As an island, we have to export calves using ferries and the standards we adhere to are exceptionally high, Ireland south MEP Billy Kelleher has said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Countrywide on Saturday morning, Kelleher highlighted that while more must be done in Europe to improve overall welfare standards, Ireland was leading the way in terms of adherence to European Commission regulations.

“The mortality rate of Irish calves during live export is exceptionally low. Research from the Netherlands shows that Irish calves are of the highest quality and the ones that need the least intervention after their journey.

“The significant challenge is time spent on the boats themselves. Teagasc and others are doing an awful lot of research into how we can ensure that there’s no stress placed on the animals during this period.”

Integral role

Also speaking on Saturday’s show was Ethical Farming Ireland spokesperson Caroline Rowley, who calls for the minimum age of calves for live export to be increased to two months.

“Why are we shipping live animals around the world and we can ship meat instead. The bulk of the live export from Ireland is unweaned calves, last year it was around 140,000 head.

“Obviously if we suddenly stopped export overnight that could cause welfare issues here with a glut of extra calves to deal with. To start, we’re looking for the age to be increased to two months old so they are better equipped to deal with the journey.”

Kelleher highlighted that live export plays an integral part of the Irish agricultural industry and that its integrity must be protected by maintaining the high standards that are in place.

“It would be wrong for people to think that Ireland is not enforcing regulations. We have higher standards in many cases,” Kelleher said.

“For example, the space allocated to calves on Irish lorries is greater than obligated in regulations laid down by the European Commission.”

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