15 March 2002

Farms slow death from TB

By Robert Davies

BADGERS and farm businesses are dying slowly and painfully because the government is not doing enough to fight bovine tuberculosis.

Chris Fernyhough, a Montgomery-based vet, made the comment at the launch of a Farmers Union of Wales campaign to get the spread of the disease taken more seriously.

But he added that the badger issue was so emotional he did not expect a change in policy, even if current testing proved that culling badgers in setts on farms with reactor cattle was the best way of controlling TB.

Glyn Davies, chairman of the Welsh Assemblys agriculture committee, said it was clear the government either did not accept that badgers were responsible for spreading TB, or were afraid to upset public opinion.

"So many people have contacted me on this issue and I know we have a very serious problem that is getting worse, but I regret to say no action will be taken until the test results are in."

Graham Jones, whose County Council smallholding was used for the campaign launch, told him that would be too late. He had lost nine of his 48 milkers and the income they would have generated for six months.

Despite keeping the herd at Penybryn, Kerry, closed since 1988, and after struggling through a year of the toughest possible livestock movement and biosecurity rules, his cows had succumbed to the disease.

"I am not a badger hater, but I cant see any other way that TB has reached this farm again more than 40 years after the last case," said Mr Jones. "We are already overstocked following foot-and-mouth restrictions and the cows are due to start calving, but I will not be able to sell anything and could face welfare problems.

"It seems to me that badgers are much better protected than either farmers or their cattle. We are afraid that a few more reactors will appear at each test and our family farming business faces a slow death."

The FUW says 214 Welsh cattle farms are under TB restrictions, of which 47 are in Powys. &#42

Glyn Davies (left) hears how TB is rampaging through farms from the FUWs Evan Thomas (right) as the union bids to get the plight of farmers and their cattle recognised. Graham and Gwyneth Jones, who hosted the event, listen in.