In 2018, total live exports of cattle increased by over 30% compared to 2017, to 246,000 head. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports already totalling 244,000 up until the week ending the 8th of September. This is up from 204,000 for the same period in 2018 – a 20% increase.
Live exports are a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry. They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its importance to the agri-food sector, while placing a strong emphasis on the welfare of all animals being transported.
With regard to animal welfare, my Department maintains robust oversight of live trade, through a comprehensive legislative framework, and in my meetings with exporters, I have stressed the importance of high animal welfare standards.
My Department has not certified transport of animals by road to Turkey for several years, due to the unacceptable animal welfare conditions which that route entails. Animals travelling by road from Ireland can only enter Turkey at Kapikule, on the Bulgaria-Turkey border. It is the busiest border crossing in Europe and animals regularly encounter very long and unpredictable delays there. There are no facilities to offload animals to provide them with statutory rest periods, food and water; there is only a single water point at that crossing. There is no shelter available. Animals have to remain on the trucks during such delays, where they are often exposed to intolerable conditions including extreme heat or cold.
My Department does not intend to reverse this decision.