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FUW welcomes launch of new badger cull consultation


The Farmers Union of Wales has welcomed the launch by Assembly Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones of a consultation on taking forward plans to cull badgers in north Pembrokeshire to control bovine TB.

FUW’s bTB spokesman Brian Walters said: The scientific evidence shows conclusively that badgers are a major source of TB infection in cattle, and trials in both England and Ireland have led to significant drops in the number of cattle slaughtered due to this disease.

Earlier this year a scientific paper on badgers and cattle published in Statistical Communications in Infectious Diseases concluded that TB in cattle herds could be substantially reduced, possibly even eliminated, in the absence of transmission from badgers to cattle.

This is exactly the experience in Scotland, an area where there are relatively few badgers and those which do exist are free from bTB,” said Mr Walters.

Normal bTB testing of Scottish cattle has led to a reduction in disease incidences to the point where they have now achieved official bTB free status. In Wales, the same testing is not working because cattle are being constantly re-infected by badgers.

Todays announcement is an important step towards addressing the epidemic in north Pembrokeshire, which has cost the lives of thousands of cattle in that area alone over the past couple of years, and causes overwhelming suffering and trauma for animals and families.

The announcement comes two months after the Badger Trust put a stop to previous plans to cull badgers in the areas following a case in the Court of Appeal.

The appeal court ruling came as a major blow and has set disease control in Wales back significantly,” Mr Walters said. “It is now important that we move on with a decision which does not fall foul of the legal loopholes taken advantage of by the Badger Trust in the previous court case.

The announcement follows the release of research by the FUW in July which suggested that a badger cull could reduce bTB incidences significantly.

Our work shows that a badger cull carried out in the same way as during the English trials could reduce bTB incidences by between ten and thirty per cent during a five year culling period, and between twenty-five and thirty-two per cent in the three-and-a-half years after a cull,” said Mr Walters.

If a cull in north Pembrokeshire was carried out in a way that avoided the problems encountered during the English culling trials, these figures could be expected to be considerably higher.

Ultimately, the best solution would be to vaccinate badgers with an oral vaccine, but we are many years away from having a tried and tested method of doing this.

Some of those who oppose a cull say that catching and injecting badgers with a vaccine is the practical way forward, but this option was on the table thirty years ago and was laughed out of the room as being costly, impractical, and ineffective. I cant see that anything has changed.

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