The 2001 foot and mouth disease crisis, both here and in other EU member states, has resulted in a clearer appreciation of the potential for frequent and unregulated animal movements to spread diseases. The critical importance of full traceability has also been highlighted, not just in the context of consumer protection but also to facilitate the tracking of animal movements and contacts in the event that a disease outbreak occurs.
As I have said on a number of occasions, there are certain aspects of Irish agricultural life that may not be the same again. While certain activities and practices may have been regarded as traditional, it does not necessarily follow that they are consistent with current and prospective requirements in relation to animal health, disease prevention, traceability and other key concerns.
The BSE and, latterly, FMD experiences and animal disease outbreaks in other EU member states have highlighted the need to critically question and, where necessary, alter traditional approaches to various aspects of the livestock trade in the interests of ensuring that the sector can have a secure and viable future. Traditional fairs and markets can be no more exempt from this necessary reappraisal than any other feature of the livestock trade.
It should be noted that the sale by auction of livestock must be conducted only in a licensed mart premises, as provided for under the Livestock Marts Act, 1967, as amended.