Wild deer are 'out of control': ICMSA
Published 13/05/2015 | 02:30
Urgent Government action to cull 'out-of-control' wild deer has been demanded by the ICMSA, despite the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, claiming that badgers remain the key source of infection in TB blackspots.
While ICMSA president, John Comer insisted that the wild deer herd had reached 150,000hd, and were "out of control" in Wicklow, Kerry and Clare, Minister Coveney said that TB levels in badgers were still higher in Wicklow.
"My Department remains of the view that infection from wildlife, in particular badgers, remains a particular issue in the Wicklow area," he said in a Dail reply to Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle.
"A recent study conducted in the Callary area detected a TB culture confirmation rate in badgers of over 26pc, which compares with a national rate of 13.3pc.
The level of TB found in badgers was also considerably higher than that found in deer in that area, where 4.8pc of deer had visible lesions, with 15.5pc culturing positive for TB."
Wicklow has the highest levels of TB in the country, with many parts experiencing twice the national average levels of infection.
The Minister added that while the Department will continue to implement a badger removal programme in the county, responsibility for wild deer rested, under the Wildlife Acts, with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and that a non-statutory Irish Deer Management forum had been established.
However, John Comer said that it was too risky to allow the deer population to continue growing with such a high level of TB infection.
"It's well past the time to move on this," he said.
"The TB Compensation Scheme is itself wholly insufficient and out-of-date and that has to be overhauled, but the priority is to minimise the chance of any cross-infection and that has to mean really serious control of the wild deer population," said Mr Comer.
Over a quarter of all Bovine TB infected herds are now being identified through lesions found on carcases of animals at the country's meat plants.
In 2014 a total of 4,111 herds were restricted for TB, but 1,160 of these were identified on the killing line rather than the annual farm tests carried out by vets. Some 48pc of all suspect lesions found on carcases at slaughter have been found to be positive following laboratory tests on samples.