Welsh rural affairs minister Elin Jones has announced an important step in her eradication programme to tackle Wales’ bovine TB crisis by setting out plans for a new badger control strategy, which include an annual cull of badgers over a five year period.

Welsh rural affairs minister Elin Jones has announced an important step in her eradication programme to tackle Wales’ bovine TB crisis today [Monday 20 September] by setting out plans for a new badger control strategy.

In July the Court of Appeal ruled that an earlier order, the Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009, which applied to the whole of Wales was unlawful. The new draft order is specific to an Intensive Action Area, covering north Pembrokeshire and including areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

Nearly 70%  of the 321 cattle farms in the IAA have been affected by bovine TB in  the past seven yearsFollowing consideration of the Court of Appeal’s judgement, legal advice together with scientific and technical evidence, the minister will consult on a draft order that would allow the Welsh Assembly Government to pursue a badger control strategy in this specified area of west Wales.

According to the Assembly Government, the new plan does not differ in substance from previous plans, but now clearly defines the area to which it will apply. While the Court of Appeal decision concerned the geographic scope of the order, the judges made it clear in their judgement that their decision was not a comment on the science.

Mrs Jones said: “Most experts agree that badgers play an important role in the transmission of bovine TB and that we will not eradicate TB if we do not tackle the disease in both wildlife and cattle.”

Under the proposals, there would be an annual cull of badgers over a five year period. Based on the available evidence, at the end of a cull and post cull period (total of 10 years), through culling alone we expect to have reduced bovine TB in cattle in the area by approximately 22%, preventing an estimated 83 confirmed herd breakdowns that would otherwise have occurred in the absence of culling badgers in the area.

However, this figure is said to be a “conservative estimate” as the additional surveillance and controls on cattle that the Assembly Government has already put in place in the Intensive Action Area are designed to generate further reductions.

Elin JonesAddressing calls for the vaccination of badgers, Mrs Jones said: “Vaccination of badgers has not yet been proved to reduce cattle TB and does not cure badgers that already have TB. It does not provide complete protection; rather it reduces the progress of the disease in a vaccinated badger, and the risk of onward spread of infection to other badgers and cattle.  Vaccination cannot resolve this problem on its own.

“I am satisfied that in the Intensive Action Area there is no reasonably practicable or satisfactory alternative to culling badgers as a means of reducing TB in cattle. This is because it is the only proven method currently available to me.”

The consultation document is available at www.wales.gov.uk/bovinetb and responses can be submitted using the online form. However, e-mail and written responses will also be accepted.

For a paper copy of the consultation document please contact the TB Team at bovinetbconsultations@wales.gsi.gov.uk

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