The Welsh Government is considering tougher measures to tackle TB in cattle, which can be spread by wild animals, notably badgers.Read the full story ›
The Welsh Government has suspended its flagship programme to vaccinate badgers against TB, which can spread to cattle. Vaccination was introduced after previous plans to shoot badgers in affected areas were abandoned. But there's a global vaccine shortage and the World Health Organisation has appealed to governments to let preventing TB in humans take priority.
Bovine TB is a serious animal health issue ... however, public health must always take priority, and until the supply situation is resolved our badger vaccination projects currently underway in Wales ... will be suspended. This does not mean that the hard work of the previous years will have been wasted. We have successfully administered more than 5,500 doses during that time.
The vaccination scheme was introduced after the 2011 Assembly election in parts of west Wales where TB in cattle is endemic. It replaced a planned badger cull proposed by Plaid Cymru's Elin Jones when she was the Rural Affairs Minister in coalition with Labour. Trial culls have since been held in England.
This is shocking news that will make a complete mockery of the vaccination trial. The Labour government should be ashamed that it could have let this happen.
Four years ago, many of us argued for a different approach but the government was insistent on vaccination. Now there is a risk that we will have wasted four years.
"We're happy to do what we're doing in terms of cattle control and cattle testing" says NFU spokesman Stephen James.
"But we can't keep doing that and nothing happening about the wildlife".
"Until we get that [badger] cull and control the numbers, this disease is just going to increase".
These figures are disappointing but do still reflect a significant reduction against the 2008/2009 peak in the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales as a result of bovine TB.
We remain committed to tackling Bovine TB given its impact on farmers and rural communities. However we know there is no quick fix to tackling this disease. It demands a sustainable and long term approach that includes a range of different measures including strict biosecurity controls and cattle movement restrictions
We are continuing with our comprehensive bovine TB eradication programme, which tackles all sources of infection. This includes annual TB testing of cattle, removal and slaughter of reactors, pre-movement testing of cattle and our five year badger vaccination programme.
Continued co-operation between government and industry is vital to the overall success of the eradication programme and we will continue to work closely with our partners to drive down the incidence of this terrible disease.
Farmers' union NFU Cymru claims figures showing a 15% rise in the number of cattle in Wales slaughtered due to bovine TB indicates the disease is "out of control"
It follows nationwide figures published by Defra.
"This has to bea wakeup call to Welsh Government and highlights the urgent to implement a science led policy of badger control in endemic areas of the country rather than the Welsh Government’s vaccination policy" said Stephen James, NFU Cymru deputy president.
Experts at Bangor University are claiming that hundreds of farmers have illegally killed badgers, amid the ongoing controversy over attempts to control the spread of TB to cattle.
The experts believe that more than ten per cent of farmers have taken direct action -- despite the law. But that's a claim that's been dismissed by farm leaders, as Kevin Ashford explains.
Farmers in Wales who illegally cull badgers may be responsible for spreading Bovine TB.
That's according to a report published by the University of Bangor. It claims around one in ten of Wales' 14,000 livestock farmers had killed badgers in the twelve months leading up to the study.
The Welsh Government says badgers are protected animals, and the issue of illegally killing them is a matter for the police.
"You set a particular cull rate that you need to achieve for that to impact the disease and to decrease the rate of disease in an area" says Dr Paul Cross, from Bangor University.
"That's currently thought to be around 70% of all badgers. If you have an illegal killing rate going on the background that you're unaware of, you may have set the level of cull too high"
The proportion of farmers estimated to have killed badgers should be considered by policymakers and in the wider debate.
Intensive badger culling is one approach being considered by policy makers, in an attempt to control the spread of tuberculosis in cattle. However, studies investigating the effects of badger culling on TB outbreaks in cattle have not factored in the prevalence of illegal badger killing, and its potential to spread disease.
The Welsh Government is committed to eradicating Bovine TB, one of the biggest health problems facing cattle farmers in Wales.
There is no quick fix to tackling this disease. It demands a sustainable and long term approach and the application of a comprehensive range of measures including strict biosecurity , cattle testing and movement controls. Last year we vaccinated over 1,400 badgers against TB and will resume vaccination later this year.
"Badgers are protected animals in the UK and the issue of illegally killing them is therefore a matter for the police.