Welsh Labour’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, has outlined a new regionalised response to eliminate bovine TB in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s refreshed bovine TB Eradication Programme.
Under the refreshed programme, Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas will be established across Wales based on bovine TB incidence levels. Each area will have a tailored approach to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks. The Welsh Government is consulting on the measures to be applied to protect the Low TB Area and to reduce disease in the Intermediate and High TB Areas.
The refreshed programme builds 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 of cattle controls. Under the plans for the programme, chronic breakdown herds would have individual action plans, developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), aimed at clearing up the infection.
The Cabinet Secretary has also acknowledged the role played by wildlife in some TB breakdowns, but is clear that Wales will continue to rule out an England-style cull of badgers with farmers free shooting infected and healthy badgers themselves. Since the Welsh Government introduced the eradication programme in 2012 there has been a 19 per-cent decrease in the number of new cases of bovine TB in cattle herds in Wales.
Instead, the 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, the Cabinet Secretary will consider whether a similar approach might be appropriate in high incidence areas where there is chronic herd breakdown and an objective confirmation that badgers are infected.
The Welsh Government consultation on the proposals 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 compensation penalties for cattle moved within a multi-site restricted holding;
- Reducing the TB compensation cap to £5,000, which would not affect the majority of farmers but would result in around £300,000 a year savings.
The consultation can be found here.