Rural Affairs minister Elin Jones has revealed today that she is pressing ahead with a controversial plan to cull badgers in an effort to combat TB in cattle.
This is despite a Court of Appeal ruling last year which halted the plans following an appeal brought by the Badger Trust.
Elin Jones says she’s paid careful attention to that ruling and made the proposed cull in North Pembrokeshire more specific.
She says she’s also paid close attention to views expressed in a consultation exercise as well as scientific and veterinary advice.
I’ve had to consider all advice, scientific, veterinary, legal advice and the court of appeal judgement. I’ve reflected on all that and consider it necessary.
The overriding aim, she told me, is to eradicate all sources of TB, a disease she says has taken the lives of 60,000 cattle here in Wales over the last ten years.
She’s laying two pieces of legislation today (Wednesday): one to pave the way for the north Pembrokeshire cull and the other to extend the testing, slaughter and compensation regime to other animals, namely goats, deer and camelid.
Camelids include animals like alpacas and llamas (hence my terrible headline) and the minister says her legislation means those who farm such animals will now be treated in the same way as cattle farmers.
The Badger Trust is weighing up the evidence which the minister is to publish online before deciding whether or not to launch a fresh legal appeal.
But it says the numbers of TB cases has been declining for 2 years without any badger cull.
Spokesman Jack Reedy says the Trust supports all the cattle controls apart from the ‘barmy’ badger cull.
UPDATE 15:50 Here’s the full statement from the Badger Trust:
The Badger Trust is deeply disappointed that the Welsh Assembly Government has resurrected its pointless proposal to “authorise the destruction of badgers” and other wildlife in a part of Wales.
This is despite significant reductions in bovine tuberculosis sustained over the last two years.
Elin Jones, the Rural Affairs Minister, sought to justify these “further aspects” as necessary to complete the range of measures already in place.
The Trust will be studying in detail the evidence presented to the Minister and will be seeking legal advice.
However, she concedes in a statement to Farmer’s Weekly Interactive, that there have been improvements in TB figures in the area although no badgers have been destroyed.
This reduction has been over two years but Ms Jones claims there has been a cyclical pattern in the past. The Trust emphasises that this was before the current increasingly stringent and effective cattle controls were introduced and took effect.
These were scientifically justified although long overdue. They included improved surveillance and cattle disease controls, linking compensation to good practice, enforcing the testing regime, and establishing a regional approach to the disease, all welcomed by the Badger Trust.