New measures to tackle bovine TB in Wales, which were announced at the Royal Welsh Show, were welcomed by farming unions.
Evan Thomas, the farmers Union of Wales’s spokesman on the disease, said he was heartened by rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones’s decision to consider establishing a wildlife intensive treatment area, once data from badgers found dead and population surveys was evaluated when it became available in the autumn.
“This is the first time any minister has said he is prepared to accept the possibility of culling badgers in a wildlife ITA,” Mr Thomas said.
“The package as a whole suggests that, at last, politicians appear to be listening to farmers on the TB Action Group, and are starting to get a real grip on this serious enzootic disease.”
The minister admitted that many farmers would be disappointed that he was not announcing an immediate badger cull but, while one had not be ruled out, he would not act until he had all the scientific evidence.
However, he would introduce a bio-security intensive treatment area in south west Wales in the autumn. This would involve audits of the current TB status and working practices on individual farms, and the drafting of plans for improvement.
These would aim to reduce the risk of infection, minimise transmission within herds, between wildlife and cattle, and through indirect transmission.
He insisted that he did not intend to impose an unreasonable level of costs on farmers.
“I also intend to roll out the gamma interferon test across Wales as part of the national surveillance regime, rather than in a separate intensive treatment area. This will align with the recommendations of the GB gamma interferon Working Group on a targeted approach, where evidence shows it can have most benefit.
“I want a coherent and holistic strategy based on scientific evidence. We are moving forward on this very difficult issue in a measured way, gathering the scientific evidence we need so that the decisions we take, including any on wildlife, are soundly based.”
Mary James, deputy director of NFU Cymru, said she was slightly reassured that it appeared that the minister did not intend to prevaricate about early publication of the results of the ecological survey that had been conducted.