Industry accused of “shocking own goal whilst blaming badgers for TB
APPALLING biosecurity lapses have been filmed at three Welsh livestock markets in an area suffering from widespread TB infections in cattle. Following the recent elections, Animal group Viva! - which has thousands of supporters in Wales - is urging the Welsh Assembly to drop plans to kill badgers in what the group believes is a misguided attempt to control bovine TB. It was previously believed that a wildlife 'cull' may take place imminently if Assembly plans go ahead.(1) Having previously sent the footage to rural affairs minister Elin Jones, the group is now sending their findings to Welsh Labour leader Carywn Jones urging his party to stop plans for a 'cull' ahead of appointing a new rural affairs minister. Viva! has accused the Welsh Assembly and the farming industry of allowing TB in through the backdoor whilst wrongly blaming Welsh wildlife for the spread of the disease. Despite the Welsh Government's official guidelines urging good biosecurity at markets to stop disease spread (and highlighting that they are legally binding (2)) the group says that disregard for the most basic biosecurity measures appeared to be endemic in Welsh markets and could be a major risk factor in spreading TB to cattle in the country. Carmarthen Market (Wednesday 30 March 2011) 97 per cent of visitors are filmed ignoring simple biosecurity measures despite clearly marked signs asking them to dip their feet and wear appropriate footwear. This is a potential significant route to spread infection. (3) Whitland Market (Wednesday 30 March 2011) No biosecurity measures are initially in place as the market begins, despite being designated as a Red/TB cattle market (where cattle under disease restrictions are sold for slaughter and risk of the spread of TB is high). An Animal Health official exclaims amazement on camera that she recently watched tested and non-tested cattle being widely mixed at a recent Carmarthen market. She says she was “seething . This is a serious biosecurity infringement. (4) Cardigan Market (Monday 4 April 2011) Despite being within the Intensive Action Area, not a single person was observed following simple biosecurity precautions such as dipping boots at this market. (5) A worker for a tag making company admits that tag swapping by sheep producers is widespread. This could be indicative of similar practices in cattle farming, which have recently come to light in England. (6) Viva!'s campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, says: “Why do farmers appear to be so willing to pull the trigger on the country's wildlife when they are clearly ignoring a problem much closer to home' Biosecurity appears to be treated with absolute contempt by most people who visit Welsh markets if our footage is anything to go by. It's not rocket science, bad biosecurity at markets has the potential to be a major route of infection. People should be angry that badgers are being made a scapegoat judging by what we saw, is it any wonder that TB has spread like wildfire through parts of the country' “We are calling on Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour to dump plans to kill badgers in Wales, as we believe that this footage is damning and is likely indicative of general practice at Welsh markets. Why should Welsh wildlife die when even the simplest precautions against disease are so flagrantly flouted' We've said it before - and we'll say it again - bad farming practices and previous bad political decisions are at the root of the TB epidemic, not badgers. Notes for editors Viva!'s investigator observed strict biosecurity at all times. Filming was via hidden camera. Footage available on request. Footage has been sent to appropriate government bodies in Wales. Iwan Williams, Vetrinary Officer for Animal Health in Carmarthen has acknowledged receipt of the footage. It will also be made available to wildlife groups in support of any legal challenge that may be undertaken to block any 'cull' of badgers in Wales. Viva! has campaigned against badger 'culling' in both England and Wales since 2008, when plans were first unveiled. The group held a National Day of Action in Wales on September 20, 2008 against the 'cull' of badgers. This followed a National Rally for Badgers on Saturday, June 28 the same year, when over 300 people gathered peacefully on the steps of the Welsh Assembly's Debating Rooms to say no to the badger 'cull'. In December 2010 another National Day of Action for badgers attracted over 200 demonstrations across the UK. Viva! has produced a fully referenced fact sheet on badgers and TB (updated April 2011). (1) A 'cull' of badgers in Wales could happen as early as May 2011 (Farmers Weekly). (2) Welsh Government advice on 'Attending a gathering': “All licensed premises must have a biosecurity officer. Their job is to minimise the risk of disease being brought on the premises. If you take animals to a gathering, follow any instruction the biosecurity officer or the show organiser give you. Enforcement authorities can still