Pembrokeshire farmer's 'cowardice' claim on bovine TB

A farmer whose cattle herd has been badly affected by bovine TB has accused the Welsh government of cowardice in its handling of the issue.

Angela Winsor, who farms in Pembrokeshire, has had a number of cattle slaughtered because of the disease.

The conclusions of a scientific review undertaken last year into the issue are yet to be published.

But the Welsh government said it was committed to eradicating the disease.

In March 2011, ministers in the previous Welsh government revived plans for a badger cull in a test area of north Pembrokeshire.

Following May's election, the current Labour government announced a scientific review to assess the best approach to deal with bovine TB.

The results were initially expected in the autumn but First Minister Carwyn Jones said in December they would be released in the new year.

Ms Winsor, who runs the farm with her sister Helen, said that over the last two years at least 100 cattle had been slaughtered because they had become infected with the disease.

She said a lifetime of work was being destroyed and accused the Welsh government of not doing enough to tackle the disease.

As 24 of her cattle were either slaughtered on their farmyard or taken away for slaughter, she said: "I think you're a coward, minister [John Griffiths, Environment Minister].

"You should be on the yard and watch these being taken out and done, or whatever the words are, and see the distress you're putting these animals and us under.

Electric fences

"This is a lifetime's work here that's just being destroyed."

She invited Mr Jones to her farm saying: "I want him to come here and see what he's done to us and see good animals being destroyed.

"He's done nothing. Nothing to help us or anybody else around here."

Ms Winsor claims her cows had passed the TB skin and blood tests, but were deemed to be a risk - and so had to be removed from the farm.

Image caption Angela and Helen Winsor say more than 100 cattle on their farm have been slaughtered in two years

Over two years, she has farmed five herds of cattle independently of each other, separated by farm lanes and empty fields.

She erected double fences in other fields, ran an electric fence around buildings and paid for tall water containers for cattle to drink out of reach of badgers to try to avoid bovine TB spreading to their cattle.

But around 100 animals had to be slaughtered.

Tina Sacco, who farms nearby, said that she opposed a cull of badgers to tackle bovine TB and wanted to see European rules on export changed instead to allow vaccination of cattle to tackle the disease.

'Emotional hardship'

"We've always used vaccination for all our illnesses in stock, and in humans if it comes to that," she said.

"There is no need to have to kill a wild animal because it's a carrier of a disease when we can vaccinate."

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: "We recognise the devastating impact that bovine TB can have on farmers in Wales, and the environment minister has visited a number of farms and personally met farmers who are dealing with the fall out of TB in their herd.

"That is why our programme for government commits us to taking a science-led approach to tackling this incredibly serious disease.

"The environment minister received the report from the Bovine TB Science Review Panel on the science base for the Welsh government's bovine TB eradication programme in December 2011.

"Since then work has been ongoing to fully consider the report and its implications for the government's overall programme for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales.

"The Welsh government remains committed to eradicating the disease and the environment minister has confirmed that he will make a statement on this issue in March."

Conservative Antoinette Sandbach said delays had led to "more and more ignorance of the problems faced by the farming community across Wales",

She said: "Farmers have been hit emotionally, psychologically and financially by this continuing fiasco. They've been completely let down by the minister and it's no surprise he now faces this deservedly strong criticism."

Plaid Cymru's Llyr Huws Gruffydd criticised the delay in publishing the report findings.

"The longer this goes on then the more credibility is given to the fact that this could be political cowardice," he said.

"They [the Welsh government] need to make what may not be an easy decision nor even the most popular decision but it would be the right decision because we have to get to grips with this terrible disease that's inflicting so much economic and emotional hardship on our farming communities."

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