Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Lots of love for our dumb chums as animal support splits along party lines split

 

Eloquently introducing the Commons debate on her call to end the “inhumane” (and so far notably unsuccessful) slaughter of badgers as a means of eradicating bovine TB, the Tory backbencher Anne Main remarked that this was “not an easy subject with feelings running high on both sides”. This was, to put it mildly, an understatement.

Something about the subject brings out the inner beast in some MPs. The Tory Bill Wiggin who owns, as well as in mid-speech rather resembles, a bull, appeared to be arguing on the bizarre grounds of inter-quadruped fairness.

“If we cull cattle, we should cull badgers. If we vaccinate badgers, we should vaccinate cattle…” he declared.

When Green MP Caroline Lucas protested that the science suggested different methods for different species, Wiggin charged.

“I am delighted that the Hon Lady is so completely and utterly wrong… We have seen the disease spread by the policies of people like her. She does not have cattle and she does not know what she is talking about.”

This worked both ways. After the Tory Simon Hart promoted the “intelligent view” that abandoning the cull just because it is “distasteful” does “not do badgers, cattle, farmers or taxpayers any favours”, Labour’s Paul Flynn charged back. Hart’s “contribution” should be judged, he said, by the fact that he had once been employed by the Countryside Alliance, and “was known in Wales for many years… as a main advocate of killing small animals for fun”.

While most MPs proclaimed indiscriminating love for what Wodehouse lumped together as “our dumb chums”, it was clear that the left were chummier with badgers, and that the right’s default position – with other exceptions as well as Ms Main – is with cows. The latter group’s frustration is compounded by badger peskiness. We learnt that some disobligingly “don’t go into traps; they are trap shy” and that “if they have to, they can swim” – knocking Government hopes that they would be corralled by the floods.

In a passionately pro-badger philippic, Labour’s Barry Sheerman cited John Clare’s affecting poem about the man-made torments inflicted on the furry creature before “he cackles, groans, and dies”. Farming minister George Eustice was largely unmoved.

But while the Badger Trust’s claim that today’s non-binding 219-1 vote in favour of Ms Main’s motion was a “huge disaster” for the cull may be optimistic, things – unlike in Clare’s poem – may be shifting the badgers’ way.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy