Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Foster Watch #4 - Don's Revised Opinion on the Badger Cull

is a new series of posts following Bath MP Foster, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Details of Don's voting record can be found at http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?id=uk.org.publicwhip/member/40062&showall=yes#divisions

Don's Revised Opinion on the Badger Cull
Foster Watch has been forwarded two separate e-mails from Don Foster, one from March this year, when he appeared to be against the cull, and one from this week,a reponse from Don to one of his concerned constituents who wrote to him asking why he voted for the badger cull last week:

Don's position in March 2013:

"Dear XXXX

Thank you for getting in touch about the proposed badger cull.

I fully recognise the sensitive nature of this issue. As you can, imagine many of my constituents have contacted me regarding the cull over recent months, and I take their concerns very seriously.

I have written to the Environment Minister a number of times to highlight the strong misgivings my constituents have about the cull, especially regarding the scientific evidence for its efficacy.

I have always had reservations about a cull, and gained permission to abstain from the vote had it gone ahead late last year. I would have been unable to vote against due to my role as a minister.

Like you, I was very disappointed to learn that 3 pilot culls are now due to go ahead following initial postponement. While it is now seems likely that these culls will now go ahead, I will continue to urge that a sustainable strategy to eradicate bovine TB is pursued.

With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,

And Don's position in June 2013: 

"Dear XXXX 
Many thanks for your email.
I recognise that the proposed badger cull is an emotive issue, and I appreciate that you, like so many of my constituents, feel passionately about this subject.

My party has long supported animal welfare and I previously have expressed my concerns about the cull. The idea of culling even a single badger is naturally deeply distressing; however, as a Government we have decided that we cannot stand by and do nothing to help the cattle which become infected by bovine TB every year. During last year alone, 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England as a bovine TB control measure. It is a trend that cannot be allowed to continue.

The planned badger cull that is due to take place this summer is a trial only, and is designed to have a positive impact on the spread of bovine TB. Any decision to extend the cull to other parts of England will be wholly dependent upon the successful outcomes of the two pilot areas. Crucially, I now believe that results of the trials will help inform the scientific debate around the efficacy of a wider cull. Despite my initial concerns, I have been comforted by the fact that the British Veterinary Association believe that a trial cull is required in the fight against bovine TB.

Notwithstanding, I maintain that we need to consider all the current tools available to us to halt the spread of bovine TB and it is reassuring that the Government is equally aware of the need to apply other control measures alongside these cull trials. That is why from 1st January 2013, better controls on cattle movements as part of a new bovine TB surveillance testing regime have come into force.

Ideally, I would like a science-led vaccination programme to be implemented, provided that we were certain that this would have a credible and lasting impact on bovine TB. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has invested heavily in the development of effective cattle vaccines for over a decade, and over the next four years we plan to invest a further £9.3 million in this area. Unfortunately however, cattle vaccination is currently prohibited under EU law.

Although Defra is in discussion with the European Commission about the necessary steps for allowing TB cattle vaccines, it is likely that it will take several years, rather than months, for a change in the law. The vaccination of badgers meanwhile poses various practical challenges, as the badgers themselves must first be trapped and the process of injected vaccination must be repeated every year. An oral badger vaccine is also many years away. However, the Badger Vaccine Deployment Project, funded by Defra, is currently ongoing in Gloucestershire, and we remain hopeful this too will have an important impact in tackling the disease.

I hope this response helps to reassure you that the Government is considering every available option in our struggle against bovine TB.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,


So in the space of a few months, Don has gone from being disappointed that the cull is going to go ahead, to voting for it? Where was his engagement with the public to get their permission to vote against it? Most likely he was whipped into it - in which case he should have stuck by his principles and rebelled. We can't allow this man to change his mind without discussing it with us first. Who is he representing - the people of Bath or the Lib Dems (or even the Tories)?

More on the badger cull: The Badger Cull - What You Need to Know
4. Don's Revised Opinion on the Badger Cull

Standing Stone's Blog and Foster Watch is an independent blog that is not affiliated with, nor endorses, any political party or general electoral candidate currently in existence. It maintains that all leadership and authority should be questioned and seeks to do just that.

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