Ireland’s four main farming organisations were out in force earlier today in Sligo where they held a protest against the possible closure of the Regional Veterinary Lab in the county.
Members from the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) were all present at the protest.
The lab performed over 3,000 post mortems on cattle and sheep in 2016 and tested nearly 30,000 samples from farmers. It also examines all aborted foetuses free of charge.
IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy said that the current regional veterinary laboratory structure is acknowledged by authorities worldwide as the optimal animal disease surveillance system for early detection of trends and novel diseases, according to the recently published review document.
He said that for an investment of €6.4m over eight years, the optimal disease surveillance structures in place in Ireland can be maintained and the service provided to farmers enhanced.
ICSA Sligo Chairman Gabriel Gilmartin said the closure of the facility would mean farmers in the north west having to make a return trip possibly as far as Backweston to access important diagnostic facilities.
“It makes no sense at all to deprive farmers of this vital local service. I am urging all farmers who use the lab here in Doonally to come out tomorrow and show they will not stand by and let the this facility be shut down.
“ICSA believes the focus should be on improving services for farmers not removing them.”
The labs are currently under review and could be closed as part of the review currently underway.
The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said that there will be no dilution of the service to farmers from the review of the regional veterinary laboratories.
“Is it structured in the optimal way? Is it efficient at what it does? If I give one guarantee to you, there will be no dilution of the service to farmers from the vet labs.”
The Minister said that it is only right and proper that there would be a review.
Nothing stays the same. Those that hanker after the status quo very often get left behind. We have to make sure that our labs are up-to-date and fit-for-purpose.
“I appreciate in terms of the location, be it Kilkenny or Cork or Limerick or Athlone or Sligo, that raises concerns but there will be no dilution of services to farmers in terms of the review of the labs.
“We are obliged to look at the service and see is it fit for purpose.”