The decision to scrap the planned badger cull in north Pembrokeshire was a political one – and was not based on the independent scientific evidence.
That’s the view of Ceredigion AM Elin Jones, who as rural affairs minister first introduced the plans for the cull in the bovine TB hotspot area, which includes parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.
Speaking exclusively to the Tivy-Side she slammed the decision this week and said the scientific report commissioned by environment minister John Griffiths shows that culling badgers can reduce the incidence of confirmed TB breakdowns.
She said: "The Minister has taken a political decision not to undertake a badger cull. He commissioned an independent scientific report that refused to recommend the course of action he wanted, saying it needed to be a political judgement based on the interests of different stakeholders.
“The scientific report clearly said that the culling of badgers in areas where the incidence of infection is high will produce a reduction in confirmed TB breakdowns.”
Environment minister John Griffiths told the Senedd that the decision was made following “careful consideration” of the scientific evidence on the control of bovine TB. He commissioned a full review of the science involved in controlling the disease last year.
Mr Griffiths said a five-year vaccination programme for badgers will start this summer in the intensive action area. Badgers will be trapped in cages and marked so they are not vaccinated multiple times.
When the decision was announced in the Senedd Elin Jones reacted angrily, saying: "Farmers will now have to decide how best to protect their cattle. I for one would not blame them for anything they do." Deputy agriculture minister Alun Davies said her comments were "totally unacceptable".
The Farmers' Union of Wales has attacked the Minister’s decision as a "cowardly betrayal".
FUW TB spokesman Brian Walters said: "Those who have now gone back on their words have not just betrayed farmers in north Pembrokeshire but the industry as a whole. They should hang their heads in shame."
NFU Cymru deputy president Stephen James said the decision would leave diseased badgers "continuing to roam the countryside infecting more cattle with the disease for which there is no cure".
Elin Jones said: “There are excellent beef and dairy farmers in this area and they have been left by the Minister without a means to protect their animals from disease. Badgers and cattle carry TB in north Pembrokeshire. To eradicate this disease, that cycle of re-infection has to be tackled in both sources of infection. Badgers will continue to spread the disease even if trapped and vaccinated.”
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb said: "I am concerned that this u-turn will only allow the problem to continue and increase uncertainty for our rural communities.”
CLA Wales said the decision was a "massive disappointment" and “a betrayal of the farming and landowning community”.
The decision was welcomed by many organisations, including the RSPCA in Wales, Pembrokeshire Against the Cull, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and Rethink BTB.
Pembrokeshire Against the Cull chair, Celia Thomas, said: "We would urge the minister to improve and enforce the current cattle controls, in particular those that reduce opportunities for cross infection in cattle such as isolation and rapid removal of TB Reactors, in all Welsh bovine TB hotspots. He has clearly taken on board key issues such as latency of TB, and perturbation of badgers and possible spread of TB from culling.”
PAC’s Michael Griffiths said: "Cattle vaccination is the only long term strategy and we would ask the Minister to press the UK Government to pursue this option with the utmost urgency.” A similar call was made by Rethink BTB spokesman Michael Ritchie, of Clynderwen.