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Welsh Farmers call for badger cull

24 September 2003 - BBC News

A farmers' union is calling for a programme of badger culls in Wales to cut cases of tuberculosis in cattle. Some farmers say that the culling of diseased badgers should be licensed by the Welsh assembly in areas where TB in cattle is a serious problem. The number of bovine TB cases has almost trebled in three years, with the cost to farmers spiralling to millions of pounds a year.

On the programme Taro Naw, which is produced by BBC Wales for S4C, one farming leader says an eradication programme in the Republic of Ireland has been successful and should be adopted in Wales.

Dai Davies, deputy president of NFU Cymru, wants to see Wales follow Ireland and instigate a programme of culling diseased cattle and badgers in specific areas under licence.

He said: "I'm sure that if (Environment and Rural Affairs Minister) Carwyn Jones looked at the controlled way it's done in Ireland, it is a route that could and should be considered in Wales."

Glyn Davies, the Conservative AM for mid and west Wales, is a farmer and has visited the Republic of Ireland to find out about its badger eradication programme.

He said people there have a different attitude to the problem.

"They're not totally consumed with the sentimentality we have here for the badger - it's a more realistic approach." he said.

"There's a willingness to accept that the eradication of badgers in certain circumstances is good for the badger population as well as government costs and the cattle population." he added.

Badger protection groups say there is no scientific evidence to support such a policy and that TB is a problem in cattle, rather than in badgers.

But farming leaders are putting pressure on the Welsh Assembly Government to tackle the problem.

Nigel Ajax Lewis is a conservation officer with the Wildlife Trust for south and west Wales, and is also a badger expert.

He said culling badgers is not an effective way of dealing with TB.

"The problem is, because badgers live in social groups, when the ministries' men have gone out and killed them in various ways they haven't managed to get them all." he said.

"So then you have isolated ones wandering off and more TB breakdowns in the locality than you had in the first place.

"So our real problem is we're operating on testing systems which date back to the 1930s - we haven't invested enough money in the problem." he added.

In April this year, a group of MPs concluded there was no justification for an extended badger cull, and in a report blamed some farmers for the growing number of TB cases.

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