Assembly accused of staggering incompetence over badger 'cull' | Viva!

Assembly accused of staggering incompetence over badger 'cull'

Welsh tax payers will pay for badgers to die despite failure to monitor other options

Release date: 
Thursday, December 16, 2010

In an act of staggering incompetence, the Welsh Assembly is mismanaging a cheaper and better way of controlling TB which would save wildlife and millions of pounds of Welsh taxpayers' money*. The allegation is made by the animal campaigning group Viva! which has 2,500 supporters across Wales. In a letter to a Viva! supporter in Ceredigion, the Welsh assembly has now admitted that it has no idea what biosecurity or husbandry measures - if any - Welsh farmers are taking. This goes against expert advice that keeping badgers and cattle apart could cut TB rates and would be cheaper than a 'cull'. Viva! is accusing the Welsh Assembly of wilful incompetence, and ignoring non-lethal measures in an effort to appease farmers who may have to pay more for them. Justin Kerswell, Viva! campaigns manager, says: “Welsh tax payers are likely to be furious that, in times of national austerity, millions of pounds will be wasted on a badger 'cull' when other cheaper, cruelty-free methods have been swept under the carpet. Poor biosecurity on farms is a vector not just for bovine TB, but for other types of disease as well. The fact that the Welsh Assembly holds no information on how many - if any - farmers have actually implemented improved measures on farms is nothing short of scandalous. This is a gaping black hole in their TB prevention policy and smacks of letting farmers off the hook whilst hammering tax payers at the same time. It is even worse when you think thousands of badgers will be trapped and shot in cages in parts of Wales, despite the fact that a non-lethal part of the puzzle has been staring politicians in the face all along. Adrian Stallwood, Viva! supporter and resident in North Pembrokeshire (where the 'cull' in Wales is planned), says: "The Welsh Assembly say that better biosecurity will give them better results than previous ineffective culls, and Dr Glossop claims that it is "an important aspect" of a comprehensive approach. It clearly not so important so as to be worth officially recording, let alone enforcing. This shocking admission only confirms what campaigners in Pembrokeshire have said all along - these measures are voluntary, subjective, and will not be effectively implemented or monitored. “This laissez-faire approach to sloppy farming practice contrasts sharply with the official fanaticism to kill badgers whatever the cost. And whilst farmers can take or leave advice as they please, ordinary citizens will be criminalised if they refuse to allow the killing on their land. Once again, it's clear who pulls the strings of the pro-cull politicians in Wales." Viva! is encouraging people in Wales to object to the Welsh Assembly's public consultation on badger 'culling'. The group has printed tens of thousands of objection postcards, which have been distributed across the country. More on Viva!'s campaigns for badgers can be found at ENDS Notes for editors * A letter to a Viva! supporter dated 12 November 2010, says: “Whilst the Welsh Assembly Government supports and encourages farmers to implement effective biosecurity and husbandry measures, we do not hold information regarding the number of farmers who have implemented such measures. It is signed by the TB Team, Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer. Copy of letter available on request. ** Lord Krebs - the man whose report led to the first trial 'culls' - has stated that simple measures such as improved cattle testing and keeping badgers and cattle apart would cost less than a 'cull' and are "as likely to work". The Welsh badger 'cull' programme would be hugely expensive. The previous plans were estimated to cost at least £10 million, with a projected 'cull' number of 1,500 over five years; which translates to costing a staggering £6,666 per badger. Research has shown that a 'cull' in badgers in Wales is likely to cause only a 9% drop in TB infections in cattle. Viva! believes that this shows that badgers are not a major vector for spreading TB, and that cattle-based measures alone would be more humane and more effective in tackling disease. The consultation in Wales closes on the 17 December and objections can be made online at Viva! held a National Day of Action across Britain on November 27, with many awareness raising actions happening across Wales, including Rhyl, Cardiff and Wrexham. The group also maintains that badgers are not to blame for TB in cattle - and that cattle-to-cattle infection is the main vector. Viva! have accused the Welsh assembly of pandering to the dairy industry, whilst conducting a 'witch hunt' for Welsh badgers. They have organised a boycott of Welsh dairy products, which has attracted over 1,000 supporters on Facebook:

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