One of the main concerns in relation to live export outside the EU is the fact the animals will be subjected to a brutal slaughter that is not in line with our standards in Ireland or EU Regulations. EFI has sent joint correspondence to Minister McConalogue along with Compassion in World Farming, Eyes on Animals and Animals International, including footage of Irish cattle in a slaughterhouse in Lebanon, obtained by Animals International in 2020, where the cattle are strung up by a hind leg and foreleg, a rope is placed around the mouth and the head is pulled up by one man whilst another slits the animal’s throat, all whilst fully conscious. Death is not instantaneous. It is clear that the slaughtermen are afraid of the cattle and the facilities at the slaughterhouse are wholly inadequate.
Despite sending several letters and evidence of severe suffering the Minister will not acknowledge what Irish cattle are being subjected to. Instead we are repeatedly sent generic copy and paste responses that do not address any of the concerns and points raised – below is an example of such a communication received from the Minister’s office earlier this year, along with our reply in italics. To date we have not received an answer to the specific questions raised.
It is important to note that the export of animals is a private commercial activity that provides an alternative market outlet for farmers. The Department of Agriculture’s role is to facilitate this trade while ensuring that live animal exports meet high welfare standards. The fact it is a commercial activity is irrelevant. As a competent authority DAFM has a responsibility to ensure Regulations are fully adhered to and welfare standards are met – it is clear from the footage sent to you from Lebanon that Irish cattle are being slaughtered in a manner that is at variance with both EU and Irish standards.
In the case of 3rd country exports outlined in your correspondence, agreed veterinary health certificates with these 3rd countries outline herd of origin, transport and welfare requirements which must be met. Ireland adheres strictly to these standards. It is not disputed whether or not the animals are healthy when they leave Ireland. Our correspondence is in relation to the welfare of Irish cattle at slaughter in the destination countries which the footage sent to you shows is severely compromised.
In relation to welfare standards in these 3rd countries, Ireland continues to work closely with other EU Member State and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) with a view to improving animal welfare practices worldwide. In this regard, Ireland has reaffirmed its on-going commitment to animal welfare through additional OIE multi-annual financial assistance to support its activities directed towards enhancing animal welfare worldwide. Other than a financial contribution could you please give more detail on specific actions that are being taken to improve slaughter conditions in Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Kazakhstan? Could you also please outline how the funding to the OIE is used?
The 2020 Programme for Government contains by far the most comprehensive section on animal welfare in any such Programme. It commits the Government to “provide additional resources to monitor welfare standards, by increasing the veterinary presence available on all live export consignments to third countries”. There has only been one sea journey after the programme for government where a vet accompanied the animals and that was for just part of the journey – the vet disembarked at Algeciras Port, Spain. This is irrelevant anyway. Our correspondence is in relation to the welfare of Irish cattle at slaughter in the destination countries which the footage sent to you shows is severely compromised.
The Programme also committed the Government to “vigorously pursue value-enhancing alternative market avenues”. Given that live exports are seen as playing a role in stimulating price competition in the agri sector, this commitment to promote alternative market avenues is intended to improve market competitions through other means, thus helping to ensure buy-in on animal welfare improvements from farmers and others within the agri sector. This is encouraging to hear. However, I dispute the fact that export outside the EU plays any role in stimulating price competition and would like to see any data that backs up this statement. The volume exported yearly outside the EU is around 25,000. Given that the weekly slaughter rate in Ireland averages at 35,000 it is clear that such a small figure will bear no impact on prices if it were ceased. This also does not address the fact that Irish cattle are being subjected to inhumane slaughter that is in breach of Irish and EU Regulations on the welfare and protection of animals at slaughter.
The Department is committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals – this is underpinned by the programme for Government and a dedicated team of officials in the Department. The Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation when found. How does the Department protect the welfare of Irish cattle in slaughterhouses in Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Kazakhstan?
You can be assured that the Department implements a stringent system of controls on the welfare of animals being exported, in particular, through a comprehensive legislative framework relating to the transport of animals by sea (The Carriage of Livestock by Sea Regulations 2016 (S.I. 356 of 2016). Only ships approved by the Department can load cattle for export from Ireland. Cattle being exported are monitored during the prescribed isolation period by Department Veterinary Inspectors and, in some cases, by Official Veterinarians from the importing countries. I recently submitted a report to Sean Murray detailing serious concerns over the safety and suitability of the livestock vessels authorised for use in Ireland after seeing worrying marine survey reports detailing stability issues and excessive corrosion. I also detailed concerns over the authorisations themselves as some of them appeared to predate inspection reports and one exceeded the authorisation period advised by both the marine surveyor and veterinary inspector. But again, our correspondence in this instance is in relation to the horrific slaughter that Irish cattle are being subjected to, not the journeys themselves.
This is in addition to work carried out by private veterinary practitioners who carry out the testing and sampling as required prior to export to enable certification. At the time of export, all animals are further inspected and certified by an Official Veterinarian from the Department with regard to their health status and fitness for travel. It is not disputed whether or not the animals are healthy when they leave Ireland. Our correspondence is in relation to the welfare of Irish cattle at slaughter in the destination countries which the footage sent to you shows is severely compromised.
The Minister recently launched the first over-arching national Animal Welfare Strategy for Ireland. This provides a framework under which all animal welfare matters can be considered for the future and is a significant step forward in our efforts. Whilst this is encouraging the only mention of live export in the Strategy Plan is in relation to increased monitoring which does nothing to address the issue of inhumane slaughter in third countries.
Our correspondence was specifically about the inhumane slaughter that Irish cattle are being subjected to when exported outside the EU which, if carried out in Ireland, would be in contravention of Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing, the Irish Slaughter of Animals Act 1935 and Ireland’s Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. We have provided evidence of Irish cattle at a slaughterhouse in Lebanon. We have provided evidence of inhumane and unacceptable treatment of cattle at said slaughterhouse. The Minister continuously ignores our concerns yet it is clear that the financial benefit of live export to third countries is far outweighed by the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals involved.