11 JANUARY 2019

ICSA Animal Health & Welfare chairman Hugh Farrell has called for a comprehensive research programme into the link between TB (tuberculosis) in deer and in cattle. “It is no longer acceptable that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine turn a blind eye to the potential link. There are numerous examples of bovine TB blackspots coinciding with areas where wild deer populations are out of control and encroaching on farmland.”

“The biggest breakthrough in reducing bovine TB in sixty years happened as a result of the Offaly badger trials which provided the scientific basis for tackling a major source of TB infection. As a result of that trial, there is now an understanding of the need for control programmes where badgers are infected. Not only is this good for cattle, it is also actually in the long-term interest of the badger population to reduce infected badgers while leaving healthy badgers in low risk TB areas intact.”

“It is a stated objective of the Department to eliminate TB but this cannot be achieved unless we know exactly what is going on with TB in deer and what can be done to eliminate the risk of transmission to cattle. The only way we can do that is to conduct comprehensive research and trials on a pilot basis in areas where farmers are complaining about the impact of deer.”

“There must be a research programme and there must be full openness and transparency around the results. There is anecdotal evidence of deer being shot but deemed totally unsuitable for the food chain because of chronic infection.  However, when farmers have brought this to the attention of the Department, there has been a marked reluctance to test the deer in question. This is not good enough; we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand. It is all very well to say there is no conclusive evidence of a link but the question is has the Department tried hard enough to find one?”

ICSA have also requested that officials from the Department’s Wildlife Unit are present when the TB reconvenes next Wednesday 16 January.