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.