Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said:
“I remain committed to tackling the bovine TB crisis in Wales. It is a situation that I cannot and will not allow to continue.
“It is affecting rural communities and farmers like Aled Rees.
“I will state again that the cost of this disease in the last ten years, when nearly 100,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales, is more than £120 million. This is tax payer’s money the Assembly Government has paid out to farmers in compensation.
“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.”
The Assembly Government’s policy is a comprehensive package that includes enhanced cattle surveillance and controls, as well as improved biosecurity on farms.
The evidence shows, through a number of trials that reducing the numbers of badgers in TB endemic areas can reduce TB in cattle.
Elin Jones added:
“Our critics claim that vaccination of badgers is the answer. 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.”
There are 321 cattle farms in the Intensive Action Area and nearly 70% of them have been affected by bovine TB in the past seven years.
Following 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.
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, that is a conservative estimate. 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 Jones has met and spoken with a wide range of individuals and organisations in West Wales to discuss the proposals and the reasons for the Assembly Government’s approach. This will continue during the three-month consultation.
The Minister added:
“I urge everyone with a view to take part in the consultation process.”
- As a result of a ‘One Wales’ programme for government commitment to “vigorously pursue” TB eradication, the Welsh Assembly Government has put in place a comprehensive programme to eradicate the 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.
- In 2008, the Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones announced her intention to implement a comprehensive, practical and proportionate programme of action in order to tackle and, in time, to eradicate the disease completely from Wales. This approach was supported by a majority of Assembly Members.
- Earlier this summer, following an appeal by the Badger Trust against an earlier High Court Judicial Review which dismissed the Trust’s grounds for judicial challenge, the Court of Appeal quashed the Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009.
The Order was quashed by the Court of Appeal hearing in July, over concerns about the geographic scope of the Order. However, the judges made clear in their judgement that their decision was not a comment on the science.
- The Badger (Control Area) (Wales) Order 2010 would allow the Welsh Assembly Government to implement a cull of badgers in a specified area of west Wales – rather than from the whole of Wales, as was previously the case under the Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009.
- The new Order does not contain any specific powers in regard to power of entry onto land. The Welsh Assembly Government will rely on powers already contained within the Animal Health Act 1981 for this purpose.
- The Welsh Assembly Government will be commencing a twelve week public consultation on its approach. The Minister will also be consulting the Countryside Council for Wales. The advice the Minister received in order to make her provisional decision will be placed on the Welsh Assembly Government website.