Labour MS urged to apologise after telling TB hit farmers to 'find another business'

Joyce Watson MS has been criticised by the Countryside Alliance and NFU Cymru after saying farmers whose herds are hit with TB should find other work. Credit: ITV WALES

A Welsh Labour MS has been urged to apologise after telling farmers whose herds have been hit with Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) multiple times to 'find another business'.

Joyce Watson, who represents the Mid and West Wales region, made the comments in the Senedd during a debate on eradicating Bovine TB yesterday (Tuesday).

Addressing Wales Rural Affairs Minister in the chamber, Ms Watson said: “We’re talking about a rethink, Minister.

"Have you looked at any farms that have perpetual TB status and have you considered the question of whether those particular farms should be dairy farms at all?

"Because if it is the case that they are in perpetual TB infection status, surely they need to find another business.”

The comments have been met with anger from much of the dairy farming industry in Wales, with multiple organisations voicing their frustration.

In a letter to Ms Watson, the Nation Farming Union Cymru's Bovine TB Focus Group Chairman described her comments as "shocking" and "deplorable".

Roger Lewis said: "I am struggling to put into words my frustration that a Member of the Senedd elected to represent Mid and West Wales could make such deplorable comments, so lacking in empathy and respect for the farming families in your constituency going through the emotional hell of dealing with an outbreak of bovine TB on their farm.

The Welsh Government set out their strategy to eradicate Bovine TB in Wales earlier this year.

Your suggestion that these families, many of whom are suffering persistent bovine TB breakdowns despite adhering to strict veterinary and scientific advice, should just walk away and find another business is – frankly – shocking."

The Director of Countryside Alliance Wales, Rachel Evans, accused Ms Watson of “gravely insulting rural communities and lacking in compassion”.

Ms Evans said: “The appalling comments from Joyce Watson made me sick to my stomach.

"Despite representing a significant dairy farming community, she offers no compassion for those struggling families who suffer daily from anxiety and distress because of TB.

"Rather than act as their voice in the Senedd, Ms Watson has opted to throw them under the bus and seems content with seeing this significant industry collapsing”.

“As a bare minimum, Joyce Watson must offer a full public apology and she should take the time that’s clearly needed to meet with struggling dairy farmers in the region that she should be privileged to represent”.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...