Details of Welsh badger cull revealed
THE Welsh Assembly will not announce the exact start date of its badger cull in West Wales as part of plans to eradicate bovine TB, although it will begin soon as the finer details of how it will take place are confirmed.
This week will see the finishing touches put to work detailing the precise numbers of badgers within the cull area, in readiness for what as near as possible will be a total clean sweep of the 288 square kilometre pilot area.
That will be helped by the fact the target area in north Pembrokeshire and adjoining parts of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion has natural boundaries, so largely eliminating the risk of re-population by fresh badgers from outside.
All but a handful of the 1,500 or so landowners in the target area are also said to have fully co-operated with Assembly officials drawing up the eradication plan and for the few who are opposed to the cull, legal powers of entry have been obtained.
Within the cull areas cages will be left open for several days before any shooting takes place in order not to disturb natural badger movements.
In response to its wildlife support group critics the Assembly also remains firmly convinced that the cull can significantly reduce the incidence of TB in both cattle and in badgers and that it is still early days to rely on vaccination without any evidence of it being effective.
Over the past 10 years, more than £100,000,000 has been spent in Wales on controlling TB, with the cost to the taxpayer in compensation to farmers having increased from around £1m in 2000, to just below £24m in 2009.
More than 11,000 cattle were slaughtered for TB in 2010, compared to just under 700 in 1997, justifying the view that the disease “is out of control”.
Officials stress the disease is already being tackled in cattle across Wales in order to limit and reduce the spread of infection, but a more aggressive approach is deemed necessary in areas where the disease is a really serious problem - and that involves tackling the wildlife source of infection as well.
Within the cull area 42 per cent of cattle owners have had at least one case of TB in their herd since 2003 and it is regarded a one of the most serious TB problem areas in Britain.
Between January 2005 and December 2008, 58 per cent of the compensation paid in Wales was paid to farmers in the west Wales region.
From May 1, enhanced cattle measures will also be in place in the pilot area, including the testing of most cattle herds every six months and all breakdowns, whether or not confirmed by post mortem, requiring two clear 60-day tests before official TB-free status can be regained and movement restrictions lifted.
The intention is to remove around 1,500 badgers over a five-year period, with it expected to take up to three years before any reduction in TB in cattle is seen within the area.
Every shot badger will be tested and the findings are to be made public.