Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) president, Dermot Kelleher, has called on all Irish MEPs to “defeat” the proposals on animal transport ahead of a debate and vote in the European Parliament.

Kelleher addressed all Irish MEPs to collectively “get as many votes as possible” against the proposed rules, which would be an “unmitigated disaster for Ireland” he said.

The European Parliament Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) proposed a ban on the transport of pregnant animals in the last third of gestation; a maximum journey time of two hours for unweaned animals over 35 days; and a complete ban for unweaned animals under 35 days.

The ICSA president stated that there were negative economic and animal-welfare issues associated with the new proposed rules.

The European Parliament debate and vote are expected to take place in Strasbourg between January 17-20.

Animal welfare

The ICSA president said proposed restrictions on animal transport come from those “who do not understand livestock farming” and that new rules would create more animal-welfare issues.

Many cows and in-calf heifers are often sold in their final trimester to ensure animals reach farms where they can be calved down.

Other reasons for export during this period can include herd dispersal; reducing numbers to meet available accommodation; or feed or economic necessity, Kelleher explained.

“Farmers need to be able to sell animals at a time which is appropriate to their farming system. If you interfere with this, there are unintended consequences.

“It is also fundamentally important for animal welfare that dairy farms are able to sell calves at less than 35 days’,” Kelleher continued.

Economic impacts

Besides negative effects on animal welfare, the ICSA president also said the proposed set of rules will create severe negative economic implications, with Ireland being particularly vulnerable.

“Farmers need as many markets as possible and we need the competition that live exports provide.

“The reality is that there are no markets for unhealthy animals – the very fact that these markets exist proves that animal transport can and is being accomplished with best practice in terms of animal welfare,” Kelleher concluded.