Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 23 May 1928

Vol. 10 No. 15


I move:—

That the Seanad requests the Government to consider the advisability of granting a subsidy to the owners of fat cattle raised in the Irish Free State and slaughtered in the months of March, April, May and June in each year for export therefrom and producing not less than 56 per cent. of their live weight when weighed under usual trade conditions: the subsidy to commence in 1929 and to continue for a period of five year.

I am prepared to hear some of my friends in this House objecting to the principle involved in this motion, as some of them are directly opposed to a subsidy in any shape or form, while others object to the slaughter of all fat stock in this country. They believe that our fat stock should be shipped alive. I am confident that the majority here who examine the proposal on its merits will give the motion hearty support. I have studied the subject, and I am satisfied that if the proposals are put into operation they will have far-reaching effects on the prosperity of the agricultural industry in this country. A subsidy for fat cattle means a subsidy for tillage, which would mean more employment and more people working on the land. In that way these proposals would assist in relieving unemployment, as we would produce more cattle for export and would help considerably to reduce our adverse trade balance. In this country we have the largest and the best supply of store cattle, the raw material for the production of beef, and all that is required is some encouragement to produce the finished article and not to be exporting unfinished cattle to Great Britain. There was an increase of 50,000 dairy cows in the Free State last year, and the tendency is to further increase that number. Except we adopt the methods of bringing our cattle to earlier maturity there is a danger of over-production. From that point alone I think the Government should adopt this motion, as it is essential that the dairying industry should be encouraged and fostered. It is also most important that we should have a market where we could sell stock at remunerative prices. The proposal to pay a subsidy applies only to the best cattle produced, those which have reached a certain standard. That would encourage the people to improve the standard of fat stock, would encourage them to retain a number of the best cattle at home, and finish them here instead of, as at present, having them all shipped to British markets to be slaughtered there.

There are several well-equipped factories in the Free State for the slaughter of cattle and export of fresh meat. There are factories in Drogheda, Dundalk, Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Limerick and Castlebar. When working these factories must give a considerable amount of employment. When the Drogheda factory was working it was paying over £300 weekly in wages. That factory is now closed down owing to lack of supplies, and I presume the majority of the employees are idle and drawing the dole. I will not quarrel with the Minister or the Government with regard to the working out of the details of the scheme for the paying of a subsidy, but I suggest to the Minister, if a subsidy is paid, that it should be at the rate of £1 per head in March, £1 5s. in April, 30s. in May, and £1 in June for cattle producing not less than 56 per cent. of their live weight when weighed. That would mean that we would encourage farmers to produce cattle of the right standard. Every country is now seriously concerned about its agricultural industry. Most of the Colonies are paying subsidies for the export of meat. The agricultural industry is the only one that we have to depend on here, so that I think it is up to the Government to give it every support and encouragement. The amount of money involved in these proposals would not be more than £10,000 yearly for the first two years. The cost might be more after that, but I contend that the money would be well spent, and that there would be a good return on the outlay. I ask the Seanad to give the question serious consideration.

I second the motion. I would point out to the Seanad that the motion is very carefully worded. I am in entire sympathy with the intention the Senator has in bringing the motion before the House. He is trying to do something that we all wish to associate ourselves with, to focus attention on farming, which is, and must remain, the chief industry in Ireland. To my mind it is far more important that we should get £1 or £2 per head more for our cattle than any import duty. The present system of farming means that a man buys cattle in the early spring, with the idea of throwing them on the market in November when everyone else is throwing them on the market, and when they are worth nothing. What the Senator wants to have done by this motion is to induce people to buy cattle when they are cheap, feed them on the produce of the country, employ labour and market them when they are dear, that is to say, market them in the months between March and June. I am wholly and entirely in sympathy with that object, and I think that any steps the Government could take in order to induce people in Ireland to follow that course would be of the greatest advantage. As I said, it would be a far greater advantage than to try to foster some industries which to a certain extent might not be on very fertile soil here. As I said, the fundamental principle the Senator is trying to put before the House and the country is, that we must do everything we can, whether by way of subsidy or otherwise, to foster the farming industry. If the farmers are prosperous they will employ labour. Every penny spent by way of subsidies to farmers must come back in some way to everybody. The farmer must benefit, the labourer must benefit, the carrying companies must benefit, and the commercial world must benefit as a result. I think the Senator is justified in calling attention to this question. I quite realise that some Senators will get up and say that it is all very well to advise the paying of a subsidy, but that it is the rich farmers who produce a 12 cwt. bullock in March and April will get the advantage. They will ask: what about the poor fellow who will get nothing? It may be said that I breed cattle and want the subsidy. I hope that is not the view that will be taken.

The motion is very carefully worded. The Senator suggested that the Minister might consider the effect of a subsidy for the cattle trade. We have the egg industry and the butter industry and Senators know what happened in these industries. When butter is cheap everyone has butter to sell, and they throw it on the market when no one wants it. When butter is dear we have to buy it from Denmark. So has England. The same occurred in connection with the cattle trade. A small farmer said to me that farmers were more concerned about getting £1 per head more for their cattle than about anything else. What applies to cattle applies more to the smaller industries. The Senator asked the Minister to consider the matter particularly with regard to the future of the cattle industry. I am quite certain that the Minister will say: "I cannot go as far as you ask, but I think the principle is a good one." I think it is desirable that farmers, big and small, should be induced to produce their products when they are dear, and not be throwing them on the market when they are cheap. I am sure the Minister will agree with that idea. How he will interpret the suggestion is another matter. I am sure the Seanad will agree with me when I say that the amount involved is trifling, a mere bagatelle. The Senator indicated how it would develop industries because if cattle are slaughtered here the by-products will be kept here and manufactured. That work would give employment. and there is not a single section in the country but would benefit. Whether the subsidy should be employed in the way suggested or not it is to be hoped that the Minister will recognise the object that the Senator has in view to induce farmers to produce their products when these products are dear, and not when they are cheap.

