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Ireland in breach of European convention over badger culling reports

The government has failed to submit any reports over the last ten years and the Council of Europe has now requested them as a “matter of urgency”.

Image: Jaroslav Vogeltanz

THE COUNCIL OF Europe has requested that the Irish government submit reports on badger culling in the country “as a matter of urgency” after it emerged it has failed to provide this information for the last ten years.

Under the Bern Convention, which Ireland ratified in 1982, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), as part of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is required to submit reports every two years detailing the number of badgers culled as well as the methods used, and provide information about who carries out the culling.

The compilation of this data is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, which implements the bovine TB eradication programme and captures the badgers. However the NPWS has failed to pass on any of the reports compiled by the department to the Council of Europe since 2003.

In correspondence between the Irish Wildlife Trust and the Head of the Democratic Initiatives Department at the Council of Europe, Eladio Fernández-Galiano, seen by TheJournal.ie, Fernández-Galiano said he had been informed that Ireland has not submitted biennial reports as is requested by Article 9 of the Convention.

He goes on to say that he will be requesting the reports “as a matter of urgency as it is a clear obligation of parties” under the convention.

No response from the Irish government

When contacted by TheJournal.ie, Fernández-Galiano said requests for reports are addressed to the Biodiversity and Policy unit in the NPWS and that Ireland has been asked to submit biennial reports every two years since it ratified the convention.

He confirmed that a request has been made that these reports be immediately submitted but the council, two months on, has still not received them.

However he also said that the convention has no provisions for penalties for failing to submit these reports so it is unlikely that Ireland will be reprimanded for its failure to provide the information.

Fernández-Galiano said every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them “in good faith”.

Data in the most recent summary of reporting under the Bern Convention show records for several other countries who have been providing information every two years, while Ireland’s data has been left blank.

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Commenting on the government’s failure to submit these reports, Irish Wildlife Trust research officer, Fintan Kelly, said that he was at first “annoyed at the government but at a European level, they don’t follow up on this stuff.”

“It has much bigger implications for conservation,” he said. “This is just one species in one country and the council don’t seem to care, it’s mind boggling.”

He said that “generally, the council don’t want to bother” when it comes to wildlife conservation and that the feedback the trust has gotten over the years is that “basically the Bern Convention is just a general agreement and they’re never going to come down hard on people over it”.

Following a complaint to the Council of Europe by the IWT last year, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht provided a report on badger numbers in Ireland. However the report focuses on proving that the badger population is at a reasonable level and gives great detail of the numbers of cattle that protracted TB without giving a yearly breakdown of the numbers culled over the last ten years.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said that in cooperation with the the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, it “is making arrangements to submit the outstanding reports on the badger control programme in the state to the Bern Convention Secretariat”.

Related: Government strategy will lead to more badger killings – Irish Wildlife Trust>
Read: Three in court over badger baiting>

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