Vets say Welsh decision on badger cull will set us back years

Black cow

Veterinary associations have expressed enormous disappointment at the backwards step being taken by the Welsh Government, which has announced that it will not go ahead with a targeted badger cull to tackle bovine TB in the Intensive Action Area.

The announcement follows a review of scientific evidence, carried out by the Bovine TB Science Review Group, which the Welsh Government has published today.

Instead of continuing with a policy that includes the culling of badgers in the Intensive Action Area to tackle the wildlife reservoir of the disease, the Welsh Government will develop a badger vaccination project.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) have questioned whether the decision agrees with the currently available scientific evidence.

Commenting, Carl Padgett, BVA President, said: 

“This is clearly a political decision, rather than a scientific one, and it will potentially set back our efforts to tackle this devastating disease by many years.

“The Science Review states that no scientific evidence exists to assess whether vaccinating badgers will reduce the incidence of TB in cattle. Vaccinating infected badgers has no effect and we know that there is a high level of infection in the badger population.

“Yet the previous strategy to cull badgers in the Intensive Action Area was backed by scientific evidence that a cull could reduce cattle herd breakdowns by an average of 16% over 9 years.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Minister has failed to listen to the advice of those most affected by bovine TB – the veterinary surgeons and farmers dealing with the disease every day.

“Meanwhile, cattle will continue to be culled as we wait for what may, or may not, be the benefits of badger vaccination.”

Andrew Praill, BCVA President, added:

“Dropping scientifically proven plans to tackle the disease in wildlife flies in the face of the Welsh Government’s stated aim of a science-led approach to tackling bovine TB.

“Farmers and vets in the Intensive Action Area have put a huge amount of effort into complying with stricter cattle measures in the hope that the Government would take action to deal with the wildlife reservoir. We fear that today’s announcement could seriously jeopardise the relationship between the industry and the Government.

“There has already been a long delay leading up to today’s announcement during which time the opportunity has been missed to base an eradication strategy on existing scientific evidence.

“Sadly this appears to be a case of making the science fit the policy, not making the policy fit the science.”