Putting a cat among the tubercular pigeons

Elin Jones is swiftly getting a name as the coolest, most able and even quietly funniest Plaid minister in the Welsh government.

Updating the press on the bovine tuberculosis outbreak raging in much of rural Wales, she told of the 100 cattle recently culled from contact with the disease at the Gelli Aur farm college near Llandeilo, she suddenly added, “And a cat’s died, too, in the same outbreak.”

Not bad for a laugh. But it hid a serious corollary. If cats can be infected and die from bTB, so can humans, as she confirmed when asked.

cat and pigeonFew people can now remember the massive TB sanatoria which dotted the countryside before the war; even fewer know the number of inmates who contracted TB from cattle (or more probably their milk).

To most town-folk, bTB is a problem for farmers, and badgers are loveable black-and-white creatures immortalised in children’s stories.

But Ms Jones is a dairying farmer’s daughter, thus producing the toughness in the Assembly’s plans which has put London to shame. And a toughness, too, in her response to criticisms.

Sir Jon Shortridge, Welsh government permanent secretary, had made clear to the press yesterday the care with which the multi-faceted policy had been adopted; the culling will be in only one area, which would be impervious to badgers; and it would be allied to universal cattle testing, plus animal welfare security.

The Badger Trust pressure group has already threatened (but has still to take) legal action for a judicial review. When presented with evidence that the far more powerful (indeed, Middle England en masse personified) National Trust criticised a cull and “would be unlikely to participate”, Ms Jones calmly replied, “They’ve already raised this in correspondence.”

Journalists were angling for a flap, over both this, and over who killed four Pembroke badgers (the Badger Trust immediately blamed “farmers”). How to deal with landowners who do not agree to a cull ? “There are a lot of legal opportunities available to us for disease control purposes for the removal of infected animals,” the minister said.

And the killer of those badgers ? Surely we’d hear a few anti-Badger Trust words ? No; to find the criminals is a job for the police, not a cabinet minister. So there !

Enjoy this video of badgers in Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo. They are TB free! (I hope).

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