Opposition Day motion against the badger cull defeated

10 June 2013 | Badgergate

On 5 June 2013, the Government succeeded in defeating the Labour Party’s Opposition Day motion against the badger cull by 299 votes to 250. The remaining 101 MPs either abstained, withheld their vote or did not vote. While the motion was defeated by 49 votes, the result came as no surprise to those following the matter closely given that the Government was reported to have issued a 3-line whip – a strict instruction to MPs to attend the debate and vote.

There is also an expectation that MPs will support the official party line and going against a 3-line whip can in extreme circumstances lead to expulsion from the party. Indeed since January 1978 the ruling party has only been defeated once in an opposition day vote. Despite this, eight brave Liberal Democrats and six even braver Conservative MPs defied the Government’s 3-line whip to vote in support of Labour’s Opposition Day motion against the badger cull.

Mary Creagh, Shadow Minister of the Environment, opened the debate with a question: “ … is culling badgers the most effective way to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis?”

She continued by stating that,

 “Labour Members believe that it is not. The consensus among scientists who are not on the Government payroll is also that it is not. They call it a “costly distraction” and a “crazy scheme”, and they urge the Government to change course.”

Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, received a spontaneous round of applause from the public gallery after she concluded her speech by saying,

“I want my voting record to show that I am against this barbaric, indiscriminate and ill-thought-through cull. I would prefer a science-led, welfare-oriented response to the control and reduction of bovine TB that protects both cattle and badgers from this nasty disease.” 

MPs opposing the badger cull appeared to be well briefed on the scientific aspects of bovine TB control and badger culling and many were also much more confident than during the last year’s House of Commons debate on the same issue. Meanwhile, a number of coalition MPs supporting the badger cull continued to rely on emotive arguments as in last year’s debate.

Many believe that the outcome of the three and a half hour hour debate was a foregone conclusion, in marked contrast to the result of last year’s free House of Commons vote, which had no three-line whip on it (or any whip as far as we know). October’s parliamentary vote resulted in 147 MPs voting against the badger culls and only 28 in favour. In percentage terms, this means that in a free vote only 16% of voting MPs were in favour of the badger cull while 84% were against it. Even with a three-line whip, only 55% of voting MPs were in favour of the badger cull, while 45% supported Labour’s motion to abandon the cull. In other words it was a close vote and had it been a free, unwhipped vote, the outcome would likely have been very different.

The full transcript of the 5th June Opposition Day debate on the badger cull is available in two parts:



The debate can also be viewed on Parliamentary TV and youtube.