The new Animal Health and Welfare Bill, which is expected back before the Dáil next month, is not addressing key issues within the industry, IFA Animal Health Chairman John Waters has warned.
The Longford native who spoke out about the Bill’s process through the Oireachtas last week, insisted that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD would have to further investigate the Bill and “make the necessary changes to it” before its ratification could be addressed. “IFA is disappointed that the Bill had passed through all stages in the Seanad without taking on board a number of key concerns for farmers,” he added. “The Animal Health and Welfare Bill involves a series of new proposals and measures that could have far reaching consequences for farmers and the agriculture sector. It must be recognised in the Bill that farmers operate to the highest animal welfare standards and are already heavily regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”
The IFA Animal Health leader went on to highlight the importance of the Minister’s input into the Bill and said it was imperative that unnecessary or additional costs or bureaucracy on farmers was not imposed as a result of the its implementation. “In addition, the Minister must ensure that the Bill does not put the productive Irish agricultural sector and exports at a competitive disadvantage,” Mr Waters explained, adding that provisions within the Bill for new and additional animal health levies “were not necessary”. “Farmers strongly object 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. Compensation cannot be limited to the food producing capacity of the animal and all other factors including the genetic merit of an animal must be taken into account when determining market value.”
IFA has put forward a total of 84 recommendations in respect of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill and has already indicated that it wrote to Minister Coveney “outlining the very real concerns of farmers across a whole range of issues”.
“Farmers are extremely concerned with the provisions in the Bill regarding the appointment of authorised officers and the powers of such officers,” Mr Waters continued. “The Bill provides for the appointment of authorised officers, which may be delegated to a third party, such as a welfare organisation or other bodies. These officers will have wide-ranging powers including power to seize animals and issue on the spot fines of up to €1,000 based on ‘reasonable grounds for believing’ and without having to produce evidence.
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 or allow for ministerial accountability. In addition, it is turning the law on its head because the Bill removes the basic legal right of the presumption of innocence.”
The IFA also believes that other proposals in the Bill surrounding farm practices such as de-horning, disbudding, castration and tail docking require “changes and clarification”.