18th January 2022

Shane Coleman discusses Deer ‘Culling’ with Tim Cullinan, IFA and Sandra Higgins, Go Vegan World on Newstalk

Recent reports on increasing numbers in deer populations have prompted yet another conversation on killing. As a vegan organisation that promotes animal rights, it is our opinion that we do not have the right to take the life of another animals. Tim Cullinan, President of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), is in favour of killing deers to reduce their numbers because he believes that they pose a health risk to humans and other animals, damage fences, and encroach on farmers’ land.

It is speciesist of us to assume that land belongs to us. The earth belongs just as much to other species as it does to humans. They have as much right to use its resources for their needs and survival, and to call it their home, as humans do.

For farmers, the biggest threat posed by deers is that they may transmit TB to cows and cause economic loss. TB, like Covid, is a zoonotic disease, i.e. an infectious diseased that transmits between one animal and another, usually from another animal to a human, but they can pass from humans to other animals. The best possible way to reduce the risk posed by TB is to eradicate our use of other animals completely.

Although farmers are aghast at the idea of transitioning to a more ethical, plant based way of farming, it is essential, at the very least, that they come to terms with the need to reduce the number of animals used as resources for humans. Currently there are almost as many cows in Ireland as humans, along with 5.5 million sheep, 1.6 million pigs and 16.5 million chickens and other birds (Farm Census Statistics).

Animal agriculture is unnecessary because humans can live healthy and happy lives without consuming, wearing or using other animals to meet any of our needs. Using other animals to meet our needs is unsustainable. Globally, animal agriculture uses 83% of the world’s agricultural land, but delivers only 18% of our calories (Poore et al, Science, 2018). Using cows for their flesh (“beef”) uses 60% of the world’s agricultural land but accounts for less than 2% of the calories and 5% of the protein consumed worldwide. (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists).

Tim Cullinan, President of the IFA, argues that Irish agriculture works in harmony with ecosystems and the environment. The facts show that animal agriculture is a significant cause of ecological degradation. A 2019 report in Ireland found that 85% of Ireland’s habitats had “unfavourable” conservation status, and nearly half of habitats were in decline. The most recent EPA report shows that 37.1% of Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions are emitted by the agricultural sector, mostly from animal agriculture.

Discussion on deer numbers is a diversionary tactic used the the IFA in an effort to prolong the transition to a more ethical, plant based system. Farmers should be discussing a reduction in the numbers of animals farmed in Ireland instead of a reduction in the population of wildlife species. If they had farmers’ interests at heart, they would support them to farm for the future instead of clinging steadfastly to a dying system.