I wish to oppose this motion. This question of a subsidy may seem a very simple and trifling one, but it contains a very important principle: the question of bounties as a whole. We have the historical example that bounties did benefit this country under Foster's Act, but that was on practically the whole produce of the country, wheat. I suggest that by giving a bounty only a small number of labourers and cattle owners would benefit. The resolution is very carefully worded. It proposes to give a bounty to the owners of fat cattle raised in the Irish Free State and slaughtered here. Who will the cattle belong to when they are slaughtered? The cattle are bought from farmers and taken to the slaughter houses. Who will own the cattle then? I maintain that the people who will slaughter them will own them, and that the proposed subsidy will go into the pockets of those who slaughtered them and not into the pockets of the farmers. If we are to consider the subject of bounties should we not consider them in their whole aspect? Should we not consider in connection with this question of the cattle trade, if we are to subsidise it or give a bounty, whether it is going to have the only result for which a bounty could be given, increased employment and trade? In the motion to which Senator Sir Walter Nugent has alluded there is not a single suggestion about the retention of by-products, although the motion is very carefully worded.

May I interrupt the Senator to say that the by-products must be in the country when the cattle are slaughtered here?

That is a very ingenious answer, but I can tell the Senator that the by-products as well as the carcases are exported.

They should not be.

Indicate to me the number of tanneries working in Ireland tanning our hides; indicate to me the number of places here utilising the blood for manure; indicate to me the number of factories making combs out of the horns; indicate to me the factories which are utilising these by-products that the Senator says are bound to be utilised. I maintain that they are exported, and I say that until the question is considered as a whole—not piecemeal—they will continue to be exported. This motion suggests to give to a few persons during the months of March, April, May and June a subsidy. The whole tariff problem of the country is to be cut across at a jump, and as serious-minded men, we are to ask the Government to alter by a scratch of the pen, so to speak, their policy, and go outside the Tariff Commission which has been appointed to deal with questions affecting bounties as well as import duties. They are to be asked to go outside that Tariff Commission by a resolution such as this. I hope I have shown that that is not a wise proposal, and that the matter has not been considered with a view to the development and establishment of industries in the country. If I were satisfied that the most important branch of agriculture was considered, I would be very adverse to opposing a bounty of this nature. I do not think the most important aspect of the agricultural industry has been considered. The interests of a comparatively small portion have been considered, and for that reason I oppose this motion. I think this House would be ill advised to accept any such piecemeal method to cut across the policy of the Government in exploring every reasonable avenue regarding tariffs and bounties.

I feel that this is a motion that should be very strongly supported; both for the reasons that Senator Counihan, who does not ornate or make unnecessary elaborations, mentioned, and for other reasons which I, who am not an expert on cattle, know, as well as most people. First of all, take Senator Bennett's suggestion that the hides would be less likely to be used in Ireland if the cattle were slaughtered in Ireland than at present, when all hides, horns and hooves, for example, are exported to be finished in England. But finishing them in England means taking one-third of the value out of the pockets of the men who raise them. The cattle are sent to Scotland, where they are finished, and they are sold in England very often as Scotch cattle. Although they are Irish cattle they are sold as Scotch cattle after being finished in the vicinity of the cross-Channel ports. They are finished in less than six or eight weeks, and one-third of the value of the animals goes to those who finish them. When we bring back the hides for the few currying factories that are attempting to make boots here, with the subtle adjustment England makes to override our Customs and Excise, we can get these materials ready-made at £2 a ton, but when they send over the hides to us to make boots, the cost is £8 a ton—400 per cent. of the price of the finished article.

If there were no other reason or cause to support this motion than the fact that it would tend to develop other industries, such as the tanning industry, I would strongly support the motion. But there are many more reasons. The subsidy principle is not such an extraordinarily unique thing or such a demoralising thing. We subsidise houses; the Royal Dublin Society subsidises cattle, so to speak, in the Spring Show, through money derived from the public. The Government would derive this money from the public, and this would be merely extending the principle. A small farmer who raises cattle, provided he raises them in such a way that the dead weight is 56 per cent. of the live weight, would get this subsidy, and the £10,000 could be obtained back from the rich grazier or from the factories, that Senator Bennett has referred to, by means of income tax. If £10,000 meant some relief of the starvation which exists among the wretched children in the West from November to May, I would vote for it, and for treble or quadruple the amount, because the whole fibre of the poor people in Ireland is depending on the apparent wretched incapacity of the people for tillage. There is no compulsion. Most of the men in what are called the congested districts have over twenty acres of land each, but they grow nothing but potatoes; no cabbage, beans or peas; certainly no turnips are grown. When the weather gets hard, they take the cattle into the houses, but they do not feed them; they have no winter dairying. The children are rotting from tuberculosis and they are sent to Athlone for open-air treatment, after which they go back to work. If there was proper tillage, that sort of nonsense would be stopped, and the cattle would not have to be lifted with levers. I have seen cattle which had to be lifted off the floor to be milked, and the milk they gave was like Reckitt's Blue. I am sure that the absence of the Minister means that he is giving his consent, because Senator Counihan has a good deal up his sleeve.


I have heard of silence giving consent, but never of absence.

