Government to investigate alleged animal welfare breaches, says Varadkar

Government To Investigate Alleged Animal Welfare Breaches, Says Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Rebecca Black, PA

The Government is to investigate apparent breaches of animal welfare exposed in an investigative programme.

RTÉ’s Milking It; Dairy’s Dirty Secret examined alleged incidents at several livestock marts.


Some of the footage appeared to show workers repeatedly kicking young calves, and animals were also thrown from trailers on delivery into marts by both staff and farmers.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday, pressing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on what Government was going to do about “cruel and inexcusable practices in part of our dairy sector”.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns
Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns pressed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions (Brian Lawless/PA)


She described the scenes as “consequences” of the lifting of milk quotas in 2015, saying it had resulted in “an explosion in the number of bull calves” which had in turn resulted in the animals “being treated as a waste product, valueless and disposable”.

“This scandal is a direct consequence of Government policy that has pushed intensification and maximum production in the dairy sector,” she said.

“This failed model has also resulted in pollution of our pristine waterways, the degrading of our soil and an increase in our emissions.”

Mr Varadkar responded, describing the incidents in the clips as “repugnant”, and said they had been “widely condemned across the farming, dairy and industry sectors”.



“The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine has sought the footage used in the programme to commence an investigation into these events,” he said.


“The reputation of the dairy and beef sector rests on complying with high standards of animal welfare and the vast majority of farmers, processors and other workers have a strong commitment to ensuring that animals are not mistreated.

“For sustainable dairy into the future it’s vital that dairy farmers continue to ensure high levels of calf care on farm and that all those working in the supply chain continue to support high standards of animal welfare, particularly at marts and during transport.

“Any instance of such cruelty shall be reported to the Department of Agriculture on its animal welfare helpline, and I want to assure the house that it will take robust and timely actions in response to any evidence of animal cruelty.”

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