Farmers’ Union of Wales President Glyn Roberts stressed the urgent need for an independent review of the current bovine TB evidence base, with a view to assessing the suitability of current wildlife control measures and to make recommendations on future badger culling policies in Wales, when he met with First Minister Mark Drakeford and Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths.
The special meeting was arranged at the Union’s request and followed a series of meetings with the Minister and officials in recent months looking mainly at the science around TB management.
In setting the scene, the President reminded the First Minister of the human suffering and mental pain that TB caused in farming communities and the frustration that little was being done to successfully address the TB reservoir in wildlife. Statistically, in the last 5 years more cattle have been slaughtered in Wales as a result of TB than the total reported population of Badgers in Wales.
The focus of the discussion was to gain commitment from the Welsh Government to an innovative approach to managing the scourge of TB as the current management plans were providing limited, if any, success.
“Farmers need hope, hope that this dreadful disease will be dealt with and removed from our landscape,” said Glyn Roberts.
“To that end we asked the First Minister to consider funding a thoroughly innovative approach that takes best practice from other areas of society facing big challenges.
“Our proposal uses an approach of using big-data and wide analysis to build a better plan. It’s an approach used by many emergency forces, for example, when dealing with crime prediction and also with ambulance placement. Both forecast what might happen by analysing vast amounts of data. Whilst it may seem far-fetched that you can predict crime, it appears that this is truly possible. And that gives us hope that we can find a new way to defeat TB, provided we look at a truly innovative approach.”
The meeting also discussed the serious risk to trade relations with both the EU and also further afield due to the status of TB in Wales. “It would be desperately sad if Wales were to put the trade of the UK at risk, for failing to act to be TB free far more quickly than is currently planned.
“If we don’t fix this problem, there is no future for our livestock farmers here in Wales. And I was pleased to get a reasonably positive response from the First Minister to our proposals. It is now in the power of Welsh Government, the First Minister and the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to act on our proposals. Our farming future depends on it,” said Glyn Roberts.