It must be information to many Senators—it certainly is to me—to know that after most cattle are slaughtered they lose half the body weight in by-products. We have only to give cattle raisers such an inducement that whether a man raises one head or a herd of bullocks, he will feed them and bring them up to the standard that they will be more than fifty-six per cent. of their live weight when slaughtered. In Ireland we have a chain of ports which impose a stranglehold on us, such as the British and Irish Company has put upon Dublin alone, and the only answer to that, unless we endow a fleet of boats of our own, is to send the meat out ready prepared and keep the valuable parts in the country.

I think these are overwhelming reasons why this motion should be supported, particularly when you think that by sending out a live beast over one-third of its value goes to the man who fattens it for three weeks in England or Scotland. You take that and the by-products away from the owner, the equivalent of nearly half the animal's weight. Articles made from the by-products come back here at freights four times as great as the finished article made from these by-products, and we are paying because we are caught in the ports by these shipping combines. I see no way of preventing that except by sending out the animal in a condition that is most highly economical for the producer, and that is as a prepared article. If these people who charge us 400 per cent. more on the hides than on the finished article wish to purchase them we will get some advantage, instead of having to send out the beasts alive and buy back what would make a boot or a saddle, when we could absolutely evade the high freights. Tillage means stall-feeding for cattle and milk for the children in those seasons of the year when it is scarce. I think Senator Bennett at one period was speaking for the motion when he gave such strong reasons for keeping the hides in the country. The estimate of £10,000 that Senator Counihan gave has been exceeded in most race-meetings in Ireland; you will see at race-meeting an aggregate of practically £10,000 in prizes. I think if we are to encourage individual effort this £10,000 would encourage 10,000 farmers. There are not 10,000 graziers in the country to put it into their pockets, and if there are there are quite competent detectives in the income tax department to take it from them.

As a member of the cattle trade, I wish to state my views on this proposal of my friend Senator Counihan. I oppose this motion. I believe the suggested subsidy for cattle slaughtered in the months of March, April, May, and June would be foredoomed to failure. The idea underlying the proposal is a most unworkable one. It is quite obvious that the only way for this matter to be controlled would be by the killing of cattle under responsible inspection. This at once rules out all killings in cross-channel abattoirs and slaughterhouses, for the reason that inspection would be out of the question. The only inference I can draw then is, that the project of paying a subsidy is meant to bolster up the Irish Fresh Meat Co. of Drogheda, which is at present closed for the want of supplies. This failure of sufficient numbers of fat stock during these four months was pointed out by me when this meat company was being proposed —over twelve months ago.

My personal opinion is that a dead meat industry from Ireland to England will never be a success. I have no axe to grind in this matter. It may be said that we cattle and sheep salesmen in the Dublin market and exporters of cattle are prejudiced against the dead meat industry. I assure the House that that is not true. I always welcome any change in our live stock industry that I believe to be for Ireland's prosperity. I wish to give the Minister for Lands and Agriculture the highest praise possible for the many benefits that he has brought about, especially by the Livestock Breeding Act. The effect of this Act will bring millions of pounds in value to the cattle industry. It would help the farmers a great deal more if the premium bulls' grant was increased in money value, as I am of opinion that it would be helping the most deserving class of people engaged in live stock improvement.

I hold the opinion that live cattle are the more successful trade with Great Britain. I cannot see how this Irish Meat Company is going to compete with the gigantic cold storages of London. There is perhaps no more perishable article than meat, and when the sultry weather in the end of July and through August comes on, it will be found that the sale of Irish dead meat in the markets of England will leave the sellers of this meat at the mercy of the buyers. We have the world competing in the dead meat importations to England. The gigantic meat companies that I refer to have brought their business nearest perfection by aid of best scientific means. The control of the colossal cold storages enables them to put what quantities of meat they want on the market, and balance the demand and supply, thus obviating the element of risk.

The great principle for our people in Ireland to adopt is to breed more cattle of the best type and rear them well by providing them with shelter and feed to have good meat at from nine to eleven cwts., live-weight, when and where possible.

After a life of fifty or sixty years in the cattle trade, and having had a good deal to do with the killing of cattle, I say that it is impossible to expect that the dead meat trade would be a success. I, therefore, oppose the motion.

I have not had the advantage of hearing the proposer and some of the subsequent speakers, but I think that this is a proposal that is certainly worth investigating, and I am very sorry the Minister is not here. In his absence I do not think we should come to any decision on such a matter as this. We have, at various periods in our history, suffered very considerably from the threat to the export of our cattle, owing to scares of foot and mouth disease or to surplus supplies of frozen meat coming from the Argentine and other places and glutting the English market. Usually the scares have synchronised with a great glut of frozen meat, and this little country of ours was held as a special reserve, because it was known that we had no other place to export our cattle to until England wanted them again. As a sort of stepping-stone towards minimising the losses that have been suffered from time to time owing to these scares and the holding up of the export trade, some enterprising men took up the idea of slaughtering our own beasts at home. As Senator O'Connor knows, the establishment of the Drogheda Meat Factory and of the meat factory in Waterford are steps in that direction, but they cut no ice when compared with the colossal export trade, and in a hold-up period these factories would not be able to deal with any but a small percentage of the cattle that would be offered. But they are a step in a certain direction. If we had a number of these factories established, they would be able to make a more marked impression at a time when cattle were held up, and they would be able to deal with a larger percentage of them for the time being.

We had a very informative little pamphlet, with diagrams, distributed by the Department of Agriculture some years ago. It showed how every part of an ox is utilised. There are fortyone subsidiary industries—saddlery, glue, knife handles, trunks, and all those things—and these industries grew up around the dead meat factories of England from the hides and other material removed from this country, although they get their supplies from Scotland and elsewhere too. That was the germ of the idea in setting up these dead meat factories in this country, that we might keep all the offals here, that when the industry had been sufficiently developed we would have these offals sent to a certain centre, and we hoped that in time around that centre some of those industries would grow up. That would require a very considerable amount of these offals to be centralised before there would be a supply sufficient to give permanent employment. But that was the idea in mooting the establishment of these industries: in the first instance to minimise the great losses that periodically came on this country through the holding up of the export of cattle, and, secondly, to ensure in time that some of these industries would spring up from the killing of our own cattle.

