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Welsh Government publish 5 year animal welfare plan

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A five-year plan which outlines steps towards achieving the ambition of ensuring a good quality of life for all animals in Wales will be published today by Welsh Government Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths.

The Welsh Government say that the plan – Our Animal Welfare Plan for Wales – builds on what has already been achieved since the devolution of animal welfare powers in 2006. 

It outlines how the Welsh Government will take forward its animal welfare commitments in its Programme for Government, and other measures to further improve animal welfare. 

The plan also includes a broad range of ongoing animal welfare policy work, including statutory guidance for existing regulations, licensing of animal exhibits, welfare of animals in transport, and Codes of Practice. Finally, it describes how the Welsh Government will work collaboratively with the other UK governments to further the animal welfare agenda, for example through the forthcoming Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

The Programme for Government commitments captured in the plan are:

  • To develop a national model for the regulation of animal welfare, introducing registration for animal welfare establishments, commercial breeders for pets or for shooting, and animal exhibits;
  • To Improve the qualifications for animal welfare inspectors to raise their professional status;
  • To require CCTV in all slaughterhouses;
  • To restrict the use of cages for farmed animals.

To mark the publication, the Minister will visit Greenmeadow Community Farm near Cwmbran.

Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I’m very proud of what has already been achieved in Wales in animal welfare.  But there is more to do.  Our long-term ambition is for every animal in Wales to have a good quality of life.  Today’s plan outlines steps towards achieving that ambition.

“We will work with all partners to take forward our commitments.  This includes further boosting protection for pets by looking at registration of animal welfare establishments, enhancing the much-valued animal welfare inspection profession through improved qualifications, and looking at how we can minimise the use of cages for farmed animals.

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“I’m also pleased to confirm that we will be requiring all slaughterhouses in Wales to have CCTV – while the vast majority already do we will ensure this is the case for all.

“Achieving a good quality of life for all animals is ambitious, but that is what we must aim for.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: “Well cared for animals are more often healthy and contented animals.  Preventing disease and injury in the first place is always the better option.  Having high animal welfare standards ensures their needs are met, whether they are companion animals or farmed livestock.

“The plan we are publishing today builds on what has already been achieved in the field of animal welfare, ensuring we continue to improve as we work towards the ambition of a good quality of life for all animals kept in Wales.”

Partnership working will be key to the success of the plan. A key component relates to the enforcement of current and future legislation and, in support of this, a Local Authority Enforcement Project, working in collaboration with Trading Standards Wales, is currently in its second year.

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Strategic Lead and Trading Standards and Animal Health Manager for Monmouthshire County Council Gareth Walters has welcomed the plan.  He said:  “The Local Authority Enforcement project has recently overseen the appointment of 8 new Animal Licensing Officers. They will offer crucial support required by Local Authority animal health services by providing a shared resource across Wales as a recognised point of expertise. The new officers will enable existing animal health officers to focus on wider animal health and welfare work.

“The forthcoming launch of an online information system may develop into a single point of reference for licence applications in support of the Welsh Government’s ‘National Model’ commitment, while the development of an animal licensing qualification will complement the Animal Health and Welfare professional qualification provided by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute launched earlier this year. These qualifications will provide the foundation which existing and future officers require to ensure knowledge and understanding, alongside access to specialised training where necessary”.

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Farming

New housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds against avian flu

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flock of hens on green field

The Chief Veterinary Officers for Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed to bring in new housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza following a number of confirmed cases across Great Britain in recent weeks.

The new housing measures, which will come into force on Monday 29 November, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease and this can lead to cases in poultry and other captive birds.

Housing measures have been in place for parts of North Yorkshire since 21 November following a number of confirmed and suspect cases of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in the area.

Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to the relevant helpline below. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next five days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and put up additional housing where necessary.

The additional housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in across Great Britain as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 3 November 2021 and in Northern Ireland on 17 November 2021.

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The introduction of housing measures means that from 29 November, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep their flocks safe. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.

The Chief Veterinary Officers from across all four nations have worked together to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of the UK.

In a joint statement the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 29 November onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

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Poultry keepers must now do the following:

  • house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds
  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

These new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

If you find dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77. For further information see our advice to the public.

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in Wales on 0300 303 8268, in England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. In Northern Ireland contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840. Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.

Avian influenza is in no way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not carried in poultry or captive birds.

(Lead image: Alexas Fotos / Pexels.com)

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Welsh Government launches refreshed TB eradication scheme

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A refreshed TB Eradication Programme will build on the positive progress already made in Wales which has seen a 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 according to Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

Her statement comes as she launched a 12-week consultation on proposed enhancements to the programme.

The TB Eradication Programme sets out the Welsh Government’s long term vision for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales. The programme is based on the four key principles of infectious disease control: Keep it Out, Find it Fast, Stop it Spreading and Stamp it Out.

A regionalised approach to TB eradication was launched in 2017 creating Low, Intermediate and High TB Areas and policies have continued to be refined, reacting dynamically to the changing disease picture, whilst responding to the particular challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consultation launched today includes proposals on:

  • The TB testing programme in Wales to help further reduce the risk of the spread of TB such as testing protocols specifically, at this stage, in relation to the Pre-Movement Test.
  • Informed Purchasing and its aim to encourage keepers to provide TB information about cattle they wish to sell and for keepers to make wise purchasing decisions.
  • Payments for cattle slaughtered as a result of TB, to ensure the system is fair and proportionate, and reflects the financial resources available.

The Minister has also announced badger trap and test work in persistent herd breakdowns will be phased out from this year as the limited sample size and short follow-up period provide limited meaningful results to gauge the impact of interventions on cattle TB.

