7 June 2002

Assembly sits on hands on badger-culling front

Routine union affairs were sidelined at the Farmers Union

of Wales annual meeting in Aberystwyth to concentrate

on animal health and food safety issues. Many of the 200

delegates arrived hoping to hear about a radical new

Welsh strategy for controlling bovine tuberculosis, but

they were disappointed. Robert Davies reports

CARWYN Jones, the Welsh Assemblys rural affairs minister, has said he will not use his powers to order badger culling on farms where cattle have bovine tuberculosis.

He told the annual meeting of the Farmers Union of Wales on Wednesday (May 29), that he was not prepared to do anything that compromised the results of current scientific badger culling trials.

But he promised that more resources would be available to clear the tuberculin testing backlog in high-risk areas.

The use of the gamma interferon blood test, believed to give more accurate results, would also be piloted alongside the traditional skin test in certain areas, he said.

While many farmers blamed badgers for the spread of the disease there was no concrete proof of a link, and there was some historical evidence that badger culling did not work, he added.

But Evan Thomas, the FUWs spokesman on TB, said that before culling ended in 1997 TB was cleared more quickly from farms and they stayed clear longer.

Mr Thomas warned the minister that the spirit of the Rebecca Rioters, who defied the law by destroying Welsh tollgates, was not dead. Desperate farmers were being pushed into illegal killing, he said.

Later Mr Jones confirmed that a farmer who told him that he had culled all the badgers on his farm and poured slurry down their setts had been reported to the authorities.

He told more than 200 farmers attending the meeting that he was determined to develop a distinctly Welsh strategy to enable farming families to generate more income. They must become more efficient, diversify, co-operate to become more involved beyond the farm gate, and make use of agri-environment schemes, he said.

Mr Jones said CAP reform was inevitable, but insisted that 90% of Welsh farms would disappear if all subsidies ended overnight. Change must be gradual and not disadvantage Welsh farming, he said.

Determined …Carwyn Jones says he will not compromise the results of the Krebs trial.