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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 31 Oct 1956

Vol. 160 No. 4

Animal Remedies Bill, 1956—Report and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I want to say a word on this. I am gratified by the reception accorded to this Bill and, now that it is about to pass, I feel myself justified in sharing with the Dáil the realisation of a hope that I had occasion to express in regard to animal remedies on some previous occasions. I avail of this occasion again to refer to it in order further to emphasise how important it is that our farmers should forbear from the use of quack remedies, which are often very expensive and wholly ineffective, when, by patience and research, it is usually possible to find a satisfactory remedy, even for our most intractable veterinary problems.

If the Minister will allow me? His statement would be more appropriate on the Fifth Stage. This is the Report Stage.

I would like to say something on this stage.

The Minister rose and we thought he was addressing himself to the Report Stage.

Under Section 3, the types of animals are classified and the most extraordinary thing is that pets and greyhounds are excluded.

The reason for that is that it was considered whether dogs should be included in the original draft and that consideration was discussed with the Veterinary Medical Council. The Veterinary Medical Council expressed the view that we might, with advantage, name them in the Bill. I took the view that it might be better at this stage to omit specific reference to dogs and, if necessary, under powers I have under the Bill, to bring dogs in if it were thought necessary after further deliberations with the Veterinary Medical Council and other interested parties. We decided it was better to leave dogs out and, if necessary, by Order under the Bill, bring them in later.

The Bill deals mainly with the fraudulent sale of certain remedies and I think its scope is limited by classifying the animals. That, I think, is an impediment because there can be a considerable amount of fraud in connection with remedies for dogs.

The Deputy's views will weigh powerfully with me. I should like to say that the Deputy reinforces the representations made by the Veterinary Medical Council. I am grateful to the Deputy for expressing his views, which I shall bear in mind. I was trying to give this Bill a special agricultural slant and therefore I gave in the Bill every animal ordinarily associated with the agricultural industry. I think we could say dogs are associated with agriculture in so far as they are sheep dogs and dogs used by a man about a farm. I shall take careful note of the fact.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take Final Stage now.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I want to emphasise how urgent it is to carry conviction to the minds of farmers generally that they should forbear from the payment of ridiculous prices for quack remedies, because even the most intractable veterinary problems are susceptible of solution, given time, patience and industry. Deputies will have learned that on divers occasions the question of the warble fly and its impact on the cattle industry has been raised in this House. We were conscious of the fact that the action of the warble fly was highly detrimental to milch cattle by disturbing them, and, over and above that, greatly reduced the value of the hides.

We were all concerned to do everything we could to evolve a method whereby the warble fly could be extinguished in this country, but the great trouble was to find a method which could be applied in practice, because, though one farmer might carry out the dressings which were recommended, unless all his neighbours did the same, his zeal and industry went for virtually nothing. I have studied this problem continually and felt that no real progress could be made of an effective kind until a systemic remedy was discovered.

By a systemic remedy, I mean this: Long ago—and it is something of which we have reason to be proud—the life cycle of the warble fly was discovered and described by an Irish scientist working here in Dublin. It was a matter of some satisfaction to me that when I first visited Beltsville near Washington, and when I spoke to the director, he said to me: "I am surprised, Minister, that you should come to me because after all the whole parasitology of the warble fly was discovered by an Irish scientist in Dublin." But having discovered that did not mean that a remedy was found. However, it was established that the warble fly laid its eggs on the legs of an animal. It long remained a mysstery as to why the warble fly appeared on the back of the animal the following year. It was then discovered that the egg of the warble fly found its way into the lymphatic system of the animal and that, during its period of incubation, it was carried through the lymphatic system where it matured, eventually piercing a hole and emerging as a pupa to resume its life cycle on another animal.

This, as we all know, had the disastrous effect of leaving a hole in the hide which greatly reduced the value of that hide. I always believed that until we found a drug that could be administered to the animal which would operate to destroy the warble fly in the lymphatic system between the time the animal was bitten by the fly and the time it emerged on the animal's back, we would never be able to make an effective attack on this problem. I think I am justified in telling the House of the exciting development in America as a result of which it is now believed that such a systemic remedy has been found. I do not think any of us will be much the wiser when I say that the name of the drug is E. T. 57 (0-dimethyl-02, 4, 5 -trichlorophenyl-phosphorothricate).

