TB Consultation: Wales proposals FAQ

The Welsh Assembly Government has released a question and answer document on its bovine TB control policy.

Q What is the Welsh Assembly Government proposing to do?

A The Welsh Assembly Government proposes that an Intensive Action Area (IAA) be established in a clearly defined area of North Pembrokeshire (as well as small areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire). This IAA will be subject to a range of measures which will include increased surveillance and control of cattle and their movements, a programme of improved biosecurity on farms and finally a programme of culling badgers.

Q What is the Intensive Action Area?

A The Intensive Action Area is mainly in north Pembrokeshire, and part of Ceredigion and Carmarthen.

In the Area the Welsh Assembly Government has:

Put in place strict controls on cattle, including:

• Limiting cattle movements
• Testing herds more frequently
• On-farm measures to reduce contact between wildlife and cattle.

And will also:

• Test all goats and camelids in the area
• Manage a humane and co-ordinated cull of at least 50% of badgers in the area over five years.

Q How does this differ from previous plans?

A This plan does not differ in substance from previous plans,. However, the legislation now clearly defines the area to which it will apply.

Q Why do we want to kill badgers when the Court of Appeal threw out our plans?

A Most experts also agree that badgers play an important role in the transmission of bovine TB and that we will not eradicate TB if we do not tackle the disease in both wildlife and cattle.

Experience from previous culling of badgers, for disease control purposes, has shown that reducing the numbers of badgers in areas endemic with bovine TB can reduce the level of TB in cattle. While the Court of Appeal decision concerned the geographic scope of the Order, the judges made it clear in their judgment that their decision was not a comment on the science.

Q But the science shows that badger culling doesn’t work?

A That is not true. The latest analysis of data from the RBCT indicates that culling badgers if done effectively can have a substantial beneficial effect on TB in cattle. The Minister is satisfied that the reduction in confirmed herd breakdowns in the area will, over a period of 10 years, be more than 22% within the culling area and across the wider 2km band.

Q Why not vaccinate instead?

A Vaccination of badgers and cattle is likely to be part of the bovine TB Eradication Programme.

Vaccination of badgers is unproven for large-scale field use and particularly in having an impact on TB in cattle (the number of confirmed cattle herd breakdowns).

Vaccination is believed only to protect uninfected animals and enough uninfected badgers need to be vaccinated to develop an immunity in the population (which takes time to deliver). Vaccination does not provide complete protection against infection; rather it reduces the risk of infection, the progression of disease in badgers vaccinated prior to infection, and onward transmission of disease. All of these will limit the effect of vaccination of badgers on TB incidence in endemic area of Wales where we expect 30% of badgers to be already infected.

The use of oral vaccine is still not expected until 2015 at the earliest. We cannot wait until its development, as we are not certain of the date when it will be available for use in the field and we have no evidence that its use in badgers will reduce TB incidence in cattle

Q When do we think the cull will start (will it start before the Welsh Assembly Government elections?)

A No final decision has yet been taken. In any instance culling would not begin before the end of the next closed season (May 2011).

Q What will you do if most people oppose your proposals?

A It is expected that this consultation will generate a large number of responses and will consider any views expressed and any evidence that may be provided before making a final decision. The consultation will be available on the Welsh Assembly Government website. The consultation will end on 17 December 2010.

The Welsh Assembly Government urges everyone interested to participate in the democratic process.

Q Will you be enforcing access on to land?

A Yes. The recommendations of the Eradication Programme Board, supported by policing advice, are that a government-led approach is necessary, supported by sufficient powers, to ensure that officials/contractors could access all land and take other actions to meet the requirements of an efficient cull.

Q Why don’t you licence farmers like DEFRA is proposing?

A The legal framework provides for two potential approaches towards the delivery of a badger culling strategy within the IAA:

• The industry-led approach whereby farmers/landowners would, under licence, cull badgers on their land. Welsh Ministers have powers under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 to authorise any person to kill badgers for the purpose of preventing the spread of disease.
• A Government-led approach, whereby the Welsh Assembly Government (or contractors engaged on its behalf) would be responsible for carrying out culling. To enable this strategy to be delivered, an Order under the Animal Health Act 1981 is needed so as to confer the necessary powers on the Welsh Ministers.

The recommendations of the Eradication Programme Board, is that a government-led approach is necessary, supported by sufficient powers, to ensure that officials/contractors could access all land and take other actions to meet the requirements of an efficient cull.

The Welsh Assembly Government will be able to work closely with contracted staff to ensure that culling activities take place in a co-ordinated manner across the whole of the IAA.

Q Why have you gone for the most expensive option when money is tight?

A The recommendations of the Eradication Programme Board, is that a government-led approach is necessary, supported by sufficient powers, to ensure that officials/contractors could access all land and take other actions to meet the requirements of an efficient cull.

Q Why is it such a problem?

A Bovine TB has been getting steadily worse over the last 25 years but since 2002 the level of disease in parts of Wales has escalated to unsustainable levels.

Bovine TB is devastating cattle farming in west Wales. It is a serious animal health and welfare issue. The disease costs the Welsh taxpayer millions each year – £120 million in compensation in the past 10 years, the price of two brand new hospitals.

Q Is the number of TB breakdowns decreasing?

A The levels of TB remain unacceptably high
• The number of animals slaughtered in quarter 4 2008 and quarter 1 2009 seem high compared to the rest of the series, particularly in Wales
• Results for later 2009 and 2010 are broadly in line with similar periods in 2007 and 2008.

Q What is the disease picture in the Intensive Action Area?

A The IAA has 321 cattle herds which account for 2.5% of the total number of herds in Wales (13,095 source DEFRA TB stats May 2010). The total amount of compensation paid to TB breakdown herds within the IAA (£12,173,983) between 2005 and 2009 accounted for 14.6% of the total compensation paid for cattle slaughtered across Wales (£83,433,661).

The average cost per confirmed herd breakdown in the IAA has been calculated as £53,621. This is higher than previously reported estimates for costs and is a reflection of the cattle industry and disease situation specific to the IAA

Q How can I respond to the consultation?

A We would prefer responses to be submitted using the on-line form at: www.wales.gov.uk/bovinetb. However, e-mail and written responses will also be accepted. If you would like a paper copy of the consultation document please contact the TB Team at bovinetbconsultations@wales.gsi.gov.uk.