Thursday, 14 July 2022
Animal Welfare: Motion
“That Seanad Éireann: recalls that:- Ireland has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes (‘the Convention’);agrees:
- the European Union has been promoting animal welfare for over forty years, gradually improving the welfare standards in respect of animals kept for farming purposes;
- the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting the welfare of all animals in the Animal Welfare Strategy for Ireland 2021-2025 (‘the Strategy’);- that animals are entitled to the widely acknowledged following ‘five freedoms’, which are reflected in the Convention:acknowledges:i) freedom from hunger and thirst;
ii) freedom from discomfort;
iii) freedom from pain, injury and disease;
iv) freedom to express normal behaviour; and
v) freedom from fear and distress;- the positive contribution to date on the part of this Government in devising and publishing the Strategy; in creating a stand-alone Animal Welfare Division within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and in providing for a doubling of funding for animal welfare organisations;supports:- the recognition by all European Union Member States in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, together with the acknowledgement in the Strategy that animals are sentient beings who can perceive their environment and experience sensations such as pain and suffering or pleasure and comfort;calls on the Government and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to:
- the commitment by all European Union Member States in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals;
- the commitment by the European Commission in its Farm to Fork Strategy to revise the European Union’s animal welfare legislation by the end of 2023, in order to align it with the latest available scientific evidence, broaden its scope, facilitate greater enforcement, and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare;
- the commitments made in respect of animal welfare in the Programme for Government: ‘Our Shared Future’;- continue to work with the European Commission and with Ireland’s fellow European Union Member States to uphold the Convention and Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and to expedite the revision of the European Union’s animal welfare legislation;
- legislate for a minimum requirement that all shipments carrying live animal exports to third countries carry a veterinarian on board, and to take immediate steps to vigorously pursue value-enhancing market avenues as an alternative to live exports;
- commence all sections of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022, such that the prohibition on fur farming as provided for under that Act takes effect;
- consider section 12(9) of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act, 2001 (as amended), and adopt a position as to whether the strategic plan submitted to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine by Bord na gCon in accordance with that Act is deficient and/or whether reasonable progress on the implementation of that plan has been made, such that instalments otherwise payable to Bord na gCon should be withheld;
- take immediate steps to uphold the provisions of Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs, in particular those provisions relating to the practices of tail-docking and reduction of corner teeth;
- review the sentencing regime under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 as a matter of priority;
- regulate the breeding, ownership, sale, or supply of exotic pet species;
- allocate increased resources to the enforcement of the Animal Health and Welfare (Sale or Supply of Pet Animals) Regulations 2019;
- engage constructively with Seanad Éireann in considering the provisions of the Animal Health and Welfare (Dogs) Bill 2022.”
I welcome the French ambassador and his wife to the Seanad for Bastille Day. I look forward to joining them for celebrations in their residency later and I thank them for joining us.
It is my great pleasure to table a motion on animal welfare. Unfortunately, animal welfare does not get the time it deserves in the Houses and the Green Party wants to make sure that we address a couple of urgent issues before the summer recess. I am delighted that the motion is being seconded by my Fianna Fáil colleague, Senator Murphy.
I will lay out precisely what the motion is about as there is quite a lot in it. The Green Party went into the programme for Government negotiations with a lot of requests regarding animal welfare. While we achieved a great deal, it is fair to say that we wish we had gotten other measures over the line. Regardless of whichever party we had gone into programme for Government negotiations with, it was going to be a challenge having read all the manifestos of the individual parties.
I am delighted that the Green Party has a Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Minister of State, Senator Hackett, will speak later and I know she will push for everything she can for animal welfare. There was a doubling of funding for the organisations involved in the area. I speak to representatives of these organisations all the time, as does the Minister of State, and we try to bring to the table issues concerning them whenever we can.This motion addresses a significant number of those concerns in four key areas, namely, live exports, greyhound racing funding, exotic pets and the welfare of dogs. I expect Senator Boylan will speak on the last of those. The motion expresses support for her Bill and we would love to see it progressed. We will do what we can to make it happen.
I have spoken many times in this House about live exports. It is not an issue on which we have had agreement from most parties. It is Green Party policy to ban all live exports outside of the EU on the grounds that animals are sentient beings. They are put on ships, sometimes for days and even for up to two weeks, particularly when there are storms, as I have outlined previously in the House. Trips within the EU are very short but there are still problems in this regard. A Green Party researcher told me yesterday that when she went on holiday with her children, there were four container loads of animals on the ship. Most people do not realise there are no vets on those ships and no requirement to have a vet on board. In the case of very young, unweaned calves, they may be on a ship for nearly two weeks when going to Libya, for example, with no access to any kind of medical care whatsoever. Many die on board and those who survive go to systems of slaughter that would not be considered humane by people in this country. They are slaughtered in locations with different kinds of legislative environments from ours. We cannot control that.
This is primarily the reason the Green Party does not want to see these animals going on long journeys. If we ensured, at the very least, they had enough water, food and access to even the minimal standards of medical care, we could stand over the practice. It is just not possible to stand over it at the moment when there is no legal requirement to have a vet on board. During the Covid crisis, many of the export companies said they could not do that because we were in the middle of the pandemic. We are not in the middle of a pandemic now and perhaps those companies should not have been exporting animals during a pandemic in the first place. Part of the motion calls for a requirement to have vets on board every ship on which live animals are being transported. I know there is no legislative basis for this but I ask that the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, bring forward such legislation. I believe everybody in this Chamber would support it. They might not support a ban on live exports but I know they would support care for animals. It is something with which Irish people concern themselves.
I will outline some of the figures relating to live exports. In 2020, nearly 492,000 pigs and a total of 265,000 cattle were exported from this country. In 2022 to date, halfway through the year, 206,000 cattle have been exported. We are on our way to a bumper year for live exports. It is incumbent on the export companies, this House and the Dáil to put the legislation in place to ensure this vast number of animals are cared for properly during their journey overseas. The majority of exported animals are pigs, to which there is specific reference in the motion. In the case of cattle, most of the exported animals are very young, unweaned calves. I have spent a lot of time on farms. Anybody who has heard the crying of a baby calf when it is being taken from its mother knows it is very distressing. The animal welfare group within the Green Party, which is incredibly active, does substantial work and engages regularly with the Minister, reports that the crying of calves being transported can be heard from the dock. It is incredibly distressing.
Many people say the greyhound racing industry in this country is on its knees. It is on its knees because people no longer want to attend the events. As far as I am aware, none of the staff at the Galway track works full-time. One or two of them may be full-time but, in general, there is a really small job opportunity within the industry. The claim is often made in this Chamber that the industry bring jobs to rural Ireland. It really does not, other than a few part-time jobs. We have record employment numbers in this country. This is not the time to be saying we should put the jobs of some 30 people who could avail of another job opportunity ahead of the welfare of these animals. There have been numerous exposés regarding the treatment of greyhounds in this country. As we have pointed out repeatedly, approximately 6,000 dogs have gone missing in Ireland. They are born, found not to be suitable for racing and then they just go missing. Apart from that, approximately 6,000 dogs are exported from Ireland, predominantly to the UK.
