Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that any RTÉ footage provided to the Department of Agriculture showing breaches of calf welfare rules will be reviewed and all instances of mistreatment followed up in the investigation into the matter.

Minister McConalogue stated the he was “disgusted” by scenes that aired on RTÉ Investigates on Monday as he gave the assurance that the follow-up investigation will be robust.

He maintains that some of the practices seen on the programme constitute breaches of the laws in place to ensure animal welfare during transport.


“We will be reviewing all of the footage. We have asked for all of it from RTÉ and first of all, we will be following those incidences up for an investigation into those and also looking at how we can ensure that the law - and in other countries as well - to ensure that the law is properly and fully enforced,” he said.

“I’m not sure when it’s going to be concluded, we just saw the evidence, so as quickly as possible, but it has to be robust and thorough, but we will be expediting it and we want to follow through in relation with these incidences and follow through in relation to what step we need to take to make sure that these things cannot happen within our agri-food sector.”

The Minister added that the behaviour shown towards calves is not representative of marts in general.

“I think people across our country are horrified by what they saw, but, even more so, people working within the farming community, more so myself, growing up, the care and attention that is given to animals,” he continued.

“And being in marts right throughout my life and in recent years, it’s not representative of marts either.

“So it's totally intolerable and an investigation [is] under way and every step will be taken to ensure those types on scenes can’t happen.”

Veal outlet in Ireland?

Minister McConalogue also stated that there needs to be a relook of the viability of veal in Ireland.

“That has been looked at in the past and the challenge with regard to veal and from an Irish point of view that it is seasonal.

“We tend to only have calves available in spring, where it is a year-round trade and sector in the continent.

The possibility of rearing dairy bull calves as veal should be relooked, the Minister said.

"It has been looked at it, it hasn’t stood up previously from an economic point of view, I know it needs looking at again."

He also suggested that changes to breeding strategies in dairy are strengthening, with a move away from non-sexed dairy bulls and towards sexed semen, paired with higher usage of beef bulls.

“I’d say on the round as well we are taking very significant steps as well to change the types of calves that are coming off the dairy sector, so there has been very rapid progress made in the last year or two in relation to sexed semen and developing the technology and the research around that and the application of it.

“I see a big ramp up and a change coming in relation to beef breeds being used on dairy herds and then the use of sexed semen for the replacements in dairy herds so that you are using sexed semen to breed to dairy cows so you are getting dairy heifers for your replacements.”

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