Thursday’s European Parliament debate on animal transport recommendations demonstrated that there is work to be done to convince legislators that Ireland is meeting the highest standards when it comes to animal welfare during transport, according to the Irish Farmers Association (IFA).

IFA president Tim Cullinan said the voting through of key amendments to animal transport recommendations in the European Parliament goes “some way” towards safeguarding competition in the cattle trade.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Cullinan acknowledged the work done by Irish MEPs to secure support for amendments to some of the parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) proposals.

Amendments were accepted which will seek to reduce the age at which calves canNOt be transported to 28 days, rather than the originally proposed 35, except in the case of transport carried out by farmers for a distance of less than 50km.

An amendment which would see the transport of animals in the last third of gestation restricted to a maximum of four hours, rather than an outright ban, was also agreed.

Campaign continues

Tim Cullinan said: “From the position of Irish farming, it was vital that the key amendments were carried, but our campaign will continue.

“IFA will be working with others through COPA and our MEPs to build support for animal transport, given its critical role for Ireland as an island nation.”

He described how Irish calves are highly sought after in the European market.

“They are very robust and healthy and thrive well. Our animal welfare and transport are of the highest standard, which is why there is such demand for our calves.”

Common sense

Elsewhere, Billy Kelleher MEP, who addressed fellow MEPs during the debate on Thursday, hailed the vote as a “decisive victory for common sense”.

The Cork farmer said: “Both compromises that I proposed on the issues of pregnant and unweaned animals were carried by Parliament this morning, and a very concerning amendment attempting to limit journey times to eight hours was also defeated.

“Today, common sense prevailed. From the very outset, I set out clearly that it is possible to have high animal transport standards and allow the continuation of ordinary farm life across Europe.”

Welcome defeat

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) welcomed the defeat of what it described as the “unworkable animal transport proposals”.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has welcomed the decision of European Parliament to reject proposals that would place “severe restrictions on animal transportation”.

“[The] ICSA has lobbied hard on this issue. We have engaged with all Irish MEPs, as well as our partners in Farm Europe, to ensure the original proposals put forward by the ANIT committee were dismissed.

“While the highest standards of animal welfare must always be maintained, the transport of animals is integral to the vast majority of livestock enterprises.”

The ICSA acknowledged the support of Fianna Fail MEP Billy Kelleher, Fine Gael MEPs Seán Kelly, Maria Walsh, Deirdre Clune and Colm Markey, Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus and Independent MEPs Mick Wallace and Luke Ming Flanagan, who all “worked with [the] ICSA on this issue in recent weeks”.

'Sense and science prevail'

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said “sense and science” have prevailed followed the Parliament decision on the proposed amendments.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that the proposals from the ANIT committee were clearly unworkable from the perspectives of both animal welfare and farming.

He said equal enforcement of existing regulations across member states should be the priority before any new regulations are contemplated.

“Any new framework must also acknowledge Ireland’s vulnerable position as the only sizeable island nation in the EU.”


The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has welcomed amendments to the animal transport proposals as “realistic” and “practical”.

ICOS environment and livestock executive Ray Doyle said: “The Irish calf export trade is an essential part of our dairy sector where very high-quality calves are produced to high standards of animal welfare and husbandry and are transported by responsible and caring operators.

“These amendments represent flexibilities which we campaigned for.

“We also acknowledge the work of Irish MEPs Billy Kelleher and Colm Markey, who represented the best interests of Irish dairy farming in promoting the amendments within the ANIT committee.”

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MEPs back amendments on calf exports