FRUSTRATION and no little anger were the keynotes of the County Council’s debate on a proposal to lobby the Welsh Government to permit a badger cull.
Councillors were told of the toll of the current policy had taken on farms, families, and communities. A packed Council Chamber heard harrowing stories of cattle being slaughtered late in pregnancy, outrage at discovering tests had delivered false positives, and an acknowledgement that there needs to be a broader approach than the one currently used. Proposing the motion, Cllr Gareth Lloyd began by setting out the nature of recent discussions members had held with their counterparts in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire regarding the deepening crisis in west Wales’s agricultural sector.
The dairy and livestock sector, Cllr Lloyd told councillors, was under particular pressure and the incidence of bovine TB (BTB) in the locality, together with the method chosen to deal with it, was making the problem worse. Cllr Lloyd continued by pointing out that BTB was having a ‘devastating effect’ on the wellbeing of animals and humans, while exacerbating ‘the fragility of Ceredigion’s economy’.
He reserved the majority of ire for a direct attack on the Welsh Government’s policy, ‘in light of the complete breakdown of the unscientific vaccination programme’. Stating that it was necessary to ‘break cycle of infection’ Cllr Lloyd told members: “I do not bring this before you without giving a lot of thought. I would like there to be no culling, the truth is there is a culling scheme – but it is happening to cattle! “Official figures show that in Wales 82,500 cattle have been culled. That is more than the population of Cetredigion, to give an idea – and that does not include unborn calves. The experiences of farmers are almost like coming back from war. You have cattle hours away from calving, minutes, before they are culled. Farmer can see the calves moving inside their mothers before the cows are killed.
This is the kind of thing we can avoid. We have spent twenty years culling cattle, and last year the number of cattle culled was 27% up on previous year.” Acknowledging the complexity of the situation, Cllr Lloyd said: “As things stand, this cycle will continue. It is a fact that badgers contract TB and are A (emphasis added) factor, but not the only factor, in infecting cattle. We could carry on culling thousands of cattle every year, but something must be done to stop the root cause of the problem, or at least tackle part of it. I understand some people have strong feelings against this idea, but I am representing my community.”
Cllr Lloyd concluded: “We need to come to an agreement for farmers, families, communities and to cooperate with our fellow councils in west Wales.” Following the formal seconding of the motion by Deputy Leader Ray Quant, Cllr Gethin James congratulated Cllr Lloyd on putting such a compelling case forward. Cllr James continued by suggesting: “The political will to deal with the issue has been lost. In 2008, during a visit to Ceredigion, I remember a discussion about this with the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan. He told me the evidence was there that a cull would work. “Our own AM, Elin Jones, was leading that. I think she wanted this to move forward. There was a legal challenge and the cull was delayed. Welsh Labour ditched the policy straight after the 2011 Assembly elections.”
Cllr Dai Mason told members that the decision should not even be made by the Welsh Government and that the Council should simply back a policy that allowed farmers to do whatever they thought necessary to protect their own stock. Cllr Towyn Evans was less combative, saying that there were no easy answers, he suggested that: “We are not proposing cruelty, but facing reality. The time has come, in the interests of humanity and people’s livelihoods, to make tough decisions and to make decisions that others will jump on to make political hay. “We are talking about targeting culls where TB exists. There is a genuine need for a political will to look at what’s happening in the dairy industry.” Highlighting the price collapse confronting dairy farmers, Cllr Evans said: “Farmers without contracts are now getting 12ppl for their milk.
That was 34ppl not so long ago. Families have invested in farms, they spend money locally. We must look at getting greater control of this issue. I agree with what Cllr James had to say about political will in the Assembly. There is a primitive system being used to test animals, and the system they are using is not fit for purpose. In this council, a rural council, we must have the will to be brave.” Cllr Dafydd Edwards addressed the issue in a different way and highlighted the loss of biodiversity in the countryside: “Badgers at one time, were endangered and were then protected. There are too many badgers now. It is time to for us to ask to look at lifting restrictions protecting badgers to reduce their impact on other wildlife; there is a lack of diversity thanks to badgers. We should look in more detail to see if there is a more sensible course of action to control their population and to review the impact on other wildlife. Cllr Lyndon Lloyd was very much more cautious than those preceding him: “The Government has accepted a scientific view as the basis for the vaccination programme. We might not agree with the scientific evidence, but if we are to present our own case we need to provide some science of our own.
“ We cannot simply say the process the Welsh Government is using is unscientific without showing why it is. We need to strengthen our case. As we have been debating here, BBC Radio Cymru has asked the Welsh Government for a comment. It claims the incidence is lower and the number of cattle culled is, too. “Vets have accepted the vaccination programme, some with misgivings, and we need to address that. “I can foresee the Assembly sending a letter back to us saying, ‘prove it’.” Responding to Lyndon Lloyd, Cllr Gareth Lloyd said: “We can use their evidence against them. The Welsh Government insisted on a five year programme and said it had to be five years unbroken to be scientifically sound. “They have failed to deliver that. By coming to an end after the fourth year, they have broken that.
Now they say it is fine to wait a year, but cannot say whether it will start again next year.” Cllr Paul Hinch picked up Cllr Lyndon Lloyd’s point: “This last Welsh Government has no about rural life in Wales or anywhere else. Unless vaccination is fully taken up, you cannot build up immunity. It’s not just the money, it’s the way of life. People get very upset about killing ‘cuddly animals’, but if they’re causing a problem they need management. If it takes a targeted cull, because the vaccination programme is incomplete, we should support that.” Cllr Alun Williams told members: “I understand the strength of feeling. I have had lots of emails about this topic. I would point out in England there has been intensive culling but that has not eradicated badgers in the affected areas. “My belief is there is no single simple solution to this and there needs to be a comprehensive science based policy. I cannot support only one solution. I fully support a motion to pressurise the WG to break the cycle of infection.”
