On-farm welfare of farm animals is governed by the European Communities (Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes) Regulations 2000. Any complaint received by my Department about on-farm animal welfare is investigated under these regulations and appropriate follow-up action is taken. Where warranted this may include initiating prosecutions. The Garda, with the support as required of my Department, also investigates farm animal welfare cases under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. In addition, the welfare of calves and pigs is subject to more detailed legislation, namely the European Communities (Welfare of Calves and Pigs) Regulations 2003, and laying hens are subject to the provisions of the European Communities (Welfare of Laying Hens) Regulations 2002. Routine welfare inspections under the above-mentioned regulations are undertaken on an annual and random basis. The outcome of these inspections is reported to the European Commission.
An annual inspection on the welfare of farm animals during transport is undertaken on a national spot-check basis at meat factories, marts and ports, under the Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) Order 1995 as amended. Equally this legislation provides for the welfare of farm animals during international transport. Each international consignment is subjected to a health and welfare check. The outcome of all inspections under this legislation is also reported to the European Commission on a yearly basis.
The welfare of animals at the time of slaughter is governed by the Protection of Animals at Time of Slaughter Regulations 1995. Veterinary inspectors are responsible for ensuring that the highest standards of animal welfare apply at all slaughtering plants in compliance with these regulations. Checks are carried out on a daily basis by the veterinary inspector on livestock unloading procedures, intake procedures, lairage facilities and handling, movement to stunning area, stunning procedures and ritual slaughter. In addition, inspections are made on the transport vehicles that bring animals to the plant. In the event that welfare is compromised enforcement action is initiated including, if necessary suspension of slaughter or de-commissioning of a transport vehicle.
I attach considerable importance to the area of animal welfare and have taken a number of recent initiatives in this area, including establishing the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council, with a view to promoting and sustaining good practice and compliance with all of the relevant standards, whether on-farm, during transport or at time of slaughter.