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Monday, November 02, 2009

Vote imminent on badgers

It now seems likely that the vote on whether to annul the enabling legislation for a badger cull in North Pembrokeshire will take place on Wednesday afternoon after a short debate.

I have been astounded not by the number of e-mails and letters I have received opposing this cull, but by the large number that have come from North Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion itself, most from landowners and some from people with livestock of their own or significant experience of managing cattle.

The claimed overwhelming support for this cull in the North Pembrokeshire area is clearly as substantial as a sea mist with many residents concerned that the cull is taking place without clear scientific evidence to support it, that it threatens the integrity of the natural environment in which they live and that the legislation empowers government agents to enter onto their land and carry out the cull without their consent.

Plaid bloggers who clearly think that the cull is an electoral asset to them in constituencies like Ceredigion may need to re-think. The Minister could lose support in her own constituency over this issue, not just amongst students and young people but also from landowners and country dwellers in areas where she has got support in the past.

A further complication for the Minister has emerged today in the form of a letter from solicitors acting for the The Badger Trust and threatening to judicially review her decision on the grounds that it cannot be justified under the Animal Health Act. In their statement they say:

The Trust’s position is that badgers, a protected species, cannot be killed unless, under the Animal Health Act, it is to eliminate or substantially reduce the spread of disease, that it is both necessary and the most appropriate way but without causing unnecessary suffering. In this case, the Trust says, any benefit would be at best very marginal and the cost in terms of badgers killed and the impact on other species would be substantial. Consequently, a disproportionate cull of badgers would be against the principal purpose of the Act.

The Trust also challenges the contention that the cull would be within geographical boundaries which impede badger movement. The “Intensive Action Plan Area” is in North Pembrokeshire, one of the least isolated parts of Wales according to a Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) survey commissioned by the Minister.

The UK ratified the “Bern” Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 1979. Article 8 prohibits activity causing local disappearance or serious disturbance to badgers. The Trust asked the Minister what percentage of badgers were to be killed over the four-year period, but she replied on 15 September that initial surveys had not been done, exact numbers were unknown and there had been no ecological surveys. Without this information it is impossible for the Welsh Assembly Government to know whether it is risking the local disappearance or serious disturbance to badgers.

There is no adequate evidence on which the Minister could reasonably conclude that her order would achieve the requirements set out in the Animal Health Act 1981: “eliminate or substantially reduce” the incidence of disease; satisfy the test of necessity; and avoid the risk of spreading disease [2]. The order cannot, then, be valid under section 21 of the Act and would be wholly contrary to the policy of the Act itself. Furthermore, no evidence has been provided to say it would not be in breach of the Bern Convention.

It is a matter of public record that the farming community of Wales, on whom the Minister relies for support, has been vociferous in its calls for a badger cull. The Trust is sympathetic to the plight of all farmers suffering from the consequences of bovine tuberculosis, but such distress does not entitle the Minister to disregard the scientific evidence or act in breach of statute.

Despite all of this I fully expect the Assembly on Wednesday to vote to affirm the cull and the Minister to press ahead with this ill-advised course of action.
Isn't the point of having a pilot area, rather than a widepread cull over the whole country, to see if this strategy will have an effect? If it works....then it should be rolled out in other areas. If not, then it should be stopped. End of story.
In theory yes but as there are no scientific principles being applied to this pilot and as there are a number of other measures being brought in then it is impossible to properly assess the efficacy of this pilot so it is meaningless. Also there have been 10 years of pilots in England and they are not proceeding with a cull. So why pilot it again in Wales?
"Also there have been 10 years of pilots in England and they are not proceeding with a cull. So why pilot it again in Wales?"

Your default stance is that whatever England does....then it the right course of action. Are you saying that the scientifice advisors who have been briefing the Agriculture department of The Welsh Assembly are incorrect?

You say that there are a "number of other measures being brougn in". Please don't make some meaningless statement like this as this is a serious discussion which I and possibly others would like to learn about. Therefore, what are theyse othe measures?
No my default stance is if pilots and scientific studies have been tried elsewhere then why reinvent the wheel and spend millions of pounds of taxpayers money in the process. I am saying that there is nothing scientific about this programme, it is political.

