DEPARTMENT HAVE LOST TRUST OF FARMERS OVER TB RISK STATEMENTS – ICSA

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14 SEPTEMBER 2020

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chair Hugh Farrell has said he is disappointed with the initial response from Minister McConalogue in relation to the issuing of TB Herd History Risk Statements. “The minister is wrong in his description of these letters as ‘user-friendly, detailed and practical,’ when the reality is, they will do more harm than good. Moreover, they were not agreed to at the TB Forum and the sooner we get back around the table to sort this out the better.”

“ICSA has made it very clear at every opportunity that the forum must help chart a future direction that will be sensitive to farmers’ needs while being effective in terms of TB eradication. No programme should be about unnecessarily punishing farmers trying to make a living, which is what is happening as a result of these letters. The Department have lost the trust of farmers and their representatives over this issue.”

Mr Farrell was also critical of recent comments made by UCD’s Professor Simon More who said, ‘We cannot guarantee when a herd tests negative that the herd is in fact free’. “This calls into question the entire efficacy of the TB testing regime. If we can’t guarantee that that a negative test result means negative for TB, then conversely how can we be certain that a positive test is actually positive? How many herds have been locked up over the years, causing great financial hardship, that never had TB in the first place?”

Further, Mr Farrell questioned Professors More’s assertion that we need to move to ‘a spectrum of risk.’ “It’s all very well having complex theories on eradicating TB, but they must be workable on the ground and must take into account the possible devaluation of herds. None of this has been done in advance of the issuing of herd risk statements here.”

“It is also wrong to think that a system that has worked in Australia or New Zealand can just be transposed here when our farming systems and wildlife environments are vastly different.”

“Many of the drivers of TB are out of the farmers’ control and it is these areas we need to focus on. Progress with the wildlife strategy is crucial to any strategy to eliminate TB. Yet the situation we have here is the badger vaccination programme is unreliable and the Department has done nothing on controlling the spread through wild dear. Nor have they met their own goals on the removal of reactors or agreed to any revision of compensation packages. It’s just not good enough.”

ENDS