I desire to raise this question as to the precautions taken to prevent foot and mouth disease entering this country, and also as to the enforcement of the regulations, and further as to the treatment and detention of our live stock at the ports now open in England.
The precautions taken at the open ports in England during the last three or four weeks in connection with the spread of foot and mouth disease in that country were of such an unsatisfactory nature that we sent over a man from Cork to see things for himself on the spot. This gentleman made a report, a copy of which I showed to the Minister for Agriculture. The report goes to show that things are done in a very slipshod manner at the ports of Fishguard and at Birkenhead. I will deal first with the treatment of our live stock at these ports on the other side. The report that we have received goes to show that pigs have been well cared for and have been well fed and well looked after. Sheep have been very badly treated, and cattle have been starved. They get almost nothing at all to eat. The facts are that 800 cattle were sent over to the other side, and though they had been travelling for a considerable number of hours, all they got to eat on arrival was the small quantity of 39 cwt. of hay. These cattle had done a long journey across the country and had been several hours on steamers and on trains, and yet all they were given to eat on arrival was this very small quantity of fodder, consisting of 39 cwt. of hay. Anyone who knows anything about the cattle trade knows that there would be very little for each of the 800 cattle out of such a small supply of fodder. I might say also that the cattle dealers sought to enter the lairages to see how the cattle were treated but they were refused admission, while at the same time the English drovers had free access into and out of the lairages.
As far as could be observed, there was no system of disinfecting these drovers before they went into the lairages or when they came out. This question of food for the cattle, as well as proper care for them, has naturally a very serious effect on their value. No one in the cattle trade needs to be told that. As to the precautions taken, I understand that the system in Birkenhead is very bad, indeed so bad that there is no system there at all. The precautions are not put in force as they should be, and the wonder is that England at the moment is not reeking with foot and mouth disease from one end of it to the other. Creosote, I understand, is provided in a small box at Woodside, where those having access to the lairages are supposed to avail of it as a disinfectant. They are supposed to walk in and stand on the creosote which is kept in a little box, but, according to the report that we have received, the men concerned only put one foot in the box and keep the other outside, and then show to the Inspectors the boot that has been put in the creosote. If these statements are true, it is no wonder that England is in the position she is in to-day. I understand also that fumigation is only a farce. Things were very bad at the early stages, but I believe there has been a little improvement within the last three or four days, but at the same time the enforcement of the regulations is not anything like what it should be.
At our own port in Dun Laoghaire, I am afraid the precautions are not strict enough either. Men who have been over in England, and who have been through the cattle lairages, attempt to evade complying with the regulations, and this happens even with people engaged in the cattle trade. I suppose some of these young men think themselves too nice to go into the fumigating chamber, and some of them also, I suppose, do not want to soil their boots; but the fact is that they attempt to evade complying with the regulations. Men engaged in the cattle trade do that, and in my opinion their action is not creditable to them. If they were men of any national spirit they should, I think, be anxious to comply with the regulations, especially when it is remembered that their very livelihood depends upon the success of the cattle trade in this country. I was speaking to a young cattle dealer who had come from Birkenhead, and who had been through the cattle lairages. He told me he was asked to go into the fumigating chamber at this side. He went in, but with his travelling clothes and boots on. The clothes he had worn in the cattle lairages in England were in his bag. I have that from the man himself, and I think it is not at all creditable to men like him and to others who are engaged in the cattle trade in this country. It is a miracle that we have not foot and mouth disease in this country, a miracle, I say, that we ought to be very thankful for. There were several other points that I wished to refer to, but as I was not aware that this question would be taken up so early in the day I have nothing more to say, except to call attention to the urgency of having the regulations as regards foot and mouth disease at the open ports in England strictly enforced, and also to see that our cattle are well treated and well cared for when they arrive at these ports.