Animal Remedies Bill, 1993: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

In response to the query raised by Senator Norris, the explanatory memorandum was circulated and I am sure all Senators received it and have studied it in detail.

Perhaps, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, you would allow me to extend my personal good wishes to the Cathaorileach for a speedy recovery to health. I know this House has extended its collective good wishes to Senator Fallon and I would like to be associated with that.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide a single comprehensive basis for regulating the availability and use of animal remedies. The availability and use of animal remedies has consequences for the producer, the consumer and for the pharmaceutical industry. The relationship between animal health and successful livestock production is well recognised and apparent. In recent years the public health aspects of the safety of residues of animal remedies has come strongly into focus, and much research and analysis has been carried out into the safety of residues. Coupled with this awareness is the need to use animal remedies responsibly and carefully and to observe proper withdrawal periods. A no less important aspect, which may not be obvious to the casual observer, is the pharmaceutical industry which develops, manufactures and distributes the animal remedies and is a significnat investor and employer in the Irish economy. This is something which should not be overlooked.

When one looks at the broad range of activities which are influenced and affected by legislation relating to animal remedies, it is not surprising that the area is regulated by a variety of different instruments. At the present time the availability and use of animal remedies is regulated under four principal Acts: the Therapeutic Substances Act, 1932; the Animal Remedies Act, 1956; the Poisons Act, 1961 and the European Communities Act, 1972. The Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, also applies to animal remedies with narcotic properties. In addition, the question of residues of animal remedies in food for human consumption is addressed under enactments such as the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, 1930 to 1978; the Pigs and Bacon Acts, 1935 to 1978; the Milk and Dairies Acts 1935 to 1956; and the Abattoirs Act, 1988. This scattering of legislative controls does not facilitate equal and effective enforcement. Neither does it assist the law-abiding producer or consumer who wishes to understand more clearly what controls must be complied with. The greatest concern for enforcement authorities arises from the fear that loopholes may arise which enable the intended controls to be evaded. Therefore, this legislation is timely and necessary.

It is the intention of this Bill that animal remedies will be subject to a uniform set of controls from the point of manufacture to the sale for human consumption of food derived from treated animals. This is a vast area, as I have already mentioned, and the legitimate interests of a variety of different groups have to be appreciated and respected. I recognise that there are different interests and that the aspirations of each must be balanced to ensure that the wishes of any one interest group does not dominate to the detriment of any other party. I do not suggest, however, that there is any fundamental incompatibility between these parties. In fact, I would go further and say that their interests are interdependent and complementary. It is our function and duty as legislators to ensure that we create a legislative climate where all needs are addressed.

I do not consider this is an unrealistic aspiration. We are all consumers and have a mutual interest in ensuring that the food we consume is wholesome and is not contaminated by potentially detrimental substances. Additionally, we are anxious to be satisfied that our food is derived from healthy animals. Consumers are now very well informed regarding farming practices, in particular those relating to livestock production. They are rightly demanding assurances that any animal remedies administered to food-producing animals have been administered correctly, that proper withdrawal periods have been observed and that the substance used was authorised and is safe for use in food-producing animals.

Mechanisms are in place to ensure that these concerns are met. All animal remedies have to pass a vigorous evaluation before being placed on the market. Very stringent criteria of safety, quality and efficacy are applied to products before they receive a marketing authorisation. Particular attention is paid to the safety of residues and a great deal of work is underway at EC and other international organisation level to assess the safety of residues and to agree international standards.

In recent times it is regrettable that abuses of animal remedies have received so much attention. It has to conceded that it has, and does, happen and I will return to this point later. Apart from the public health concerns, which are well recognised, an equally serious outcome is that it has tarnished the reputation and image of the farming community. I must put on record that those who traffic in and use illegal substances are not representative of the rank-and-file genuine farmers. Clearly they are not friends of the consumer, neither are they friends of the farming community. Farmers and their families are also consumers and are just as concerned as the rest of the community about the quality of the food they produce and consume. Naturally, because their livelihood depends on it, they are anxious to ensure the health and welfare of their stock. Healthy stock are needed to produce quality food, to give a good product to the consumer and to give the producer a decent return for their investment and labour.

Farmers also recognise the reality of the market place and acknowledge that there is little point producing any commodity if there is no confidence and, consequently, no consumer demand for it. Farmers, therefore, depend on consumers for their livelihood and have to appreciate that their wishes must be respected and served if their custom is to be retained.

Of course, the consumer is not left entirely dependent on the goodwill of the producer. There are extensive official checks carried out on live animals, on farms and on carcases at slaughtering facilities and on milk at dairies and creameries to ensure that only authorised animal remedies are used, and are used correctly. These checks are carried out on a random basis and also on suspicion and are supplemented by regular checks on the distribution chain to ensure that only authorised products are put into circulation.

Moving back a stage from the farmer and animal owner who uses the animal remedy, we reach the pharmaceutical industry. I use this term generally to encompass the manufacturing and distribution activities. The pharmaceutical industry has come in for a share of criticism. People are very quick to condemn the industry for developing products which have come to be abused. However, we are quick to overlook the fact that most of these products were developed originally for bona fide purposes to treat clinical illness. We in Ireland enjoy an animal health status that is the envy of many of our trading competitors. We are all conscious of this health status and go to great lengths to protect it.

At a general level there has been dramatic improvement in animal health in recent years and many minor — in the sense that they are not exotic to this country — illnesses and diseases can be successfully prevented or treated by the judicious use of animal remedies. Many of these essential products are the result of many years of research and substantial investment by the pharmaceutical industry. The legitimate pharmaceutical industry in Ireland is making a substantial contribution to the improvement in animal husbandry.

The industry is not simply concerned with selling the solution to the various animal health problems which are encountered on a daily basis. Many firms are active through the promotion and sponsorship of educational and awareness schemes directed towards the farming community and the veterinary profession. The costs of developing new products are very high and after the development of the product, significant sums must be invested in carrying out the necessary studies to prove that the product meets the stringent standards of safety, quality and efficacy prescribed. If the industry is continue to invest in research and development of new, better and safer products they also must be protected against unscrupulous dealers in substandard, unauthorised and in some cases dangerous products. I repeat, there should be no conflict between the consumer, the producer and the pharmaceutical industry on this very important issue.

So far I have concentrated on the groups whose interests must be protected by the Bill we are considering. I will now turn to those against whom we all need protection, it is clear from the earlier proceedings in Dáil Éireann that I do not need to acquaint this House of the problem which exists in Europe in relation to the use of illegal substances for growth promotion purposes. We in Ireland, I regret to have to admit, have our share of this problem. Recent reports in the national and international media have not done anything to enhance the image of Ireland as a producer of quality, wholesome, natural food. This image has been the cornerstone of our marketing strategy and while good reputations are hard to earn they are even harder to re-establish.

Our live animal and meat exports are worth in the region of £1 billion annually. This sum is of immense significance to the economy as a whole but it is the life blood of the farming community. As I have already stated those who use these substances are unrepresentative and unscrupulous. They threaten the fundamental viability of our livestock and meat industry. Persons who supply or use these substances have been roundly condemned, and quite rightly so. The Members of Dáil Éireann have sent a loud and clear message that such actions will not be tolerated by the legislature and the magnitude of the permissible fines reflects that attitude. I assure this House that no effort will be spared to identify all involved in this activity and to bring them to justice.

Senators may be aware of the recent communication from the EC Commissioner for Agriculture, Rene Stecichen, who is reviewing the situation in the Community with a view to having more stringent and effective enforcement of the prohibition on the use of illegal substances. The general thrust of the Commissioner's view is supported and the recognition of a need for a well directed vigorous attack is to be greatly welcomed. Many of the measures being proposed are based on some of the controls already applied in Ireland. The passage of this Bill coincides with the renewed attention to this matter in the Community and will send a clear signal to our colleagues of our determination to put an end to this behaviour.

The use of growth promoters, whether legal or illegal, is a very short-sighted view of a means of ensuring farmers' prosperity. Consumers throughout the Community have, through the democratic process, indicated clearly that they do not wish to purchase or consume meat produced using any of these substances. The use of illegal substances has hardened consumer resistance to meat and meat products. This resistance needs to be overcome if the disturbing downward trend in meat consumption throughout the Community is to be reversed. Future prosperity for meat producers can only be assured by increasing the demand and the market for their produce. There are some commentators who suggest that the natural hormones should be legalised and this will prevent the abuse. This is erroneous thinking, however meritorious certain scientific arguments may be.

Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill I would like to draw special attention to one aspect. This is the fact that this Bill which we are considering provides for the transposition of future EC legislation dealing with any aspect of animal remedies into national law by means of regulations under this Bill. This will ensure a total consistency in the application of national and EC measures and will bring a greater coherence and flexibility to the law in this area. In view of the recent High Court judgment relating to the use of the European Communities Act for the purposes of implementing legislation, which is under appeal to the Supreme Court, it is appropriate that all our legislation should be based on a common denominator which enables conflict of laws to be readily resolved.

I will now preceed to outline the main provisions of the Bill.

Section 1 defines various terms and concepts for the purpose of the Bill. Many of the definitions employed are reenactments of the provisions of the 1956 Act. The only significant change is in the definition of an animal remedy which is revised to take account of Community law in this area and to keep abreast of technological developments.

Section 2 sets out the animals to which the Act will apply. The definition is greatly extended from the 1956 Act and includes all mammals, birds, fish, molluscs and bees and any other animal kept, or whose produce is intended, for human consumption. This is necessary to take account of species not covered by the 1956 Act which are now being farmed or reared for human consumption, for example deer and fish. It is also desirable to provide that all remedies intended for any animal are covered as, otherwise, unacceptable products could be marketed for species outside the scope of the Act and diverted to animals intended for human consumption.

Section 3 provides for the enlargement of the Animal Remedies Consultative Committee which, under the 1956 Act, advised and assisted the Minister in the making of regulations under the Act. That committee had five members; it is proposed that the new committee will have nine members. The structure and appointment of the Committee was the subject of lengthy consideration by the Dáil and this section has been redrafted to reflect the views expressed in the Dáil. In proposing to extend the size of the committee I was mindful of the diverse interests materially affected by legislation relating to animal remedies. I was, therefore, most anxious to ensure that all interests likely to be affected by regulations made under the Act would be adequately represented. The section now provides for a Committee of nine persons of whom six will be appointed from nominees of groups such a veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, farmers, consumers, manufacturers and distributors of animal remedies and the food industry. I appreciate the interest shown by the Deputies on this matter and feel we now have a structure which will ensure transparency and confidence in the legislative process.

Section 4 deals with the labelling of animal remedies. The purpose of this section is to ensure that adequate information is conveyed on the container or outer wrapper of every animal remedy in order to ensure safe and proper usage of the animal remedy. The same particulars must be stated on any advertisement for an animal remedy. The particulars required may be varied by regulation in appropriate circumstances. It was pointed out during the Dáil debate that the indentification of bulk animal remedies was inadequately dealt with. I was happy to make an appropriate amendment to cover this aspect and I feel this issue is now comprehensively covered. Section 5 complements section 4 by prohibiting the publication of false or misleading particulars in relations to an animal remedy.

Section 6 addresses a number of issues arising out of possession of an animal remedy. The posession or control of an animal remedy in contravention of the provisions of the Bill or of regulations to be made thereunder, or of an animal or carcase or animal produce knowing it to have been illegally treated is prohibited under this section. Provision is also made to enable certain presumptions to be drawn from the possession of an animal or an animal remedy which will facilitate the enforcement of the provisions of this Bill.

Section 7 inserts an implied condition in any contract of sale that the animal or, in the case of a carcase or any animal product, the animal from which it was derived had not been illegally treated. This type of implied condition of sale is similar to the implied provisions of fitness of goods for the purpose for which they are intended which applies under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980.

Section 8 empowers the Minister, following consultation with the Animal Remedies Consultative Committee, to make regulations relating to animal remedies. Arising out of the comprehensive nature of the Bill the regulation-making power covers an extensive area of application. Regulations made under this section may provide to control the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, advertising, possession and use of animal remedies. Powers to prescribe maximun residue limits for animal remedies in foods of animal origin and for the control of animals to which animal remedies are administered are available under this section. The controls provided for include powers for marking, detaining or restricting the sale, slaughter or movement of animals which are believed to have been treated with animal remedies. Provision is made for the disposal or destruction of illegally treated animals. Regulations may also be made to deal with the inspection and testing of substances, animals and food of animal origin and for the charging of fees in respect of these activities.

In addition to the aforementioned matters which arise directly from this Bill this section enables regulations to be made giving effect to Acts of the European Communities and validates regulations relating to animal remedies already made under the European Communities Act, 1972. This is a very important aspect in two respects. First, when a new Bill is introduced there is always speculation about the type of regulation which will be made thereunder. In the case of this Bill, the question is largely answered as the provisions relating to the continuation in force of existing regulations will ensure a smooth transition in that the Bill once passed will be immediately operational Secondly, it means that future EC directives in this area will be implemented and enforced as an integral part of our national law on the subject rather than being imposed as a series of independent measures.

Section 9 allows for the Minister to prescribe approved methods of analysis for the determination of the composition of animal remedies or for the presence of residues in animal produce. The authorisation of the persons and bodies to carry out such analysis and for the admission of documents stating the results of such analysis as evidence in legal proceedings is also addressed under this section. This section was subject to some technical amendment to clarify certain evidential matters during Dáil proceedings. The purpose and effect remain unchanged.

Section 10 provides for the authorisation of officers for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the Bill.

Section 11 confers extensive powers on authorised officers, officers of Customs and Excise and members of the Garda Síochána. These include,inter alia, powers to stop vehicles and enter any land or premises where there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are used in connection with activities regulated by this Act or where an offence under this Act has been, or is being, committed.

Following entry, officers have extensive powers to search, examine, inspect, test or take samples and to seize and detain suspicious items which may be found thereon. Persons connected with the specified activities are required to produce relevant documents or other items including animals and to give such information or assistance as may be requested by the officer or member concerned. This power is exercisable in respect of a dwelling only where there is reason to believe that relevant material would be destroyed before a search warrant could be obtained.

Section 12 provides that a judge of the District Court may issue search warrants to an authorised officer, officer of Customs and Excise or member of the Garda Síochána to enter and search a dwelling house where there are reasonable grounds to suspect evidence of an offence is to be found therein. Members of the Garda Síochána and officers of Customs and Excise are empowered to search a suspect person under section 13 and section 14 empowers members of the Garda Síochána to arrest without warrant persons suspected of having committed an offence. Section 15 provides that nothing in the Bill shall curtail or prejudice other provisions of existing legislation in relation to powers to search, seize or detain property which may be exercised by members of the Garda Síochána or officers of Customs and Excise.

While the powers available under section 11 to 15 are very extensive, I would like to assure this House that the most severe aspects would only be employed in cases of suspected serious infringements. These provisions are based on the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, and are very similar to the powers of enforcement as already applied under the regulations made under the European Communities Act, 1972, I should mention that there is already good co-operation between the different enforcement agencies in this area and all the officers concerned deserve to be complimented on their efforts and success to date. Those going about their normal legitimate business need have no fear about these provisions.

Section 16 provides that any person who obstructs or impedes an authorised officer, officer of Customs and Excise or member of the Garda Síochána in the enforcement of any of the provisions provided for by or under this Bill shall be guilty of an offence.

Section 17 provides that the Minister may issue composite identity cards to his officers in lieu of the separate warrants of authorisation prescribed by the various statutes in respect of which the officers are authorised. This provision is inserted because many officers are engaged in a wide range of duties and as a result are obliged to carry a large number of separate warrants.

Many officers are simultaneously authorised to enforce the provisions of a multiplicity of Acts, for example, the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966, the Animal Remedies Act, 1956, the Pigs and Bacon Acts, 1935 to 1978, the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, 1930 to 1978, the Abbatoirs Act, 1988, etc. This provision will enable a single composite identity document to be issued to such officers. To take account of the legitimate concerns, expressed in the Dáil, that officers seeking access to premises should be properly indentified, I have amended this section to provide for all composite cards to carry photograph of the bearer.

Section 18 deems the impersonation of an authorised officer to be an offence. Section 19 provides that where it is not possible to prove the specific identity of an animal remedy in relation to which a contravention took place, it will be sufficient to prove that contravention took place in relation to a particular class of animal remedy.

Section 20 prescribes matters which constitute offences. Contraventions whether by act or ommission of any provision of the Bill, or regulations made or continued in force thereunder, or of a term or condition of any licence or authorisation given or granted under the Bill are deemed to be offences.

