The Farmers’ Union of Wales has expressed its disappointed at the Information Commissioner's Office ruling that ‘no further action’ is required following the accidental release of personal farm details by Welsh Government.
Both the farm name and the location of those farms selected for Welsh Government badger culling as part of the Refreshed Bovine TB Programme were accidentally released by Welsh Government in July last year following a freedom of information request.
This information was subsequently posted on social media with calls from some anti-cull extremists to engage in behaviour which could have threatened the safety of farming families.
Dr Hazel Wright, FUW Senior Policy Officer, said: “We recognise that Welsh Government have now put procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of this mistake recurring and we hope that lessons really have been learned.
“However, the lack of a more robust response by the Information Commissioner’s Office will do little to act as a deterrent against future bad practise.
“Welsh Government were aware that the deliberate or inadvertent release of such information was likely to result in targeting by animal rights extremists, including illegal activity and threats being made.”
Dr Wright said that it should also be borne in mind that many cattle keepers in Wales continue to operate their businesses under a raft of burdensome and costly bovine TB controls, and that under such regulations farmers can receive financial penalties for genuine mistakes or factors outside their control.
“Farmers would naturally expect Welsh Government to be held to account in the same way, mistake or not.
“The FUW is extremely concerned that, without robust measures to safeguard farming families, cattle keepers in Wales will continue to be placed in a vulnerable position.
“We have repeatedly made our position on this matter clear to Welsh Government officials,” said Dr Wright.
The FUW remains extremely frustrated and alarmed about an existing open access TB information portal and has written several times to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs about this matter.
“The vulnerability of cattle farmers to harassment from anti-cull groups is now well documented and cannot be disputed. The ever-increasing use of social media has provided a portal for quick, cheap and widespread information dissemination. We will continue to press for access to bovine TB information to be restricted in order to ensure that farming families are safeguarded from vigilantism and intimidating behaviour from animal rights extremists,” added Dr Wright.