TWO political heavyweights are at loggerheads over how to tackle the spread of TB in cattle.
Conservative parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay Steve Double and sitting Lib Dem MP Steve Gilbert are on opposite sides of the political divide when it comes to deciding whether badgers should be culled or vaccinated to help stop the spread of the disease.
Mr Gilbert has recently criticised the Government over the trial badger culls and this week branded them a "spectacular failure", but Mr Double has slammed the MP for failing to consult local farmers before making his views known, claiming many back a badger cull.
"On hearing of the news that our MP had changed his position I wrote to every farmer in the constituency and asked for their views," Mr Double said.
"This is clearly a major issue for many local farmers, which they have very strong views about. One farmer that contacted me told me that he had lost over 200 animals to the disease.
"The overwhelming majority of local farmers stated they supported both the trial cull and believed culling badgers was an essential part of controlling this disease."
Current Mayor of St Austell, Mr Double said his figures showed 100 per cent support for a badger cull from farmers who had experienced TB in their cattle or where TB was nearby.
He said 63 farmers had responded to his survey, with 60 per cent having bovine TB on their farms or nearby.
In total there was 62 per cent support for the trial badger cull and 65 per cent support for culling as part of the measures to tackle TB on their farms.
Mr Double added: "Personally I am appalled that our MP would change his position without consulting those working locally in the agricultural industry.
"I believe if you truly want to represent the electorate on issues like this you need to listen to those most affected. This is what I have done and what I plan to continue to do. If elected, I will continue to represent St Austell and Newquay by listening to local people."
In response Mr Gilbert hit back, claiming he changed his mind based on the evidence made public by experts.
"There's no doubt that TB is having a devastating effect on the farming community and having met with farmers scores of times to talk about the issue I supported the trial culls," he said. "What's clear, however, is that they have not worked – indeed, they were a spectacular failure.
"It's not just me saying that, it's the Independent Evaluation Panel too. They found the culls were not effective in controlling TB, were not humane and were vastly more expensive than planned.
"In both Somerset and Gloucestershire marksmen failed to shoot the number of animals necessary, even with a time extension, and they actually may have contributed to the spread of TB." He said the cost of culling rose to more than £4,000 per shot badger, making the cull more expensive than vaccinating.
"I want to see action to tackle TB on our farms and it's clear now that the only effective solution will be a programme of vaccination of badgers and cattle."