Saturday, 23 May 2015

Fox Hunting

I accept that the question of Hunting (of foxes and other mammals) is an emotive issue that provokes strong feels on both sides.

Let me state from the start that I married a farmer’s daughter, I have always had strong links to the local rural community and I am a passionate believer that our Cornish, traditional rural way of life is under attack from the metropolitan dominance in our country (this is not a party political statement, just a fact that most of the decisions made are heavily weighted towards our cities).  I will always seek to stand up for our local rural communities and protect our traditional Cornish way of life.

In my view the Hunting Act was one of the most terrible pieces of legislation passed under Tony Blair. It was a classic piece of class warfare voted through by people who have virtually no knowledge of rural communities and the issues we face. When it was debated in Parliament Labour MPs admitted that the ban was revenge for the miners - which just about sums up why Labour pushed it through. The fox was an afterthought, and there is no evidence at all that it is better off for this law.

The current position costs the taxpayer a small fortune in police and court time mainly due to malicious allegations being made by animal rights activists. Devon and Cornwall Police receive dozens of allegations which they have to investigate, but not a single hunt in the two counties has ever been convicted of illegal hunting.

Should there be a vote to repeal the Hunting Act my tendency would certainly be towards supporting our local rural communities many of which are directly involved in hunting and vote for repeal - I will not hide that fact. One of the reasons is that it is clear that, should Labour ever get back in power, they now have other rural activities in their sights such as shooting, which featured heavily in the Labour manifesto. We need to draw a line and stand up for rural countryside pursuits and not allow our way of life to be taken from us.

However I am not closed minded on this issue and I know that the hunts are not either. Getting rid of the Hunting Act need not mean there is no protection for wild mammals and my promise is that should there be a vote on the Hunting Act I will make sure that any decision I make will be as well informed as possible, and that I will listen to the views of local people on both sides of the issue before voting.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bovine TB and Badgers

I have been asked by a number of people to state my views on the badger cull.

My position is essentially quite straight forward in that I support our local farmers. During the election campaign I visited several of our local beef and dairy farms. The message from all of them was clear. TB in cattle is caused by badgers and the population of infected badgers needs to be controlled in order to eradicate this terrible disease.

I have also consulted with many local vets, scientists and DEFRA officials who all give me the same clear message.

TB in cattle is costing our local farming community hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. It is also a cause of significant stress and anxiety for farmers waiting for the regular tests and watching animals they have raised be destroyed.

In addition to this, as well as mature cattle, hundreds of new born calves are destroyed every week in Cornwall as it is not worth the risk of farmers raising them for beef due to the likelihood of the animals contracting TB.

Let me be clear, I do not want to see our badger population needlessly destroyed. But this is a choice between destroying a proportion of the badger population or continuing to see thousands of cattle needlessly destroyed every year with the knock on economic cost to our local agricultural community and economy.

Culling badgers by itself will not rid us of TB in cattle. But in my view it does need to be a part of a comprehensive programme for eradicating this disease. There are a number of examples around the World where TB in cattle has been controlled and in every case controlling the population of wildlife that carry the disease has been a significant part of the programme. In fact evidence from Australia and New Zealand shows that TB in cattle simply cannot be controlled without controlling the disease in wildlife which act as a reservoir for the disease. Vaccination will also have a part to play but as it does not cure already infected badgers will not solve this issue on its own. We also need to continue to control movements of cattle to isolate herds that have been infected.

Therefore I support our local farming community on this issue and support the culling of badgers as a part of an overall programme.  The government has stated its aim is to rid this country of this disease in the next 25 years.   

More information on DEFRA’s policy on Bovine TB can be found here