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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Welsh Government abandons Badger cull policy

The Welsh Environment Minister has just announced that he is not proceeding with the One Wales Government's policy of culling badgers in the North Pembrokeshire area. Instead he is to pursue a five year vaccination programme in the Intensive Action Area. This is the crucial part of his statement:

The Strategy acknowledges that in building on the cattle control and biosecurity measures; we must deal with all sources of bovine TB, including in wildlife, if we are going to achieve our goal of eradicating this debilitating disease within the Intensive Action Area and from Wales.

For this reason, I have considered a range of options including whether culling or vaccination of badgers is appropriate.

After careful consideration I have decided to pursue a badger vaccination project.

I have asked my Chief Veterinary Officer to design the project to begin in the Intensive Action Area this summer and continue for five years. I have also asked her to consider other geographical areas where vaccination could also contribute to TB eradication. My intention is that the projects are developed to ensure that the potential effect can be monitored with a view to assessing impact.

Llywydd, this has been a difficult decision to take and, in making it, I have considered the likely benefits that culling or vaccination could have. Any decision to cull would need to be justified on the basis that it would be necessary to eliminate or substantially reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle. In determining this matter I have considered the evidence provided to me, including scientific and legal advice. I have noted the advice on the potential benefits that might be obtained from vaccination or culling. My conclusion is that I am not at present satisfied that a cull of badgers would be necessary to bring about a substantial reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle in which case I cannot authorise a cull under the Animal Health Act 1981.

The fact that I intend to authorise vaccination at present does not, and will not, preclude me from considering whatever further or new options may be appropriate and available at any time.

In taking the programme forward we will continue to work with the agriculture industry, wider rural communities, veterinary profession, eradication boards, and the Industry Advisory Group in the Intensive Action Area. These all have an important role in the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.

At last a decision based on the scientific evidence that, unlike the previous policy, will not rip apart the affected community.
Thanks for your support Peter. There are a lot of very relievd people in West Wales including many farmers.
It was appalling for Elin Jones to make this statement in the Senedd today. "Farmers will now have to decide how best to protect their cattle and I for one would not blame them for anything they do."
She appears to be condoning illegal activity. I hope she is taken to task in The Senedd.
It appears that the Welsh Environment Minister is not only a coward, but has made a legal blunder. In quashing the Badger Control Area Wales 2011, which had a provision for 'soliciting' illegal activity in regards to publication of the location of badger setts, the Badger Act 1992 remains in force without exemption in Wales. There is no provision for 'soliciting' in this Westminster Act, but mearnly re-affirms the criminal offence of destroying a badger or interfering with setts. It is no longer an offence to publicise the locations of badger setts in the IAA in the knowledge that this may be used to conduct illegal activity. I have no doubt that many farmers in the area will now turn a blind eye to illegal culling, and there are some people who are quite prepared to break the law. Peter - You asked a very pertinent question when Elin Jones AM was Minister - What are the policing costs of the cull? A question that must now be asked, is ....What is the policing costs of NOT having a cull?. While a badger cull was a possibility the farming community was very co-operative in prosecuting illegal badger activity. I doubt if that is the case now. Police are now tasked with policing of a vast rural area without the goodwill of the community. They will need and intelligence team, fast responders, off-road vehicles, a dedicated CID unit, specialist expertise, and of course, access to land and information from farmers who (whether they are right or wrong) many of them will not be cooperative.
Any Farmer who kills badgers is very foolish. Not only is it against the law it could also cause pertubation which might spread tb to his neighbours herd.
"Kill a badger Give your Neighbour TB"
I suspect many of the farmers along the coast are not so foolish as not to know their neighbours farm is in County Wexford, 55 miles across the sea. It's the reason the IAA exists. I wouldn't expect any farmer to break the law, but when asked by a police officer if they saw anything to say "No comment" or "didn't see as I was feeding the cows". My question above is a very valid one. What is the cost of policing a 'non-cull' ? It is a valid question. Also, vaccination means there will be trapped badgers in cages for long periods. Another point is that those vaccinating will need to cull some of the badgers anyway. Of the 9,919 badgers in the RBCT trails, a total of 166 had severe bTB lesions. This was in areas of 'low badger density' and outside any 'bTB hotspot'. Obviously any badger in such an emaciated condition trapped for vaccination in Pembrokeshire would need to be destroyed by a vet (culled) to prevent further suffering. What provision is there for this?
I've seen a dead young one early this morning, I visually inspected him and it's shot wounds rather than car collision,
A few months ago they had put a large buck at a roundabout island , after Mr Griffiths 1st view to suspend cull,so i shall be looking out for more examples of illegal behaviour
Noone normal wants a criminal conviction or the worry of a court case. Illegal activity will not be tolerated by the majority and there will be increased vigilance in the community. The police are trained and expected to investigate and won't fobbed off by liars.

It is better by far that farmers make the vaccination programme work and don't risk their reputation.
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