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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

North Pembrokeshire fights back

Last night I drove to Newport, Pembrokeshire to take part in a public meeting to discuss the proposed badger cull in that area.

Over 200 people packed the Memorial Hall, the overwhelming majority of them opposed to the cull. I spoke about the present position following the report on the English badger cull trials and urged the audience to play an active part in the General Election, lobbying candidates to put pressure on their parties to reconsider.

There were about 8 or 10 farmers present, all opposed to the cull and one made a strong plea to protect the biodiversity of the area. There was also powerful testimony from a local tourist operator who told the meeting that his bookings for this year are already 70% down because of the prospect of Welsh Government officials trapping and shooting badgers during the holiday season. Many visitors will not come back.

Letters and packs have already been sent out to landowners including the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. A large part of the cull area is a SSSI. It also includes the Cilgerran Wildlife Centre which includes amongst its activities families watching badgers in their natural environment. Is the Minister going to shoot these badgers in front of those families?

Opposition to this cull is of course peaceful but those opposing it are resourceful. In that context the Minister's decision to fund three additional police officers in the area for the period of the cull does seem a bit over the top.

Those who believe that this issue is a town versus countryside one are very much mistaken. Opposition to the cull is as strong in the countryside as it is in more urban areas. This is not going to be easy for the government by any stretch of the imagination.
Why was the meeting held in Newport? Maybe because it's a 'town' full of second holmers and those who have relocated there full time. I doubt whether Newport is a good example of North Pembrokeshire opinion. LOL!
"There was also powerful testimony from a local tourist operator who told the meeting that his bookings for this year are already 70% down because of the prospect of Welsh Government officials trapping and shooting badgers during the holiday season. Many visitors will not come back."

Maybe this 'local tourist operator' can also tell you why bookings are down substantially (absolutely dead) in St Brides area and south of Haverfordwest too? Might it be because of the recession? Oh yes, you'll tell me that a UK holiday destination should be up but I have it from a 'local tourist operator' that English city dwellers tend to holiday twice a year....once abroad and the other more local. Guess what? They are giving up the local but as yet....still hanging onto the one in sunnier locations. Nice try....but I'm afraid....no cigar. :-)
Except that this tourism operator has had specific feedback from his regulars that this is why they are not coming back.
Anecdotal evidence dear boy....anecdotal....
Evidence nevertheless.
Why don't you post my message re-Newport-on-sea? How many local accents were there at the meeting?
Anon 8.41: the meeting was held in Newport as a major town in the area but it has not been the only meeting. Other meetings have been equally as packed out.
Anon 9,54: I have posted all the comments, however how can I distinguish between all the anons when you dont adopt an on-line identity?. There were a lot of local people there.
So, you're telling me that in the South of the county, where no badger cull is proposed, there are totally different reasons why visitor numbers are down markedly....not this year but last year as well. It's the recession in the south, whereas it's the badger cull in the north.....:-))
I am telling you that in the cull area people are giving the badger cull as a reason why they are not coming back this year.
....and I am telling you that people are finding it difficult taking holidays like they did before because of the economic downturn. Have you heard of the trouble that 'Blue Stone' is in? I've spoken to people outside of the cull area and they are all saying that bookings are down. You are saying that they are down in the cull aread which I do not doubt.....but I do very much doubt that it's because of the proposed cull. And conveniently, you won't be able to provide any evidence of it just some anecdotal evidence which I find hightly questionable.
Did you advise the 'local tourist operator' who gave you this powerful testimony that he could easily rent his holiday homes to visiting vetinary staff on contract to the Welsh Assembly Government during the cull period ?
Anon 1.08pm: I am making no claims just reporting the meeting. I would suggest that your evidence is anecdotal too.
"I spoke about the present position following the report on the English badger cull trials and urged the audience to play an active part in the General Election, lobbying candidates to put pressure on their parties to reconsider."

Really? Seeing as both Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems support the cull, will you be canvassing for the Green Party in Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire?

What pressure will you be putting on Kirsty Williams and Mark Williams to reconsider their support for the cull?
The Welsh Liberal Democrats do not support the cull. There is no party policy on it. Individual members have taken their own position on it seperately from the party
"Anon 1.08pm: I am making no claims just reporting the meeting. I would suggest that your evidence is anecdotal too.
# posted by Blogger Peter Black : 2:50 PM"

