We have resumed in public session. I should have said at the beginning of the meeting that apologies were received from Deputy Paul Kehoe. This session is on pre-legislative scrutiny of the animal health and welfare (amendment) Bill 2021. I welcome the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Charlie McConalogue. I also welcome Mr. Gerry Greally, senior inspector in livestock breeding production and trade, and Mr. John Kinsella, principal in the legal services division. They are all very welcome to the meeting. We have received the opening statement and briefing material. These have already been circulated to members. We are limited in our time due to Covid-19 restrictions so the committee is taking the opening statement as read. We can use the full session for questions and answers. All opening statements are published on the Oireachtas website and are publicly available.
Before we begin I have an important note on parliamentary privilege. Witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to do so they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected to the subject matter of these proceedings be given. They are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that where possible they should not criticise or make charges against person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Participants in the committee meeting from a location outside of the parliamentary precincts are asked to note that the constitutional protection afforded to those participating from within the parliamentary precincts does not extend to them. No clear guidance can be given on whether or the extent to which the participation is covered by the absolute privilege of a statutory nature.
Before I open up to questions, I wish to note that in the previous hour we have had representatives from fur farming appearing before the committee. They gave us a very comprehensive briefing and raised a number of issues that are to be covered in the legislation. I am aware that other members will also be raising this issue, but we find ourselves in a very unique situation in respect of the workers and the compensation that is available to them. In my memory - I can be corrected if I am wrong - this is the first time that legislation has been introduced to cease an agricultural activity, albeit a very minor activity, but obviously for the three farms in question it is their income and of very great importance to them.
Questions have been raised about workers' compensation and the redundancy packages that will be available for them. Other questions raised were in respect of the calculation of the profit level of these farms which is being done on a five-year cycle where these farms are producing evidence to say that a ten-year cycle would give a far better reflection of the fluctuations in the fur trade. The farms' representatives state that fur is recovering very strongly in price in 2021 and went through a very serious valley period during the years which the Department is using for the determination of profit.
Another point made by these representatives, which would greatly concern me, is the question of the cull and the differences in costs that they say will arise per animal and what the Department is estimating. In the past we have had instances where businesses have closed and where a cull was not done effectively. This caused very significant problems for people in that locality. The culling has to be sorted out as a priority.
A further point made is that these farms have made an investment in their buildings and there are now going to be very significant demolition costs in respect of those buildings. This also needs to be catered for in the legislation.
I know that other members will have points to make to the Minister but I was taking notes while the representatives of the mink farmers were talking in the last session and these are four points I highlight which they made in respect of this legislation and the compensation package that is to be put in place for them. That is what they focused on. While they feel aggrieved that the licence that they have in place to 2024 is now being revoked and that they have been unfairly treated in that regard, their main focus has been on the compensation package both for themselves and their workers. That is my summary of their position and others will obviously add to it with further points but when the Minister is answering questions at the end, I ask that he might take those four points on board. I will open up to the other members of the joint committee now.