RENEWED CALLS have been made to cull badgers in order to protect Welsh cattle.
The call came in the wake of the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) publishing figures which show a 15 per cent increase in numbers of cattle culled in Wales last year due to bovine TB.
More than 9,000 cows were slaughtered, despite strict controls, including increased annual testing of herds across Wales.
NFU Cymru deputy president Stephen James said the numbers showed TB was out of control and cattle measures alone would not stop the disease spreading.
“TB is one of the largest threats facing our beef and dairy farmers,” he said.
“Over the past five years we have lost more than 48,000 cattle in their prime because of bovine TB – despite farmers putting up with draconian controls that impact on every farm business decision they make.
“These figures show that a policy that fails to adequately tackle and remove the disease from the wildlife population will never eradicate this disease from our countryside.
He said there was an urgent need to introduce a science-led policy of badger control rather than the Welsh Government’s vaccination policy, which he said was based on guesswork.
Mr James added: “This is a wake-up call to the Welsh Government.” North Wales AM Antoinette Sandbach, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, also called for a badger cull.
She said: “This significant increase in cattle culling only reinforces the need for the Welsh Government to get to grips with TB.
“In Wales, the increase in the number of cattle culled due to TB is more than double the increase in England. Culling is the only proven method to tackle the reservoir of wildlife infection, yet badger culling has been ruled out by Labour ministers for political rather than scientific reasons.”
Overton farmer Stuart Gresty, who has lost 50 of his 125 cattle in the last 15 months, said he would welcome a cull.
“I love to see badgers about,” he said. “But I think they may be part of the problem.”
“Cows can spread the disease animal to animal but when it spreads farm to farm it does appear to come from the badgers.
“The problem is that it might move the clean badgers on and let the sick ones take their place. It’s not straightforward.”