TB testing may now be open to legal challenge following recent Department correspondence

Correspondence issued by the Department to farmers this week detailing their TB Herd History Risk Statements may leave the State open to legal challenge according to the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association.

In outlining details on this National President Colm O’Donnell questioned “how 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.”

Over the last number of days farmers have stated O’Donnell “being contacting our 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 continued an urgent need for the Minister to intervene with his Department and provide legal clarity on the value of the current testing programme and the following points

• Who was involved in the decision-making process?
• As these reports will have a major impact on all farmers and especially those dependent on trading of stock, what consideration was given to the impact of these reports and was legal opinion got 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 the last number of years there has been 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
• 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.
• 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
• 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. In addition to this it may he stated “ensure the Department don’t just look at issues from an administrative viewpoint but also consider how actions such as these impact on farmers.”