I would like to start by welcoming not alone the Minister but also the tone in which he introduced this Bill. It was clear from his speech that he means business— and that is very refreshing—in relation to this whole problem which, as Senator O'Donovan said, has really been neglected for 30 years. I could not help remembering that on one or two previous occasions when I heard this matter discussed in this House, although the Minister's predecessor was concerned about the question, I thought he tended to lay too much stress on the word "voluntary". I notice that he has left the impression on Senator Burke that the scheme is "all voluntary" which, of course, it is not, I am glad to say. It is clear from Section 2, for instance, that the power of making Orders includes the power "to require" the carrying out of tests and so on. If it was to be "all voluntary", I think that many of us would be far more critical of it than we are of it in its present form.
I remember also that on previous occasions when the matter was discussed, and notably when Senator Sheridan introduced a motion on the question, it seemed to me that the Seanad was not as urgently concerned about the problem as it appears to be to-day. In fact, if you read the Official Reports, you get the impression that that whole debate was rather hustled through, and the sense of urgency put before the Seanad by the proposer and seconder of the motion, and by one or two others, was not then widely shared.
Since then, things have been moving and I welcome this Bill as an earnest of the intentions of the Government and of the Minister to take effective and swift action. This memorandum which has just been handed to us contains many items which are encouraging, and which show that at least some of the preliminary work has been done. It is not unsatsfactory to see, on page 2, that over 30 per cent. of all the herd owners have applied under the scheme. I think that is an encouraging beginning, but, quite clearly, it cannot be considered as much more than a beginning. Also, the overall incidence of the disease is put at slightly less than 17 per cent. While that is high, it does show that the problem can be coped with, and I believe that it will be coped with under the present Bill.
I welcome also what is mentioned on page 3, that it has been decided to extend the purchase and removal of reactors by the Department. That clearly is a very important step forward and I notice that at the end of that paragraph the phrase is used: "This programme will start in the very near future." I intended to ask the Minister, on reading this memorandum, to be more explicit about what is meant by "the very near future", but I feel from what he has said that it means precisely that, the very near future, and that he will not allow much time to pass before implementing this.
On page 4 of the memorandum, there is a paragraph relating to pasteurisation of separated milk, about which a good deal has been said. One of the writers in the farming page of theIrish Times not very long ago referred to the failure to pasteurise separated milk as a “tuberculosis propagation scheme”. I do not think that phrase is too strong, because it is obvious, as several Senators have said, that it is folly to allow the milk from one cow to infect perhaps all the separated milk or skim milk returned from the creamery. It is the height of folly and almost certainly one of the major factors in spreading bovine tuberculosis. I am glad the Minister recognises that. I think I am quoting him correctly when I say that he told us here to-day that if we can deal with this aspect, we shall have dealt with 50 per cent. of the existing problem.
Senator Burke has said that the figures given here in this paragraph are a little disappointing. We are told that of 594 registered creamery premises throughout the country, only 203 are equipped with the necessary pasteurising plant. That is a disappointing figure. I do not know how that would relate to the actual volume of milk handled. Some of the creameries which have not got pasteurisation may be very small creameries. However, the figure as it stands is a disquieting one.
I was very much struck, and I am sure the Minister was, by the very practical suggestion made by Senator O'Donovan, that what we want is to render the milk safe, and that that is a very immediate need. As he said, that can be done in a relatively simple way, as was done in the case of foot and mouth disease. It does not really matter whether you are entitled to use the word pasteurisation or sterilisation in relation to this milk—what we want is that it be rendered safe, now, quickly. Later on, we can deal progressively with the problem of seeing that all this milk is pasteurised. Obviously it is of great and immediate importance to introduce some such practical scheme as that suggested by Senator O'Donovan, to see to it that, at once, all this milk is rendered safe, through his suggested method or by some similar method.
I put the point to him and to the Minister that it might entail some amendment of Section 4 of the Bill itself, in order to give the Minister power, not merely "to make regulations" to see that this milk be "pasteurised", but, perhaps under another related paragraph, to see that where it cannot be immediately pasteurised, it should at least be rendered safe. That additional power might be useful, because as the Bill stands the Minister has power to make regulations only to see that the milk is pasteurised.
Several Senators referred to the past history of this problem. Senator O'Donovan spoke of the danger to human health as well as to cattle health—that sometimes we forget one and concentrate on the other, whereas the two are interconnected. I should like to quote from a memorandum drawn up by one of the several women's organisations which for long years have been battling to have our milk supplies made safe. This particular one, the Irish Housewives Association, said, as far back as 1943—
"On inquiring from the Corporation School Meals Committee, we learned that the committee advertise every year for supplies of milk to schools and that ‘usually' the ‘cheapest' tender is accepted. This explains why no T.T. milk is distributed to school children. Our inquiry from schools had revealed that three schools provided T.T. milk, but according to the Corporation School Meals Committee not a single tender was received last October from any highest grade milk producer. The bulk of the milk supplied to schools is pasteurised, but a small proportion is just ‘ordinary' milk.
This investigation showed that neither the corporation (representing the Dublin ratepayers) nor the State (which pays half the expense on school-meals) are willing to pay enough to give the best and safest milk to school children. It also gave us a further proof that T.T. milk production cannot but diminish as long as it gets no encouragement from local or State authorities.
