Tuesday, 7 March 2017
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
711. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been considerable controversy and concern by deer hunters in County Wicklow, an organisation (detail supplied) and deer management experts over misleading claims that a deer cull of 50,000 or any increase in the existing cull is required in County Wicklow; his views on the recommendation of his advisory group, the Irish Deer Management Forum, and that such claims of deer culls are contrary to conservation of wild deer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11812/17]
716. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that his advisory group, the Irish Deer Management Forum, stated on 30 January 2017, there is presently no conclusive evidence of a link between the strain of bovine tuberculosis in cattle and the strain in the wild deer herd and that the testing methodology used in County Wicklow for testing tuberculosis levels in wild deer was far more detailed than that used for livestock so levels cannot be compared directly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11847/17]
729. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to concerns raised regarding decisions relating to the conservation and management of wild deer in County Wicklow and beyond (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11966/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 711, 716 and 729 together.
Responsibility for and the management of wild deer on public lands and the issuing of hunting licences to hunters and others lies with my colleague, the Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs under the Wildlife Acts.
With regard to the need for a reduction in the density of deer in the Wicklow area, the position is that the Irish Deer Management Forum, which was established for the purpose of implementation of short and long-term deer management objectives, has recommended that, in the interest of deer welfare, a programme to reduce deer density should be designed and undertaken in the Calary Area in Wicklow within prescribed seasons and measures. On foot of this recommendation and in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, my Department is currently co-funding a limited density reduction programme in this area. The project is being organised by a Steering Group comprised of representatives of local farmers, the Irish Deer Management Forum (IDMF), the Wicklow Deer Management Partnership (WDMP), Coillte and both Government Departments.
Whilst there is as yet no conclusive evidence that the strain of TB in cattle and deer in Co. Wicklow are one and the same, my officials are of the view that this is highly likely. To investigate this view, the results of an analysis (known as “strain typing”) of samples known taken from deer infected with TB and culled in the Calary area of Co. Wicklow in 2015 are currently awaited. Previous studies have shown that some strains of TB are common to both species and indeed badgers in the area. While it is the case that deer do not normally spread TB to cattle, my Department accepts that the relatively high density of deer and the high incidence of TB in the deer in the area poses a risk to cattle, as well as, indeed to pasture and forestry.
I do not accept that, as alleged, there was bias in the Calary project. It is the case that the testing methodology used in Co Wicklow for testing TB levels in wild deer was more detailed than that used for cattle generally but a similar methodology was used in the past in the case of badgers with a view to establishing the true incidence of the disease in the species.
I should point out, however, thatcattle that react to the bovine TB test on farms are examined in abattoirs as part of the normal post mortem examination procedures carried out on all cattle that are processed in meat factories. I would add that my Department is undertaking a wider study to commence in 2017 of Co. Wicklow as a whole to determine the strains of TB in deer with a view to identifying the direction of transmission between cattle, deer and other wildlife species.
Finally, I should explain that any decision on culling deer in the Wicklow area will have regard to the need to conserve deer in the area as well as the need to minimise the damage done by wild deer to farming in the area.