A BID to ban badger culling in Gloucestershire and thwart any attempt to expand last year’s controversial trial cull to other areas of the county has been rejected by Gloucestershire County Council.
Liberal Democrat councillors urged members of the authority to take a stand against the cull and declare ‘enough is enough’ at a meeting of the full council at Shire Hall on Wednesday (January 22).
With the prospect of future culls still on the horizon, the Lib Dems had hoped GCC would send a message to the Government conveying its clear opposition to the policy.
But resistance from Conservative and Labour Party councillors saw their amendment defeated by 28 votes to 13.
Instead, a motion tabled by Labour calling for a task group to be set-up to investigate “the social and economic impact of the cull on Gloucestershire and to identify lessons that should be learnt” was passed with Tory support.
The task group, to be made-up of councillors, will invite evidence from farmers, campaigners, the police and various other groups affected by the cull in order to compile a report which will then be presented to the council and the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.
GCC acknowledged that “the badger cull has placed a significant strain on local communities and the police” and that it had caused 'considerable animosity' between farmers and animal welfare campaigners.
The motion also noted that 921 badgers had been culled in Gloucestershire – 32 per cent of the Government’s target – at a cost to the taxpayer of £4,121 per animal.
Despite the two six-week trial culls in West Gloucestershire and west Somerset falling well short of their targets, the Government has not ruled out pressing ahead with more culls in an attempt to curb the spread of Bovine TB.
But at the meeting on Wednesday, Lib Dem Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said culling had been a ‘disaster’ and should not be allowed to continue.
“It’s been shambolic. Millions of pounds has been wasted on a cull which has failed on scientific and humane grounds and it could actually increase TB,” he said.
“We need to stop the culling fields of Gloucestershire.”
However, GCC’s Conservative leader Mark Hawthorne accused Cllr Hodgkinson of ‘hypocrisy’ because his party had backed the cull at national level.
Cllr Hawthorne said he was keen to establish the facts about the cull and therefore supported setting up a task group.
Labour leader Lesley Williams said the initiative would allow councillors to gather more information about the trial culls, which could then inform future policy.
But Stroud’s Green Party county councillor Sarah Lunnon, said: “We don’t need a task group. We need to look into TB and how we can stop its transmission.
“Government has now lost the argument on the science and animal welfare and even why the cull was undertaken in the first place. Gloucestershire must not be used as a trial area again.”