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Demand for apology after Labour MS suggests farmers affected by bovine TB should find another business

16 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Joyce Watson MS

Martin Shipton

Countryside Alliance Wales has demanded an immediate public apology from Labour Senedd member Joyce Watson, after she told struggling dairy farmers impacted by Bovine TB to “find another business”.

The “insulting” comments came during an update on bovine TB cases from Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths, who said that while cases in Wales are continuing to decline, additional testing requirements for the Low and Intermediate risk areas of Wales would be needed.

Speaking to the Senedd, Ms Watson said: “We’re talking about a rethink, Minister. Have you looked at any farms that have perpetual TB status and have you considered the question of whether those particular farms should be dairy farms at all? Because if it is the case that they are in perpetual TB infection status, surely they need to find another business.”

As a regional member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales, Ms Watson represents a significant number of Welsh dairy farmers. The frustration, exhaustion, and stress bovine TB causes can be incredibly traumatic for livestock farmers, who often suffer from extreme anxiety when waiting for TB testing results.

Bovine Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), which can also cause disease in many other mammals, including badgers.

Culled

The Mid Wales region that Ms Watson represents includes the two significant cattle farming areas of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Together these counties had a total of 2,898 cattle herds in the 12 months to June 2023. In that period 789,387 cattle were tested for bovine TB and, as a result, 5,103 cattle were culled.

Speaking outside the Senedd in Cardiff, Countryside Alliance Wales Director Rachel Evans accused Ms Watson of “gravely insulting rural communities and lacking in compassion”.

She said: “The appalling comments from Joyce Watson made me sick to my stomach. Despite representing a significant dairy farming community, she offers no compassion for those struggling families who suffer daily from anxiety and distress because of TB. Rather than act as their voice in the Senedd, Ms Watson has opted to throw them under the bus and seems content with seeing this significant industry collapsing”.

“As a bare minimum, Joyce Watson must offer a full public apology and she should take the time that’s clearly needed to meet with struggling dairy farmers in the region that she should be privileged to represent”.

NFU Cymru has also written to the MS to underline the hurt caused by these comments to many farming families across the country who are affected by bTB.

She has been invited to spend a day learning about the Pembrokeshire Bovine TB Project, and to meet some of the farming families who are working hard to rid the countryside of bTB. The project is led by local farmers and vets seeking to find solutions to this disease within the constraints that have been set by Welsh Government policy decisions.

In response to Ms Watson’s question, the minister replied: “Joyce Watson may remember—it’s probably about four or five years ago now—that we looked at long-term breakdowns, so that was herds that had been in TB breakdown for over 18 months, and we did some bespoke action plans, if you remember. We didn’t think that worked and that’s why we haven’t done it, and that’s why we’ve got the new delivery plan for the eradication programme for the next five years.”


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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 months ago

In my opinion Joyce Watson is absolutely right and she owes no-one an apology.

When it comes to bovine TB, badgers are a scapegoat for poor practices on farms.

The Original Mark
The Original Mark
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Sounds like you know a lot about the farming industry.

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

That statement just serves to confirm how little Ms Watson knows or understands about agriculture in general and the disease in particular. However it fits neatly into the general pattern of Labour Party hostility towards farming and rural communities. Labour is drifting irreversibly towards the corporate state model. In Wales that will mean a “clearance” of large tracts of countryside to make room for energy parks, leisure parks and woodlands to facilitate greenwash for Labour buddies in the big corporate and institutional sectors. Plaid are not much better given that they seem more concerned with making sure that Labour stays… Read more »

GWYN W EVANS
GWYN W EVANS
6 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

It’s a clear case of mad.cow disease

Tide turns
Tide turns
6 months ago

She’s completely right. It’s only belligerent old farmers that refuse to change. It’s been proven that most breakdowns originate from imported stock so farmers don’t help themselves! Most dairy farmers could easily grow something different, they mostly intensively grow grass or maize for silage anyway, so grow something else, maybe oats for oat milk 😀 And those that can only grow grass could have sheep! I thought farmers were supposed to be good at growing stuff so quit the excuses and prove it!

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