Account Statement Covering Latter - DOC by gpo36476

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									                         Minister's statement



Last April I announced to Assembly Members that it was my

intention to implement a programme of TB eradication among

cattle in Wales and my proposals were supported by the majority

of you in this Chamber. I said at that time and I maintain the same

view today that there would be no single solution in order to

achieve our aim. I said that the approach to eradicate the disease

would have to be comprehensive, practical and proportionate and

take all factors into account.




Since I spoke to you last the number of cattle slaughtered due to

TB continues to increase - in 2008 we slaughtered over 12,000

cattle - 52% more cattle than in 2007 - an acceleration in incidence

which is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is claiming a huge

cost on animal life, farming businesses and quality of breeding

genetics. In terms of the associated rise in compensation costs -

we will be paying £23.5 million this year which is an increase of

47% on last year. Next year we face the prospect of spending over

£30 million on TB compensation.



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There are disease control policies in place but the incidence of

disease is still increasing. Each Member State is obliged under an

EU Directive to develop an eradication programme in order to

“accelerate, intensify or carry through” the eradication of the

disease.




All of this underlines the necessity of our commitment to pursue TB

eradication urgently.




Today, I am pleased to inform Assembly Members that this work is

continuing at pace. We are making good progress on the

considerable work that’s involved in the Cattle Health Check Wales

- to test all herds in Wales in a 15 month window. Between

October and February the Health Check identified 23 reactor herds

and 94 inconclusive reactor herds - that may not have been

detected for years. During this period we have also driven down

the pre- Health Check Wales overdue tests across Wales from 711

in October to 141 as at 10 March 2009 – a decrease of 80%.


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To complement this work on 1 March I introduced a new policy to

accelerate the removal of inconclusive reactors and I have also

established Regional Eradication Delivery Boards to deliver a co-

ordinated and concerted approach to eradicating TB on a regional

basis. This includes taking action to implement the lessons learnt

from the Biosecurity Intensive Treatment Area.




In addition, I am currently consulting on options to link

compensation payments to good disease prevention principles. I

believe this is a key way of encouraging farmers to fulfil their

responsibilities   and   comply   with   legal   and   best   practice

requirements. Action will be taken against those individuals who

illegally move cattle that are under TB restrictions. There have

been successful prosecutions by Pembrokeshire County Council in

recent months.



TB can affect animals other than cattle as demonstrated by the

rising incidence of the disease in camelids and goats. In

accordance with our aim to tackle all sources of infection I recently


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consulted on proposals to ensure that we have an effective

disease surveillance and control policy for managing and

preventing the disease in camelids.




There is, however, no point in tackling one source of infection only

to ignore another. This only allows the infection to return. Previous

studies have concluded that wildlife, and badgers in particular, are

a reservoir of TB infection in Wales and England and that they are

involved in the transmission of infection to cattle and vice versa.




Last year I announced that I had taken a decision to consider a

badger cull as part of an Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA).         I

made it clear in that statement that a badger cull would only be

pursued       if   ecological   reviews,   ethical    considerations,

epidemiological assessments, practical implementation and the

relevant legal requirements could be satisfactorily met and further

extension of this policy would only take place after appropriate

evaluation.




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I commissioned technical experts to investigate the potential

effects of different badger control strategies. The TB Eradication

Programme Board. has considered the evidence and made

recommendations.




Based on the evidence and information presented I have

considered options for introducing measures within an Intensive

Action Pilot Area with the aim of removing the link between

badgers and cattle in the transmission of bovine TB.




In summary I have considered the following options:



   A pro-active non-selective badger cull



   Vaccination of badgers



   Combined badger test, vaccinate or cull strategy




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I have considered these options carefully and based on the

comprehensive evidence and information I have received I am of

the opinion that a cull is necessary alongside additional cattle

measures.




The priority area for the establishment of an Intensive Action Pilot

Area should be within the bovine TB endemic area of Dyfed. It

should be located where perturbation can be kept to a minimum to

ensure maximum benefit in tackling the disease. I have agreed

that North Pembrokeshire would be a preferred location.




Subject to the further steps that now need to be taken, my

intention is that a cull should be co-ordinated and delivered by

government. Although I will be having further discussions with the

police about the delivery methods, I am assured that the most

effective and humane method is cage trapping and shooting. To

maximise the benefits, any culling should be carried out

competently and efficiently, in a co-ordinated manner, covering a

large area and sustained for at least four years.




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As I have said, I have considered all the options and I can confirm

that whilst the option of a combined badger test, vaccination or cull

strategy was intuitively very sensible - the modelling I have

commissioned has revealed that it has significant potential to

increase the number of cases of TB in cattle if perturbation occurs,

therefore I do not consider this option to be acceptable.




I recognise that vaccination is another potential tool to reduce the

risks of bovine TB in susceptible populations. I will continue to

work with DEFRA on research to explore the potential for the use

of an effective badger vaccine. I welcome confirmation that an

injectable licensed vaccine for badgers is expected in mid 2010

and oral bait vaccine by late 2014. The latter is recognised as an

efficient means of vaccinating the wildlife population over large

areas although any benefits in reduced cattle herd breakdowns are

not expected to be evident, through vaccination alone, for several

years.

I will monitor vaccine development closely with a view to

introducing vaccination into Welsh policy as and when available

and appropriate, recognising that both culling and vaccination are


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part of the measures required to pursue the eradication of bovine

TB in Wales.




I intend to bring forward secondary legislation to allow us to

implement our policy, and will be consulting publicly on that

legislation in April. In the meantime, we will begin the initial survey

work and assess farms in the area in order to locate the exact

boundaries. We will be working together with landowners, cattle

keepers and local vets in the area on participation.




We will continue to apply existing policies and will work with local

vets to identify any further cattle control measures that could

contribute to reduce the risk of bovine TB re-introduction through

cattle to cattle transmission.




Since announcing the TB Eradication Programme last April my

officials and I have maintained an open dialogue with a range of

interested groups. I am keen for that dialogue to continue.




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I stress again, as I have done from the outset that the badger

remains a protected species in Wales, under the terms of the

Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Illegal action against them will not

be tolerated either in North Pembrokeshire or elsewhere in Wales.




Finally, as I said last April, I want to see Welsh livestock and

Welsh wildlife co-existing in a healthy environment. That is not the

case today and the actions I have outlined over this past year and

today demonstrate this Government’s commitment to eradicating

TB from our rural communities.




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