Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Greyhound Racing Bill 2018: Committee Stage
I remind Members and witnesses to ensure that their mobile phones are completely turned off for the duration of the meeting. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan is substituting for Deputy Pringle, and Deputy Aylward is substituting for Deputy McConalogue.
This meeting has been convened for the purpose of the consideration of the Greyhound Racing Bill 2018. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Doyle, and his officials. I propose that we get through the legislation as quickly as possible. A grouping list has been circulated for the information of Members. Does every Member have a copy?
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 9, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:" "white list" means the annual list prepared by welfare members of the International Greyhound Forum in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann of countries, which at its sole discretion, meet minimum standards with regard to welfare of greyhounds, and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State ought to be permissible.".
I thank the committee for the opportunity to introduce these amendments. I shall make a few general remarks about the issue because that is the context on which the amendments were submitted. Notwithstanding the efforts of owners who look after their greyhounds, including when they no longer race and do not win prize money, there are too many examples of appalling cruelty to greyhounds. The Animal Welfare Act does not address this matter for various reasons. As a result, the Bill is an opportunity for us to get the issue of greyhound welfare right.
It is ironic that there is ban on the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes and circuses, which is great, but that greyhounds - domesticated animals - are used for so-called entertainment in places like Macau, Pakistan and China. Unfortunately, the greyhound industry in Ireland did not highlight or try to do something about this issue. The animal welfare groups have drawn attention to it but greyhounds continue to end up in Macau, China and Pakistan. That is the reality and we have the proof because the same few names of Irish greyhound breeders keep recurring on a Chinese database. In addition, copies of studbooks have been uploaded and greyhounds that were previously registered to race in Ireland are currently advertised as breeding material in China. I have evidence that details on 41 Irish greyhounds have been uploaded to a Chinese website. Sadly, greyhounds face extreme cruelty in the countries to which I refer. I have met a couple of the lucky greyhounds that were rescued and brought back to Ireland.
I have tabled various parliamentary questions on the export of greyhounds. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlined in his reply to one of my parliamentary questions that Bord na gCon is responsible for the governance, regulation and development of the greyhound industry. Bord na gCon does not support the export of greyhounds to destinations that do not conform to the standards stipulated in the Animal Health and Welfare Act, the Welfare of Greyhounds Act, etc. The Minister agrees with the stance taken Bord na gCon yet the reality is what is happening. My amendments, and the amendments tabled by my colleagues, seek to put a stop to the export of greyhounds.
The vast majority of Irish greyhounds are exported to the UK so there are issues concerning Brexit. We know that dogs in the EU are governed by EU law and we know that EU countries are being used as transit points. That is the reality.
Amendment No. 1 focuses on welfare and seeks the inclusion of the International Greyhound Forum, in conjunction with Rásaíocht Con Éireann, the new name for Bord na gCon, to have a role in determining what constitutes sound and problematic exports. Let us remember that it is the welfare groups that pick up the pieces when racing dogs no longer have a commercial value. With decreasing attendances at greyhound race meetings, we know that there are financial issues too. Perhaps financial necessity might lead some owners to do what we know has happened and is continuing to happen.
Amendment No. 5 seeks to make it an offence to export greyhounds to countries outside of the EU, a matter I explained earlier. Subsection (2) in the amendment takes out the transit question because we know that countries are being used as transit countries. While the practice will be hard to police, it is important that we acknowledge that the practice is a problem and send the message that Ireland does not accept the practice of exporting dogs bred here to places countries such as Macau, Pakistan and China. In addition, we want to send the message that dogs can be traced back to their Irish breeders because organisations have traced dozens of dogs in Pakistan, China and Macau back to Ireland.
The next amendment is on offences, fines and prison terms. It seeks to create an environment whereby the trainer will know the consequences for exporting to countries where there is no animal welfare and no concern for greyhounds. I hope the amendment will act as a deterrent for those trainers who knowingly export their greyhounds to these places. We know that people export their greyhounds for profit. Therefore, the fines and sentences must be good enough to act as a real deterrent.
The next amendment gives the Minister the power to amend the white list on an annual basis. The initiative allows for change because some countries may introduce animal welfare regulations. The amendment gives people a chance to come off the white list. Equally, countries that are supposedly in favour of animal welfare may go off the list if they are shown to be in breach of animal welfare regulations. The amendment also means we would have figures for the number of dogs that are exported, where they are sent, etc. Such data is crucial because at the moment we depend on independent sources for the information. The amendment puts an onus on the Minister and the Department.
