Wales leads fight against bovine TB

On Tuesday 20th March 2012, John Griffiths, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development at the Welsh Government, announced his government’s next steps under their programme to eradicate bovine TB in Wales.

Taking a massive step forwards and away from previous, cull-led policies, he announced a programme of vaccination (20KB) where badgers, rather than being killed, would be trapped and injected with the currently available injectable BCG vaccine against TB. He said, “ I have asked my Chief Veterinary Officer to design the project to begin in the Intensive Action Area this summer and continue for five years.

Badger by Jon Bowen

Badger by Jon Bowen

I have also asked her to consider other geographical areas where vaccination could also contribute to TB eradication. My intention is that the projects are developed to ensure that the potential effect can be monitored with a view to assessing impact.”

His announcement came on the back of anindependent scientific review (96 KB) commissioned by the minister to look at the entirety of the body of evidence informing the Eradication Programme. This review, led by Professor John Harries (Chief Scientific Adviser to the Welsh Government) reported in late 2011.

The report recognised that there  “is an evidence base that the culling of badgers in areas where the incidence of infection is high will produce a reduction in confirmed bTB cattle herd breakdowns when compared to non-cull areas, and that this persists for a number of years”  but also recognised the limitations in the requirement to fulfill “a series of criteria including a large area of land, a high level of land manager compliance, an effective and sustained cull, and where possible boundaries that are impervious to badger movement”.

In his statement to Plenary on 20 March, John Griffiths said that he was “ not at present satisfied that a cull of badgers would be necessary to bring about a substantial reduction in the incidence of bovine TB in cattle in which case I cannot authorise a cull under the Animal Health Act 1981”. The previous government’s legislation for badger culling, the Tuberculosis Eradication (Wales) Order 2009, was overturned in the Court of Appeal following a legal challenge by the Badger Trust.

WTSWW recognises the devastating impact of bovine TB on families and businesses affected. We fully support the Welsh Government’s decision to pursue badger vaccination as an alternative culling, as we believe it is the only sustainable approach to reducing disease prevalence that is currently available and have campaigned on that basis in recent years. Read our response to the announcement to vaccinate.

WTSWW will continue to work with the Welsh Government towards its aim of bTB eradication. For any enquiries, please contact Lizzie Wilberforce.