Work will be completed on existing farms but new ones will not be recruited into the process. Funding saved from phasing out of this work will see a further £100,000 made available initially for expanding badger vaccination across Wales.

In addition, a review will take place on options to supplement veterinary capacity for TB testing through greater use of appropriately trained and supervised paraprofessional staff.

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A new Task and Finish Group will consider the best ways of communicating with cattle keepers, to help them to protect their herds, and also throughout a TB breakdown. They will consider the potential role for TB Champions in Wales and farming and veterinary organisations have been approached for nominations for membership of this Group.

It is also the intention to continue the All Wales Badger Found Dead Survey to increase knowledge on the disease in badgers.

Speaking in the Senedd, Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “Bovine TB has a devastating impact on the farming industry and we must do all we can to protect our cattle herds from this disease.

“We have seen good progress since our programme was first established, with long term decreases in incidence and prevalence. The 48% decrease in new TB incidents since 2009 shows our programme is making a real difference to farming families and businesses.

“A key aim of our Programme is the rapid, accurate, early identification of infection and we strive to improve TB diagnostics, embracing new research and being open to new validated tests.

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“Collaboration and partnership working, taking ownership and recognising we all have a role to play are key to the success of our Programme.”

Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Christianne Glossop said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment and determination to rid Wales of a disease which has far reaching repercussions throughout the Welsh farming industry.

“Year on year we have made enhancements to our programme and introduced many fundamental policies which changed the TB landscape across Wales and laid foundations for the future.

“We continue to support the development of a deployable cattle TB vaccine with a test to differentiate infected from vaccinated animals to be in place by 2025.

“Cattle vaccination has the potential to become a powerful tool in the battle against the disease and we will be engaging with the TB Centre of Excellence to plan its most appropriate deployment in Wales.”

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The Sêr Cymru Centre of Excellence for Bovine Tuberculosis for Wales was established at Aberystwyth University in 2018 bringing together international expertise with the aim of providing underpinning scientific evidence to support eradication of the cattle disease.

Professor Glyn Hewinson, Head of the Centre at Aberystwyth University, said: “We met with the Minister over the summer and have provided advice over the past months. I am pleased to see some of our recommendations are being incorporated into future development of the programme. The Centre here at Aberystwyth University will continue to provide a strong scientific base for Wales and engage with all stakeholders as we all strive to find new and better ways of combatting this devastating disease.”

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Report claims greater action required to prevent irreversible outcomes for farming

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Farming needs to urgently scale and pace the adoption of nature-based solutions for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss or face an uncertain future, warns the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

The new Rethink Farming report presents evidence that farming with nature can restore natural assets and improve resilience to a warming world.

Ahead of COP26, the Rethink Farming report presents research with evidence from 18 case studies revealing how farmer-led innovation and nature-based solutions can positively impact farm businesses.

The report highlights practical on-farm action for restoring the natural environment so farming can weather the worst of increasing climate shocks. It argues how continued deterioration will impact the livelihoods of farmers if the sector doesn’t transition to regenerative practices.

The report concludes how farming with nature can maximise returns, offer viability in changing markets, increase profitability through reduced inputs and ensure a more adaptable landscape.

The NFFN is calling for greater ambition from farmers and policymakers to fully utilise the sector’s key role in helping reach Wales’ net-zero target by 2050 and calls for greater action across farm and croft holdings to prevent irreversible outcomes if the trajectory of climate change continues.

Hilary Kehoe, Wales Chair, Nature Friendly Farming Network, says: “As Wales sets forth future farming policies and outlines funding for environmental restoration, we stand on the precipice of transformational change. But it’s in farmers’ best interests to start acting on climate change and nature recovery now, where on-farm action can make businesses more resilient.”

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“We know that farming is contributing to ecological disruption. And the science is clear – we have 10 years to avoid the worst effects of the climate emergency. Simple solutions can have the greatest impacts in preparing farming for what’s to come.”

“Owning or managing land is a privilege, and as such, we have a moral obligation to help address the challenges we face. It’s not just farmers, it’s everyone.”

The report also includes research of 726 of the NFFN’s public and farmer members, revealing overwhelming concern about how climate change and biodiversity loss will affect UK farmers. Public support calls for the sector to do more to address these twin challenges.   

  • Over nine in ten farmers (92%) are concerned about the effects of climate change on their business, with eight in 10 concerned about biodiversity loss
  • Nearly all (97%) of farmers think consumers need to be better educated about the value of natural assets on farms, including how successful management of natural capital is a public benefit
  • Over nine in ten think food labels should clearly identify production measures
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) do not think the industry is currently equipped to deal with the challenges of climate and nature loss, at the same time as sustainably producing food
  • Over nine in ten people (98%) want farming to do more to address climate change and biodiversity loss
  • Two thirds (75%) of farmers are concerned that net-zero targets could drive woodland creation that threatens natural habitats and contributes to biodiversity loss if not implemented by a “right tree right place” place approach

The research also reveals over eight in ten people (86%) want to support farmers who are creating wildlife habitats and restoring soil health. Six in ten want to support carbon storage (61%), improved water quality (64%) and high-welfare farming (66%). Over nine in ten (96%) want to see public money support farmers who are implementing restorative measures covering soil health, biodiversity, carbon-storing and water quality. Nearly all (96%) want environmental standards that mitigate climate and restore nature to be enshrined in law.

The report calls for mandatory labelling for both domestically produced and imported food, with a robust and transparent labelling regime that promotes traceability and encourages the adoption of climate-friendly farming through consumer-led incentive.

The report is endorsed by leading environmental organisations including the Soil Association, Plantlife, Woodland Trust, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Woodland Trust and more. Sustain, Farm Wildlife and the James Hutton Institute have also contributed to the report with supporting statements.

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