Welsh farm leaders demand badger cull after England’s progress

New Defra figures demonstrating the positive impact of badger culling on bovine TB levels in England have prompted calls for a widespread badger cull in Wales.

The Farmers’ Union Of Wales (FUW) urged the Welsh government to reinstate a shelved plan to cull badgers in Wales, originally put forward by Plaid Cymru minister Elin Jones.

This follows the publication of data by Defra which shows that the four-year badger culls in the original counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire have reduced the number of TB outbreaks by 50%.

See also: What happens if my herd fails a TB test?

The FUW believes that the results demonstrate the need to reinstate the proactive Intensive Action Area (IAA) badger cull programme, which was abolished and replaced with a badger vaccination programme under the then environment minister, John Griffiths.

“These findings are unsurprising and support the FUW’s interpretation of the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT),” said Ian Lloyd, FUW Animal Health and Welfare Committee chairman.

“Previous modelling by the FUW showed that herd incidences could be reduced by 30% in a five-year cull and by a further 33% in the following three years post culling.”

The FUW’s stance on badger culling has been supported by the European Commission’s Bovine TB sub-group, comprising veterinary experts from across the EU.

The 2012 report from this group stated that there was “no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle”. 

The report went on to state that there was “considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle”.

Trap, test and removal policy

Last year, five badgers were removed as part of the Welsh government’s trap, test and removal policy, which cost taxpayers £380,000. This year, trained badger cull marksmen in England could remove more than 40,000 badgers.

The FUW accused the government of “ongoing failure” to tackle the wildlife reservoir of disease and said that Wales’ TB eradication programme has “lost impetus”.

“The Welsh cattle industry has simply had enough and the FUW is now calling on the Welsh government to properly recognise the impact of this insidious disease on farming families in Wales,” said Mr Lloyd.

More than 10,000 cattle were culled due to bovine TB in Wales in 2017, representing a 2.3% rise on the previous year.