Badgers Today in Parliament


Today was another important chapter in the awful story of the Badger Wars.

The last two days were hectic and tense for us, as information unfolded about who would be able speak at the debate on the future of the badger cull today, and work was done on what points could be made. We and the other Team Badger folks were in conference with the MPs who were leading the debate from our side. I was able to speak briefly at our Briefing Meeting yesterday in a small room in the building that houses the Commons.

But today, we were in a much bigger room, though not nearly so grand as the House Of Commons itself – known as Westminster Hall, where debates are held on the basis of information and discussion, and, of course, I and my colleagues were now merely spectators, watching the MPs slug it out from the public chairs at the end of the room, opposite the chairman. Of course, it’s frustrating not being able to speak, when preposterous statements are being made, but [is] this democracy ! The style of these debates is very similar to debates in the House, with the same conventions and rules, and with the same kind of interventions, the only difference really being there is no vote at the end. It’s a way of sharing information, raising concerns, and putting comments on the historical record; all these discussions are transcribed and go into the archives of Hansard, and there they reside forever.

This was the scene just before the first words were spoken. It’s not quite as peaceful as this picture might suggest – MPs and others are constantly bustling in and out, getting to their feet, grumbling, rudely interjecting, and this was a particularly noisy debate, very well-attended, with passions running high.

Westminster Hall

Well, you can watch the TV coverage at [VIDEO HERE – and see below – as TEXT HERE] if you’re interested, on the Internet, and there are some very interesting moments. You will see that much of the quality of the content of many of the speakers is quite poor, and their delivery is not always coherent. Some of them seem to be simply wasting time, and some are plainly bent on making trouble, without much reference to relevance or truth. A lot of the time it’s depressing, hearing the same old bits of dogma being trotted out. But some of the speeches this time around were well-informed, and there was some genuine interaction.

The mood of the debate was dominated, this time, by dissatisfaction with Owen Paterson’s dismally failed pilot culls, and it’s very significant that the dissatisfaction was this time voiced by MPs of all colours – notably in the Tory ranks. This is a vital element in the campaign to move TB control away from ineffective and inhumane culling and into policies with real hopes of success … vaccination of badgers AND cattle. These matters ought to be above party politics – they are matters connected with the very core of our beliefs as human animals, living in a world populated by many other species of animal, all of whom have a right to a decent existence. So for us, this was an important moment, giving us hope that sanity and decency will triumph in the end. It’s a bit like the Ghurka thing which Joanna Lumley fought so successfully. She told me that one thing made the fight much easier … knowing that you were in the right. We are spurred on by that same conviction.

It’s difficult to single out individual contributions here, but the most compelling moments were when MPs were genuinely reacting to what was going on around them, rather than just reading their notes. Anne Main (Conservative) was a stand-out contributor, speaking passionately about the fact that she had abstained on the last vote on the pilot culls, but now, having researched and discovered the truth about the factors involved in the spread of TB, she was now convinced that the culls must be abandoned, in favour of vaccination. She is not alone – there is a perceptible shift in the wind, and as disillusionment grows, we must be nearing a moment when it will become intolerably embarrassing for David Cameron to push on into more rebellion in Parliament, more resentment from an appalled Scientific Community, and disenchantment from a horrified Public – the voters who ultimately get to decide whose hands the future will rest in.

The debate was at times unruly, but this is an indication of the amount of rumblings that are now evident everywhere on this subject. Overwhelmingly, the majority of this gathering called for the matter of the ‘roll-out’ of the culling policy next year to be brought back into the House for a full debate, with a vote to establish whether the country is behind the government in the continuation of this troubled policy, or not.

The sourest note was an attempt at a summing up for the Government by George Eustice, which amounted to no more than a reading of cut-and-pasted official lines from the standard DEFRA propaganda. There was not one attempt to answer any of the tabled questions by this man; by his indifference, he insulted the entire assembled company. The arrogance of the ministers of this administration is almost unbelievable. This man, who has only been in office for a month or two, clearly listened to nothing that was said, and missed an opportunity to show that he actually does understand the issues and has the ability to justify the position which he is now charged with defending. It was a thoroughly ignominious contribution, and a depressing way to end the day. But in the fullness of time, there is an inevitability to all this.

We thank all who took part, and we’re hopeful that this has moved everyone on to a better place. The badger cull is a shameful mess and a tragedy –

– ethically a crime,
– practically ineffective and even counterproductive, – unsupported by science and regarded with contempt by scientists,
– economically a deepening disaster,
– and viewed with more and more disgust by a public who on the whole actually DO care about animals – thank God.


PS PART 1 and PART 2

House of Commons_Westminster Hall_Future of the... by TillyFlop

House of Commons_Westminster Hall_Future of the badger cull in England 11 Dec 13 part 1

House of Commons_Westminster Hall_Future of the… by TillyFlop

House of Commons_Westminster Hall_Future of the badger cull in England 11 Dec 13 part 2