There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for farmers struggling to meet the increasing costs of disposing of fallen animals, as Westmeath County Council is to take the issue to national level.
The council is calling for the establishment of a working group to investigate the best means for farmers to dispose of fallen animals.
At present famers must contact an approved collector to arrange for the collection of dead or fallen animals. However, from April 14 this year, following the recent Emergency Budget, the majority of subsidies paid by the Department of Agriculture under the Fallen Animal Collection Scheme came to an end.
The removal of €14 million in subsidies, on top of the initial halving of support in last October’s budget, has resulted in increased costs for farmers from the previous maximum of €36 for adult animals to the new level of €190.
An emergency debate on the issue took place at Monday’s meeting of Westmeath County Council’s Environment SPC. The group then brought a resolution before all members of the council, who agreed to contact the Department of the Environment (DOE ), the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF ), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) with a view to setting up the national working group made up of representatives of each department and of local authsorities.
The group would make a recommendation to Government on “the best practical environmental means not entailing excessive costs, of disposing of animal by-products, to include all fallen animals, in Ireland”.
Chairman of Westmeath’s Environment Special Policy Committee (SPC ), Cllr Jim Bourke, said the issue was of great concern to farmers. “It is sad enough for a farmer to lose an animal, and the costs associated with this, without having to pay out another €190,” he said.
Cllr John Dolan, himself a farmer, added that the sums being paid for animal collection generally come at the end of a string of other expenses. “This cost usually comes at the end of a vet bill, which could amount to another €200 or €300. It is a serious dent to an industry already on its knees.”
“A barbarous act” is how Cllr Dan McCarthy described the cutting of the subsidies under the Fallen Animal Collection Scheme. “They just cannot afford it,” he said.
Meanwhile Cllr Michael Newman argued that it should be possible for farmers to bury dead animals on their own farms, as he said the current collection arrangements were the result of the BSE crisis. At present it is an offence to bury dead animals on-farm, except in accordance with a licence issued by the Department.