Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 2 Mar 1989

Vol. 387 No. 9

Horse Breeding Bill, 1985: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

This short Bill which sets out to terminate the licensing of stallions is ill-timed. Following the winding-up of Bord na gCapall the industry is now in a limbo and has as its sole discipline the licensing Act. A few days ago we got an assurance from the Minister that the register would be maintained by the Department of Agriculture and Food. We must not abolish licensing, at least until such time as new legislation is introduced to cater for the industry or the new horse directive is ratified. I gather that that will not take place for some time. This is a time for recovery in the industry. Despite the fact that all the wrong things were done on the breeding scene, with people often using old and broken down mares and indifferent stallions, we have achieved extraordinary results. We have 50 per cent of the world's best show jumpers but our high profile position is threatened by overseas competition which we will find it difficult to counter.

The half-bred industry has suffered serious decline over recent years. We are down to rearing 2,500 foals per annum and at present we have more buyers than horses. The United States, Belgium and other countries have now compiled their own Irish draught register. With the demise of Bord na gCapall, the Department, with Teagasc, have a major task to perform in trying to promote the value of horse breeding as a farm enterprise. If we can produce quality horses then there will be no restrictions, no levies, no quotas, and no marketing because we enjoy pride of place with a number of overseas customers.

We must run the industry in a businesslike way. The models are there to follow such as Noel C from Millstreet. Indeed, many others are showing the way. We must guide and help small-scale operations. In this regard I should like to compliment the Minister and the Department on introducing the £400 grant scheme.

The breeding of half-breds can be a lucrative business for those who know what they are doing and, fortunately, we have an old tradition of horse breeding here. We have many knowledgeable people involved in horse breeding and they could spot a good animal on a casual stroll through a maze of horses at Cahermee fair. Knowledge of horses is passed on in families or, as Deputy Doyle would say, is bred into them. That has been a big factor in our success. We need to encourage those involved in the horse breeding industry if we are to reverse present disastrous trends.

I appeal to the Minister not to abolish licensing now. This is a time for recovery in the industry, for the implementation of regional programmes for agriculture and agri-tourism. This is a time to seek FEOGA aid for the horse industry so that we can set people up properly with housing, base stock and so on. This is a time for investment in the industry, for new thinking, new breeding and progeny testing but we will not get them without a licensing scheme. Licensing, and the reasons for it, is as valid today as in 1918 when first introduced.

The half-bred scene cannot be compared with the thoroughbred scene. The thoroughbred industry, because of the massive investment involved, is carefully monitored by specialists employed by the industry. Meticulous records are kept and there is the best performance monitoring of all on our racecourses. We should not confuse the warm bloods with our native breed and we should keep our industry intact. We owe that to our overseas buyers who need to be assured that they are buying the real thing. I had many meetings with overseas buyers when I was Minister of State and I learned that what impressed them most was the staying power of the Irish horse. They demand good foals from quality Irish draught mares and stallions. The most difficult task facing us is to increase the number of Irish draught mares. If people from the Continent are prepared to pay big prices for those animals we must deliver the goods.

The Minister should get his committee to prepare a programme for the future of the industry. Suitable people must be identified to act on that committee. There are no real breeding criteria for good show jumpers or hunters and those involved in the industry can produce topclass animals. We should give them all the assistance they require. We have many reasonably good mares but the owners are finding it difficult to get good stallions.

The Department must weed out the mediocre stallions and furnish good ones. The £400 grant will not help those in the industry if we do not have proper breeding stock. I agree we should experiment with AI and embryo transplants but we must regard such work as experimental. There is renewed interest in horses from the point of view of agri-tourism. Pony trekking is now very popular and forms part of a typical holiday package. Over the years our show jumping teams have become world famous. They have been our best ambassadors abroad comprising a real market arm not merely for the horse industry but for the country as well. With the increasing demand for horses in the leisure scene, we now have a new factor in half-breds. We have a thriving home industry even for lesser animals.

Now I come to my particular hobby which I worked at in the cattle scene, that is, identification of animals. Both Ministers know well the problems in the cattle industry because of tags being lost. As a result there was a move by ERAD to bring in a rule whereby cattle arriving at the factory or the mart would not be accepted without a tag — I think they had to modify it a bit.

