‘True’ partnership approach needed to tackle bovine TB in Wales

A ‘true’ partnership approach to tackling bovine TB in Wales must see the Welsh Government do more to work with farmers to address the disease in cattle and wildlife, according to NFU Cymru.

That call comes after the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths updated the National Assembly on Welsh Government’s Bovine TB Eradication Programme, which was launched 18 months ago.

While the Minister’s announcement pointed to a 5% decrease in the number of new herd incidents in Wales, it also showed a 12% increase in the number of cattle slaughtered in 2018 as a result of bovine TB.

In 2018-19, over £14 million was paid in TB compensation to Welsh farmers – something Griffiths described as “unsustainable to the public purse”.

“Any new regime needs to drive good farming practice whilst discouraging bad practice,” the Minister said. “Our refreshed TB eradication programme, which I launched in 2017, fundamentally changed the way we as a Government and the industry view and tackle the disease.

However, NFU Cymru said the figures were “worrying”, adding that it was also concerned to see the Welsh Government propose a review of the current TB compensation regime.

NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones, who went to Cardiff to hear the Minister deliver her statement to plenary, said: “It is 18 months since the Minister launched the refreshed Bovine TB Eradication Programme and Welsh farmers will be questioning whether we will ever be rid of this disease.

To see 11,233 cattle slaughtered in 2018 – a 12% increase from the previous year – is completely unacceptable and in our view is not an indicator that this strategy is having a sufficient impact on this serious problem.

“While Welsh Government can point towards relative success in the Low TB Area in North West Wales, which is of course welcomed, this is of no consolation whatsoever to those based in the hotspots, both in High and some Intermediate areas, where bovine TB continues to cause untold stress and concern.

“We cannot forget that the facts and figures on spreadsheets and data dashboards do not truly reflect the level of suffering being experienced by farming families in many parts of Wales.

A ‘true’ partnership

Jones said the efforts to eradicate TB in Wales had not a ‘true’ partnership approach.

“Farmers are the ones bearing the financial costs through additional cattle controls and restrictions while the reservoir of disease in wildlife remains relatively untouched,” he said.

“The refreshed approach was supposed to address this issue but sadly it does not.

“We need only look over the border to England to see how an effective collaborative approach can be put in place to successfully tackle bovine TB.

If we are ever to live and farm in a country that is free of bovine TB we need to remove the politics and emotion from this debate and instead focus on the science – just as our neighbours have done in England and other parts of the world.

“NFU Cymru remains committed to working with Welsh Government in a true partnership approach that can see us work together to effectively tackle the disease in cattle, but also in the wildlife population as well.”