Just as a badger cull in Northern Ireland appeared to become more likely, Welsh politicians opted to scrap a badger cull in Wales in favour of vaccination.
On 13 March Northern Ireland’s agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill said her department was carefully monitoring the situation in England, where a badger cull has been approved in two trial areas, and that it had not ruled out a cull to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
A week later, the Welsh government dropped its plans for a badger cull. Environment minister John Griffiths said a five-year vaccination programme would start in the north Pembrokeshire TB hot spot.
He said: “I have visited and spoken to a number of cattle farming families across Wales. I know just how difficult it is and how the consequences of TB can be devastating.
“At present I am not satisfied that a cull of badgers would be necessary to bring about a substantial reduction in cases of TB in cattle.”
Wales’s previous coalition government had planned a badger cull, but the Labour government put the plans on hold last year and commissioned a review of scientific evidence.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales said the decision was a “cowardly betrayal” of farmers.
FUW spokesman Brian Walters said: “According to the experts who have conducted the most significant research to date into badger vaccines, it would require a massive trial covering thousands of square miles of land just to establish whether vaccination can have an impact on cattle herd breakdown.
“By contrast, culling has been shown to reduce TB incidences in cattle herds and since the 1970s thousands of herds have achieved TB-free status following badger culling.
“When AMs previously voted in favour of a badger cull on successive occasions, it demonstrated that Wales was willing to take positive steps to eradicate TB.
“Those who have now gone back on their words have not just betrayed farmers in north Pembrokeshire but the industry as a whole. They should hang their heads in shame.”