Commenting on the launch of the new Animal Health + Welfare Bill by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, IFA President John Bryan said farmers operate to the highest animal welfare standards and are already heavily regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
John Bryan said it is vitally important that Minister Coveney ensures the new bill does not impose any unnecessary or additional costs or bureaucracy on farmers. In addition, he said the Minister must ensure that the bill does not put the productive Irish agricultural sector and exports at a competitive disadvantage.
He said IFA has outlined a number of very real concerns to the Department regarding aspects of the Bill, and these issues must be taken on board.
IFA is very concerned regarding the proposal under the bill for the Minister to introduce codes of practice in the animal welfare area and how these codes could be used against farmers.
On pigs, John Bryan said Minister Coveney must ensure that the sector can secure the necessary finance to enable investment and structural change to meet high domestic and EU welfare requirements.
In relation to the reference in the bill to levies on agricultural produce, John Bryan said under no circumstances can any new charge be imposed on farmers to fund animal welfare interest groups.
IFA has strongly objected to the very significant change in the proposed bill to remove the obligation on the Minister to pay compensation under the current Disease of Animals Act where animals are compulsorily removed for disease or other purposes.
John Bryan said IFA is also extremely concerned with the provisions in the bill regarding the appointment of authorised officers and the powers of such officers. “It appears the bill proposes that the appointment of authorised officers may be delegated to a third party such as a welfare organisation or other bodies and these officers could have the serious power to collect documentation, search premises, which in turn could lead to criminal prosecutions. Such a delegation of powers is totally unacceptable because it could mean a privatisation of inspections and an abdication of accountability, which would no longer rest with public servants.”
John Bryan said there are many other proposals in the draft bill which will require changes and clarification as they clearly impinge on standard farm practices such as dehorning, disbudding, castration and tail docking.
He said the IFA will continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture and the political process to secure the necessary changes in the proposed Animal Health and Welfare Bill to protect the agricultural sector and farmers.