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MPs told: Owen Paterson is ‘playing politics’ with wildlife protection

Owen Paterson made no attempt to meet the Independent Expert Panel following the publication of their highly critical report into last year’s pilot badger culls, according to panel member Professor Tim Coulson.

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Owen Paterson made no attempt to meet the Independent Expert Panel following the publication of their highly critical report into last year’s pilot badger culls, according to panel member Professor Tim Coulson.

Speaking at meeting on Monday hosted by the Badger Trust & Care for the Wild  and attended by over 40 MPs, researchers and animal welfare organisations, Professor Coulson, a Professor of Zoology at Oxford University, said:  “It was clear from our contacts with senior DEFRA officials that Owen Paterson was very unhappy with our findings. It was a shame he did not meet with all members of the Independent Expert Panel to discuss our many recommendations on improving the effectiveness and humaneness of the culling operation.”

Responding to Professor Coulson’s comments, the Conservative MP Anne Main, who chaired the meeting, said she was surprised and disappointed that no meeting had taken place and would take up this issue with Owen Paterson.

She expressed the view that the farming lobby has considerable impact and that, sadly, badgers didn’t vote.  Anne felt strongly the Secretary of State should take on board the need for independent scrutiny and that she’d be writing to him stressing this point.

The St Albans MP said she wasn’t having a fight with Owen Paterson per se, rather she took issue with the policy, and, in particular was convinced by the persuasive scientific evidence against culling badgers. Anne said “having a badger cull is not about politics, it’s about science”.  She went to on to say that she has apprehensions that Mr Paterson does not recognise the huge level of public opposition and that there were Conservatives who had concerns about the scientific validity of the culling.

Responding to the concerns raised by Professor Tim Coulson and Anne Main MP, Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust and Policy Advisor to Care for the Wild, said:

“We have the strong support of a vast majority of the British public, leading scientists and MPs from all parties in taking this legal action. For too long the Government and the National Farmers’ Union have played the badger blame game to pursue a disastrous policy which has done huge damage to the reputation of DEFRA and the livestock farming industry. It’s time we stopped playing politics with our wildlife and brought this disastrous cruel badger cull policy to an end for good.

“The publication of a University of Warwick report on the spread of bovine TB in Nature Magazine last week confirms what charities such as the Badger Trust and Care for the Wild have been saying all along: our focus should be on cattle, not badgers, when it comes to reducing the spread of this disease.

“So to continue badger culling in Gloucestershire and Somerset this summer at all is outrageous, but with no independent monitoring for safety, effectiveness and humaneness it is a national disgrace. This is why, despite opposition from Owen Paterson, the Badger Trust has won the right to challenge this disastrous policy in the High Court.”

 

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