Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (487)

Micheál Martin

Question:

487. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to media reports (details supplied) regarding the killing of dairy bull calves; his views on same; the protections put in place to prevent such killings; the fines in place as a deterrent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51507/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

There are very specific provisions contained in the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 as regards the welfare of animals and penalties in respect of breaches of these obligations are set out in section 52 of the Act.

My Department conducts on-going engagement with all stakeholders in the livestock sector and undertakes inspections to ensure the welfare of animals is protected all along the production cycle. A specific study into on-farm deaths in 2018, following the difficult winter/spring weather conditions, showed a death rate of 2.5% of all calves on Irish farms before they reached 6 weeks of age. From available comparative data, only Sweden reports better calf health outcomes.

The figures relating to male dairy calf disposal at knackeries show a decrease from 2018 to 2019. Data relating to this cohort of male dairy calves in 2018 show that 13,747 under six weeks of age died and were disposed of to knackeries. Data for 2019 to date shows that 11,696 male dairy calves less than 6 weeks of age have died.

I would encourage anyone who has evidence of a breach of animal welfare to report it to the Animal Welfare Hotline operated by my Department. The phone numbers of the hotline are as follows:

Call Save: 076 1064408

Phone: 01 6072379

Details of suspected breaches of animal welfare can also be emailed to animalwelfare@agriculture.gov.ie.