Since the government’s announcement last week that Derbyshire could be included as a site for badger culling, I’ve received hundreds of emails from constituents who are horrified at the prospect.
They are especially concerned as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has been running a badger vaccination programme in High Peak and surrounding areas for the last 4 years as part of a government-funded pilot scheme.
The value of the pilot would be completely lost if a badger cull happened in the area now.
I joined the vaccination team at dawn last summer to see for myself the work they put into the scheme – much of it by volunteers who give up their time for the 4.30am vaccinations of badgers caught in traps overnight.
A huge amount of time and work has gone in, which has continued this summer and I had already arranged to join them again next week.
But in spite of the efforts of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, there have been two cases of Bovine TB in High Peak in the last few months and several more on our borders.
The interactive map of TB cases shows the disease spreading northwards , with 44 cases around the south of the Peak District National Park and more than 200 in Cheshire.
This is immensely worrying for farmers, who see their cattle destroyed and are unable to trade, risking their livelihood..
I met with members of the local NFU recently who want to be able to use all available methods if necessary, including culling badgers, to halt the spread of TB.
It’s impossible not to sympathise with farmers in this predicament, or as an animal lover to be concerned for the cattle affected.
But the badger cull in other areas hasn’t been effective in halting TB. There are still many cases in those areas and we are seeing it spread faster than ever.
Badger culling is both cruel and hugely expensive, but has had little measurable impact. Badgers aren’t tested for TB before or after their death.
That’s why the Labour Party would end the cull, but also reinstate the expert panel on Bovine TB policy that the Conservative government abolished. Labour would invest in more effective controls discussed at an official conference last month, including more testing and bio security.
There is much more that can be done without resorting to culling badgers indiscriminately and I’m calling on the government to do so.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has led the way in England with volunteers vaccinating badgers. I have invited the new Secretary of State for the Environment to join me at next week’s dawn vaccination and I hope she will come to understand the importance of the project and protect Derbyshire’s badgers.