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8 July 2008

We must cull badgers

'I have sat with a farmer in my constituency who has been brought to his knees by Bovine TB and I do

By Daniel Kawczynski

As chairman of the all party Parliamentary group for dairy farmers I am devastated at the news on Bovine TB announced first by the BBC. Early reports claimed that on Monday 7 July the government would announce, as they did, that they intended to ignore official expert advice to have a limited cull of badgers and would not be issuing licenses for a cull.

Predictions across the country are that this year alone up to 40,500 cows will have to be slaughtered as a result of Bovine TB, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds to the taxpayer in compensation to farmers affected.

Many readers will know or have experienced firsthand the emotional stress and misery that this disease is bringing to our rural communities and the extraordinarily damaging effect it is having on our farmers’ livelihoods.

I have sat with a farmer in my constituency who has been brought to his knees by Bovine TB and I do not mind admitting that I cried for the first time in 20 years when I heard what had happened to him and his livelihood.

I will fight to the end to protect my farmers and feel so very angry about the Socialists’ total disregard for our farming community. Hilary Benn, Margaret Beckett and all the others have shown nothing but shallow platitudes to me and others whilst happily ignoring our deep concerns and wilfully taking no action to address the crisis.

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I am incensed that as usual we first had to hear this news from the BBC rather than from government itself. Yet another leak to the media shows the contempt that Defra Ministers have for us. I have tried to go through all appropriate channels to raise this issue with the government by securing numerous debates in the Commons on Bovine TB and asking many official parliamentary questions on the matter, all to no avail. I even raised the issue in a debate last month on food security, in a vain hope that at least one of the Defra ministers may have been listening, but alas, it seems they were incapable of doing so.

That is why we have no option but to go to the High Court to seek a judicial review over government inaction. To this end, I am urging the NFU to react to the government’s decision and go to the High Court to gain permission for judicial review. I believe they have a strong case.

The decision not to cull is totally unreasonable and is clearly within the grounds for judicial review under the head of irrationality. Doing nothing to protect cattle or badgers from the spread of bovine TB, after years of consultation, is not a reasonable outcome and, on this basis alone, I believe the government’s decision sufficiently passes the Wednesbury reasonableness test – a legal condition for judicial review on the ground of irrationality.

Beyond this, I would also argue that the government has neglected to listen to the views of the farming community and has been frightened into retreat by the anti-culling lobby. There is a premise in the English legal system whereby a government Minister must “not close his ears” to someone’s right to be heard, yet this is exactly what they have done. They have resisted calls from farmers for action to tackle this terrible disease and have refused to give valid reasons for doing so. They should not be permitted to make such an important decision purely on political grounds. Therefore, it is time for the judiciary to step in and ensure that the voices of all parties involved are fairly heard.

The government should be forced to revisit their decision on tackling the prevalence of bovine TB and make it based on the sound principles of science and common sense. I shall be approaching various business people and sympathetic organisations to secure the funding for such a review and will fight the Socialists through the Courts until our dairy farmers have justice.

Daniel Kawczynski is Conservative MP for Atcham and Shrewsbury

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