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.
Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian
NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.
The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.
High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).
NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.
24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.
NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.
Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.
“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.
“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”
Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.
Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.
Major bequests for Aber research
TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.
The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.
Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.
The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.
The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.
“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”
Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.
The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.
“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”
In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.
Driving Wales to international skills success
AS SKILLS CHAMPION for Wales, Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles is at the forefront of aspiring young people to develop high quality, world-class skills.
The vehicle used to drive this ambition are skills competitions, which are held on a Welsh, UK and international level.
Competitions in Wales begin with regional Welsh Government supported competitions which are events that culminate to find Wales’ top competitors who progress to take part in UKSkills national and WorldSkills international events.
This year, 36 competitors from the UK are competing at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi, four of which are from Wales, two of which represent Coleg Sir Gâr, which is an impressive percentage of UK representation. These competitors have undergone a rigorous training process by WorldSkills UK, supported by training providers and employers.
Coleg Sir Gâr students have been selected for Team UK since 2009 when carpentry student Cliff Williams made the team in 2009 competing in WorldSkills Calgary. He was followed by web designer David Bowen who competed for in WorldSkills London, 2011. Carpenter Gareth Jones won gold in EuroSkills in 2012 followed by Simon McCall and Eleni Constantinou who won two silvers at EuroSkills in 2014 for hairdressing and carpentry with Eleni progressing to represent the UK and Coleg Sir Gâr in hairdressing at WorldSkills, Sao Paulo in 2015.
Last year, the college was ranked joint third place in the UK for its medal success in the Skills Show – the UK final, for achieving three golds, one silver and one bronze award. The show, held at Birmingham’s NEC every year, brings together medal winners from all nations to compete and showcase their skills and to hopefully continue their journey to the international arena, representing the UK in Worldskills which brings over 50 competing countries together and is likened to the Olympic games.
Barry Liles, Skills Champion for Wales said: “To have an impact on the economy and raise Wales and UK’s GVA, we must raise the skills of the UK population and we’re trying to do this from a young age and we’re significantly targeting industries that are important to Wales’ economy.
“The anticipated result is hoped to impact on young people and help them raise their ambitions and to find highly skilled work.”
In Wales, to help achieve this ambition, is a Welsh-Government funded project called Inspiring Skills Excellence (ISE), which is providing a supportive infrastructure to enable competitors from Wales to achieve success at national and international level.
“Much of our work is supporting competitors across Wales in their participation, training and mentoring to help them achieve excellence in skills relevant to economic growth and delivering medal winning success at national and international competitions,” said Paul Evans, ISE pan-coordinator for Wales.
“Using state of the art equipment we also engage with schools, providing hands-on and exciting experiences for young people to raise awareness of careers and the pathways available to them.”
Barry Liles added: “Being Skills Champion for Wales is a long-held ambition perhaps because I came from a vocational engineering background, I am very passionate about it.
“Industry skills are vital in our economy and I don’t want Wales to be left behind, in fact in the last seven years we have helped drive the nation forward to being one of the leading and successful nations in UK skills competitions.”
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