The economic problems are clear for all to see.....even politicians! If you lived in Pembrokeshire you would also know that my evidence isn't anecdotal and that 'Blue Stone' project is a mess due to low visitor numbers. It's been reported in the Newspapers.
Good meeting last evening We traveled from Ceredigion to attend This cull will effect Tourism far beyond north pembs. The cull will damage the Visit Wales brand. Its the last thing we need when the recession is already having a significant impact. Im not in the tourism business but fully understand the importance of Tourism to the economic wellbeing of West wales. All tourism operators should support the anti cull movement.
PS Last year I wrote expressing my concern to the Elin Jones the Rural Affairs minister responsible for the cull policy. Her reply didnt even mention Tourism and I thought tourism was a rural affair
Anon, I don't dispute that though newspaper reports count as anecdotal evidence as well. All I have done is to report further testimony that the cull is having an additional impact in North Pembrokeshire.
Last night was a great success for those against the cull.
Opening speaker Peter Black was given a huge clap by the crowd and gave a very informative speech to the West Walian crowd who were very appreciative about Peter coming from Swansea to give the speech.
Joyce Watson a.m. also gave strong comments.
There was a wide amount of people on show, from hippies to new age landowners who enjoy providing wild spaces for wildlife, elderly ladies enjoying some debate to the Vegetarian lobby like myself.
Who is Joyce Watson? Member for where? Never heard of her before. Must keep her head down.
If it helps reassure the farmer/plaid/ anti-english troll-anons, i'm quite happy to confirm that I will not go to n pembs for any holidays until the cull has been removed, and I'm sure that lots of my friends will agree to do the same.

Joyce is the Labour Regional AM for Mid and West Wales which includes Pembrokeshire.
This cull is purely an attempt to get farmers' votes. However the huge amount of money being wasted on this cull could have considerably helped farmers in other areas increase their biosecurity to contain TB.
This cull is not the scientific way to control the disease. The scientists have shown that culling badger actually helps to spread the disease.
This cull is not even in an area with hard boundaries, culling the badgers presently in the area will just cause a greater distribution of others which may actually be carrying the TB.
WAG are throwing so much at this small area of Wales, there is bound to be a short lived benefit but not only at a long term cost but to the detrement of the rest of the farmers (and cattle) in Wales.
This cull will not help farmers or their cattle and just end up killing 1000s of badgers for no reason.
Keep up the good work Peter and spread the word, Wales' rural communities need to be safe guarded from politians who are after a quick boost in the polls at the expense of rural livelihoods.
We applaud Peter Black and the other AM for attending and speaking out against the badger cull. As concerned farmers we travelled from Carms to this public meeting. Killing badgers is not likely to be a quick fix or sustainable solution for farmers. Over the last decade or so badgers seem to have occupied a disproportionate amount of time and resources at the expense of a more sustainable, lasting solution for bTB.

Despite a compulsory testing regime for some fifty years, we are told bTB is now endemic in many areas of the UK. This is based solely on the results of a skin test for cattle that has not really changed since it was originally developed and that many now believe may not be as reliable as is claimed. Just how accurate and up to date is the scientific data behind the claims of its sensitivity and positive productive values? A high percentage of cattle slaughtered have no evidence of disease and whilst reasons are given for this, they seem weak and open to challenge - many farmers are not happy with the explanations given when they see what look like perfectly cattle destroyed. How many of those cattle slaughtered as reactors and inconclusive reactors would have gone on to live a healthy life? The skin test indicates that an animal has mounted an immune response capable of recognising M bovis and does not conclude actual infection. This means that those cattle, which test as reactors or inconclusive reactors, are likely to have been exposed to M bovis bacteria at some point in their lives (or been vaccinated!) and it is not actually known how many of these are infectious or would go on to get clinical symptoms, yet they are hastened to their deaths at the taxpayers’ expense. It is interesting to note that despite the claims that the disease is now out of control, few people ever contract the disease - even farmers, testers, vets, abattoir workers etc who are in regular and close contact of supposedly infected animals - and many farming families drink their own milk raw, before it is pasteurized. In fact it is generally accepted that nowadays bTB poses negligible risk to human health and clinical signs are still rarely seen in cattle.

The existing policy is all about maintaining TB free status and protecting exports. It is concerned mainly with meeting targets and deadlines, not protecting human or animal health and welfare. Whilst the government ministers and bureaucrats are busy claiming how successful the TB Health Check Wales has been, the very significant costs for those adversely affected, have been largely ignored. They do not take into account the intolerable burden for many farming families, particularly those that experience herd breakdowns, the constant testing, the severe stress of the whole process, the emotional loss of cattle and welfare issues involved, the businesses that suffer, the financial consequences of being on stop for long periods of time, the increased health and safety implications from increased cattle handling, the inflexible bureaucracy and the need for expensive equipment. It would probably not be tolerated in any other sector but most farmers are held to ransom because of fear of financial penalties. Are there now too many vested interest groups keen to see the existing system continue for as long as possible?

The bacterium that causes bTB is endemic in the environment so is it realistic to expect that the disease will ever be completely eradicated? The human form of Tb has been controlled adequately for decades, so why, after so many years and millions of taxpayers’ money already spent, is there still no vaccination programme agreed for bTB? As the two disease are so closely linked surely the efficacy of such a programme would be similar to the claims made for the existing, unreliable and very time consuming skin test system? Surely the best way forward is for a vaccination programme for cattle to start without further delay and for farmers and unions to be campaigning strongly for this and the necessary change in EU legislation to facilitate?
to anon at begining: I don't think the second home owners would have had time to check out the posters after arriving for the half term...
I live in Trefdraeth/Newport. Don't my opinions count? Just because we have to live in a town that is half dead half the time don't slight us further.