Section 21 relates to offences by bodies corporate. The purpose of this section is to prevent offenders evading personal responsibility for their actions by hiding behind a corporate veil. Where an offence is committed with the consent or connivance of any person who is a director, manager, secretary or other officer of the body corporate that person shall, in addition to the body corporate, be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished as if guilty of the offences.

Section 22 empowers the Minister to prosecute summary offences and provides that summary proceedings may be instituted within two years of the date of the offence. This provision is considered necessary because the investigation of offences relating to animal remedies can at times be lengthy if all parties to the offence are to be identified and proceeded against. Aside from obligations under EC law, it is essential if problems are to be tackled effectively that breaches of the legislation are traced back to the source of the illegal substance and that all parties involved are identified and dealt with. However, this comprehensive approach would be meaningless if we were to find that the institution of proceedings was statute barred on completion of the investigation.

Section 23 addresses the issue of penalties and offers a range of options appropriate to the offence involved so that, hopefully, the punishment shall match the crime. It is absolutely necessary that the penalites available must be sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent. My views on this matter were shared by many Deputies in the Dáil. It was their considered judgment that in the case of more serious offences, even more stringent penalties were called for because of the damage which could result from these activities. I was happy to defer to their views on this matter and the maximum penalties for the most serious categories of indictable offences have been substantially increased.

It is provided that maximum penalty on summary conviction shall be a fine of £1,000 or 12 months imprisonment. For conviction on indictment, a maximum fine of £100,000, rising to £250,000 on second or subsequent offence, and ten years imprisonment or both is provided. It is additionally provided in section 24 that on conviction on indictment, a person may, in addition to the penalty imposed be disqualified from keeping, dealing in or having control of any animal or class of animal or any animal remedy, or be disqualified from working or participating in the food trade for such period, including the life of the person, as the court thinks fit. This is a very daunting prospect, but also a fitting one. Persons who behave with callous disregard for the health of innocent and trusting consumers cannot be allowed access to, and control of, products which will eventually end up in the food chain. Our food industry and the welfare of our consumers customers and farmers, at home and abroad, cannot be jeopardised and held to ransom by unscrupulous profiteers.

Section 25 enpowers a court at its discretion to order the forfeiture of an animal, an animal remedy or other thing in relation to which an offence has been committed.

Section 26 deals with the manner in which items seized by authorised officers, members of the Garda Síochána, or officers of Customs and Excise will be disposed of.

Section 27 enables the Minister to recover the cost of disposal of items seized or forfeited as a contract debt.

Section 28 to 31 deal with standard procedural matters such as the laying of orders and regulations before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the fixing and charging of variable fees and levies for different classes of licences and authorisations and the payment of expenses incurred by the Minister out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.

Section 31 will continue in force all instruments, documents and authorisations issued under the Animal Remedies Act, 1956, which were in force immediately before the Act is repealed. The purpose of this section is to ensure uninterrupted application of controls.

Section 32 repeals the Animal Remedies Act, 1956, section 21 of the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966 and provides for the repeal of the Therapeutic Substances Act, 1932, by order of the Minister for Health following consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry. These provisions arise because the subject matter of these Acts have been superseded by the provisions of this Bill.

These are the salient features of the Bill which I commend to the House, and in so doing would like to thank all the bodies who have contributed to its preparation. I think there is a broad consensus on what we are trying to achieve and I hope it will have the full support of this House.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge the commitment demonstrated by the Department of Agriculture officials in their work on the preparation of this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House

I welcome the Minister to this House. I have read the Bill but I consider the Minister's comments more important because they detail the intentions of the Bill.

I welcome the introduction of this legislation. The importance of the beef industry to this country can never be overstated. There have been many statements during the past ten years about the use of implants which have led to misunderstandings on the part of ordinary consumers. Consumers in Europe have clearly stated that they are not prepared to consume meat that is contaminated with chemicals. For that reason it is essential to ensure that the farmers of this country and Europe are not allowed to make their own rules for beef production. It is important that Ireland retains its clean and green image.

We already have much legislation on this issue and some of it appears to be inadequate. In 1991 the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy O'Kennedy, introduced regulations to control certain sales and during the debate on them in the Dáil — in which I participated — Deputy O'Kennedy put great emphasis on pursuing and bringing to justice those people who were illegally using growth promoters. Unfortunately, there appears to have been little progress in identifying those people. How many were brought to court? Fine Gael had a deep interest in this problem. Members of the party told the Minister that many people were illegally using implants and that it was, unfortunately, hard to convince them of the dangers to the beef industry of doing that.

I want to avoid creating scares among consumers in the course of this debate. There were many scares following statements about the usage of these chemicals, even from the Department, during the last debate on this issue. Between 1 and 1.5 per cent of farmers are prepared to abuse the present system. The percentage of affected cattle may be different. I arrived at those percentages after checking the number of farmers getting high tests as far as U grades are concerned. The Department also has those figures. Some of the beef producers who use growth promoters have large herds of cattle; therefore the percentage of cattle being given growth promoters would be somewhat higher.

It would be unfair to suggest that officials of the Department created any scare in relation to the use of chemicals. That would not be the case.

I am talking about the last debate when there were serious scares following statements made during the debate. The Minister and his Department is aware of that.

It has been suggested many times that the material known as clenbuterol is being supplied by the Provisional IRA. That illegal organisation consists of evil people who are ruthless in the use of this material on animals as a means of financial support for their evil acts in this country. I cannot understand how the Provisional IRA can import the large quantities of the material necessary for successful distribution. It would be imported in half tonne or tonne lots which would be a bulky cargo and it should be easily identified if it is imported by plane or boat. I do not wish to suggest that the Garda Síochána are not doing their duty. Indeed I congratulate them on their work in this area and on their ability to identify where the material is stored.

There are also suggestion that the substance comes from South America — from the so-called drug barons — via Spain and eastern Europe. We should call on the international police force to try and stop this trade. We must have the co-operation of other European countries and America to ensure that this material does not reach our shores. We must preserve our valuable beef export trade.

Clenbuterol is a lethal substance and the effects on consumers of meat containing residue of the product can be serious, particularly on people with cardiac problems. The effects can be immediate on people who are applying the substance either to meal or to cattle feeding troughs. Clenbuterol can have a long term effect and can cause death in some cases. We cannot measure or know the full effect of its use over a long period of time. We have heard stories of people who have died instantly after handling this substance without protective gloves or masks. In one case a man using the substance was unable to get from the feeding sheds to his door, a distance of 20 yards; he died on the way. That is a measure of the danger of clenbuterol. About six to eight years ago it was widely used in Spain and Holland and, according to an article I read, hospitals were full with patients suffering from cardiac and lung problems.

Clenbuterol, or angel dust as it is commonly known, reduces the amount of fat in cattle thereby improving their grade which should be a clear indicator of its use to the Department of Agriculture inspectors. Almost 95 per cent of herds reach a U grade of between 5 and 10 per cent; approximately 2 per cent reach the U grades of 35 and 40 per cent. Some of these cattle are not Belgian Blues or Charolais; they are Friesian cattle and everybody knows it is physically impossible to get Freisian cattle to Grade U when they are sent to the factory for slaughter. This should be a clear signal to Department inspectors who should then be able to identify the people using the substance. It is not beyond the Department's ability, once they have secured the farmers' names, to have a thorough search carried out on the farms and the cattle sent to the factories should be tested to see if any residue remains. These people are cunning and clever and as there is a withdrawal period of about five to six weeks it may be difficult to prove that the material was used. Having got the name of those involved, surely it is not beyond the ability of the Department to track them down quickly because the use of this substance in beef production must be eliminated. I welcome the substantial powers made available in this Bill; they are well justified.

I would like to bring to the Minister's attention the misuse of certain material in feed in order to improve cattle gradings, that is, turkey feed. I am sure the Department has information on this. The cost of this feed, which contains approximately 30 per cent protein, is about £400 per tonne, but it contains a certain amount of growth promoters and in some cases, it is being mixed with animal feed. Such a practice should be brought to the notice of the relevant authorities and I am doing so in this House today. I cannot produce evidence to support this claim but I have been told that turkey feed is being used in rations for fattening cattle on a limited scale. This practice should be stopped before it gets acceptance from our farmers.