That sounds worse than the warble fly itself.

The Minister is holding forth.

Deputy MacEntee is anxious to get on this morning.

I thought I heard a warble on the wing.

The warble is coming from the other side to-day. I do not know whether it is on his leg that the Minister has been bitten.

I have accordingly directed that this drug be intensively investigated under our conditions here in Ireland, and if it should transpire that the results claimed in America are confirmed here, I am not without hope that so intractable a problem as the deterioration of Irish hides from the attack of the warble fly may be mastered in the early future. I do not think there is any more dramatic evidence of the fact that if people will trust to the progress of veterinary research there is no problem which cannot ultimately be solved without recourse to expensive quack remedies which do little but enrich the quack and deceive the farmers.

On that point the Minister delivered a dissertation on the life cycle of the warble fly. Does the Minister not acknowledge that the existing derris powder if properly used, and if the treatment is properly carried out, is sufficient to do away with the life cycle of the warble fly? Some years ago in the Seanad, Senator Seán O'Donovan, I think, delivered a very instructive discourse on the warble problem. We are all well aware of the depredations of the warble fly. It has been calculated—I think rightly— that, through its depredations in this country every summer, we suffer a loss in hides to the value of probably between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. Any systemic remedy or treatment would be very welcome indeed. The Minister has told us about a discovery in America, but he has not told us much more. He told us that an effective treatment has been discovered, but will the Minister say that it is effective and if used by the individual farmer or whoever else produces live stock that it will succeed in eradicating this pest?

I do not want Deputy Carter to be under any misunderstanding. Certainly, derris as a dressing is effective and we are at present carrying out an eradication operation with derris on Whiddy Island and Loop Head, but the trouble with the derris procedure is that, unless everybody adopts it at the same time, you do not get rid of the warble and, therefore, repeated efforts to eliminate the warble fly with derris have broken down because, although you might get a considerable number of farmers to co-operate, even if 5 per cent. of them in an area do not co-operate their animals can reinfest the cattle of all who are co-operating. Where you get an island and persuade everybody on the island to co-operate, you have a reasonable hope of eradicating warbles with derris. I am going a stage further in the hope that even on a peninsula you may be able to do the same. But the process is laborious and the trouble is that you do not get the benefit of it in the year of the dressing because by the time you can dress the warbles the damage is already done.

If this drug fulfils what it is believed to be capable of doing, the beauty of it is that an animal infested and dosed will never have its hide pierced at all so that the farmer who is willing to co-operate is, in fact, getting some direct benefit from the treatment. Deputy Carter asks me if I have any guarantee. The answer is that I have not, but the report we have from the research station in the U.S.A. sets out that, in one test at Kerrville, this drug was fed to grub-infested cattle at the rate of 100 milligrammes per kilogramme live weight, the treatment being applied some two or three months before the grubs would normally have appeared on the backs of the cattle. In four out of five treated cattle, only a single grub appeared while in the five untreated controls 98 grubs appeared. Other tests carried out at Corvallis showed that this drug was 88 per cent. effective in preventing grub development.

In another experiment, 35 of 60 grub-infested calves in South Dakota were treated with the drug and shipped with 25 untreated calves to Kerrville for observation. At the time of treatment grubs were already beginning to appear on the backs of the animals. During the observation period an average of 30 new grubs appeared on the backs of each untreated calf while none appeared on the treated animals.

On those facts I have recommended the Veterinary Research Station here to carry out experiments under our conditions because, in addition to determining the effectiveness of the drug, it is necessary to determine its toxicity, its possible residual effect on the flesh and milk of the cattle and any other untoward development that cannot be fully investigated without a careful scientific investigation carried out at a research station such as we have at Abbotstown. Although I do not want to discourage the Deputy for the time being from using derris, I entertain a high hope that veterinary research is about to provide us with a more effective and convenient therapeutic instrument for this condition.

Question put and agreed to.