These amendments are not draconian in any way. Again, I stress the fact that they are about the welfare of dogs. If we really want to seriously improve animal welfare then we must do all we can to ensure that Irish greyhounds do not end up in countries where there are appalling breaches in animal welfare. In fact, there is no animal welfare in quite a number of countries. If people genuinely care for greyhounds, they will not have a problem with these amendments. Owners tell me all the time how much they love their greyhounds. Acceptance of these amendments is an opportunity for people to show how much they truly love greyhounds and to put that into action.
I have not tabled an amendment on the registration of greyhounds but I will do so later. Why must one register greyhounds with the Irish Coursing Club? There are greyhound owners who do not want to register their dogs with the club as they do not participate in coursing yet their registration fees go to the club. I am sure that the greyhound racing industry could do with more funding because attendance at race meetings has decreased. I have introduced the amendments and I will leave it at that for now.
This Bill is very important from a number of perspectives, including those relating to probity, integrity, funding, governance and the welfare of greyhounds. The central objective of the Bill is to root out neglect and cruelty in the industry by way of an emphasis on welfare. When I spoke on Second Stage on behalf of the Labour Party, I stated that we need to implement a detailed list of appropriate countries to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State would be permissible. There has always been concern about the number of dogs that are exported and the destinations to which they are exported. There is a need to have appropriate and proper welfare regimes in place. During the pre-legislative scrutiny phase - I am not sure whether the Minister of State or his predecessor was responsible for this issue at the time - we heard many presentations from organisations such as Dogs Trust Ireland outlining significant concerns about the records of some of the destinations to which greyhounds are being exported.
I support the broad thrust of these amendments. If they are passed this evening and subsequently implemented, that will be fine and dandy from our perspective. As the Minister of State will probably tell us, however, the big issue would be how we control what happens when greyhounds go elsewhere. I am sure there will be significant legal complexity attached to that. While I support this proposal, I can see why the Minister of State may well have difficulties with it. I hope he does not. I acknowledge that the Minister of State and his officials have worked hard on the Bill over a number of years.
I have expressed the view on behalf of the Labour Party that the welfare issue has not been adequately addressed in the Bill. That is a significant shortcoming by any standard. Given that a substantial amount of taxpayers' money is being invested in the industry, we have to make sure all aspects of it are above reproach from the perspectives of integrity, probity, governance, sanctions and animal welfare. The export of unwanted greyhounds to places like Macau is a matter of concern. We have seen programmes which have illustrated that. Breeding establishments in China and elsewhere seem to have little or no animal welfare provision.
As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan stated, we can start with a detailed register of the precise locations to which greyhounds are being exported. We should be exporting to EU countries which we hope are reputable. We are aware of the overarching regimes in those countries. Such regimes, which are rightly onerous, involve microchips, vaccination programmes and the requisite levels of supervision. There is a passport regime and everything. We must try to address what happens after greyhounds go to such locations, however.
We have to salute the work of the rescue agencies that valiantly look after abandoned greyhounds with little or no help or resources from the State. In fairness to the Minister of State, he showed his intention to address that when amendments were tabled in the Seanad. We welcome that.
I note that an amendment dealing with the collection of data was made in the Seanad. Maybe I have misread the Bill. I understand that on foot of the acceptance of an amendment, a provision in the Bill permits the gathering of export data.
My colleague, Deputy Broughan, introduced the Welfare of Greyhounds (Amendment) Bill 2017, the aim of which is to control the export of greyhounds and to provide for the publication of a white list of countries to which the export of greyhounds under licence would be permissible. That Bill, like Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan's amendments, seeks to make it an offence to export greyhounds to countries that are not on the white list.
I have met personnel from Dogs Trust Ireland. I must say they are excellent ambassadors for their organisation and are very well informed. I understand they are also members of the International Greyhound Forum.
The amendments before the committee are well-intentioned, focused and constructed. I have no doubt that the Minister of State would like to implement them if he could see a way of doing so. While I am supporting the amendments, I will be interested to hear what the Minister of State has to say on how we could ensure these provisions would be implemented at the destinations to which it would be permissible to export greyhounds. If a dog can be exported from this country to one of those places, it can also be exported from another EU member state to such a place. That is an issue. The bloody problem is how to resolve that. We may well have to tackle it at EU level. Perhaps the Government will lead the way in that regard.
