Other Questions. - Cruelty to Livestock.

Tony Gregory

Question:

16 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has received a copy of video evidence from Compassion in World Farming of cruel treatment of Irish cattle exported live to the Lebanon; if he will meet a delegation from Compassion in World Farming to hear its concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13315/98]

I condemn in the strongest possible terms any acts of cruelty to Irish livestock in the course of their transport to export markets or elsewhere and my concern that there be no maltreatment of exported animals has been conveyed to those involved in the export trade. The Department of Agriculture and Food has received a copy of the video in question and I condemn the scenes of cruelty depicted in it.

Because of pressure of other commitments I have indicated to Compassion in World Farming that I will be unable to meet it over the coming weeks but I have arranged for officials of my Department to meet it to discuss animal welfare issues.

My Department has been active at national and EU levels to improve the welfare of animals during transport. This demonstrates that Ireland, in its own right, and the European Union are committed to the better care and welfare of animals over which they exercise jurisdiction during transport within the EU and to third countries, and have demonstrated this commitment by a range of measures introduced over recent years. Improving the care and welfare of livestock and other animals, whether for export or otherwise, is an ongoing process to which Ireland and the other member states of the EU are fully committed.

Any individual or group in possession of specific information relating to alleged instances of cruelty to Irish cattle exported to the Lebanon or elsewhere, such as would facilitate or assist investigation, should make such information available to the Department to enable it to take whatever follow up action may be appropriate in the circumstances.

The Minister said his Department received a copy of the video but has he viewed it? If so, what was his reaction to the scenes of cruelty contained in it?

I have not seen the video but Department officials, particularly in the veterinary section which has responsibility for animal welfare and the care of animals in transport, particularly to other countries, has seen it. It will meet with Compassion in World Farming this week to discuss the matter.

I know the Minister is a busy man but I hope the fact he has not had time to view——

A question, please.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle may not like the tone of the introduction to the question, but he might let me complete it. I refer to the Minister's reply in which he said he has not had time to view the video or to meet Compassion in World Farming to hear its concerns. I hope this does not convey the impression of a lack of interest on his part to the treatment of animals exported from this country. When the Minister's officials have met with this organisation and heard its proposals on the scenes of obvious and unacceptable cruelty in the video, will he respond and take appropriate action to try to meet the concerns of the organisation?

Ireland takes great care of animals both domestically and in transporting them. Regulations introduced here in recent years adhere to the best EU animal welfare standards and surpass them in most cases. I have received a good deal of representations to the effect that Ireland is overly restrictive in the standards and criteria laid down. Cruelty to animals is unacceptable. I had the opportunity to visit the Lebanon recently and raised this matter at the highest level. Also officials from my Department raised the matter at official level in the Lebanon. On the question of the video, the best information available to me is that the animals filmed were not Irish. However that is neither here nor there, as apparently animals were subjected to cruelty there. I emphasise there is no place for animal cruelty so far as I and the Department of Agriculture and Food are concerned.

I watched the video and I would like every other Deputy to watch it. The cruelty displayed in it was outrageous. It has been mentioned to me on more than one occasion that no Irish cattle were filmed in that video. Are the conditions for transporting animals from Ireland the most strict in the world?

Ireland adheres to all the EU standards and surpasses them in virtually all respects. The intention of the Irish industry is to have the product up to the highest standard. One cannot have a high standard product if cruel techniques and practices are applied in the delivery of animals from the farm to the factory or the end use. We take the greatest care, ensuring there is adequate feed, water, ventilation and a transport facility that is conducive to the best possible animal welfare practices. The information available to me is that the animal shown on the video was not Irish and Irish animals were not involved. Nonetheless as an adult community we do not wish to see cruelty in any case.