Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 17:34 UK

MPs urge rethink on Welsh TB cull

A badger
Alun Michael says science contradicts the idea badgers spread TB in cattle

Nine MPs, eight of them Welsh Labour, want the Welsh Assembly Government to halt plans to cull badgers.

The MPs have tabled a Commons motion congratulating English Farming Minister Hilary Benn for refusing requests to cull badgers to tackle TB in cattle.

Their motion hopes Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones will "return to an evidence-based approach."

The assembly government said it did have an "evidence-based programme" and "based on the needs of Wales.

The assembly government is planning a pilot badger cull, but has yet to announce the area in which it will take place.

The MPs include former assembly leader Alun Michael, who said: "The evidence is the same for England and Wales."

Mr Michael, the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, who has been Westminster rural affairs minister and was the assembly leader between 1999 - 2000, said: "Wales has every right to take a different decision.

Alun Michael MP
All the evidence shows there's a danger of a cull probably making things worse
Alun Michael MP
"The problem is that the border is very long and porous and depending where a cull was taking place, you could disperse badgers across the border in a way that might help make things worse.

"All the evidence shows there's a danger of a cull probably making things worse by dispersing badgers and that's why a decision taken in Wales could have implications across the border and not just be bad for farmers in Wales but bad for farmers in England too."

He said the view that culling badgers would help reduced the spread of TB in cattle was very strongly held in the farming community.

He added: "It's difficult to shake that belief because it is so strongly held but the science of the evidence contradicts it.

"My plea is for really for [Elin Jones] to return to the science and the evidence because I think that will encourage her in the direction of not proceeding with the cull."

The other Welsh MPs to sign the motion are: Martyn Jones (Clwyd South), Hywel Francis (Aberavon), Madeleine Moon (Bridgend), Paul Flynn (Newport West), Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd), Don Touhig (Islwyn) and Chris Bryant (Rhondda). It is also signed by Conservative Worthing MP Peter Bottomley.

An assembly government spokesperson said Wales had an evidence-based programme of action to pursue the eradication of bovine TB "on all fronts" which was based on the needs of Wales.

She said: "It is a comprehensive programme which deals with cattle surveillance and control, change to the compensation regime, identifying and removing all on-farm sources of infection and supporting the development and trial of bovine TB vaccines."

Vice-president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, Brian Walters, said the MPs were "interfering" in a devolved issue.

"It's a devolved issue and the Welsh Assembly Government has democratically decided to go-ahead with the cull and received cross-party support," he said.

"I know the MPs represent Welsh constituencies, but if they want to influence the issue they should stand as an AM or lobby their local AMs."

He added that a decision not to press ahead with a cull in England was "disappointing".

Benn confirms TB cull rejection
07 Jul 08 |  Science/Nature
Report backs limited badger cull
27 Feb 08 |  Science/Nature

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