We also learned that T.B. reactors are sold in the open market week after week, and that on the other hand the cattle exported from Éire regularly are ‘the pick of our live stock, the ones we should be breeding from'."
In 1945, the Milk Tribunal was set up and took evidence from a wide number of organisations, including this Irish Housewives Association, which submitted the following in its evidence to them:—
"An economic reason was also put forward: cowkeepers and dairymen complain that compensation for slaughter of cows in the building of a T.T. herd is not adequate, and that veterinary fees for regular testing of cows are a heavy burden. We would like to suggest:—
(i) that inquiries be made as to what would be adequate compensation for slaughter; and
(ii) that the tuberculin test be a State service, the cost to be borne by the State—or that only a nominal fee be charged.
When we put these suggestions to the Minister for Public Health (November, 1942)——"
that is now 15 years ago
"——we were told that the Department had no money at its disposal for such a scheme. But, as we pointed out then, if money can be found to maintain the high standard of Irish cattle (in compensating for and replacing the thousands slaughtered during a foot and mouth epidemic), surely it could also be found to build up a high standard of health in the Irish people."
That was part of the evidence submitted to the tribunal in 1945. Its report —the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Milk Supply for the Dublin Sale District—which was issued in December, 1946, made a specific recommendation about bovine tuberculosis. It is Recommendation 319:—
"We recommend the planned eradication of bovine tuberculosis in the production district by the application of one or more of the well-recognised methods of bringing this about. We recognise that the production district presents certain special difficulties in relation to eradication unless the scheme adopted be part of a general scheme for the eradication of the disease throughout the country. The measures to be taken should be such as to achieve appreciable results in a period of not more than ten years."
I have indicated the kind of evidence which was being given to this tribunal and here is the kind of recommendation which was being made by this tribunal. The evidence was submitted during 1945 and 1946. The report was finished at the end of 1946, and it held out a strong hope that if active steps were taken in 1946, the problem would be solved within about ten years. This is 1957 and I cannot help looking back to that time and wondering why that kind of advice was not taken.
Senator O'Donovan has adverted to the fact that, in the 1920s and 1930s, the various Governments failed to take action. I remember when I was a member of the Anti-Tuberculosis League— which failed effectively to come into independent being, and became on second thoughts a section of the Irish Red Cross—the veterinary members of that Anti-Tuberculosis Section of the Red Cross were vehement in their demand, all through the 1940s, for an active coping with this problem. They were vehement, but they were virtually ignored.
I think I should say that Senator O'Donovan himself was one of the few people in political life at that time who throughout the period was very vigorous in advocating the bringing in of some such scheme as this which has come now at long last. He was inhibited to-day, of course, from indicating the fact that he found it just as hard to move the Fianna Fáil Government as to move the Fine Gael Government. I suppose it might be fair to say that he had more leverage over the Fianna Fáil Government; yet though, as he told us in his speech to-day, he raised the matter again and again on the Party Executive, it was without avail. He mentioned that he pressed for it also at the time of the economic war, and he made it very clear to us, as should have been seen at the time, that we missed then a golden opportunity for dealing with the whole question of bovine tuberculosis. The lamentable fact is that it did not become a subject of Government Party political concern until it could be shown that big money was going to be lost if we did not do something about it.
I am afraid that happens all too often. If you can prove that the health of school children or of the people is involved, politicians say: "Yes; we are all sympathetic but the money cannot be found". If you can prove you are going to damage the cattle trade, then you will find that the money somehow or other is there. That sort of thing might induce a certain spirit of cynicism. I think it would be a pity if it did, but, in welcoming this new sense of urgency, deriving—let us face the fact—from the recent action taken by the British Government, I should like to point to the fact that we have been very late. We have been caught napping because of our preoccupation with cash, money, profits and not sufficiently with the health of our people.
Senator O'Donovan rightly reminded us that bovine tuberculosis also constitutes a potential "danger to the human subject". I just want to remind the House that, when it seemed to constitute a danger to the human subject only and not to the cattle trade, it was regarded as a matter of relative unimportance, not half as important as the foot and mouth disease question. The money "could not be found" to compensate for slaughter, as it is now being found after all, because now the British market is going to close to us unless we eradicate tuberculosis from our cattle.
There is a lesson to us in that which relates not only to the question of bovine tuberculosis. I notice in this regard that nobody says we should compensate only farmers with farms having a valuation of under £50 or farmers with a family income of less than £600 a year. There is no talk about "self-reliance", about relying on the farmers to "do their duty", and "leaving it to the individual". I believe we all recognise now that in this particular instance community interest is deeply involved and, therefore, we demand—as I wish we would more often in other fields—community action. We are not content to leave it to the "self-reliance" of individuals many of whom will respond but whose efforts in that respect may well be subsequently ruined by those who do not respond. We are getting, under this Bill, community action for the protection of the community. It is now welcomed by everyone, although some of us would like to have seen it occurring 15 or 20 years ago.
I should now like to say something about one or two points in the Bill itself. I notice that in Section 2, sub-section (1), paragraph (iii) power is given to make regulations for "the prohibition or restriction of the movement of animals into, out of, through or within an area". There are two points I should like to make and one is related to the point made by Senator O'Donovan who used words to the effect that it is criminal folly to allow the movement of young stock in and out of affected areas.