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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Minister jumps the gun on badger cull

I do not like being at odds with my party leader but sometimes it is inevitable. The Liberal Democrats are, after all a liberal party in which the individual views and opinions of members are respected and diversity encouraged.

That is why it has been possible to accomodate differing opinions within the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly group on the proposed badger cull in North Pembrokeshire. Those members representing the more rural areas have taken on board the views of many farmers, whilst others of us have looked at the evidence and taken a contrary view.

That process has been helped by the fact that the Welsh Liberal Democrats do not have a policy on this cull. Tackling bovine TB has been, up until now, an operational matter to be dealt with by Ministers in accordance with the best advice available. The fact that Ministers are now embarking on a scientifically-suspect trial that seems to belie the available evidence has changed that dynamic.

I was appalled therefore to see a press release that purported to speak on behalf of the party and backed the cull. This press release was not issued on behalf of the two Assembly Members for Powys, but on their behalf in their capacity as Leader and Rural Affairs Spokesperson. It also explicitly said in several places that the Welsh Liberal Democrats welcomed the decision to proceed with a cull. That is not true.

As a result Jenny Randerson and I, were forced to put out our own release disassociating ourselves from this statement. We had both voted against the cull and remain opposed to it. Our view is that the Rural Affairs Minister should not have given the go ahead for a cull of badgers in the North Pembrokeshire area whilst a judicial view of the decision is still pending.

The culling of badgers has been tried elsewhere and abandoned. Even the Republic of Ireland is considering abandoning its cull because, although a reduction in bTB rates in cattle has been evident, the rate of decline has been no better than in Northern Ireland where effective management of herds and control has also had an impact.

In England, on the basis of the same evidence available to our Minister, a decision has been taken not to have a cull. Why is it that two different Ministers can come to different conclusions when faced with the same facts?

The Minister should respect the judicial process and halt her preparations until the latest challenge is resolved.

Update: one of the blogging Plaid Cymru staffers suggests that because there is a disagreement within the Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Group then this means that we are no longer able to criticise similar disputes within Plaid. On matters that are not official Plaid Cymru policy he has a fair point. However, where there is official policy and leading members of the nationalist party take opposing views then that is a different matter.

That is clearly the case where the Leader of Plaid Cymru remains opposed to his party's official line on nuclear power, where high ranking party officers and elected Parliamentarians oppose decisions being taken by their own Ministers such as over St. Athan and where official Plaid Cymru policy on tuition fees is overridden once the party is in government and members cast out for complaining about it.

All of those are significant splits that involve departures from democratically agreed lines and are fair game for criticism.
"In England, on the basis of the same evidence available to our Minister, a decision has been taken not to have a cull. Why is it that two different Ministers can come to different conclusions when faced with the same facts?"

Maybe it's Our minister as you put it who is correct. But, being a Brit-Nat, you believe that the English wasy is always the correct way. It's called colonialism. I would much rather trust a Welsh Farmers daughter than some vegetarian NuLabourite of aristorcratic stock.
In the spirit of open debate, I along with most others I know directly or indirectly involved in rural matters, think you are wrong on this one, Peter.

Here's why:
A few points spring to mind:

Won't this effect the whole ecostructure in that area?

Are assembly members above the law proceeding with this course of action while a Judicial Review is taking place?
David, I know you disagree with me but the article you link to is hardly written by an objective source. In fact as an official for the Farmers Union of Wales he has an interest in distracting attention away from farmers' own culpability in the spread of this disease.

Anon 11.45am: I am not making an English- Welsh comparison. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that other Ministers have drawn different conclusions from the same evidence thus indicating that the evidence itself is not as overwhelming as it is being claimed.
anon 11.45 just remember the Gladiators of the Roman Empire were all Vegetarian , the graveyard of ephesus will back this as well as Roman historians, they were kept vegetarian for their aggression...anyway anyway
where i live not just sheep outnumber humans but bovines too quite considerably..the cull in N.pembs, w. carms and s.cered is an assault on the natural order...badgers have a right to exist and not be persecuted by a dimwit minister who cares little about the international standing and reputation of Wales.. as well as our native flora and fauna which is being increasingly marginalised by intensive agriculture
So the Lib Dems ARE allowed to have disagreements and Plaid aren't because a) you don't have a policy on Bovine TB , and b) you aren't in government. That's awfully selective and procedural on what should be matters of principle.
I have no problem with leading members of Plaid openly disagreeing with their Ministers or party policy, what I said was that such splits are fair game for criticism and much more serious than if they were arguing over an issue on which there is no official line.
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