While Wales is more famous for the endless hordes of sheep that lay waste to its hills and valleys (there are around three times as many sheep in Wales than people), Wales also has substantial numbers of cattle – and not insubstantial numbers of badgers.
Here in England that would mean the NFU nodding across the table to their colleagues in Defra to wave through more badger killing to allegedly tackle bovine tuberculosis (bTB), a respiratory disease of cattle of course. But in Wales they have different ideas. Fortunately. In fact, Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has recently set out a clear plan of attack to tackle bTB, which puts the blame on cattle – and farmers – for spreading the disease. Highlighting the Welsh Labour Government’s commitment in its election manifesto, which is now confirmed in their ‘Programme for Government’, Mr Drakeford stated on the floor of the Senedd that ‘Culling of badgers will not happen in Wales’. The Programme itself states that the Government ‘forbid the culling of badgers to control the spread of TB in cattle.’
Responding to a question from Janet Finch-Saunders, MS (Con) Aberconwy, who after meeting with farmers called for the introduction of mass culling of badgers, Drakeford said the reason for the increase was the actions of farmers themselves. He further stated that the problem was caused by lax biosecurity: ‘the importation of TB by farmers buying infected cattle, and bringing them into the area. That is the single greatest reason why low incidence areas have moved up a very sad hierarchy.’
Or to quote directly:
‘Culling of badgers will not happen in Wales. Just be clear about that, it was in the Labour Party Manifesto, it was endorsed by the electorate, it will not happen.
And if we want a serious debate it is better for farmers to recognise that, and again to talk with us about things that we can do rather than complaining about things that are not going to happen.’Mark Drakeford, Welsh Senned, June 2021
Extremely heartening for those of us that have said all along that slaughtering a protected mammal to make up for a shortfall in farming practices was an appallingly stupid way to deal with the problem. Not such good news for an industry that is used to getting what it wants…even when it makes no sense.