IFA president and animal health chair burn ‘persecuting’ TB risk letters

The president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), along with the deputy president and animal health chairperson, have burned a number of TB herd risk letters, which “persecute farmers who have already suffered losses due to TB”.

Tim Cullinan called for the TB Herd History Risk Statements and Reports to be withdrawn, saying: “These letters are a typically bureaucratic response by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, seeking to avoid addressing the real issues and keeping the ‘TB industry’ going.

“In addition, the decision by the department to include the current status of other farmers’ herds that the farmer previously purchased animals from is a clear breach of data protection. The IFA has lodged a formal complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner,” he added.

Cullinan also called on the new Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to “immediately overhaul the TB Forum, which has failed farmers”.

Cullinan was speaking from the farm of IFA animal health chairperson Pat Farrell in Athy, Co. Kildare, and was accompanied by the association’s deputy president Brian Rushe, where the letters were burned in a fire set in a barrel.

Farrell commented: “This move by the department, along with statements that have been included in the letters, raise very serious issues for these farmers who, through no fault of their own, have had cases.”

Farrell said that the TB programme is at a “critical juncture”, with ongoing farmer support “under threat” unless the department “starts showing respect to farmers and recognising the impact their decisions have on the livelihoods of farm families”.

The IFA drew attention to the fact that Irish farmers contribute financially to the TB programme, which is not the case in Northern Ireland or Britain, where it is exchequer funded.

Farrell argued that measures such as wildlife control; thorough on-farm investigation; and fair financial support were needed to eradicate TB, rather than “letters that blacklist farmers for an issue that is outside their control”.