Shooters armed with powerful rifles are out in the West Somerset countryside again, with the resumption of a badger cull that Labour says could cause more – not less – TB in cattle. As protestors begin renewed action against the killing, the Labour Party has made clear its continuing opposition.
Protestors who gathered in Williton tonight before going out on patrol said they were “more emotional and more angry” than they were last year, because this year’s cull is going ahead despite the verdict of experts that the trial last year was a failure.
They also said the government has made things easier for itself, with a reduced target for the number of badgers that need to be killed. But they believe policing of their protest will be more sensitive. Sara Palmer of Somerset Badger Patrol said they had been told representatives from the National Farmers Union would not be in the police control room this time round.
Re-Run of a Failed Experiment
Andy Lewis from West Somerset Labour Party went to meet the protesters. He said:
“The second year of the cull is an exercise in political face-saving, by Tory ministers who dare not admit that their policy has been proved to be wrong.
“People in West Somerset resent the fact that our area is being used for a re-run of a failed experiment. Last year’s cull did not succeed on its own terms. The number of badgers killed was below the target and shooting caused disruption to setts, risking the dispersal of badgers carrying TB. We face a difficult six weeks in West Somerset.”
Labour’s policy is clear and consistent. The shadow environment secretary, Maria Eagle, said:
“To get bovine TB under control we need to bring in stricter cattle control measures and prioritise badger and cattle vaccinations. The Tories have failed to explain why they’re pressing ahead with culls which have been shown to be ineffective, inhumane and risk making the problem worse.
“The badger culls have already been described as an ‘epic failure’ by the Chief Scientific Advisor to Natural England. To add insult to injury these culls are proceeding without any independent scientific oversight.”