Farm Ireland

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Calls for action after worst TB outbreak in living memory

The outbreak is being linked to badgers and deer locally

Anne Lucey

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed is to be asked to declare one of the most scenic parts of south Kerry a pilot area for the vaccination of badgers, and possibly deer amid the biggest outbreak of TB on farms there in living memory.

Two emergency motions were tabled and supported on Friday morning at the meeting in Killorglin of the South and West Kerry Municipal District. One called for immediate extra supports and for the Minister for Agriculture and Food to implement the pilot project in Iveragh.

Badgers enjoyed more protection than cattle on which whole families depended, it was stated.

South Kerry had never been a TB blackspot, and had had only the odd reactor, but a rise in deer numbers in the area along with dead badgers found in 2016 is being blamed.

As well as financial support mental health supports for the shock and stress experienced by farming families were not in place, the meeting in Killorglin was told.

Some 360 cattle have been removed for slaughter and more than 40 farms are in lockdown in Iveragh, in the area between Kells and Caherdaniel.

The herd numbers affected  are more  than seventy, and neighbouring herds are also restricted. The outbreak is being linked to badgers and deer locally.

The contribution of deer to the spread of TB on farms should also be properly assessed, the meeting was told.

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Independent councillor Johnny Healy-Rae said where forests were clear felled, TB among cattle had increased.

“But in south Kerry it’s the badgers are the problem,” he said.

In a strong attack on conservationists, whom he labelled “tree-huggers”,  Mr Healy-Rae claimed they had “weaseled” their way into determining policy as well as legislation.

“There is more “meas” (respect) on the badger than the cow, ‘cause the badger is protected and the cow isn’t. But no one makes a living off the badger,” Mr Healy-Rae said.

Independent Cllr Dan McCarthy, who is also the manager of the Kenmare Mart said there was no system to deal with the mental stress on farmers to see their cattle being taken away for slaughter.

There was only one control officer for badgers in the area and more were needed, he said.

However questions were also raised about what was causing the outbreak.

“Is it the badger, is it the deer. Is there another source. A lot is pointing towards the badger, but maybe it is the deer as well, “ Cllr Michael Cahill said.

He called for clarification on the cause and said there was enormous stress on farm families.

Farmers in Iveragh had described the outbreak as the worst in living memory, the chairman Cllr Seamus Cosai Fitzgerald said.

A meeting last week attended by up to 200 farmers in Cahersiveen heard it is believed the current outbreak may be linked to several badgers found dead in 2016  in Ballinskelligs.

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