Responding to the launch of the new animal health and welfare bill by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, IFA president John Bryan expressed a number of concerns, including the suggestion to introduce a code of practice that “could be used against farmers”.
He pointed out that the bill’s proposition to implement levies on agricultural produce should be dropped, adding that “under no circumstances can any new charge be imposed on farmers to fund animal welfare interest groups”.
Bryan also criticised the proposed removal of the obligation on the Minister to pay compensation in case animals must be removed for disease purposes under the current Disease of Animals Act, and mentioned that funds were needed to allow Irish pig farmers to make the changes necessary to comply with the EU’s stringent welfare requirements, coming into force in 2013.
Finally, he expressed concern about the appointment of authorised officers proposed in the bill, and the powers such officers would have. “It appears the bill proposes that the appointment of authorised officers may be delegated to a third party, such as a welfare organisation or other bodies, and these officers could have the serious power to collect documentation, search premises, which in turn could lead to criminal prosecutions. Such a delegation of powers is totally unacceptable, because it could mean a privatisation of inspections and an abdication of accountability, which would no longer rest with public servants,” said Bryan.
He added that the IFA would keep working with the Department of Agriculture to make the necessary changes and protect Irish farmers’ interests.