Tuberculosis (TB) is a significant issue for farming across Wales and causes stress, anxiety and financial costs for cattle keepers and Welsh Government throughout the country. We support a refreshed strategy to try to make inroads into this insidious disease’s prevalence, yet we have some clear issues with the approach Welsh Government and the Animal and Plant Health Authority are taking. Despite some reductions in the overall picture of TB in Wales, we do not think the reductions are happening quickly enough, and the refreshed approach places too much of a financial burden upon the cattle owner. We are also concerned that there is insufficient consideration of TB transmission to cattle via the badger population.
Alongside the Refreshed TB strategy we are expecting a delivery plan to be published in early summer that will provide further details of how Welsh Government will implement the strategy (once they addressed consultation responses). We will be scrutinising this plan closely when it is published. We are also engaging with the farming unions and regional TB boards to ensure as united a voice as possible across Wales, to ensure cattle owners get the support and guidance to continue to battle this disease.
The refreshed strategy covered a number of areas including changes to testing, new proposals for valuing slaughtered cattle, and how TB policy is governed in Wales, and more. The full consultation can be found here.
We do not think the reductions are happening quickly enough, and the refreshed approach places too much of a financial burden upon the cattle owner. We are also concerned that there is insufficient consideration of TB transmission to cattle via the badger population
One of the emotive issues is transmission from wild species: notably badgers. Control of the badger population in Wales was not discussed within the consultation document. However, we argue that for TB to be brought under control in Wales, the disease in wildlife must be addressed. There is overwhelming evidence coming from Defra concerning the positive impact of badger culls in England.. Equally, if the Welsh Government expects Welsh farmers to accept a reduction in compensation and to willingly embrace further restrictions and cost on movement testing, then it must reconsider its position on badger control. We also outlined our support for vaccination of badgers and cattle when it has been proven to be effective and practical, although at the moment we are a number of years away from this point.
In terms of governance, we supported the continued use of a programme board and three regional boards to address the differences in TB prevalence across Wales. However, going forward we do think now is a good time to refresh to makeup of the boards, and ensure the best qualified people from across academia, government and farming industry are involved to give a breadth of expertise. We also wish to the see the recently established TB Centre of Excellence in Aberystwyth have more of a role in contributing to overall TB policy in Wales.
The refreshed strategy also leaves questions around how future land use policy in Wales, specifically the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), will contribute to overall animal health and incentivise the continued adoption of biosecurity measures to limit the spread of a range of livestock diseases. We will be continuing to meet with Welsh Government over the coming weeks and months to discuss TB and will update members accordingly.