Senator raises concerns at potential new farm inspections

The potential for increased inspections of farms under a new Animal Health & Welfare Bill was raised in the Seanad by Fine Gael Senator Pat O’Neill.

The potential for increased inspections of farms under a new Animal Health & Welfare Bill was raised in the Seanad by Fine Gael Senator Pat O’Neill.

The very mention of “inspections” causes farmers to raise their antennae, he told the House.

“While I recognise that inspections are necessary to ensure that this legislation is properly enforced, I would welcome clarification as to the nature, scope and extent of inspection envisaged under the Bill,” he said. “Section 23 deals with humane destruction of animals where, in the opinion of an authorised officer or veterinary practitioner an animal is fatally injured; so severely injured, diseased or in such pain or distress that, for the alleviation of its suffering it should be killed; to prevent further suffering or is a danger to life and property.”

In these limited circumstances, the animal may be put down in a manner that would inflict as little suffering as possible, he said but he would welcome the Minister’s clarification in his speech that knackeries can continue to carry out this work.

“There was concern that if only veterinary officers could do so the costs involved might lead to further suffering of animals,” he said.

In reply Minister Simon Coveney said there would not be an army of people waiting to catch out farmers.

“In fact, I do not see any new authorised officers entering farmyards at all,” he said. “We are talking about existing authorised officers who are already entitled to inspect farms for reasons such as disease control and to take proactive measures to prevent disease outbreaks. By and large, these are veterinarians from my Department or from local authorities who understand the practicalities of farming. This is not going to be a case of somebody from an animal welfare organisation going into a farmyard as an authorised officer and demanding a whole series of things that are not reasonable. We have worked with farming organisations in putting this legislation together.”

There was no question of undermining or adding to the bureaucracy of existing farm management, he said. That was not what is intended here.

“Obviously, if there are cases of cruelty that need to be followed up, I do not think any farming organisation would have a problem with our dealing with that, and we will deal with it.”