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On Saturday 25 May, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth will be host to US radio star, Peter Greenberg.
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Sky lanterns: environmental and risk assessment »To establish an evidence base to help any future policy decisions on sky lanterns and helium balloons.Learn more »
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Section highlightFurther and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill 2013
Removes a number of technical restrictions and controls on colleges without changing the principal powers of colleges to provide further, higher and secondary education.
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Addressing the Assembly in the Senedd today, the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, detailed the eight bills in the Welsh Government’s 5-year Legislative Programme that will be brought forward during the second year of the Welsh Assembly.Learn more »
Section highlightCommunity Infrastructure Levy
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Written Statement - No quick fix for bovine TB
I would like to update Assembly Members on the Welsh Assembly Government’s TB Eradication Programme, and the provisional decision I have made on our policy for badger control in an area of west Wales in which bovine TB is endemic (the Intensive Action Area, or IAA).
In the last ten years, nearly 100,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales and we have spent over £120 million on compensation for farmers because of the disease.
As a result of our One Wales commitment to “vigorously pursue” a programme of TB eradication, we have put in place a comprehensive programme to eradicate the disease. There is no quick fix or simple solution. It will take all the tools available to us and it will take a long time to eradicate this disease.
Significant progress has been made since 2007, especially in relation to cattle control and surveillance. We have reviewed policies, amended legislation, tightened up on procedures, and are taking a zero tolerance approach to farmers who break the rules. We are testing cattle more frequently, finding disease earlier, and moving infected cattle off farms more quickly. In 2006 there were 1 million cattle tested; in 2009 this had increased to 1.8 million.
We have dramatically cut down the number of overdue tests, we are intending to cut compensation to farmers who do not test on time and we have successfully prosecuted farmers who have broken the law. We are also currently consulting on new regulations to tackle bovine TB in goats, camelids and deer.
The majority of people welcome the measures we have taken to increase cattle surveillance and restrict spread of disease by cattle.
Most experts also 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.
Experience from previous culling of badgers, for disease control purposes, has shown that reducing the numbers of badgers in areas endemic with bovine TB can reduce the level of TB in cattle.
I have made it clear that I will consider the use of a vaccine for badgers where and when appropriate to do so. An injectable badger vaccine has become available and this summer we have set up a working group to develop a vaccination policy for Wales.
We do not know how effective a badger vaccine will be in reducing TB in cattle. Vaccination is a preventative measure and in an area where the disease is endemic such as the IAA, it will take time for the badger population to develop adequate immunity, as infected animals die naturally. There is no evidence to suggest that vaccination can have any effect on a badger that is already infected.
Although research on an oral badger vaccine is progressing it is not expected to be available for potential use until 2015 at the earliest. We are monitoring the progress of this work.
In areas where TB is endemic such as the IAA, all the evidence I have seen has shown that a combination of culling badgers alongside strict cattle control measures will be the most effective strategy in reducing bovine TB in cattle.
I have therefore decided to consult publicly on a draft Order under the Animal Health Act 1981 that would allow the Welsh Assembly Government to pursue such a badger control strategy in a specified area of west Wales, the IAA.
The draft Badger (Control Area) (Wales) Order 2010 would allow the Welsh Assembly Government to cull badgers from one geographic area. It will be located in the same area that was previously identified for culling, and where enhanced cattle controls have been in place since 1 May 2010.
The Intensive Action Area is not a scientific experiment or trial, but the deployment and practical implementation of a combination of measures aimed at significantly reducing bovine TB.
This is an area which has amongst the highest levels of bovine TB rates in Europe. In this area there are 321 cattle farms, nearly 70% of which have been infected with bovine TB in the past seven years and 25% are currently under restrictions due to a TB breakdown.
The evidence shows that the rate of TB continues to increase in this area. TB outbreaks are lasting longer and more animals are being slaughtered. Worryingly many herds are becoming re-infected very quickly and evidence points to re-infection by badgers in many of these cases.
Under the proposals I am announcing today, there would be an annual cull of badgers over a five year period. Based on previous experience, at the end of a cull and post cull period of 10 years, we expect to have reduced bovine TB in cattle by approximately 22%, preventing an estimated 83 confirmed herd breakdowns that would otherwise have occurred in the absence of culling badgers in the area.
That is a conservative estimate, because the additional controls on cattle we have already put in place are designed to result in further reductions.
After the Court of Appeal hearing in July about the geographic scope of the 2009 Order, the judges ruled that that Order was unlawful and it was quashed.
The judgement has provided guidance on how to interpret the Animal Health Act 1981. Section 21 of that Act provides that I may make an order to cull badgers subject to my being satisfied that the following tests are met:
- that there exists among the wild badgers in the area a disease which has been or is being transmitted from them to animals of any kind in the area, and
- that destruction of badgers in that area is necessary
- in order to eliminate, or substantially reduce the incidence of, that disease in animals of any kind in the area,
I have read and considered carefully the information and advice that my officials have prepared for me. I am satisfied that the tests I mentioned above are met. My reasons are based on the information and advice in the submission and include the evidence from the Badger Found Dead survey, which has showed me that TB exists in badgers in the Intensive Action Area and that it is being transmitted from badgers to cattle. This is because of the evidence of TB infection in badgers and because those badgers carried the same type of TB as in cattle in the area.
I am satisfied that, in the Intensive Action Area, it is necessary to cull badgers because there is no reasonably practicable 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.
I am also satisfied that culling badgers will have a beneficial effect on reducing TB in cattle and that evidence of this will be seen during a relatively short period of time. I am satisfied that the reduction in confirmed herd breakdowns in the area, over a period of 10 years will, be at least 28% against that which would have been expected which I consider to be substantial. I accept my officials’ advice that there is a possibility of a greater reduction than this on account of the other measures that I have introduced in the area as part of the wider TB eradication programme.
Having reached a provisional decision that the statutory tests are met, I consider (again on a provisional basis) that I should exercise my discretion to make an order. The factors that I have taken into account in this respect include the following:
I have taken account of the fact that approximately 1400 badgers will be culled and I am mindful of the protection that the badger species enjoys under UK legislation and under international treaties. However, I also take account of the fact that, in Wales, according to, the best estimates available to me, there are 35,000 badgers. I also take into account the assessment that the badger population in the Intensive Action Area will not disappear completely and that it will recover to its pre-cull level within 5-10 years.
I also considered the benefits that I expect will be achieved for the agricultural industry in Wales both in economic terms and in terms of well-being. These include ending the disruption to farming business, the preservation of genetic material, the avoidance of financial loss to farmers and, not least, the lifting of the threat to individual farm businesses and the emotional burden on farming families.
Another factor that I have considered is the benefit that I expect to see in the Intensive Action Area when set against the temporary increase in TB incidence that I expect outside the area. I accept my officials‘ advice that an overall net benefit of a 22% reduction against what would have been expected in confirmed herd breakdowns is possible.
I will now initiate a twelve week public consultation on our approach and will publish the information I received in making this decision on the Welsh Assembly Government website.
I have been meeting and talking with a range of individuals and organisations in west Wales during the summer and will continue this dialogue. During the twelve week consultation period we will also be engaging with the community in the area and making sure everyone understands our policy.
I expect that this consultation will generate a large number of responses and I will consider any views expressed and any evidence that may be provided before making a final decision. The consultation will start on 20 September and will be available on the Welsh Assembly Government website. The consultation will end on 17 December.
Although some stakeholders in Wales disagree with one or more of the policies there is overwhelming support for the programme and its aim of eradicating bovine TB from cattle in Wales.