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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 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.
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 today, Countryside Alliance Wales Director Rachel Evans accused Ms Watson of “gravely insulting rural communities and lacking in compassion”.
“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.
Does this not make you feel a bit sick? This is the mindset of Joyce Watson MS whose constituency is home to many, MANY dairy farmers. Perhaps it's Joyce that needs a career change? You honestly don't know whether to laugh or cry. Deserves a Retweet. @AbiReader @1GarethWynJones https://t.co/HRHwYqJRB8— Rachel Evans - Countryside Alliance Wales (@CAevs) November 14, 2023