The cost of rearing those animals is taken up by the State, at nearly €5,000 per dog. The breeders, when they sell the animals, pocket the profit, which is approximately €1,000 per animal. Farmers throughout the country would love to have the cost of rearing their animals covered by the State and to be able to pocket the money for selling them overseas. This cannot continue. All of that funding is coming from the State. The way our legislation is set up is such that every time we increase funding to horse racing, which does need to be done, we also increase funding to the greyhound industry. It is an 80:20 split. In the middle of the pandemic, we had to support the dogs and horses who were, in effect, in the care of the State, given we are supporting the industries financially. We had to increase the amount of money going to them, with the same 80:20 split reflected in the budget. That was really upsetting for me as Green Party member. It was upsetting to have it laid out in front of us that this is how funding is being distributed.
One positive development was the introduction in 2016 of a requirement that both industries prepare a strategic plan and make reasonable efforts to implement it. The Minister has powers to withhold moneys if the plans are considered deficient or if reasonable progress on their implementation has not been made. Some of our members and others involved in animal welfare legislation have brought to light that the industries are not sticking to the plans. There are legislative grounds to withhold moneys in those circumstances. We are calling for an examination of the plans and whether the industries are sticking to them. It is not for me to say whether they are, but there is a reasonable amount of evidence at this stage that they are not. We ask that, following the strategic plan examination, the Minister would then make a decision as to whether it is appropriate to give over that money.
We in the Green Party would love to see an end to any public finance being given to the greyhound industry, especially given the evidence to which I referred. I do not think any other party in this House agrees entirely with leaving aside all funding, but we must deal with the reality of where we are politically. This is a very good step and an important part of the motion. Many people have said we need to take on a racing-centric breeding model. It is hard for me to argue on that point when I do not support greyhound racing in the first place.However, if we actually took on that kind of model, we would put the welfare of these animals first.
This motion calls on the Minister to regulate the breeding, ownership, sale and supply of exotic pets. It is taken directly from the programme for Government. We do not know how many, where or what species of exotic pets are in Ireland. Northern Ireland has legislation in this area and it would be welcome if there was consistency across the island. We tend to say that we would love to see some of our legislation regarding the environment adopted in the North of Ireland, particularly after Brexit where we have real concerns. In this particular instance, however, we would love to see what they have in the North of Ireland adopted here. It just shows that the public want this and are really crying out for support for animals in Ireland. Therefore, not having any of this data or information about these exotic pets means there are animal welfare issues. Wild animals are often caged and kept in unknown conditions, and when exotic animals escape, there is a public health issue.
Crucially, when it comes to biodiversity, the first motion we ever brought to the Seanad when we had four Green Party Senators elected was with regard to biodiversity. So much debate is lacking that real proper discussion about biodiversity. We have seen that these exotic species wreak havoc on our local natural environments. They are very hard to deal with from a public purse point of view but also when it comes to really restoring biodiversity and our native species.
Many Senators will remember my outbursts here a few months ago with regard to fur farming and the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which was aimed at ending mink farming on this island. I was frustrated at the lack of progress of that Bill. It was adjourned many times but I was delighted to see it pass. Indeed, the Minister of State had her own really important work in relation to small-scale forestry on farmlands across the country. Upon looking into it, however, and I believe the Minister of State is aware of it and this is crucially important for us, that legislation has not been commenced. It passed through both Houses but it has not been commenced. That is why it was critical to have this done before the recess. We need to have it commenced. I do not care what is going on in the background, really. There are three farmers who invested heavily in it but they have known for two decades that this industry does not have a future. That Bill, which is now the Act to which we all agreed, needs to be commenced in order that we can get on with the business of compensating those farmers and the small number of workers and, critically, ending fur farming, which has been shown not to be humane in any way, shape or form and not to be in the public interest. It has been banned in other parts of the world. Ireland is lagging behind. I thought the job was done. We got the Act done but now it is time to commence that Act. I will end there. I have taken a considerable amount of time because I feel very passionately about this issue. I look forward to hearing from my Government colleague who will be seconding this motion today. I know he supports animal welfare.
I know Senator Boyhan has a big interest in agriculture as well. Fianna Fáil has decided to support this motion. I must make clear at the start, however, that coming from an agricultural background and knowing the significance of agriculture and our export market, I cannot support any call to ban live exports. I will say that I understand where Senator Pauline O'Reilly is coming from, certainly with regard to more veterinary care and having a veterinarian on board these ships. I am all for that type of thing. We have seen some incidents of things that were really upsetting, particularly young calves being sent abroad and suffering on board. I think every Member of this House would agree. Again, coming from a rural area and from a small farming background, nothing hurts the farming community as much as to see those images on television.
With regard to the farming community, again, we talked about the small and medium farmers. They really get upset and annoyed by this because they really love and look after their animals. Whether children are from an urban or a rural background, when they see a young lamb, calf, pup or whatever it is, they have huge respect and empathy. We all have to have a level of responsibility.
The motion calls on the Government to work on several areas of animal welfare including commencing the ban on fur farming legislation as outlined in the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2022, regulating for exotic pet species, increasing funding for the enforcement of animal welfare regulations and reviewing the sentencing regime under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.
I think we all agree that we need to move on fur farming. We need to move on that legislation and I know the Minister of State is committed to working on that. The issue of compensation may be worked out or is nearly at an end and once we have that done, we should move very quickly with that legislation. We do not want fur farming; that is the reality.
Irish people have a very strong sense of empathy and responsibility towards animals. Our priorities in government must reflect this. We are part of a three-party coalition with a programme for Government. I respect and work with that programme for Government. Animal welfare is a high priority for the Government and considerable resources and funding are provided to organisations involved in rescuing and rehoming animals. It should be recalled that in December 2021, the Government through the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, and others in the Department, including the Minister of State, provided record funding of €3.7 million to 98 animal welfare bodies throughout the country. In my own area of Roscommon–Galway, people rescue and look after different types of animals and make sure they are okay. They are delighted this has begun to happen in society. People who voluntarily look after animals get very distressed when they see them being neglected or maybe dying from lack of food. We have a responsibility in that regard and we must do it. Therefore, that funding is very important and I am very happy to say there will be increased funding in that area in the new budget.
Work is under way to establish regulations for the ownership, sale and supply of exotic pets. I agree with Senator Pauline O'Reilly that we need to regulate that area without delay. People get quite worried when the authorities find that ten, 12, 14 or 20 exotic pets have been brought into the country illegally. There are welfare issues and health issues. This must be regulated as a priority matter.
