Calls for Welsh badger cull to be reinstated following English results

Welsh farmers are calling for the country’s devolved Government plan to cull badgers to tackle bovine TB to be reinstated following recent figures showing the impact of cull areas in England.

The data by Defra showed the completion of four-year badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire have halved the number of new TB outbreaks in both areas.

The English badger cull programme forms part of the strategy for achieving Officially Bovine TB Free Status for England by 2038.

The positive results have prompted Defra to roll-out the cull in the remaining High-Risk Areas of England.

Ian Lloyd, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) Animal Health and Welfare Committee chairman, said: “These findings are unsurprising and support the FUW’s interpretation of the results of the Randomised Badger Culling Trials.

“The previous modelling by the FUW showed that herd incidences could be reduced by 30% in a five-year cull and by a further 33% in the following three years post-culling.”

The FUW believes that the results demonstrate the need to reinstate the proactive Intensive Action Area (IAA) badger cull programme which was abolished and replaced with a badger vaccination programme under the then Environment Minister, John Griffiths.

However, the European Commission’s bTB sub-group, comprising veterinary experts from across the EU, in a 2012 report stated that there was “no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle”.

It added: “[There is] considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle.”

‘A plan on the shelf’

Lloyd added: “In contrast to England, farmers in Wales have seen just five badgers culled since the start of the ‘Refreshed’ TB Eradication programme almost a year ago.

“The costs of this meagre cull programme have been exorbitant and it is now time for the Welsh TB programme to place the same emphasis on dealing with wildlife as it does cattle.

“In light of the English results and the fact that Welsh Government effectively has a plan on the shelf which is, in many ways, ‘ready to go’, it is now time to reinstate the original plan for the IAA in order to accelerate the Welsh bovine TB programme.

“Under the Refreshed TB programme, cattle keepers in Wales have adhered to numerous costly and burdensome cattle controls and restrictions.

“FUW members had a reasonable expectation that this same programme would make significant inroads in dealing with badgers. That expectation has not yet been met,” he said.

More than 10,000 cattle were culled due to bovine TB in Wales in 2017, representing a 2.3% rise on the previous year.

“The Welsh cattle industry has simply had enough and the FUW is now calling on the Welsh Government to properly recognise the impact of this insidious disease on farming families in Wales,” said Lloyd.