Laws must be strengthened to tackle escalating problems of “semi-organised trespass-hunting” on farms, ICMSA president Pat McCormack has warned.
Affected farmers say “intimidating” gangs are “lamping” in their fields to kill wildlife, dismantling fencing systems in the process.
It comes as Justice Minister, Helen McEntee, has been informed of the growing intensity of “face-offs” between such gangs and farmers on the ground.
Speaking on condition of anonymity “Jimmy” a dairy farmer from Tipperary said: “Gangs are continuously coming out to me hunting rabbits and hares, every bit of wildlife has been wiped out.
“We had two sets of fox cubs here, one-by-one they killed them and threw them into the troughs for the calves.
“It happens at night, at least once a week, they shine lights in the windows of my house to intimidate me. It’s going on 10 years, it’s getting worse and worse.
“When I complain to the guards it’s not treated as a crime as such, I don’t get to give an victim impact statement.
“I bought a quad new this spring, I paid €10,000 for it and it was taken. I had it chained onto a cubicle in the cow shed, but they cut the chain and took it away. Luckily, I got it back thanks to social media.
“I’ve no problem with people coming here to walk their dog, they stop and talk to me, but these gangs come to vandalise and intimidate, if they can’t kill something they will take something.”
“Declan” a beef farmer from Limerick said three men with five greyhounds trespassed onto his holding a fortnight ago.
“I told them their dogs should be on leads, they abused me and went in over a gate.
“I told them to get out, I had a bar with me for protection, eventually one of them said he was ‘going to deal with me’, I thought I was going to be assaulted.
“I called the guards, they came fairly soon, the fellas were up the field, the guards went after them.
“But these gangs are no more afraid of the guards than a rabbit in the field. They might run away but they’ll come back again.
“At night it’s worse because they shine lights straight into the house, shouting. My children are scared of them, it’s very intimidating.
“Nine times out of 10 the guards will arrive but it takes too long, you feel you’re on your own.”
Speaking ahead of ICMSA’s AGM on December 5, to be attended by Assistant Garda Commissioner Paula Hillman, Pat McCormack says “the State must vindicate the rights of farm families to feel safe in their own houses, fields, and yards”.
“There’s been a very notable change in the attitude of these gangs where they feel just completely unrestrained: they’ll do what they like, when they like, where they like.
“That attitude has to be confronted and ICMSA is calling on the State to remind that everyone has to obey the laws around private property and no-one is allowed to issues threats of the kind that farmers, in their own fields, seem expected to put up with every day.”