Animal welfare is a high priority for the Minister, who has made concrete proposals in regard to areas raised in today's Private Members' business. The Minister created the Department's first stand-alone animal welfare division, for example, and launched Ireland's first dedicated animal welfare strategy, Working Together for Animal Welfare: Ireland’s Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025. A new advisory council on companion animal welfare, comprising a group of independent experts who will advise the Minister on important issues such as the responsibility of pet ownership and certain breeds, has also been created. The Minister reformed the farm animal welfare advisory council and with his Government colleagues recently launched the farm and animal welfare network, which focuses on practical individual support for people and their animals at local level. Later this year, the largest ever allocation of grants will be allocated by the Minister and his colleagues in the Department to animal welfare organisations, enabling them to engage not only in helping animals in need today but also in education programmes that will prevent welfare problems arising tomorrow.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is working with other Government Departments to put in place regulations for the ownership, sale and supply of exotic pets. The Minister is working on legislation aimed at further clamping down on those who dock or crop dogs' ears, which is another terrible practice. The Minister has reiterated his continued commitment to upholding high standards of animal welfare in the transport of live animals. I spoke at the start about the economic importance of that sector to our country. The production of food has now become so important again with the war in Ukraine. However, I fully endorse anything we can do to ensure that all animals that are being exported are properly looked after and, certainly, that they have veterinary support on board; that is important. Those are my few comments. Animal welfare matters to a lot of people, whether they are urban or rural, and to a lot of farmers. I certainly think there is a lot of good in the motion and that is why we will support it, as part of the Government. I know the Senator understands that because of my background, I would not like to see a ban on live exports, but I respect her view. In regard to greyhounds, there are some very good people who look after dogs very well, take them out and exercise them, but there have been people who have sullied that business very badly. We must ensure that the proper thing is done and that animals are properly looked after. As I said, I second the motion.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House and thank the Green Party for putting animal welfare on the agenda. At the outset, I want to say I am the son of a cattle dealer and I have brothers who are involved in trading cattle. I know the potential and the importance of exporting cattle, as the Minister of State does, with her responsibility in this area. Let us be clear about the difference in the contribution from the leader in this House of the Green Party, which she has read into the record. I will tease out some of it, although I cannot tease out all. That is not reflected in the motion, which makes a simple nine calls on the Government. The first call is to legislate for a minimum requirement. Let us be clear if we are sending a message out to the Green Party animal welfare group. I know many of them, and they are colleagues of mine and friends of mine. We may have different opinions but not too many. Let us be clear that today's motion put down by the Green Party states that we should legislate for a minimum requirement in all shipments carrying live animal exports to third countries. It is not calling on this House or the Government to ban live exports of cattle outside the European Union. That is a very important point. I recognise that those in the Green Party are pragmatists and, as Senator Pauline O'Reilly said, they have to work within the confines of coalition Government. That is a very important point. The Senator is not calling today, in this motion, which she had the option to do, for the banning of live exports outside the European Union.
We need to look at other issues. Of course, I would have concerns about live exports of cattle anywhere - within the Union or outside the Union - but we have to be pragmatic. We live in an economy with jobs. One Member spoke of calves bawling. I am long enough around to have heard of mothers bawling when their sons and daughters had to emigrate for jobs. I just want to set the context. There were many heartbreaks on the harbour walls of our nation, which is important in the context of this debate.
I am in favour of veterinary technicians. I am not sure if we can afford highly-paid professional vets but qualified veterinary technicians are an option, and that is important.
We need to look at the lairage scheme, in particular in Wexford. We need to see how cattle are coming in and out of the various ports within the European Union and where they are resting up. We need to talk about their age as they are not all young. There are many cattle that go outside the European Union to be finished and it is not correct to say they are all going to be slaughtered, which is simply not being done. That is also an important point.
It is only fair that we acknowledge that the programme for Government committed to double funding being allocated to animal welfare organisations over two years, based on the 2020 budget allocation of approximately €2.4 million. Savings in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine were looked at and, eventually, that went up to €3.2 million, and 110 organisations received funding in 2020. I have the list with me here and, indeed, I circulated it across the country at the time and I checked with the committee yesterday to see that it is there. I firmly believe it would not have happened as much were the Green Party not there, and it is important to acknowledge that and to be fair to the Minister of State.
I want to single out the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, who has done an excellent job. He is the one who engages with us on the committee. He has come to the committee. He is a strong advocate, like the Minister of State. The Minister, Deputy McConalogue, has come to the fore in terms of working on animal welfare. It is he who comes to the committee and answers most of the questions on it, and his Ministers of State are clearly committed to it.
I am sorry. It is he who comes to the committee and engages with us, and I am on the committee. That is what I want to say. I want to acknowledge that because it is an important point.
I also want to acknowledge the public representatives who are animal welfare advocates. I particularly want to single out Councillor Tania Doyle from Fingal, Councillor Deirdre Heney, Councillor James Charity, Deputy Holly Cairns, Deputy Gino Kenny and Senator Lynn Boylan, who are very strong advocates across the different party political groups in advocating strongly for animal welfare. They have given this a lot of focus and attention. I took the time to look at the parliamentary questions and the Commencement matters and I see they have a commitment.
The point I am making is I support the concept of having this debate. We need to look at how we can mainstream certain areas. The Minister of State will be familiar with the document, Working together for Animal Welfare: Ireland's Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025. In that, one of the key issues is mainstreaming animal welfare across all Teagasc training, which is an area we need to address. They are all commitments from the Government and I accept them. To be clear, we have to be balanced in our approach. I support animal welfare but we are in an economy.
Senator Pauline O'Reilly raised the issue of mink. I am somewhat surprised that this was not done because I had thought it was all rolled out, but the Minister of State is in government and that is an issue for the Government. The Government has a programme. I presume it delivers on the programme and I assume Government Members monitor the programme and look at that. It is a surprise. I will make contact after we meet here with those groups that are engaged with us and with the Minister. I ask the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, to shed some light on what steps she or people within her Department took to pursue it. Is there an issue or a difficulty with implementing Government policy and, ultimately, an Act passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas?
It is great to be here on this last day of the Seanad. This is a very important motion which gives us the opportunity to debate where we are in the agricultural sector with regard to animal health, in particular the issues pertaining to the motion.
If we look at what the farming community has done in recent decades, there has been dramatic and huge change in practices and in education. There is a great need for that education to continue. I have often spoken about issues like the age profile of our farming communities as they are of a certain demographic, and how we engage them is very important. One of the key issues in terms of how we engage them is through discussion groups, which have proven to be very successful in trying to get the information out there. Discussion groups are basically groups of farmers who meet once a month on a farm to go over practices. It is training on a farm on a continuous basis, which is a very important part of how we can get that education into the system.
