Former farm minister comments on badger cull

Wales’ former farm minister has said it would be a disaster for farming if the new Welsh government administration failed to press on with the badger cull strategy she initiated.

Plaid Cymru assembly member Elin Jones lost her ministerial position in May when Labour formed the new government after the local elections.

“It would be a disaster to take the foot off the throttle of the TB eradication policy in Wales,” she told Farmers Weekly, adding that no new scientific evidence existed to justify reversing the policy.

Ms Jones said she was hopeful the new minister with responsibility for TB eradication, John Griffiths, would continue with a pilot cull of badgers in a designated area in west Wales.

“He was in the previous government that took the decision to put this legislation in place. I hope he will look at all the evidence as I did and see there is no new evidence to justify reversing that decision,” she said.

Although she admits this course of action had made her working life challenging, she is not sorry she instigated it.

“I completely stand by this strategy because bovine TB is a time bomb that has to be tackled in an area such as Pembrokeshire, where the disease is prevalent in cattle and badgers and where increasing numbers of badgers are carrying this infection.

“It is a very controversial policy to be involved in and most politicians prefer a quiet life, but I have always been someone to make a difficult decision if it is necessary. It will require a degree of backbone from the new government to pursue this action.”

Although Ms Jones was a popular minister with farmers across the political divide, one policy which failed to endear her to them was her decision to end existing environmental land management schemes and unite them under one umbrella, Glastir.

When it failed to drum up sufficient support at the first application stage she agreed to a series of changes to make it more “farmer-friendly”. “I have no regrets about introducing Glastir. It’s long-term success will depend on how it works at a practical level for farmers,” Ms Jones said.

Despite these two major changes to farming policy her proudest achievement was to introduce a financial support scheme for young farmers in Wales – the Young Entrants Support Scheme. The scheme is in its second year and she is hopeful that when budgets are considered later this year money will be earmarked for its continuation.

Ms Jones is now Plaid Cymru’s health spokeswoman, while the party’s new spokesman on rural affairs issues is Llyr Hughes Griffiths.