Saturday, August 14, 2004

Will the Welsh reinstate Offa's dyke?

A report produced by the Welsh National Assembly's Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee was launched this week.

Entitled "New ways to tackle Tb in cattle", it proposed a Welsh Tb action group, and the establishment of 'intensive treatment areas'. Within Tb hotspots, all affected cattle would be removed ( aren't they now??) and if necessary, diseased wildlife as well.

There is nothing 'New' about that idea. It was done very successfully in the 1980's and reduced cattle Tb to just 638 cattle slaughtered annually. Then it was called 'Clean ring' and it worked. And it worked because action was directed at all sources of infection, not just cattle as has been the case since 1997.

In the 'Clean Ring' strategy, if a herd intradermal test found a reactor, the neighbouring farms to a distance of 2 - 3 of miles (7 km) were tested very quickly, to see if the outbreak was due to a wildlife source, and was affecting more than one farm. If it was, then a 'ring' was drawn around the area, and working inwards from farms that had tested clear, the infected badgers were destroyed.
New badgers re populating inwards into the cleared area were assumed to be free of disease - until the cattle tested indicated otherwise.

The interesting conundrum here is that it is our Minister of Conservation and Fisheries, the delightful Mr. Bradshaw MP has final responsibility for Wales as well as for England - (not that he's shown too much concern up to now for the thousands of English cattle slaughtered through Tb, except how much they're costing him).
So will he accept the advice of his Welsh Committee, and let Wales re-dig Offa's dyke?

Will he accept that badgers are the maintenance reservoir of cattle Tb and now the cause of spill over into other wildlife and take 'necessary action' on them as well as the cattle?

Dai Davies, deputy president of NFU Cymru commenting on the 'New' plan, remarked that " It was up to the Minister to activate the Committee's recommendations ".
" If he does not" Mr. Davies pointed out, " what is the point of having a Committee to look into it?"

Mr. Davies, that is precisely the point of Committees, Forums, Stakeholders and Enquiries.
The more the merrier. Throw in the odd scientist or two in need of a research grant, and Ministers can hide behind them ad infinitum and be seen to be doing 'something' while actually doing - absolutely nothing.

A new Offa's dyke? Don't hold your breath.

No comments: