The Farmers Union of Wales has repeated its long standing call for a science-led policy to control TB in wildlife following the suggestion that the Welsh Government’s abandoned badger vaccination pilot in north Pembrokeshire could restart in 2017.
Ministerial advice provided to the Welsh Government in 2012 suggested vaccination in the north Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Area (IAA) could cost Welsh farmers and the taxpayer an additional £3.5 million compared with a badger cull.
“But the results after four years of badger vaccination in the IAA appear to support the original assessment that vaccination would cost farmers and the taxpayers millions and save the lives of far fewer cattle than badger culling would have done,” according to the FUW’s deputy president and north Pembrokeshire farmer, Brian Thomas.
“Based on trials in other areas, we could have expected a 30 or 40 per cent reduction in cattle herd TB incidences by now, had the original plan to cull badgers gone ahead.
“Instead, matters in the area are no different to other comparable areas where badger vaccination has not taken place.”
Mr Thomas was speaking after attending a Welsh Government briefing session where the results of Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) modelling of badger vaccination strategies were presented.
“A key focus of the modelling work carried out and the subsequent statement made by Welsh Government indicates a possible return to badger vaccination in 2017,” he added.
“In our view that would mean returning to a pointless and costly exercise which has yet to show any positive impacts, whereas badger culling as originally planned would already have resulted in significant reductions in TB incidences.”
There was also no guarantee that the BCG vaccine used on badgers would be available by 2017.
“There is currently a global shortage of BCG vaccine, and given that one badger dose can vaccinate 20 infants in regions where human TB is a huge problem, such as Africa, it would be immoral to deplete global vaccine stocks by vaccinating badgers,” said Mr Thomas.
The average cost of vaccinating each badger caught in the north Pembrokeshire Intensive Action Area has been around £700.
In the 12 months to the end of September 2015 the number of cattle culled in Wales due to TB was 7,380, an increase of 25 per cent on the equivalent period to September 2014.
“That is equivalent to 20 cattle culled every day of the week,” added Mr Thomas.
“Farmers are doing their part in terms of controlling the disease, and accepted that cattle which represent a risk need to be destroyed.
“Welsh Ministers need to recognise that other animals which represent a risk should also be controlled, and that to avoid the issue by spending millions on vaccinating badgers will simply make matters worse in the long run.”