Saturday 7 December 2019

Sheep farmers entitled to additional compensation over flock cull in 2001 Foot and Mouth disease outbreak

Collies are extremely vulnerable to ivermectin poisoning
Collies are extremely vulnerable to ivermectin poisoning

TWO sheep farmers are entitled to additional compensation over the culling of their flocks as a result of the 2001 Foot and Mouth disease outbreak, the Supreme Court ruled.

The amount of compensation will be decided by the High Court later in what is seen as a test case for actions by other farmers.

Brendan Rafferty and John Elmore, from the Cooley peninsula in Co Louth, had appealed a High Court decision they were not entitled to compensation beyond that already received for the market value of their sheep. 

A five-judge Supreme Court yesterday unanimously overturned that decision and found they were entitled to compensation for the "total loss" suffered as a result of the culling.   

An estimated 400 farmers in the Cooley had to cull their flocks as a result of the 2001 disease outbreak in Britain which spread to an area around Meigh in Co Armagh.

A number of those farmers also initiated proceedings but it was agreed the Rafferty and Elmore claims should be dealt with first to establish what principles apply. 

Mr Rafferty lost 695 ewes and received a total of IR£145,244 compensation for the animals culled while Mr Elmore lost 199 sheep and received total compensation of IR£29,495.

Both farmers accepted the sheep cull was necessary in the public interest but argued they did not receive proper compensation for their losses and were entitled to compensation for consequential losses, including difficulties restocking their farms.

The Supreme Court said the issue in the appeal was the interpretation of the term "compensation" in Section 17 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966.

The Chief Justice, Susan Denham, said a person compulsorily deprived of their property interest by the State is entitled in principle, having regard to the constitutional protection of property rights from unjust attack, to compensation for the total loss caused or resulting from compulsory deprivation of those interests.

Compensation may be limited in certain exceptional circumstances to an amount less than the total loss, including consequential loss. But any such exception would be subject to strict scrutiny by the courts as to the legitimacy of the grounds for such limitation and subject also to the principle of proportionality, she said.

There was nothing in the relevant legislation suggesting any exception to the payment of total loss arises for consideration in this case, she said.  The term compensation in its natural and ordinary meaning is payment for "total loss".

The State had in this case elected to pay compensation which encompassed payment for the total loss and that must include consequential loss to Mr Rafferty's business, she found. 

The court would allow the appeal and rule Mr Rafferty, and Mr Elmore, were entitled to compensation for financial loss and damage, including consequential loss and damage caused by the cull of his sheep.

The matter would be returned to the High Court to assess the "total loss" amount. 

That total loss meant not just the market value of the individual carcasses but the consequential loss to the farmers' business due to sudden and total loss of stock. 

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News