There’s an assumption out there, an incorrect assumption, that Ireland doesn’t need to export its excess animals, according to Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

Kelleher questioned European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski on animal transport and welfare last week.

Any review of animal transport rules at EU level must take into account Ireland’s status as an island and the unique challenges that it brings, he said.

“Previously, the Commissioner has stated, when he was a parliamentary rapporteur on this issue, that he believes there should be an eight-hour maximum travel limit for live animals.

“Clearly, the Commissioner, when writing that report, took no heed of Ireland and the challenges we face in getting our animals to mainland European markets,” he said.

Foreign markets

“Every year, nearly 300,000 animals leave Ireland for foreign markets adding hundreds of millions [of euro] to the Irish economy and supporting hundreds if not thousands of jobs in rural communities.

“We do not have the population needed to sustain such an additional input into the domestic market.

“Put simply, it’s the same as asking France to drink all the wine it produces every year instead of exporting it. It’s just a non-runner from the get-go.

“Obviously, we can and must improve animal welfare standards, but that starts with implementing the existing rules and sanctioning those who break them. Proper veterinary oversight must be part of the entire supply chain,” he said.

He also said that investment is needed in terms of the vehicles being used to transport these animals.

“I think farmers and exporters are willing to go the extra mile, but what is not acceptable is an arbitrary time limit that would destroy this really important part of the Irish economy,” Kelleher said.

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