UFU furious at ‘fraudster’ slur made against farmers

The office bearer team of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has called out senior DAERA policy and veterinary officials regarding what they believe to be totally erroneous assertions made against farmers in the bovine TB (bTB) policy document, which is now out for public consultation.

UFU chief Victor Chestnutt said: “There is absolutely no room for fraud, where the current compensation measures are concerned. In the first instance, the vet puts a DNA tag in all reactor animals, which means that there is no point in switching the animal’s original ear tags.”
UFU chief Victor Chestnutt said: “There is absolutely no room for fraud, where the current compensation measures are concerned. In the first instance, the vet puts a DNA tag in all reactor animals, which means that there is no point in switching the animal’s original ear tags.”

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday (Friday) a very angry UFU president Victor Chestnutt said that the sections within the document relating to future compensation for reactor cattle have been written from the perspective that “fraudulent” activity at farm level, where this matter is concerned, exists in a very meaningful way.

He said: “There is absolutely no room for fraud, where the current compensation measures are concerned.

“In the first instance, the vet puts a DNA tag in all reactor animals, which means that there is no point in switching the animal’s original ear tags.

“Furthermore, compensation levels are agreed with valuers, all of whom are employed and fully trained by the Department of Agriculture.

“In other words, DAERA has full control over the entire process.”

Mr Chestnutt continued: “There will always be bad apples in every barrel. And this principle holds as strongly for department vets as it does for farmers.

“The union has recently been told of vets threatening farmers with their names being put in a black book, if they do not agree to specific testing procedures being carried out.

“As far as I am concerned, this constitutes fraudulent behaviour on the part of the vets concerned.”

The union president went on to confirm that DAERA has categorically denied that a black book exists, where bTB testing procedures are concerned.

Union deputy president David Brown highlighted the emotional strain the removal of bTB reactors animals is having on farmers, particularly those losing breeding stock.

He said: “In many cases, farmers are looking at the loss of bloodlines that have been built up over many years. It is impossible to replace these animals.

“Yes farmers get a valuation fugue for the animals they lose. But there is no compensation for the loss of income that follows. And in so many cases, this period could last for a significant number of months.

The union is also making it very clear that badgers are an integral part of the problem, where the continuing spread of bTB is concerned.

Victor Chesnutt again: “Badger urine and faeces are provensources of bTB. This is an inescapable fact and one which must be factored into the future bTB eradication policies that are implemented in Northern Ireland.

According to Chestnutt, badger populations are on the rise in most areas across Northern Ireland.

“Many union members are reporting increased badger activity on their farms. The reality is that farmers do not dislike badgers. But they are a source of bTB.

“People can argue as to whether cattle gave badgers bTB or vice versa. The reality ios that both species carry the disease.

“For the past 50 years, the government has tried to eradicate bTB by fixing its attention solely on our cattle population. Looking ahead, badgers must be brought into the reckoning.”

The UFU Executive met on Wednesday past (25th August) agreed on a position regarding Northern Ireland’s future bTB eradication strategy.

Victor Chestnutt commented: “Released by DAERA in July of this year, the proposed bTB strategy has huge implications for all livestock farmers across Northern Ireland. Its implementation would see changes to the criteria for testing, as well reductions in livestock valuation payments that have the potential to wipe out family farms altogether which is a major concern.

“We’re glad to see DAERA are working to tackle bTB in all hosts. This approach is key to getting rid of the disease once and for all. To date, only bovines have been subject to action with poor levels of success in bTB eradication, enabling the disease to continue to plague our farmers, seriously impacting their mental health as well as creating financial pressure.”

He concluded: “We will be issuing guidance to members on the bTB eradication strategy consultation and I urge everyone to act. It’s critical that everyone takes a short time out of their day to respond to what is, a once in a generation opportunity.

“Every farmer in Northern Ireland has a TB story and we must use our individual stories to influence the future of a bTB eradication strategy and develop a solution that will work for the farming industry.”