Welsh TB cattle slaughter numbers rise by record 28%

A record 12,799 cattle were slaughtered in Wales because of bovine TB in the year to August – a 28% increase year on year.

The official figures, released by Defra on Wednesday (13 November) show one region recorded a 190% increase for TB-infected animals slaughtered in the same period.

Comparable figures for England show a 1% drop – to 33,223 from 32,793 the previous year.

See also: Opinion: Welsh government ‘dreadfully wrong’ in its approach to bovine TB

In the same period, there was a 7% increase in the number of herds in Wales not officially classified as bovine TB free due to a bovine TB incident.

Meanwhile, England saw a 6% decrease in herds classified as not officially bovine TB free.

“These figures will make for worrying reading for farmers across Wales, many of whom have been – and continue to be – severely affected by bovine TB,” said Wales’ shadow minister for environment and rural affairs Andrew RT Davies.

“The Welsh government has been painfully slow to act and this has left many rural businesses across the country in limbo. Labour’s current approach is expensive, erratic and fails to give farmers confidence that this disease will be eradicated in Wales.”

Anger and frustration

Mr Davies said there is a great deal of anger and frustration within the rural community over the government’s failing TB strategy and farmers were “now at their wits’ end”.

The mental health of farmers is suffering due to the emotional strain and the potential loss of their livelihood because of bovine TB.

NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) have called on the Welsh government to step up its efforts to tackle this crisis, arguing that cattle controls alone are not sufficient.

Both farming unions have urged the Welsh government to look towards their neighbours in England and to learn the lessons of Defra’s TB eradication strategy, which focuses on a partnership approach to tackle the disease in cattle and wildlife.

“Farmers are doing all that they can by following stringent cattle movement and testing controls, but it’s time the cabinet minister (Lesley Griffiths) and her government stepped up to the plate,” added Mr Davies.

‘No single factor’

For its part, the Welsh government says there is “no single factor” driving the increase in the slaughter of TB-infected cattle.

This includes stricter testing, especially an increase in the number of reactors identified through the gamma (blood) interferon test, and the size, type and enhanced surveillance of herds in the High West TB Area, which accounts for two-thirds of all animals slaughtered.