Live exports are a very important component of Ireland’s livestock industry and provide essential competition in the beef market place.
In view of this fact, and due to the nature of the shipping routes from this island, my Department implements very high standards in respect of the welfare of animals we export. EU Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 on animal transport provides that stricter rules may be applied by member states than those set down at EU level. The Deputy should be aware that my Department has availed of this provision and, therefore, the current Irish legislation, made possible by powers conferred under section 36 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, sets higher standards relating to the approval of ships for livestock transport than those which apply generally in the EU. Indeed, our legislation is recognised by the EU Commission as being amongst the most effective and stringent in force as regards transport by sea.
All animals are inspected and must be certified as regards health status and fitness for travel and cattle on board a livestock ship departing from Ireland. In addition, due regard must be taken to weather conditions prior to sailings and these measures contribute to maintaining Ireland’s reputation as an exporter of livestock of high health status.
With a view to improving slaughter and transport standards in third countries, my Department, along with our EU partners, works closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health, OIE. The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health and welfare worldwide. Ireland has once again proved its ongoing commitment to animal welfare by recently approving additional OIE multi-annual financial assistance to support its activities to enhance animal welfare worldwide.
The preservation of Ireland’s animal health status and the international reputation of veterinary certification services and the existence and application of a regulatory framework ensures that high standards and welfare considerations are taken into account during transport and are components essential to safeguarding the live export trade.
The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to promote and maintain an environment in which live exports can continue in both an economic and sustainable manner, with strong emphasis on the welfare of all animals being exported.