The General Council of County Councils, on this whole matter of tariffs, and the establishment of industries by subsidies, came to the unanimous conclusion, when this matter was submitted to them broadly as to the advisability of tariffs or otherwise with regard to certain industries, that the Government should give most serious consideration and explore as far as it possibly could any suggestion towards establishing industries where there was any advantage of soil or climate, geographical position, transport, or in the natural genius of the people, that would make for the permanency of an industry once it was established. Then, though it would not pay at the outset, they considered that it was worthy of the most serious consideration by the Government, and that the Government should support it in the initial stages if necessary. That was the broad view, and I think a very sound view, that was taken by the General Council.

In relating that view to this particular proposal, this proposal is worthy of very serious consideration and close examination by the Government. Whether you speak of subsidies or whether you speak of tariffs is, in effect, the very same thing, and you cannot in one breath condemn tariffs and in the same breath preach subsidies; you cannot generalise in matters of this sort as to whether a tariff is a very sound principle or whether a subsidy is a very sound principle. You must take all these matters in relation to the particular industry that is under consideration at the time. A subsidy is not a new thing in this country; we are subsidising beet-growers very largely, and when Senators speak of this as a sort of innovation and say that only a few would be benefited, that applies to any class of tariff or subsidy in any country; only a few will benefit, and, generally speaking, some other section of the community will have to pay. We have a clothing industry that is protected by tariffs, and for that a section of the community is paying. That admits of no argument at all. But as to the justification of imposing a tariff or of giving a subsidy, the General Council of County Councils maintains that if there is a germ for the development of an industry up to a point, and if it can run along on its own then, the matter should be very seriously investigated, and probably a tariff or a subsidy for the time being might be justified with a view to the establishment of a very practical industry which in time would be self-supporting.

With regard to the dead meat, if the Drogheda factory to-day, owing to the want of cattle, is not able to function, then, of course, its overhead charges are running on, and when it begins to purchase cattle again, as the overhead charges will have been running on for some months, it will not be able to give the same advantages and prices to suppliers, and to that extent it may be out of competition with the export trade. If it be a good thing to establish an industry like that in Ireland, with the ultimate object of establishing subsidiary industries, as they have been established in other countries, and if the genius and the enterprise of our people are equal to doing these things, well and good; let us foster them and give them every possible facility and encouragement. I think what we are lacking in is organisation. We have possibly got good business skill, but even the Government itself is powerless in the matter, and a subsidy will be no use if we have not ourselves the business genius to organise and to carry on that business in an efficient way. If we are lacking in energy, in skill or in a knowledge of business, then no Government would be justified in keeping on and permanently buttressing up an industry. But if the Government on inquiry find that the men who submit a proposal know what they are talking about, that they are practical business men, and that they have some idea of what they are submitting, with practical business experience at their backs, I say that when they come forward with a proposal of this sort, which has so many reactions and which would probably have an effect now and in the future on other industries, no matter how loosely the proposal may appear to be worded, if it has any germ of practical utility or anything that would indicate in time something practical and permanent, then it ought to be closely inquired into.

I am fairly fully in agreement with the object of the motion, but at the same time I am not prepared to give unlimited approval to a subsidy. I think that there are many ways in which money could be applied to extend the production of beef. An effort is being made all over the world—I think it is a very good one—to try to shorten what might be called the non-productive period. After the summer there are two or three months of a non-productive period. During this period great hardships are imposed on labour, trade, and on commercial communications, so that if the period of non-production could be shortened it would be a very good thing.

I am not, at the same time, wholly in opposition to a subsidy. Premiums are being granted for the breeding of live stock of various types and descriptions. If money is to be applied as a subsidy in the way that Senator Counihan suggests, it strikes me that it should be to the finished product. The money that is applied in the other direction would, I think, help production to that particular end. Senator O'Connor put forward some optimistic views with regard to the slaughter of live stock. With his views I am in total disagreement. I think the Senator's idea that high grade fat cattle breeding should be encouraged by some sort of a premium is a good one, because a great deal of the profits, as Senator Gogarty pointed out, are being lost to this country by sending over to the other side to be finished cattle that are only about three-quarter finished, and to be sold as Scotch best. These cattle are slaughtered mainly in Aberdeen whence they are sent to Smithfield market in London. That distance, I believe, is not much greater than the distance between Waterford and Smithfield. I believe that the best cattle in the world are being sent from Aberdeen to Smithfield. Those who are engaged in that trade have practically an unlimited field. I believe there are great possibilities in it, and that we should try and compete for a share of it with first-rate conditioned cattle. That is what I think we should aim at and that is what the motion aims at. Whether the means proposed in the motion to achieve that end are the best is, of course, another question.

I think that there are many ways in which this particular trade can be furthered and promoted. It might be well, perhaps, if the Minister for Agriculture were to nominate a Committee to consider the whole question to see what could be done with a view to promoting production in what one might call the non-productive periods. I refer to the months when the greatest hardships are caused to labour and all the different interests concerned between producer and consumer. I suggest that if such a Committee were set up it could do very good work. It may be no harm to point out that in the back-end of the year, in the autumn, great numbers of our cattle are full of weight and flesh after the summer's grazing. All that weight and flesh is allowed to be wasted practically. It is not wasted to the producer, but rather to the nation for want of good shelter and want of feeding, the want of more economical treatment, as well as of other methods with which the Minister for Agriculture is fully acquainted. Then there are matters to be considered in connection with intensive grazing, scientific manuring and the discoveries which scientific research, during late years, have brought to light. If the grazing period were extended for a month or six weeks later than it is at present, it would give an added six weeks for finishing. Anything gained in that way will be a gain to the nation, a gain not alone to those concerned in the industry but to labour, the commercial community, trade and so on.

