with TB. We are cleansing those herds of TB. We then turn those cattle into the fields where there are infected badgers. The Secretary of State said clearly how infectious those badgers are—they are giving the cattle TB, so we have to take action.A badger vaccine will not cure the infected badgers. Furthermore, the current vaccine has to be injected every year. That is not practical. The Opposition know that, but they will not face it. It is great shame that we cannot have cross-party support on the issue, because in the end the farmers cannot go on as they have been. Many of the cattle taken are heifers in the dairy herds, which provide much needed good food and dairy products. They are being slaughtered. The world has a population of 7 billion and rising—we need more food, but the Opposition did nothing to cure the disease during their period in office.We have said clearly that not only the badger cull is needed; there are strict provisions on cattle movements, and we will introduce even stricter ones. That is not popular with farmers, but they know that it is necessary provided the Government take the action to take out the infected wildlife.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is speaking with great knowledge. He mentioned the importance of cattle movement control. Does he accept that the shift of bovine TB to remote areas is a result of—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. It is up to Members speaking whether they give way or not, but those intervening, from whatever side of the House, should show self-restraint and make their interventions short. I call Neil Parish, who I presume has nearly ended.

Neil Parish: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not take any more interventions. I think that the hon. Lady was asking whether cattle spread disease to areas that were uninfected. Yes, they did to a degree. We have to tackle the disease in the hot-spot areas—where we have to cull—to make sure that cattle are not infected and that there is no chance of their being moved. We have to use every weapon available.The key thing is what happened in the Republic of Ireland. While the number of cases of TB in Northern Ireland doubled, the number in the Republic halved over the same period. What did the Irish do? They culled their badgers. We have to be sure that we do all the relevant things.Many of us are countrymen and countrywomen who would love to have the badger around. However, we want them to be healthy. We cannot leave diseased badgers in the field, to infect cattle and each other. Once we have reduced the number of badgers in those red-hot areas of TB, we will see a much healthier badger population. I also believe that we will not see as many badgers trying to mix with the cattle; there will not be the pressure on feed, which is paramount. We are not talking about a national cull of badgers. Our aim is not to exterminate badgers, but to cure cattle and badgers of TB and make sure that we have healthy food and livestock for our future.The farming community feels despair because of the years of inaction from the previous Government. The community is not divided as the shadow Secretary of State tried to claim earlier; it is very much united by the fact that the disease has to be eradicated. That can be done by using all the methods, including a cull.

Finally, I go back to the Republic of Ireland, where statistics show that herds are half as likely to be reinfected with TB in areas where badgers have been culled. The beauty of the system there is that it involves badgers to cattle and cattle to badgers. Farming practices in the Republic are very much the same as those in Northern Ireland, which shows that a controlled cull of infected badgers will work. The farming community is behind the cull and I believe that, when it is explained, the public will also understand that the issue is about disease control and healthy cattle and wildlife.| Hansard| Parliament TV