There is to be no immediate badger culling in Wales. Instead the Welsh Government is planning a new regionalised response to eliminate bovine TB as part of its refreshed eradication programme, along with a number of farm-related measures.
The key development will be the establishment of Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas across Wales based on bovine TB incidence levels. Each area will have a tailored approach to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks.
The new approach is expected to take effect from April next year and in the meantime there is to be industry consultation on the measures to be applied to protect the Low TB Area and to reduce disease in the Intermediate and High TB Areas.
Announcing details of the refreshed programme in the Senedd on Tuesday (October 18) Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said the measures would build on the success of the eradication programme so far, as well as looking at options to do some things differently.
Other new measures include strengthening cattle controls, with chronic breakdown herds having individual action plans developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, aimed at clearing up the infection.
But while acknowledging the role played by wildlife in some TB breakdowns, Mrs Griffiths made it clear that Wales will continue to rule out an England-style cull of badgers with farmers free shooting infected and healthy badgers themselves.
Instead, a range of other options available will be considered, including learning from a pilot in Northern Ireland where badgers were cage-trapped and infected animals were humanely killed.
Working with vets and wildlife experts, she said she would consider whether a similar approach might be appropriate in high incidence areas where there was chronic herd breakdown and an objective confirmation that badgers were infected.
The consultation is also seeking views on:
Introducing a mandatory Informed Purchasing Scheme to help farmers make informed decisions about the health of the cattle they wish to purchase;
Imposing 50 per cent compensation penalties for cattle moved within a multi-site restricted holding;
Reducing the TB compensation cap from £15,000 to £5,000, which would not affect the majority of farmers but result in savings of around £300,000 a year.
“Our current programme for TB eradication in Wales comes to an end this year, so it is time to take stock, reflect on our successes, learn lessons and consider a refreshed approach,” added Mrs Griffiths.
“Since we introduced the eradication programme in 2012 we have seen a decrease in the number of new cases of bovine TB in cattle herds in Wales, with the latest figures showing that the number of new TB incidents is down by 19 per cent.
“I am keen to build on this success and speed up progress, which is why I am looking to introduce enhanced, evidence-based measures. I believe this refreshed TB eradication programme will put us in a stronger position to ensure we continue to make progress towards a TB Free Wales.”
Addressing the availability of the badger vaccine, she said the Welsh Government was continuing to monitor the situation but the Badger BCG vaccine would not be available in 2017. The availability of other vaccines is an option still being explored.
“Vaccination still has a role to play in our approach to TB eradication, but it is too soon to think about the future deployment of the vaccine until we know when the supply will be restored.”