In the debate this morning, we have used figures about live exports. I believe we need to bring clarity to those figures and the Minister of State might clarify this point. A figure of 400,000 pigs was mentioned in the Chamber this morning in regard to exports. The Minister of State might clarify that the information on the Department website is that over 375,000 of those went to Northern Ireland for slaughter and did not leave the island. Even though they are down as exports, they did not go near any ship. The Minister of State needs to clarify that to make sure the wrong message does not go out from her Department. On the issue of unweaned live calves being moved, the Minister of State might elaborate on the 13-hour limit regarding feeding and how that is tied in. That is a very important statistic and, again, that piece of information is on the Department’s website. Those issues need to be clarified because the public might get the idea that unweaned calves are spending weeks on a boat, not 13 hours, which is a significant figure. They also might get the idea that hundreds of thousands of pigs are being sent abroad, when they are not even leaving the island. What is for export and what is moving off the island needs to be clarified in this debate.
We also need to clarify the work of the committee, of which I am Vice Chairman, in particular the amount of work it has done on the greyhound industry. We have had some very tough meetings with the industry in the last few years and there have been changes. In the Minister of State's response, she might acknowledge the tracing issue that has emerged, how that has been enacted by the greyhound industry and how the traceability issue has been brought forward, somewhat following the agricultural bovine system of tracing every animal.
Other Members will know more about the exotic animals issue than I do. There is a significant deficit in that regard, and those Members with greater knowledge will probably speak on that. However, there is a need for work to be done on that issue. Other Senators also have greater knowledge of issues relating to dogs than I do. There is significant work to be done there.
The hearings we have had at the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the past six or eight months have been a learning experience for me. Politics aside, there is great knowledge in this Chamber. We need to bring forward real recommendations and legislation on these issues. Getting the right information, as per the Department and its website, out of this debate is important. I look forward to the Minister of State's response in that regard. She might clarify the figures that were mentioned in order to make sure the House is not misled.
I welcome the motion and thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly for tabling it. Animal welfare is a really important issue. It does not receive the attention it deserves. Part of the reason for that is that the issue, particularly canine welfare, falls across a number of Departments. I was very pleased that the agriculture committee, in fairness to it, agreed to my proposal for post-enactment scrutiny of the animal welfare legislation. We had very lengthy hearings on issues of dog and horse welfare. I hope that work will continue, with the support of other members of the committee, to look at the issues of exotic species and so on. I acknowledge the increase in funding for animal welfare organisations, but the critical thing is that we have to stop the flow of issues. We have too many animal welfare organisations, and that is because there is a need for them. Dogs Trust stated that there was an increase of 73% in surrenders this year. When I visited the new county dog pound in Dublin, I was told that 30% of surrenders were as a result of landlords not accepting pets. The housing crisis is therefore having an impact even on animal welfare because people have no option but to give up their pets in order to get rental accommodation. That means that children miss out on the really important experience of having pets as they grow up.
I will focus on issues relating to dogs. While there is a lot in the motion, there is also a great deal more that could have gone into it. Maybe we could work together to progress some of the issues I want to see progressed. The legislation on microchipping was very welcome but has not been fully enforced. We need a central database. All the data required to be provided in the legislation have to be provided. We know that Fido runs a very good database and requires that all information on the animal, including breed and age, is put into the database. There are, however, other databases that do not collect that information, and they should do so. As for the online sale and supply of pets, it is no good telling people to shop around when they do not have all the information. We need a pre-verification system, which would be very cheap. Fido and Dogs.ie use such a system. That needs to be mandatory. We also need local authorities to publish the dog-breeding establishment lists in a standard format, with the number of breeding bitches and the number of inspections carried out provided in order that people can look up a dog-breeding licence number and decide whether or not to buy a dog from somewhere that keeps hundreds of breeding bitches. We need the dog-breeding establishment, DBE, guidelines to be not only reformed and strengthened but also put on a legislative footing. We also need a national inspectorate because the standard of local authority inspections of puppy farms is just all over the place. We had officials from the Department of Rural and Community Development before the agriculture committee recently. My jaw was on the floor listening to them. The Department does not have a grasp on the issue of dog breeding at all. Surgical artificial insemination is happening. It is a barbaric practice. It was originally just in the greyhound industry; it has now made its way into the area of companion pets as well. Canine fertility clinics are popping up all over the country. There is no legislation to address them. People are setting up canine fertility clinics and carrying out surgical artificial inseminations and caesarean sections with no veterinary training whatsoever. As for cropped ears, again, we need changes to the legislation, including a phased ban on the ownership of dogs with cropped ears because that results in lifelong issues for the animal.
The cost of veterinary care will become an increasing issue. The Irish Blue Cross does fantastic work on that, and I know that the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also has a low-cost veterinary care van that goes around, but people are having to hand over their dogs because they cannot afford the veterinary care. We have to look at how we can support people to be able to keep their pets. Some of that is linked to the fact that there are designer breeds that come with multiple health issues. I thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly for referring to the Bill the Seanad passed to close the loophole in that regard and to align the Control of Dogs Act with the Animal Health and Welfare Act in order that when puppies are seized at ports or in illegal dog breeding establishments, or under the really horrific conditions we see regularly in the newspapers, those animals can be rehomed within five days rather than having to be kept where they are for the duration of a court process.
Another issue is that we need the Garda to have an animal welfare unit, which is not standard practice. Animal welfare organisations go to Templemore voluntarily and train gardaí as to what their obligations are in enforcing the law in this area, but that needs to be standardised and we need animal welfare units. What we hear is that in certain Garda stations there is a particular garda who is interested in the issue, but that is not across the board, which would make a huge difference.
The breeding of horses is a problem. Proper grazing facilities for urban horses are needed, as is a strengthening of the equine passport system.
I welcome the call to deal with exotic pets. In May of this year, however, at a European Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting, 19 EU member states voiced enthusiastic support for an EU-wide positive list system but those representing Ireland did not open their mouths. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, was before this House. Prior to his attendance at the meeting in question, I asked him and his Department about their position on the matter. They did not have one. It turns out, that they did not voice any support for that positive list system. That is deeply disappointing. I hope the Minister of State takes my message in this regard back to her Government colleagues, because we need legislation on exotic pets.
I will use my last few minutes - I promise - to speak about greyhounds.
I do not like greyhound racing. I have been very honest about that with the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine and with the greyhound industry when its representatives have come before the committee. Nonetheless - and this is a little like what Senator Pauline O'Reilly said about live exports - we can certainly tighten up the regulation. We need vets at every trial, regardless of whether it is an unofficial or official trial. That has to be standard. It is the law in Britain; it should be the minimum here. I was really disappointed that the Minister, when I put this to him at a meeting of the joint committee, basically stated that it is like the difference between playing for your county and playing for your parish in that you will have better facilities and physio when you play for your county. I am sorry, but greyhounds do not have a choice in racing. The bare minimum they should have is vets any time they run on a course. Another issue is that surgical artificial insemination is rampant in the greyhound industry. Again, it is banned in Britain. I call on the Veterinary Council of Ireland to call for a ban on that. Then there is the overbreeding of greyhounds. We need a cap on the number of greyhounds bred - that is the reality - because they are being overbred and going missing in their thousands, and those that do not make the cut in Ireland are then sold below cost and sent to Britain, with us, the taxpayer, funding all that.
