This Bill proposes to amend in certain respects the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts and the Pigs and Bacon Acts, and, in addition, proposes to incorporate in permanent legislation some existing provisions under Emergency Powers Orders.
Premises at which cattle, sheep and pigs are slaughtered for export have to be registered under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, 1930 to 1938 and have to conform to certain standards before they may be so registered. Under the 1930 Act provisional registration of slaughtering premises might be granted within 12 months of the passing of the Act, this period being extended to 18 months under the 1931 Act. The purpose then was to give time to the proprietors of premises which did not fully meet all the requirements of the 1930 Act to improve their premises up to the necessary full standard. At the time of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 1941, when exports of live stock had to cease and exports in carcase form only were possible a number of slaughtering premises not ordinarily engaged in the meat export trade had to be registered to engage in that trade. The power to grant provisional registration was accordingly reintroduced by an Emergency Powers Order. It is now proposed in Section 2 of the Bill to continue permanently the power to grant provisional registration. In addition to being available to meet contingencies in the future, this power will be useful in connection with efforts to improve standards at premises in the light of modern developments in the meat industry.
During the emergency when the canned beef export trade developed it became necessary to permit beef-canning firms who were not themselves the proprietors of registered slaughtering premises, but whose cattle were slaughtered at registered premises for them, to export the offals from the cattle slaughtered for such canning. The Fresh Meat Acts were accordingly amended by an Emergency Powers Order to enable special export licences under these Acts to be granted to firms holding manufacturing licences for meat-canning under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts. The Emergency Powers Order also provided for the grant of special licences for the export of livers in a benign condition which were suitable for use for pharmaceutical purposes but which could not be permitted for export for edible purposes (these livers have been distinctively dyed before export to ensure against their use for edible purposes). It is now proposed to incorporate the provisions of the Order in question in permanent legislation (Section 3 of the Bill).
The Bill also provides (Section 8) for the salvaging, under supervision, of these livers in a benign condition, which should ordinarily be denatured. During the emergency a trade developed in such livers which although unsuitable for human consumption were fit for use for pharmaceutical purposes. Provision was made by an Emergency Powers Order for the salvaging of these livers under suitable supervision and this arrangement is now being put on a permanent basis. As already indicated, inedible livers are distinctively dyed before export to ensure against their use for edible purposes.
Under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act, 1930, certain fees are payable by carcase meat exporters in respect of the veterinary examination of the animals slaughtered by them for export. The fees at present payable are cattle 1/- per head, sheep 1½d. per head and pigs 3d. per head, and as matters stand these rates of fee cannot be altered in any way. The Pigs and Bacon Acts provide for charging of a veterinary examination fee not exceeding 6d. per pig in respect of pigs slaughtered at bacon factories and a fee of 5d. per pig has been charged under this authority since 1936. It is now proposed (Sections 4 and 6 of the Bill) that the rates of fee under both sets of Acts may in future be fixed by Statutory Regulations made by the Minister. Any such regulations will have to be approved by each House of the Oireachtas before becoming operative and the Oireachtas will accordingly have an opportunity of considering any proposed alterations in the fees before the alterations come into effect.
A manufacturing licence under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts is required in respect of the manufacture of canned meat products and certain other meat preparations. At present the conditions attached to manufacturing licences can only be modified by revoking the existing licences, in each case after a month's notice. It is proposed in Section 5 of the Bill to take power to alter the conditions attached to a manufacturing licence by serving notice of the alteration on the licence holder; this power to modify the licence conditions in a less cumbersome manner is required to meet changes decided upon in consultation with the meat canners generally or necessitated by the requirements of importing countries. Any change would, of course, apply to all manufacturing licences and would not be confined to the licence held by a particular canner.
It was provided by an Emergency Powers Order in 1943 that certain classes of casualty pigs, viz. pigs that had been purchased by a bacon curer but died on the way to the factory or that died, otherwise than by slaughter, after arrival at a factory, would qualify for compensation out of the Insurance Fund under the Pigs and Bacon Acts. It is now proposed (Section 7 of the Bill) to include this technical amendment of the Acts in permanent legislation.