- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
With a second year of badger culling underway in parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset, Assembly Member Joyce Watson has called on the Welsh Government to “talk sense into” UK ministers.
Speaking at Assembly question time on Wednesday (17 September), the Labour Mid and West Wales AM rubbished the UK Government’s controversial cull. She claimed Wales’s badger vaccination programme – which is being carried out in a 288 sq km area in north Pembrokeshire – was a more “humane and effective” way of reducing bovine tuberculosis.
Following the recent Welsh Government cabinet reshuffle, Mrs Watson asked new farming deputy minister Rebecca Evans if she had discussed the cull with her London counterpart.
Joyce Watson AM said:
“The priority, in my opinion, must be to continue the practice that we have had that has resulted in a 30% decline in bovine TB in Wales.
“Contrast that with DEFRA’s decision to continue with an utterly discredited badger cull across the border.
“Deputy Minister, have you had any chances yet to meet with your London counterparts and do you think that you will be able to talk any sense into them about how to implement a humane and effective eradication programme?”
Mrs Watson, who is a member of the Assembly’s environment and sustainability committee, has been an outspoken critic of culling. In 2009 she voted against the then Plaid Cymru rural affairs minister, Elin Jones’s proposal for a badger cull in west Wales.
Mrs Evans responded:
“I have had the opportunity to meet with Liz Truss on two occasions since my appointment, although we did not discuss bovine TB at that point. DEFRA’s policy is for DEFRA Ministers to defend.
“I would like to share with Members the latest figures here in Wales, where we have seen an 18% decrease in the last year in new herd incidents of bovine TB and a fall of 27% in the number of cattle slaughtered. So, I think that we are continuing to see this positive downward trend and I am very encouraged by the results so far.”
Earlier this year, former farming minister Alun Davies described the England-Wales border as a bovine TB “fault line”. Answering questions in the Senedd (6 June), Mr Davies said:
“If there is a fault line in the distribution of the decline of bovine TB, it follows the border between England and Wales. In Wales, we are seeing significant declines across the whole face of the country—the decline in the incidence of bovine TB is at over 30%. That is not happening one mile over the border in England due to the difference in policies being followed there.
“The reductions that we are seeing…in the IAAs (Intensive Action Areas) and in the rest of Wales are due to the comprehensive, holistic nature of our policies, working together as a package to deliver support for our farming community and for the veterinary profession and to deliver a framework that will control and, I hope, eradicate bovine TB from our countryside.”