Yesterday, I asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about their policy on badger culls in England and its knock on effect for Wales.
I asked the Government how it will ensure that the vaccine used on badgers is made available when needed. This question come about because The Badger Edge Vaccine Scheme was successful, however there was a shortage in vaccine. Likewise work is continuing on a bovine vaccination. A comprehensive bovine TB strategy should be advanced by the Government including a focus on developing scale for vaccination programmes, better testing, better animal husbandry and improved biosecurity.
The Welsh Assembly Government decided that vaccination was the way forward instead of the culls that have taken place in England. In England, 3,500 badgers have been culled in totality since the cull began – as opposed to the baseline of 14,500 identified as the minimal required for the cull to have any impact that the Government set out.
The badger cull in England has cost tax payers £7 million and has been insufficient to prevent the spread of bovine TB in England.
94% of cases of bovine TB is resultant from herd to herd transmission of the disease, not badger to herd. This throws further questions over the Government’s basis for proceeding with badger culls. Of badgers carrying the disease, only 15% test positive as carriers and 1.6% are capable of passing on the disease. The Government are not testing the culled badgers to see if any of them carry TB. Research over the summer proved that there is minimum contact between badgers and cattle, so if there is transmission between badgers and cattle it is likely to be through urine or faeces.
Not one single badger has been culled in Wales because the Welsh Assembly chose to vaccinate the badger population. But now we are seeing a shortage of vaccine nationally it will impact upon the ability to protect our cattle from bovine TB.
The UK Government has mishandled the bovine TB crisis plighting farmers. It is important that the UK Government takes serious action. The disease does not take note of the Wales border, and as good as the policies implemented by the Welsh Assembly are they will be undermined by these failures.
The Minister provided a non-answer. It offered no assurances to farmers in my constituency or up and down the country. It is about time that the Government took note of the evidence before them and did the right thing; change policy on badger culls.