Council calls on Welsh government to consider badger cull

CEREDIGION council is expected to write to the Welsh Assembly asking them to consider authorising a targeted badger cull to combat the spread of tuberculosis (TB). The request, which is expected to be made after the upcoming Welsh Assembly elections, comes after a recent council meeting in which 26 votes were cast in favour, with five abstaining and one vote against the proposal.

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The vote comes after a meeting between Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire counsellors, which concluded that motions should be introduced in each council to determine if there is support to call upon the Welsh government to support a cull. Carmarthenshire passed a similar motion in January, and Pembrokeshire council is expected to vote on the issue later this month.

The support for the motion comes after questions were raised regarding the government’s current TB management strategy. The current strategy, which began in May 2012, includes vaccinating badgers against TB rather than culling badgers in areas of high TB prevalence – in addition to testing and the destruction of infected cattle. The badger BCG vaccine, which is produced solely by one company, SSI based in Germany, has been in short supply for the past three years. Production ceased in 2015 due to a greater need to produce vaccines suitable for human use. Following a statement issued in December 2015, the vaccination programme was suspended in late 2015 as a result of the lack of vaccine, due to the cessation of production. This decision will be reviewed in mid-2016.

In addition to the issues with the vaccination programme, those concerned with TB control in Wales have also voiced concerns about a possible recent increase in TB transmission to cattle, with a 27% increase in cattle destroyed due to infection in 2015 when compared to 2014.

The badger, which is a protected species, cannot be killed without special authorisation from the government, a state of affairs which, according to critics allows populations to expand out of control. According to Gareth Lloyd, who introduced the motion to Ceredigion council, this move would be “a step too far”.

While he does not support the removal of the protected species status, he does believe that something needs to be done. Speaking in an interview with ASM, Mr Lloyd stated that:

“Killing the cattle is controlling it on one end, but unless something is done in conjunction with that to prevent the cattle picking it up its going to be a never-ending battle.”

Despite this Mr Lloyd emphasised that, while he does not want for any animal to be killed, something must be done:

“Its not a matter of I want to cull any animal, but what people don’t realise is that there is a cull going on at the moment and it’s of cattle.”

A full video recording of the council meeting where the motion was discussed can be found here.