Irish calf exports have been stalled pending an investigation into a lairage facility in France.
The facility at Pignet is one of two lairage facilities that Irish calves are sent to on arrival off the boat in France.
They are fed in these facilities and take their mandatory rest periods before moving on to their final destination on farms.
The majority of Irish calves move through the Pignet lairage facility, with thousands of Irish calves moving through it on a weekly basis over the last number of weeks
The closure of the Pignet lairage is as a result of French investigation into animal welfare standards at the facility.
This investigation was instigated after a video surfaced online during the week of calves being fed at the lairage.
It’s understood that the video footage, which was taken by hidden cameras in the facility by an NGO, is part of the investigation.
Questions have also been raised about the length of time calves had been spending in the lairage facility and whether all required rest periods were being adhered to.
The NGO Eyes on Animals visited a number of Irish marts earlier this week where calf sales were taking place and took video footage of calves being loaded and unloaded.
The Department of Agriculture sent an email to all Irish calf exporters on Friday stating that the Pignet facility had been closed with immediate effect, with no bookings available until further notice.
It’s unclear as yet as to how long the investigation will take place or for how long the facility will be shut down.
A Department spokesperson said: “The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been made aware of the circulation of a video identifying an instance of ill-treatment of calves travelling from Ireland to Europe, at a French control post.
“The Department condemns the ill treatment of any animals, particularly of vulnerable animals such as unweaned calves.
“The French competent authority has already notified this instance to law enforcement authorities in France for investigation.
“The Department is liaising closely with the French authorities and will provide every assistance possible.
“The Department takes appropriate enforcement action where non-compliance with the relevant legal framework is identified. It would not be appropriate to make any further comment on this matter at this time”
Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, Limerick-based calf exporter John Hallisey said: “We had some sailings cancelled during the week and there was a hope that the pressure would be relieved at the weekend, but the closure of Pignet means we can’t move until we find out what’s happening in France.
“We just hope it doesn’t create more problems this side with big numbers of calves backing up on farms.”