I wish to declare that I am a director of a private greyhound track. As a result, I have a vested interest in this industry. I welcome the Bill, for which we have been waiting for a long time. The integrity of the industry has to be paramount. That means making sure it stands up to the highest scrutiny. This Bill goes a long way towards addressing many of the difficulties we have been experiencing. Many people have an image of a sport that involves dogs running with prohibited substances in their bloodstreams that either enhance or diminish performance. Some years ago, the board dealt with a high-profile case on Irish Greyhound Derby final night that fell into the latter category. If this Bill is enacted, it is absolutely essential that anyone who is found to be using a prohibited substance to enhance a greyhound's performance or to slow a greyhound down faces the full rigours of the law. It should be possible for such a person to be suspended and dealt with adequately, but that has not been the case up to now. This has damaged the industry and must be put right. From my perspective, it is one of the reasons this Bill needs to be brought through the Oireachtas as a matter of urgency. When it is passed, it is absolutely essential that it does what it says on the tin. When a greyhound fails a test after a race or at any time in its racing life - it could be in the kennels or wherever - the full rigours of the regulations must be brought to bear. I welcome the provisions in this legislation that deal with such those issues.
This Bill addresses dog welfare. It must be recognised that increasing amounts of money are being put into dog welfare by the board and by dog owners. A great deal of work is being done to rehome greyhounds after their racing lives have come to an end. This is becoming an priority for the industry. Deputy Penrose spoke about Dogs Trust Ireland. It is now a recognised fact that greyhounds make good pets. They are being exported to various countries around the world. Significant numbers of dogs are finding new homes.
I do not think the amendments that are before the committee can be enforced practically. We are making presumptions about the conditions in which dogs are kept in certain countries. It recently emerged that dogs were being held in very poor conditions on a puppy farm in this country. If people were to present such an isolated incident as an example of the way dogs are cared for in Ireland, it would be a very misrepresentative picture. The vast majority of dogs in this country, including greyhounds, are kept in very good conditions. I do not think we can make assumptions about other countries. The vast majority of our dogs are exported to the UK. When they have been exported, they are outside the jurisdiction of this State. I do not think it is practical to try to put restrictions on what the UK does. I do not think it can be done, at any rate, even before we have the problems of Brexit.
While I accept that these amendments are well-intentioned, this Bill goes a long way towards addressing welfare in the whole dogs industry and that has to be respected. This Bill focuses on the welfare of dogs. I think there is a recognition in the industry that in the past, the importance of welfare was probably not as high on the agenda as it should have been. That fact is well recognised now. If the industry is to try to drive on into the future, it must show that the welfare of greyhounds is one of its utmost priorities and it must ensure dogs are well cared for after they have finished racing or breeding. That is my view on these amendments.
I would like to make a couple of points. I am not making any assumptions or presumptions about China, Macau and Pakistan.
We have the graphic evidence, statistics and details of what happens in those places from animal welfare groups. This is an opportunity to prevent Irish greyhounds from ending up in such places, where we know they will not be treated properly. Surely a difficulty with implementing something is not a reason for it not to be done. Although we can only try to do our best with implementing the Bill's provisions, they must be in the Bill in the first instance if they are to have any sort of chance. This is an opportunity for us to signal that we are serious about greyhound welfare.
We know what happens in the countries in question. I could provide the names of the Irish greyhounds that have ended up there, but I will not at this point. I might save that until the Bill has been taken further. We have the documentary evidence. I am not making assumptions or presumptions. I know what is happening. If we care about greyhounds and their welfare, we will do our best to ensure that they do not end up in such places. I am not stating that everything would be great and the provision would work wonders, but it would signal our seriousness about the welfare of our greyhounds, especially when they were not making money in Ireland.
It is thanks to welfare groups that it is now realised that greyhounds make good pets. It was not thanks to the greyhound industry, which only came in later. Australia has banned the export of greyhounds to China and there are airlines that will not take greyhounds to certain countries, yet Ireland is now stating that, because it will be difficult to implement this provision, we will not do anything to prevent their export. I do not accept that.
I thank members for making the time to debate this legislation on Committee Stage. It has spent some time reaching this point. We navigated it through both the Seanad and Second Stage in the Dáil. I hope to have it passed into law as soon as possible. Everyone accepts that it is well overdue.
I will address this group of amendments relating to the creation of a white list of countries approved for the export of greyhounds and a report on greyhound exports together. While I appreciate that the motives of the members proposing the amendments are concerned with the welfare of greyhounds, I am not convinced that the amendments would have the desired effect even if it was legally possible to ban greyhound exports to certain countries. At the outset, I wish to be clear that I am not here to defend any other country's record on animal welfare.
