Irish farmers are intelligent people… and many of the farmers I meet on a day-to-day basis have at least some understanding of the wildlife they share their land with.
I live in a farming community, and much of the wildlife I encounter every day is living on in and around farmland. I can’t in good conscience pretend that most farmers are benevolent to wildlife… they patently aren’t. But I would say that the majority are largely neutral: they don’t go out of their way to help wildlife… its true… but neither do they go out of their way to harm it.
So it must be incredibly frustrating for the average farmer when an Irish Farmers Association (IFA) representative comes out with yet another obtuse and ill-informed tirade about a wildlife issue in the media. These ludicrous rants do nothing but make the farming community as a whole seem, to put it bluntly, foolish and self serving.
The latest ridiculous uttering comes from IFA Kerry spokesman, James McCarthy on the back of today’s news that two White-Tailed Eagle chicks have successfully hatched in Ireland for the first time in over 100 years.
Here’s what he told a reporter from TheJournal.ie:
“If something happens to an eagle they have a transponder on it so they can track it and bring it to the State laboratory and do all sorts of forensic tests, but an eagle does something to a lamb – the lamb will never be found and you have to prove it is an eagle rather than something else. So the thing is totally unbalanced against the farmer. With the increase in population there has to be some monitoring of predation of eagles on farmers’ flocks.”
Not only is this guff perpetuating the nonsensical and completely unfounded notion that eagles kill healthy lambs, but the whole whining “it’s not fair on the farmer” stance is unlikely to win farmers much sympathy. To be honest it taints the public perception of the entire industry.
Even the most cursory look at the available evidence shows that the notion of eagles decimating farmers’ lamb stock is ludicrous. It simply doesn’t happen.
In Norway, the source of the fledgling eagles for the Irish reintroduction project, studies of eagle predation spanning more than 35 years have failed to unearth a single incidence of White-tailed Eagle predation on lambs or other livestock. White-tailed Eagles simply are not causing problems for sheep farmers in Norway, and there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest they’d do so here in Ireland, let alone become the scourge the IFA would have us all believe.
It’s just another in a long string of unfortunate stances by farming spokespeople who should really know better, and does more harm than good to the credibility of the farming community as a whole.
I know if I was a farmer I’d certainly be demanding more from my industry representatives.