Minister of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs of Northern Ireland, Andrew Muir has received criticism over his support for a ban on the use of e-collars on dogs.

Muir told the Assembly that he is “keen” to ban e-collars and he encouraged Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to do the same.

In response to this, a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member from west Tyrone, Thomas Buchanan said:

“Muir should look long and hard at the scientific evidence, as he risks making life even tougher for Northern Ireland’s sheep farmers.

“Across the water in Wales, a ban on e-collar training has led to a huge increase in not just savaged sheep, but shot dogs. That double tragedy should be avoided at all costs.”

In support of Buchanan’s criticism, the National Sheep Association (NSA) in NI’s development officer, Edward Adamson added that the use of e-collars on dogs is effective in preventing attacks on sheep.

Adamson continued that if the minister for agriculture had witnessed first-hand the devastation and damage caused in a dog attack, he might “better understand” the reason for effective training.

“If they were banned, it would cause fury around the countryside,” the NSA’s development officer said.

Dog attacks

Earlier this year, NFU Mutual stated that there was double the amount of dog attacks on livestock in NI in 2023, due to dog owners “inability to control their pets”.

The insurance company added that farm animals worth an estimated £147,000 were severely injured or killed in NI in 2023.

The e-collar ban in England failed after a campaign by dog owners and a letter from 441 sheep farmers to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.

The campaign and the letters insisted that a ban on e-collars would increase the occurrence of dog attacks on livestock.

“Politicians who want cheap publicity think that they can win votes by banning e-collars. They should read the science before they pontificate,” the Association of Responsible Dog Owners (ARDO), Jamie Penrith said.