Cattle Botulism Prompts Renewed Call for Poultry Litter Solution in Northern Ireland

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - A Northern Ireland politician has expressed concern about the high levels of botulism in the region, blaming the rise on failures of the Executive to find a solution to the problem of large volumes of poultry manure there.
calendar icon 2 November 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

Ulster Unionist Agriculture Spokesperson, Harold McKee MLA, expressed his concern after it was revealed to him by the DAERA Minister that there were 186 confirmed cases of botulism in cattle between 2011 and 2015.

He has also claimed the continuing failure of the Executive to find a permanent solution to poultry litter can be seen through the increasing frequency of confirmed cases which have jumped from 10 in 2011 to 81 in 2015.

The South Down MLA said: “I would reassure the public that they have nothing to fear from the increase in confirmed cases of botulism as the UK Food Standards Agency’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food has concluded that the risks posed to the human food chain by outbreaks of botulism in cattle, associated with broiler litter, are very low.

“Botulism is, however, usually fatal in livestock and as a result causes major economic hardship to farmers as they lose valuable animals. In addition, infected animals sadly often endure suffering through muscle tremors and limb stiffness before they eventually succumb to the disease.

“Botulism is contracted when livestock come into contact with bacteria commonly found in decaying organic matter including animal and bird carcasses. Investigations by AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division have shown strong circumstantial evidence that broiler litter is a risk factor for many of the outbreaks across Northern Ireland.

“I suspect the failure of the Executive and consecutive Agriculture Ministers to find a lasting solution to the problem of poultry litter may unfortunately be a key contributor to the increase in the number of confirmed cases." 

Northern Ireland's poultry industry has been growing rapidly over recent years but there has been continued questions over what to do with the resulting waste.

Harold McKee commented: “It is essential that Michelle McIllveen now recognises the importance of finding a permanent solution. Until she does, the local poultry industry here will never be able to achieve its full growth potential and we may continue to see an increase in the cases of botulism.”

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