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Independent.ie

Saturday 10 December 2016

Mass deer grave at well-known country estate poses 'enormous bio-security threat' (Warning: Graphic image)

Warning: Graphic images below

Cathal McMahon

Published 18/04/2016 | 15:58

Luggala Valley in Co Wicklow
Luggala Valley in Co Wicklow

The Irish Farmer’s Association has said a 'mass deer grave' discovered on a well-known country estate poses an “enormous bio-security threat”.

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Earlier this month Independent.ie revealed that separate investigations had been launched after photos emerged online of an open pit containing dozens of sika deer carcasses.

The pictures were taken at the Luggala Estate in Co Wicklow which is owned by Guinness family member Garech de Brún. It was a summer retreat for performer Michael Jackson and is also the location for TV series Vikings.

Now the IFA has strongly condemned the discovery saying it is further evidence of the inadequacy of the current approach to managing a national deer population that is spiralling out of control.

In a statement released today Wicklow IFA Chairman Tom Short said: “The deer population of this country has reached unacceptable and intolerable levels as they encroach further every year onto farmland, damaging crops, farm infrastructure, jeopardising the health of cattle and becoming an ever-increasing health and safety threat for motorists.”

Studies carried out by the Department of Agriculture show levels of TB in deer to be between 16 and 24%, compared to less than 0.2% in the national cattle population.

The remains of deer found dumped in a large pit
The remains of deer found dumped in a large pit

Mr Short said the discovery of the recent dump indicates that those charged with culling the animals “cannot be trusted in their adherence to the legal obligations for the disposal of dead animals”.

He continued: “Furthermore this act shows either a complete disregard for the health and welfare of the farm animals whose health status is jeopardised by the enormous bio-security threat caused to cattle by this dump or equally as damning, a lack of understanding of the threat.

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“How many more farmers livelihoods are going to be put at stake and motorists safety jeopardised before the political leadership is shown to address what has now become a national problem, but is at its most critical in Wicklow? “

Mr Shortt called for a programme of culling where deer are associated with TB. He also called for a nationwide deer management strategy “to reduce the numbers of deer to levels that are sustainable within their own natural habitat”.

Earlier this month a a spokeswoman for the Waste Management section of Wicklow County Council has confirmed that a "thorough investigation" will now be carried out into the alleged discovery at the beauty spot where parts of TV series 'Vikings' are filmed.

She explained that they received a formal complaint on Tuesday, April 5 and gardai have also been alerted.

"The allegation is that there are a number of carcasses on the Luggala estate," she said.

"There will be an investigation. An environmental warden will call out to the area."

She added: "This is being taken very seriously.

"The investigation will be thorough."

The spokeswoman was unable to say what the alleged offence was ahead of receiving the environmental officer's report. But she insisted that any investigation would be treated "extremely seriously and quickly".

Located in the Wicklow mountains, 28 miles from Dublin, the demesne has also been used as a location for films such as Zardoz (1974), starring Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling; Excalibur (1981), featuring Nigel Terry and Helen Mirren; The Nephew (1998), directed by Pierce Brosnon; King Arthur (2004), with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley; and Astérix et Obélix (2012), with Gérard Depardieu.

The 5,000-acre estate near Roundwood was a former holiday retreat for Michael Jackson who stayed there for nearly 11 weeks with his children in 2006.

Dozens of other famous names including artist Lucian Freud, poet Seamus Heaney and rockstars Bono and Mick Jagger have all stayed in the estate.

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