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Bovine TB: WG wants to talk

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screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-09-46-22IT WAS TRAILED as a major announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, but reaction to the Welsh Government’s change of tack from having a failed strategy to talking about a different strategy was met with a decidedly mixed response from opposition parties and farming unions.

After the failure of its vaccination trial, which came to an end when international supplies of vaccine ran out, the Welsh Government has still not advanced any concrete plan to resolve the problem.

Instead, Lesley Griffiths announced a consultation.

Over the past 12 months, nearly 9,500 cattle have been slaughtered as a result of this disease, a 38% increase from last year.

The situation is even worse in endemic areas of the country, with Pembrokeshire suffering a 40% increase in slaughtered cattle, Carmarthenshire 78% and Clwyd an increase of 137% in the 12 months to July 2016 compared to the same period in the previous year.

Since January 1996, the number of animals slaughtered in Wales as a result of bovine TB has reached 118,488 animals – equivalent to 23% of the total number of adult cattle we have on farms across Wales today.

The Cabinet Secretary told AMs: “Our current programme for TB eradication in Wales comes to an end this year.”

In fact, the ‘current eradication programme’ ended in October 2015, when supplied of vaccine ran out.

When it came to the promise to ‘take stock, reflect on our successes, learn lessons’ towards a TB free Wales, there was very little in Ms Griffiths’ statement that suggested that among the lessons the Welsh Government was prepared to learn were those relating to the successful steps taken in New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland about control of the infection reservoir in wildlife.

Instead, the range of other options available will be considered, including learning from a pilot in Northern Ireland where badgers were cage-trapped and infected animals were humanely killed. Working with vets and wildlife experts, the Cabinet Secretary will consider whether a similar approach might be appropriate in high incidence areas where there is chronic herd breakdown and an objective confirmation that badgers are infected.

The conditional ‘might’ is significant.

The consultation is also seeking views on:

  • Introducing a mandatory Informed Purchasing Scheme to help farmers make informed decisions about the health of the cattle they wish to purchase;
  • Imposing compensation penalties for cattle moved within a multi-site restricted holding;
  • Reducing the TB compensation cap from £15,000 to £5,000, which would not affect the majority of farmers but would result in around £300,000 a year savings.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s statement on Bovine TB, Preseli Pembrokeshire AM Paul Davies, who speaks for the Welsh Conservatives on Rural Affairs, welcomed the Welsh Government’s consultation on its ‘refreshed approach’ but believes it is a case of ‘too little, too late’.

He said: “Sadly, Labour’s measures to tackle the scourge of Bovine TB do not go far enough in eradicating this awful disease.

“There is a clear requirement for a more holistic approach and the Welsh Government’s strategy should include all the tools at its disposal to ensure we eliminate Bovine TB in both our cattle and wildlife population.

“The proposed regional approach to tackling this disease must ensure area risk-based strategies are not disproportionate to farmers and that farmers are not facing impossibly stringent controls.

“While some of the measures are welcome, it is imperative we see more decisive action from the Welsh Government as this disease is having a devastating impact on rural communities and Welsh farming.

“Farmers in Wales need to see an holistic TB strategy that learns from other countries and if necessary difficult decisions will have to made.”

Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, Mid and West regional AM, said: “This announcement is a step forward towards a proper integrated strategy to tackle bTB. It is welcome that the link between the disease in wildlife and in cattle is being recognised and that measures are being taken to address the policy vacuum that has been in place. It needs to be ensured that the measures taken are targeted, effective and humane.

“Recognition that a regional approach is needed to tackle the problem is welcome. Instances of TB infection in cattle has stayed persistently high in west Wales and is increasing in new areas in Carmarthenshire.”

“I am calling for assurances that testing and movement restrictions will remain proportionate to the disease status of an area.”

In relation to the proposal to cap compensation, Simon Thomas said: “A cut of £10,000 from the current cap of £15,000 will be a cause of concern to many farmers.”

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the Welsh Government’s announcement that it will consider a badger test-and-cull type approach to TB as a small step in the right direction, but says many farmers will be concerned at the implications of splitting Wales into TB zones.

The proposals, announced as part of a TB eradication programme consultation launched by Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths on Tuesday (Oct 18), include splitting Wales into five regions – one ‘low TB’ area, two ‘intermediate TB’ areas and two ‘high TB’ areas, with differing approaches to eradication in each area.

NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “In setting out her plans for dealing with chronic herd breakdowns, there is a welcome recognition from the Cabinet Secretary of the link between cattle and wildlife in disease transmission, but we are concerned at the time it may take for this issue to be adequately addressed.

“It is important to stress that Welsh Government’s low incidence area in North Wales has always had low levels of disease incidence and this new area should not be seen as a vindication of previous Government strategy.”

Stephen James concluded: “We have always said that we must use every option available to us, this includes; cattle testing, cattle controls, improving biosecurity, encouraging farmers to make informed purchasing decisions and strengthening the role that local vets play in tackling this horrendous disease. Any comprehensive TB eradication strategy must also actively remove infection from diseased wildlife across high incidence areas.

“Clearly, the proposals put forward by Welsh Government in today’s statement will ratchet up the control

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Restaurant owner fined over £3000 for ‘significant rodent infestation’

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THE FORMER proprietor of a restaurant which had a ‘significant rodent infestation’ pleaded guilty to ten food hygiene offences at Aberystwyth Justice Centre on Monday (Jun 18).

