Welsh rural affairs minister Elin Jones has welcomed the support received from Assembly Members, which will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to proceed with its TB eradication programme.

Welsh rural affairs minister Elin Jones has welcomed the support received from Assembly Members, which will allow the Welsh Assembly Government to proceed with its TB eradication programme.

Elin JonesThe TB Eradication (Wales) Order 2009 gives the Welsh Assembly Government the powers to use culling and vaccination of badgers as part of its bovine TB eradication programme.

Elin Jones welcomed the opportunity to debate the motion to annul the order and for the chance to explain again why, on the available evidence, she considers that a targeted, government-led, cull of badgers in an Intensive Action Pilot Area is necessary.

The minister said: “The need to take urgent and decisive action to tackle this disease remains as vital now as when we embarked on this programme.

“Between January and the end of August this year over 8,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales as a consequence of bovine TB. The cost of compensation to taxpayers has risen from £1.8million in 2000/01 to just under £24million in the last financial year and could exceed £80million by 2013-14 if the current trend continues. This is during a time when I have introduced further administrative measures to ensure that compensation is paid at market value.

“There is plenty of evidence (including the Independent Scientific Group report and the results of the Badger Found Dead Survey) to show that badgers, like cattle, can carry and spread bovine TB.  Evidence from within the UK and elsewhere shows that we cannot get rid of TB in cattle without eliminating it from wildlife reservoirs.

“We are actively looking at how we could use badger vaccination in Wales to best effect. This could mean, for example, vaccinating badgers in areas where TB is low, combining vaccination and cattle measures to keep those areas clean from disease.

Badgers“However, plenty of evidence shows that culling badgers can significantly reduce TB in cattle.

“Any badger cull in the Intensive Action Pilot Area would be government-led, carefully co-ordinated, humane and rigorously evaluated and initially restricted to North Pembrokeshire. We are not going to replicate previous trials, which only addressed the disease in badgers. We intend to go much further and will tackle the disease in both cattle and badgers. We know this combined approach is working elsewhere in countries such as New Zealand.

“I will be in a position to make a final decision on an Intensive Action Pilot Area once all of the necessary information has been considered. I would remind everyone that this order does not affect the status of badgers as a protected species under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and illegal activity will not be tolerated.”

For further information on the Welsh Assembly Government’s bovine TB Eradication Programme, including all the evidence available to the minister, please visit www.wales.gov.uk/bovinetb

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