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Environment Minister announces programme of badger vaccination
The Minister made his decision after considering the Science Review that he commissioned last summer, and other evidence and advice provided to him.
The Minister also announced that he would not be implementing a cull of badgers within the Intensive Action Area.
Speaking in Plenary, the Minister set out the Government’s challenging and progressive plans for dealing with bovine TB over the next four years. He said:
“Bovine TB has a significant financial and social impact on farmers and the wider community in Wales. I have visited and spoken to a number of cattle farming families across Wales. I know from listening just how difficult it is and how the consequences of TB can be devastating.
“We have a Government commitment to take a science led approach to tackling this serious disease and I am personally committed to the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.
“The Strategic Framework for Bovine TB Eradication that I am launching today acknowledges that we must deal with all sources of bovine TB, including wildlife, if we are going to achieve our goal of eradicating this debilitating disease.
“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.
“I have considered the evidence provided to me, including scientific and legal advice and have noted the advice on potential benefit that might be obtained by vaccination or culling. At present I am not satisfied that a cull of badgers would be necessary to bring about a substantial reduction in cases of TB in cattle."
The Minster confirmed that the new Strategic Framework took a comprehensive approach, with proposed policy changes including improved management of long running and persistent TB Herd breakdowns, the pilot of an audit of TB testing, a voluntary scheme to share bovine TB breakdown data between neighbouring farms and an advisory service for farmers affected by the disease.
The Minister emphasised that TB eradication was a long term commitment that would require the application of new technologies and scientific developments as they became available. He had also asked the Chief Vet to convene a working group of experts to develop a cattle vaccinations strategy so that best use could be made of such a vaccination once it became available.
The Minister said:
“In order to take further steps to work towards eradication it is crucial that Government and the farming industry continue to work together. The steps we are taking now are designed to make progress towards the ultimate goal of a TB free Wales.”