The amendments would be unworkable and impossible to enforce. The reality is that the majority of greyhounds are exported to the UK. It is not for the Department to police whether greyhounds sent to the UK or any other country are subsequently sent on to a different country. If the Department tried to police whether greyhounds sent abroad were subsequently sent on to another country, all we would do is add bureaucracy on responsible greyhound exporters and owners while failing to stop an unscrupulous exporter who had exported to a country with a problematic welfare record.
Setting aside the unworkability of the amendments, there should be no doubt that any legislation banning the exports of greyhounds to certain countries would face significant legal difficulties. The Department examined this issue and sought and obtained legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the Private Members' Bill introduced by Deputy Broughan, which proposed measures similar to those being discussed now. The advice from the Attorney General was that said Private Members' Bill was incompatible with domestic and European law.
Most importantly, and despite our differences on the amendments proposed, the Deputies and I share the same aim of protecting the welfare of animals. The Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 obliges Bord na gCon to publish a code of practice for the welfare of greyhounds. The primary objective of the code is to set standards and clearly define what is expected of all individuals engaged in the care and management of registered greyhounds. In this context, the board proposes to expand the existing code to include provisions on best practice when exporting greyhounds.
Bord na gCon has always made it clear that it only encourages and promotes the export of greyhounds to countries that have established positive animal welfare codes and practices. Bord na gCon is a participant in the International Greyhound Forum, the organisation being proposed in amendment No. 1 as a decision maker over the white list. At a recent meeting, the board advised participants that it would engage with and accept input from members of the forum in formulating the expanded code. The board has informed me that it is fully committed to amending the code and that work on the expanded code will be finalised when consideration of this Bill has been completed.
In terms of reporting on exports of greyhounds, it is not currently possible to retrieve the information being requested by the Deputies. The trade control and expert system, TRACES, that is used to record the export of canines does not differentiate between greyhounds and other dogs. Breed is not a category used in TRACES for categorising any animal within the same species, so it is not possible to report on greyhounds exported to other countries. For this reason, I cannot accept the amendments.
No. That statement was contradictory. Either we care about the welfare of greyhounds or we do not. It will be difficult to prevent them from going to certain countries, but Australia can do it. Can we not examine how it managed that? Why are we just saying that we cannot do it? We will knowingly continue to allow greyhounds to be exported to countries where they will be badly treated. It will be left to the welfare groups to try to rescue them, return them to Ireland and point out how, once again, Ireland has failed in terms of animal welfare.
To clarify, either we abide by EU legislation or we do not. There are no airlines carrying greyhounds from this country to the countries where there are questions about welfare. There are no airlines which provide flights directly from here to there.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 12, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:“(a) one or more shall be a representative of authorised private greyhound tracks,
(b) one or more shall be a representative of greyhound owners and breeders,
(c) one or more shall be a representative of public greyhound trainers,
(d) one or more shall be a representative of private greyhound trainers,”.
This amendment proposes that various groups be guaranteed representation on the board. Horse Racing Ireland has constituted its board in such a manner. It would be to the benefit of the industry if different groups had a voice at board level.
As already stated, I am a board member of a private track. At times, private tracks feel like they are being ignored by Bord na gCon and that they need to have a voice on it to ensure that they get fair play. Owners and breeders have their own interests and would fight their corner on the board as well. Without owners and breeders, we have no industry. They would like to have a representative at the table. After the much-publicised sale of Harold's Cross stadium, there has been a greater emphasis on prize money and increasing the profitability of owners and breeders.
They are of the view that having their own man on the board would help their cause.
While public and private greyhound trainers have a significant shared agenda, they would be coming at this from different commercial places. Public trainers are full-time engaged in the business and they would have their own owners and agenda issues. The business is more of a hobby for private trainers and they probably have a lower grade of dog, although that might not universally be the case. Even today, representations were made to me that private trainers are finding it increasingly difficult to get regular racing for their dogs. That is just one instance where they believe they do not have enough of a voice at the board.
The board membership is being increased from six to eight under the provisions of this Bill. That presents an opportunity to have a broad spectrum of representation by the various stakeholders in the industry who would be able to voice their opinions at the board table. Such a provision is working well in Horse Racing Ireland, where a cross-section of stakeholders, ranging from stable lads to trainers to breeders to various sectors of the horse racing industry, are well represented. An opportunity is presented for us to do the same for the greyhound industry. That is the reason I have put forward this amendment.
I will take amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, regarding membership of the board, together. I will also try to answer the specific point raised by the Deputy.
In 2014, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Deputy Coveney, commissioned Indecon consultants to carry out a review of Bord na gCon. At that time, the board had debts of €23 million, largely due to investment in Limerick stadium. That debt has hindered development of the industry ever since.
