BBC Somerset election debate: Badger cull success debated

BBC Somerset election debate: 21st April 2015
Image caption Stephen Fitzgerald (far left) presenter Ben McGrail, Mick Lerry, Julie Harvey-Smith and Theo Butt Philip

The effectiveness of culling badgers to stop the spread of bovine TB has been debated by Bridgwater and Somerset West MP hopefuls.

UKIP backed the cull, but the Greens and Labour called for a total halt. The Lib Dems said they would decide once they knew the result of all the trials.

Candidates also debated nuclear power, jobs and milk prices.

The Lib Dem, UKIP, Green and Labour candidates attended the live election debate, but the Conservatives declined.

'Movement of livestock'

BBC Somerset held the event at Sedgemoor Auction Centre near Bridgwater on Tuesday. Somerset is one of the two areas where the badger cull pilot has been taking place.

Green candidate Julie Harvey-Smith said: "I think an intense programme of inoculating the badgers is a far better way of eradicating the problem, but I don't agree with culling.

"I don't think it works because it's just as easy to cull healthy ones as unhealthy ones."

BBC Somerset politics reporter Ruth Bradley:

There was an empty chair at the debating table at the livestock market. The Conservative candidate, Ian Liddell-Grainger, had already set his campaign diary in February when the invites were issued, but the other four standing had a lively debate.

Given the location, as well as badgers, they discussed milk prices and hunting - the Labour and Green candidates want to keep the ban, the Lib Dem and UKIP candidates would vote for a repeal.

They were also asked for an insight into their lives away from politics. Stephen started a male domestic abuse charity, Theo brews his own ale, Mick has run a marathon in under three hours, and Julie drives a miniature train.

UKIP's Stephen Fitzgerald believed culling "had worked in the past".

He added: "What about all the cattle that are dying through the illness, and with all the badgers, they've been eating an awful lot of hedgehogs."

Labour's Mick Lerry said the independent expert panel gave evidence that the cull was ineffective, and in his opinion ineffective and too expensive.

He added: "What we've got to look at again is the vaccination of badgers; we've got to recognise it's the movement of livestock as well."

Liberal Democrat Theo Butt Philip said: "We need to use every tool to stop bovine TB - even if that involves culling badgers.

"Vaccination of badgers is a much more preferable route to go down but we need to get that working."

The candidates for the constituency are:

Theo Butt Philip, Liberal Democrats

Stephen Fitzgerald, UKIP

Julie Harvey-Smith, Green

Mick Lerry, Labour

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative

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