Cattle are effectively locked in Ireland until they are fit for slaughter – ICOS

Irish cattle are effectively locked on the island of Ireland until they are fit for slaughter, according to the Irish Co-operative Society (ICOS).

The umbrella group representing co-ops hit out at the anti-trade conditions created by livestock export and movement restrictions, saying that these are disastrous for Irish farmers and marts.

According to ICOS, these trade restrictions are more to do with trade control rather than having any legitimate quality or consumer basis.

Meat factories allege that the UK consumer demands to know where the animal was born, reared and slaughtered, it reports.

But, ICOS suggests that there is no scientifically-based animal welfare or meat quality rationale for the imposition of this movement restriction which has the effect of distorting free trade.

One of these conditions is that cattle that have moved holdings within the last 70 days before slaughter do not qualify for the Quality Payment System (QPS) bonus. 

Additionally, cattle with more than four movements between farms are penalised.

At a recent meeting with the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK, ICOS outlined that Irish beef exports to the UK amount to approximately 250,000t, 88,000t of which ends up on retailer’s shelves.

This is the equivalent of about 275,000 cattle.

But, due to the domination and control of supply channels there is no way that any proportion of this can be met through Irish live cattle exports to Britain.

It also cited figures from Bord Bia, which shows that the number of cattle exported from Ireland to the UK has dropped significantly since 1973.

When Ireland first joined the EEC in 1973, it exported about 400,000 live cattle to the UK annually, but current export volumes stand at about 9,000 head per year.

ICOS also outlined to the NFU that the percentage of factory-fit animals going to slaughter via livestock marts in Ireland has decreased significantly including a decrease in the cull cow trade, which it says is directly due to the trade inhibiting conditions of the Irish factories’ QPS bonus scheme.