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Livestock Issues

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 June 2021

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Ceisteanna (548)

Róisín Shortall


548. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason journeys to continental Europe involving unweaned calves are being authorised by his Department given the calves cannot be fed during transit which is in direct contravention of point 1.4(a) Chapter V of EU Regulation 1/2005 that states unweaned calves must be fed after a maximum of 19 hours; the steps he will take to bring the live export sector in line with legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29752/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine takes its responsibilities in the matter of animal welfare very seriously and exercises close oversight, and deploys considerable resources to the area of animal welfare in general, including in respect of animals being transported. The legal interpretation you have quoted is not one which is shared by the Department.

Notwithstanding, continuing additional measures are regularly taken to further enhance and safeguard animal welfare during transport. In 2020, this included prohibiting transport in temperatures of 30°C or greater, increased space in lorries for young calves, and a requirement on drivers to retrain every three years instead of 10 years. These measures were further enhanced in 2021 with a minimum of 40kg bodyweight set for calves to be exported, and a ban introduced on animal transport to certain countries in July and August, and December/January to avoid extreme temperatures.

Furthermore, Teagasc has begun an intensive research project aiming to help establish ways to further improve welfare during transport, including feeding a high-energy, slow-release meal before transport. In early May, Teagasc scientists accompanied a consignment of calves to Cherbourg to carry out a preliminary study of the scientific indicators of welfare before, during and after their ferry voyage with a view to  starting to amass a body of evidence on what further interventions would best enhance their welfare and comfort en route.

This trade is important to Irish farming and is highly valued by the farming community as it provides an outlet for dairy calves, which have a limited market in Ireland. These calves are highly valued by European farmers and arrive in good health and welfare conditions relative to calves from other countries: a Dutch peer-reviewed scientific study has shown that farms in the Netherlands which raise mostly Irish-origin calves require significantly less antibiotic usage than those from other countries, indicating more robust health and welfare.

Finally, the Programme for Government contains an undertaking to provide additional funding to support animal welfare in the coming years to which I am fully committed. In this regard, in December 2020, I announced record funding of €3.2 million to 101 animal welfare organisations throughout the country.