Labour Party says badger cull ineffective

Labour Party manifesto and the Cull: the key word is ‘ineffective’

The party manifestos are now out. There isn’t really a great deal for us pro-wildlife folk to get excited about, but we are intrigued by a few short lines referring to the badger cull in the Labour Manifesto—specifically the inclusion of the word “ineffective.”

That’s because we think, as campaigners against the badger cull, we can use it to push Labour not to issue cull licenses when they get into power next month.

Along with every other animal rights organization (and almost everyone who doesn’t believe every word the NFU says), we are opposed to the badger cull. Supposed to control the spread of Bovine TB (bTB, a disease of cattle), we have said over and over again that it doesn’t work, that it is cruel, and that it is stupidly expensive. We slammed Defra’s “consultation” on new licenses as a sham, have produced a series of anti-cull animations that have been viewed tens of thousands of times, worked with Badger Crowd to promote their impressive blogs, and launched a petition in the form of a letter asking Steve Reed, Labour’s current Shadow Environment Secretary, to honour the party’s promise to stop the badger cull.

Our supporters have backed us all the way, and more than 17,000 have now signed the letter to Mr. Reed. That letter includes the sentence: “The government’s bTB eradication policy, which includes the systematic culling of badgers, has proven ineffective [our highlighting] and is a misuse of taxpayer money.”


‘Ineffective’ and the Badger Act

Which brings us back to the Labour Party manifesto published on 13 June.

On page 59 is the short statement below (the highlighting is again ours):


Labour Party Manifesto Page 59 ‘Supporting British farmers’


That’s good news. On the downside, there is no indication of when the cull will be ended—just a promise to work with “farmers and scientists” so that it “can” be ended. That might still leave badgers in the firing line. After all, in a sop to the NFU, Natural England issued nine new licenses and authorized seventeen existing supplementary licenses in mid-May, putting the lives of thousands more badgers at risk.

But then there is that descriptor “ineffective.”

A dictionary definition of ineffective is “not producing an intended effect.” In other words, the slaughter of badgers hasn’t and doesn’t do what it was supposed to do: control bTB.

The Badger Act 1992, which defines the legal protections given to badgers and the conditions under which the law operates, specifically says in Section 10 (2) which deals with Licenses to “kill or take” badgers:

The badger cull is predicated entirely on the fallacious concept of controlling Bovine TB. In other words, licenses are given to “cull operators” to kill badgers by government ministers (via Natural England) to prevent the disease from spreading. (Incidentally, this is why the “sham consultation”—fearing ministers may not want to grant any more licenses—wanted the pro-cull Government Chief Vet to be the license issuer going forward). By using the term “ineffective,” the Party looks to have closed the door on new licensing by acknowledging that the cull does not prevent the spread of disease.

Having acknowledged that culling is “ineffective,” if a governing Labour Party were to issue licenses to cull badgers, they would surely be unlawful—because those licenses would be in breach of Section 10 (2) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992!


Contact candidates and push this hard

A manifesto is a wish list, it’s “a publication issued by a political party” containing the set of policies that the party would wish to implement if elected to govern. It’s not legally binding – but we would argue that having published a statement saying that the cull is ‘ineffective’ an incoming Labour government CAN’T (not ‘shouldn’t’ or ‘mustn’t’ but ‘can’t’) issue cull licences to control Bovine TB because they know before issuing them that they are ineffective – they don’t work. If they were issued, the licences would be open to an immediate legal challenge from the get-go!

We’re not lawyers at Protect the Wild, and a lawyer for a new Labour government could suggest in a multitude of ways how a line in a manifesto could be interpreted. But we didn’t choose the wording, they did – and we genuinely think we have a huge opportunity here, not just now, before the election, but after it too.

The Labour Party has been quoted saying its “priority was eradicating bovine TB through vaccinations, herd management and biosecurity.” They may never issue a licence to kill badgers, but the likes of the NFU and Countryside Alliance will be working to persuade them to do so. Badgers should be safe and allowed to live in peace, and we can do two things to help that happen:

  • When we interact with the Labour Party, their candidates, or anyone connected with them we need to push the message that we are grateful the Party recognises that the cull doesn’t work (is ‘ineffective’);
  • And remind them at the same time that having acknowledged that the cull is ‘ineffective’ there is no reason for them to issue more licences – in fact, it may be unlawful to do so because of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.