The New Zealand government recently decided to ban all live exports from their country from 2023.

Now, New Zealand is a lot further from anywhere than Ireland is from Britain and mainland Europe. In fact, it’s 2,500 miles from Australia – you’d nearly be in Canada from Dingle as fast. It exported over 100,000 cattle to China in 2020, a trip of almost 6,000 miles.

We would be clear across the US and floating across the Pacific Ocean if we voyaged that far. The loss of a ship, its crew of 41 and 6,000 cattle in the China Sea last September made the ban almost inevitable.

For Ireland, export operations must remain squeaky clean. The upsetting 2019 footage from a French lairage could be called a warning bell. We need to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare at all times when transporting animals off the island.

The biggest danger is not an exports ban, but an imports ban by our main calf market, the Netherlands. It’s something the country’s Agriculture Minister, Carola Schouten, called for last year. She grew up on a dairy farm, and helped to run it after her father died, so could not be branded “anti-farming”.

However, she is under pressure from Dutch farmers, angry at the depth of cut in the national herd they are required to make. Watching that herd augmented by Irish imports is not a good look.

Is there scope for someone in Irish farming to take a leaf out of Glanbia’s book, and form a strategic alliance with an established continental veal company? Instead of exporting the calves, we could raise them to slaughter here on the island. We export 90% of our beef, so it’s hardly breaking the mould.

Green surge

In the 72 years since West Germany first held post-war elections, political power in Germany has been held by either the Christian Democrats (CDU) or the Social Democrats (SDP). Indeed, the current government is a coalition between the two. That duopoly has led to a political stability that has been at the heart of the European project.

That could all change in next September’s election, if recent trends hold firm. On Sunday, a national opinion poll showed the Green party in the lead for the first time ever. This could see Annalena Baerbock poised to become German Chancellor.

That would be a seismic change; the Green party polled in sixth place four years ago. Issues like shipping of cattle would become even more contentious, should they maintain their current strength.