Mart workers who were shown mistreating calves in an RTÉ Investigates programme last night must be identified and dismissed, according to Sinn Féin spokesperson for Agriculture, Claire Kerrane. The programme revealed footage of bull calves being subjected to kicking, beating with sticks, dragging by their ears and tails, and being thrown on and off trailers. Deputy Kerrane emphasized the need for consequences for those involved in these “vile scenes of abuse of calves, contrary to the law and basic common decency”. The programme also highlighted alleged breaches of legislation surrounding the transport of calves for live export to Europe for veal production.
Deputy Kerrane described the programme as “hard to watch” and stressed that the abusive practices shown do not reflect the treatment of animals by the majority of handlers, mart staff, and farmers. She stated that animal welfare standards are in place for a reason, but they are ineffective if not monitored and enforced. She called for consequences when these standards are not met and highlighted the blatant disregard for animal welfare and the treatment of young calves, as well as the failure to adhere to laws regarding rest times and feeding during live exports. Deputy Kerrane deemed this behavior unacceptable and emphasized the need for a thorough investigation.
Deputy Kerrane acknowledged that the majority of the country’s marts have high livestock welfare standards in place. However, she argued that the documentary exposed cases where rules are not being implemented, necessitating further investigation. In response to a mart’s suggestion of animal welfare training for staff, Deputy Kerrane stated that individuals who engage in throwing calves or physically abusing them should not be allowed to work in such an environment. She called for the identification and dismissal of these individuals. Deputy Kerrane also called for a review of practices and laws surrounding live exports if Ireland wishes to continue with such exports.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, condemned the “shocking practices” shown in the RTÉ Investigates programme. The department has requested all available footage and information from RTÉ to conduct a thorough investigation and take appropriate action. Minister of State at the department of agriculture, Martin Heydon, described the cruel behavior as “utterly unacceptable” and confirmed that an investigation led by the department is already underway. He emphasized the need to uphold the robust animal welfare rules and standards in place.
Mike Magan, the chair of the National Fodder and Food Security Committee (NFFSC) and a dairy farmer, expressed concern about the industry’s response to the programme. He stated that the industry has a fantastic story to tell but must not let it be tarnished by indefensible actions and unacceptable behavior. Magan emphasized the importance of leadership and decision-making in addressing these issues.