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 Header Item Trade Agreements (Continued)
 Header Item Animal Welfare
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item Beef Industry

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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  10 o’clock

  Question No. 47 replied to with Written Answers.

Animal Welfare

 48. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the controls his Department exercise over the intake register of category 1, 2 and 3 knackeries; the controls that exist to oversee and enforce the regulations relating to use of animal by-products from category 2 plants to ensure no cross-contamination between categories; his views on whether these controls are robust enough for his Department to guarantee the integrity of the food chain; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28550/19]

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy This question is a follow-on from the RTÉ "Prime Time" report. It seeks to find out about enforcement. How does the Department ensure there is no cross-contamination? Are there audits of the registers of the knackeries? What is the effect of enforcement in closing down, prosecuting, etc., facilities that have so egregiously breached the conditions they are allowed to function under?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Category 2 intermediate plants, knackeries, and collection centres are approved and supervised by my Department in accordance with the EU Animal By-Products Regulations (EC) No. 1069 of 2009 and its implementing Regulation (EU) No. 142 of 2011, which lay down the health rules as regards animal by products and derived products not intended for human consumption.

Category 2 intermediate plants, knackeries, and collection centres play a vital role in the agri-sector. They play an important role in combatting illegal burial or the dumping of fallen stock, and are a vital conduit between the herd owner and the Department for traceability of all fallen bovines by their submission of documentation to the animal identification and movement system. They also serve as centres at which my Department can carry out statutory BSE and TSE sampling on cattle and sheep which serves to underpin Ireland's bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, TSE, status and is a necessary part of the surveillance needed to ensure compliance with EU rules.

Official controls are carried out in the knackeries by veterinary personnel of my Department to ensure compliance with the EU and national animal by-product regulations and also compliance with the specific operational conditions laid down for category 2 intermediate plants. The Department carries out, on an ongoing basis, audits and routine and-or unannounced inspections at the category 2 intermediate plants. In addition, Department inspectors take samples from dead cattle and sheep at knackeries for the purpose of disease surveillance under EU Regulation 999/2001.

As part of their conditions of approval, knackery operators are required to keep an up-to-date electronic intake register, completed appropriately, in chronological order. The intake register is audited as part of the inspections. Senior veterinary inspectors at regional veterinary offices and veterinary inspectors working in headquarters carry out verification visits to verify effectiveness of official controls.

The rationale for the animal by-products, ABP, regulations is to create and ensure a one-way flow for ABP material which ensures that such material is dealt with appropriately and prevents the occurrence of cross-contamination with other categories of ABP. Enhanced controls have recently been put in place to ensure that no category 1 ABP material, which is designated under EU Regulation as lower quality ABP, may enter the intake area of the knackery. The stringent official controls in place as required under EU and national regulations, together with the frequency of inspections carried out by officials from my Department, provides a robust system of controls to ensure the highest standard of compliance is maintained.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy It is very hard to match that with what we saw two nights ago and it is very difficult to see what the sanction is from the Minister’s response. The Irish Coursing Club's figures show that between 2013 and 2017, 86,754 individual pups were registered and 6,700 were reported to have died during that period. Much of the emphasis is on the post-2015 microchipping. Where have all those dogs gone? For example, if they were disposed of in incinerators would the microchips have survived? The export of dogs to the UK could hardly account for that number, nor could the rehoming of dogs. There is a statistic here that cannot be squared. It is very difficult to see what the sanction is for people who breach the rules in these facilities.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed In the context of the broader exposé and the public service journalism conducted by RTÉ in that "Prime Time" programme the Department will give no comfort to anybody shown in that programme who is in breach of regulations. The content of the programme has been rightly commented on as being grotesquely offensive to people in the industry and to society in general, and in the context of animal welfare regulations.

