A LIMERICK farmer, who the judge called an “obstinate man”, was fined €2,000 for failing to comply with notices for brucellosis and TB testing.
Michael McElligott, aged 66, of Ballytarsna, Old Pallas pleaded not guilty at Limerick Court, claiming the Department of Agriculture should incur the costs of the tests.
McElligott also told Limerick Court due to an arm injury he was not able to tag his animals, and there were discrepancies in his blue cards where a “bullock was down as a cow”.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly said he was considering imposing a custodial sentence on McElligott, who has previous convictions over 20 years ago for failing to remove reactors, moving animals from a restricted herd and forging animal birth cert.
Judge O’Kelly said the effective eradication of brucellosis and TB levels at their lowest for years has only been possible through scrupulous regulation and actions taken by the Department of Agriculture.
“The good name of the Irish beef industry is very important. It only takes a small number of farmers to destroy that reputation,” said Judge O’Kelly.
Mary Courtney, veterinary inspector for East Limerick, said that of the 6,000 herd owners in Limerick 99 per cent comply with testing regulations.
“Notices were sent out to Mr McElligott and tests should have been completed by October 2010 but he failed to comply with the notice,” said Ms Courtney.
Restriction notices were signed on his herd of around 70 cattle in 2011, said Ms Courtney. “A formal legal 14 day notice that each animal in the herd be tested was signed by chief veterinary officer, Pat Meskell on January 26, 2012. This was served by hand to Mr McElligott on January 30 by William White,” said Ms Courtney.
On March 7, department staff visited McElligott and told him a prosecution was imminent if he didn’t carry out a test.
Ms Courtney subsequently handed in a complaint to Bruff garda station.
“It is a very serious matter with a risk to neighbours’ herds,” said Ms Courtney.
Garda Patrick Ryan called to the farm on July 21 to investigate the complaint.
Garda Ryan invited McElligott to make a written statement, which the garda read out in court.
“I farm 60 acres at Ballytarsna, Old Pallas. I keep a suckler herd. On the last days of January 2012 William White called to me about my cattle being tested. I have no problem having my animals tested if the department cover the cost. In my opinion the costs of such tests should be incurred by the department,” read the statement.
McElligott quoted a 1966 disease and animal act which stated that “no fee or other charge should be demanded or made for an appointment, certificate, declaration, licence or for any inspection”.
Judge O’Kelly asked whose obligation is it to pay the cost of a test.
“The farmer. It is made clear on the letter that is sent out,” said Ms Courtney. Brucellosis and TB tests were subsequently carried out on in October 2012. All animals were clear.
Judge O’Kelly said he was considering a custodial sentence but due to McElligott’s “serious medical condition” fined him €1,000 on each of the summonses.
“It is unacceptable that you won’t get your cattle tested because you say it should be paid for,” said Judge O’Kelly.
If McElligott fails to pay either of the fines he faces 12 days in prison.
Recognaissance was fixed in the event of an appeal.