We need to pay close attention to all source and distribution outlets for these substances. There are a large number of wholesalers and retailers, including pharmacists, dealing with veterinary medicines who supply farmers. There is a body of opinion calling for a licensing system. However, as a farmer I cannot agree with this. One can have all the legislation one likes, but those using these substances need to be caught. In my speech, I mentioned ways of identifying these substances and it should not be too difficult to trace them back to their source. When caught, they should be brought to justice and no mercy shown to them because the beef industry is so important that we cannot allow 1 to 1.5 per cent of our farmers to destroy our European trade. It is becoming more important to satisfy the consumer, especially when these substances are allowed to be used by beef producers in America.

I understand that some of the provisions in the current Bill arise from the recent High Court decision on the validity of the regulations passed and based on the provisions of the European Communities Act, 1972. I know the matter is under appeal to the Supreme Court and that it cannot be completely teased out now.

I fully support the measures in this Bill but there are still a number of questions to be answered. I would be especially interested to hear the Minister's answer to the questions on the 2 per cent of farmers whose cattle are getting U grades of between 30-40 per cent. I have checked with three factories and they tell me that only 2 per cent of all farmers are using this substance, but how do they manage to get this percentage level? The best the majority of farmers can obtain is between 8-10 per cent. I call on the Minister of State to urgently investigate this area. I only referred to these points because there is little chemical abuse other than in that area and I hope the Minister of State will appreciate this.

I will not be putting down amendments because this Bill should be implemented as quickly as possible and the people involved in this practice should be brought to justice. There were many good points raised in the Dáil debate on this issue and I have no doubt there will be many more raised in this House.

I welcome the Bill and appreciate the opportunity to express our abhorrence at the misuse of animal remedies — primarily clenbuterol, or angel dust as it is known — by some farmers for short term financial gain. This is detrimental to the long term development potential for agriculture both here and abroad. In view of the importance of the agriculture to our economy and the Common Agricultural Policy reforms currently being implemented, every effort must be made to promote Irish agricultural produce as the highest quality not only in Europe but in the world, and the highest standards of excellence through the production chain must be demanded so that quality is achieved.

Divergence from high standards at any level can undo the good work of others in the food production chain who work diligently to comply with all the legal requirements to ensure the safety and welfare of the animal, the handler, the environment and most importantly, the consumer of animal products. Livestock based production is our primary industry and we should set world trends in standards of excellence that would make our food products the most highly demanded in world markets. We are proud of our image of green fields, fresh air, clean lakes and streams and we have used it to promote Irish produce as being of a high quality, wholesome and naturally produced. Why spoil this image?

This Bill aims to put an end to use of clenbuterol and other so called cocktails, which are very efficient in some cases in converting the muscle formation in some animals while quickly aiding the removal of excess fat in others in a brief period. Artificial growth hormones first became available here in the mid-1970s, when we began to copy our European compatriots who were using them long before we entered the EC. At that stage, we saw the unscrupulous side of that industry. Some people did not observe the regulations concerning synthetic hormones and did not allow for the 60 day period between implantation and slaughter. In some cases midway through the term, people decided to double the dose. This practice was commonly accepted. The net result was that people lost all sense of responsibility. Those involved in the use of this substance felt they were justified in using it and all that mattered was the end product. They forgot that this product was to be sold to the consumer who could be affected by the consequences of their actions.

The decision to ban both natural and synthetic hormones was taken at EC level in the mid-1980s because of increasing consumer queries and a series of abuses in a number of member states. At the same time, other drugs, including clenbuterol, were introduced and they are the most lethal substances that can be administered by a farmer to his livestock. Not only are they dangerous to the health of consumers in the long term but they are also an immediate danger to those who administer them. Clenbuterol is a lethal substance and we are aware of some of the effects it can have on the consumers of meat in which it has been injected. It can adversely affect those with cardiac and lung problems. These are the immediate effects but we do not know the possible effects of repeated ingestion of small quantities of the residue over an extended period which would result from clenbuterol treated meat sold in an area over a specific period.

Clenbuterol in powdered form can be lethal to an ignorant user. Senator D'Arcy referred to a person who inhaled it and died before he reached his home. There are documented cases of ignorant users mixing this powder feed without using protective gloves or masks and who have died from massive heart attacks soon after that. The main physiological effect of this substance is an increase in the heart rate. Someone using this substance in powdered form is liable to inhale it and to suffer the same effects as animals treated with it. Ingestion in that manner is usually at a higher level than that which an animal would get in its feed.

The use of this product produces short term gains for the unscrupulous user. The Minister in his speech said that "those who traffic in and use illegal substances are not representative of the rank-and-file genuine farmer." I agree with that statement. Treated animals appear to have better conformation and, therefore, command higher prices, given the system we use for pricing beef animals in our factories, a subject we could debate for several days. The meat of those animals following treatment is much tougher and less palatable than untreated meat. Apart from the malignant effect on consumers' health, there is also a substantial effect on the palatability of the product. Continued and widespread use of clenbuterol would inevitably degrade the quality and damage the image of Irish beef. Therefore, this Bill must pass quickly through the House.

I refer to an article inCork Examiner of 2 March 1993, about the involvement of illegal organisations in the trafficking of such substances. It is bad to see our meat industry being jeopardised by the actions of these people. Profits are used for purposes which Members would condemn. I was surprised to hear Senator D'Arcy blame farmers with Friesian cattle for the use of this substance.

The Senator must defend them.

I referred to the use of this substance in Friesian cattle, I did not refer to farmers with Friesian cattle.

It might have been Friesian cattle that passed from farmers to other cattlemen. Some Friesian cattle grade well in factories, although they may not reach the grade mentioned by Senator D'Arcy.

Section 3 provides for the appointment by the Minister of an Animal Remedies Consultative Committee to advise and assist the Minister in the making of regulations. I am glad the Minister is increasing the number of representatives on this committee. It will include representatives from farming and consumer groups. We must project an image as a quality beef-producing country.

I welcome the increase in fines. This Bill provides that a maximum penalty on summary conviction shall be a fine of £1,000 or 12 months imprisonment. For conviction on indictment, a maximum fine of £100,000 rising to £250,000 on second or subsequent offence and ten years imprisonment or both is provided. These fines and terms of imprisonment are necessary to ensure that use of this illegal substance is discontinued.

I commend the farming organisations. A report in theCork Examiner of 3 March 1993 stated that Ireland had an untarnished meat industry. It said “CBF chief executive Mr. Paddy Moore has expressed full confidence in the Government's commitment to stamp out angel dust abuse in Ireland.” The chief executive of the CBF is conscious of the Government's efforts in this regard. Furthermore, the General Secretary of the ICMSA, Mr. Donal Murphy, has urged the Government to adopt several initiatives. However, I have yet to read a statement from the IFA seeking the banning of angel dust.

We must ensure that this lethal substance is banned. Unscrupulous and greedy farmers who use this substance for short term gain are damaging our meat industry. It is important that producers — and I am one — rely on some animal remedies to ensure the health of stock so as to derive optimum return for investment and labour. There are occasions when cattle become ill and the veterinary surgeon is called and has to administer drugs or some substance to cure the animal.

I am delighted this Bill provides a regulatory framework to ensure the safe administration of drugs to animals and that quality products are used responsibly and correctly where necessary. I welcome the Bill and I hope it will have the desired effect on the beef industry.

I welcome to the House the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Deputy Hyland. This is one of the most important Bills relating to the food industry to come before the House. The beef industry is vital for us and this comprehensive and detailed Bill is an acknowledgement of that fact.

In recent years there has been a disturbing increase in the use of illegal and dangerous substances for the purpose of promoting growth in livestock. It is unfortunate that it is profitable to use these substances. The manner in which cattle were graded for intervention encouraged the use of hormones and until the system is changed a small minority will contrive to use these substances. It is difficult to get cattle to the required grade unless one use some form of substance and this is a matter the EC must consider.

Irish agriculture trades on its reputation as a producer of quality produce. Therefore, it is unacceptable that a small group of unscrupulous people should jeopardise the economy, as was pointed out by other speakers. We are looked upon as a clean and natural beef-producing country. The aim of this Bill is to give confidence to everyone involved that we now have the legislative power to curb the use of these illegal substances.

The media and the trade speculated that the use of these substances was rife. I come from a farming background, and I want to put it on the record that the genuine farmer was not involved in the use of these substances. In the past, we used natural recurring hormones. In recent years the image of the beef industry was tarnished because people had the perception that every farmer was using these hormones even after they were banned. It has been suggested that paramilitaries are involved in the distribution and importation of these illegal substances. This perception is detrimental to the industry. If a whole industry is perceived as being involved in illegal activities, it does not augur well for its image abroad.

