Mid Wales

Badger cull warning as Royal Welsh Show opens in Powys

A badger
Image caption The two farming unions take different stances on the next stage in the badger cull issue

The Royal Welsh Show has opened in Powys with a warning to farmers not to think of breaking the law by killing badgers on their land.

The National Farmers Union in Wales warning follows a court move to quash plans for a cull in Pembrokeshire.

Meanwhile, the Farmers' Union of Wales now wants the law changed so farmers can kill badgers themselves in areas worst affected by TB.

The Badger Trust had questioned the cull's effectiveness.

Ed Bailey, NFU president in Wales said he hopes the plan for a cull could be eventually reintroduced, and said he could understand farmers' frustrations at the situation.

However he continued: "I know it's very difficult. I'm fully aware of the problems that TB causes on farms.

"But if we were to take the law into our own hands, I'm afraid it will make matters worse and we will lose the public support that we have at the moment.

"Unless it's a co-ordinated cull you could in fact be making matters worse.

"We have to stand on the science. Unfortunately the appeal court decision did not stand on the science. That was just on a technicality."

He added they were hoping to get the cull back on the agenda in the next few months.

It comes as the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said it estimated a badger cull in north Pembrokeshire could reduce TB in cattle by 30% over five years.

It published a paper, prepared by the union's agricultural policy director Dr Nicholas Fenwick, which used computer modelling and the results of previous scientific studies to predict the outcome of badger culling in a number of areas.

The FUW is also writing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking for the Badger Act to be withdrawn in TB hotspots like north Pembrokeshire.

President Gareth Vaughan said: "Even as long ago as a decade and a half ago, the Krebs Report made it clear that badgers were nowhere near being an endangered species, and that badger numbers were extremely high.

"There is also overwhelming evidence showing that badgers are having an adverse impact on other species.

"There is now ample evidence showing that the Badger Act should be reviewed with a view to repealing it."

He said it was about "humanely controlling" badger levels in a similar way to deer "and other animals which represent a risk to the environment".

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said on Sunday night that an announcement on the assembly government's next move would not be made this week but she still thought the approach involving a cull was the right one.

Speaking on Monday morning, Ms Jones denied that the policy on TB was in "disarray" following the quashing of the cull, and said she would be taking the judgement into consideration when considering her next move.

"The policy itself is far more comprehensive than that and all other aspects of that policy are continuing today," she told BBC Radio Wales.

"The setback from the Court of Appeal has stopped me in my pursuit in one aspect of that policy but I need to consider how next to pursue TB eradication in a holistic way in Wales."

'Greatest honour'

Meanwhile, one of the biggest investments in nearly 50 years of the Royal Welsh Show has been unveiled.

The society running the show in Llanelwedd has opened a new £1.6m food hall, which officials described as a "landmark building" and one of the most ambitious projects at the showground.

It has double the exhibition space of the old facility, and it has taken five years to raise the money to pay for it.

The show is also hosting the world sheep shearing championships this year, and shearers from 28 countries are taking part.

The attendance on Monday was the third best ever for the opening day, 52,448, although down nearly a thousand on 2009.

Livestock entries stand at 8,000, with record numbers of cattle and sheep.

TV personality and farmer Dai Jones, from Llanilar near Aberystwyth, said it was the "greatest honour of his life" to be the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's (RWAS) president for 2010.

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