The Welsh Government’s decision not to cull badgers will set back by years the fight against bovine tuberculosis, according to vets.
The decision was announced by Welsh environment minister Alun Griffiths on Tuesday 20 March who said that he was abandoning proposals for a targeted badger cull to tackle bovine TB after a review of scientific evidence.
Instead of continuing with a planned badger cull in the Intensive Action Area of Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Government will develop a badger vaccination project.
British Veterinary Association – disappointment
But the British Veterinary Association responded by expressing “enormous disappointment” and branded the move a “backwards step”. The association also questioned whether the decision agreed with the currently available scientific evidence.
BVA president Carl Padgett said:
“This is clearly a political decision, rather than a scientific one, and it will potentially set back our efforts to tackle this devastating disease by many years.
“We are deeply disappointed that the minister has failed to listen to the advice of those most affected by bovine TB – the veterinary surgeons and farmers dealing with the disease every day.”
Mr Padgett added: “The Science Review states that no scientific evidence exists to assess whether vaccinating badgers will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. Vaccinating infected badgers has no effect and we know that there is a high level of infection in the badger population.
“Yet the previous strategy to cull badgers in the Intensive Action Area was backed by scientific evidence that a cull could reduce cattle herd breakdowns by an average of 16% over nine years.
“Meanwhile, cattle will continue to be culled as we wait for what may, or may not, be the benefits of badger vaccination.”
British Cattle Veterinary Association – opportunity missed
The president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association president Andrew Praill echoed Mr Padgett’s comments.
“Dropping scientifically proven plans to tackle the disease in wildlife flies in the face of the Welsh Government’s stated aim of a science-led approach to tackling bovine TB,” Mr Praill said.
“Farmers and vets in the Intensive Action Area have put a huge amount of effort into complying with stricter cattle measures in the hope that the government would take action to deal with the wildlife reservoir. We fear that today’s announcement could seriously jeopardise the relationship between the industry and the Government.
“There has already been a long delay leading up to today’s announcement during which time the opportunity has been missed to base an eradication strategy on existing scientific evidence,” he said.
“Sadly this appears to be a case of making the science fit the policy, not making the policy fit the science.”
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