A DECISION to axe a pilot badger cull has been branded 'a cowardly betrayal of north Pembrokeshire farmers and the Welsh farming industry as a whole'.

The Farmers Union of Wales says the Welsh Government decision goes against the science and betrays the work put in by farmers to tackle the problem.

Farmers in the north Pembrokeshire 'intensive action area' have been subject to a 'raft of extra and costly cattle controls' aimed at complementing the planned cull in the expectation the cull would go ahead, says the union.

FUW TB spokesman Brian Walters said: "When AMS previously voted in favour of a badger cull on successive occasions it demonstrated that Wales was willing to take positive steps to eradicate TB, even if those steps were controversial.

"Farmers felt that we were genuinely on the road to eradication and the industry had worked hard in north Pembrokeshire and elsewhere in anticipation of meaningful action.

"Those who have now gone back on their words have not just betrayed farmers in north Pembrokeshire but the industry as a whole. They should hang their heads in shame."

The FUW says in light of the decision it has sought legal action regarding financial redress for the extra costs incurred by cattle keepers in the IAA over the last two years.

Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Antoinette Sandbach AM, said: “The Minister has today hamstrung the eradication programme by abandoning culling, despite voting in favour of that policy less than a year ago.

“The previous eradication strategy had cross party support in the Assembly and the full backing of the industry.

“This U-turn is a betrayal of rural Wales.

“Farmers in TB hotspots will feel that the light at the end of the tunnel has been snuffed out. Badger vaccination is simply not effective enough to eliminate the reservoir of TB infection.

“Even with culling, TB eradication would take decades. The Welsh Labour Government’s political cowardice may mean that the goal of a TB-free Wales will not be realised in the lifetime of many affected farmers.

“It is also now essential that the minister informs the Assembly of cost estimates associated with this decision, when compared to the original cull programme.”