MPs have delivered another blow to the Government's controversial plan to cull thousands of badgers to prevent TB in cattle, voting against the policy by 147 votes to 28.
The parliamentary vote is not binding on the Government, but will be seized upon by animal welfare groups as evidence that both public and parliamentary opinion is against a cull.
A marathon five-hour backbench debate in the House of Commons was called after an e-petition launched by Queen guitarist Brian May attracted the signatures of more than 150,000 opponents of culling. 175 out of 650 MPs voted on the petition.
David Heath, the farming minister insisted that a cull was necessary to save the lives of thousands of cattle.
"If we don't take the strong action needed now, this disease could cost us £1billion over the next ten years," he said, after hours of debate between backbenchers from all parties.
Environment minister Owen Paterson walked out of the debate after 20 minutes. Labour MP Jamie Reed claimed on Twitter that he said "I can't stand any more of this" as he left. Mr Paterson later told his local newspaper, the Shropshire Star, that he had left for another meeting and "might have joked about the ill-informed comments on the other side." As Secretary of State Mr Paterson was not eligible to vote in the debate.
A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, which has vehemently opposed the cull alongside the RSPCA, the Badger Trust and a coalition of other animal welfare groups, said: "Today's overwhelming House of Common's vote against the badger cull means that the majority of MPs agree with scientists, animal welfare organisations and the general public, that the cull is wrong and would be ineffective on scientific, humanitarian and practical ground."
Earlier this week the cull was delayed until next summer after the Government said not enough badgers could be killed before the culling season ends in February.Reuse content