A ‘SHOCKING decision and an unmitigated disaster for Irish agriculture’ is how Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher reacted following the passage of a set of recommendations that would end the transport of unweaned animals from Ireland which he claimed would ‘kill off an industry that employs thousands of people.’
The MEP was speaking after the proposals from the Green MEPs were passed by the slimmest of margins: 16-15.
The committee then voted in favour of the recommendations, with Billy Kelleher being the only MEP out of 31 to vote against.
Two amendments were passed which called for a ban on the transport of pregnant animals in the last third of gestation and time limits of two hours for unweaned animals older than 35 days and a ban on all transport under 35 days. ‘Quite simply, if adopted by the full parliament and taken on board by the Commission when drawing up the new regulation, it would sound a death knell for thousands of jobs in rural Ireland,’ said the MEP.
‘Throughout this process, I advocated and supported compromise positions that reflected the need to increase animal welfare standards during transport and the need to protect livelihoods in rural communities.
‘The Green proposals have driven a coach and four through the very fabric of rural Ireland with these proposals.
‘If Irish farmers and transporters are banned from transporting calves to mainland Europe, it will be an attack on the principles underpinning the European Single Market.’
He said when this issue comes up for debate next month at the full plenary session of the Parliament, he will table alternative proposals.
‘They will reflect my belief that it is possible to transport live animals and maintain their wellbeing. I do not believe it is an either-or scenario,’ he concluded.
ICSA president Dermot Kelleher described it as an ‘extreme position which, quite frankly, is a disaster for Ireland.’
‘I am calling on all our MEPs to use their positions to get this over-the-top position rolled back. Ireland is dependent on live exports, and this will be the end of exports of dairy calves.
‘It is also absurd to suggest that any transport of cows in-calf within three months of calving should be banned. Many cows and in-calf heifers are sold in the final trimester for all sorts of reasons such as herd dispersal, reducing numbers where the farmer doesn’t have sufficient accommodation or feed, or due simply to economic necessity.’
He added: ‘The reality is that these rules are being dreamed up by those who do not understand livestock farming, and the fact is that these rules will create a lot more animal welfare issues. Farmers need to be able to sell animals at a time which is appropriate to their farming system.
‘If you interfere with this, there are unintended consequences.
‘We need all Irish MEPs to get to work immediately in building alliances with MEPs from other countries to get a common sense approach. I am also calling on Minister McConalogue to speak to his counterparts on the EU Farm Council, in order to build a coalition to oppose this.
‘This is one of the biggest risks facing Irish farming ever to have come out of Brussels and we must use all means within our grasp to stop it.’