The industry depends on the trust and goodwill of the consumer. It is important that we alleviate the fears of the consumer and this Bill will do this because of the stringent laws and guidelines it lays down and the heavy fines it imposes. The trust of the consumer must be restored. The fact that beef consumption throughout the EC is falling is an indication that people are not eating beef because of possible health implications. This issue must be brought to the fore and dicussed openly. The public must be assured that we have dealt successfully with this problem. As was pointed out, a small minority of people in the trade using such substances have tarnished the whole trade.

The livestock trade is very important but while we have a system where cattle are graded for intervention purposes we will have to look for other ways of grading cattle because farmers cannot now use hormones which were banned in 1984. The problem at the moment is that we have a beef industry where cattle can no longer be graded for intervention. This may be a good thing because it may encourage people in the industry to sell cattle elsewhere. If animals do not qualify for beef intervention they do not qualify for premium payments. This is the difficulty with the present situation. I know it is not relevant to this Bill but this issue should be looked at by the EC and the Department.

It is vital that the legislation keeps pace with the development of technology. The pharmaceutical industry has acted very responsibly over the years, and I have to put this on the record. They develop products for legitimate use and the fact that these products are further developed by others with ulterior motives does not suggest that the pharmaceutical companies are acting in any way irresponsible. They have contributed enormously to the high health status of Irish cattle

It is interesting to see that the Bill covers more than the beef industry. This is very important because while we could have clamped down on the beef industry in this Bill problems could arise in other areas because people could try to sell illegal substances to those involved in mariculture and other livestock sectors. It is a worthwhile Bill from this point of view. It covers the complete spectrum and does not leave any loopholes which encourage the use of these substances.

I am delighted that the fines have been increased because nobody would use illegal substances if is was not profitable, and it has been profitable for a very small minority. Prosecution on indictment can now result in fines of up to £100,000, fines of up to £250,000 can be imposed for second offences. Such fines must be imposed because implanting a large number of cattle with clenbuterol, or angel dust as it is known, would result in substantial financial profit. To discourage the use of hormones the fines must be greater than the profit which can be generated from their use.

Overall I am delighted with the Bill. It has come to the House not before time although I understand that such Bills require a great deal of research before they can be debated in the House. We have a fine beef industry and we must do our utmost to maintain our unblemished reputation abroad. I was speaking to farmers in Europe recently and I found our image abroad is slightly tarnished at present and it can be very difficult to restore. I encourage the Department and other bodies involved in the marketing of food to make sure that this image is restored because selling beef directly to the consumer rather than into intervention is the way forward. While we have this tarnished image we will not be able to achieve the best markets for our commodities.

I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill to the House and for his useful explanation because even the explantory memorandum to a Bill can be at times confusing. I commend this Bill and look forward to debating it on Committee Stage.

I have been called earlier than I expected, so I hope the Minister will excuse me if my remarks are a little more chaotic than usual.

I am sure they will be very well organised.

I welcome the Minister to the House and support the tone of his Second Stage speech. I also support this legislation. My party and I have been calling for such legislation for some time. I hope it is passed speedily and not just becomes law but is enforced with all the vigour that needs to be brought to bear on it.

It is self-evident that we have great opportunities to sell the produce of our green fields and relatively unpolluted land. In the past we have not exploited that advantage to the degree we should and we could point to intervention as one of the reasons we have not done so. It was more convenient and more profitable in many instances for food producers to put their beef and milk products into intervention. I do not blame them for this, it was an understandable response. If they were not driven by profit they would not be in business.

While intervention was there producers used it, but we are now into a different situation that is becoming more and more difficult for our industry, and that is where the consumer decides. The Minister referred to this in his speech. It is only belatedly that we are coming to the realisation that the consumer is the person who will decide the future prosperity of Irish farming. Irish farming and the food industry has a responsibility to respond to the needs of the consumer. If the consumer decrees that certain substances should not be in meat it is irrelevant whether science says they are safe or otherwise. Once the consumer has decided, and this is what European consumers have decided, it becomes our responsibility to respond and to provide the consumer with products we can stand over and which will add to the strengths we already have. We can only do this by introducing legislation such as this to ensure that the product is safe, the consumer can have confidence in it and we can go forward in international markets.

At a late hour last night I watched the rugby game between the Lions and Waikato from New Zealand. One of the things which was very evident, apart from the paucity of the rugby played by the Lions was that they had a cow walking around the touchline for the duration of the match. In the introduction to the game, cattle were shown grazing on the grasslands of Waikato. That sends an image to the world of the virtue and value of New Zealand dairy products. It is not costly advertising but it is effective. We as a society, if not necessarily as a Government, do not seem to have that degree of interest in or support for our agricultural industry. New Zealand revolves around agriculture and the support given by the population is much in evidence. A division between the urban and rural communities does not exist to the same extent because the entire society is conscious of the value of their agriculture and what it can do for the economy. We seem to lack that.

In our bloodstock industry we have established credentials of excellence and it is accepted we produce the best in the world in that sector. We seem unable to do the same with our agricultural products, which have the capacity to be represented as products of excellence.

I am glad Senator O'Kennedy is in the House because it was he who appropriately re-christened angel dust as "devil dust". Unquestionably those who used that substance did untold damage to the industry they purported to serve and from which they derived their incomes. The damage was done on several levels. It was manifestly unfair that those who would not use such substances found themselves at an £80 to £90 disadvantage at the livestock marts compared to those who acted illegally. It was wrong that those who operated their businesses well and ethically, producing goods of superior quality should be so disadvantaged. I hope and expect this legislation will prevent such impropriety.

In 1989 during the European Parliament election campaign a large meeting was held in Portumna with candidates from different constituencies. One candidate, whom I shall refrain from naming in keeping with the etiquette of the House, said it was anti-national to speak of these substances and their use because it would do damage to our industry abroad. That is inverted and warped reasoning. It was not those who spoke of the use of the substances who were doing damage; it was those who were using them. At the meeting that person's remarks were well received by a large group of farmers.

Did he get elected?

He did. I said those who used these substances were anti-national and I was received in silence.

We have progressed from the 1989 position but perhaps the farming organisations were not as vocal as they might have been in telling their members this type of activity was unacceptable. I realise the economic pressures under which farming has had to operate in the past few years. Those with serious financial difficulties or pressures may feel compelled to follow practices they do not approve of if they believe it is the only way to survive and they see their neighbours using such methods. This is not sufficient justification for these practices.

Mention has been made of the source of angel dust, or "devil dust". Reasonably conclusive evidence suggests a connection between the distributors of this material and subversive organisations. Farmers and those who encourage the use of these products must be reminded of the consequence of their actions for society. People were murdered with the help of funds raised in this way. We must reject this, as democrats and as a people.

Senator D'Arcy referred to factories and the figures for high grades as an indication of how much these materials were being used. I am prepared to accept what he said but I also believe the use of clenbuterol was more widespread that he suggested. The reason was in some cases factories may have been party to the use of these substances. It is not surprising figures from the factories may understate the position on angel dust. As the Senator said, larger producers were involved and the output from those sectors is quite high.

One must return to the issue of naturally occurring hormones. In one of my previous incarnations I was a producer of fat cattle. Some would say they were too fat but nevertheless they were beef cattle. I used Ralgro and Finaplix and they were legal. Later the European community decided they should not be used and we ceased to do so. A body of opinion, one that would be well represented by Professor Raftery if he were here, would say these materials have been proved scientifically to be safe, that there is no human risk if applied following label recommendation and, therefore, that they should be used. My point is, if the consumer wants beef without these substances that is the end of the story.

I think Professor Raftery changed his mind in response to the last point the Senator made. I made that point to him many times.

Perhaps I should have not referred to him because he is not here to defend himself. However, it is fair to suggest he would have represented the point of view I described.

If we are to progress with our food industry and develop its potential we must realise we have to serve the European market of 350 million people to raise the level of national economic activity. We have a responsibility to provide that market with what it needs. That is the basic point in this argument. Possibly because of intervention there has been a degree of indifference to this.

If we regarded ourselves as Ireland plc and equated ourselves with multinational companies in the European market, we would say we should be able to penetrate the market by an extra 1 per cent. Any multinational corporation would proceed on that basis and should have the capacity to do so. If we succeeded it would have an incalculable effect nationally. It is hard to understand why it has been so impossible to achieve that market penetration. One hopes some of the initiatives being spoken of at present will result in a move in the right direction.

