Live calf exports are “important” and the type of calf which Ireland produces “works well with the veal trade internationally”, according to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue.
“The key thing is that standards are applied and maintained in relation to their welfare in transport,” he added, speaking this week at a Fianna Fáil meeting in Carlow in response to footage of calf welfare breaches exposed by RTÉ.
The Minister insisted that there must be a “viable life pathway” for every calf born in Ireland, that its welfare is respected and that its “role in relation to the food chain is respected as well”.
He said that for this reason, he urged milk processors to work together to stamp out the practice used by some of their farmer suppliers of having young calves slaughtered.
From next January, Ireland’s milk processors have agreed they will not pay farmer suppliers who continue to have young healthy calves slaughtered.
“It’s something that’s coming in for 2024. That is the next [calving] season coming. It’s something I met with the key processors on in the last few months.
"It’s something I had urged them to work together to produce and I very much welcome that action that they are taking collaboratively. I think that it is the way forward,” the Minister said.
Minister McConalogue warned that “farmers from across the country are disgusted with what they saw” on the RTÉ Investigates programme and that it is “simply not acceptable”.
“It’s certainly not representative of what happens on farms across this country, but it happened. We have seen it and it can’t be allowed to happen. The investigation will be robust and we will be assessing what steps we can take to make sure that type of thing isn’t happening.
“The Department are engaging with the marts involved, the Department are also engaging with RTÉ regarding gathering the evidence also. We’ll be looking to step out the investigation as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.