A MOTION to lobby the Welsh Government to introduce a badger cull was passed by Carmarthenshire County Council on Wednesday (Feb 11) in spite of fifteen councillors who declared an interest being unable to vote.
The motion, put forward by Councillor Gareth Thomas, was eventually passed 21-16, with six abstaining.
Introducing the motion, Cllr Thomas, who was granted an exemption permitting him to speak as a result of his expertise in the area, said that a cull was necessary ‘in light of the complete breakdown of the vaccination programme.’
Cllr Thomas described himself as a ‘cattle and badger owner’. If you can own a wild animal, I have setts on my land. I am proud of my cattle and proud of my badgers,” he added.
He quoted Defra figures which indicated a 25% increase in the number of cattle culled in Carmarthenshire, and said that his son, a vet, had told him that TB had been on the increase in the county all winter.
“If an alien came down, they would see big black-and-white things with TB and little black-and-white things with TB – but we have control over the big ones,” he added.
Cllr Thomas said that he believed that the original badger protection measures, brought in in 1982 to prevent badger baiting, had served a useful purpose, and reminisced about ordering four baiters from the valley off his land as a teenager.
However, he claimed, the resultant increase in population had led to an increase in infection in setts.
He also pointed out that cattle could be tested, and the movement of livestock restricted, however, none of this applied to badgers. “Without eradicating TB in both species, it will be withus forever and a day, “he said.
The Welsh Government vaccination trial was described as ‘a non-scientific experiment,’ which Cllr Thomas claimed cost £700 for every badger vaccinated, until a worldwide shortage of the vaccine led to the programme being halted.
Cllr Thomas also suggested that countries where wild species were culled, like New Zealand, and Ireland where badger setts are gassed. In particular, he claimed, Ireland had halved the amount of infected animals, where it had quadrupled in the UK.
The motion’s seconder, Councillor Jean Lewis, who was also granted an exemption, said that as a resident of an area which falls under TB restrictions, she knew the problems the disease could cause.
“Farmers have great pride in their stock – it is heartbreaking when they have to be killed because of TB,” she added.
Cllr Lewis also claimed that the Defra figures quoted by Cllr Thomas showed that vaccination was ineffective, and raised issues about the wellbeing of the badger population:
“If we are seriously concerned about badgers, is it fair to let them suffer a long and painful death?” she asked.
She suggested that tests carried out by the University of Warwick showed that infected badgers could be identified by their faeces. “No one wants to see cattle and wildlife destroyed, but we have to go to the root of the problem,” she added. “Animals are not the problem – TB is.”
Councillor Siân Caiach said that she agreed that the problem was the disease not the animals. However, she said that TB was a ‘difficult’ disease, because of its slow-growing nature.
She pointed out that practically every animal can catch bovine TB – including cats, dogs, rats, deer and even elephants, and said that culls on these animals had not been suggested.
However, she added, cows seem to mostly catch the disease from airborne moisture in breath.
Suggesting that a programme of vaccination for all cattle would solve the problem, Cllr Caiach pointed out that the majority of badgers had a natural immunity to TB because they had been allowed to develop it, rather than being slaughtered as soon as they tested positive for the disease.
She also suggested that, because the TB bacilli can live on in dead animals for up to six weeks, the disease was spread by roadkill being left on roads, and suggested that this was one area where Carmarthenshire County Council could make a difference.
Councillor Alun Lenny said that it was important to differentiate between protecting the livelihood of farmers and killing animals for fun ‘which is something I find highly objectionable.’
He recommended that if culling were to be brought back, then infected setts should be targeted. “This would be more effective than a ‘sledgehammer approach’” he added.
Labour Group leader Jeff Edmunds and Councillor Ryan Thomas suggested that culling was not the answer, and that TB should be eradicated ‘by scientific means’. Cllr Thomas disagreed with Cllr Gareth Thomas’ description of the vaccination programme as a ‘nonscientific experiment’ and pointed out that the trial culling of badgers in Gloucestershire had not been an unqualified success.
Cllr Edmunds said that if infected badgers were injured during a cull, and died elsewhere, the disease would be absorbed back into the food chain.
Responding, Cllr Gareth Thomas said that treating bovine TB with antibiotics was not feasible with animals, due to the long treatment required. He pointed out that in a vaccination trial in Gloucestershire, after four years only 8% fewer badgers caught Tb, and the programme was abandoned.
Stating that the cost of TB to UK taxpayers each year was £87m, Cllr Thomas said: “We have to find a solution. The days of throwing ideas about are long gone.”
School decisions on hold as Cabinet asks for extended review of council’s Modernising Education Programme
PROPOSALS to discontinue primary schools in Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau have been put on hold pending the outcome of an extended review of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme.
Cllr Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, has asked his education team to enhance a review of the MEP which is currently underway to ensure it continues to meet the needs of children and communities.
It means proposals due to be agreed today (Monday December 6, 2021), will not proceed at this time.
The extended review will seek to ensure that the MEP can adapt to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and climate change, which has changed the way people are living and making choices, how the education system has been affected and the rising costs of construction.
Cllr Davies said the review should look at how parents’ choices for their children’s education might change following the last 20 months.
The council has already noticed a shift in parental choice following the most recent annual admission of pupils during the pandemic.
With the construction industry having been hugely affected by the pandemic, with increased demand and rising costs for labour and materials, Cllr Davies said it is important to look at the knock-on effect this could have on the delivery and budgeting for school regeneration projects.
“We want to be able to factor these considerations in as we review the MEP, to have the time to properly consider how society is changing and how this will affect education services,” he said.