The Culliton report referred several times to this. The Minister may not be aware of the debate in this House on the Industrial Development Bill and the degree to which we are actually implementing that report, or the Moriarty report on the Culliton report, or the Government's version of the Moriarty report on the Culliton report. Unquestionably, the Culliton report showed the way to proceed and indicated the capacity of this industry to produce extra jobs and wealth.

It also must be said clenbuterol involves a health risk for farmers and not merely the animals they are feeding. In one case there is reasonably good evidence to suggest death from heart failure was a result of the use of this substance because it is a beta blocker and can affect the heart beat. People must be aware of this.

There is reference in the Bill to analytical procedures. There is a continuing difficulty about the degree to which we can test for the presence of these substances. A liquid version of clenbuterol has now been developed. How confident are we that the analytical procedures can prove the presence of illegal substances definitely enough to secure conviction?. The reason I ask is that the person who puts the knife in a carcase in the beef boning hall can tell imediately whether that carcase has been treated with clenbuterol or some other illegal substance, because the carcase will be tougher that it would be otherwise. That is a very subjective assessment but it is nevertheless a very good one. However, I believe we will have a difficulty in law in regard to detecting exactly what has been used.

There is no problem securing a conviction where there has been a seizure. The necessary powers to carry out investigation leading to seizures of these substances are authorised by legislation, but what can be done about the withdrawal period? What can be done to establish empirically, scientifically and independently that a carcase tested several weeks after it has been implanted was treated with this substance? Analytical procedures have improved dramatically in recent years and we can now detect parts per million and parts per billion of some substances, but the people who are producing these substances have also become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to produce materials which can circumvent the law. I am sure a second and a third generation clenbuterol-type substance will come into use and we must be confident we can address that problem.

I have another question to which there has been almost no reference; it is in regard to fish and the substances used in salmon farming, in particular those used to control lice in salmon farms. My understanding is that some of the substances used are very damaging to the environment. I ask the Minister whether much thought has been given to the materials used in fish farming.

I am not in favour of legalising the use of natural hormones, even though I accept the scientific evidence that they are safe, because in these matters the consumer decides. When imposing penalties for these offences we must consider the value of the livestock. One wagon of cattle is worth a lot of money. We must consider the penalty in relation to the added value on that wagon of livestock. If one load of cattle is seized and there is enough publicity about it, that would stop much impropriety.

I welcome the Animal Remedies Bill, 1993. The Minister, in bringing it before us, has done a great service for the country, the farmers, and the consumer. He is just not talking about a serious problem, he is doing tackling it, and I am delighted about that. This problem is so serious that if the Minister does nothing else during his term of office, he will be doing a very good job, and will have earned his salary and his pension.

This legislation is very comprehensive. It covers the control of animals to which such remedies have been administered and the testing of food derived from such animals. At present, farmers who do not play by the rules and who use these illegal growth promoters are at a great advantage compared to those who play the game according to the rules. The people who are breaking the law are making a lot of money in this way. The enhanced of enforcement for Garda and customs officers in detecting misuse of regulated remedies are necessary to protect the excellent reputation of Irish meat products at home and abroad.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill for stiffer penalties for persons found to have imported, sold or administered growth-promoting substances as regulated by the Bill. I hope that some of the people who are caught — and I hope some of them will be caught soon — will be guests of the Minister in Portlaoise. That would deter some farmers from using these substances. It is a matter of grave concern to Irish meat suppliers and consumers that residues of animal remedies should remain in meat products.

Angel dust, which we are told is used a lot, is a highly dangerous growth promoter. The hormone present in this substance can cause a heart attack if taken in sufficient quantities or if ingested by people with heart complaints, and there is evidence to suggest that a high intake of angel dust by pregnant women could result in permanent damage to the foetus. Hormonal imbalance caused by eating meat containing growth-promoting substances has caused premature adolescence in children elsewhere in Europe.

Administering angel dust to a beast reduces the natural fat content and enhances it with lean meat and muscle. This Bill provides measures to deal with what amounts to a clandestine distribution network for drugs, which has been in operation in this country for some time, and if the Bill stops that it will be worth while. Some people have said here today that only a tiny minority of herdowners are using this stuff, but it is a fairly substantial minority according to figures which I have. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry appointed a task force in 1990 to monitor nationwide figures of positive testing for angel dust. By April 1991, only 97 herds had been tested out of a total of 150,000 herds. More than 10 per cent of herds sampled tested positive for illegal substances at that time, which means that approximately 15,000 herdowners are using it, if those statistics were applied across the total number of herdowners.

That would not be the case. Those herds examined were specifically targeted.

That is according to figures I have, and which I think are correct.

That would not be the case.

Any group of farmers will say that use of these substances is widespread. The legal back-up needed by the Department officials to search for and confiscate angel dust is now provided for in this Bill, and is very necessary. Section 3 provides for the appointment by the Minister of an Animal Remedies Consultative Committee to advise and assist the Minister in the making of regulations under the Act. I was delighted to hear the Minister say that all sections will be represented on this committee. I hope the committee will be very competent because it has an important task.

Section 4 requires the disclosure of the composition of animal remedies on the container or outer wrapper. This must also be stated in the advertisement. This will be very helpful as it will not be possible to mislead people about what they are buying. Section 5 ensures that remedies are not advertised in a misleading way, Section 6 prohibits the possession of a remedy contravening the Bill; therefore, it will be illegal even to possess a substance prohibited under the Bill. Section 7 deals with an implied condition in any contract for sale that the animal or produce being sold was never treated with a remedy contravening the Bill. That is good, although offences under this section could be difficult to prove. Section 11 outlines the powers of the customs officers, members of the Garda and officers authorised by the Minister to investigate where there is reason to suspect that an illegal animal remedy is being used.

While I said at the beginning that this Bill is good and essential, I hope the necessary finance will be provided to implement it. Otherwise it will be of no use. As the Minister rightly pointed out, people who use these illegal growth promoters threaten the viability of our livestock and meat industry and their action could also have serious consequences for consumers. The Minister is doing a good job in this case, and I support the Bill.

This Bill is welcome and necessary, because consumers must be satisfied that food comes from healthy animals. For too long the use of products such as clenbuterol by unscrupulous farmers has put lives at risk and has damaged an industry on which thousands of jobs depend.

This legislation is being introduced because of the High Court judgment in the Tipperary case. When I was in the Dáil I frequently raised these matters with Senator O'Kennedy who was Minister for Agriculture at the time. It was obvious then that the use of angel dust was widespread, yet, the regulations to rectify this by ministerial order were found to be unconsitutional in the High Court. The need for the Bill arises as a result of that judgment.

As far as I can ascertain the Bill covers the matter well and deals stringently with the penalties to be imposed. However, legislation is introduced too often as a reaction to court decisions and when this happens people rightly wonder who is in charge — is it the courts or those who the people elected to govern? With the expertise of the Attorney General, the Law Reform Commission and a plethora of legal advisers, programme managers, public servants,et al, at its disposal surely the Government can be expected at least to abide by the law and the Constitution. However, this is yet another instance of the High Court ruling that the State acted unconstitutionally when it found that regulations brought in by the Minister to comply with an EC directive on veterinary products are invalid. The first duty of any Minister is to ensure that regulations introduced do not contravene the Constitution.

One area where it is clear that the existing approach has failed is in the control of the drug clenbuterol. The illegal use of clenbuterol continues despite promises made in the Dáil and the pronouncements of some farming leaders. One wonders if the farming leaders know the extent of the abuse of the drug? I would guess they do, but have not been forthright in their approach to the matter. Clenbuterol is still in use despite the media investigation, the extensive debates and the fact that a tribunal is investigating the meat industry. This shows the gulf between expressions of concern and the reality on the ground.

High standards in the meat industry is the catch-cry of the day; yet, the litany of criminal activities and scandalous disregard for the law is growing. The reality was never more clearly exposed as recently when meat plants were on the point of closing their doors, not because of any failing on their part but because the Department had to cut back on the time spent by agricultural officers in those plants. We are all aware of the dispute between the administrative staff and the agricultural officers in recent years. The agricultural officers' work is to ensure standards are maintained and it was only when they refused to accept these cutbacks and threatened strike action that the matter was taken seriously. I made the point on previous occasions that there must be agricultural officers who know what is going on in their areas and they have the responsibility to report to the Minister.