I call on the Minister of State to consider the position in respect of rodenticide and metaldehyde. I had the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, before this House on this issue and he has been really supportive. We need a ban on metaldehyde for domestic use. One should not be able to buy slug pullets in discount stores. Whatever about agriculture and working with farmers to phase out the use of metaldehyde, nobody should be able to walk into a shop and buy slug pellets because they have a devastating impact not only on pets but also on wildlife. Then there is rodenticide and the impact it is having on raptors. It should not be available to the general public.
I thank the Green Party. I commend my colleagues on bringing this issue to the Chamber during their Private Members' time. I feel very strongly about and wish to speak to a number of issues raised in the motion, as I have done in my past two years in the Chamber, including the treatment of animals in the racing sector, the need to better fund our animal welfare organisations and the care and standards in need of improvement in our agrifood sector.
While the motion is comprehensive, I did notice a gap in one area of animal welfare matters in Ireland. The motion does not mention the seven zoos and wildlife parks we have, which are responsible for the care and preservation of rare and endangered animals.We assume they are a guaranteed safe space for animals. However, it has been my great misfortune over recent months to learn this is not so and it is not always a guarantee.
The motion states that animals are entitled to the widely acknowledged five freedoms reflected in the convention. These are freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. I will outline some of the concerning breaches of these freedoms.
A number of months ago, I began a series of meetings with former and current staff members in Dublin Zoo. Through this engagement I have been made aware of a number of breaches of these freedoms for animals in Dublin Zoo, the most detailed accounts of which have recently been issued to me by a whistleblower via a protected disclosure. Regarding the animal welfare and management failings at Dublin Zoo, I have been told by the whistleblower there have been serious welfare issues, near misses and safety and management concerns. The whistleblower states that having exhausted all options in Dublin Zoo's grievance procedures, which failed to act on their concerns, they feel they have no option but to expose their experiences and what they have witnessed at Dublin Zoo.
In the motion before us there is reference to an animal's right to freedom from pain, injury and disease. I want to speak about a zebra named Kildare who did not have this freedom. She died after complications during a tooth extraction procedure on 2 December 2020. She was darted twice and suffered from capture myopathy. She was kept alive even though staff requested the animal be euthanised. The tooth was extracted and the animal was severely paralysed when she came around from the aesthetic. The animal was left to recover overnight. Having experienced no change, the animal was going to be hung overnight in a harness even though she was severely paralysed. One staff member pleaded at the end of the second day to end the animal's suffering. Management and the veterinary team were planning to leave her hanging in a harness overnight despite being severely paralysed. Staff were extremely distraught after witnessing the zebra's treatment and felt like they could not raise concerns for fear of reprisals. Kildare was featured on the television series "The Zoo" on 26 June 2022.
I also want to speak about Maeve, a giraffe who died last month. Staff were informed at a meeting by a team leader in March that Maeve was on watch. This means she was on a quality-of-life assessment. Maeve was not observed consistently or assessed to determine her quality of life. No quality-of-life assessment was filled out between March and her death on 28 June 2022. Staff had to watch her lay and slowly die while kicking out to trying gain her footing. This should have never happened to Maeve or her keepers. After her death and post mortem, staff were called to a meeting and offered counselling. They were then told to delete any videos of Maeve and how she died. This is another attempt by Dublin Zoo to intimidate and conceal wrongdoing and animal welfare problems. Before Maeve’s death, I saw photos of her gaunt frame with her bones sticking out. She was very clearly an unwell animal.
I also want to speak about Harry, a silverback gorilla. We all know about Harry as he was one of the most famous attractions in the zoo throughout my childhood and into recent times. Harry was a silverback male gorilla who died on 29 May 2016. Keepers consistently raised concerns leading up to his death. There were daily reports that his behaviour was abnormal and that he was losing weight and condition. Keepers repeated asked for a vet to examine him. Eventually a vet was called. He died shortly afterwards. This had an adverse effect on the rest of the troop. This was one of the hardest stories for me to hear from the many staff I spoke to as the pain in their voices over how Harry was treated in the run-up to his death was unbearable. I have sanitised the details as I do not think I can read all of them. I saw the photos of Harry at the end and he suffered greatly.
I have seen footage and photographs of the animals I have mentioned and the visible, unnecessary suffering they were left to endure is unfathomable. Tá mo chroí briste. This is not what care and compassion for animals is supposed to look like. This is not the standard of care that we, as members of the public and Parliament, have come to expect from Dublin Zoo, a much-trusted and beloved public institution.
The pain of sick and dying animals is not the only animal welfare issue detailed to me in the protected disclosure, or by the former and current staff I have spoken to. There is a major breach of guidelines with regard to missing animals. In the motion before us there is reference to an animal's right to freedom from fear and distress. In November 2019, two crested macaques went missing and were presumed dead. In February or March this year, a white collared mangabey went missing, also presumed dead. Despite staff raising the issue that they had not being found, management have not looked thoroughly for these animals or raised the public's awareness in the event that a member of public were to encounter them. Staff raised their concerns about the two missing macaques saying there were 24 and now there were only 22 in the group. The team leader quoted the curator as stating there were always 22, insisting the keepers could not count to 24.
On 21 May, a citron-crested cockatoo escaped from its aviary. This is a critically endangered species and since its escape there have been no efforts to locate the animal or raise awareness among members of the public in the hope that if they were to see such a bird, it could be returned to the zoo. The zoo has failed to follow any protocol to retrieve the animals, or to inform or warn the public in the hope of retrieving the animals or to prevent anyone sustaining an injury from one of the missing animals.
What I have raised today is only a snapshot of the stories that have been shared with me about failings in animal welfare in Dublin Zoo. I have pages and pages of testimony from current and former staff. I was on the phone until very late last night hearing more stories. I do not have time to go through them all. These events are not from the far past. They happened quite recently, as I have outlined. I thank all those who have taken the time to speak with me and inform me of these issues over recent months. I particularly commend the whistleblower who had the bravery to come forward with a protected disclosure to me, trusting me to help shine a light on this most serious of animal welfare issues in Dublin Zoo. These are people who care deeply for the animals and who have put themselves in the firing line in work to raise their concerns. It is a pity their voices, the only ones the animals in their care have, have fallen on deaf ears.
