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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 26 Jun 1952

Vol. 132 No. 12

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Export of Horses.

asked the Minister for Agriculture if any evidence has been produced to him to prove that the export of processed horse flesh would in any way adversely affect the export of beef; and, if so, the nature of the evidence.

Mr. Walsh

There has been ample proof in the confidence with which exports of Irish beef are accepted in many countries, including the United States, that the high regard for its quality and the good reputation it has acquired are in no small way due to the fact that those countries know that there is no danger of their receiving a substitute for the genuine article since horse flesh is not permitted to be exported from here in any form.

My Department has ample experience over the years of the length to which unscrupulous persons are prepared to go both in the adulteration of foods and in the substitution of inferior for good quality products. It is my duty as Minister for Agriculture to maintain this country's reputation for food exports of only the highest quality. I am satisfied that it would be shortsighted and imprudent to jeopardise our important and growing beef export trade by permitting exports of horse flesh. No matter what official precautions might be taken here, horse flesh could be substituted for beef after export and, in any event, the fact that horse-flesh exports were permitted would be bound to influence to our disadvantage the attitude of existing and potential purchasers of our beef. Accordingly I am averse to creating conditions that would be likely to give rise to such damage, which it would be extremely difficult to repair. I am satisfied the policy I am pursuing in this matter and which has been the one constantly followed in the past, is best in the public interest.

Is the Minister aware that it would be equally possible for unscrupulous people to substitute horse flesh for Irish beef in countries outside our control? For example, they could substitute the flesh of Irish horses for Irish beef.

Mr. Walsh

It would be impossible to do so because, while this country is exporting beef and nothing else, the best quality beef, possibly, in the world, and when we have not a factory for the purpose of slaughtering horses and producing horse flesh, there is no danger that anybody outside can say that we are selling horse flesh instead of beef.

asked the Minister for Agriculture if he has caused investigations to be carried out by his Department with a view to ascertaining the conditions under which horses exported to Great Britain and other countries are subsequently slaughtered, and, if so, with what result.

Mr. Walsh

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative and the second part does not, therefore, arise. It would be as inappropriate for me to interfere in this way in matters which are the responsibility of another Government as it would be for such Government to interfere in our affairs.

Is it not true that our trade relations with other countries are governed to a large extent by trade agreements and that, therefore, it would be possible for the Minister to have negotiations with the Governments of other countries with regard to matters of this kind?

Mr. Walsh

If we were to interfere or if we were to make inquiries regarding our horses slaughtered abroad, we would have to get the permission of the country in which the slaughtering took place. I do not think that it would be a very feasible thing for us to request a Government to give us permission to see how they were conducting their affairs.

And it might attract a similar request from them.