Wales politics

Bovine TB: 'Set target date for Wales to be disease free'

Cows

A target date should be set for when Wales will be completely free of TB, an assembly committee has said.

Ministers are currently looking at ways of tackling the disease which is spread amongst cattle and other animals.

The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has recommended a regional approach which would see areas categorised as high, medium or low risk.

The Welsh Government said it would study the recommendations and respond.

The recommendations come as part of a report, which says a refreshed approach is needed to eradicate the disease.

It also said cattle testing and risk-based trading - which sees buyers and sellers share details about the TB status of cattle - should also be considered.

The practice supported the eradication of TB in Australia, while a similar scheme in New Zealand is voluntary.

'Keep a close eye'

Unlike England, Ireland and New Zealand, the Welsh Government has not set a timetable for national TB eradication but the committee wants a target date set.

Members agreed with a Welsh Government proposal to start targeted badger removal in herds with persistent outbreaks of TB.

But it warned it must be scientifically monitored to make sure it is working and, if not, it should be stopped or changed.

The committee also wants to ensure current EU funding for bovine TB testing and other measures is guaranteed within future Welsh Government budgets.

This includes the level of compensation given to farmers whose infected animals are destroyed, which the Welsh Government wants to cut from a maximum amount of £15,000 to £5,000.

The committee's interim chairwoman, Jenny Rathbone, said members wanted to see Wales declared TB free as soon as possible, but they recognised the level of co-operation needed to get there "is considerable".

"We concluded that a refreshed strategy is needed, which encompasses a regional approach to eradicating TB, movement restrictions on infected herds and risk-based trading among other options," she said.

"We also need to keep a close eye on the management of larger dairy herds and any link with the slurry they generate."

The Welsh Government said the cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs would deliver a statement on its updated approach to eradicating Bovine TB before the summer recess.

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