A Pembrokeshire-based politician has come under fire from farmers for what they describe as “cruel, unkind and thoughtless” comments suggesting that farms who have persistent bovine TB breakdowns should be encouraged to “find another business”.

During a Senedd debate on changes to the Welsh Government’s TB Eradication Policy, when rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said disease controls would need to be further strengthened, Mrs Watson said: “If 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.”

Mrs Watson has since apologised, describing her words as “clumsy’’.

"I should have been clearer that I was talking about farms which have been continuously impacted by TB and the ongoing pressures of the current system.

"In those cases I think there should be a conversation about how that situation can be resolved, or at least improved, and diversification should be part of that."

NFU Cymru said her remarks had been “shocking’’ and “insensitive’’.

Its Bovine TB Focus Group chairman Roger Lewis, who produces milk near Cosheston and whose business has previously been badly hit by TB, said he was “truly saddened and disappointed’’ to hear what he described as “insensitive comments’’.

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“I am struggling to put into words my frustration that a member of the Senedd elected to represent Mid and West Wales could make such deplorable comments, so lacking in empathy and respect for the farming families in your constituency going through the emotional hell of dealing with an outbreak of bovine TB on their farm,’’ he wrote in a letter to Mrs Watson.

“Your suggestion that these families, many of whom are suffering persistent bovine TB breakdowns despite adhering to strict veterinary and scientific advice, should just walk away and find another business is – frankly – shocking.’’

Welsh Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister and MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Samuel Kurtz MS, said Mrs Watson’s comments showed a “complete lack of empathy’’ for the farming community.

From 1 February 2024, the Welsh government is reintroducing pre-movement testing in the Low TB Area of Wales, while cattle moving into the Intermediate TB Area from the High TB area of Wales, the High Risk Area of England and from Northern Ireland will need a post-movement test.

In a statement to the Senedd, the rural affairs minister reiterated the Welsh government’s commitment to a ban on badger culling in Wales and suggested compensation paid to farmers for cattle lost to bovine TB could be reduced.

Pembrokeshire dairy farmer Steve Evans, of Spittal Cross Farm, Spittal, who estimates that a recent major bovine TB breakdown in his herd will cost him £500,000, said the government was wrong to not introduce a badger cull.

His herd is currently on a 60-day testing regime but he fears there is “no light at the end of the tunnel’’.

He disputed the government’s assertion that there is no scientific evidence to support a cull when this approach has been successful in reducing incidence of bovine TB in England.