I propose to take Questions Nos. 666, 667, 668, 669, 670 and 671 together.
As the Deputy is aware, I recently signed a protocol outlining the requirements to be met before the export of breeding pigs to China. This provides a framework within which private sector businesses can explore business opportunities in China. The extent and scope of any trade is a matter for private enterprise, subject to compliance with animal health and animal welfare standards and the conditions of the Protocol.
Any live animals transported from Ireland are governed under the requirements of EU legislation. The vast majority of animals exported from Ireland travel to the EU, which is governed by the same animal welfare legislation as Ireland. A relatively small percentage are exported to non-EU countries - the transport of these animals are subject to the same to EU legislation.
The Department, in cooperation with our EU partners, works closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) with a view to improving animal welfare practices worldwide. The OIE is the global standard setting body relating to animal health and animal welfare. It is through this forum that we influence standards in other non-EU countries.
Ireland has been a member of the OIE European Platform Steering Committee on Animal Welfare since its creation in 2013 and has offered technical inputs for the development of the OIE Platform action plans. To support these activities, Ireland has also provided financial supports in recent years.
All live export shipments from Ireland are conducted in full compliance with legislative requirements. All proposed journeys must be notified to the Regional Veterinary Office in advance, and veterinary certification will only be provided where the journey complies with all animal transport and animal welfare regulations. This includes a requirement to notify the Regional Veterinary Office of the outcome of each journey once completed, and the condition of the animals on arrival. The export and the transport of animals from Ireland is continuously monitored.
Live exports play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this commercial trade, recognising its critical importance to the agri-sector, while ensuring that live animal exports meet the highest welfare standards.