Welsh farmers have hit out at the Welsh government’s pledge to eradicate bovine TB following a 10 per cent jump in the number of new herd incidents.
According to official government figures, the number of herds under restrictions also increased 16 per cent year-on-year within the 12 months up to the end of April 2018, while the total number of animals slaughtered was up three per cent.
The issue was a hot topic at Pembrokeshire County Show; 3,387 cattle were slaughtered in the county during the 12-month period up to the end of April 2018, a 24 per cent rise on the same period last year.
Dairy farmer and Pembrokeshire NFU county chairman Jeff Evans said while cattle farmers were continuing to help control and eradicate the disease by following stringent cattle movement and testing controls, the government figures ‘clearly illustrate that the measures currently in place to eradicate this disease are not working’.
He said Welsh Government’s failure to stick to its commitment to reduce the risk of disease spread where there was evidence of infection in the local badger population – including cage-trapping, testing and where necessary humanely killing infected badgers – was ‘hugely damaging and unsustainable’.
“It is a source of real frustration that since the introduction of these individual action plans for chronic breakdown herds, Welsh Government in 2017 only managed to issue licences on three farms across the whole of Wales, with only five badgers having been removed,” Mr Evans said.
“This is in stark contrast to the 10,119 cattle that have been slaughtered in Wales due to bTB in the last 12 months.
“This is when we know, from the Badger Found Dead Survey, that in some parts of Wales one in five badgers are suffering from this disease.
“The continual testing and slaughter of infected cattle alone will not eradicate the disease in herds where re-infection occurs from badgers. This makes control very difficult – and eradication impossible.”
Ian Lloyd, animal health and welfare committee chairman at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), said whilst there would continue to be regional variation in these results, the data would ‘undoubtedly be of concern to FUW members, many of whom have been under costly and burdensome cattle restrictions for a significant period of time’.
He said tackling bovine TB remained a priority for FUW and, although the Union was pleased to see Welsh Government recognition of the need to deal with wildlife, progress on the issue had been ‘painfully slow’.
“The Welsh cattle sector continues to operate under a plethora of restrictive cattle controls which are introduced following one policy after another,” Mr Lloyd added.
“However, despite such measures, the long-term disease picture continues to show periods of rising and falling TB levels.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “It is important to take caution when observing short-term trends in bTB statistics and we need to allow time for any impacts to take effect before we draw any meaningful conclusions.
“We are in regular discussion with the NFU on this matter. The Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs will make a statement in April 2019 on progress with the TB Eradication Programme.”