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Bovine TB pilot area given go-ahead
Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has announced that a limited badger cull, alongside stricter cattle measures, will take place in a pilot area of West Wales as part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s TB Eradication Programme.
The approach is based on evidence from a number of studies showing that culling badgers can reduce TB in cattle. An independent ecological study to assess potential consequences of a cull in the pilot area has been completed, and the Minister is satisfied that the approach is compatible with the relevant environmental legislation.
The pilot will take place in a bovine TB endemic area where 42% of cattle owners have had at least one case of TB in their herd since 2003. It will be located mainly in north Pembrokeshire, but will also include small areas of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
Elin Jones said: “Bovine TB is out of control and unsustainable and last year cost the taxpayer nearly £24million in compensating farmers. This is a dramatic rise since 2000 when the compensation bill was just over £1million.
“In 1997 around 700 cattle were culled because of bovine TB. This increased to 12,000 by 2008.
“We know that cattle and badgers are the main sources of the disease and that, if we want to achieve our aim of eradicating bovine TB, we have to tackle the disease in both species.
“The approach we will be taking in the pilot area, carrying out a badger cull alongside strict cattle controls, has not been tried before in the UK. However, it is proving successful in countries like New Zealand, where wild possums and cattle are the main sources of infection.”
Five culls will take place over a limited period each year within the pilot area, which measures approximately 288km². Culling will be carried out alongside strict cattle control measures.
Thorough evaluation, including a post mortem examination of culled badgers, as well as detailed investigation of each cattle TB incident will be undertaken within the pilot area. Evaluation will also include assessing the impact of cattle movement measures and the social impact on farming families, and any ecological impact within the area. An annual report on the pilot area will also be provided.