One of the aspects the report examined was the constitution of the board of Bord na gCon. The Indecon report was critical of the skill set of the board. It identified a number of skills gaps in the made-up of the board, principal among those was the need for a depth of financial expertise with a requirement for more than one board member with financial qualifications and senior professional experience. While there was an implicit criticism that the lack of skills was a contributory factor in the decision to develop Limerick stadium without proper capital appraisal and cost-benefit analysis, there was also explicit criticism of the Limerick development and its governance.
Indecon stated: "Based on the analysis and documentation available to Indecon, it is hard to conclude anything other than the fact that there was inadequate appraisal of the Limerick capital investment." The report also identified the requirement for a senior legal professional, a marketing expert and a veterinary expert on the board. The latter requirement, that there would be a person with veterinary expertise on the board, addresses the welfare aspect. While not entirely in favour of singling out one specific skill to be set down in primary legislation, in view of the animal welfare and integrity role of the board, I made a Report Stage amendment in the Seanad setting down a requirement for veterinary expertise on the board.
To return to Deputy Cahill's amendment, based on past experience where the board was dominated by industry representatives, I believe it would be wholly inappropriate for 50% or more of ordinary members to be made up of industry representatives. This amendment totally disregards the recommendations of the Indecon report and I believe that it would be a totally retrograde step. The industry must change its approach to avoid any danger that the mistakes of the past would be repeated.
I also point out that this is a board that is responsible for regulating the industry and it will be responsible for drafting regulations to give effect to provisions set out in this Bill. It would, therefore, be totally inappropriate for 50% of the board to be made up of representatives of those to whom those regulations will apply. I accept, however, that there should be some industry representation on the board. That is why I made an amendment to allocate one or more places on the board to persons with detailed industry knowledge. This, I believe, will allow for some flexibility, while maintaining the balance in favour of a skilled board. I have today announced the appointment of two new members to the board, Mr. Gary Brown, with marketing expertise, and Mr. Wayne McCarthy, with a financial background and a long association with the greyhound sector. Both were selected through the Public Appointments Service, PAS, process. In addition, an existing member with significant financial and risk management expertise has been reappointed for a second term.
The Indecon report, which is advisory, contains recommendations with respect to the industry. It has not been followed as a bible by the board up to now, therefore, in terms of the composition of the board, it does not have a prescribing authority over this committee. The board composition that members consider to be right should be decided here.
To say that the mistakes made in the past were due to either dog owners or representatives of the tracks who were on the board is a very misleading statement. Mistakes were made regarding Limerick track but going back over that will not solve much because that is fairly historic. To say that was because the board was composed of people who had an interest in the greyhound industry is a misleading statement.
I refer again to Horse Racing Ireland, where stakeholders ranging from stable lads to trainers to breeders are represented on its board. Assertions are not being made that because those stakeholders are represented on that board it is carrying out its duties in a manner that is not for the benefit of the industry. If we neglect to have stakeholders on this board, we will have a board that will quickly lose touch with the realities on the ground. I have no objection to a veterinary expert or a marketing expert being on the board, as that would represent a very good balance.
This Bill recommends that eight people would be on the board. It is a relatively small board but without representatives of greyhound owners, trainers and of the private tracks being assured seats at the table, those stakeholders could easily find their voices would not be heard. If one talks to people at the tracks, they will say that they believe their voices are not been heard. This Bill will frame the industry for the next 20 to 25 years and, hopefully, it will drive forward the industry. We would be acting wrongly if we do not allow stakeholders to have a voice on the board. Stakeholders will resent it if we put forward a broad that is not representative of the industry. The people who are working in the industry and making a living out of it are the people who most want to get it moving forward and progressing. I disagree with the Minister of State in that respect and I will be pressing this amendment.
I will make a few points about the Indecon report. It contains 27 recommendations, all of which have been implemented, which include fixing the financial morass in which the board had found itself. Three of the recommendations are being addressed in this Bill, including the strengthening of the board of directors and management, which is provided by way of the additional appointments proposed in the Bill. Also, the Minister is to appoint members of a statutory independent greyhound racing control committee and control appeal committee, and regulations and procedures are to be introduced to ensure effective enforcement of penalties. All of the other 24 recommendations in the Indecon report have been implemented.
I was a member of this committee when the Horse Racing Ireland Bill was put through. Horse Racing Ireland differs from Rásaíocht Con Éireann or Bord na gCon insofar as it only has a promotional role. The Turf Club is the horse racing regulatory board and carries out the regulatory role for the thoroughbred industry with enforcement through its rules. The distinction of integrity and enforcement applies between HRI and the Turf Club. In this case the roles are all under the guise of one board.
