The current bovine Tuberculosis (TB) valuation and compensation systems are an integral part of Welsh TB controls and should be retained but irresponsible behaviour should be penalised, says the Farmers’ Union of Wales.

In its response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation on bovine TB compensation arrangements, the FUW argues it is wrong to penalise herd owners for cattle contact with infected wildlife, when successive governments have introduced legislation that has led directly to a massive increase in the numbers of TB susceptible wildlife.

Today FUW vice president Brian Walters said: "Given that scientific studies have attributed high-risk spread to protected wildlife, it would be completely unfair to punish farmers for a problem that has been created by past governments.

"The FUW agrees that compensation should provide an incentive for good practices, but only where such practices have been shown statistically to be effective in reducing incidences of bTB, are practical and affordable, and relate to factors which are within the direct influence and control of the herd owner."

The response also highlights the ambiguous findings of past studies of biosecurity measures. "All farmers should remain vigilant and, wherever practical, take steps to minimise the risk of disease transmission.

"However, scientists have concluded there is no universal solution for farm management to reduce the risk of a herd becoming a TB breakdown, as risk factors can change from year to year and be different from region to region.

"Measures that link compensation to biosecurity measures must therefore be statistically relevant and within a farmer’s control."

The response also brands proposals to publish details of compensation paid to individuals as "fundamentally wrong".

Mr Walters said: "In terms of the financial and emotional impact of bTB for Welsh herd owners, studies by the University of Exeter have shown that the value of cattle slaughtered is around 66 per cent of the total cost of a breakdown, and that the disease effects economic performance and growth of farm businesses, while causing serious stress for farm families.

"Herd owners who receive compensation due to bTB do so as a result of circumstances that are beyond their control. They do not volunteer or apply to receive such payments, and have no control over the size of an outbreak.

"Due to the complexity of issues that relate to bTB breakdowns, such as disease vectors, the nature of farm business structures and the industry as a whole, and the consequential losses incurred by businesses, most members of the general public will never be in a position to view payments made to individuals in the context of the net losses suffered, and the extreme emotional stress that TB places on families.

"Above all else, since the publication of details of individual payments will have no impact on incidences of bTB, the FUW fails to see why this proposal should form part of a programme of activities aimed at eradicating bTB in Wales.

"The implication that the publication of compensation details could contribute to bTB control is no more valid that the assertion that publicising the wages of public servants would encourage them to take a more proactive approach to controlling endemic diseases."