THE planned closure of the Regional Veterinary Laboratory at Knockalisheen on the outskirts of Limerick is a potential slap in the face for rural Ireland and in particular the Mid West region.
That’s according to Limerick farmer and county councillor Emmett O’Brien who was commenting amid fears that the closure of the facility would impact greatly on the Golden Vale’s agricultural community.
Cllr O’Brien’s comments follow recent protests at the laboratory that employs 12 staff and provides a “vital service” to the farming community in Limerick, Clare and the broader Mid West region since the 1960s.
The Department of Agriculture is considering the closure of the laboratory as part of a rationalisation of veterinary offices nationally.
A review of the department’s laboratories recommended the reorganisation of a number of divisions.
According to Cllr O’Brien, closing the facility will remove access to a service for farmers in the region “that covers the most productive and intensive beef and dairy farming areas in the State covering Limerick, Clare, Kerry and North & Mid Tipperary, the heart of the Golden Vale”.
Presently, farmers can bring a dead animal to the lab and within a matter of days, their vet will be notified of whatever action may be needed to deal with herd infections.
If Knocklisheen is closed, farmers will be forced to travel to either Cork or Athlone to avail of the same facilities.
Stating that this would be a setback for “good animal health and welfare” Cllr O’Brien added that “on top of the already lengthy delays being experienced by many farmers over the Department of Agriculture issuing payments for the GLAS and AEOS environmental schemes, they now expect local farmers to travel to Athlone or Cork for laboratory services.
“This government is again playing lip service to a vital sector of our economy while doffing the hat to foreign multi nationals. It is likely to downgrade an important piece of regional agri-infrastructure and is putting hurdles in the way of indigenous agri-businesses, local farmers and the food production sector,” he said.