Plaid Cymru politicians in Carmarthenshire have expressed their shock and disappointment following comments from Welsh Labour Senedd Member, Joyce Watson regarding Bovine TB.
During a statement made by the Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government’s Minister for Rural Affairs on Bovine TB Eradication, Joyce Watson, a Welsh Labour Senedd Member for Mid & West Wales said:
“But if 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.”
Ms Watson’s comments have been met by anger and disappointment within the Welsh agriculture sector, with representatives from NFU Cymru farming union describing the comments as “‘deplorable, insensitive, and shocking’.
Earlier this year a NFU Cymru report found Bovine TB is continuing to put an immense financial and mental health strain on farmers in Wales - with the cost of the disease to each farm business averaging more than £25,000 in the past year alone.
In the survey 85% of respondents said that TB had a negative impact on their mental health. A further 89% stated that the Government's actions were poor or very poor.
Responding to Ms Watson’s comments, Ann Davies, County Councillor for Llanddarog ward and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster candidate for the new Carmarthen constituency, said:
"It is so disappointing to see a Member of the Senedd, who's region covers much of rural Wales, oversimplifying an issue that is so clearly affecting farmers heavily.
I know firsthand the pressure bTB puts on so many farmers across Carmarthenshire - placing a heavy toll on their financial situation and mental health. Indeed, mental health charities have highlighted a substantial increase in demand for their services in recent years, and much of this is down to the impact of bovine TB.
Elected members should be listening to the concerns of their constituents, not dismissing them out of hand in public and I sincerely hope the Member reconsiders her comments. Farmers in Wales are under immense pressure and comments like this do not help."
Meanwhile Hefin Jones, Plaid Cymru Councillor for Llanfihangel Aberbythych ward added:
“I’m particularly saddened by these comments in the Senedd. It’s worrying that we have elected Labour representatives at the highest level of Welsh politics who are evidently so out of touch with the vitally important and significant contribution the dairy sector makes to the rural economy, to the prospering Welsh agri-food sector and to the fabric of rural communities here in Carmarthenshire.
She has disappointingly chosen to misrepresent the balanced approach Plaid Cymru are advocating in effectively addressing Bovine TB.”
Earlier this year, Plaid Cymru-led Carmarthenshire County Council passed a motion calling on the Welsh Government to undertake a review of the effectiveness of its Bovine TB eradication strategy. As part of the motion particular emphasis was given to the need for a holistic, scientific-led approach to the disease, as well as a call for sensitive and simplified communication for the outbreak of the disease.
Crucially, the motion also emphasised the significant level of mental health issues triggered among farming families and personal in associated roles by Bovine TB and Welsh Government’s long-running failure to address the disease.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales concluded:
“I was very disappointed to hear such insensitive comments around bTB in the Senedd.
Since my election to the Senedd in 2021, I have had countless farmers contact my office – many close to breaking point - due to the emotional and financial strain placed on them by bTB. Despite farmers taking all necessary precautions many herds still get afflicted by this dreadful disease. It is clear that Labour need to rethink its approach as very little progress has been made in recent years."
Following the exchange, Plaid Cymru’s Agriculture spokesperson, Llyr Gruffydd has written to Joyce Watson requesting she apologise for her deeply insensitive comments and for the Minister, Lesley Griffiths, to distance herself and clarify the Welsh government’s position.