It is not for me to promote the Minister's scheme however the details are available on the web specifically here: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-chamber/bus-chamber-third-assembly-rop.htm?act=dis&id=81145&ds=4/2008#rhif5

There is nothing meaningless about referring to other measures. Those are the words of the Minister and the measures she is promoting are outlined in these passages:

The main measures that I am proposing are as follows: the key step for the first year will be to establish an additional one-off test of all cattle herds across Wales in order to identify the extent of the infection and to remove diseased animals. This will provide crucial evidence for future decisions on setting appropriate testing regimes and changes to movement controls. It means testing, approximately, an additional 4,657—or 35 per cent—of herds in Wales. I will also review existing policies in order to improve bovine TB surveillance and controls. This will include reducing the time that it takes to remove reactors from farms.

Action by Government alone will not eradicate bovine TB. I want to reform the compensation regime to encourage farmers to follow best practice. By the end of 2008, plans will be published to amend the current system to ensure that compensation arrangements encourage farmers to comply with legal and best practice requirements. I will also take action to further address the concerns about the abuse to the TB compensation system as highlighted by the report of the National Audit Office in 2003.

We will also develop and promote improved husbandry techniques and biosecurity standards to ensure that cattle owners know how to reduce the risk of the introduction of the disease onto their farms, and how to manage existing disease. From 2009, that will include publishing which farms are infected and the compensation paid, subject to legal considerations.

The Welsh Assembly Government will give priority to developing and trialling bovine TB vaccines for cattle and badgers in Wales in conjunction with the GB vaccination programme. We will also consult on proposed subordinate legislation to provide powers to gain entry to, and to carry out TB testing on farms with animals other than cattle. From July 2008, there will be consultation on a bovine TB surveillance and control framework for camelids, such as alpacas and llamas. We need to deal with all sources of infection and keep the clean areas clean.
So winning "Farming Champion of the year" award from Farmer's Weekly is going to hurt Elin Jones in Ceredigion? Seems unlikely somehow.
Of course that is not what I said but then what do you care when you dont even have the guts to post comments under your real name. As it happens farmers are a small minority of voters in Ceredigion though I accept that they are a significant body of opinion.
Absolutely Peter Black ....
No ecological surveys done? that's tells one something. It's bad politics and a bad idea to do it.
No question Bovine tB is an ACT OF GOD. The ravage of intensive agriculture and greedy grant fed farmers with no regard for ecological diversity and the right of a majestic mammal that is no harm to humanity to exist. Its one of a string of agricultural diseases that are the lord's making.
Bovine tB is spread from cow to cow. A domino effect. So inconclusive that an animal suh as a badger which is only 12 inchs snout of the ground can pass a disease to cows which are five times higher.
Also it is irrefuable under a microscope that mature farm slurry (what is used as fertiliser) contains the tB bacterium. just as it contains e-coli, cryptosporidium, salmonella, anthrax and so.
THe Assembly members should really think of how the world's media will view Wales. As an agricultural backwater where grant fed jelly babies can influence government ministers . What about Wales as a progressive, contemporary, industrial nation? A good place to do business and set up business ..It's all related. Assembly members think of the bigger picture and vote against the cull.
I lived on a large farm in the 1950 we had a cull using gas because the farmer decided TB was caused by badgers, we did this very year for years until we had no badgers, he also killed foxes like there was no yesterday, cattle had TB, and the Rabbits were everywhere, it became so bad we had to hire in Jack Russel's to try and drive the Rabbits out. But after we cleared out all the badgers by using even then illegal gas, we were hit with TB twice more.
Scientific Evidence...hmmmmm

I seem to remember that David Nutt had the order of the boot, due his scientific evidence not matching the Governments "evidence" on Drugs.

How many Science Graduates are there in the Welsh Assembly? Very few I should imagine!
Well, if Elin/Plaid/Lab think that slaying votes will win votes in rural areas, I hope that those standing against the Nat-Socs elsewhere will remind the electorate of what they have done.

I don't see 'vote plaid to slaughter badgers' winning many votes round here!
Hi Peter, thank you for defending our wildlife.

Is there a result of the vote yet please?

Nine AMs voted in favour of stopping the cull and 43 voted for it to go ahead.
Thanks, thats really shameful. If you are able could you please post the breakdown of who voted how?
Tne full list of who voted how will appear within the next 24 hours here: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-chamber/bus-chamber-third-assembly-rop.htm

I don't have the full breakdown otherwise. Sorry.
I am a Labour party member and am totally disgusted by what my party in government in Wales has done today.
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