Farming unions in Wales have welcomed the assembly government’s renewed effort to tackle bovine TB but the inclusion of a cull has drawn criticism from welfare groups.
A Farmers’ Union of Wales’ TB spokesman Brian Walters said: “The scientific evidence shows conclusively that badgers are a major source of TB infection in cattle, and trials in both England and Ireland have led to significant drops in the number of cattle slaughtered due to this disease.”
“Earlier this year a scientific paper on badgers and cattle concluded that ‘TB in cattle herds could be substantially reduced, possibly even eliminated, in the absence of transmission from badgers to cattle’,” Mr Walters said.
NFU Cymru vice president Stephen James expressed his confidence that the new draft order addressed the issues which enabled animal welfare campaigners to quash previous legislation.
He also applauded the assembly government programme for its focus on tackling the disease.
“Let us be clear, this programme is about eradicating the disease not eradicating badgers and to achieve our goal of healthy cattle and healthy wildlife we must be able to tackle the disease in both populations,” said Mr James.
“We must not forget that farmers throughout Wales, in particular those in the West Wales Intensive Action Area, continue to play their part in tackling bovine TB through adhering to the most stringent cattle control and biosecurity measures.
“But we know that these measures alone without a concurrent strategy for removing infection from badgers will not eradicate the disease from Wales,” he said.
Vets across the UK also welcomed the move.
British Veterinary Association president Bill Reilly said:
“The BVA supports the commitment to tackling bovine TB.
“It is important to remember that the Court of Appeal did not rule against the science of the original Order, but the process by which the decision was reached.”
The president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association Keith Cutler added:
“Unlike the earlier Order that was rejected by the Court of Appeal, the draft TB Eradication Order will focus on an Intensive Action Area where bovine TB levels are extremely high.
“BCVA is highly supportive of the new proposals as they will introduce a badger control strategy alongside stricter cattle control and biosecurity measures.”
But the RSPCA has hit out at the assembly government’s decision.
“The RSPCA is very concerned that the assembly government has re-committed to a cull.
“We have always been firmly opposed to the proposed cull in Wales as we believe that vaccination, increased levels of testing, improved biosecurity and stricter controls on the movement of cattle are more sustainable and effective ways of reducing the incidence of bovine TB in cattle.”
“[The new] draft order would give the government the same draconian powers of access to carry out culling as before and also includes the option of shooting badgers that are not caged.
And campaign group Pembrokeshire Against the Cull voiced its “disappointment”.
“Civil liberties have been given short shrift, as the Order will make it illegal to prevent operatives from accessing land to carry out a cull. “The arrogance of a government that thinks it can continue to try to impose such a law on those who have different beliefs, ways of life and livelihoods, is beyond belief.”