The amendment recommends eight members plus the chairperson. The Deputy has proposed an additional four plus a veterinary member. We have already provided for at least one member or more with industry knowledge.
Another recommendation related to the establishment of a consultative forum and this has been done. The forum can draw from all stakeholders. It meets regularly throughout the year and includes representatives of the State, including Department officials. The board members and the executive are all present. Track owners and horse trainers and owners are all invited. It is an open forum for discussion of issues directly relating to the board. I was at the awards ceremony on Monday night. It was acknowledged there that the forum has met. There was a general view among the people gathered that they were happy with the structure of the forum.
I am seeking clarification. My understanding was that these four board members were part of the eight. I did not think we were proposing to increase the size of the board to 12 members. The Minister of State said the amendment sought an additional four members.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 25, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“Export of Greyhounds 26. (1) It shall be an offence for a person to—(a) export,of a greyhound to a non-EU country which is not included in the white list which has been prescribed by the Minister.
(b) attempt to export, or
(c) assist another person in the export or attempted export,
(2) It shall be an offence for a person to—(a) export,of a greyhound to a non-EU country which is included in the white list which has been prescribed by the Minister for the purpose of subsequently transferring such greyhound to a country not so included and unless that person holds an export licence which has been granted pursuant to section 31(1).
(b) attempt to export, or
(c) assist another person in the export or attempted export,
(3) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is liable—(a) on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both,
(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of €100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both.”.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 25, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“List of countries to which export is permissible 26. (1) On 1 January 2020 and annually thereafter, the Minister shall prescribe by regulation a list of non-EU countries which meet minimum standards with regard to the welfare of greyhounds, and to which the licensed export of greyhounds from the State may be permissible.
(2) In making regulations under subsection (1), consideration shall be given to the following factors—(a) the past record of the relevant country relating to the welfare of greyhounds and the welfare of animals more generally,
(b) the existence in the relevant country of enforceable welfare protections for greyhounds which are equivalent to the protections available in the State,
(c) the monitoring and enforcement in the relevant country of the welfare protections referred to in paragraph (b), and
(d) the standards of care and management to which the greyhounds are likely to be subjected to in the relevant country.”.
I propose to speak to these amendments on artificial insemination together. Section 26 sets down the enabling provisions that will allow the proposed Rásaíocht Con Éireann to make regulations on the artificial insemination of greyhounds. It is a recasting of existing provisions in section 39 of the 1958 Act relating to artificial insemination.
Amendment No. 7 seeks to include natural service as part of artificial insemination when this is not the case. It is not appropriate to have a reference to natural service under this heading, as section 26 clearly addresses artificial insemination only. Natural service does not require regulation to the same degree, as it is a natural process. Therefore, I cannot accept this amendment.
Amendment No. 8 seeks to set down in primary legislation the maximum percentage of semen derived from deceased greyhound sires used in breeding. Such detail is more appropriate to secondary legislation where it can be changed more easily to reflect changing circumstances. Section 26(1) of the Bill allows the board to make regulations, with the consent of the Minister, setting down in secondary legislation precisely the type of restriction being proposed by the Deputy in amendment No. 8. Therefore, I cannot accept this amendment either.
I seek clarification on a few points. The Minister of State is saying that it is not appropriate to include regulations on natural mating in regulations on artificial insemination. Would it be advisable to insert a separate section to deal with this matter? We are discussing animal welfare and, as anyone familiar with the industry knows, natural mating can have welfare issues. It seems strange that there will be regulations governing one type of mating when there will be none governing natural matings or insemination using frozen semen. There are three different forms of mating. If the Minister of State is saying that it is not appropriate to group them together like this, would it be appropriate instead to have a section governing each?
Section 59 relates to the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and provides that only progeny produced in compliance with subsections (2) and (3) of section 11 of that Act, that is, the first to sixth litter or the seventh and eighth litters following certification, are permitted to be registered in the Irish Greyhound Stud Book and makes it an offence for a person to attempt to register other litters. As such, the issue of natural mating is covered. This is not a welfare Bill, but we have tried to set out the rules that-----
With respect, the Minister of State is introducing regulations on artificial insemination, which only covers a certain percentage of the breeding industry. There is also natural insemination and insemination through the use of frozen semen.
