NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) have slammed the Welsh Government’s refreshed TB eradication programme in their responses to the official consultation, refusing to accept further cattle controls without action being taken to ‘actively address’ the disease in wildlife.
The hard-line stance will be a blow to the Government, which has already been accused of burying the issue by holding the consultation over the Christmas period and at the same time as another consultation on controversial NVZ proposals.
NFU Cymru president Stephen James said: “All the feedback we have received shares one common theme – an overwhelming frustration that bovine TB continues to wreak havoc for farming businesses and families across Wales, while the reservoir of disease in wildlife remains unaddressed.
“Until now, Welsh Government has failed to implement a comprehensive eradication strategy to tackle a disease that continues to claim the lives of cattle in their prime.
“Cattle keepers take their disease control responsibilities extremely seriously and farm under stringent and restrictive cattle controls. As each year goes by these cattle controls have increased.
“Any suggestion of further cattle controls without taking appropriate measures to tackle the reservoir of disease in wildlife is incomprehensible from a farmer’s perspective.”
The union also raised concerns about the proposed six-monthly testing period in high TB areas, saying it would lead to higher costs, more health and safety issues and increase the likelihood tests would fall at inconvenient times such as harvest or when cattle are heavily pregnant or calving.
Other fears included adding further complication to livestock movements by splitting Wales into different TB risk zones – a part of the plan which was not under consultation. It was suggested the County Parish Holding (CPH) rationalisation programme be completed before the zones were created.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has rejected the zoning proposal altogether, arguing separating the country into five regions based on TB incidence would mean a heightening of cattle controls which were already among the strictest in the world.
FUW TB spokesman Brian Walters said the union’s members would only accept regionalisation if badger numbers were reduced in the areas where they pass the disease on to cattle.
He also criticised the decision to focus on badger vaccination, saying the Government’s official scientific advice had concluded a badger cull would have led to a significant reduction in the number of herds with TB and cattle slaughtered.
“The consultation paper acknowledges that the level of disease found in badgers in Wales is 6.6 per cent, around 1420 per cent higher than the level found in cattle, which is 0.4 per cent”, he added.
NFU Cymru is now calling for further discussion of the proposals with industry, including vets and livestock auctioneers.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We welcome all evidence-based responses to our consultation on a refreshed TB eradication programme.
“We will now consider all responses closely to ensure our future approach to eradicating this disease is proportionate, effective and that it works in the best interest of all parties.”