Badger cull minister claims “no absolute right” on scientific advice
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has argued there is "no absolute right" when being given scientific advice, and that it is the politician's job to "make the call".
The minister, who has sanctioned badger culling in the South West amid criticism it is "anti-science", said he drew on his experience from living in the countryside and being "bombarded" by advice.
This week Sir David Attenborough accused the Government of "ignoring science" by extending the badger cull in Gloucestershire by eight weeks. It is one of two "pilots" that will determine whether culling to eradicate bovine TB destroying farming in the region is extended.
But speaking to The House magazine, Parliament's in-house publication, the Shropshire MP said: "Ultimately you have to make the call, but I see myself as someone who has lived in the countryside all his life and you are constantly in the countryside bombarded with scientific advice.
NEW IN : for those cold winter nights highland check dog and cat beds in stock, fleecy and washable ideal for those nights snuggling by the fire...... available in 3 colourways
Contact: 01271 440626
Valid until: Saturday, January 25 2014
"So if you ever had anything to do with animals, you had conflicting veterinary advice and ultimately you have to make the decision: is that vet right or is the other vet right?
"So I'm used to, completely accustomed to dealing with scientific advice but ultimately you have to make a political decision. There is no absolute right in a scientific decision. We have some good advisers here, who I respect enormously, but obviously I have got my own sources outside, my own experience which I have to draw on."
Labour rejected culling on the basis of a 10-year study that concluded it was "unlikely to contribute effectively" tackling the disease. But the coalition used the same study to justify culling on the basis it could lead to a reduction in the rates of TB in cattle of 16 per cent.
Mr Paterson also underlined how the rural economy is his top priority – with the environment in second. His comments come amid criticism for downgrading the role of the Farming Minister in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He said: "Exports are a key part of our first priority here, which is to grow the rural economy. Our second priority is to improve the environment, and the other two are to protect the country from animal disease and protect the country from plant disease."
The minister added consumers no longer care about the issue of GM crops, and that they would cut costs for hard-pressed shoppers. "If an animal, a chicken or a pig, has eaten GM material, you can't tell. The fact that the public didn't react to that was very interesting," he said.