Animal health and welfare Bill brought before Dáil


RADICAL LEGISLATION that updates some 50 laws relating to animal health and welfare has been introduced in the Dáil. Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the legislation “will play a key role in protecting Ireland’s image as a country which not only respects the welfare of its animals but also accords critical importance to its high animal health status”.

Some legislation relating to animal welfare was more than 100 years old and there was now “far greater movement of animals, animal products and people. Ireland needs to ensure it has robust biosecurity procedures in order that the State can act not just when there is a disease outbreak but in a preventative way, focused on risk and reducing risk,” said Mr Coveney.

The Minister said the Bill applied “both to rural and urban areas, and to all animals whether they be commercial, domestic, sport, show or for other purposes”. Mr Coveney believed they had struck a “pretty good balance” between not being overbearing in introducing new laws and regulations while at the same time stamping out totally unacceptable practices such as cockfighting, dogfighting and the mutilation of animals “about which we read on a far too regular basis”.

Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív welcomed the modernising legislation and said “for practitioners going back to legislation from 1911 is bizarre”. He said “when it comes to animals, prevention of cruelty” was preferable to prosecution and cure.

Sinn Féin agriculture spokesman Martin Ferris said the Bill was a response to a gap in existing legislation and he believed the “little amount of lobbying on the current Bill reflects a general acceptance of what is proposed”.

But Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan criticised the treatment of badgers in combating TB and said control measures should not be carried out “through the most barbaric, gruesome and inhumane practice of catching badgers in a snare”. Mr Coveney said “badgers carrying TB are a major contributory factor to the spread of the disease”. He defended the Department of Agriculture’s eradication programme. Ms O’Sullivan also expressed concern about the export of live animals to China, but the Minister said they wanted to export “best practice” and the export of horses to China had been delayed because Coolmore stud was not happy with the current stabling conditions.

The Bill now goes to committee stage.