Vets group warns that closure of regional labs could have ‘catastrophic consequences’

Department of Agriculture says report on veterinary laboratories expected in autumn

Regional laboratories carry out postmortems and test samples of specimens such as blood, milk or faeces on behalf of farmers

Regional laboratories carry out postmortems and test samples of specimens such as blood, milk or faeces on behalf of farmers

 

Reports that a review of the Department of Agriculture’s laboratory services will recommend the closure of three regional veterinary laboratories have been greeted with dismay by vets and farmers. The Irish Farmers Journal has reported the review will recommend the closure of the labs in Sligo, Kilkenny and Limerick, leaving the regional laboratories in Athlone, Cork and Lucan open.

The department confirmed the review was under way and said the working group was considering various proposals. “A report from the group is expected in the autumn,” a spokeswoman said.

The regional laboratories carry out postmortems and test samples of specimens such as blood, milk or faeces on behalf of farmers. They also carry out surveillance for disease conditions in Irish livestock.

The Veterinary Officers Association (VOA) said the closure of three laboratories could have “catastrophic consequences” for the agri-food sector and it said it would rigorously oppose the plans.

President Mary Courtney said the association had not been informed by the department of any proposal to close the laboratories.

“Should these proposals be true, the VOA believes that this would have a major impact on the level of animal disease monitoring within the State,” Ms Courtney said. “Our current enviable animal health and food safety reputation would be put at serious risk. Furthermore, the VOA believes such closures would impact severely on the level of service to the thousands of farmers who rely on the regional veterinary laboratory services.”

Ms Courtney said the contingency plan for exotic-disease control needed a response time of less than two hours but if the number of laboratories was reduced to three, these response times could not be met.

IFA animal health chairman Bert Stewart said it was not acceptable that the department would seek to reduce the role of the services.

“At a time when farmers are making huge investments in raising the health status of the national herd, the Department of Agriculture should be increasing the resources and the service provided through its very well-located regional veterinary laboratories.”