The Welsh Assembly Government has set out revised plans to tackle bovine tuberculosis in Wales.
Wales’ rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, said she is standing by her strategy of culling badgers in a defined area of West Wales over a five-year period and will not follow England’s lead of licensing farmers in TB hotspots.
But it could be nine months before culling gets under way because the end of the three-month consultation period will coincide with the beginning of the closed period when badgers and their young must not be disturbed.
The assembly government’s earlier attempt to carry out a cull were thwarted in the appeal court in July.
Law lords ruled assembly government eradication plans were unlawful because the legislation referred to the whole of Wales and not just the treatment area.
To avoid a courtroom defeat Ms Jones has redrafted the cull order to apply to only a specific area of North Pembrokshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthen, a region that has one of the highest bovine TB rates in Europe.
Badgers will be destroyed by trapping and either shot or given a lethal injection.
Under the new proposal the minister expects to reduce bovine TB in cattle in this area by about 22%, not the conservative estimate of 9% stated in the original order.
“That is a conservative estimate because the additional controls on cattle we have already put in place are designed to result in further reductions” she said at the consultation launch in Carmarthen on Monday 20 September.
She said she would not follow DEFRA in its plans to license farmers to carry out a cull, because too much had already taken place in preparing for the assembly government’s managed cull.
She also believed it was the most effective form of eradication.
“Licensing farmers is an option available for me but we have done significant work already in preparation for government led culling in north Pembrokeshire and it is my own view and the advice I have been given that in order for it to be done at its most efficient in this area it needs to be a government managed cull.”
She also ruled out vaccination as the mainstay for TB control because of the level of infection in endemic areas of Wales and the transmission of that infection to cattle.
May 2011 looks the most likely month for the cull to get under way, a month when the Welsh Assembly Government election will take place.
Elin Jones said she hoped the cull would not become a party political issue, “I have taken this decision not based on party politics, it is an issue of disease eradication that is too important to allow political party and elections to get in the way.
“I hope it doesn’t feature as an election issue although I am sure some people will use it in this way”. The consultation period will end on 17 December 2010.