The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has condemned the actions of an individual in the French port of Cherbourg, who was arrested under suspicion of cruelty to calves.

Tom Phelan, the association’s national dairy chairman, said that the individual’s actions were “despicable”, and the case was upsetting for everybody, including farmers.

He called for the individual involved to be prosecuted fully in accordance with the  law.

Live exports are extremely important for Irish agriculture. They are highly regulated by the Department of Agriculture to ensure animal comfort, which is exactly as it should be.

“While this incident occurred in Cherbourg, France, they were Irish calves. Irish farmers are outraged to see any animal being treated so badly,” said Phelan.

He added: “We understand that the individual in question has been arrested. He should be subject to the full rigours of the law, because his actions were wrong and totally unacceptable.”

Video footage

The individual concerned was arrested after a video of the incident was circulated online by two animal welfare groups.

The incident is believed to have occurred in Tollevast, near Cherbourg, where Irish calves were unloaded.

The two groups that jointly arranged for the video to be recorded – France-based L214 and Netherlands-based Eyes on Animals – said that the calves were in the process of being moved from Ireland to the Netherlands.

The French prosecutor – speaking to local publication Le Dauphine – said that this issue was being investigated as an isolated incident, and that the investigation would not involve the operations of any particular company.

Minister Creed’s response

Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said that he condemned “in the strongest possible terms” any ill treatment of livestock.

A statement from his department urged anyone who has direct knowledge or evidence of breaches of animal welfare to report it to the relevant authorities “without any delay”.