In the case of horses, where the numbers are much smaller and more manageable, there should be no problem using the micro-chip implant. I would favour this as by far the best method of identification. If the British and Irish Friesian breeders who are dealing with millions of animals, are now adopting this measure there should be no problem within the horse industry.

When the system is set up each animal is fitted with a tiny chip under the skin and all information on that animal can be obtained by linking to a central computer, probably in the Department. Buyers from anywhere in the world who are linked up with the system would be able to obtain accurate information about likely purchases without leaving their television screens. That is the era we are coming into and that is the sort of competition we are up against. They could also ascertain at any given time, without even coming here, what was available. All information gleaned on progeny testing could be related back to the various animals tested. Any attempt at fraud would be eliminated.

The Department could observe trends in the state of play in the industry as a whole. Armed with this information the Department would be in a position to take corrective action from time to time when necessary. Also we could link up with people in the UK and elsewhere who are interested in Irish draught horses to our mutual advantage. I do not wish to take from the freeze branding method, but I believe the implant is more comprehensive, more versatile and more in line with the trends for the future. Any programme for advancement as indicated by the Minister recently must incorporate all modern technology.

Nowadays quite a number of our farmers are inclined to sell off animals as yearlings and two-year-olds without getting the full benefit of the animal. This is where the Millstreet scenario comes in. Indeed, Bailieboro attempted it before their demise. It was a pity they did not get that horse arena going before they folded up because the co-ops themselves might have a place in that scene. These horses training arenas could be set up so that farmers would have the opportunity to bring their horses to be broken so that they could sell them as three-year-olds.

In all that, the discipline of licensing comes in. The whole exercise in regard to grants and so on would be futile if we were to rush with the abolition of licensing. I hope the Minister of State, as a result of my personal appeal to him, will have a rethink on this topic.

In reply to the debate I would like to restate the reasons for this measure. The 1934 Act was relevant in an era when horses were extensively in use in farm labour, contrary to the position now when they are predominantly used for sport and leisure activities. Over the past 50 years horse numbers have declined dramatically and the number of stallions licensed halved in the period from 1970 to 1984. At best licensing prevented clinically unsound stallions from standing at stud and at worst gave official standing to many stallions that were unlikely to have much impact on breed improvement. Also, once stallions were licensed they were not re-inspected. Bord na gCapall examined this issue and in 1984 formed the view that the licensing could be dispensed with. The board's system of approving stallions for the Irish horse register, which is being continued by my Department, is generally recognised by stallion owners and breeders as a fair and reasonable system.

I would remind the House at this point that this Bill was originally sponsored by the previous Government so the views then expressed are much different from the views being expressed now.

Times change. Bórd na gCapall was around at the time. This is the only piece of legislation on the Statute Book governing this. There were different circumstances.

The licensing arrangement has not been operational for some time. The fact that the previous Government felt that the arrangement had outlived its usefulness is ample evidence of the necessity to get this legislation into place.

The legislation is old but it is better than nothing. That is all we are saying.

I am surprised at Deputy Doyle adopting this approach. She is really running contrary to what her predecessor as Minister for Agriculture advocated.

Times have changed.

As this very short Bill was debated at length when it was in previously, this is all we have to say on it at the moment.

It is a terrible indictment of this industry that the Minister cannot say more on this most important piece of legislation.

Acting Chairman

The Deputy can make her points if we go into Committee Stage but she may not do so now. I must ask the Deputy not to speak now.

I appeal, through the Chair, to the Minister to withdraw this Bill until he has new legislation ready or until the European Community Horse Directive is ready to be ratified. We are not saying everything in that legislation is sacrosanct but we need some framework to govern the industry; we cannot leave a vacuum there. I appeal to the Minister not to pursue the legislation. We cannot accept it.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 38.

  • Abbott, Henry.
  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Matthew.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burke, Ray.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary T.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Hilliard, Colm Michael.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lynch, Michael.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • Mooney, Mary.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • O'Dea, William Gerard.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Swift, Brian.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Birmingham, George.
  • Boland, John.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Crowley, Frank.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McGinely, Dinny.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies V. Brady and D. Ahern; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and Boylan.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Tuesday next, subject to agreement with the Whips.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 7 March 1989.