Shoddy practices in our meat plants, along with the use of angel dust by unscrupulous farmers and the failure of the Department of Agriculture to stamp out this activity have done serious damage to our standing as a beef-producing country. Clenbuterol is a lethal substance known to be a killer; it can destroy humans, animals and also public confidence. Its continued use has led EC Commissioner Rene Stéichen to advise us to be ruthless in dealing with it.

The Commissioner's statement follows a study carried out on abuses of the substance in member states. It is regrettable he has chosen not to publish his findings. Too much secrecy does not serve the public well and we should know the extent of the problem in Ireland compared with other EC countries. Otherwise, there is a danger of complacency in presuming that by bringing in stiff penalties the problem will somehow be resolved.

We need to look at the international trade in angel dust and at those criminals at home who feed off a lucrative and lethal trade in drug abuse. If our objective is to have a beef industry of the highest quality that can flourish in an increasingly competitive market, we will need more than a law that penalises the use of illegal growth promoters and controls veterinary products. We need an extensive, expert and up-to-date inspection process in every part of the meat business and I will continue to emphasise this.

In the area of cold meats, for example, we need to provide full training for agricultural officers. Generally, we need proper management of resources to ensure the budget is spent most effectively. The best return for money may be not to spend so much on expensive veterinary officers but to examine how that work could be done by technical staff and by more officers employed for the same overall cost; I was blue in the face from making that point when I was my party's spokesperson on agriculture in the Dáil.

The Culliton report carried out a comprehensive study on the future development of the food industry. However, the report of the expert group on this industry is not entirely in line with the proposals in the Culliton report. One of the most glaring weaknesses of the expert study group's report is that the group did not include anyone representing consumer interests. It was left to Senator Quinn, speaking in another forum, to raise that critical point. The failure to recognise the central importance of the consumer may undermine opportunities to create jobs in the food sector. I expected a report such as this to include a greater in-depth analysis of changing patterns of consumer demand. Consultation with the broadest base possible is vital.

The Culliton report argued the case for business-to-business sales and for providing food ingredients in line with the growth in prepared food. The expert group argues for a different approach in relation to branding. I believe there is a clear conflict between the two; both cannot be right. If we are to assess the future needs of consumers we need to know much more about them. The failure to include any consumer interests in the expert group shows how underdeveloped is the Department's approach.

If we are to survive, if economic development is to improve and if jobs are to be created, we must consider what we can produce, manufacture and sell. Change is taking place. An important step forward would be to include consumer representatives in any future strategy relating to the food industry. We have only recently realised that the consumer is central to food production. For too long the producer has benefited from our position in the EC while the consumer has come out second best.

In relation to veterinary products and additives in meat, it is clear that the overwhelming demand from consumers is for a chemical-free production. Considerable lip service is paid to green products. However, in the Estimates for the Department of Agriculture and Food this year the allocation for the development of organic farming has been reduced by 5 per cent and this will be greater when inflation is taken into account. It is extraordinary to reduce the allocation for an area which has a responsibility for expanding and developing a niche in the market. A green approach must be built on a firm foundation of research and awareness of what the consumer wishes to buy rather than what we can produce.

The Bill covers a wide range of animals and fish. It controls the use of veterinary products and is part of the general EC trend to protect traditional agriculture against modern technological advances. At a time when the EC is trying to reduce output, the capability of biotechnology is to increase it. The EC decision in 1988 to ban all growth hormones, including natural implants, was a result of consumer pressure. However, there were also economic reasons for such a decision.

Sections 11 to 15 are extensive and apply where there are infringements. I agree with section 24 which refers to the penalties which can be imposed. When this legislation is passed, I hope illegal growth promoters will not be used by those involved in our meat industry.

I have been critical of the apparent consensus about important legislation — that is, legislation which required detailed consideration — being passed quickly through the House. For example, yesterday legislation passed through the House so quickly that it was completed when I returned from Cork. This time I am happy to welcome the consensus which is emerging in this House and I will not question it.

I agree with what has been said to date. However, I have some reservations particularly in relation to what Senator Sherlock said. Our support for this legislation shows a common national interest. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Hyland, for bringing this legislation before the House. I have a personal interest in it.

I wish to refer to Senator Sherlock's speech. I recall being criticised in the Dáil by some of Senator Sherlock's colleagues. It was said that if I, as Minister for Agriculture, was as enthusiastic about curbing the use of "devil dust" as I was about regulating the meat business and the meat trade generally, I might be doing my job. I am glad Senator Sherlock does not share that view. It was a rather strange criticism from people who did not offer any evidence to support the case they were making in relation to the beef industry. They could make many allegations but they could not substantiate them.

Consistency is important and I would like to think we are being consistent. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, his Minister of State, Deputy Hyland, and I are consistent in this area.

I welcome the fact that we are introducing this legislation in advance of European Community regulations, which will be introduced by my old friend, Rene Stéichen, who I have known for many years. He is a former Minister for Agriculture for Luxembourg and is now an EC Commissioner. It is vitally important that we signal our EC colleagues and the consumers in Europe our concern about their preference and our determination to ensure that only regulations calling for the highest standards will be implemented.

Even if this legislation has not been introduced, we are still ahead of our EC colleagues in areas such as disease control, animal remedies, control of the channels of production and processing, etc. It is important that this fact is known. We must maintain this pioneering position. We could not have done this without the diligence of all concerned, particularly the officials in the Department. Senator Sherlock seems to blame the Department; the Department is always a soft target. People may refrain from attacking people of status——

A lot depends on how the Minister does his job.

The Department does not need my defence.

I want to reassure Senator Sherlock, if he needs my reassurance, and Senator Townsend who used an extraordinary equation. He said that if 10 per cent of cattle were tested and a certain number had traces of "devil dust"— I will not use the other euphemism; I never have and I never will — then one could multiply this number by ten. From that he deduced that there must be 15,000 cases of affected cattle. I am glad to say that is not the reality.

A special investigation team was set up in the Department to target people suspected of using "devil dust". Information was obtained from various sources, including contacts on the ground. However, no warning was given to people about visits by departmental officials. I remember being told by one or two farmers in my constituency of North Tipperary that I was committing political suicide. If that was the reason I lost my seat by a marginal number and why I am temporarily absent from the Dáil, I am proud of it. However, I do not believe it was the reason.

Before this legislation and the specific targeting of people who were suspected for one reason or another, only in one out of ten cases, or hardly even that number, was there found to be sufficient grounds for prosecution, but in the event not all the prosecutions succeeded. The incidence is minimal but all of us share the view that one case is one too many because of the enormous importance of the beef industry to the Irish economy. During my five years as Minister for Agriculture I often stressed to my colleagues in Brussels the unique importance of that industry to Ireland so that it would be clearly understood whenever we needed special concessions. No other sector in any other economy in Europe compares with it and it is the justification for the action taken in this comprehensive legislation.

Consumers at home and abroad can be reassured that the bulk of producers adhere to the standards. I agree with Senator Dardis that with regard the small proportion of those who do not keep that standard, it is entirely inequitable and unacceptable that they should apparently gain advantage over those who adhere to it. We are all at one in this matter. We are determined to ensure that the majority of our producers, farmers and consumers will be protected and vindicated and that no small group will undermine the standard.

From my experience as Minister I can say that wherever there is abuse and illegality the subversives will be involved. Despite the strict and severe controls that were in place they were able to smuggle this substance into the country. That is a cogent argument to support the claim that any action taken to purchase this poison, for that is what it is, supports the cause of subversion, death and destruction. It would be one thing to see the death of our beef industry, which will not happen, but to help in bringing about death and destruction in other ways is totally unacceptable.

This comprehensive legislation is excellent in its timing — as we are ahead of Europe — and in its content. There were indications, minimal as they were, that some people who were purporting to be purchasers for the beef industry, and perhaps were agents for the industry, were advising farmers that they would do better if they acquired and used some of this substance. There may only have been a small number of these people but even that small number was such that it warranted the most severe reprimand to the industry from me as Minister for Agriculture. I called the heads of all the meat factories into my office and I am sure the memory of that day is still deeply embedded in the minds of all who were in the Department at the time because I think they could hear my rage and outrage in the corridors. I told them that if I found out that any of their agents were promoting this substance, and I could only go on suspicion at that stage, I would insist that anything that could be done to put them out of business would be done.

If there is any hint that buyers are promoting the use of this substance, and I believe there are a few who are irresponsible, then we should put them out of business. I would be happy to see those few being the first to become guests of the nation under the terms of this legislation as they well and truly deserve it. We will not allow our bona fide producers and purchasers and the industry itself to be undermined by those who have no respect for it.

