‘How can animals that passed the test now be deemed high risk for TB?’

Concerns have been raised by the Irish Natural and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) in relation to letters issued by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to farmers last week detailing their TB Herd History Risk Statements.

The farmers’ organisation claims that such letters “may leave the state open to legal challenge”.

In outlining details on this, INHFA president Colm O’Donnell asked:

How can animals that passed a test a number of years ago and continue to do so ever since can now deemed a high risk for TB?

“Where does this leave the state-approved testing programme?” he added.

Continuing, the president noted that, in recent days, farmers have been contacting the INHFA office “confused and angry at the contents of these letters which we understand is replicated with farm advisors and public representatives across the country”.

There is, he said, an “urgent need” for the minister to intervene with his department and provide legal clarity on the value of the current testing programme.

In particular, O’Donnell sought clarity on the following points:
  • Who was involved in the decision-making process?
  • What consideration was given to the impact of these reports on the trading of livestock and was legal opinion obtained before any final consideration?
  • How many farmers have been advised to cull stock and how many cattle does this involve?
  • In relation to the advice on culling stock, what consideration has been given to the impact this will have on the market place?
  • In relation to calls to reduce the national herd in order to help deliver on our climate change targets, was this a consideration in the recommendations to cull stock?

In addition, O’Donnell flagged up further concerns which require more details.

He asked:

“When farmers are selling stock in marts will their herd details relating to their TB status be reflected on the notice board? If so, what impact will this have on the stock value and is this in compliance with GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]?

Has the department considered the legal implications for the state in advising farmers to cull stock a number of years after a department-approved test gave that farmer the all-clear?

Finally he asked: “For farmers with a single reactor animal that subsequently tested negative when slaughtered -do these TB statements still list this herd as having a TB outbreak?”

In answering these questions, O’Donnell expressed the hope that the department “will see how ill-advised this is and withdraw the letters”.

Concluding he said that such an action might “ensure the department doesn’t just look at issues from an administrative viewpoint but also considers how actions such as these impact on farmers”.