Stud owners would not tell one that. Natural matings are a thing of the past in the greyhound industry. They do not happen. There is artificial insemination and frozen semen is being used, which is usually done with an insert. We are not providing for regulation in this Bill, which is a mistake. I am not arguing with the regulation of artificial insemination but I do not understand why we have regulation governing one aspect and not governing others. Vets go to studs to make sure that artificial insemination is carried out to the highest standards. I accept that fully and I am not arguing about that at all. However, there is no provision for veterinary supervision when frozen semen is being used or for natural matings. I cannot understand why, when drawing up this legislation, we cannot not provide for regulation of all three types of breeding.
Section 26 in this Bill deals with the artificial insemination of greyhounds. Frozen semen is covered in the same way as natural matings are covered, under veterinary controls. It is deal with in other legislation, as I understand it.
No. Frozen semen can be used from a live sire too. Natural matings are not happening on the ground. They only happen in a very small percentage of cases. I cannot see why, if we are regulating artificial insemination, we do not regulate other forms as well.
In 1958 there was only one way to get a bitch in pup. There was no other way. We have moved on a lot since then, in fairness. I am not trying to be awkward here but I cannot understand, when there are other ways of getting a bitch in pup, that this legislation is not dealing with them. This legislation will govern the industry for the next 20 or 30 years. Why is there veterinary supervision for artificial insemination but not for situations where frozen semen is being used? The same question applies if natural mating is occurring. We spoke earlier about animal welfare and while I accept that this Bill is not solely concerned with welfare, we must recognise welfare issues when they arise. If natural mating is going on, we are saying that a vet cannot supervise it to make sure it is being done correctly. Why not have legislation that is inclusive of all forms of mating?
I am suggesting that there should be veterinary supervision. A vet is able to go to a stud to check that any artificial insemination taking place is being done correctly, to which I have no objection. That is the way it should be but if there are natural matings occurring, why should the vet not be able to walk in and check that it is being done correctly too?
Just to be clear on this, the Deputy made comparisons with the horse industry earlier. To the best of my knowledge with coverings, which are much more common with thoroughbred horses, there is no legal requirement for veterinary supervision of that process.
I can assure the Minister of State that the percentage is very small. We are working our way through this legislation but are leaving frozen semen out of the equation. We are catering for artificial insemination but not for frozen semen. This means that the playing pitch is not level vis-à-vis those using artificial insemination. I am not saying that anything is being done wrong, but why not have veterinary supervision for all aspects?
That is not clear in the Bill, in fairness. There are two different processes involved. At the moment there is no veterinary supervision in studs where frozen semen is being used as there is over artificial insemination.
Just to clarify, many of us with farms have used artificial insemination for bovines, for example. The semen comes in a frozen canister and is administered in a way with which those of us involved in agriculture are familiar. The use of frozen semen is artificial insemination. There is a distinction-----
At the moment, those who are using frozen semen are not subject to veterinary supervision. There is supervision of what we can call ordinary artificial insemination. In some cases, semen is stored for a long period of time before it is used. In other cases, the semen is drawn fresh and used immediately. There is veterinary supervision over the use of fresh semen but not over the use of frozen semen.
To go back to my original statement, section 26(1) allows the board to make regulations with the consent of the Minister, setting down in secondary legislation the precise type of distinction or restriction. The legislation refers to artificial insemination and Deputy Cahill is saying that there is a difference between that and the use of frozen semen. There may well be, at some stage, another process that will evolve that is not natural. It could involve, for example, the use of chilled semen. The Bill provides, in section 26(1), an enabling power for the board, with the consent of the Minister, to lay down in secondary legislation details covering evolving science or new scientific techniques. It is a complex area but the term "artificial insemination" captures all except the natural methods. There may well be a time in the future when technology evolves further but if we nail things down in primary legislation, we will have no ability to amend regulations in secondary legislation to reflect changes or advances in the area.
The Minister of State is missing the point I am making. At the moment, a vet can go into a stud to supervise artificial insemination involving the use of fresh semen but cannot do so when frozen semen is being used. All I am saying-----
As I said, we might then simply provide for use of fresh semen and frozen semen. Who is to say what is permitted if something else comes in later? It would not be provided for. Section 26(1)(h) provides that the board may, with the consent of the Minister, make regulations controlling the practice of artificial insemination of greyhounds in relation to the "setting of standards and procedures to be followed by veterinary practitioners and for the standards and procedures to be observed at such centres and for such inseminations". That is only one measure in a list that goes on in that vein.
