EU calls put live trade 'at risk'
Consideration by the EU of tougher regulations on the transport of animals for further feeding or slaughter is being described as a "red alert" situation for Irish livestock exports.
Demand from a number of EU member states for the stricter enforcement of current and future regulations is causing concern in Ireland.
Ahead of a complete review of the regulations governing live exports to come before the EU Commission in September, some member states have now called for a tougher approach to the policing of existing rules.
The live export of weanlings to Italy and Spain is critical for Irish suckler farmers and has amounted to around 70,000hd in recent years. The ICMSA said the introduction of tougher transport and shipping regulations could endanger the trade and the organisation has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, to take action to protect the business.
The chairman of the ICMSA beef and cattle committee, Kevin Connolly, urged Minister Coveney to block any attempt to introduce more stringent regulations.
"The current regulations are set at an extremely high level and have been proven to work effectively," Mr Connolly said.
"The fact that over 339,000 cattle were exported live in 2010 is a testament that the system is working well," he added.
"It's also quite clear that our customers are happy with the manner in which stock is being delivered to their destinations and ICMSA has, on a number of occasions, visited and inspected the facilities operated by our leading live exporters. These facilities meet every EU standard and are excellent."