As to the views put forward by Senator O'Connor about killing and the establishment of a dead meat trade here in Ireland, I am altogether an optimist as to that, but the great thing is to get cattle of the right weight, age and finish. With all our pride in our agricultural products, it may be no harm to point out that we are only third class when compared with best Scottish cattle. I think every effort should be made to bring this country as near as possible into the first class. There is plenty of scope and plenty of room in this country, amongst labour and commercial interests, to use up all the by-products of our cattle. I happen to be interested in the Co-operative Meat Factory in Waterford. What we are waiting for there is to get first-class stuff for the factory, first-class not only in quality, but also in weight. I submit these ideas of mine for the consideration of the House, while not saying yea or nay to the motion before it.

At the outset, I desire to say that I was somewhat amused at the divergent views expressed by our chief exponents of the live cattle trade and of the dead meat trade. I could understand a certain amount of jealousy if all the good cattle of the country are to go to the factories to be slaughtered, because there is a bonus going to be given. If the percentage of dead weight means 56 per cent. of the live weight cattle, I could understand that. Perhaps other members of the House may not do so. You cannot give a bonus for cattle that are shipped alive, no matter how good they are. Therefore, this proposed bounty from the State must go to the encouragement of the dead meat trade. I think we should all like to see the dead meat trade encouraged and increased. It is all very well for Senator Bennett to say that we are exporting the hides and offal from our meat factories. I would ask Senators to recollect that these factories have only been in operation for a very short time. Would the Senator tell me where the money is to come from for the establishment of a decent-sized tannery until our cattle here are slaughtered on a large scale? I think that Senator Bennett must see that himself, and therefore I think it is quite unfair to say that the dead meat business has failed because it has not been able to utilise all the by-products.

That was not my point.

We must also recollect that the amount of inspection that would be required at these factories, if set up on a large scale, would tax the ingenuity of the Department. How is one to be quite confident that the returns sent in are correct? I sympathise with the point of view of Senator Kenny, who said: "Think of the result to the country generally if cattle were put into a proper condition by liberal winter feeding, think of the advantages that would accrue by the employment of people in the increased tillage that would take place; think of the advantage to the country generally of the utilisation of all the by-products." I am afraid the people who go in for stall-feeding on a large scale have found that it is not a very lucrative business. If you put any sort of a market value upon the products of your tillage and charge that against the cattle produced, I doubt very much whether you will find that the cost is recovered by the production of those crops. If I am not mistaken, one of the most celebrated statisticians in the world, at one time I think in the employment of the Department, published an important paper proving that no crop produced in this country could be sold at a price that would compensate for its cost. I have no doubt that he was right. If one were to take the market prices which prevail, one must admit that the cost of production of a crop must be at a loss. Labour costs, for instance, are high. The sale of the product must be at a price less than the cost of production. Of course a lot depends upon the rate that you have to pay for labour. I suppose the thing could be done if the labour is done by family labour, which I have heard some members of the Labour Party describe as slave labour. That is the only authorisation that I have for people holding the opinion that large farms ought to be divided up into small ones; so that the new owners of the small farms, with their families, could live on what they produce. You cannot get labour for nothing. In the case of a large farmer who has to rely entirely on paid labour, he will not be able to recover what it costs him to produce crops.

With regard to the suggestion made to pay a bonus to owners who feed their cattle to as good a finish as they would be fed in Scotland, I think that could only be made apply to the dead meat trade. It could only be temporary—in the nature of an experiment. Take the case of premium bulls. Why is it necessary to give considerable premiums, up to £15 or £20, to induce farmers to buy well-bred bulls, and to other farmers to use them? Why is it necessary to do that for the production of good stock? Farmers should know, after the number of years that they have the advantage of these premium bulls, what a benefit they are as regards raising the quality of the cattle of the country. Of course all bulls have to be licensed now. That was done for the purpose of improving the stock of the country. Why should a man send his stock to a premium bull in preference to an ordinary licensed bull? Simply because these premium bulls are the pick of the licensed bulls. To induce him to do that he is given certain terms that ought not to be necessary now. That is a kind of experiment, and I say that, in the same way this is an experiment to encourage men to continue feeding their beef cattle until they have got what one may call the Scotch finish.

Large farmers, as I can testify personally, do not find it profitable to feed out all their stock in the stalls. They find it better to bring the cattle to a certain condition and then send them across to Scotland to be finished there. Large farmers do not like to keep their fat cattle too long in the stalls. They are bound to lose very considerably if they keep them in the stalls for an extra six months. I do not think any Senator would get up and say that any farmer is likely to recoup himself, taking into consideration the cost of the production of the food required, by keeping his cattle for an extra six months in the stalls. I have tried it, and I know that it is impossible to do so unless of course you get the top London price. Naturally, Senator Counihan would like that all the cattle that we send to London would bring top price on the market there. It is to the credit of this country that they should do so. I think you will find very few farmers to do that unless some very great inducement is offered to them.

If the Department thought that such a system could be administered honestly it might be worth their while to try it as a sort of temporary experiment. Of course it may be said that that is not necessary now because of the extraordinary prices that fat cattle are fetching at the moment. I know several people who have been paid 62/6 per cwt. live weight for cattle they sold recently. That is to say they doubled their money on what they paid for them last autumn. It is not everyone who is able to take their cattle off the grass in May. There are very few farmers who, without some inducement such as the bonus suggested could afford to keep their fat cattle in the stalls for an extra five or six months. The matter I know is worth considering. I intend voting for the motion because I think it might prove a rather useful experiment.

