Wales could implement badger cull

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said he was prepared to compare the approach taken by England with regards to a badger cull.

Jones told attendees at a recent National Farmers’ Union Wales (NFUW) Council meeting that he would “never say never” to the cull being adopted in Wales, considering the damage caused to its herd by bovine TB (bTB). In the last decade more than 75,000 cattle have been slaughtered in Wales as a result of bovine TB (bTB), according to NFUW.

Between 2002 and 2011, NFUW said the equivalent of more than the total number of the adult dairy herd in Carmarthenshire (home of the Welsh dairy herd) had been slaughtered because of the disease. And this, it said, was the stark reality of the bTB problem in Wales.

Nearly 5,000 cattle have been slaughtered in the first six months of this year alone, which NFUW said highlighted the situation and showed there was no sign of it stopping, despite industry efforts. 

Deputy president of NFUW Stephen James said: “The vast majority of these 75,000 cattle would have been dairy and beef cattle in the prime of their productive lives. Losing them from the herd has huge impacts on farm efficiency. We are continually challenged by Welsh Government to prove our value to the economy of Wales and to drive efficiencies into our businesses, but at the same time this Government has decided to follow a vaccination policy that offers little hope to us that this slaughter of cattle will come to an end.

“Vaccination undoubtedly has a role to play in eradicating this disease, but it is not the appropriate intervention in an area of Wales where a significant proportion of badgers are already suffering from this disease.”

According to James, the Welsh Government has estimated the costs for the badger vaccination project in north Pembrokeshire over a five year period to be £5.76m. And roughly it costs more than £500 per badger per year to vaccinate. James said: “Given that vaccination will have no benefit to the significant proportion of badgers in the area already suffering from this disease, the actual cost of protection for each healthy badger will be that much greater again.

“It is such a shame and source of disappointment and anger to us that this vaccination resource has not been spent more wisely to protect healthy badgers alongside the implementation of appropriate control measures to significantly reduce the infection levels in the wildlife population.”