take action if there is a biosecurity risk at a gathering. Welsh Government website also says: “The risk of disease being spread when animals are gathered from different places is high. Good Biosecurity is an important part of preventing the spread of disease at animal gatherings. “These events are typically held on market premises or are livestock shows. At markets, animals are brought together and then moved away creating a risk of rapid disease spread. People can transfer disease from animal gatherings to livestock on their clothing, vehicles and footwear. If any of these are contaminated there is a risk of carrying disease until they are properly cleansed and disinfected. (3) Carmarthen Market (Nantyci, Carmarthen, SA33 5DR): Over the period of about an hour and a half 237 people pass the provided foot dip (filled with disinfectant) but only 7 people dip their feet (a rate of just 3 per cent). This despite all people entering the auction area crossing area where animals enter the market. A sign on the entrance also says that visitors must wear 'wellies' or 'leggings' (waterproof trousers). The footage below shows that most people do not have on wellies or leggings, and many have on ordinary shoes. This is a flagrant disregard of biosecurity instructions at the market. (4) Whitland Market (J J Morris, The Cattle Market, West Street, Whitland, Dyfed, SA34 0AE): A 'red' market, where cattle under TB restriction are sold for slaughter (they cannot be moved on elsewhere). However, the potential for disease incidence is high. As animals are unloading our investigator notices that there are no foot dips. She says to the Animal Health biosecurity officer that she has noticed this. The woman replies and confirms the problem: FAKC0045_30032011151047.ASF 1.47 investigator asks, “How come there's no foot dips on the edge then' . She says, “They've just been told. She also says, “They're usually pretty good … (talks a bit more about it) 9.07 animal health woman (AHW): “They all forget and they all do things wrong. The same Biosecurity Officer confirms major biosecurity failings at recent Carmarthen market: FAKC0045_30032011151047.ASF 9.30 AHW talks about tested and untested animals being in the same pen. Leads to this conversation: Investigator: “So how does that work in terms of disease transmission, because if they are in the same shed just down separate lines … AHW: “… you could say the same, how does it work when they come in the same trailer' Investigator: “Yeah. AHW: “It's ridiculous. We had this massive argument at work about, because I came back the other day from Carmarthen and I was seething. … I don't go there very often . [inaudible] … I'm always away. Investigator: “Right AHW: “And I was with the vet when he was having problems and he was trying to say . Trying to tell them what to do: padlock these gates; make sure they don't cross over. But I went there Thursday, must have been first time in months. I just stood there watching them all, non-tested, tested crossing over into non-tested, non-tested crossing over. Non-tested being unloaded into tested walking over to non-tested section. Blah. For God's sake! (5) Cardigan Market (Station Rd, Cardigan, Dyfed SA43 3AD): Investigator spends several hours at the livestock market but does not observe a single person observing foot dip biosecurity (a number of people are filmed walking past the foot dips entering and leaving the market). The market is inside the Intensive Action Area, which is supposed to have higher levels of biosecurity. FAKC0045_04042011101241.ASF 0.00 investigator talks to Allflex worker (his jacket has the logo on it), who says: “We probably do the largest range of sheep tags and cattle tags. http://www.allflex.co.uk/ 0.59 [worker talking about sheep tags he has with him]. Investigator: “There's been something in the news about people swapping over tags … Worker: “Yeah, there's a fair bit of it going on. … There's so many people selling [inaudible] lambs, they're selling them on normal batch tags. Then a lot of the farms buying them are changing them into electronic tags. … [inaudible] … People are then, instead of recording it then they're just cutting them out and not recording them or making any notes. Investigator: “It happens a lot! Worker: “It can do. I mean the … [inaudible]. Note: he appears to be talking about sheep tags and not cattle tags. (6) Recently in England, Defra announced that an investigation was going in to the practice of farmers swapping cattle ear tags so that farmers could retain high yield cattle with the disease whilst getting compensation for low yield cows (Guardian article). This would have the potential to spread disease to the rest of the herd and beyond. Defra insists that this has happened on only a number of farms (in Gloucestershire), but the true extent of this fraud - and its impact on the spread of TB via cattle-to-cattle methods has not be ascertained. Viva! has also written to the English coalition Government demanding that they drop plans for a 'cull' of badgers in England in light of this fraud.