“Across the authority, several other departmental reviews are also underway. It would be prudent to ensure the MEP continues to align with the council’s priorities and objectives, and therefore it makes sense to take the outcome of these reviews into consideration also.
“I am asking officers to do this piece of work for me urgently.”
Speaking to fellow Cabinet members he said: “I hope that you will agree that no decision can be made today without this work taking place. I am asking that the Cabinet does not push ahead with proposals for Ysgol Mynyddygarreg and Ysgol Blaenau at this point in time, and I will not be announcing the statutory notice for these schools – we have to give full consideration to these proposals.”
Whilst Cabinet agreed to postpone these decisions, Cllr Davies confirmed the council’s commitment to continuing the delivery of a number of projects already in development.
These include a new state of the art specialist school to replace Ysgol Heol Goffa, a new primary school to replace Ysgol Pen-bre, and planned improvements at Ysgol Bryngwyn in Llanelli and Ysgol Bro Myrddin in Carmarthen.
He said the council will also prioritise plans for a new school to replace Llanelli’s Ysgol Dewi Sant and for new primary schools in Ammanford and Llandeilo.
Carmarthenshire’s Modernising Education Programme, in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, is about transforming the network of nursery, primary and secondary schools serving the county into strategically and operationally effective resources that meets current and future need for a school based and community focused education.
This is achieved through developing and improving buildings, infrastructure and spaces that are appropriately located, designed, constructed or adapted to foster the sustainable development of the people and communities of Carmarthenshire.
By the end of 2020/21 financial year, £295million has been invested in accommodation and facilities at schools across the county and it includes building 12 new primary schools and two new secondary schools, plus remodelling and refurbishment in a number of other schools.
Further information about this programme and individual school programmes can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education.
Specialist contractors brought in for A484 storm damage clearance
WORK is ongoing to clear a trail of destruction left in the wake of Storm Arwen along the A484 at Cynwyl Elfed.
Carmarthenshire County Council has had to bring in specialist contractors to help with the removal of over 60 large trees damaged during the storm on November 27.
A section of road between Bronwydd and Cynwyl Elfed will remain closed until next week whilst the clearance work continues.
Specialist equipment is being used to clear and make the area safe.
It is the largest tree clearance operation the council has faced in the wake of a high-wind storm event.
It is thought the northerly direction of the strong 60mph gusts of wind is to blame for the extensive damage which left trees on the hillside unusually exposed.
The road closure has meant a lengthy diversion for drivers passing through from Carmarthen to Newcastle Emlyn.
The council is working closely with contractors to minimise the disruption and to maintain safe access for residents living within the stretch of road closed off.
Cllr Hazel Evans, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “Storm Arwen resulted in a number of trees being brought down onto our roads throughout the county, but the A484 was particularly affected and a section south of Cynwyl Elfed had to be closed for safety reasons.
“We have two specialist contractors working on site to clear the road and make it safe to reopen as soon as possible, but this will take some time.
“This is a challenging situation and we are working hard to ensure the road is safe to open as soon as possible but please bear with us if there are any delays. We will provide an update as soon as we can.”
Carmarthenshire County Council’s highways team recorded 150 fallen trees – and 30 other weather related incidents in just 24 hours during the storm.
The council’s out of hours staff dealt with hundreds of calls and staff were mobilised throughout the night and day to deal with the damage caused by the high winds.
Further information about highway problems, and how to report an emergency, can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales
Vet completes epic 980 mile cycle challenge from Land’s End to John O’Groats in aid of charities
A CARMARTHENSHIRE vet has raised over £8,000 by taking on the mammoth challenge of cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance and The DPJ
Cath Tudor a farm vet at ProStock Vets, Carmarthen set herself the task of cycling nearly 1,000 miles as a challenge to do before she was 50 and to mark the ten year anniversary of ProStock Vets.
Cath, 50, from Llangynog, has always enjoyed cycling and raised £5,076 for the Wales Air Ambulance and £3,000 for the mental health farming charity – The DPJ Foundation.
Reflecting on why she decided to raise funds for the charities, she said: “I picked Wales Air Ambulance as it is an essential service for us living and working in rural communities, and as a family the Wales Air Ambulance came out when my brother, Richard Tudor, died in a tractor accident on the family farm in Mid Wales in April 2020. My brother was killed when the tractor rolled on a steep slope when spreading fertiliser.
“I chose DPJ Foundation as well due to it being a local charity which helps farmers struggling with mental health.”
The vet is no stranger to getting on her bike for charity, in 2016 Cath cycled the length of Wales for The Stroke Association and in 2018 she also completed a charity ride around Montgomeryshire for the Royal Welsh Show and a bowel cancer charity.
Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’.
The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.
Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.
A delighted Cath is extremely grateful to everyone who donated to the fundraiser, she said: “A massive thanks to everyone who has sponsored me and encouraged me to do the challenge. The support and reactions from everyone has been overwhelming.”
Despite having days when the fundraiser was challenging, Cath experience many highlights including seeing every area of the country and making friends for life.
She added: “There was a fabulous group of us, with everyone helping one another and I made friends for life.”
Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Cath has raised an incredible £8,000 for two essential charities. It is heart-warming to hear the reason behind Cath’s fundraiser, sadly she knows first-hand the importance of the Wales Air Ambulance, especially in rural Wales.
“Cath set herself the challenge of cycling nearly 1,000miles and her determination to raise funds for both charities is evident. Thank you to everyone who has supported Cath and donated to the Wales Air Ambulance, you’re all helping us be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.”
There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.
These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com.
Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.
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