The ICMSA's Ciaran Dolan has some interesting observations on the up-coming Animal Health and Welfare Bill.
Looking at the bill from a farmer lobbyist's perspective and with a legal eye, Mr Dolan maintained that achieving the correct balance in the legislation would require a lot of thought.
"It will also require a lot of political savvy on the part of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in what looks like a major piece of legislation," he said. "The minister must on one hand provide for a solid legal basis for animal health, control of animal diseases and welfare, while at the same time guarding against a complete capitulation to the whims of extreme views on animal welfare and animal rights."
This legislation has to provide for modern commercial farming where animals are reared in a way that is acceptable to all global consumers.
However, Mr Dolan said farmers should be fully aware that there was a definite drive to move most, if not all, of the responsibility for animal health and disease prevention onto the farm sector.
"This is self evident from the establishment of Animal Health Ireland, that has won the support and confidence of all the stakeholders," he said.
Mr Dolan warned of "woolly thinking and confusion" on where animal welfare ends and animal rights begin.
He also cautioned that the draft legislation had a "truck load" of enabling legislation that allowed the minister, without any political control, to enact regulations that could have far-reaching implications for the farm sector.
"This is not a healthy development and the draft legalisation requires a major overhaul in this regard," Mr Dolan said. "What is even more disturbing is the proposal to allow authorised officers -- unaccountable civil servants -- to impose on-the-spot fines on farmers. These would amount to a black stain on their farming record, if not a criminal record.
"This is totally undesirable and unnecessary. If there is evidence that can stack up in court, the minister and his Department should bring a prosecution to the relevant court and prove their case. It is a paradox that draft legislation that is purporting to deal with animal rights is diluting the constitutional rights of farmers."