It is only appropriate to reference the words of the whistleblower as I finish. The whistleblower has exhausted all their options to date and cannot in any good conscience wait until their serious misgivings result in the death of a colleague or, as is already happening, the unnecessary deaths and mishandling of endangered animal species in Dublin Zoo.
I thank the Green Party for tabling the motion. I hope I have shone a light on something that is extraordinarily serious. I will engage with the relevant Minister, Department and committees in the coming days on this issue on behalf of the whistleblower. I wanted to raise the issue in the Seanad first.
The issues outlined by the Senator are very serious. I hope the appropriate authorities, from the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine all the way to An Garda Síochána, take on board what she has said. Privilege in the House is there to make sure the Senator and others are free to raise issues of great concern to the public and that the press is free to report what she has outlined. I hope that change will come as a result.
I acknowledge Senator Hoey's very heartfelt contribution. I look forward to getting an update on it from the relevant agencies.
I thank the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, for being with us today to speak on the motion. Working together for Animal Welfare - Ireland's Animal Welfare Strategy 2021-2025 is welcome. It is great to see all stakeholders coming together on how we look after animals in Ireland. I come from a farming family where sick calves and lambs were usually in the kitchen. My mother was a nurse. I must admit that looking after the calves and cattle we had came first. Many farmers look after their cattle. There is a cost involved in bringing out a vet but farming families do so because they want to ensure their cattle are looked after. For many families there is pride in making sure their animals are looked after well.
This week funding for agricultural shows was announced. These shows have best in show competitions for various animals. There is a lot of pride in rural communities and many towns and villages in bringing the best in quality. As Senator Lombard stated, there is so much happening now with regard to farming practices, training, discussion groups and how best to manage. We have spoken about the five freedoms for animals. Many supports have been put in place. There is much more education and training, particularly in our colleges. Mountbellew Agricultural College is now part of the Atlantic Technology University. This education and training is crucial.
A lot of assistance is needed. When we have had fodder shortages farmers throughout the country have come to each other's aid to make sure areas impacted by a loss of fodder and feed are supported. The fodder scheme is crucial. It looks to potential shortages we might see later in the year because of the impact of the war in Ukraine.It is incredible that global situations have such an impact when it comes to us trying to plan for the time ahead, both as a Government and through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Senator Lombard is just asking for clarity on some of the figures that have been given. I hope the Minister of State will be able to shed some light on this.
It is important to acknowledge that Ireland is at the forefront in agriculture. Particularly in the west of Ireland, we have grass-fed beef farming. These are animals that are outdoors. Slatted sheds are used. An attempt is being made to protect the environment but also to ensure animals have safe spaces. It is crucial we support the welfare of animals. I am speaking specifically from a farming perspective. Farming, however, is also a livelihood and about supporting our communities in rural areas. That cannot happen without people having a livelihood or, in other words, income that comes from a farm. To support our farmers in that regard means supporting the idea of marketing animals and of being able to sell where there is a demand. There is a demand in countries for quality animals. Ireland stands tall in respect of the quality of its animals, especially its cattle and beef product.
Welfare restrictions have now been put in place concerning live exports. Care must be taken and veterinary inspections are undertaken of nearly 90% of the animals that are exported at ports and at marts throughout the country. Marts are working together with officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to ensure best practice is being undertaken in all areas. We must ensure live exports are protected and that they are undertaken to the highest level of quality possible. We are seeking to support farming families in this motion. It must be understood that livelihoods are at stake here. Those livelihoods are involved with keeping communities in our villages and towns alive. We are working together, and with our farming families, to see how that can be done best.
I turn now to the local authorities and county councils and their role in animal welfare, whether with dog wardens or looking after horses. We have the horse fair in Ballinasloe. A great deal is done in this regard by animal welfare associations seeking to ensure best practice and that we are looking after our horses. It is also crucial that local authorities are given the support to ensure they have those animal welfare positions in place, be it the dog wardens or the people looking after wild horses. As has been mentioned, does there need to be more clarity regarding the delineation between the work of the local authorities and the Garda in this context? Is extra funding required to allow the local authorities to undertake their role in this regard?
The challenge we have in rural areas is that sometimes dogs are allowed to roam. Pet owners must be responsible. Built-up estates can be right beside fields. Pet owners must ensure they are responsible for their animals, especially dogs, and ensure there is microchipping. People must be aware of this responsibility. It is not enough just to have a pet. Animal ownership brings a great deal of responsibility with it.
I thank Senator O’Reilly for tabling this motion. I am devastated by what I just heard about Dublin Zoo. The minute the Minister of State leaves here, she must contact people to get them out to the zoo to see exactly what is going on. If even only a tiny portion of what she has been told is true, it is outrageous. When I think about how I and other people bring their grandchildren to the zoo and presume these animals are looked after better than any animals in the world, I am totally devastated.
My main point is about canine welfare. I have kept dogs all my life. I kept cocker spaniels for years, then I moved on to Labradors and now finally to beagles. I moved away from cocker spaniels because of a condition known as cocker rage. It apparently arises from inbreeding. When people go to purchase a dog, most want to buy a dog and not rescue a dog, so they usually find a little cardboard box in the corner with the puppies in it. Everything looks hunky-dory. Years later, though, it is found out that the breeder in question was breeding maybe 100 bitches and the little cardboard box was there purely for the benefit of visitors and nothing else.
My first beagle died recently. My wife made the decision that we were never going to have a dog again, that we were finished with that and we were never going through that again. My grandkids said “No”, and that if they got a dog, then Nana would take it. Then the hunt started for a beagle. I invite people to look at dogs.ie. A bulldog is available there today for €2,000 and a Pomeranian for €1,650. Beagles are available for €1,000. German Shepherds can be had for anything from €600 to €2,000, depending on where one goes to purchase the animal.
For starters, I bet a pound that nobody is paying any tax on this. I also guarantee that many of these animals are living in the most horrendous conditions. My son related the story to me about the hunt for the beagle. Several phone calls ended with the person on the other end of the line saying, “It is not my dog; I am selling it for a friend”, “The bitch is away being shown now, so it is not possible to see the animal”, or “No, the male is not about”. The worst response we had concerned eight puppies for sale down in the west for approximately €1,600 each. They were the most beautiful looking dogs. There was no problem in the world at all in that regard. The only snag was the bitch and the father were not available and could not be seen because they were living with this guy’s partner who was suffering from Covid-19. If we take the total accruing from selling eight puppies at €1,650 each, that is a massive amount of money.
