The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is being called on to show greater flexibility around sheep farm inspections during the lambing season by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

The organisation has highlighted the potential for animal welfare issues to arise during the busy lambing season months if sheep are required to frequently move around the farm for the purpose of inspection.

Sean McNamara, the association’s sheep chairperson, said this morning (Wednesday, January 5): “There are welfare issues when it comes to moving heavy in-lamb or recently lambed ewes.

“They do not need to be subjected to unnecessary stress.

“As sheep farmers we are on duty 24-hours a day at this time of year. Inspections can pile the pressure on and, unless they are absolutely necessary, they should be carried out in the quieter months,” McNamara argued.

The ICSA sheep chair also took the opportunity to warn dog owners “not to become complacent” when it comes to knowing where their dogs are at all times, particularly at this time of year.

“Every lambing season we see the same carnage caused by dogs around the country. Any dog can cause mayhem with livestock if they are allowed to roam free,” he said.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for dog owners to be extra vigilant, particularly at this time of year.

“Attacks on sheep and lambs are utterly preventable with responsible dog ownership,” McNamara concluded.

ICSA slams EU on red meat

In other ICSA-related news, the farm organisation has strongly criticised a new food promotion policy by the European Commission which links red meat to cancer risks.

The commission has approved a budget of €186 million to promote EU agri-food produce both within and outside the union this year.

This includes encouraging consumers to have a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat.

ICSA president Dermot Kelleher slammed the EU policy as a “wilful misrepresentation of the actual research”.

“The EU seems to be blaming red meat consumption for increased cancer risk, whereas the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO) only found a marginal increased risk in the case of processed meats. It could not find sound evidence regarding unprocessed red meats,” Kelleher claimed.