The last speaker said, in his opening remarks, that he was rather amused at the diversity of views expressed on this motion. They were certainly rather interesting, and perhaps I may be permitted to make a comment or two on them. Senator Dillon said that he had a certain amount of experience of the dead meat business. He is one of the directors of the factory at Waterford, and said that he was an optimist in regard to the dead meat industry in Ireland. If that has been the Senator's experience with regard to the dead meat factory at Waterford, what I ask is the necessity for a subsidy. I cannot find any necessity for a subsidy in the case of an industry which, as the Senator has stated, has every likelihood of proving a great success. If the industry is to be a real success, the Senator said that we must insist on the production of first grade cattle here. Economically I think we have long since come to the conclusion that, in the cattle trade, nothing pays in this country except the production of first grade cattle. The thing to aim at is to produce more cattle and of higher quality than we have been producing. But, may I ask, what has the question of a subsidy to do with all that? I cannot see the relevancy of the matter at all.

Senator Kenny enunciated the proposition that it was most desirable that this country should be studded over with dead meat factories. I hold equally strong views with the Senator that it is desirable that the country should be studded over with dead meat factories, but I fail to see how the payment of a subsidy such as that suggested is going to hasten that end. The Senator said that the general council of county councils felt that where there was the germ of an industry in the country that that germ should be nursed and fertilised. He applied that observation to the cattle trade of the country. But surely there is no need to apply the term of a germ that needs to be nursed to the cattle trade of this country, which in reality is already fully grown and fully fledged, and is one of the oldest industries that we have in the country. On that line of argument this industry should not need any nursing. Senator Sir Walter Nugent said that the motion had been most carefully worded, that it merely called the attention of the Government to consider this question of granting a subsidy. I submit there is one thing in which this House is concerned, and that is in not asking the Government to waste its time considering a proposition which, in my opinion, is utterly illogical and, from the economic point of view, absolutely unsound. I do not think we should ask the Government to waste its time on an argument that I think is utterly illogical.

Senator Counihan stated that he wanted the question discussed on its merits, and on that was more or less supported by Senator Sir Walter Nugent. He said that some members of the House were opposed to tariffs and subsidies, while others who were more or less the producers of cattle were in favour of subsidies. As a producer of cattle myself, I may say that I am opposed to a cattle subsidy. I think that is a fair indication enough that many of us here are quite prepared to argue against what may seem to be our own interests and to discuss this question on its merits. We are anxious to come to a sound conclusion on the question. We are desirous of discussing it from the national and economic point of view. "Subsidy" in this country seems to be a blessed word. It seems to offer a panacea for all our ills. A subsidy seems to be required to enable us to get over all our difficulties. May I say to Senator Counihan, with great respect, that he seems to have fallen for that.

I admit, of course, that the cattle trade in this country has passed through a period of considerable depression. The natural reaction of that is to ask the Government to do something. That is the usual thing to do in this country. We either ask the Government to remove a difficulty which confronts us or we put forward some form of quid pro quo as against the factors making for that depression, and we ask for a subsidy. Senator Counihan suggests that the way to remove the difficulty is to grant a subsidy. He does not waste time in asking, though I think it would be just as pertinent, that the elements should be a bit kinder, that we should get some more showers so that the grass would grow on our barren pastures, or that steps be taken, with the present reasonably high prices for cattle, to have them kept at their present level. He would not be wasting time if he were to ask that steps should be taken by the Government to bring down the present absolutely prohibitive prices for feeding-stuffs to a reasonable level.

The Senator does not bother about these things. He takes the straight road and goes out boldly in asking the Government for a subsidy. That, of course, is a very simple solution. When we are considering the motion we have to ask ourselves where is all this going to lead to? There has been considerable thinking along economic lines in this country within the last few years. First of all, we had the school of thought that stood absolutely for the imposition of tariffs. Apparently that school has now cooled down in its ardour, and concurrently with that cooling down we have a new line of thought and another school of economics. Some of those who occupy places in the other House stand for a bounty on exports from this country. Senator Counihan belongs to that school. He asks for a subsidy in respect of cattle slaughtered for export from this country. That is reasonable enough, but there is just as much justice in the plea put forward for a subsidy for the producers of fat cattle slaughtered at a particular time of the year as there is justification for the poor farmer in Clare who produces store cattle getting a subsidy. Why should not the poor farmer in Clare get a subsidy for the cattle he produces as well as the man who fattens cattle for export at a certain period in the year? There is no more reason in the one demand than there is in the other. As a matter of fact, there would be more justification for giving it in the case of the Clare farmer. Senator Counihan does not bother about him so long as he can get the subsidy for producers during certain months of the year. In any case why, if there is to be a subsidy for farmers who produce fat cattle during a certain period of the year, should there not also be a subsidy as well for the exporters of fowl, eggs, butter, bacon, pork, etc.? Would it not be just as reasonable to have a subsidy for the exporters of these products as it would be for the owners of fat stock slaughtered for export?

