Crowds gather at Beef Plan Movement protest outside TB Forum

The Beef Plan Movement has staged its first official protest today (Wednesday, February 20), in response to a decision not to allow the group to participate in the 2030 TB Stakeholder Forum.

The movement – which claims to have over 17,000 members – descended upon the gates of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Backweston Campus in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

Speaking to AgriLand at the protest, Beef Plan Movement chairperson Eamon Corley explained: “We’re here today outside the gates because we’re not allowed in.”

The 2030 TB Stakeholder Forum is made up of: representatives from the department; farm organisations; the veterinary profession; the agri-food industry; and the farming and research communities, with the aim of eradicating bovine TB from the national herd by 2030.

Among the groups that are involved at this year’s forum are: the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA); and Macra na Feirme.

We were here last week at a meeting and we requested that we be allowed in to the forum, to represent the 17,000 beef farmers who we think need to be represented in such an important forum.

“We have been refused permission. They said they would look at it and ask the people inside if they would allow us in in future,” said Corley.

However, he stressed that it was today’s meeting that the members wanted to attend, and that this is the second such meeting they have been denied access to.

“We have a TB eradication scheme that’s been going on since 1954, and has cost us, as tax payers, €6.6 billion. Now they’re proposing changes to it, and we see beef farmers as key stakeholders,” argued Corley.

“If they don’t consult us, we can’t see a scheme coming that will eradicate TB, and it will continue to be a gravy train that won’t deal with the disease,” he insisted.

Corley argued that farmers are central to the eradication of TB, saying that denying them access to this forum would not help in any efforts to tackle the disease.

“Farmers have to get in the cattle; we have to be there when the vets are testing the cattle; and we have to identify where the wildlife is that is possibly causing the problem,” he said.

So, without engaging with us there will be no proper scheme.

“If there is a forum there dealing with TB, we are entitled to be at it – because we represent farmers who are heavily affected by this,” he concluded.