To a certain degree, the Irish Kennel Club, IKC, has a role to play here. Many of the breeders I have met over the years are people who show dogs at IKC events. A very good friend of mine in the North of Ireland who has champion dogs is horrified by the number of dogs coming from the Republic, going through the North and on to the UK, in the boots of cars and in all sorts of transportation. My colleague, Senator Boylan, has a point in this regard. Breeders need to be registered. This trade must be formalised as a business. If people want to breed dogs, then they should have to establish that they are breeders with their local authority and register as such. If people are selling animals, they should be required to have this information on their website. They should need to have a registered number as a breeder to allow people like me, who want to buy a particular breed, to check out their bona fides. The trouble my family had in trying to get the latest dog we have - the beagle currently destroying my house, but that is another day’s work - and trying to establish the bona fides of the breeder was almost insurmountable, although, ultimately, we did find one. We are talking about a multimillion euro industry here in the trade in dogs.
To make a brief point about horses, by the end of the Celtic Tiger period, many people had bought horses they were convinced were going to turn into Arkle or Red Rum. Happy days, they thought. Suddenly, however, they were not able to feed those horses because they did not have the money. I am aware of one stable where people came and took their horses out. The owner of the stable asked the trainer where the horse was going, and the response was it was being taken down to a friend on a farm. What was actually happening, however, was the person was driving over to the west with a horsebox, opening it somewhere in Connemara, letting the horse out and then driving away. A county councillor in Ballina, whose name I cannot remember off the top of my head, used to drive around the country rescuing horses. He kept horses at his place in Ballina. He used his payment from the council to feed the horses. He was an amazing man. These were horses that had been sold for thousands of euro and they had been just dumped on the side of the road. This is a massive problem.
I am still in shock about Dublin Zoo. I really am. I just cannot get over what we have heard about that institution today. I thank Senator O’Reilly for bringing this motion. This matter needs to be highlighted. We must stop what is going on. If it is happening with dogs, then what must the market be like for exotic animals? I thank the Minister of State for being here.
I thank my fellow Green Party Senators for tabling this motion. It is timely. I thank all Members who have spoken passionately about this issue. It is important to keep it high on the agenda.
I am pleased to welcome this motion on behalf of the Government, and I am particularly pleased that my Cabinet colleagues decided this week to support it, signalling the Government's commitment to high standards of animal welfare in Ireland.
Animal welfare does not fall under my remit. I am here to represent the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, who is in the Dáil taking parliamentary questions. I am not sure whether Senator Boyhan is aware of that. I am not sure about the meaning of his reference to the Minister being the one to attend the committee meetings. I have not been asked to and have not declined. If I were asked, I would be more than happy to attend.
The way we treat our animals reflects on us all, not only as a society but also as a nation. I welcome what seems to be the proactive approach of the agriculture committee. I thank Senator Boylan for highlighting that. I hope it continues because the committee is a channel through which we can hear different perspectives. It helps in terms of policy and Government decisions.
We have had no small reason for pause in recent days to step back and reflect on the many achievements of the Government over the past two years, and I am pleased with the progress my Department has made in this most vital area of policy since the Government took office. That has been recognised in the motion.
Senator Dolan highlighted the issue that animal welfare is spread across several Departments and that clarity is sometimes needed as to which Department, body or individual is responsible, be it a local authority or veterinary officers across the country. Even the public needs to have clarity, and politicians do too. I thank the Senator for highlighting that.
We have made significant progress on the delivery of programme for Government commitments on animal welfare. As the Members will recall, the Oireachtas legislated earlier this year to provide for a ban on fur farming. That is referred to in the motion. The reference to the commencement of the Act is certainly one we will be examining. I have been advised that negotiations with the affected farmers and their representatives are ongoing. While the exact date from which fur farming will be permanently shut down has not been finalised, I am advised by my officials that this matter will be resolved in the coming weeks, such that a ban can come into effect. I hope we will have more news on that in the next couple of weeks.
Senator Murphy highlighted that my Department has established a stand-alone animal welfare division for the first time. In 2021, we published Ireland's first dedicated animal welfare strategy, Working Together for Animal Welfare 2021–2025. That is significant because until now animal welfare and health were always bunched together. It was about the health of the animal rather than the welfare. We are clear now and everyone knows and recognises that animals are sentient and feel pain, distress and happiness. Therefore, this is a really positive move that we have made.A new advisory council on companion animal welfare is up and running and will provide valuable advice on relevant policy issues.
Later this year, the largest ever allocation of grants for animal welfare organisations will be announced. This is essential to support these organisations in their vital work. Unfortunately, the organisations are still necessary. We support them as much as we can. There was an important programme for Government commitment to double the funding. We will achieve that by the end of the year.
These are all real achievements that this Government has brought about. While it is important to reiterate our achievements in government here this morning, much like in the Lower House earlier this week, we also need to recognise the vital work that remains to be done by the Government and the further progress it is committed to achieving over the coming years.
We were all shocked and stunned by Senator Hoey's account of what is happening in Dublin Zoo. I will certainly relay that to my Department and engage with the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, who I understand has responsibility for zoos in the sense in question. It is shocking stuff and we will certainly follow up on it. The motion calls for regulations to be put in place for the ownership, sale and supply of exotic pets. Officials from my Department have held interdepartmental meetings with colleagues from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, to discuss and make progress on action on this issue. I assure the House that my officials will continue to make progress on this issue with colleagues in the NPWS.
Senator Boylan mentioned activity at EU level. My notes state Ireland indicated support in principle for a submission to the European Commission in respect of a potential legislative framework about positive listing. I hope there is a little more progress in this regard. My Department is looking forward to examining the details of this idea along with our fellow member states as soon as those details are circulated.
The motion refers to the strategic plan of Rásaíocht Con Éireann, RCE. I am advised that RCE recognises that its current strategic plan, for the years 2018 to 2022, needs to be updated and that it has engaged with KPMG to make progress on the update. Officials from my Department met representatives of KPMG to have an input into the stakeholder consultation phase of the plan. They will continue to engage actively on that review.
With respect to the pig welfare directive, which is also referred to in the motion, my Department has implemented several specific actions over the past two years to progress its full implementation. Since 2020, the Department has been running a programme of pig welfare inspections aimed at identifying the risk factors for tail biting, giving pig farmers the opportunity to address them, and then monitoring progress towards rearing pigs with intact tails. This programme is an important step towards compliance with the EU legislation on tail docking. To date, 138 commercial pig farms have been inspected and are engaging with the programme. This number is likely to increase in the coming months as active participation in the programme is one of the eligibility criteria for farmers availing of the pig exceptional payment scheme 2, recently announced.
In addition, the Department has collaborated with Animal Health Ireland and Teagasc to deliver a free tail-biting risk-assessment tool for pig farmers. This is important as it enables farmers to work with their own veterinary practitioners to deal with the risk factors for tail biting on their farms. Since September 2021, the Bord Bia quality assurance scheme for pig producers requires farmers to complete this risk assessment, which has significantly increased engagement and uptake.
