Written Answers. - Live Exports.

Billy Timmins


14 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the discussions he has had with the European Commission with respect to the new proposed regulations for the live export trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18906/03]

The recently published EU draft proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of animals during transport has not yet been formally presented to member states by the European Commission. The draft proposal will be presented in the first instance to the Council of Agriculture Ministers in July. It will then proceed under the chairmanship of the Italian Presidency to Council working group level where it will be discussed in detail before moving on to COREPER and ultimately to the Council of Ministers for political approval in due course. Officials from my Department will have an opportunity to discuss the proposal in detail with the Commission, the Presidency and with other member states at working group level before the proposal moves forward for political agreement.

There are a number of aspects of the current proposal which I welcome. We in Ireland have been to the forefront in developing systems and legislation in relation to the welfare of animals during transport, for example, in relation to the approval of sea going vessels carrying livestock. In this regard, the welfare of animals during transport has always been a priority, not least because it is in the best interests of the Irish livestock sector and of future export business to ensure that animals exported from Ireland arrive at their destinations in the best possible condition. Other provisions in the proposal, such as the reduced stocking densities on livestock vehicles, present difficulties in terms of their potential effect on the volume and cost-effectiveness of the export trade from Ireland.
All these issues will be discussed before the approval of the proposal. I assure the Deputy that my focus in such discussions will be on ensuring that the important live trade from Ireland can continue, having regard to the overall imperative to ensure that the welfare of animals being transported is safeguarded.