Large number of badgers culled in south Kerry area which suffered the worst bovine TB outbreak in living memory

Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA

Anne Lucey

Some 70 badgers have been culled in an area in south Kerry which suffered the worst bovine TB outbreak in living memory, the Department of Agriculture has said.

Restrictions in place since January look set to be lifted shortly, the Department has said.

Locals are adamant badgers spread the disease and there is also a suspicion the virus has  spread because of the  presence of wild deer now in south Kerry.  

Earlier this year, in January and February dozens of farms were  in lock down  in the area roughly from Kells to Caherdaniel in Iveragh,  with huge stress for farm families, most of whom  had never recorded reactors.

Since the beginning of the year, 300 TB reactors have been removed, the Department of Agriculture has now confirmed. And it has also released a figure  of 70 for the number of badgers trapped and killed by its officials in the period.

”Through close collaboration with the local farming community, efforts have focussed on identifying herds where TB is present, limiting the spread of the disease and derestricting herds as early as possible when disease risks have been appropriately mitigated, “it said.

 To date  50 herds have been restricted, it said.  However, currently, there are 24 restricted holdings and half of these  already have had one clear test.

“If these herds have another clear test, restrictions on them will be lifted,” the Department said..

Area councillor Johnny Healy-Rae, who attended the emergency public meetings and meetings between the department and farmers in January calling for quick intervention  said the situation was dealt with rapidly , “which showed that when put to it,  the Department of Agriculture can act quickly”.

However Mr Healy-Rae said “there is no doubt in the world that badgers spread TB,” and he has now called on the department to monitor the badgers “all the time” in south Kerry.

The councillor also holds deer responsible , a view disputed by  experts on deer . The recent cull of 120 wild deer in The Killarney National Park , and culls outside the park will help prevent a recurrence  in south Kerry, he sad. The recent spread of wild deer into south Kerry coincided with the  the TB outbreak, he strongly believes.

Meanwhile the chairman of the Irish Farmers Association , the IFA,  in Kerry Pat O’Driscoll of Valentia Island in south Kerry also believes in the link between badgers and TB . He said the population of badgers had been allowed to get out of control, partly because there was less intensive farming activity as fewer people were in involved in full time farming.

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