Dear Editor

I have recently been reading newspaper articles and other material published by Pembrokeshire Against the Cull that talks about the Welsh Assembly “hiding” the fact that rates of bovine TB in Wales have fallen dramatically. This is not the case.

Statistics need to be treated with caution, and figures need to be analysed over time to observe a trend. In 2006, the number of infected cattle in Wales dropped slightly but by 2008, the cases of bovine TB in cattle had doubled from 6,000 to around 12,000.

It is frustrating to see campaigners misusing statistics for their own ends because this is still early days in the fight against bovine TB and infection is still rife in our countryside. I wish it was true to say that we have turned a corner in this TB epidemic, but this is not yet the situation nor the experience of farmers in many parts of Wales, including the pilot area.

In the Intensive Action Pilot Area since January 1st, 2003, 213 of the 324 herds in the area have suffered a TB incident on at least one occasion.

Seventy-nine have been ‘one-off’ incidents with the remaining 142 herds suffering 342 breakdowns between them with 57 of these herds experiencing three or more breakdowns over the period.

In 2003 the average period of time for a herd to remain ‘clean’ from TB before re-infection was identified was 874 days. For 2009 it was only 209 days.

There have been a number of processing errors in the DEFRA statistics, which have included the under-reporting of animals slaughtered in 2009 and the numbers of herds under restriction for February 2010 that we are waiting for them to correct.

It is likely the constant cycle of infection and re-infection is occurring through a combination of factors including cattle to cattle spread and through contact between cattle and infected badgers.

We have introduced measures to limit the risk of infected cattle moving into the area and spreading disease, and we are testing cattle more often in the pilot area, But we also need to break the cycle of infection between cattle and badgers or we won’t see an end to the constant nightmare of infection and re-infection.

Later this summer we will be publishing a report on the outcome of TB Health Check Wales, commissioned at the beginning of the TB Eradication Programme to give us a more accurate picture of the disease in Wales.

It confirmed what we expected, that TB was continuing to spread in Wales.

If you would like to see the statistical information about the pilot area, you can visit

Dr Christianne Glossop
Chief veterinary officer for Wales, Welsh Assembly.