FUW Welcomes Step Forward in Bovine TB Control

The FUW has welcomed the announcement that researchers have developed 2 candidate skin tests for bovine TB which are able to differentiate between cattle infected with the disease and those which have been vaccinated against the disease.

The ‘DIVA’ test was created by researchers from  teams within the UK, Ethiopia, India, the Netherlands and the USA and includes work undertaken by Ser Cymru Chair, Professor Glyn Hweinson, based at the Department of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

The development of a DIVA test is a crucial step in bovine TB control.  Vaccination of cattle against bovine TB is currently illegal under EU and International law as it is impossible to determine if a positive result emanates from bovine TB infection or vaccination.  The DIVA skin test mitigates this issue as the test will provide a positive result in infected animals, whilst vaccinated animals will be negative.  

The DIVA test must now be evaluated in field trials to ensure that it satisfies World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. It is likely that this test will therefore not be available for use within the next 5 years.  

Whilst the FUW welcomes this positive step forward, it must be recognised that the availability of a cattle vaccination against bovine TB is not the whole answer and does not represent a ‘silver bullet’ to TB eradication.  Vaccination is not 100 percent effective and a DIVA test, which leads to vaccination, is just one ‘tool in the tool box’ for future eradication and control policies.

FUW Opposes Pan-Wales 2020 Agricultural Pollution Regulations

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has reiterated its opposition to the establishment of pan-Wales agricultural pollution regulations which, if implemented, will cause significant financial and administrative burdens for farmers across Wales; the overwhelming majority of whom are fully compliant with current regulations.  

In 2016, the Welsh Government published a consultation on the future of agricultural pollution regulations in Wales which proposed the option of discrete NVZ areas, or a whole-Wales approach.  At present, just over 2 percent of Wales is designated as an NVZ, and the FUW Farmers’ Union of Wales strongly opposed any additional regulation being implemented onto farms which remain compliant with current regulations and are not responsible for pollution incidents.

Following the consultation, the FUW worked with the Wales Land Management Forum (WLMF) to produce a report for the Minister outlining 45 recommendations based upon 5 themes to tackle agricultural pollution in Wales.  Despite these recommendations, in November 2018, the Welsh Government announced a proposal to implement a pan-Wales regulatory approach.

The FUW believes that a pan-Wales approach is unjustifiable given that just 1% of all Basic Payment Scheme claimants are involved in a pollution incident.  

The fact that such a draconian blanket approach is being planned goes against the Welsh Government's commitment in December 2017 to strike the ‘right balance of comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment’ and ‘...explore further options to provide land managers with flexibility, where these would achieve the same or better outcomes than a regulatory approach’.  Should the plans go ahead there would be an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.

The rules will have far-reaching repercussions for dairy farmers across Wales, but could also result in a fall in Welsh beef production due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.

The FUW has reiterated its call for the plans to be abandoned, and for a proportionate and targeted approach based on balanced evidence to be adopted. The Union recognises the serious need to tackle agricultural pollution but will continue to fight to ensure this is done in a way which is both proportionate and targeted, and reflects the local and national evidence base.  The FUW continues to work with the WLMF Group to put forward an alternative industry endorsed evidence-based approach before any regulations are finalised.