Welsh government to give badger cull verdict

The Welsh government is expected to announce whether it plans to progress with a badger cull to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

Environment minister John Griffiths will announce the newly-elected Labour government’s plans at the Senedd on Tuesday 21 June.

The pilot cull in Pembrokeshire had received the backing of the National Assembly of Wales before the assembly went into recess for the May elections.

But the Welsh Labour Party is thought to be less convinced of the need for a cull and the advocate, former rural affairs minister Elin Jones, no longer has a ministerial position.

Concerned Welsh unions have urged Mr Griffiths to continue with the comprehensive TB eradication strategy, which included a pilot cull in an intensive action area in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

NFU Cymru’s deputy president, Stephen James, said the science which had formulated the decision to opt for a cull had not changed since Labour came to power.

“The Welsh government pledged in its manifesto to proceed on the basis of science. The science hasn’t changed and I hope that when the minister for the environment and sustainability makes a statement to plenary that he will now recognise the need to press on with plans.

“There is ample evidence already in the public domain and readily available on the Welsh government website,” said Mr James, who farms in Pembrokeshire and has personally lost dozens of dairy animals to TB.

He said cattle farmers had already jumped through major hoops to get on top of this disease, including increased cattle testing, movement controls and measures to reduce contact between cattle and wildlife.

“I sincerely hope their efforts will not have been in vain. Without a concurrent strategy to deal with the reservoir of disease in badgers, all this hard work will have been to little avail.”

Last week, Wales’ first minister, Carwyn Jones, refused to reveal if his new government would go ahead with the cull.

In response to a question by Plaid Cymru’s new rural affairs spokesman, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Mr Jones said the government’s pledge had been to consider the science regarding bovine TB.

“This is something that we look at continually, every week, every month, to see what the most effective way is of dealing with bovine TB, which is a problem for a lot of dairy farmers in Wales,” he said.

Responsibility for dealing with bovine TB has moved from the agriculture portfolio to the environment portfolio within the new Cabinet structure.

The current deputy minister for agriculture, Alun Davies AM, is a long-standing backer of the cull policy, but, speaking at the annual general meeting of the Farmers’ Union of Wales on Friday, he said it was right that this issue should fall within Mr Griffiths’ portfolio because it concerned regulation.

Although he said he was working closely with the minister on this issue, he added: “It is right and proper that John has responsibility for regulation while my role is the economy and economic growth,” he told FUW members.