Creed must ‘tackle the power of beef processing’ – Social Democrats

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has been called on to “tackle the power of the beef processing industry” by Social Democrats spokesperson on agriculture Holly Cairns.

The West Cork TD also expressed deep concern at the clusters of Covid-19 in Irish meat processing plants.

An examination of the rate of Covid-19 infections in this sector “needs to consider the larger context of industrialised agriculture, insufficient workers’ rights, and the poor treatment of farmers”, the TD claimed.

Commenting, deputy Cairns said: “The clusters of Covid-19 in meat processing plants is very distressing, and is symptomatic of fundamental issues in the sector.

When agriculture becomes dominated by big business and vested interests, the rights of small farmers, workers, and consumers are affected. The power of the beef lobby is considerable: cartel-like practices; decreasing prices for farmers; and the disgraceful treatment of workers.

The spokesperson claimed that the clusters of Covid-19 in meat plants occurred “despite warnings from workers and representative organisations”, adding:

“These clusters were avoidable; as they were in direct provision centres – if warnings had been listened to.”

Continuing, deputy Cairns said: “The global industrialisation of farming has contributed to the creation of viruses and the spread of this pandemic.

There are no clusters in small abattoirs, in butcher shops, or on small farms, whereas intensive farming relies on big meat processing plants.

“Ensuring a food system is secure is more than stock on shelves, it is about reducing our total reliance on imports and shortening supply chains.

“The sector should prioritise local economies, connecting producers and consumers, and protecting farmers and workers.”

“We need to start thinking more about how our food is produced. We need to know that our food is produced in a safe, ethical, and fair way.

“Workers deserve more protection, farmers deserve to be paid properly, and the consumer deserves greater transparency,” deputy Cairns concluded.