Mr Rysul Asad of Gloster Row, Cardigan, and the former proprietor of Gulshan, Chancery Lane, Cardigan, has appeared before Magistrates.

Four offences related to the presence of a significant rodent infestation at the restaurant, which was under Mr Asad’s control at the time. A further five offences related to the poor standards of cleaning found during the investigation.

Emergency action was taken by Ceredigion County Council Environmental Health Officers in September 2017 following the discovery of an active rodent infestation at the premises, and resulted in the immediate closure of the food business.

Rodent activity, including the presence of droppings, entry points and gnawing, was discovered within food preparation and food storage areas of the premises. Furthermore, Officers also discovered dirty equipment and very poor standards of cleaning.

Rodents carry a number of dangerous microorganisms and pose a significant risk to human health. These can include Salmonellosis, Escherichia coli (E.coli), Hantavirus and Weil’s disease.

The presence of rodents within a food premises can transmit these diseases via contaminated surfaces, equipment and the food itself, to such an extent that it is regarded as an imminent risk to health.

Cabinet Member for Public Protection Services Councillor Gareth Lloyd said: “Food hygiene inspections, and Food Hygiene Ratings shown on the doors of the majority of food businesses in Ceredigion, gives reassurance to the public who live, work and visit the county that the food they eat is safe and has been prepared hygienically. However, on rare occasions the Council must take action to protect public health and the reputation of our excellent hospitality industry who work hard to maintain standards.”

Mr Asad also pleaded guilty to a further offence of failing to register his new food business, namely Shatun Sharha Limited trading as Shampan the Boat Restaurant and Takeaway, River Teifi, Quay Street, Lower Mwldan, Cardigan, for which he is now the proprietor. Mr Asad failed to notify the Commercial Services Team at Ceredigion County Council of this change following his departure from Gulshan in November 2017.

Councillor Lloyd added: “Cases like this underline the importance of the work of our food and safety team and the value of our inspection programme. The food safety team works hard with local businesses to meet and maintain legal food hygiene standards to ensure the best hygiene safety in our county.”

The Magistrates imposed a total financial penalty of £3,107 on Mr Asad for the offences. This included Council costs and victim surcharge.

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3,000 Welsh landlords still unregistered

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JANET FINCH-SAUNDERS AM has called on the Welsh Government to urgently work to improve landlord registration under Rent Smart Wales, as estimates released indicate around 3,000 remain unregistered.

Ms Finch-Saunders said: “Rent Smart Wales estimates that still 3,000 landlords are unregistered here in Wales.

“Whilst that makes up a small percentage of our total landlords, it is most concerning for those living in properties leased to them by those who have not yet registered.

“The Welsh Government has confirmed that a landlord who is not registered with Rent Smart Wales is unable to serve a valid Section 21 eviction notice – so where unregistered landlords do indicate that they want tenants to vacate a property, this is not recognised by local housing associations, which can cause stress to tenants who may not be aware of their full rights under the law.

“By focusing on ensuring that all landlords are properly registered, the Welsh Government can alleviate such concerns, and I will be urging the Cabinet Secretary to act to ensure all landlords are abiding by this legislation in full.”

The Minister for Housing and Regeneration told Ms Finch-Saunders that the latest figures released by Rent Smart Wales show that 90,812 landlords are now registered. Rent Smart Wales’ latest estimate for the number of unregistered landlords is approximately 3,000.

This is based on the dwelling stock estimates recently published by StatsWales, and an estimation of the average number of properties owned by each landlord.

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Public urged to enjoy dolphin sightings at a distance

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WITH summer on the way, bringing visitors enjoying Ceredigion’s wildlife rich coastline, the Council is urging members of the public to enjoy coastal activities without disturbing Cardigan Bay’s special wildlife and habitats. The call comes after individuals recently approached and swam with dolphins in Cardigan Bay.

The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct asks water users to stay 100 metres away from dolphins and porpoises encountered at sea, and to keep a distance of 50 metres from seals and nesting sea birds.

In no circumstances should the public attempt to feed, swim with or touch the dolphins. These are wild animals. Dolphins are large and powerful and can grow up to four metres long. As well as causing significant disturbance to the animals and pushing them off important feeding sites, close contact can also result in exposure to diseases to both humans and animals.

Repeated disturbance could cause the dolphins to leave important feeding sites to search for quieter areas.

Disruption to feeding, resting and nursing behaviour could have a long-term impact on the health and wellbeing of individual dolphins and populations.

The Cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration, Councillor Rhodri Evans said: “Cardigan Bay’s wildlife is a great asset to the economy of our coastal communities and is also important in its own right. It is because of this that we ask residents and visitors to enjoy dolphin, and other wildlife sightings at a safe distance. Although the temptation to have a close-up view is understandable, we can’t risk disturbing Cardigan Bay’s wildlife and possibly driving them away. It’s the last thing anyone wants.”

The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct was established by Ceredigion County Council over twenty years ago, in response to local community concerns that the bottlenose dolphins that use these waters to feed, socialise and breed were experiencing greater pressures from disturbance by those enjoying recreational water-based activities.

The Ceredigion Marine Code of Conduct can be found online on http://www.cardiganbaysac.org.uk/?page_id=583

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