If we accept this principle and vote for Senator Counihan's motion, and if it proceeds to ultimate success, no doubt the directors of Messrs. Guinness will be making a plea for a subsidy on their exports, and Guinness's shares will experience a sharp rise. We may expect a similar outcome in respect of Ford's of Cork, and I suppose Mr. Ford will allow himself to revisit the land of his birth when next he turns his face to the East? Where is this going to lead? Who is to pay the price? Where is the money to come from? The main taxpayers are the farmers, and if they are to pay a tax to subsidise themselves it means in plain economics that they are taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. Who is going to be the better in the long run? One thing that is likely to follow a subsidy is a rise in prices. At present we complain of the high cost of living. The price of products in this country is largely regulated by the price we secure for our exports across the water. Who is going to be in a better position if there is to be a premium on exports following on the lines set down by Senator Counihan? All the farmers will be producing stuff for export. They will be producing cattle for export and having them slaughtered in this country. What will the position be? The price in this country will be the price obtained across the water plus the subsidy. You are going to have a sudden upward curve, a sudden increase in the cost of living. Who is going to be the better, and where is the money to come from?

The Minister for Finance is still confronted with the difficulty of balancing his Budget. Certain economies in respect of expenditure have already been made, and certain other economies will and must be effected. Outside of that there remain two fields from which he can draw to pay that subsidy. One is by increased taxation and the other by borrowing. The House has to ask itself does it favour either step. I take it that it does not, and it has to be very careful before it admits any principle which necessitates such a step as that. A case might be made for what Senator Sir Walter Nugent asked for, and that is a consideration of the advisability of a subsidy in respect of any industry. If in the first place an industry were more or less experimental, and if we had to embark on some field of development we had not touched before, something like the Carlow beet factory, there might be some justification for what Senator Sir Walter Nugent suggests. Secondly, if an industry were, owing to very exceptional circumstances, passing through a period of very great depression, and would in all likelihood be lost to the nation, then you might consider the application of a subsidy. The third case is where an industry is weak and in its infantile stages and requiring a little nursing. Then there might be some case for the consideration of a subsidy. To none of these particulars does the motion conform. The cattle trade is an old industry. The question of feeding the stock better, of having more cattle and of a better quality, and putting them in the market in a better condition, has no relevance. Surely it does not pay farmers to buy stock at the dear time of the year and sell in the cheap time. Farmers should so arrange that they would be in a position to buy at the cheap time and sell when the prices are fairly high. The question of a subsidy does not help that.

My opinion in regard to the dead meat trade is that it should stand on its own legs. I remember in my young days listening to economic teachers who taught us that it was only owing to the force of certain external circumstances that this country was not studded with dead meat factories, and that if we were only allowed to develop our resources there would be several dead meat factories in every county. Now we find the people concerned with the dead meat trade asking for a subsidy. It used also be pointed out to us that if we had dead meat factories we would have the country studded with subsidiary factories manufacturing all these articles to which Senator Kenny referred. The deduction from Senator Counihan's remarks is that the teaching of those economists in those days was fallacious, and there is not in the dead meat trade everything that these people said was in it. In regard to live stock, there are two courses open to us to take. One is to export our stuff alive to other countries and sell it to the best advantage. The other is to slaughter live stock in this country and export the carcases. If one is not economic we ought to try the other, but we should be very careful before we embark on the application of a subsidy or we will not know where we will end. Senator Counihan makes a point of the fact that cattle must be of the best quality and produce 56 per cent. of their live weight. If we are to pursue that line there will have to be inspectors in every factory. The cattle will have to be weighed alive and the dead carcases will then have to be weighed.

That is done in every factory.

Yes, by representatives of the factory. What I suggest is that inspectors would have to be appointed by the State to check these weights. That means an increased staff and increased expenditure. We are talking about economies and, on the other hand, putting forward a plea for increased expenditure. There has been talk about this proposal giving more employment. One thing we must do in this country is to employ men at remunerative undertakings, if we are to build a sound economic structure. It is not necessary for me to examine this proposal further. The more I analyse it the more I see its weakness. If you did apply the subsidy, what would happen? You would have all the farmers trying to bring their cattle in during these four months. One of the reasons put forward by Senator Counihan for his proposal is that the period during which the subsidy would apply is a lean time of the year, but if the Government give a subsidy during these four months, then the other eight months are going to be the lean period. Cattle would be got ready to be killed during these four months, and the fullest advantage would be taken of the subsidy. Senator Counihan said that we might not have factories enough to cope with the supply if the subsidy was big enough. The cattle are there, and the factories—perhaps jerry-built—will be erected to last at any rate for the period of the subsidy, five years. Then what are we going to do? Seek, I suppose, for a renewal of the subsidy. I am absolutely opposed to this proposition. I would like it considered in all its reactions. We should be very careful before we ask the Government to consider the advisability of going into this until a stronger case is made. From my own analysis I am quite convinced the thing is economically unsound and nationally wrong.

With your permission, Cathaoirleach, I would like to make an alteration in the motion. The debate has hinged mostly on the question of a subsidy. When I seconded the motion my principal desire was to focus attention on the system of farming carried out in this country. That matter has been alluded to by the last speaker. I think this system of farming should be so organised that farmers will not be obliged to flood the markets with their produce at a time of the lowest possible prices. This subsidy, I take it, was put in by Senator Counihan only to indicate that some steps had to be taken. I realise there is considerable objection to a subsidy, but I think it desirable we should focus attention on the present system of farming and try to effect a change.

On a point of order, if we are to have a new motion I suggest that it should be tabled or the issue would be very complicated.


I was going to suggest to Senator Counihan that I think he has unnecessarily complicated the motion by pinning his faith to the subsidy. It may be that there is a great deal in this idea of changing our export of live stock into an export of dead cattle. That is a very flourishing industry in America and in the Dominions. Whether we can make a success of it here is another matter. I think if the Senator confined the motion to simply asking the Government to inquire as to whether the present method of export of live stock was best calculated to promote the interests of the country as a whole, that would accomplish his purpose. I had sketched out a motion, but I was going to suggest to the Senator that perhaps it would be wiser to hear what the Minister has to say, and then if the House thinks the present motion does not meet the situation I think it would be wiser for the Senator to withdraw it and to give notice of a fresh motion after taking time over it.

