The Diseases of Animals Act, 1894, gives the Minister for Agriculture power to deal directly with four specific diseases—cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease and swine fever. All other diseases are dealt with by the local authority. I do not want to claim that, because the Department of Agriculture were in charge, they eliminated these four diseases but, whether it is a coincidence or not, I am happy to be able to say that these diseases have almost disappeared. Pleuro-pneumonia and cattle plague have not been known for years in this country. There has been no outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Free State since 1928. There was an outbreak in Northern Ireland in 1931 but this State has been free from that disease for seven years. We have almost got rid of swine fever. It had been declining for a year or two, and last year it disappeared completely. It is very difficult to ascertain what was responsible for its disappearance. Some say that it was due to the boiling order for offals in the City of Dublin. An order was made that offals must be boiled before being fed to pigs. It is claimed by some people that that was responsible for eliminating swine fever, while it has also been claimed that what amounts to an embargo on the import of bacon has stopped swine fever. At any rate, we have practically got rid of it. Apart from these four diseases, the local authorities deal with all other diseases. Under this Bill I propose to take power to deal directly with all other diseases of animals as well as these four diseases. I may say that that power is being taken principally for the purpose of dealing with tuberculosis in cattle. Under the scheme for dealing with old and uneconomic cows, which are being sent to the factory at Roscrea, which commenced business yesterday, it is hoped to get rid of a great number of old cows—cows that are not necessarily diseased—county by county. We hope not to send diseased cows to Roscrea but we cannot guarantee that. Of course, the old, wasted and uneconomic cows will go there. We hope to follow up that by bringing into force this tuberculosis order, centrally administering it in each county and clearing out the tubercular cows. In that way, we shall try to get our herds into a healthy condition. The administration of the tuberculosis order by the local authorities cannot be regarded as very satisfactory.
In the year ended 31st March, 1935, the number of animals slaughtered under the order was only 3,672. We have over 1,300,000 cows, so that the number slaughtered works out at only .3 per cent. of the total number in the country. There is no doubt that the number of tubercular cows is greater than that. Then, the order is not worked uniformly. In the same year the number of animals slaughtered in one county was 751, while in another county it was only six. A good deal depends on the local authority, but more depends on the veterinary officer in charge. Some of these officers are very keen on this business, and go as far as possible in order to get tuberculosis stamped out. Others adopt an easy attitude. It is proposed, under this Bill, to take over the administration of the Bovine Tuberculosis Order in one county, after Roscrea has cleared out the old cows, and work it strenuously for a month or six weeks, then handing it back to the local authority. We hope to move over the country in that way, not dealing with, perhaps, more than two counties at a time. We hope to get the whole country cleared first of the old, uneconomic cows, and then cleared of diseased cows, under this order, inside 15 or 18 months. The officers of the local authorities will be employed, as well as additional officers from headquarters, while this measure is being worked in any particular county.
A question may arise as regards compensation. At present, the local authority pays half the compensation and the other half is paid out of the Exchequer. We propose, in this Bill, to pay the entire amount of compensation so long as the Minister is administering the Act in any particular county. We thought it advisable to do that because, otherwise, the local authority might complain that we put heavy cost on them by our too strenuous administration of the Act for the couple of months we would be in the county. We shall relieve the local authority, to a certain extent, by administering the Act in this way, and we shall leave them a cleaner herd when the headquarters officers have finished their work in the county.