The Welsh Government has a duty to get on top of the bovine TB problem to help farmers cope with big Brexit changes, writes Welsh Conservative Leader Paul Davies AM.
Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has repeatedly ruled out ‘England-style culls’ in Wales from the first day she became responsible for agriculture.
She recently stated a vaccination programme was expected to begin again by the end of last year.
But now we are quickly moving towards March 29, and we are no closer to hearing how effective the Welsh Government’s plans are in tackling this blight on Welsh farmers.
The Minister pledged recently to make a statement on how effective the Government has been in helping farmers beat bovine TB, but sadly this seemingly won’t be until April, leaving farmers with little comfort around negotiations for leaving the EU.
The devastating impact of TB on farming livelihoods and the surrounding economy isn’t getting any easier, and is costing the taxpayer huge amounts of money. My own constituency of Preseli Pembrokeshire has been particularly badly affected.
In my questions to the First Minister on the floor of the Senedd last month, I urged him to do more to tackle the disease.
The Government is ignoring the fact that the number of cattle in Wales being slaughtered is increasing. Unfortunately, he was hesitant to answer my question and he failed again to reveal how the Government intends to meet its target of eradicating the disease by 2041.
And now, with Brexit on the horizon, we fear more than ever the figures which dictate the dark cloud hanging over Welsh farming.
Recent data shows more than 1,000 cattle in Wales are slaughtered every month because of TB. And it’s not getting any better.
The numbers, published monthly, show despite a six per cent decrease in new herd incidents (753), there was a five per cent increase in cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB control in the 12 months to November 2018 (10,840).
These are the highest figures in 10 years.
Shockingly, the number of animals slaughtered in October last year, 1,499, was higher than any other single month since records began in 1996.
By comparison, in England, the latest statistics from Defra on its pilot badger culling areas in Gloucester and Somerset show there has been a 50 per cent reduction in the number of TB cases in the last four years.
I greatly look forward to hearing how the Welsh Government is tackling this terrible disease, especially given we are now on the brink of leaving the European Union.
The industry simply must not be made to wait any longer for answers.
Welsh Conservatives regret that the Labour-led Government has been slow to act on the issue.
It has followed an erratic and expensive approach, demonstrated by the fact that only five badgers have been culled at a cost of £76,222 each under the Welsh Government’s programme in 2016, and a total of just 37 badgers were tested under the pilot areas at a cost of £383,112.
As a party, we have long supported using a holistic programme to eradicate bovine TB.
We believe the disease should be removed from both the wildlife population, as well as cattle.
Paul can be found tweeting at @PaulDaviesPembs