The motion asks for consideration of the advisability of granting a subsidy for cattle slaughtered in the months of March, April, May, and June for export. These are the months in which the winter keep is almost entirely finished and before the summer grass has come. I did not hear Senator Counihan speaking, and I do not know whether he suggested a subsidy or not.

I suggested a subsidy of £1 in March, 25/- in April, 30/- in May, and £1 in June to be paid per beast for fat cattle slaughtered for export and producing 56 per cent. of their live weight.

Take it at 30/- on the average. The question is, would paying that for cattle fattened for export make the slightest difference in the number of cattle killed? I am sure it would not. I think all that would happen is that people who have always in-fed cattle during these months would still continue to feed them, and be in the fortunate position of getting 30/- from the State in addition to the price of them. That is my view. If I am right, a proposal of this sort is not going to do anything from the point of view of national production. I take it, before the Government could consider the question of a subsidy, they would have to come to the conclusion that there was a chance the subsidy would have some effect from the point of view of the nation as a whole, and increasing production in the country as a whole. No Government could agree to a subsidy which would merely have the effect of giving a certain amount of money at the taxpayers' expense to a certain limited number of people, and which would have no effect in the way of increasing production. I think any farmer will agree with me that a subsidy of £2 per head would make no difference in the number of cattle that would be fed during these months. Why? Before answering that question I would have to get back to another question, for this motion has implications. Senator O'Hanlon has given expression to a good deal of what I feel about the question.

When any body, whether the Seanad, the Dáil, a Commission or the Government, has to consider a question like this it has to consider all its implications. You have to consider whether you might not invest your money better by giving a subsidy to cows that calve in the autumn for winter milk. The idea of that would be to encourage more butter. If you are to give a subsidy to butter cows, cows that calve in the autumn, then you have to ask the question what is the subsidy going to cost? When you consider it from that point of view you get back to the question that, perhaps, it would be better instead of giving a subsidy to these to give a subsidy to tillage. The whole question is one of more food. The reason you require an artificial stimulus in order to have cattle fattened in these months is because winter keep is finished and summer grass has not come. The same applies to shortage of butter in winter, to shortage of eggs, etc. What is wanted is more food production in winter. The question is whether subsidies would not be more economically and beneficially distributed if we gave a subsidy to tillage.

When you speak of fattening out cattle like the Scottish cattle, with 56 per cent. dead weight no one farmer can do that on his own. You have to take into account the man who rears calves and the man who rears yearlings. If you want to give everyone a help by giving a stimulus to tillage, then so far as a subsidy can effect it, you will have much more cows, butter, eggs and the rest of it. Is all that good business? Having decided that you are to subsidise, if you are to try and increase the production of food in the winter, perhaps, the best way to do that is to subsidise production of more food by tillage in the winter. You then come to another question, and that is what exactly are you aiming at? You are trying to change the whole economy of the country. That is what you are after, to state it in a big way. It may be right to do that, but I want you to realise that is what you are doing. This is a country of summer farming. Our calves are born in the spring, and the cows give milk from April to December. The same applies to eggs and to all our products. Our season is from April to November or December. It may be right to change the whole economy, but you cannot decide to do that by a resolution like this. If there is any Commission to be set up to go into the question it is going to be the biggest Commission ever set up in this country, and the most ambitious.

It is almost an impertinence, in my opinion, on the part of the State, to hold an inquiry as to whether the economy that has lasted for seventy or eighty years is not to be developed but radically changed. That is what the Commission would come to. I do not see how you can discuss all these big questions of that nature. It is obviously a question that has to be thought out, first of all with reference to a number of general principles that I have tried to indicate. Should subsidies be applied generally? If so, what is the most convenient way of applying them? I say this in view of what Senator Dillon has stated. It might very well be that it would pay the State to give a subsidy for the fattening of cattle at a time when most cattle are being fattened, because then the subsidy reinforces the natural climatic conditions of the country that brought about that state of affairs. It may be argued if you want to subsidise anything, why not subsidise something that is already a success. It may be that it is better to subsidise something that is a success and that suits the climate instead of buying off disadvantages due to our climate. Therefore, I say you have raised an extremely big question which you could hardly discuss or decide with reference simply to the motion.

I am sorry the Minister was not here when I spoke on the motion, and that he does not understand the point of it. It is mainly to have better and more finished cattle produced. I was speaking to an exporter who was buying cattle in Wexford, and he said that the foot-and-mouth outbreak there was a Godsend, as owing to the fact that the people were not able to ship their cattle they fed them longer and made them more mature, until they were as good as any of the Norfolk or Scotch cattle. It is deplorable in the months of October and November to see markets filled with immature cattle, whereas if the people retained their cattle for a couple of months they would increase their price by £5 to £12 per head. Senator O'Hanlon's arguments are all theory. He is a great man in theory, but I am afraid he is not practical. Senator O'Connor's pet aversion is the dead meat trade. He would not stand for it in any circumstances. You said, Cathaoirleach, that you had a suggestion to make.


I said it occurred to me that the suggestion made by Senator Sir Walter Nugent would be a good one. You gather now, Senator, the disposition of the House. I think the House is agreed the matter is one that deserves consideration, that is, the question of introducing to a greater extent the principle of the dead meat trade. But the question of a subsidy is such a big and startling proposition that I am afraid you will never get the House to agree to it, and I think it would be foolish for you to embark on it. I think it would be better to withdraw the motion, and, in consultation with Senator Sir Walter Nugent, you could put down a new motion in a different shape.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The Seanad adjourned at 4.45 until further notice.