Earlier this year, we wrote to Dr Richard Irvine congratulating him on his appointment as Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, writes FUW county president Iwan Pugh Jones.

He started his role a few weeks ago following the resignation of Wales’ first Chief Veterinary Officer, Professor Christianne Glossop, in October last year.

Dr Irvine comes to Wales having been previously appointed as UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and policy Deputy Director for global Animal Health in the UK Government. He returns to Wales having previously spent time here as a vet in practice.

Union staff and officials tirelessly engaged with both the previous Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales and staff from the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer and we naturally look forward to continuing this engagement, in order to discuss how we can work together to tackle the numerous challenges faced by livestock producers.


It must be recognised that formulating and delivering policies on animal health and welfare matters is fraught with difficulties and we have repeatedly and relentlessly lobbied the Welsh Government on behalf of our members to deliver pragmatic and proportionate Welsh specific strategies on pathogenic diseases.

The devolution of animal health and welfare powers in 2005 offered Wales the opportunity to design a Welsh approach to disease control and we look forward to working with Dr Irvine to meet the challenge of both endemic and emerging livestock diseases in Wales.

Whilst much has been accomplished in recent years, such as the success of the Welsh Government funded Gwaredu BVD testing programme, there remains much work to be done in order to protect and maintain our high standards of animal health and welfare whilst safeguarding the future of family farms in Wales.

Alongside tackling immediate challenges, such as Avian Influenza, BVD and sheep scab, we are calling on Dr Irvine to prioritise an evaluation of current bovine TB policy in order to ensure that the Welsh eradication programme is fit for purpose.

We remain extremely concerned by the proposals outlined in the latest Refreshed Bovine TB Eradication Programme consultation. In the absence of any supporting epidemiological data, the mantra of ‘test more to find more’ does little to foster confidence in the current strategy. It turns the Welsh cattle sector into bovine TB test subjects at the expense of family farm finances and emotional health. The stress and anxiety endured during TB testing, and the fear of facing a potential TB breakdown, continues to hammer the mental health of farmers across Wales.

Moreover, the latest set of TB surveillance data demonstrates that bovine TB remains a significant issue for cattle keepers in Wales, irrespective of the TB Area in which they reside. As part of our lobbying activities in this area, the FUW repeatedly called for the Welsh Government to establish national TB eradication targets and we welcomed the establishment of eradication targets for each of the TB Areas in Wales in 2017.

The 6 year regional goals set out by the Welsh Government as part of these targets aimed to see Wales become Officially TB Free between 2036 and 2041, with the aim transferring spatial units from higher TB Areas into Lower TB Areas, thereby expanding the Low TB Area of Wales.

However, since these targets were established, we have seen this disease spread and encroach upon the Low TB Area of Wales. If the latest set of surveillance data represents yet another area of emerging disease then it is obvious that the Eradication Programme is not delivering on its objectives and it is therefore time for a rethink.

It will now be essential to protect the lower incidence areas of Wales in a manner which is effective, proportionate and which does not lead to further encroachment of this devastating disease. Our lobbying work on behalf of members will continue on this.

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