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Welsh Farmers Betrayed by TB Vaccination Plan

21 March 2012

WALES, UK - Yesterday, the Welsh government announced that it would not be proceeding with a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis (TB) and would instead implement a badger vaccination programme.

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) claimed the Welsh Government decision not to cull badgers in north Pembrokeshire goes against the science and marks a cowardly betrayal of north Pembrokeshire farmers and the Welsh farming industry as a whole.

Environment Minister, John Griffiths said: “I have considered a number of options including whether culling or vaccination of badgers are appropriate. After careful consideration I have decided to pursue a badger vaccination project within the Intensive Action Area.”

The Minister explained that he had asked his Chief Veterinary Officer to design a five year vaccination programme which would begin in the Intensive Action Area. He had also asked for other areas where vaccination could be expected to contribute to TB eradication to be considered.

Speaking about his decision not to cull badgers in the Intensive Action Area, the Minister said: “This has been a difficult decision to take. In making it, I have considered the likely benefits that vaccination or culling could have. Any decision to cull would need to be justified on the basis that it would be necessary to eliminate or substantially reduce the incidence of bovine TB in cattle."

Following the announcement, FUW TB spokesman Brian Walters said: "According to the experts who have conducted the most significant research to date into badger vaccine, it would require a massive trial covering thousands of square miles of land just to establish whether vaccination can have an impact on cattle herd breakdown."

Mr Walters also quoted scientific advice given to former Agriculture Minister Elin Jones in March 2011 stating: "…the vaccination of badgers is unproven for large scale field use and particularly in demonstrating a change in the number of confirmed cattle herd breakdowns. It is therefore recommended that a strategy of vaccinating badgers for bovine TB is not suitable as the principle intervention to deal with the weight of infection that exists in badgers in endemic areas of Wales, and the transmission of that infection to cattle at this time."

Mr Walters added: "As far as vaccination is concerned, nothing has changed since this advice was issued twelve months ago.

"By contrast, culling has consistently been shown to reduce bTB incidences in cattle herds and since the 1970s thousands of herds have achieved TB-free status following badger culling."

In light of the decision, the FUW has sought legal advice regarding financial redress for the extra costs incurred by cattle keepers in the IAA over a period of almost two years.

The National Beef Association (NBA) offers its sympathy to Welsh farmers following the decision not to cull badgers but embark on a vaccination programme instead.

Joanne Pugh, NBA Assistant Director, says: “We share the huge disappointment of Welsh farmers that no cull will now take place. It will be a hard blow for all cattle farmers in Wales, but particularly those in the Intensive Action Pilot Area who have been crippled by increased cattle controls on the – now empty – promise of a cull.

“The only consolation is that the English pilot is going ahead and will show politicians that farmers are able to undertake a cull and that it an effective and essential tool within the battle against TB. Once the English cull programme is successfully underway we feel there will be even more pressure on Wales to reconsider its stance and finally give its farmers a real solution to the TB crisis.”



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