Five badgers were culled in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s strategy to tackle bovine TB, a report has said.
The cull began in March 2017, with farms permitted to apply for a cull licence in areas where the disease was rife.
But as Farmers Guardian reported last month, farmers were being put off applying for licences as they must first carry out costly measures to make their units more biosecure.
It was also suggested some farmers may be put off for fear of being targeted by animal rights activists.
In its report on year one, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) reviewed work on three farms which took place between August and November 2017.
Using the trap and test method, only badgers which proved positive were killed.
The report said the cost of the trapping, equipment, testing and post-mortem examinations came to £383,212 or £76,662 for each of the badgers killed.
NFU Cymru president John Davies described the results as ’very disappointing’.
“Bovine TB remains the biggest threat to our beef and dairy industry in large parts of the country – over 10,000 cattle in Wales were slaughtered last year as a result of bovine TB - and it is vital we do everything we can to tackle it," said Mr Davies, adding the Welsh Government’s Badger Found Dead survey highlighted that in some areas of Wales one in five badgers were suffering from the disease.
"We have always said all available options must be used to control and eradicate this devastating disease, including cattle testing, movement controls, biosecurity, vaccination when available and where appropriate, as well as measures to actively address the proven incidence of disease in wildlife.
“The findings of this report are very disappointing, not least the low number of farms and badgers involved in this work.
"We urgently need to look at the lessons learned from other countries who have implemented successful programmes to actively address this persistent issue and significantly reduce the impact of this awful disease on cattle, wildlife and farming families.”
The Badger Trust said the policy was a ’failure’, as when the badgers’ blood tests were repeated in the laboratory, none proved positive on a 12-week tissue culture.
However, as the TB organism does not grow easily in the laboratory, a negative test does not prove the animals did not have the disease.
The Welsh Government, which had previously been opposed to badger culling, changed its policy last year in an attempt to address the growing bTB problem in Wales.
While it remains opposed to a large scale cull as seen in England, culling is permitted where the Welsh Government views that badgers are contributing to the persistence of disease in chronic herd breakdowns.
In these cases, badgers will be trapped and tested on the breakdown farm and test positive badgers will be humanely killed. Persistent herd breakdowns will be focussed on initially.
The government’s plan also states it will ‘continue to assess the most appropriate deployment of the badger BCG vaccine if and when it becomes available’.