Welsh rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, hasannounced that a cull is necessary – alongside additional cattle measures – to eradicate bovine TB in Wales.

Last year the Minister announced her intention to implement a comprehensive, practical and proportionate programme of action in order to tackle the disease. This was supported by a majority of Assembly Members.

Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones Since that statement the number of cattle slaughtered due to TB has continued to increase. In 2008 over 12,000 cattle were slaughtered – 52% more cattle than in 2007. The Welsh Assembly Government believes that this acceleration in incidence is unacceptable and unsustainable. In terms of the associated rise in compensation costs, it is expected that this year it will be £23.5 million, an increase of 47%. In the next financial year the cost to the taxpayer in TB compensation is likely to reach £30 million.

Last April, as part of the TB eradication programme outlined by Elin Jones, the Minister announced her decision to consider a badger cull within an Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA) subject to a number of conditions being met. These conditions included ecological reviews, ethical considerations and epidemiological assessments as well as a review of the practical implementation and the relevant legal requirements.

The Minister also commissioned technical experts to investigate the potential effects of different badger control strategies – work which was taken forward by the TB Eradication Programme Board and subsequently their recommendations were presented to Elin Jones for consideration.

Based on the comprehensive evidence and information received, the Minister has today announced that she still considers that a cull is necessary alongside additional cattle measures within an Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA). The priority area for the establishment of an IAPA should be within the bovine TB endemic area of Dyfed, and that it should be located to maximise the opportunities and benefits of the locality. The Minister has agreed that the North Pembrokeshire would be a preferred location.

Subject to the further steps that now need to be taken, the intention is that a cull should be co-ordinated and delivered by government. Although further discussions will take place with the police about the delivery methods, the Minister is advised that the most effective and humane method is cage trapping and shooting.

Speaking today at the National Assembly for Wales the Rural Affairs Minister said: “There have been attempts over many years to control this disease and they have failed. Each member state is however obliged under an EU Directive to develop an eradication programme in order to ‘accelerate, intensify or carry through’ the eradication of the disease. All of this underlines the necessity of our commitment to pursue TB eradication urgently.

“This work is continuing at pace. We are making good progress on the considerable work involved in the Cattle Health Check Wales – to test all herds in Wales in a 15 month window. Between October 2008 and February 2009, the Health Check identified 23 reactor herds and 94 inconclusive reactor herds. These cases may not otherwise have been detected for years. During this period we have also driven down the pre-Health Check Wales overdue tests across Wales from 711 in October to 141 as at 10 March 2009 – a decrease of 80%. To complement this work on 1 March, I introduced a new policy to accelerate the removal of inconclusive reactors and I have established Regional Eradication Delivery Boards to deliver a co-ordinated and concerted approach to eradicating TB on a regional basis. In addition, I am currently consulting on options to link compensation payments to good biosecurity practices. I believe this is a key way of encouraging farmers to fulfil their responsibilities and comply with legal and best practice requirements.

“There is no point, however, tackling one source of infection only to ignore another. This only allows the infection to return. I want to see a Welsh livestock and Welsh wildlife co-existing in a disease free environment.”

The Minister added: “I intend to bring forward secondary legislation to allow us to implement our policy, and will be consulting publicly on that legislation. In the meantime, we hope to begin an ecological survey and we will be assessing farms in the area in order to locate the exact area and its boundaries.”

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