New figures demonstrating the positive impact of badger culling on bovine TB levels in the High Risk Area of England have prompted the Farmers’ Union of Wales to call for a previous Welsh Government plan to cull badgers to tackle disease to be reinstated.
This follows the recent publication of data by Defra which demonstrates that the completion of the 4 year badger culls in both Somerset and Gloucestershire have reduced the number of new TB outbreaks by around half.
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, 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. Previous modelling by the FUW showed that herd incidences could be reduced by 30 percent in a 5 year cull and by a further 33 percent in the following 3 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.
The FUW’s stance on badger culling has been supported by the European Commission's bTB sub-group, comprising veterinary experts from across the EU. Indeed the 2012 report from this group stated that there was ‘no scientific evidence to demonstrate that badger vaccination will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle’. The report went on to state that there was ‘considerable evidence to support the removal of badgers in order to improve the TB status of both badgers and cattle.
“The conclusions of this report, and the ongoing failure of Welsh Government to tackle the wildlife reservoir of disease confirm that Wales' TB eradication programme has lost impetus.
“In contrast to England, farmers in Wales have seen just 5 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 percent 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 Ian Lloyd.