Welsh TB chiefs resign over badger cull delay
The heads of the three regional bovine TB eradication boards in Wales have resigned claiming they have been "badly misled" by the Welsh Government.
John Owen, Peredur Hughes and John Stevenson have stepped down saying they were not consulted on a delay to a planned badger cull.
Controversial plans for a cull in Wales are on hold pending a review.
The Welsh Government said their resignations were "regrettable" but it was committed to eradicating bovine TB.
Last week Environment Minister John Griffiths announced an independent panel of experts would examine the scientific evidence before any cull went ahead.
Plans for a cull in west Wales were revived in March, eight months after original proposals were shelved when the Badger Trust won a challenge in the Court of Appeal.
'Withdraw their support'
The three board chairmen wrote: "We all feel as if we have been entirely by-passed and badly misled and in so being have been misguiding those who have sought and heeded our advice.
"In these circumstances we feel we have no alternative but to withdraw our support as chairs of your respective boards until you have completed the scientific review or are prepared to meet us.
"To have taken this decision without even having the courtesy of listening to our opinion suggests a total disregard for our views."
The three TB Regional Eradication Delivery Boards were set up in 2008 to investigate regional approaches to dealing with the disease in Wales.
They are located in north Wales, Carmarthen and Cardiff.
Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Antoinette Sandbach AM, said the decision of the board heads to quit "in this manner" is a "damning indictment" of the way the postponement has been handled.
"That all three chairmen claim they have been misled and by-passed is of very grave concern that all three chairmen claim they have been misled and by-passed is of very grave concern," she said.
"How can we have confidence in the way the environment minister is managing this dire situation, when it appears he has failed to engage with these boards?"
Plaid Cymru's rural affairs spokesperson, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, said Mr Griffiths had turned what was a co-ordinated effort to eradicate bovine TB into "a chaotic mess" and needed to reconsider his actions.
"Farmers have been co-operating fully with the previous government's efforts to get to grips with all the causes of bTB and the ways in which it is spread," said Mr Gruffydd.
"Yet in a very short time in post, the minister has succeeded in breaching the trust of those who we are relying on to help bring this disease under control."
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "It is regrettable that the chairs of the three TB Regional Eradication Delivery Boards in Wales believe it necessary to withdraw their support until the completion of the review.
"The Welsh Government remains fully committed to eradicating bovine TB.
"The review, which is being co-ordinated by Professor Harries, the Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, is intended to support and strengthen this work, of which the TB Regional Eradication Delivery Boards are an integral and valuable part."