A South West MEP claims there is little interest in halting the badger cull in Brussels despite attempts to invoke a European convention for animal rights and a personal intervention by campaigner Brian May.
Julie Girling, the Conservative chief whip and the party’s agriculture spokesman at the European Parliament, claims attempts to halt two licensed trial culls by claiming they breach the Bern Convention will not succeed.
Free shooting of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset in a bid to control the spread of bovine TB have been approved by the Government, with a third planned for Devon’s South Hams.
Mrs Girling is this week set to meet the European Commission – the executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation – to discuss removing barriers to the future use of a vaccine to treat cattle.
“We had a visit to the EU by Brian May, but it didn’t stir up any interest among non-Brits,” she said. “It is a British issue and the big issue for us is trying to get a vaccine for cattle, but we need a change to the regulations to allow it to be used.
“I want to explore legal avenues to speed up the authorisation of a bovine virus – it won’t happen overnight, it might be a couple of years.”
As a “flash mob” protested outside Parliament yesterday, with anti-cull demonstrators dressed as badgers, campaigners continue to believe that a key animal welfare committee in Brussels could halt the shooting.
The Humane Society International lodged a “serious complaint” against the UK Government earlier this year on the basis that free shooting by farmers breaches the 30-year-old Bern Convention. Two MEPs co-signed a letter to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) urging it to give serious consideration to the complaint when it meets next month. But DEFRA has insisted that the pilot badger culls will meet the conditions of the Convention.
Queen guitarist Mr May says he led a campaign delegation to Brussels with Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA. He said they were warmly welcomed at the European Parliament by MEPs of all parties, who were “90 per cent against culling wild animals and 100 per cent in favour of helping us make cattle vaccination in Britain happen”. He also said Georg Haeusler, head of cabinet for agriculture, told him if a so-called DIVA test, to tell which animals were vaccinated and which were infected, was shown to work, there would be “no reason for us to ban the import of the products derived from your cattle”.