pasted image 0 (5)RSPCA Cymru has welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to divert money which may have been used for killing badgers on a few farms to fund badger vaccination on a wider scale instead, and praised the decision to continue to focus largely on cattle measures, as the fight against the spread of Bovine TB continues.

The Welsh Government has this week announced a 12-week consultation focussed on a refreshed approach to Wales’ TB Eradication Programme.

Proposals include exploring the appropriate deployment of cattle testing associated with cattle movements, providing improved communication at point of purchase for cattle keepers to allow better informed decision making and reviewing the current payment systems to provide more incentives for farmers.

As an additional part of its revised strategy, the Welsh Government intends to phase out its trap/vaccinate/remove programme which it had deployed on certain farms, that required some badgers to be killed and risked unnecessarily culling healthy badgers.

Instead, the Welsh Government will expand its badger vaccination programme across Wales with £100,000 of funding.

In its programme for government, published earlier this year, the Welsh Government committed to stop any culling of badgers to control the spread of TB in cattle. The new proposals are primarily aimed at tightening up existing measures relating to cattle rather than badgers, especially as cattle movements are considered to be the main risk in the transmission of the disease.

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is an infectious disease of cattle. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis) which can also infect and cause disease in many other mammals.

RSPCA’s head of wildlife Adam Grogan said: “We really welcome this announcement from the Welsh Government – particularly the decision to focus on improving cattle measures so that farmers can make better informed choices when purchasing cattle and to redeploy £100,000 to non lethal methods of controlling the disease in badgers by funding additional badger vaccination.

“Most badgers that tested positive and were killed as part of the test/vaccinate/remove management plan did not have evidence of Bovine TB on subsequent post mortem examination, meaning that healthy badgers were possibly being killed unnecessarily, due to the low specificity of the tests used.

“We welcome the Welsh Government’s proposals to implement better management of the disease in cattle. Reducing movements, informed purchasing of cattle by farmers, refining the testing protocols used in cattle and improved biosecurity are solutions that will benefit farmers, cattle and badgers. We would also like to see proposals to deploy cattle vaccination in Wales in the near future.

“Bovine TB is a devastating disease, but thankfully we’ve seen some good progress in Wales which we believe is due to their lead focus on cattle-based measures to control of this disease, which is primarily spread between cattle. They have achieved this without resorting to the sorts of culls we have seen across the border in England. The RSPCA looks forward to working with the Welsh Government and Wales’ cattle farmers to tackle this disease.”

More information on RSPCA’s stance on tackling bovine tuberculosis in Wales can be found on the charity’s dedicated webpage.