Farming unions have accused Christianne Glossop, the Welsh chief vet, of using statistics which ‘do not accurately tell the full story’ of bovine TB in Wales.
Speaking to NFU Cymru’s Pembrokeshire branch last week, Ms Glossop said new incidents of the disease were at a ten-year low and over 95 per cent of Welsh herds were now TB-free.
She also described the increase in the number of cattle slaughtered as ‘cause for concern’, but claimed it ‘did not reflect a worsening situation’.
Instead, she attributed the rise to an increase in the use of the more sensitive gamma interferon blood test and more severe interpretation of the skin test, which were flagging infected cattle in herds with a history of bovine TB at an earlier stage.
Jeff Evans, Pembrokeshire NFU Cymru county chairman, said: “While we welcome the fact that across the whole of Wales the number of new TB incidents is at a ten-year low, there are still many areas of Wales where the percentage of TB-free herds is considerably lower.
“For farmers and families affected by TB in those areas where the disease is endemic, the 95 per cent TB-free figure for all herds in Wales is of little consolation.”
Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) spokesman Brian Walters welcomed the downward trend, but added: “The number of new TB incidences per Welsh herd is lower for the 12 months to October 2016 than in recent years, although it is still around 16 per cent higher than in 2006, so it depends which measure you use.”
Though Ms Glossop ruled out an ‘England-style’ badger cull, she agreed wildlife did play a part in some TB cases and said the problem would be ‘addressed’ in bespoke action plans for herds with persistent breakdowns.
NFU Cymru’s Mr Evans welcomed the commitment on wildlife, saying farmers needed to see ‘firm and fast action’ on the promises.
Mr Walters from the FUW said dealing with the disease in badgers had to be part of the strategy, claiming there was ‘no doubt’ current TB levels would have been far lower if culling had been implemented earlier as planned.