The recommendation to end the transport of unweaned calves would be devastating for the Irish dairy sector and would affect trade from Ireland to Europe, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) dairy chair Stephen Arthur has said.

By a margin of one vote, the European Parliament’s Committee on Inquiry on the Protection of Animals During Transport (ANIT) will bring forward recommendations to end the transport of unweaned calves to a plenary session of the European Parliament in January.

Arthur said that under this recommendation, if all calves have to be more than five weeks of age prior to transport, a significant threat would be posed on the trade of calves from Ireland to Europe.

“Our calves are highly sought after in the European market, as they are more robust and healthier than calves from other European countries. 'Excessive'

"Calf welfare remains of the utmost importance. However, these proposals are excessive and unnecessary given the very strong credentials of Irish calf exports,” he said.

In October, the IFA visited the Netherlands and the feedback received was very positive on the health of exported Irish calves.

"Intra-community trade is the cornerstone upon which the EU has been built on.

"Recommendations that disrupt the transport of animals and disrupt journey times leaves Ireland at a competitive disadvantage, merely because of its geographical location in Europe," Arthur said.

In conclusion, Arthur asked that farmers are not treated unfairly and argued that compliance with enhanced regulations to improve conditions during transport would be a more practical solution than an outright ban.