Thank you Peter Black for your contribution. I had been feeling very dismal about the problem especially after some terrible languaged being slung about on facebook anti cull groups; but the meeting raised my spirits.
There are people suggesting (and more than just suggesting) a boycott of Wales and welsh produce...they are not being specific to north pembrokeshire. I know the evidence is in essence anicdotal but I believe the man when he tells us that he is being told that is why people are not coming - hard to sell your location in a national park and an SSSI as a great place to see the local badgers when there is going to be a cull. perhaps he and his not returning regulars would be happy to share their communications with the anons that seem to be doubtling any truth.

I want to see a solutuion to bTB. If a vacine can't be used yet then bio security and stringent testing even restrictions on cattle, hard I know. But on a positive note there are signs that cases are reducing. The foot and mouth restrictions played havoc with the situation - lack of testing and the bringing in of a lot of new cattle. We think that is how bTB was missed in our herd until too late.
WAG's policy is scientiffically unsound. Of course nobody has done what they are doing - it has no control.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats do not support the cull. There is no party policy on it. Individual members have taken their own position on it seperately from the party"

Complete cop out.

Your party has attacked Plaid for doing this on nuclear and on St. Athan.

You are being hypocritical. A hallmark of Lib Dem politics.
Not at all. There are clear difference. Plaid Cymru DO HAVE POLICY opposing nuclear power. That does not stop their leader advocating it for his area.

On St. Athan Plaid are in the position of having their leader actively working as a government minister to support and introduce the project despite the opposition of senior officers of his party.

Those strike me as far more serious and damaging splits than different members of the Welsh Liberal Democrats taking a contrary view on a matter on which there is no party policy.
Peter, there might well be procedural differences and technicalities, but the principle is exactly the same.

Unsurprisingly, I disagree with you on those issues being damaging for Plaid. On St. Athan, your Welsh HQ ended up being "furious" at Vince Cable for his statements on that project. You yourself also said you were "furious" at your party leadership who support the badger cull.

Why does your party have 'no policy' on what you'd surely agree is one of the most important issues in rural Wales? That is shambolic for a party that is attempting to hold on to rural seats.

It's not just me saying this, there is a perception that the Lib Dems always want to have it both ways. It's pathetic.
".....hard to sell your location in a national park and an SSSI as a great place to see the local badgers when there is going to be a cull."

This is going on a bit of a tangent I know but I don't think many holiday makers to Pembrokeshire come to see local badgers. They are shy notcturnal creatures. I've live in this area for close to 40 years and I've only seen a few in that time. You will be able to see them dead on the side of roads.
Hi Peter thanks for coming to the meeting which was certainly not full of second homers as the annonymous muck spreader would have it.

I get a feeling anonymous is just trying to play a bit of pathetic political spin and is too spineless to give her/his name.

As the best science is all against the cull this is obviously a ploy by EJ to grab votes but at whose expense. looks like a plaid tail WAGing the labour dog!

Maybe we should all vote for the infdividuals we respect rather than on party lines....
Farmers and a Vet I have spoken to in N Pembs recognise that the cull may reduce the incidence of bovine TB in the short term but also accept that the cull will not eradicate bovine TB. Those who wish to scapegoat the badger are ignoring the science and the fact that some farming practices are simply not suffiiciently bio-secure. Financial incentives to improve bio-security would be a far better investment than the cost of an ineffective cull. At a time of pending pubic expenditure cuts we should be avoiding the waste of our money!

One also has to consider the 'stock market'. We are in recession currently because of high risk-taking. I wonder if the other , or real, 'stock market', ie the 8 million movements of cattle last year, is a contributory factor in the incidence and spread of bovine TB ?

Many local people and landowners are against the cull and recognise a symbolic gesture by politicians when they see it. Rather than a knee jerk reaction or pandering to special interests I'm sure the community of North Pembrokeshire would far rather see a reasoned, objective and effective response to a problem which affects us all.
Illtyd Luke, what is pathetic is Plaid Cymru having actual policy on these things except when it suits them. There is no consistency there whatsoever. Talk about having it both ways.

These are not procedural difference and technicaliies, what Plaid is doing is abandoning principle and policy for electoral reasons. Saying one thing to one audience and another to others.

The fact that the Lib Dems do not have policy on the badger cull is a matter for us. We certainly have policy on bTB which does not involve a cull so I do not think we can be accused of neglecting such an important issue. I am certainly not speaking out of turn in expressing my strongly held views. That cannot be said for Ieuan Wyn Jones in opposing his own party's policy or Jill Evans in setting herself up in opposition to her own party's minister on a matter of government policy, a government Plaid are a member of.

Yes, Vince Cable did speak out-of-turn on St. Athan but he subsequently apologised and Nick Clegg has made it clear that it is not Lib Dem policy to oppose this project.

I am not 'furious' at the Welsh Lib Dem Leader for supporting the badger cull, she is entitled to her view. I am however furious at the cull and a little annoyed at those who seek to portray it as party policy when it is not. That is my right.
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