Time to end the living hell of live exports

Jim believes that only a handful of exporting companies benefit from live exports. Stock photo
Jim believes that only a handful of exporting companies benefit from live exports. Stock photo

Jim is about to saddle up when I drop by, having taken a spin through several counties to reach his rural neck of the woods. A drive is the only spin this farmer’s son has time for these days, having lacerated the Department of Agriculture in this column last month for being all spin over substance when it comes to the grim reality behind the live export of Irish animals to foreign shores.

“I feel vindicated,” he says, referring to the RTE report that followed less than two weeks later.

For the formal complaints, that have been made to the EU concerning recurrent breaches in regulations dating back to 1999, confirm much of what he claims to have witnessed at Irish ports.

But Jim is frustrated that the department plans to penalise the drivers, instead of taking heed of the growing global outrage at an industry that inflicts unimaginable suffering on animals who already make the ultimate sacrifice for meat eaters such as himself.

New Zealand ended the trade in 2007, while the UK is in the process of banning live exports for slaughter.

Jim believes that only a handful of exporting companies benefit from live exports. “It’s the meat processors that the Government needs to sort out,” he says. “There’s no competition. The Government should never have allowed it. That’s what’s killing the trade and driving live exports.”

Jim wishes farmers well “but not at the expense of animals being mistreated. If they want Irish meat in the Middle East, then give them that – meat. Not living, breathing animals that can suffer”.

But as long as live exports go on, Jim vows to go on too, speaking out about the reality he witnesses which belies the smooth words of the industry. Which is why he was in Cork recently when 3,500 young bulls and 400 pregnant Friesian heifers were shipped to distant shores.

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“It was heartbreaking to see those innocent animals, trusting their owners to take care of them and having no idea what horrors they’ll soon face. Some were very lame and a couple in particular didn’t want to get on the boat. A man on each side of the gangway had a big red paddle to hit and poke at them to get them to hurry up.”

Jim wonders at the callous denial of some department officials who have undoubtedly seen the footage of what awaits animals when they finally arrive into some of these countries, where unskilled slaughterhouse workers have no concept of animal welfare.

Minister Michael Creed’s predecessor, Simon Coveney, particularly gets his goat. “He is responsible for much of the problem because he allowed the IFA to hugely expand the Irish dairy herd.”

Maybe Coveney, Creed and other live-export enthusiasts should join the next boatload so they gain first-hand experience as well as empathy. Because shouldn’t the savage state of affairs awaiting Irish animals on foreign shores matter to our Minister for Foreign Affairs?

Sunday Independent

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