I am grateful to your office for allowing me make a brief contribution on this very important matter this evening. There is widespread abuse of greyhounds in Spain where the greyhound industry is in a deplorable and sorry state. Many of these unfortunate dogs are Irish animals which are purchased cheaply here and subjected to vile and cruel treatment in Spain. The suffering caused to these defenceless animals is a scandal and while we in this country cannot resolve the problem we can at least ensure that no Irish dogs are involved. We can do this by introducing a total ban on live exports of greyhounds to any country where the regard for treatment of animals is in question.
I urge the Minister to set up an investigation on the matter of these serious allegations as quickly as possible. These dogs are kept in deplorable conditions without proper housing, water, or electricity and under extreme over-crowded conditions. The defenceless animals have been described as running machines, housed like battery hens and forced to run in very high temperatures and conditions of humidity. I am concerned at the manner in which the dogs are transported to Spain and that they remain for 21 hours on the ferry boat before being transported the long distance from the ferry port through France to southern Spain. The dogs, I understand, are packed 60 to a lorry in narrow crates, a type of crate that has been banned in the UK. That is why they do not use the land bridge route but rather the 21 hours on the boat because the crates are not allowed to travel through the UK.
The Minister may have to look at the Greyhound Industry Act and consider appropriate amendments to ensure that outlawing of this unsavoury practice. Last autumn, following a considerable outcry, Bord na gCon imposed a ban on the export of Irish greyhounds to Spain. I have information to suggest that this ban is now being flouted and that exports sales to Spain have again resumed.
I understand that recently in Limerick Spanish greyhound agents purchased 36 greyhounds to race in Barcelona under very poor conditions. Allegations have been made that the agents I refer to may, in fact, have been Bord na gCon representatives. If this is true it is extremely serious and I would ask the Minister to investigate this matter without delay. Is it true that Bord an gCon agents negotiated the sale of greyhounds to Spanish dealers in spite of a number of complaints to the auctioneers from concerned parties present in the course of the auction? It would be quite extraordinary, and indeed outrageous, if a representative from Bord na gCon was acting as such an agent having regard to the ban imposed on the export sales by that very body itself.
I urge the Minister to use his good offices to call a halt to this obscene and disgraceful trade in live animals. It has been established beyond all reasonable doubt that gross ill-treatment of Irish greyhounds continues and I would be grateful if this matter could be addressed at the earliest opportunity.