'My cattle didn't have TB,' says farmer who watched them get shot
An indebted farmer who watched marksmen shoot his former cattle dead insists his herd did not have TB.
Monaghan farmer John Hoey watched in horror as five Red Limousin heifers were "mowed down" by members of the Defence Forces army after unsuccessful attempts to round them up during a debt recovery exercise.
The animals were viewed as assets in proceedings against Mr Hoey, who was declared bankrupt in February over a €300,000 personal guarantee, and were seized by Chris Lehane, official assignee in charge of bankruptcies.
Video emerged from the farm showing army marksmen in fields as the heifers lie dead on the grassland.
Confirming its involvement, the Defence Forces said its "members had been called to carried out the humane destruction of five animals on a farm in Co Monaghan due to a significant concern for public safety".
Following widespread outrage over the graphic images, bankruptcy officials moved to stress the decision to shoot the cattle was "reluctantly" taken to prevent the spread of TB in local livestock and for public safety.
"I have a duty to recover value from assets of bankruptcy estates and it is clearly not in my interests to kill cattle, nor would I do it, without firstly having exhausted every other possible avenue open to me to resolve the problem," Mr Lehane said.
Yesterday he told the Irish Independent that the farm had been visited over several weeks with extensive TB testing carried out with the Department of Agriculture.
"The results of those tests proved positive in the herd, greatly restricting what I could do with the animals," he added.
Mr Hoey, however, insists that he had never been presented with any paperwork to state the animals tested positive for TB. And he told the Irish Independent last night that tests on his former 83-strong herd in December showed no trace of TB in the animals.
"We've now requested that Mr Lehane produce his test results so we can verify his claims," added Mr Hoey's partner Aisling Nic Ardaile.
The Monaghan farmer claims the animals would have fetched €5,000 if sold, and said it would have take him "just 10 minutes" to round up them up.
Animal rights activists have reacted strongly to the deaths of the animals.
"Nothing was done to save [these cows'] lives," John Carmody, spokesman for the Animal Rights Action Network, told Newstalk Breakfast yesterday.
"If they weren't going to be re-homed and if they were going to be killed, then at least they could have been humanely put down."
"It didn't end nice to be quite honest to you, and I hope to God this is the last of it and lessons can be learned from it."