Naughten asks Taoiseach to withdraw new TB rules

In Agriculture, East Galway by Denis Naughten

P1010514Denis Naughten has today (Wednesday) asked the Taoiseach to withdraw new TB rules introduced by the Department of Agriculture which effectively ban treating sick cattle for up to 6 weeks, in advance of a herd test.

Deputy Naughten pointed out that such a rule “contravenes animal welfare laws, could lead to a framer being prosecuted, and as a result, must be immediately withdrawn by the Department of Agriculture”.

“The notice (attached) issued to farmers contradicts the legal situation as outlined to Denis Naughten in the Dáil by the Minister for Agriculture, yesterday.

In that reply (see below), Minister Coveney said “farmers are permitted to carry out urgent treatments, including for animal welfare related reasons, and this is made clear in the test notification letter”.

“However, the notification issued to local farmers, makes no mention of this exemption that allows farmers to treat sick animals”

“In fact, the Taoiseach himself was surprised to learn that the Department of Agriculture would issue such notices to farmers”.

“The reality is that the new changes to the TB rules play no part in the eradication of the disease, but leave farmers exposed to prosecution or additional costs and sanctions”.

“On foot of today’s discussion in the Dáil, I have passed on a copy of the notification to the Taoiseach and I now hope that action will be taken to have these new rules withdrawn by the Department of Agriculture” concluded Denis Naughten.

Departmental Notice: File-25-03-2015-00-54-24

see Denis Naughten question the Taoiseach:


^ Order of Business ^

Deputy Denis Naughten: SI 58 of 2015 relates to the new tuberculosis regulations introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  It facilitates Department officials in having a stricter interpretation of existing law on the testing of cattle for bovine tuberculosis and it is causing much hardship for farmers around the country.  Is the Taoiseach aware that a notice has been issued to farmers in my area and across the country, instructing them that they should not treat animals with a veterinary medicine until they have carried out their animal herd test?  This is contrary to the animal welfare laws of this country and a farmer complying with that directive from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine could be prosecuted and jailed for breaking the animal welfare laws.  Will the Taoiseach allow time to be made available in the House to discuss this statutory instrument, which comes into force today, have it reviewed and have a consultation both in the House and with farming organisations?  This would ensure it can be implemented in a fair and reasonable manner which does not contravene other law in the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on the matter.

The Taoiseach: I would be surprised if the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was contravening animal welfare law.  I have not seen the letter to which Deputy Naughten refers.  I will have the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine respond to this.

Deputy Denis Naughten: I will send a copy to the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: It is not necessary to have the matter discussed formally in the House.  There could either be a Topical Issue debate or a response from the Minister, as I will bring it to his attention today, to deal with this.  Tuberculosis is a serious illness and bovine tuberculosis has cost the country millions of euro over the years.  The conditions dealing with it should not be flouted.

Parliamentary Question No. 312

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will confirm that local District Veterinary Offices are issuing letters to farmers up to six weeks in advance of herd tests instructing them not to medicate animals in advance of forthcoming herd tests; if his attention has been drawn to the animal welfare implications of such an instruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Denis Naughten.

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 31st March, 2015.

Ref No: 12829/15


The Minister for Agriculture, Food   and the Marine : (Simon Coveney)

It is established practice under the TB Eradication Scheme that farmers are given a 6 week window within which to conduct their annual round test. This is done to afford the farmer sufficient flexibility to arrange the test in a way that best suits his or her farming enterprise.

The test notification letter also advises the farmer to avoid giving routine treatments in advance of the test. The reason for this is (i) to avoid the risk of inadvertently interfering with the test result and (ii) to avoid treated animals having to be retained on farms to comply with the post-treatment withdrawal period. This approach is in line with the key objectives of the Scheme, which are to have reactors removed from the farm as quickly as possible to minimise the restriction period and minimise risk of in-herd spread of the disease.

However, it should be stressed that a number of mechanisms are built into the arrangements to facilitate farmers in treating their animals. First, farmers are permitted to carry out urgent treatments, including for animal welfare related reasons, and this is made clear in the test notification letter. In addition, provision is made for farmers to bring forward the test date in order to facilitate their routine treatment schedules. Provision is made to address circumstances where a farmer finds it necessary to postpone a test because of particular circumstances.

In summary, I believe that it is necessary to have arrangements in place to deal with the medication of animals in a manner which is consistent with the objectives of the TB Scheme and that there are sufficient flexibilities built into the system to ensure that there are no animal welfare implications arising from these requirements.