Animal welfare, live exports and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were just a small selection of the agricultural matters that were up for discussion with European Election candidates in the Ireland South constituency on RTE’s ‘The Week in Politics’ on Sunday night, May 12.

Up for debate on the night was the recent revelations of cruelty to calves in Tollevast, near Cherbourg in France and the role that Ireland plays – overall – in the live export trade.

Labour candidate, Sheila Nunan; Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune; Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne; Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada; and Independent Alliance’s Mick Wallace formed a panel of speakers that highlighted the importance of agriculture and food production in their electoral area.

But it was Nunan who pointed to the nub of live export trade when she explained that not only must the highest possible standards – in terms of animal welfare – be maintained but the monitoring of those standards should also be to the fore.

There has to be the highest possible standards in terms of animal welfare and monitoring of those standards must also be in place.

She added: “We must ensure that there is a rigorous and proper monitoring, and that sanctions and penalties will be applied if it is not adhered to.”

Deputy Mick Wallace, meanwhile, said that the reason Ireland was so dependent on live exports in the first instance was because “there are too many calves in the country now”.

‘Out of business’

He also pointed to the fact that 140,000 family farms have “gone out of business” in this country since 1970.

“The reason there are too many calves is because of the increase on the dairy herd; farmers are producing calves from the Friesian cow that is not wanted for meat in Ireland,” he added.

“The family farm is being gobbled up by what is now known as factory farmers; there are only 52,000 full-time farmers left in this country and CAP payments should be designed to make sure that no farmer goes out of business.”

‘Industrialisation and care’

Liadh Ní Riada told Sunday night’s show that as a country “we need to be looking at mixed farming and sustainability”.

She also added that, as a nation, “we are moving towards more bigger, industrialised farming”.

“CAP is going to be cut by 15% in the next budget and this is going to have a very serious impact,” she added.

Byrne, meanwhile, pointed to animal welfare and the live export trade.

There are very few farmers that would accept the level of animal cruelty that was seen recently; farmers care about their animals.

He continued: “The live export trade is essential but one of the real challenges is in the beef sector. We need to defend the CAP budget – with the UK coming out of Europe that’s potentially €12 billion coming out of the budget.

“In Ireland, we cannot accept any reduction in the CAP budget.”