The Welsh government does not have a policy to eradicate bovine TB and it must “end their dithering” on the issue, say Welsh Conservatives.
The Tories made the clarion call after NFU Cymru published government figures which showed a staggering year-on-year increase of 78% on the number of cattle slaughtered in Pembrokeshire as a result of TB.
Speaking in the Senedd Chamber on Tuesday (14 June), Paul Davies AM (Conservatives), deputy leader and shadow spokesman for rural affairs, urged the Welsh government to bring forward its strategy for tackling TB.
“Given that the Welsh government has suspended its vaccination programme, it’s quite clear it does not have a policy to eradicate bovine TB,” he said.
Mr Davies called on newly appointed farming minister, Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths (Labour), to make a statement on bovine TB as soon as possible.
“Welsh farmers urgently need to understand exactly what the Welsh government’s approach for dealing with bovine TB will be in this Assembly,” said Mr Davies.
The NFU Cymru report showed that in the 12 months up to the end of February 2016, a total of 2,523 cattle were culled due to bovine TB in Pembrokeshire alone.
Over the same period up to the end of February 2015, bovine TB led to the slaughter of 1,412 cattle in the county.
‘Stop dithering on TB policy’
Speaking afterwards outside the Senedd Chamber, Mr Davies added: “The Welsh government cannot continue to dither on this issue.
“Any strategy needs to be hammered out with the close involvement of farmers, farming unions, scientists and rural communities.
“We must ensure that a programme to combat this virulent disease is all-encompassing and permanent, ending once and for all the financial and emotional strain on Welsh farmers.”
Four of the five main political parties in Wales, including the Welsh Conservatives, have indicated they would support a badger culling policy if the science behind the policy can be proven to help lower TB rates in cattle.
However, for the past five years, the ruling Labour has rejected calls from farm leaders to cull badgers, opting instead for vaccination, which cost taxpayers £825 a badger in 2015.
Global TB vaccine shortage
A global shortage of BCG vaccine led the Welsh government to suspend its badger vaccination policy in December 2015 for an indefinite period.
The decision prompted renewed calls from farm leaders for the government to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife and introduce a badger culling policy.
In an exclusive interview with Farmers Weekly last week, Welsh farm minister Ms Griffiths kept her options open on TB. “There is a lot of information to analyse and I need to look at all the options,” she said.