- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Joyce Watson AM has greeted news that the controversial plans for a badger cull in west Wales have been put on hold while a review is carried out.
The Environment Minister of the Labour-run Welsh Government announced in a statement on Tuesday (21 June) that a new, independent panel of experts, to be appointed by chief scientific adviser Professor John Harries, will peer review the scientific evidence base regarding the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.
The panel is expected to report in the autumn and there will be no badger cull while the review is carried out.
The cull was part of the previous One Wales government’s bovine TB eradication plan, brought forward by Plaid Cymru Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones.
Speaking in the Assembly chamber immediately after the Minister’s announcement, the Mid and West Wales AM, who voted against the cull in 2009, welcomed a “rigorous review” of the science and urged the expert panel to evaluate the impact of cattle surveillance and controls, and consider the practicality of injectable vaccines:
“The Labour Party’s manifesto for the May Assembly elections promised a science-led approach to bovine TB. The Minister will be aware that I have made clear my position—I do not believe that the case has been made to prove that a cull would work, and I have written to him outlining my position on that.
“Bovine TB is a horrible disease that devastates families and businesses both emotionally and economically. There is no debate or ambiguity about the need to eradicate bovine TB, but we have to do it in a cost-effective, responsible way that is sustainable in the long term.
“The final report of the independent Scientific Group concluded that culling was not sustainable in the long term, and that it could even spread bovine TB, while a vaccination programme would reduce the instances of that disease.
“An injectable vaccine is available and already in use in a TB hotspot area of Gloucestershire. No-one doubts that vaccination works, and we must acknowledge that vaccination has moved on in terms of effectiveness and practicality since the bovine eradication plan was first announced. New, stringent cattle-side measures have also been introduced over the last few years and I would ask the Minister whether the new review group will evaluate the efficacy of those measures, alongside the review of the latest science that he has just announced, to ensure that they are being implemented properly, and to review the effect that they have had on the reduction of bovine TB.
In answer, Environment Minister John Griffiths said it was too early to say whether positive signs of a reduction in bovine TB in recent months were part of a long-term trend:
“I thank the Member for her views and questions. You rightly state that it was a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party to carry out this science-led peer review as to the best way to tackle bovine TB. That has now become a Welsh Government commitment and will take place.
“As far as your views on the science are concerned, it will be a matter for the review group to look at the science surrounding the best way to tackle bovine TB in taking forward its peer review. I am sure that vaccination will be one important aspect of that work. We know of the trials in Gloucestershire that you mention, and we also have an expert group in Wales looking at a badger vaccine; these are some of the very recent developments that the review group would want to look at in conducting its work and producing its report.”