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Thursday, July 24, 2014

At last some commonsense on bTB

Given that it is Royal Welsh Show week I suppose that it is to be expected that the usual suspects would be wheeled out to support the bizarre and failed badger cull in England and to call for it to be reinstated here, in Wales.

I have not been disappointed. Somehow, simplistic solutions are appealing despite the over-whelming evidence that they are entirely ineffective. So it has been with the shoot-first and ask-questions-later brigade.

I was pleased therefore to see a sensible contribution to the debate in today's Western Mail from Wales’ chief vet Professor Christianne Glossop, who has managed to put her previous support for a cull of badgers behind her.

Professor Glossop told an audience at the Royal Welsh Show that “finding infection, keeping out infection and stopping disease” is key to beating Bovine tuberculosis in Wales. She is now proposing testing dead badgers so as to build up an evidence base for further action.

The efficacy of the vaccination and control measures introduced by the Welsh Government is apparent from the results.

The Welsh Government's strategy is fairly straightforward. It is to keep infection out of farms; the rapid, early and accurate identification of infection where it does occur so that the disease can be quickly tracked; stopping disease spreading through movement restrictions; very strict measures when a breakdown is identified; and of course preventing bTB spreading in wildlife through the vaccination programme.

As the Professor told her audience, the number of new TB incidents in Wales in the last 12-months ending April 2014 is down by 21%, that means 200 less herds in Wales went down with TB in the
last 12 months. And the number of animals the Wrlsh Government have slaughtered is down 34%.”

In addition, Welsh livestock farmers have been told to insist on pre-movement TB testing of any cattle they source outside Wales. All beef and dairy cattle over six weeks old are tested when they are moved between holdings and herds are also tested annually, but this is not the case across the border in England.

She concluded that the Welsh Government want to base their strategy on hard facts not opinions. It would be nice if the farmers' unions here followed suit, not to mention the UK Government.

And of course if the Plaid Cymru Ministers in the last One Wales Government had taken this course of action instead of dabbling in cull-mythology we could have been even further forward in eradicating this awful disease than we are now.
One of the more depressing features of the English badger cull has been the intellectual dishonesty of ministers and NFU officials.

Faced with overwhelming evidence from the Warwick model and other research studies that the facts are not as they claim them, the response has been simply to repeat their previous statements.
It was Elin Jones AM, the Plaid Cymru Agriculture Minister in the last One Wales Government, that introduced the pre-movement TB testing regime you speak of. Whilst the reduction in new TB incidents in Wales as a whole is most welcome, will Professor Glossop be allowed to publish any scientific data on the results of the vaccination programme (as opposed to culling) in the disease hotspot of north Pembrokeshire?
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