MPs are divided on whether the badger cull is an effective way to control bovine TB (bTB) in Cheshire.

Mike Amesbury is calling for an immediate end to what he calls the ‘unjustifiable’ badger cull in the county.

The Labour MP for Weaver Vale, who campaigned against the cull in the 2017 General Election, believes it is not an effective way of controlling bTB.

Instead, Mr Amesbury wants to see an expansion of badger vaccinations – which were recently approved for farms near Northwich and Middlewich by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

He said: “It is important to recognise the crippling impact of bTB and the hardship experienced by farmers whose cattle herds have been devastated by the disease.

“However, I oppose the large-scale, indiscriminate culling of badgers as I do not believe it is an effective way of controlling bTB.

“The Government’s decision to kill up to 42,000 badgers, including in low risk areas and regardless of whether the badgers are carrying TB or not, is unjustifiable.

“The expansion of this programme has been widely condemned by animal welfare organisations, such as the Badger Trust who called it the largest destruction of a protected species in living memory.

“I believe the Government must immediately cease this mass destruction of wildlife and focus attention and taxpayers’ money on improving testing, vaccinations and controlling the movement of infected cattle.”

However, Esther McVey believes it is important to keep in mind the effect that the disease has on the livelihood of farmers, who have had to kill thousands of their own animals to keep on top of bTB in recent years, as well as the loss of badgers.

“Any culling programme must be based on expert advice,” the Conservative MP for Tatton said.

“We all want Cheshire to be a TB free zone which allows for a vaccination programme to get under way.

“It is in everyone’s interest that we eradicate the threat of bTB to our beef and dairy industries.

“In 2017 Cheshire was categorised as a high risk area by Government as a consequence of the 12-month period after May 2016, during which nearly 2,000 animals that had contracted bTB had to be put down and 120 herds put under restriction.

“It is often assumed culling relates to badgers but the scale of cattle killed across the country is huge.

“In the past two decades numbers of cattle slaughtered to control the disease increased ten fold, which has a devastating effect on the livelihood of farmers.

“We need to eradicate bTB, but as always I will continue to monitor the situation and listen to expert opinion.”

The Guardian also asked Ms McVey’s fellow Conservatives Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury, and Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, for comment on the issue.