Much the biggest story in today's newspapers is the statement by Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientist that a badger cull is necessary to bring Bovine Tb under control - and for two main reasons. Firstly, and at long last, this statement gives the livestock industry some hope that the Government might take some action to deal with a disease that has wrought devastation on livestock farmer's business and personal lives for decades. And secondly, it completely undermines what little confidence the farming industry has in anything that the Government now says.
Throughout my 8 year term as an Assembly Member, I was a member of the committee that had the responsibility of covering issus relating to Bovine Tb, 5 years of this period as Chair of the Committee. Throughout the 8 years, I pressed the Government to take the issue seriously. Throughout the 8 years, successive Ministers prevaricated and used every possible device to avoid taking the admittedly difficult decisions that were needed. We took evidence from all and sundry, and I visited Ireland twice to discuss the control measures adopted there. Along with the farming unions, the vets and almost every other farmer in the land, I did not believe the findings of the report prepared by the Government's Independent Science Group chaired by Sir John Bourne which was published earlier this year. This report claimed that culling badgers would be counter-productive in controlling Bovine Tb. As a result of Professor Bourne, framers have had to foot the bill for a strict regime of testing before movement, while the rampant disease in our wildlife was completely ignored. It sounded like nonsense - and now we know that it was nonsense.
During last April/May's Assembly Election campaign, Bovine Tb was a major issue in rural Wales. Every time I was questioned, I told my audience that I supported the creation of large areas of the country, surrounded as far as possible by a long coastline, where a large scale badger cull would take place - somewhere like Pembrokeshire for example. I said that failure to do so would eventually lead to a far greater cull - probably the whole of Britain. At the time, the responsible Assembly Minister sought to portray my opinion as irresponsible and not based on 'the science'. Well. now the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor has completely rubbished Professor Bourne's Report. And he is backed by the Government's Chief Vet, Debby Reynolds. His comment that the data 'does not support its conclusion' is another way of saying it was total nonsense. It should be rather fun when the Knight and the Professor give evidence to a select committee later this week.
I hope that the current Assembly Minister, Elin Jones ( who I believe shares my opinion of what has been going on) will apologise on behalf of the Assembly Government for the suffering its prevarication has inflicted on the farming industry in Wales, and for the taxpayers money that has been wasted by its refusal to face up to the obvious.