The Environmental Protection Agency interim report on the investigations into animal health problems at Askeaton, published on 14 December 1995, outlines the various activities undertaken by the different organisations up to the end of September 1995, the activities to be continued and those yet to be undertaken. The report makes it clear that of necessity any conclusions drawn must be tentative at this stage given that the remaining aspects of the investigations are ongoing or in some cases had not commenced at the end of September.
My Department has responsibility for the veterinary aspects. This involves a series of measures to be undertaken to establish the biochemical, haematological, pathological and other status of cattle and requires the retention of some cattle on farms in the area, the removal of some cattle to a State farm and the placement of other cattle from outside the area on the farms. To ensure the scientific integrity of the investigation, management of the cattle has to be standardised and they will be subject to ongoing and extensive monitoring in different environments.
This veterinary programme was drawn up by veterinary experts and endorsed by toxicologists from both the UK and the US who confirmed that the success of these studies depends largely on the complete co-operation of the affected farmers.
Agreement has been reached with one of the farmers for the lease of his farm while the Department has purchased the other farm for the investigation. Aspects of the investigation have commenced, including the epidemiological survey, the placement of fresh cattle on one of the farms and the removal of cattle from that farm to Abbotstown. The investigation on the other farm will commence shortly when facilities thereon have been adapted.