Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Queen star urges Paterson to resign

Queen guitarist Brian May says the environment secretary should resign over the badger cull

Queen star Brian May today called on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to resign over the controversial badger cull pilot.

The guitar legend, who is one of the leading opponents of the cull, said Mr Paterson had failed to meet the test of "honesty and transparency" expected by the public.

The pilot projects have been launched in Gloucestershire and neighbouring Somerset, in the face of widespread protests, in an effort to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis which is carried by badgers.

The six-week cull aimed to kill 70% of the badger population in those two areas. But statistics released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that in Gloucestershire 708 of an estimated 2,350 badgers - about 30% of the total - were killed.

And in west Somerset 850 badgers had been culled during the pilot - 60% of the local population - with the government admitting it had over-estimated the numbers of badgers in these two areas.

As a result cull operators applied to Natural England, which licenses the pilots, applied to extend the shooting period. A three-week extension was granted in Somerset while an eight-week extension is being considered for Gloucestershire.

"Mr Paterson's major gaffe, accusing the badgers of moving the goalposts, which has caused him to be universally derided, was foolish, since, if indeed the badgers had, in some way adjusted their numbers, it would mean that they were a lot more intelligent than Mr Paterson and his whole tawdry gang," Dr May said.

"But there are more serious implications. Of course, it's pretty much inconceivable that their population decreased so rapidly of natural causes, as suggested directly by Mr Paterson.

"Most serious of all is the question of whether Mr Paterson knew about the re-counting of badgers in these zones immediately prior to the culling.

"But the mere fact that a recount was taking place should have been made public at the beginning of the cull - not, conveniently, at the end of it, to try to massage a failure into a success.

"The public has a right to know all the details of such a controversial, violent action by its government.

"The public has a right to expect honesty and transparency from its ministers. It appears that Mr Paterson, in his zeal to push ahead a highly questionable policy, has failed to meet these requirements.

"We believe that, if Owen Paterson cannot answer these questions of transparency, the Prime Minister must ask for his resignation."

Dr May, who is a member of Team Badger, said it looked like the cull had been "dishonest in its intent right from the start".

"It will be regarded as a black period in our history - when killing was undertaken against ethical considerations, against the advice of the whole scientific community, wasting taxpayers' money, and without producing any benefit for the farming community," he said.

"Every time you see a Government or NFU official reminding us how much money bovine TB has cost over the last few years, remember firstly that this is our money - the taxpayer - used to compensate farmers, and secondly that, if this is such a serious issue, we need a serious plan to eradicate the disease.

"Eradication can only be achieved through vaccination, so any supposed 'quick fix' by culling wildlife is a complete waste of our time and money, apart from being a crime against nature and a disgrace to any country which calls itself humane.

"This horrific and ineffective policy must be abandoned now, once and for all."

Dr May's call for Mr Paterson's resignation came days after The Badger Trust said it would be mounting a legal challenge to the cull in west Gloucestershire.

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