Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (194)

Seán Kyne

Question:

194. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made to date in reforming the horse registration and passport scheme in view of the recent shortcomings identified. [21875/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The identification and registration of equidae is governed by EU Council Directives 90/426/EEC and 90/427/EEC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 504/2008 of 6 June 2008. The EU legislation has been transposed into national legislation via S.I. No. 357 of 2011 - European Communities (Equine) Regulations 2011 (as amended). Regulation 504/2008, which came into effect on 1 July 2009, provides that if an equine animal has not been identified within six months of the date of its birth, or by the 31st of December in the year of its birth, whichever date occurs later, it cannot be admitted to the food chain. It also provides that all equine animals registered after that date must be identified with a passport and a microchip.

With regard to the issuing of passports, Regulation 504/2008 provides that, in the case of equidae which qualify for registration with a breed society, the passport must be issued by the relevant breed society. At present, 9 Passport Issuing organisations are approved to issue passports in Ireland.

I made an announcement in March that I would like to see the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Organisation which would necessitate an amendment to EU legislation. Subsequently, the EU Commission published an Action Plan for dealing with the fall-out from the horsemeat issue, indicating that it intended to submit a proposal to the Agriculture Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to amend existing legislation to provide that competent authorities take over responsibility for issuing passports. A formal Commission proposal is expected in the second half of 2013. My Department is awaiting these proposals. I will move to the final stage in the establishment of a single Passport Issuing Agency once EU legislation provides me with the overarching legal base to put this into effect. In the meantime, my Department is engaged in discussions with the PIOs with a view to enhancing the controls on passports at all stages of the process, including veterinary certification, quality of the paper used, security features etc.

In line with a commitment I gave earlier in the year, my Department has taken significant steps to establish a central equine database on the Animal Identification and Movement [AIM] system. Data for over 70% of equine animals registered with the Passport Issuing Organisations since 1 January 1980 were downloaded onto the central database in recent days. The central database will include information from records obtained at slaughter plants, knackeries, sales and live exports. The information on the central equine database will be used by my Department veterinary staff to supplement the current checks at slaughterhouses, in particular to check that any horses presented for slaughter have been correctly identified and are eligible for slaughter for the human food chain.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that I have acted swiftly, as I promised to do, to deal with the issues arising from the equine DNA issue.