Lesley Griffiths has outlined a new regionalised response to eliminate bovine TB in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s refreshed bovine TB Eradication Programme.
Under the refreshed programme, Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas will be established across Wales based on bovine TB incidence levels. Each area will have a tailored approach to reflect the varying disease conditions and risks.
The Welsh Government is consulting on the measures to be applied to protect the Low TB Area and to reduce disease in the Intermediate and High TB Areas.
The refreshed programme builds on the success of the Eradication Programme so far, as well as looking at options to do some things differently.
Other new measures include strengthening of cattle controls. Under the plans for the programme, chronic breakdown herds would have individual action plans, developed in partnership with farmers, vets and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), aimed at clearing up the infection.
The Cabinet Secretary has also acknowledged the role played by wildlife in some TB breakdowns, but is clear that Wales will continue to rule out an England-style cull of badgers with farmers free shooting infected and healthy badgers themselves.
Instead, the range of other options available will be considered, including learning from a pilot in Northern Ireland where badgers were cage-trapped and infected animals were humanely killed. Working with vets and wildlife experts, the Cabinet Secretary will consider whether a similar approach might be appropriate in high incidence areas where there is chronic herd breakdown and an objective confirmation that badgers are infected.
The consultation is also seeking views on:
- Introducing a mandatory Informed Purchasing Scheme to help farmers make informed decisions about the health of the cattle they wish to purchase;
- Imposing compensation penalties for cattle moved within a multi-site restricted holding;
- Reducing the TB compensation cap to £5,000, which would not affect the majority of farmers but would result in around £300,000 a year savings.
Speaking in the Senedd, the Rural Affairs Secretary said:
“Our current programme for TB eradication in Wales comes to an end this year, so it is time to take stock, reflect on our successes, learn lessons and consider a refreshed approach.
“Since we introduced the eradication programme in 2012 we have seen a decrease in the number of new cases of bovine TB in cattle herds in Wales, with the latest figures showing the number of new TB incidents is down by 19%.
“I am keen to build on this success and speed up progress, which is why I am looking to introduce enhanced, evidence-based measures. I believe this refreshed TB Eradication Programme will put us in a stronger position to ensure we continue to make progress towards a TB Free Wales.”
Addressing the availability of the badger vaccine, the Cabinet Secretary said the Welsh Government is continuing to monitor the situation but the BadgerBCG vaccine would not be available in 2017.The availability of other vaccines is an option still being explored.
The Rural Affairs Secretary added:
“Vaccination still has a role to play in our approach to TB eradication, but it is too soon to think about the future deployment of the vaccine until we know when the supply will be restored.”
A consultation on the refreshed bovine TB Eradication Programme has launched today and the Cabinet Secretary has urged all parties affected by the disease or have an interest in the programme to consider the proposals and provide comments to help shape the plans.
To see the consultation click here.