16th February 2016
Article by Rachel Prior, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The first Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Implementation Plan was published on 17 July 2015. The Plan sets out the aims of both the Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group and the Welsh Government for 2015-16. You can read more about the Implementation Plan itself in our previous blog post: The first Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Implementation Plan announced.
A mid-year review assessing the progress made towards the aims set out in the original Implementation Plan was published on 28 January 2016, accompanied by a statement by the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans. You can read the full review report here: Mid-Year Review of the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Implementation Plan 2015/16.
The report is divided into two sections – priorities for the Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group, and priorities for the Welsh Government. In this post, we look at what progress has been made on some of the main priorities in each section.
Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group Priorities
In the original Implementation Plan, biosecurity was one of the Group’s top priorities, with the main strategy being raising awareness of the risks of poor biosecurity such as increased disease spread. The Group also wished to see promotion of the Cattle Keepers Handbook. The handbook was published in May 2015 and the mid-year review reports that more than 1,000 copies have been distributed. The new Farming Connect Advisory Service will also include farm health planning as a core element.
In its action against antimicrobial resistance, the Group has supported the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy by raising awareness via the Farming Connect Service. This is also linked to promoting biosecurity and minimising the routine use of antibiotics.
A third priority for the Group was the control of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD), with a central part of this being the submission of an Expression of Interest for securing Rural Development Plan for Wales funding to combat the disease. The Expression of Interest was submitted in October 2015, and approved in December.
The Group’s work in engagement with the animal welfare sector has allowed it to meet twice with Animal Welfare Network Wales as well as conduct a review of the policy intent of the Animal Welfare (Electric Collars) (Wales) Regulations 2010.
Another important part of the Plan was to improve the baseline information available on the prevalence of sheep scab in Wales, in order to identify some areas that may need more support than others. This allowed the Group to contribute to a re-evaluation of the recommendations made by the Sheep Scab Task and Finish Group report on eradicating the disease.
Welsh Government Priorities
The Welsh Government identified Bovine TB as a key priority for this year, a large part of which was to maintain the implementation of a five year programme of badger vaccination in its fourth year, with results due in summer 2016. However in December 2015, the badger vaccination scheme was suspended due to a global shortage of the vaccine and prioritisation of the remaining resources for human use.
A statement by the Deputy Minister in February 2016 described the result of modelling carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency which suggested that “a one year gap after year four and returning to vaccinate in year 6 is not different from vaccinating for 5 [consecutive] years”.
The Welsh Government aimed to support Bee Inspectors in Wales in response to concerns about bee health. Seven workshops have been conducted over the past year by the Regional Bee Inspector aimed at teaching good husbandry and identification and management of key diseases. Contingency planning exercises have also taken place for Asian Hornet and Small Hive Beetle incursions.
A third priority for the Welsh Government was Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), with one aim being to revise legislation on BSE in Wales according to new EU rules. The new regulations are currently being drafted. Since the Implementation Plan was published, one isolated case of BSE has been reported in a single bovine on a Welsh farm, which the Deputy Minister made a statement on at the time.
Contingency planning is an important part of maintaining biosecurity, and a review of the Welsh Government Contingency Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases is underway, due to be republished in March 2016. A cross border contingency planning exercise was also carried out in January 2016 to consider an avian influenza outbreak.
Work since the publication of the Implementation Plan on responsible dog ownership has included the bringing into force of the Compulsory Microchipping of Dogs Regulations on 6 April 2016.
Welfare of animals at the time of slaughter was another priority for the Welsh Government, with the aim of creating a welfare at time of slaughter Task Force or Working Group. The Deputy Minister made statement in October 2015 setting out her view that CCTV should be installed in every slaughterhouse in Wales, and announcing the first meeting of this group, scheduled to take place in early 2016.
Finally, the work on the Six Day Standstill Project will allow Quarantine Units (QUs) to be implemented in Wales by December 2016. A consultation currently being carried out by the Welsh Government on the introduction of QUs sets out the proposed changes to the standstill rules, which will allow for special isolated units which can be used to contain new livestock arrivals to a farm for six days, rather than the whole farm being subject to the six day standstill. The deadline for this consultation was 12 February 2016.
The Welsh Government is also consulting on changes to the classifications of County Parish Holdings (CPH), which could mean that multiple CPHs owned or tenanted by one farmer could be merged into one administrative unit, if they are all within 10 miles of the primary production location. These changes would mean that farmers would not have to notify the authorities to move livestock between parcels of land belonging to one farm, provided that they are close enough together. It would also mean that if livestock were moved onto one part of the holding, the standstill would apply to all locations within the holding. The closing date for this consultation was 19 January 2016.