Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Draft Animal Remedies Regulations 2005: Motion.
Paul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)
The introduction next week of the EU directive and its implementation in Ireland is causing great apprehension. The Minister and Government backbenchers are aware of what is involved. Unfortunately I do not have enough time to discuss all aspects of it, but I wish to put a number of points on the record.
The Government seems to think it can impose new austere proposals on the farming community but a time will come when farmers will not put up with it. Farmers want an animal welfare environment where the best possible attention is given to the health of the livestock in the context of producing the healthiest foods for consumers. Every farmer worth his or her salt supports that.
These draft regulations deal with the supply, sale and administration of properly documented farm drugs to be administered by competent people trying to do a job at several levels. I will return to that. No farmer I know, including me, wants to have access to drugs that should be and are within the control of highly trained professionals such as vets and chemists. I do not have any trouble with that. I have lived a lifetime with it and most farmers would not have an issue with it.
However, it is vital that farmers produce beef, lamb and pigmeat free from drugs and hormones and that a highly efficient screening procedure is in place to protect the consumer. Reason, balance and good sense must also come into the equation, and I will explain to the Minister what I mean by "good sense". I do not want a situation whereby the everyday animal husbandry products I need to keep my cattle healthy are available only on prescription from my vet. Last Saturday week, when I dosed my calves to prevent hoose, I expected to be able to get that dose from my merchant chemist or vet. Each year when I dose my cows for worms I expect to be able to purchase the ordinary run of the mill doses from the same outlets with which I have done business for years.
I am lucky because should it happen that one of my suckler cows gets mastitis on a Saturday evening, I live beside my vet. However, for thousands of people it will not be possible to get a vet on a Saturday evening. I would not expect to have to allow that cow to become poisoned with resulting pain and suffering because I could not get an intramammary to help to solve the problem. I am glad the Minister has returned to hear that important point.
There is no reason that outlets other than vets cannot supply such products and several others referred to by Deputy Naughten that I do not have time to discuss. The Minister should examine the enormous increase in veterinary fees experienced by farmers in the past five years. Most farmers' bills quadrupled during that period. If the merchants, chemists and other outlets are removed from the equation, it will be a licence to print money. The Minister and the Government are softening Irish farmers for another smack in the face. Next week, she will be hiding behind the coat tails of the eurocrats in the European Union.