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Animal Welfare

Gardaí and Department of Agriculture probing deaths of 400 bull calves on Co Limerick farm

The bull calves were found in a decomposed state after they appear to have succumbed to suspected disease and malnutrition.

GARDAÍ HAVE CONFIRMED they are liaising with the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), in relation to an investigation into the deaths of a several hundred bull calves on a farm in Co Limerick.

It’s understood the bull calves were found in a decomposed state after they appear to have succumbed to suspected disease and malnutrition.

“An Garda Síochána are currently liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,” said a Garda spokesman.

The Garda’s involvement would indicate a step up of the initial probe by the DAFM.

A source said that criminal charges may follow if the agencies involved in the probe become satisfied that they have found clear evidence that the dead calves were neglected or mistreated.

While the Gardaí are now assisting in the investigation a Garda spokesman said that the DAFM “are currently the lead agency in this matter”.

Reports suggest that up to 400 dead calves, predominantly Friesian and Jersey type bull calves, were discovered on a farm in the south county Limerick.

The discovery was made following a complaint from a neighbour over a smell coming from the farm, reports said.

A spokeswoman for the ISPCA (Irish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) said it was “made aware of a situation allegedly involving a large number of dead calves on 29 August, and has offered its assistance to DAFM if required”.

Limerick City and County Council said it was also aware of “an incident” and was also “liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine”.

Speaking yesterday, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said such incidents were damaging to Ireland’s international reputation as a food producer.

Speaking in Co Offaly, Martin promised a full investigation into the deaths of the calves in Co Limerick.

“This goes to the heart of Ireland’s sustainability as a food-producing country and to our reputation in terms of animal welfare. It’s extremely important that we get to the bottom of this particular issue,” Martin said.

“It’s unacceptable and horrific and it ultimately damages that reputation that we have carefully built up as a country.”

“The Government will take this very seriously and make sure no stone is left unturned in terms of pursuing the origins of this and who is responsible because it goes to the very heart of our efforts as a country, a green country with sustainable production methods that this needs to stop,” added Martin.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Senator Pippa Hackett, described the find as appalling and revealed that the complaint “was notified to my department through its animal welfare hotline”.

“My department officials are looking into it so I can’t comment on the specifics of it.”

“We’ve had incidents in the past, it really is unacceptable. For a nation that trades in an agrifood sector where animal welfare is high up there, it’s something I think the sector as a whole needs to reflect on and it’s something we don’t really want to see happening again.”

A DAFM spokesman said: “The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine can confirm that an alleged incident in Limerick has been reported; the matter is subject to an ongoing investigation and no further comment will be made at this time.”