‘Minister is wrong on TB letters…they’ll do more harm than good’

The controversy over the TB Herd History Risk Statements and Reports is continuing this week, with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue coming in for criticism for his response since taking office.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) has said that it is “disappointed” by the minister’s initial response to the TB risk letters.

Hugh Farrell, the association’s animal health and welfare chairperson, argued: “The minister is wrong in his description of these letters as ‘user-friendly, detailed and practical’, when the reality is they will do more harm than good.

Farrell also reiterated calls for the TB Forum to be reconvened to address the issue.

“No programme should be about unnecessarily punishing farmers trying to make a living, which is what is happening as a result of these letters. The department has lost the trust of farmers and their representatives over this issue,” Farrell said.

Farrell also criticised recent comments from one UCD professor who allegedly said: “We cannot guarantee, when a herd tests negative, that the herd is in fact free.”

Farrell argued that this “calls into question the entire efficacy of the TB testing regime”.

If we can’t guarantee that that a negative test result means negative for TB, then conversely how can we be certain that a positive test is actually positive.

“It’s all very well having complex theories on eradicating TB, but they must be workable on the ground and must take into account the possible devaluation of herds. None of this has been done in advance of the issuing of herd risk statements here,” the ICSA animal health chair insisted.

He continued: “Many of the drivers of TB are out of the farmers’ control and it is these areas we need to focus on. Progress with the wildlife strategy is crucial to any strategy to eliminate TB.

Yet the situation we have here is the badger vaccination programme is unreliable and the department has done nothing on controlling the spread through wild dear.

“Nor have they met their own goals on the removal of reactors or agreed to any revision of compensation packages. It’s just not good enough,” Farrell concluded.