By Anne Lucey
Some 70 badgers have been culled in an area in south Kerry which suffered the worst bovine TB outbreak in living memory, the Department of Agriculture has said.
Restrictions in place since January look set to be lifted shortly, the department confirmed.
Locals are adamant that badgers spread the disease and suspicions remain the virus also spread due to an increasing presence of wild deer in the region.
Earlier this year, in January and February, dozens of farms were in lockdown in an area roughly from Kells to Caherdaniel in the Iveragh peninsula, with huge stress for farm families, most of whom had never recorded reactors.
Since the beginning of the year, 300 TB reactors have been removed, the department said. It has disclosed 70 badgers had been trapped and destroyed.
Overall, 50 farm herds faced restrictions. Currently, there are 24 restricted holdings with half already showing a clear test. “If these herds have another clear test, restrictions on them will be lifted,” the department said.
Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae, reflecting on an emergency public meetings between the department and farmers early this year, agreed the situation had been dealt with rapidly. “It showed that when put to it, the Department of Agriculture can act quickly,” he said.
However, Mr Healy-Rae insisted “there is no doubt in the world that badgers spread TB” and called on the department to monitor the badgers “all the time” in south Kerry.
The councillor also believes deer were responsible for the outbreaks, but that view is disputed by wildlife experts. The recent culling of 120 wild deer in The Killarney National Park and further culling outside the park will help prevent a recurrence in south Kerry, he said.
Kerry county chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Pat O’Driscoll from Valentia Island is also convinced of the link between badgers and TB. He said the badger population had been allowed to get out of control, partly due to less intensive farming activity.
South Kerry battling worst bovine TB outbreak in ‘living memory’