The Department is examining all those issues in the operation of knackeries which serve a very important function in the broader agrifood sector, particularly for the livestock sector in respect of fallen animals. Insofar as there may be shortcomings in our own regime to deal in particular with the disposal of pets, which die for many reasons, including humane killing in veterinary practices for good reason, or fallen pets, road victims, we will consider all of that. It is somewhat reassuring that even in the programme there was evidence of Department inspections.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I have also been contacted by good people in this sector who are trainers and breeders. They have no confidence in the Irish Greyhound Board, IGB, in the regulation of this area. Is the Minister going to close these places down if they will not comply with the rules? I understand that they have to exist but the ones that are breaking the rules should not be allowed to continue in the sector. It is all very well saying it is robust but what does that mean? What action is open to the Minister to take?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed They perform a really critical function in the operation of the broader agrifood sector. There is a specific focus on their activities and the legality around their dealing with the putting down and disposal of greyhounds. Insofar as there may be shortcomings in our regulations and a requirement to prosecute where there are breaches of the law, the Department is considering all those matters. In terms of closing down knackeries, we should make haste slowly. They perform a really critical function. There may be breaches of regulations or there may be weaknesses in the law as regards how they operate in the disposal of pets and that is an issue we will examine.

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Beef Industry

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Carey has permission from Deputy Heydon to introduce his question.

 49. Deputy Martin Heydon Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the details of the new aid package for beef farmers based on EU exceptional aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28264/19]

 50. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the way in which he plans to administer the recently announced EU beef fund; when farmers can expect payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28261/19]

 53. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if the distribution of the €100 million Brexit fund for farmers will be subject to preconditions and or specific categories of farmers such as beef finishers as has been reported; if the fund will be available to farmers at stages along the beef chain (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28230/19]

 56. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if in the submission submitted to the EU Commission by his Department for special assistance due to the beef price crisis, a proposal was made do reduce the suckler cow herd; if so, the details of such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28082/19]

 62. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the details of the €50 million fund announced to help farmers cope with the impact of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25181/19]

 81. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the status of the latest EU-Mercosur talks; when payments will issue under the EU beef compensation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28254/19]

 83. Deputy Martin Kenny Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when beef farmers will receive money from the €100 million beef Brexit fund; the terms and conditions of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28157/19]

 87. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed when he plans to meet the farming stakeholders to discuss the recently announced EU beef fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28262/19]

 88. Deputy Willie Penrose Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if there will be no compulsory reduction of cattle numbers linked to the €100 million Brexit emergency package; when it is intended that farmers will be paid the funds arising from the package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28078/19]

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey This question is to ask the Minister the details of the new aid package for beef farmers based on EU exceptional aid and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 50, 53, 56, 62, 81, 83, 87 and 88 together.

  I am keenly aware that the past few months have been very challenging for beef farmers in particular, following a difficult year for farm incomes in 2018 due to weather conditions. There was a prolonged and exceptional period of depressed prices lasting from autumn 2018 to spring 2019, with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Brexit, among other factors, contributing to this market disturbance.

  The recent announcement by Commissioner Hogan of EU exceptional aid for the Irish beef sector is very welcome in this context. I have been making the case for some time for an exceptional aid package from the EU Commission for Irish beef farmers, at EU Council of Agriculture Minister meetings, and in direct consultation with the Commission. The submission made by my Department to the EU Commission in request of the aid package is available on my Department's website: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/beef/

  I confirm to Deputy Ó Cuív that it did not request in any way, shape or form a reduction in suckler cow numbers.

  This exceptional aid has been granted by the European Commission on the basis that the Irish beef sector is heavily reliant on export markets and is uniquely exposed to shifts in the UK market, in particular. Additionally, Ireland's extensive beef system, with its comparatively long production cycle, presents challenges in responding to market shifts. The Commission has also recognised that it is in the interests of the market stability of the EU beef sector to avoid a situation where downward price pressure on Irish beef spills over to other member states.

  This temporary exceptional aid provision is given effect through a Commission implementing regulation. This regulation, the draft of which is available on the Commission's website, will be published soon.


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