Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Question 451 - Answered on 27th February, 2007
Tony Gregory: To ask the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of snares laid by her Department officials to snare badgers in 2006; if her Department has received complaints that other wildlife and domestic animals are being caught or injured in these snares; if she will review this practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Ref No: 7116/07. Written reply.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): My Department implements a wildlife strategy, which includes the targeted removal of badgers, under licence issued by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government where they are implicated in an outbreak of TB. Capturing is undertaken in areas where serious outbreaks of Tuberculosis have been identified in cattle herds and where an epidemiological investigation carried out by my Department's Veterinary Inspectorate has found that badgers are the likely source of infection.
Most of the operational work involved is carried out by staff from the Farm Relief Service Co-op (FRS) who are closely supervised by staff from my Department. For this, a "stopped restraint" of a type approved under Section 34(2) of the 1976 Wildlife Act is used. During the peak months (spring/early summer and autumn), each FRS staff person lays and monitors between 60-100 restraints and at peak times there may be up to 6,000 restraints on farmland on a given night. My Department does not have precise figures in relation to the number of restraints set annually. All restraints are checked daily to ensure trapped animals do not suffer any unavoidable trauma. Captured badgers are humanely euthanised.
The landowner's permission is first obtained and landowners adjacent to where capturing operations are ongoing are similarly notified before restraints are set. This ensures that farmed livestock are grazed elsewhere and minimises the risk that domestic animals become accidentally trapped.
The level of non-badger capture is very low and Department staff report 6-8 captures of dogs per year in each county. No complaints have been received by staff of my Department in relation to these captures. Any domestic animals including dogs captured are released unharmed during the morning inspections. Dog owners have a responsibility to confine their animals at night, as dogs should not be roaming freely due to the threats they pose to sheep.
My Department is committed to a research project with UCD on the development of a vaccine for use in badgers that would lead to a reduction in the current high levels of TB infection in that species. It is hoped that this strategy will in the long term reduce the need to cull TB infected badgers as tuberculosis levels falls in both cattle and badgers. However, any vaccine will not be available for wider use in the immediate future and the existing strategy will remain in place for some time.
My Department is satisfied that its current badger removal policy is justified and has contributed to the decline in the number of TB reactors and the costs associated with bovine TB.