In April 2022, my Department launched a new targeted agricultural modernisation scheme for pig farmers. The scheme offers farmers 40% co-funding up to the maximum investment ceiling of €200,000 towards new infrastructure for pig housing. The specifications of this scheme are specifically designed to deal with the main risk factors for tail biting, and my officials are confident that future housing constructed in line with this specification will enable pigs to be reared in Ireland without any need for tail docking.
I reiterate my Department's continued commitment to upholding high standards of animal welfare in the transport of live animals. Senators Lombard and Dolan have asked for clarity on the figures. I do not have them with me but whatever is on the Department's website will be clear. I take the point that the movement of animals from the Republic to Northern Ireland is categorised as an export, so it is important to break down the figures. Unweaned calves tend to be exported within the EU. It is older animals that might go beyond the EU. To be fair to the Green Party, which put the motion together, the motion does refer to exports outside the EU and the requirement to have a veterinarian on board a vessel. That is a programme for Government commitment. It has not quite been achieved yet. There have been one or two veterinarians on consignments but not the number there should have been. It is a matter that my fellow Senators speak passionately about. I reassure the House of the Department's commitment to introduce legislation to provide a legal basis requiring exporters shipping livestock on dedicated livestock vessels to third countries outside Europe to place a veterinarian on board. My officials are currently working on a legislative proposal to this effect.Another issue which has come up of late but is not directly related to the motion concerns shipments in summer months in extreme temperatures. That has been highlighted. I assure the House it is a priority of my Department that any legislative proposals will provide a legal basis not only for a veterinary presence on board but also maybe for the prevention of shipments of live animals through areas during periods of high temperatures. It is extremely distressing for those animals and is something we have addressed in the past. We need to keep looking at that.
Senator Craughwell spoke in great detail and knowledgeably about dogs. It is something that crops up and Senator Boylan also talks about dog welfare. The Dog Breeding Establishments Act is there to regulate the operation of such establishments but there are concerns over how it is enforced and what is coming out of it. We meed to keep that in mind. Breeding issues are a concern for many with dogs, whether it is inbreeding or breeding for desired traits and then undesirable traits or traits damaging to the welfare of those animals emerge. We see the issue with pugs, for example. There is a huge emphasis on that. It is important to keep those issues to the top of the agenda.
It is not always about buying dogs. There are plenty of dogs to be adopted and rehomed from the many hard-working animal welfare organisations around the country. I am glad to say my house is filled with dogs and cats from goodness knows where, but they are great. Everyone says you will not change the world by adopting a dog or cat but you change the world for that dog or cat so I highly recommend it.
I thank my fellow Senators for their contributions and their support for the motion. It is good to have that strong message coming from the Seanad on this. As I have said and we have heard, animals are sentient beings who can perceive their environment and experience sensations such as pain, suffering, pleasure and comfort. As Ireland's animal welfare strategy recognises:
human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist. Our animals’ health, the environments they inhabit, how they adapt to those environments, and the degree of social interaction they experience, have profound effects on their welfare; and more broadly, also impact on society beyond the animals themselves.
I am delighted, therefore, to say on behalf of my Cabinet colleagues that the Government supports this motion.
To clarify and back up what the Minister of State has said, the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, has said fur farming will be closed down. Negotiations are ongoing with the fur farmers and the date will be announced pretty shortly.
I appreciate the comments from Senator Murphy. I will go back over and comment on the various points raised by Senators. I am sure the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, recognises it is important for the Green Party members to use every means we can to make sure the issue of fur farming is progressed because it was critical to us entering this Government. The Minister said he was not going to enter negotiations on the floor of the Seanad because he wanted the Bill to pass. That means the Bill needs to be commenced. Otherwise, it is pointless passing a Bill and us putting extreme pressure on our Government colleagues to get it passed. It was not an easy time. To find it is not commenced is quite difficult for us. I am delighted to know the Minister will do this within the next couple of weeks. I will be looking at this throughout the summer to make sure it happens.
An awful lot of work is happening on animal welfare behind the scenes. The Minister of State laid all of that out. A number of points have been brought up in the House today and I am delighted to have tabled this motion in order to facilitate Senators in doing that. It is critical, first, in relation to dogs. As I said to Senator Boylan, we were delighted to put in this part from her Bill into our motion. She has asked to work together and I am more than happy to do so on issues in relation to dog welfare, in particular. Senator Craughwell spoke passionately about this issue and has, as the Minister of State said, much experience in this. It brings to light something many people do not realise, namely, that it is really hard to enforce some of the elements legislated for. That means we need more legislation and enforcement in this area. I am happy to progress that.
On Senator Boyhan's comments that vets might be too expensive for the State to put on board all ships, I am sorry but it is the job of the exporter to pay for that. It you cannot afford it, do not export. I put in the issue around exotic pets because it is an important one for biodiversity but let us make clear that every animal is equal, including unweaned calves going to Europe, which is where they predominantly go. Why are we sending unweaned calves to Europe? We in the Green Party do not believe they should be sent anywhere. Why do they not stay at home and we progress other avenues for these animals? At the very least, they could be weaned before being sent anywhere. That point is important to stress. I am not trying to pick on Senator Boyhan but he said "we have to be balanced" because "we are in an economy". There is very little money coming to any farmer in this State from any type of export, wherever it is. Animal welfare organisations, particularly Ethical Farming Ireland, will say live export is not holding the farming industry together. We can never put money before the welfare of animals. That is why the motion specifically mentions this. We have to put welfare first. We have to have vets on board every ship, no matter what it costs.
I appreciate the comments by Senators Murphy, Lombard and Dolan that we need to support farmers. Everything we have done is about supporting farmers. That is why we specifically excluded that element. It is Green Party policy that we end live exports but it is not just about pragmatism. Most people across this Chamber, be they Opposition or Government, do not support ending live exports. We have to do what we can where we can for the welfare of these animals.
I thank Senator Hoey for raising the issue around Dublin Zoo. It is a grave concern that any animals are treated in this way, be they domestic, for export, for farming or exotic animals. A proper investigation is required.
I am glad that these issues have been supported by the Government and that we can continue to support all these organisations which do immense work. Many of the issues raised today concern dogs and that is a testament to what Irish people feel about animals. They are the animals most people in the country know best and they are shocked when they hear of mistreatment. MADRA is a fantastic organisation in Galway and an awful lot of people in Galway go there when they want to get a dog and rehome them, as the Minister of State said. It is a wonderful experience for children to be in contact with animals. We often say that you cannot foster a love of nature and the environment unless you are surrounded by it, know it and feel it in daily life. That is the same for animals. Let us make sure we are doing it properly. Nobody needs to go to a website to buy a dog from a breeder when they do not know what the background is. Many animals are crying out for love and I implore people to go first to organisations like MADRA if that is what they are looking for for their children.
I very much agree with the Senator's points on MADRA, which is fantastic. In the Galway Advertiserwe always see the little stories about pets. I thank all Senators, particularly Senator Hoey, for their contributions.