Section 26(1)(l) refers to "setting the maximum number of registered services by insemination of greyhounds permissible during a specified time period, either generally in relation to greyhound sires or in relation to classes of greyhound sires or individual greyhound sires". Section 26 deals in the broadest terms possible with the whole area of artificial insemination of greyhounds. It allows for secondary legislation in a host of areas that are all-encompassing. I take the Deputy's point that what we are trying to do is ensure nothing is left out, but nothing is left out because frozen semen is artificial insemination no matter what way we look at it. It is not natural and so it has to be artificial.
Under secondary legislation, the board can request it. We have already set out in an earlier section the need to have a veterinary practitioner on the board. The board can set out measures in secondary legislation in consultation with the forum, if it is deemed necessary, and with the consent of the Minister. Section 26(1)(a) prohibits "persons from engaging in the practice of the artificial insemination of greyhounds except under and in accordance with licences granted by the Board under regulations made under this section". This provides for secondary legislation.
The Minister of State is narrowing it. At the moment, veterinary practitioners have no place to play where frozen semen is being used. They have no place to play. The Minister of State is bringing in a Bill that is copying the legislation that is already in place. I am trying to make it more encompassing so that all mating is governed by legislation. The Minister of State is narrowing it. He might not understand what I am saying.
Perhaps the Minister of State does not know what is happening in the industry at the moment. Use of frozen semen has no veterinary supervision. That is what is happening at the moment. That is what I want to rectify in this Bill. At the moment, artificial insemination has veterinary supervision but the use of frozen semen has none. The Minister of State is putting in a Bill that is allowing that to continue. I simply cannot understand how the Minister of State can suggest I am narrowing it.
I want the legislation to provide for veterinary supervision if it is needed in any circumstances in a stud. If a veterinary practitioner walks in, he should have access to what is done as regards all insemination.
As I understand it, "fresh chilled frozen semen" is the term generally used. What the Deputy said was that we were allowing a Bill that dealt with artificial insemination but not frozen semen. That is why I said he was drawing a distinction and implying that the use of frozen semen was not artificial insemination, but it is. This Bill and this section allow for the broadest possible definition of artificial insemination. It includes frozen semen. It can be provided for in secondary legislation.
It would be normal to allow flexibility. That is why we seldom use the word "shall" and instead use "may" in legislation.
Earlier, Deputy O'Sullivan made a point about the white lists. The idea is to allow countries with certain welfare standards to participate in Europe. That was part of a proposal earlier.
The idea is to allow as much flexibility as possible. This Bill sets down general broad principles and provisions. It is up to the board, with the consent of the Minister and with advice from experts, who may be members of the board, the consultative forum, veterinary practitioners or people from the welfare side. The welfare legislation has restrictions on the number of litters from any animal that can be registered in the stud book. Section 26(1) allows for a range of provisions to be made by regulation, which is secondary legislation.
I will withdraw it now. There is a difference of opinion between the Minister of State and me. I will see if we can get clarity. I cannot understand why we cannot get an agreed position, but I have argued it long enough and I am not going to delay matters.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 26, to delete lines 5 and 6 and substitute the following:“(m) the use of semen derived from deceased greyhound sires would be limited to 75 per cent of the maximum number set under paragraph (l)for live greyhound sires;”.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 28, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:“(5) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report following the end of each calendar year which will include details of breaches of substance regulations in respect of which a racing sanction has been imposed.”.
Amendment No. 9 requires the Minister to report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on racing sanctions imposed by the control committee and the appeal committee for breaches of substance regulations in the previous calendar year.
Sections 44(20) and 49(6) set down provisions regarding the publication of all decisions of the control and appeal committees on all types of breaches of regulations under their jurisdiction, not simply breaches of substance regulations. All the decisions of these committees will be published on the board's website and in the sports press, as they are currently. I can see no merit, therefore, in the publication of a report in the manner set out in the amendment. It would place an additional and unnecessary administrative burden on the board and Minister without adding to the sum of knowledge already in the public domain. For this reason, I cannot accept this amendment. It is possible at any stage for the board to be requested to appear before it on foot of the information. This committee would probably be the appropriate one.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 29, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following: "Reporting on export of greyhounds
30. The Minister, in consultation with the Board, shall produce and lay before the appropriate Joint Oireachtas Committee an annual report following the end of each calendar year, which shall include the following:(a) the number of greyhounds exported from the State in the preceding calendar year;
(b) a list of every country to which greyhounds have been exported from the State in the preceding calendar year; and
(c) the given reasons for export.".
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 30, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following: “(2)(a) The Minister may, at his/her discretion, grant or refuse to grant a licence for the purpose of the export of a greyhound to a country which is included on the current version of the white list on such terms and conditions as may be specified in the licence.
(b) The Minister may make regulations prescribing all aspects of the licence application process.”.