In advance of an upcoming vote in the European Parliament on animal transport regulations, the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that a scientific basis must underpin any decisions to amend animal transport legislation.

President of the ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that it is vital that any decisions taken in relation to animal transport legislation have a strong scientific basis and are “not based on pre-defined political views”.

The ICMSA president said he hoped that the Parliament will accept amendments put forward by Billy Kelleher, MEP.

The MEP’s amendments relate to the loading of animals for transport to mainland Europe and their welfare while travelling. He is proposing that a vet should be present for the entire journey and that when animals arrive in Cherbourg, there is proper oversight to ensure they are well cared for and have a rest period before moving to other countries in Europe.

“Farmers accept and support the need for strong animal-welfare legislation but that welfare has to be based on science,” the ICMSA president said.

“What we will not accept is people with pre-defined views on animal welfare that owe more to cartoons than hard data, and who have little or no understanding of how proposed legislation will seriously and negatively impact farmers.

“Animal transport is hugely regulated at present and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is stringent and very active on compliance. Our live exporters have invested heavily in state-of-the-art facilities with a strong emphasis on animal welfare and operate very professional businesses to a high standard.”

He said that as an island, live exports are hugely important to Irish farmers and play a central role in providing competition for cattle.

“That’s why it’s absolutely essential that Ireland insists that any legislation references science and not vague sentiment,” said Mr McCormack.

The ICMSA president said that while the vote in the EU Parliament will not impact live exports in 2022 or 2023, there is legitimate long-term worry that legislation, if passed, would not only impact live exports, but also the movement of animals within Ireland.

“We could see restrictions placed on us that make little sense; that could undermine animal welfare rather than improve it,” he said.

The ICMSA president is calling on Irish MEPS to support the proposed amendments and ensure that reasonable proposals come forward from the EU Parliament rather than a pre-defined and non-scientific position.