The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed an announcement today by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones that she intends to set up an intensive action pilot area that will address the issue of TB in wildlife.
The Minister told AMs that the zone will cover north Pembrokeshire where badgers will be culled by cage trapping.
Together with the cull there will be a raft of extra cattle control measures in the area to maximise the impact of the disease eradication programme.
Speaking after the announcement, FUW President Gareth Vaughan said: "This marks a significant step in the fight against bovine tuberculosis in Wales, and I commend the Minister and her staff for their resolve."
Last year the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales due to TB rose by 52%, to more than 12,000, while the disease prevalence in Welsh cattle was found to have increased by more than 30%, to 0.75%. Ten years ago the number of Welsh cattle slaughtered was just 1,046.
"We know from figures released in 2007 that the prevalence of TB in Welsh badgers is around 13%, and in some regions one in four badgers have been found to be infected," said Mr Vaughan.
"That is around 30 times higher than the rate of TB in cattle. The figures speak for themselves.
"For more than a decade we have been killing more and more cattle and increasing the strict controls on cattle movements, while letting the problem in the badger population spiral out of control.
"Each night there are tens of thousands of uncontrolled badger movements between farms, and there is no doubt in my mind that badgers are the main cause of the spread of the disease.
"The English badger culling trials have succeeded in reducing TB incidents in the trial areas by 54% yet they have not wiped out badgers from those areas. They have simply reduced their numbers to an acceptable level which has also led to positive environmental benefits such as increases in hedgehog numbers.
"Even if badger numbers were significantly reduced in the pilot area this would still allow healthy vaccinated badgers to be re-introduced, achieving healthy cattle and wildlife populations."
Mr Vaughan also called on the Minister to stand firm if animal rights groups launch a judicial review.
"The Minister has previously faced legal challenges and defended the current cattle testing regime, and she must do the same now in terms of defending moves to control the disease in wildlife. Commonsense must prevail.
"This is a dangerous disease that is starting to be seen at increasing levels in pets and other domestic animals, including llamas and goats. It has also been found increasingly in humans, and we therefore need to tackle it.
"We have worked relentlessly for many years for a return to commonsense. It previously took decades to rid our herds of this disease and we are only now starting out on a journey of disease eradication.
"The farming industry must have patience and fully support this programme."