GREEN Party TD Brian Leddin questioned Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil on the steps taken to fulfil the program for Government commitment to increase the veterinary presence available on live export consignments to third countries.
Responding to the Limerick politician, the Minister said it is important to clarify that his Department only permits animals to be transported in compliance with the EU’s animal welfare legislation, which is among the most progressive legal frameworks in the world.
“Furthermore, Ireland has national rules to protect the welfare of livestock being exported to third countries on ships, which lay down controls that are more stringent than EU rules and which have been held up as an example by the European Commission to other member states.
“We support the safe export of live animals as it helps to offer an important market competition outlet for farmers. Nevertheless, we work from a perspective of constant improvement, and my officials have been exploring all possible options which would allow us to increase the veterinary presence on live export consignments, including the potential for national legislation,” he added.
According to Deputy Leddin, from speaking to farmers and not from speaking to animal welfare activists, many of them find the trade in live exports quite objectionable.
“As farmers who care for their animals and who have a long tradition of caring for their animals, they would say it makes more sense and the right thing to do is to slaughter these animals at home as much as possible.
“There is a trade in live export to the European Union and to north Africa. I do not believe it is a critical part of the market. It is certainly small numbers compared with the total beef kill nationally. However, for as long as it exists, we need to ensure the highest standards. It is not acceptable that it should be on select voyages to north Africa and elsewhere. We should maximise the veterinary presence on these shipments,” he insisted.
The Minister agreed that the welfare of animals must be paramount, and the comfort and welfare of those animals must be assured on any journeys undertaken.
“The conditions of travel, etc., must be appropriate for the animals. It is an important market outlet. In the past, nearly all our animals were exported live without much processing. It is now a small part of our overall livestock sector, but an important part nonetheless. It offers an important outlet in terms of balancing the market and making sure outlets other than going straight to the factory for processing are available. I certainly think the farming community want to see it continue.“