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No badger cull plan in TB fight

15 Dec 2005 - BBC News

The Welsh Assembly Government has said it has "no immediate plans" to cull badgers as part of a package of measures to control bovine TB in Wales. There has been pressure from some vets and farmers for a badger cull as part of a strategy to combat the disease. Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones said more needed to be learned about TB in badgers, although there is to be consultation on a cull in England. The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said the announcement was "disappointing".

Bovine TB is estimated to cost the farming industry in Wales and the assembly government millions of pounds annually. Last year more than 5,500 cattle were killed in Wales as a result of the disease. Badgers have been blamed by some farmers for spreading it.

The issue is devolved to the Welsh assembly, but the UK Government announced on Thursday that a consultation on badger culls was among plans to step up the fight against tuberculosis in cattle in England.

The consultation exercise will cover whether to cull badgers in areas hit badly by bovine TB, and how to do it.

In a statement also released on Thursday, Mr Jones said there are no immediate plans to cull badgers in Wales.

He added: "While we have no immediate plans to cull badgers, we recognise there is a gap in our knowledge of the disease in badgers in Wales. We will carry out a survey of badgers found dead to establish whether they are carrying bovine TB. This will be supported by a survey of badger populations."

Mr Jones added that he believed bovine TB was the most serious and urgent animal health problem currently being faced in Wales. He said other measures would be taken to control increasing cases of the disease.

"Evidence shows that cattle movements play a role in the way TB is spread," he went on. "Testing cattle before they are moved is therefore important if we are to keep clean areas of Wales free from infection whilst ensuring our farmers are able to continue trading with the rest of the UK."

Following the announcement, the FUW's TB spokesman, Evan R Thomas, said: "The assembly is introducing measures that will increase the financial hardships for businesses hit by this terrible disease and focus mainly on the disease in cattle with no moves to combat the disease in badgers. TB in cattle has increased at a rate never before recorded...with the number of cattle slaughtered rising by some 700% since 1997. During the last four years the assembly have slaughtered 21,688 Welsh cattle due to TB, and not one single badger... and it is scientifically proven that badgers give TB to cattle."

NFU Cymru added that it believedt the spread of the disease should be addressed not just in infected cattle but in infected wildlife.

Speaking before the assembly government announcement, conservation charity the Badger Trust said TB control should be "cattle focused" and that culling the animals was not a policy based on "sound science".

The Badger Trust warned in a statement on Wednesday that proposals to cull badgers would be a "shabby political deal to appease farmers rather than a policy based on sound science".

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