The Government is under pressure to halt preparations for the badger cull after an e-petition launched by Queen guitarist Brian May forced a debate in the House of Commons.
The cull is due to start in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset within days. The RSPCA and the Badger Trust have called on the Government to delay giving shooters the green light until after MPs have debated the policy. The debate, which will last six hours, has been scheduled for Thursday next week.
Natural England, which has issued cull licences to two areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset, said last night that the cull could still begin before next week’s debate.
Agriculture Minister David Heath welcomed the debate. “This is such an important issue for both the farming industry and wildlife campaigners that I’m not surprised there’s a lot of demand for another parliamentary debate. It’s an opportunity to put right a lot of the misleading information I’ve seen recently from opponents of the cull,” he said.
The Government says that culling could reduce the spread of tuberculosis in cattle, a disease which is spread by badgers. Opponents say the impact of culling is minimal and could even increase the spread of the disease. 70 per cent of badgers in the cull areas will be killed if the policy goes ahead.
Although any parliamentary vote would not be legally binding, if a large number of MPs vote against the policy the Government would come under huge pressure to scrap the policy, which has already attracted the fury of animal welfare groups and large sections of the public. Gavin Grant, the chief executive of the RSPCA “This cull is a huge mistake and in persisting along this misguided path the Government is ignoring both science and the public – who could not have made their feelings clearer.”
Opposition to the cull has been spearhead by Queen guitarist Brian May, who launched the petition last month. The petition will be sponsored by five MPs, including former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, as well two Labour, one Liberal Democrat and a Conservative MP.
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