Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
658. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of whole-time equivalent persons assigned to wildlife management within the district veterinary office in Waterford tasked to manage all aspects of the TB eradication scheme, in particular the management of wild badger numbers; the changes plus or minus within that recruitment resource number over the past five years; his views on whether the scheme is adequately resourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49375/21]
The Department is committed to ensuring that a skilled and motivated workforce is in place to meet its priority business needs and utilises workforce planning to identify and address these needs for all our locations.
Technical staff assigned to Regional Veterinary offices carry out a range of functions, among which include the oversight and management of the wildlife programme. The assignment of staff to various duties varies from time to time reflecting changing business needs, seasonal variations in activities and disease situations. Whilst business activity is not always confined to staff head-quartered in specific locations, the table below seeks to represent the estimated Full Time Equivalent (FTE) assignment of technical staff based in Waterford to wildlife management in the past number of years.
|No. of FTE||2.2||2.2||1.8||1.5||1|
Arising from the recent departure of a number of technical staff from the Waterford, the Department is currently recruiting officers for the area where immediate priority will be given to TB eradication programme, including the wildlife programme.
659. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the veterinary resources that are made available by his Department to the managing of the TB eradication scheme which manages badger monitoring, vaccination and culling operations to inhibit the spread of the disease; if these are resourced personnel Department employees or in the service outsourced; the level of badger culling activity per year that has taken place in the country by badger number over the past five years up to the present month; the percentage of overall badger population that this represents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49376/21]
Resources are applied to the Wildlife Programme in two ways; Technical agricultural officers oversee the surveying for badger setts in terms of finding those setts and determining the level of activity at those sites. They also oversee the capturing of badgers by contract staff for both badger culling and vaccination.
Veterinary Inspectors anaesthetise and vaccinate badgers in the vaccination zones. There are currently 41.5 FTE technical DAFM staff dedicated to wildlife duties. There are 134 outsourced contract staff engaged in surveying or capture activity on a full time or part time basis currently. The veterinary vaccination needs are serviced by the Regional Veterinary Office DAFM Veterinary Inspectorate of 133 FTEs as part of their duties.
The numbers relating to the Deputy's question on culling are contained in the table below.
|Year||Number of badgers culled|
|2021 to date||4,036|
A recent scientific paper estimated the current badger population at 63,188
DAFM is currently committed to reducing badger culling in favour of badger vaccination which is more sustainable in the long term for both ecological and disease reasons, in line with the Programme for Government commitment Badger culling has been demonstrated to be an effective in reducing the burden of bovine TB on Irish family farms for over 20 years.
This is possible because badger vaccination has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing badger-to-badger TB transmission and not to be inferior to badger culling when introduced to areas with low badger densities and reduced prevalence of TB.
The current policy is to vaccinate badgers to prevent disease outbreaks and to cull badgers where necessary in response to outbreaks in areas where epidemiological investigations have demonstrated the link between badgers and TB breakdowns on cattle farms. Areas where badger culling may previously have taken place are being incorporated into the badger vaccination programme on an ongoing basis but only when any underlying disease spread to cattle from wildlife has been suppressed. This approach is consistent with peer-reviewed scientific modelling studies relating to the UK and Ireland Currently badger vaccination zones cover 19,079 Km2.