Farmers and hunts '˜need to cooperate more'
The Ulster Farmers' Union says that cooperation is '˜crucial' between farmers and those organising hunts on agricultural land.
The comments come after a local farmer shot at least three hunting dogs, which were preparing to attack his livestock.
Alan Sloane lost a number of lambs as a result of the incident at his farm outside Rathfriland on February 2.
Since then damage has been caused to fencing around Mr Sloane’s land.
Twenty metres of fencing was pulled out and dumped at a derelict farmhouse half a mile away.
Police believe the damage was done between 11pm Sunday and 7am on Monday and are appealing for witnesses.
In 2012 the Ulster Farmers’ Union signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Countryside Alliance Ireland and the Northern Ireland Master of Hounds Association.
“The aim was to set out best practice and a protocol for those hunting with hounds on farm land.
“With the support of hunting organisations compliance by all individual hunts was encouraged,” said UFU deputy president Ivor Ferguson.
The UFU says cooperation is crucial between farmers and those organising hunts on agricultural land.
“Communication is the key to mutual understanding about what hunts need to do to protect farm animals,” said Mr Ferguson.
In the wake of the recent incident, the UFU are urging all hunts to re-familiarise themselves with the MOU and then adhere to it.
“Working together will ensure that well-organised hunts will continue to have access to farm land.
“A good relationship protects the interests of all concerned – and it is certainly not in the interest of hunts that a minority alienate farmers by threatening their stock and their livelihood,” he said.
While many operate in line with the MOU principles, the UFU says it is aware of a number of incidents where hunts have opted to ignore the protocol, with potentially serious consequences for farm businesses.
“We believe the MOU to be a constructive way to protect everyone’s interests. However, those with a reckless disregard for that agreement damage not only farm incomes, but the relationship between farmers and hunts,” concluded Mr Ferguson.