There are just over 13,000 cattle herds in Wales of which 1,700 herds are under restriction as a result of a TB incident, this costs the Welsh economy millions of pounds in compensation as well as lost labour hours. The Minister for Agriculture has introduced bold new policies to try to eradicate bovine TB in Wales. The best known and most controversial of these is the badger cull in what are termed Intensive Action Areas (IAA), this will see up to 1,000 badgers in these areas in the west of the country culled. Badgers are highly susceptible to TB infection and female badgers continue to lactate despite having the disease which inevitably lead to badgers being a major factor in the spread of the disease to cattle, Dr Christianne Glossop Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales said;
“Evidence from a number of studies, including the Randomised Badger Culling Trials (RBCT) in England, shows that culling badgers can substantially reduce TB in cattle.
“The recent judicial review of the Welsh TB Eradication Order was comprehensively dismissed by the Judge. Importantly, the judge accepted that culling of badgers can substantially reduce bovine TB in cattle.
“The judge also dismissed the complaint that the Minister for Rural Affairs should have taken into account the Jenkins 2010 et al when she made her final decision about the Intensive Action Pilot Area.
“We are taking a new approach to eradicating the disease in the IAPA, combining cattle controls and biosecurity advice alongside a proactive cull of badgers. It is not a replication of the RBCT.
“It is an approach similar to that which is being successfully implemented in New Zealand which is now close to eradicating bovine TB.
“Bovine TB is a serious animal disease and over the last ten years, the Welsh Assembly Government has spent over £100m in trying to control it, yet it has continued to escalate.
“We are dealing with a bovine TB crisis that is threatening cattle farming across Wales. It cannot be ignored and needs to be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible."
There are of course other factors that cause incidence of bovine TB which is why the cull is part of a package of measures to be welcomed by all who are interested in the well being of Welsh agriculture. These measures include improved surveillance and cattle disease controls, linking compensation to good practice, enforcing the testing regime, and establishing a regional approach to the disease.