His words were echoed by Cllrs John Lumley Hag Harries, who said they would abstain on the basis the evidence was not enough to back the motion. Cllr Peter Evans spoke at the end of the debate in support of the motion and made it clear that he could not support a petition in which one black and white creature was more equal than another. Highlighting the impact of the cull on the rural economy, Cllr Evans told members that: “We have to act, because farmers are the backbone of the rural areas. Farmers’ way of life is extremely important to the rural economies of the three counties. Ask the businesses who depend on them.” In a registered vote, an amendment to the motion to omit the recommendation of a cull only was supported by only 3 members with 4 abstentions. The motion was carried by 26 votes in favour to 1 against with 5 abstentions.
Police urge visitors to ‘check the rules’
POLICE in Powys are reminding people to check the rules before they travel, as tourists from the Midlands, London and Bristol continue to visit despite lockdown restrictions.
Last weekend more than 1,000 cars were turned around by police in the Brecon Beacons after visitors attempted to access the area around Ystradfellte known as ‘waterfall country’.
Many of those stopped claimed they thought the rules around travel were the same as in England, while others had deliberately flouted them.
Seventy-two per cent of people reported for breaches of Covid-19 restrictions in Powys since March 27 have been from outside the police force area.
“I would like to thank the communities of Powys for their cooperation in recent months in complying with requirements of the Covid 19 legislation and also reassure them we are still working hard with our partners to police the restrictions that remain in place across Wales,” said Superintendent Steve Davies.
“Our officers have worked hard to engage with the public at every opportunity throughout these unprecedented times by explaining what we are doing and why, and encouraging people to make the best choices to protect public health in Wales.
“But where people have clearly flouted the rules we have dealt with them appropriately and issued fines.”
He said officers will continue to conduct stop checks throughout Powys and across the force area this weekend.
In England, people can now travel an unlimited distance for exercise and to access so-called ‘beauty spots’.
But the Welsh Government has said people must remain local – ideally not travelling further than five miles from their home – for exercise or limited leisure pursuits, and this also applies to anyone travelling across the border.
Wales’ three national parks – which include popular sites such as Snowdon, the Elan valley and the Pembrokeshire coast – currently remain closed to the public, as do all National Trust car parks and properties.
The latest Welsh Government advice is available at gov.wales/coronavirus.
‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase
ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.
It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.
In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.
In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.
There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.
Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.
The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.
Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.
Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.
Kirsty Williams said:
“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.
“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.
“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.
“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.
“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.
“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.
“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.
“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”
Four further coronavirus cases confirmed in Hywel Dda area
THE LATEST figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) reveal four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Hywel Dda Health Board Area.
As of today, June 2, Carmarthenshire identified three new cases, Pembrokeshire has one new case and none in Ceredigion, meaning the new totals stand at 732, 279 and 42.
Wales now has a total of 14,121, with 67 new cases and seven additional deaths recorded, bringing the death total to 1,354.
With Hywel Dda reporting 61 deaths to date.
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Contact tracing continues in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with an individual with Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to prevent the risk of others spreading the infection in our communities.
“Anyone who has a positive Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.
“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who were in contact with. You do not need to have any concerns about providing names to the tracing team. This is for everyone’s benefit and we are grateful for your continued cooperation.
“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should also comply with this request to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.
“Over the last few weeks, Public Health Wales has been setting up the methods and guidance for how contact tracing will operate. We will continue to work closely to support local health boards and local authorities in delivering contact tracing.
“Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements also continue. People from two different households in the same local area can meet up outdoors, provided they continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.
“The announcement adds that, as a general rule, people should not travel more than five miles from home. This will help to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.
“Revised lockdown arrangements also apply to people in Wales who have been told to ‘shield’ from the virus. They are able to go outside and meet people from another household, provided they keep a two-metre distance.
“Future relaxation of lockdown measures will also be dependent on everyone following advice set out in the ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy, including self-isolating when required.
“Information about the symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) to look out for is available on the Public Health Wales website, or members of the public can use the NHS Wales symptom checker.
“Anyone experiencing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms can now apply for a home testing kit using the new UK online portal. For further information and a link to the booking website, visit: www.gov.wales/coronavirus or www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws. This will be supported by a national 119 phone service, through which people can also order a home test.
“We are encouraging everyone to download the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Symptom Study app, which has been supported by Welsh Government. The app allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. For more information, including how to download the app, visit covid.joinzoe.com.
“As part of wider support measures for families, Public Health Wales is offering all parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and care-givers free access to a series of online courses designed to help them understand the development and emotional milestones of their children, covering everything from pre-birth to late teens.
“To get access users just need to visit www.inourplace.co.uk and use the code ‘NWSOL’ if you live in North Wales, and ‘SWSOL’ if you live in Mid, West or South Wales.
“Public Health Wales is also continuing working to address the negative impact of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of people in Wales. Our latest campaign, ‘How are you doing?’ is now live and offering practical advice from phw.nhs.wales/howareyoudoing.
“Anyone with a suspected coronavirus illness should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.
“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.
“We also want to reinforce the message from NHS Wales that urgent and emergency care services for physical and mental health are still open and accessible.
“For parents, if your child is unwell and you are concerned you should seek help. If you have urgent dental pain you should still call your dentist. If you have a health complaint that is worrying you and won’t go away you should call your GP practice. If you or a family member are seriously ill or injured you should dial 999 or attend your nearest Emergency Department.”
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