No Word Yet on Location of Wales' First Badger Cull
Byline: Steve Dube Farming Editor
THE site of the first ever cull of badgers in Wales will probably not be known until the autumn.
A Welsh Assembly Government spokeswoman said the announcement last week by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones of a cull of badgers in a pilot are a signalled the start of work on various elements of a comprehensive package of measures to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in Wales.
"Before that statement, officials were not in a position to start work on the details of the various elements of the package," she said.
"Now it has been given the go-ahead, officials are able to begin work on the exact detail of the programme."
The spokeswoman said the measures to deal with TB in cattle, such as strengthening biosecurity standards and husbandry practices, could begin straight away, informed by results from the Biosecurity Intensive Treatment Area in South-West Wales, where farmers have been working with vets from seven private practices to identify the risks and improve the health of their animals. These results are expected to be available by the summer.
Meanwhile preparations are under way for a one-off TB test for every herd in Wales over the next 12 months - and to test camelids such as llamas and alpacas for the first time.
"We will be working closely with the farming industry and wildlife experts and we would anticipate that this work would not be complete until the autumn if it is to be done thoroughly. We do not, therefore, have a firm timescale for any cull as yet."
Wales' chief vet Christianne Glossop said it was important that every source of infection on a farm was removed to deal successfully with the epidemic.
"We know there's a link between infection in cattle and infection in badgers.
It's true in Great Britain and it's true in Ireland," said Dr Glossop.
"Doing nothing is not an option. To be successful we need to deal with all sources of infection and keep all clean areas clean.
The aim is healthy cattle, healthy badgers and healthy people."
Dr Glossop said that before the cull could start she needed to consider the legal aspects, such as the Protection of Badgers Act, and give "full ethical consideration" to the move.
"It will not be a one-off action, it will be sustained over a significant period of time," she said.
Last week's announcement drew predictable responses from either side of the divide over whether to slaughter badgers as well as cattle in the struggle to eradicate an increasing epidemic of bTB.
Badger Trust Cymru spokesman Trevor Lawson called it "sacrificial politics at its worst" and said badger culling would actually spread the disease.
"The Assembly and Elin Jones have cherry-picked the scientific evidence which suits the powerful farming lobby in Wales," he said. "With 96% of the public opposed to a cull there will be a damaging impact on tourism and on public support for Welsh farm produce in the culling area."
The RSPCA also criticised the cull. But both the Farmers' Union of Wales and NFU Cymru commended Elin Jones for "grasping the nettle".
NFU Cymru president Dai Davies said scientific evidence pointed to both cattle and badgers being involved in the transmission of bTB.
"Despite the measures already taken and aimed at containing the disease in cattle there has been a 750% rise in the number of cattle slaughtered last year compared to a decade ago," said Mr Davies. …