In the light of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, I remember I spent more time than most arguing for special consessions for Irish beef producers on intervention and I always told the farm leaders that while I would stay at that task day and night I was not promoting a policy of production based on intervention. I am glad that the market policy is now being advanced, vigorously as it was in those days also. I was happy to hear recently from the chief executive of CBF, whom I met from time to time, that the initatives we took, for example, with Pavarotti in Italy, are now achieving results and that the market outlets in Spain and Italy are proving effective. I hope the intervention requirement will diminish and the temptation, unjustifiable as it is, to use any of this substance to obtain a better grading will be diminished. That will be in addition to the penalties the Minister will introduce.

This is a development of previously introduced regulations in terms of controlling outlets, it strengthes the legislation and the existing position considerably. Although it takes a little longer than one would wish — this legislation was in gestation when I was Minister — I am happy to see this Bill come through so quickly. It is a matter of economic interest to the nation as opposed to some of the other legislation which is passed without adequate consideration. I compliment the Minister of State, farm producers generally and all responsibile parties involved, journalists and others. I hope we will continue to be seen as standard bearers in Europe. That is the best guarantee we have for the prosperity of this important industry.

I would like to thank all the Members who contributed to this debate. It has been constructive, objective and supportive of the Bill. That was also the case in the Dáil where the Opposition parties tabled amendments that helped to strengthen the provisions contained in the original Bill. I want to pay tribute to all sides for their positive contributions. I would also like to mention Senator O'Kennedy's contribution and to acknowledge that he sowed the seeds for this legislation during his term as Minister for Agriculture.

The Senators have spoken at length on the various sections of the Bill and I want to refer to some of the points made. I thank Senator Dardis for his positive contribution. He referred to the numbers of offenders misusing illegal growth promoters.

I would not want the record to show the Minister was referring to me when he was speaking of Senator D'Arcy.

That is correct. I apologise. I agree with the case made by Senator D'Arcy that there is not the widespread abuse which has been suggested by some Members, not in this House but in the Dáil. Scare tactics have not been adopted by Members of either House who spoke on the illegal use of the substances nor by officials of the Department where the matter has been kept under constant review.

There has been an urgency about this issue from the moment this Bill was presented to the Dáil because I recognised that there was a serious threat to the image of the industry. I wished it to be established at an early stage that strong and effective action was being taken to eliminate the abuse of the illegal growth promoters and other substances.

Senators acknowledged the sincerity and anxiety of my Department to deal with the matter. I wish to put on the record the level of support I have received from my officials who have worked long hours in assisting me to bring this Bill before this House in such a prompt manner.

References were made to the rumours that illegal organisations may have been involved in the importation and distribution of these dreaded substances. However, there is no clear evidence available to the Department that subversive groups are involved. If there is evidence to this effect, I appeal to Members to acquaint the Garda Síochána. It would be appalling and unacceptable if it transpired that not only was the industry being damaged by the feeding of these substances to animals but that subversive organisations were being supported. This matter could be addressed if sufficient evidence was supplied to the Garda Síochána.

Senators spoke of the threat to the health, for example farmers, who have used these substances. There have been many reports of people who lost their lives as a result of handling, using and administering these substances but there is no real evidence to this effect.

Senator Dardis referred to the commitment given by a previous Minister for Agriculture, Senator O'Kennedy, that a task force would be established to deal with offenders. This task force was established and it has been successful. Some 40 prosecutions have taken place as a result of the task force identifying those farmers using these substances. In addition, there are a number of cases pending for prosecution. I want to advise the House that a strong line is being taken on these issues.

Some of the matters raised by Senator Sherlock are under appeal in the Supreme Court and, therefore, I am not in a position to comment on them. However, I can advise that this Bill has been under preparation for some time and it is independent of the cases before the Supreme Court. The Bill covers a wider range of activities than those affected by the High Court decision.

I acknowledge the fact, that this country is ahead of current EC regulations regarding when it comes provisions for the control of the illegal substances mentioned in this Bill. With the enactment of this highly effective legislation this country is giving a positive commitment to the enforcement of the regulations in the legislation. At the earliest opportunity, I will draw the attention of the European Commission to the fact that this country has implemented the most enlightened legislation, the EC for the purpose of controlling the illegal use of all kinds of substances administered to animals and for the purpose of protecting the food chain.

It is important that this message is understood by the EC and that this country is given recognition for having taken this positive action. This will enable the country to recreate the image of a clean, healthy environment for the production of livestock and food products. I believe that is the only way forward.

It is my intention to have discussions with farming interests and with the industry generally to get their assistance for the implementation of the regulations which this House is united in providing under legislation. I believe that no matter how strong the legislative requirements, unless the support and co-operation of the farming community, farming organisations and the industry generally is obtained the success of these regulations will be qualified.

It must be emphasised that it is a very small number of offenders which this legislation seeks to address. All necessary action must be taken, including the closing of all loopholes to prevent the importation of the product in the first instance and the breaking of the distribution chain.

I hope farmers will acknowledge that the use of these substances, while in the past providing some financial gain in the short term, will be in the long term to the detriment of the industry with a consequential loss of farm income. Since farmers have most to lose, it is important that they understand the necessity and the significance of the provisions in this Bill. It is important also that consumers recognise the positive efforts being made on this issue.

Senator Dardis referred to the products used on fish and salmon farms. This has been recognised as a problem in relation to what could be a very high grade and profitable aspect of agri-business. Provision is being made in this Bill to address this aspect of the abuse of illegal substances.

The possible incentive that existed for farmers to administer illegal substances in relation to the grading system and to the operation of intervention was raised by Senator Kelleher. Of course, we now know that there have been fairly drastic changes in relation to intervention and, hopefully, in future both production and sales will be geared to the marketplace as distinct from seeking the easy outlet and option of putting meat into intervention.

We should spend more money — and I say this quite openly — promoting our exports and increasing the potential market that exists within the broader European Community for Irish products. I recently spent two days in Germany on matters relating to rural development and while there I availed of the opportunity to visit a few large supermarkets in the Ruhr valley where 5.5 million people are living — about the same population on the entire island of Ireland. I was disappointed to discover very little evidence of any quality Irish products. I had to search the shelves to get the two obvious ones you would find in most supermarkets throughout Europe.

There is still a lot of potential for promoting quality Irish products, and I deliberately use the word "quality". The only way we can talk about quality is if it can be clearly established that our food is produced in a healthy, clean, open, rural, agrigultural environment and that there is no misuse of the kind of substances we are dealing with in this Bill.

Senator Kelleher made the point that the grading system should be looked at because it is encouraging farmers to use these substances. The European Commission has responded by introducing the carcase weight restriction of 340 kilos to which we all object in terms of allowing our farmers to produce beef by the most economic means possible. I do not have to tell Members that we resisted, in every way we could, the efforts of the Commission to restrict the carcase weight to 340 kilos. It is well established that part of the reason behind the introduction of that weight limitation was the fact that a lot of the beef which went into intervention, for example, was assisted by artificial growth promoters. That is, and has been, a factor and we cannot deny it, but I acknowledge that the restriction is difficult for beef producers. Hopefully, in time we will be able to address that matter, but only where it can be clearly established that we have entirely and permanently banned the use of these substances from food production.

I think that I have addressed most of the points raised in this debate. I want to avail of the opportunity to thank Members for their positive contributions and I hope that within a short time, next week in fact, we will have this Bill on our Statute Book. I want to assure the House that from thereon I will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure its full implementation.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

It is proposed to take Committee Stage next Wednesday.

I have no objection to Committee Stage being taken now. This debate was to end at 2 p.m. according to the Order of Business and as we now have a full hour left, I have no objection, if no one else does, to finishing it today. I have no intention of moving any amendments and to my knowledge nobody else has either. If there is a technical hitch preventing us from taking it, then let us hear it; if not, let us take it now.

It has been indicated that Committee Stage will be taken next week, and I suggest that we take Committee Stage next Wednesday.

Acting Chairman

Some Members have indicated that they want to table amendments. Is next Wednesday agreed?

I am one of the people who has tabled an amendment but I would be happy to take Committee Stage now. If that is the wish of the House.

No. It was indicated to Members, and to the Minister's office, that Committee Stage would be taken next week. We will take Committee Stage on Wednesday next.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 7 July 1993.
Sitting suspended at 1.5 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.