The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has hit out at those calling for radical action to discourage wildfires and insists that farmers must not become "collateral damage".

On the back of recent fires across Cork and Kerry, INHFA President Vincent Roddy pointed to the enormous damage and cost of these fires to farmers in terms of fencing, loss of grazing and other related issues.

"This has led to a high level of stress," he said, "which has been added to by calls from well-meaning environmentalists to target CAP payments.

"It is unacceptable and akin to the owner of a car being banned from driving when their car, which was stolen, was involved in an accident," he said.

Previously, he argued that farm payments were impacted by illegal fires - where it was proven that farmers had in fact nothing to do with the fire.

"This was clearly illustrated in Mayo, where a recreational fisherman accidentally lit a mountain and admitted such in court.

"The accident was accepted by the Judge, but unfortunately the landowners on that mountain lost their payments," he said.

Unfair blaming of farmers

The INHFA president was adamant that the illegal burning of land is not something we should condone, but that it is also vital that we call out the ongoing demonisation of genuine farmers who have nothing to do with these fires.

"While indiscriminate burning of land is illegal, we must also distinguish between that and controlled burning, which is a recognised and legitimate agricultural practice," he maintained.

Controlled burning can only occur between 1 September and 28 February and involves clear guidelines, including notifying the Local Authority, fire brigade and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

"We must not forget that farmers are the stewards of the land and the environment. They have been managing the land for generations and have a deep understanding of the ecological systems at work.

"It is unfair and unjust to blame them for the actions of others.

"We need to work together to promote responsible land management and support our farmers," he said.