Moves in Wales to publish information on bovine TB-infected farms have been blocked, for the time being at least.
In September, the Welsh Government announced, following a consultation, it was following England and going ahead with plans to publish information on cattle herds affected by TB.
The intention was to provide the information on a website, with further details due to be announced in November.
But Plaid Cymru has proposed an annulment of the Order that would have given the Government powers to make information about bTB publicly available.
This means it will now need to be debated and voted upon in the Welsh Assembly before it can become law.
The release of individual herd information on Defra’s TB map has been criticised by some farmers in England, where it has been used by badger cull activists to help target farms.
Plaid has warned the Welsh Government that it would not support the proposals unless it provides an assurance any information is shared in a ‘sensitive and secure’ way.
Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd, said it was important information on TB-infected farms is made available to the farming community to help reduce the risk of it spreading. It would also benefit the veterinary community, he said.
“But, like many stakeholders who responded to a recent consultation, I feel this should be done in a sensitive way that only provides the information to those who require it,” he added.
“I am not convinced of the need for the information to be made accessible to all and sundry. We do not want to see a free-for-all.
“I share the concerns of the farming unions and others that providing such information to the general public has the potential to see it used for other, non-TB related purposes.
“Seeing your farm go down with TB is a harrowing experience that can leave those farmers affected vulnerable in many ways.
“Some have even raised fears about the safety of the individuals that may be identified.”
He said the powers conferred to the Minister by the wording of the Order were too wide-ranging.
“The information to be published is not specified and allowing its publication ‘in any form’ is much too broad,” Mr Gruffydd said.
He called on the Government to be more specific and commit to making the information available in ‘a more controlled and sensitive way’.
He suggested it could it be done using existing password-protected means such as sharing the information through the Rural Payments Wales website.
This would target the information to the farming community rather than to everyone, he added.
“I will be seeking many assurances from the Government about the intended release of this information before I can support the Order.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Publishing this information will enable farmers to take appropriate precautions to protect their herds from the spread of the disease from neighbouring farms and help cattle keepers make more informed decisions when purchasing new stock.”
He said the legislation only permitted the publication of information that enabled others to protect their herds against TB.
As is the case in England, names, addresses and CPH numbers will not be published.
He said the ‘vast majority’ of respondents to the consultation on proposals to publish the location of TB-affected herds agreed there would be disease control benefits in allowing others, not just farmers, more access to information.
“They also responded that more detailed information would help increase farmers’ awareness of the potential TB risks to their herds,” he said.