A devastated farmer at the centre of a bankruptcy case said his former cattle did not deserve to be shot dead by army marksmen.
Shocking images emerged from a Co Monaghan farm on Tuesday morning which show five heifers lying dead on the grass with blood seeping out of their wounds.
The cattle, previously owned by John Hoey from Carrickmacross, were shot dead by the army after unsuccessful attempts by bankruptcy officials who were trying to recover assets.
Mr Hoey, who lives at Annacroft farmhouse near Carrickmacross, where he has been farming since 2011 with his partner Aisling Nic Ardaile and son Mack, said the incident has “destroyed him”.
“They’re supposed to be helping me sell off my assets, not gunning them down in front of me,” Mr Hoey told the Irish Independent.
“These animals were worth a thousand a piece to anyone. This has destroyed me. My head is busted. My son hasn’t said a word since.”
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The official bankruptcy assignee, Chris Lehane, said that the Defence Forces were called in to assist with the cull after all other possibilities were “exhausted”.
This was carried out with approval from the Department of Agriculture and the co-operation of gardaí.
“I have a duty to recover value from assets of bankruptcy estates and it is clearly not in my interests to kill cattle, nor would I do it, without firstly having exhausted every other possible avenue open to me to resolve the problem,” Mr Lehane said.
Mr Lehane said the farm has been visited over several weeks with extensive TB testing carried out with the Department of Agriculture.
“The results of those tests proved positive in the herd, greatly restricting what I could do with the animals,” he said.
However, Mr Hoey, who said he is involved in bankruptcy proceedings over a €300,000 personal guarantee, told the Irish Independent he never saw any paperwork to state the animals had tested positive for TB.
Mr Hoey said 30 cows and calves were removed from the farm last month but officials failed to catch the five heifers last week after trying for eight hours.
He said that on Monday the animals were running for their lives and headed towards the farmhouse when they were shot.
“I could hear the shooting from my bedroom and I ran out and tried to save them,” he said.
“Can you imagine looking out your window and seeing your cattle getting mowed down in the field … it’s not fair. These animals did nothing to deserve what happened to them.
“I was running behind the last animal as they riddled her with bullets. She dropped down dead in front of me.”
He said a garda vehicle was used to drag three carcasses from near the house to a waiting van.
The Department of Agriculture said the Defence Forces carried out the “humane destruction” of the five animals due to a “significant concern for public safety”.
“This operation was carried out at the request of the official assignee responsible for the herd, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine and the Defence Forces, in keeping with official protocol,” the spokesperson added.
“The carcasses were removed and excluded from the food chain.”
Mr Lehane said he had tried to take the cattle off the farm with experienced cattle assistants and it had on some occasions been carried out successfully.
However, he said at times it proved more difficult as the “cattle were in large fields and were wild and dangerous.”
Mr Lehane alleged cattle were “wandering over the roads, endangering the local community, road users and the cattle” and removal of the remaining five cattle was not possible due to “security issues”.
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