There has been widespread disappointment with the Programme for Government that has been signed off by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party, in relation to animal welfare. As the Green Party has an extensive animal welfare policy the bulk of disappointment has been laid at their door. I don’t think anyone had any expectations for either of the other two parties to show any interest or concern around animal welfare.
The Green Party holds the minority of seats so does not hold many cards and there had to be compromises on all sides. The fact many issues did not get included in the Programme for Government does not mean the end of the road – the Green Party can still fight once in government if the coalition goes ahead. I have read through the programme and whilst there could be a lot more there in relation to the climate crisis and animal welfare there are a lot of positives that can be taken. The highs and lows have been summarised below.
- Commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% each year
- More support and investment in organic farming
- Encouraging and supporting farmers to diversify
- More investment in agro-forestry, afforestation, rewilding and paludiculture (rewetting peatlands)
- Exploration into hemp production
- Encouraging expansion of horticulture and tillage including more homegrown animal feed, to make Ireland more food secure
- Support local authorities to expand the number of farmers’ markets, farm shops and food emporiums and develop more community-owned markets in all towns.
- Work with local authorities and local communities to develop community gardens, allotments, and urban orchards.
- Encourage schools and colleges to provide access to land where students can grow their own food.
- Support the small food producer, providing support for on-farm diversification enterprises and investment in local processing facilities
- Work with farmers to improve standards of soil health and fertility and embark on a trajectory of reducing inorganic nitrogen fertiliser by 2030
- Uphold the EU Pigs Directive and support the development of higher welfare outdoor reared systems for both pigs and poultry.
- Research the potential for the utilisation of dual purpose breeds, and the viability of ‘calf-at-foot’ dairy models on Irish dairy farms.
- There is no mention of hare coursing or fox hunting and funding for greyhound and horse racing will continue.
- The biggest blow is there will be no live export ban to countries outside the EU and the programme states that it recognises the role of live export with regard to price competition. This is a false statement and there is no data to back it up. Putting a few extra vets at the dock will do nothing to help the animals at slaughterhouses in Libya. This industry is barbaric and outdated and must be stopped.
- Whilst there is talk of farmers diversifying there is still emphasis on growth of the export market, which implies continued expansion of the herd and the pig and poultry industry. The opposite must happen.
- With regard to emissions there is mention of feed additives to reduce methane and improved breeding programmes. I’m concerned that ‘improved breeding programmes’ means more genetic breeding to develop cattle that produces less methane. We have done enough messing about with nature already, just cut the herd it’s very straightforward.
- The plan to develop an outdoor reared pig and poultry sector also states support for the development of existing production systems i.e. intensive factory farms. These should be eliminated not developed and this statement is completely contradictory.
- Growing international markets and value-added export is seen as a key priority. We have to move away from this mindset that we have to continuously grow and expand. Covid has forced us all to slow down and we cannot go back to business as usual. We must recognise that the world has limited resources and it’s time to slow down and start to restore the damage that we have done.
EFI welcomes the exploration into calf-at-foot dairying. This is a growing movement in Europe and a far more humane way of producing dairy. Of course current production levels could not be maintained with this system so we must reduce our consumption and cannot continue pushing for growth. As almost all pigs in Ireland are reared in indoor, intensive systems it is encouraging to see that higher welfare, outdoor systems will be developed. EFI is also pleased to see that EU Regulations regarding pig mutilations and the provision of enrichment will finally be enforced. However, the failure to ban live export at least to countries outside the EU is a heavy blow. The industry does not impact price, it does not stimulate competition, it is not vital to the economy, it is highly regulated on paper only and welfare standards are not high. All it does is create suffering and misery.