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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MPs rock the boat

BBC's Good Morning Wales is reporting that an Early Day Motion signed by nine MPs, eight of them Welsh, has caused mild consternation at the Royal Welsh Show.

Alun Michael (Cardiff South and Penarth), Martyn Jones (Clwyd South), Hywel Francis (Aberavon), Madeleine Moon (Bridgend), Paul Flynn (Newport West), Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd), Don Touhig (Islwyn) and Chris Bryant (Rhondda) have all put their name to what is effectively a Parliamentary petition congratulating English Farming Minister Hilary Benn for refusing requests to cull badgers to tackle TB in cattle. Their motion hopes Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones will "return to an evidence-based approach" and abandon her proposed cull.

Given the vociferous nature of the support for this cull from Welsh Conservatives I was intriqued to see that the ninth signatory is the Conservative Worthing MP Peter Bottomley. There is still time for Liberal Democrat MPs to sign I am sure.

Those promoting this motion have a very good point: how can the science and the evidence lead to Hilary Benn ruling out a cull in England whilst the so-called 'evidence-based' Welsh Government believes that one is justified in Wales? Surely, that contradiction should be enough for Plaid's Rural Affairs Minister to pause and reflect on her decision. Alun Michael makes some excellent points when he says:

"The problem is that the border is very long and porous and depending where a cull was taking place, you could disperse badgers across the border in a way that might help make things worse.

"All the evidence shows there's a danger of a cull probably making things worse by dispersing badgers and that's why a decision taken in Wales could have implications across the border and not just be bad for farmers in Wales but bad for farmers in England too."

He said the view that culling badgers would help reduced the spread of TB in cattle was very strongly held in the farming community.

He added: "It's difficult to shake that belief because it is so strongly held but the science of the evidence contradicts it.

"My plea is for really for [Elin Jones] to return to the science and the evidence because I think that will encourage her in the direction of not proceeding with the cull."

Wales does of course have the right to take a different decision to England but we have the right to have the Minister justify her view on the basis of the evidence. All the reports I have seen indicates that a cull could make matters worse. The Minister needs to explain what evidence she has to the contrary that is not available to her counterpart in Westminster.
There is no evidence probably. This is just Plaid playing to the farming vote. The real question that should be asked is why we have a Minister for Agriculure in Wales when it plays such a small part in the Welsh economy.
Peter, you'll be thrilled to learn that Paul Holmes, Lib Dem MP for Chesterfied, has now signed the motion.
We don't have a minister for agriculture (or agriculure). We have a Minister for Rural Affairs.
You seem to be suggesting that as the respective ministers in Wales and England have reached different conclusions on the same evidence, the onus is on Elin to reconsider her stance. Surely there is an equal onus on the ministers in England to reconsider theirs. Or are you suggesting that England has primacy over Welsh decision making?
Peter i am dissapointed at your stance on this issue. I am aware that you were at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show yesterday and surely you spoke to farmers from the local area that have been effected by Bovine TB. As a farmer's wife, my husbands cattle have been infecetd and we were shut down for 18 months. All our stock are home bred and we don't buy cattle in. Yet they were infecetd with Bovine TB and we lost a large amount of our stock to this disease.
They are kept to a high degree of animal welfare.
If you speak to the farmers in Wlaes that have been effectd i am sure you would realise that they welcome Elin Jones planned cull of badgers.
Anon 3.14pm: The onus is on both Ministers but it is Elin Jones who has taken a decision that will lead to the slaughter of badgers not Hilary Benn. She says that the evidence backs up that decision and yet the actions of the UK Government indicates to the contrary as do other independent experts. The Independent Scientific Group in England carried out a ten year study, which included trials of badger culling. They concluded that culling could make no meaningful contribution to bovine TB control. Their research has been published in international, peer-reviewed journals and the authors had analysed in detail, every possible culling option before reaching their conclusion.

Anon 3.27pm: I have been consistent throughout this debate so you should not be surprised at what you read now. I am aware that Elin Jones' decision has widespread support amongst the farming community but that does not make it the right decision. I am convinced that a cull is a blind alley for Welsh farmers as was evidenced by what happened in Eire.
personally, I'd rather have the countryside full of badgers than the subsidy junkies called farmers that parasite off of the rest of us.

I recall that taxi drivers make more of a contribution to Wales' economy than those now who now come under the badge of 'rural affairs'.
how many badgers are there to cull in Cardiff South an Penarth, Islwyn and Rhondda?
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