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Aborted calf foetus dumped in sinister twist to probe

An aborted calf foetus has been dumped at the premises of a Department of Agriculture official in a worrying new development surrounding the investigation into a virulent cattle disease.

Police are investigating the dumping of the foetus at premises in the Dungannon area, which was carried out at the weekend. The abortion of the foetus had not been reported to officials and it remains unclear whether it had been infected with the contagious cattle disease brucellosis.

It comes weeks after a calf foetus infected with the disease was left close to a feeding trough in a field at Lislea, Co|Armagh, and sprinkled with feed in an apparent bid to sabotage the herd.

In that case the foetus had been opened from neck to belly, with meal placed over it and inside. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has drafted in scientists from the US to help trace the criminals behind the sabotage bid using DNA analysis.

The disease can result in an abortion storm among infected female cattle, and is particularly dangerous to humans who come into contact with infected animals or material.

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew said: “I am appalled by this irresponsible action and the clear intent of those who perpetrated it to continue with these illegal actions which threaten farming families and their animals.

“We will follow up this latest incident as rigorously as possible. The PSNI have carried out preliminary investigations as well as forensic analysis of the scene and the foetus itself is undergoing laboratory testing for brucellosis before DNA analysis is carried out.

“While the motive for this is not obvious, what is clear is that there are those in the farming community prepared to |deliberately break the laws |intended to protect farmers, their families and their animals for their own motives.

“The fact that on this occasion a member of my veterinary staff was deliberately targeted will not deflect our efforts to pursue those responsible.”

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