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Sunday 16 December 2018

Dutch have beef with Irish farmers amid claims of poor animal welfare

The group, which has almost three million members, said that in 2017 and 2018, an undercover research team visited 13 Irish farms. Stock Image: PA
The group, which has almost three million members, said that in 2017 and 2018, an undercover research team visited 13 Irish farms. Stock Image: PA
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Irish beef is in the headlines in the Netherlands for all the wrong reasons after animal rights activists alleged welfare abuses on farms here.

Animal rights group Wakker Dier accuses some Irish beef farms of poor animal welfare standards after what it called undercover research.

The group, which has almost 31,000 members, said that in 2017 and 2018, an undercover research team visited 13 Irish farms. On its website, it claimed that some of the farms were part of Bord Bia's Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) and gave permission to enter the farms and take pictures. However, the group said they pretended to be journalists from a Polish newspaper, investigating the influence of Brexit on the Irish beef sector.

Among the main criticisms the group made was that animals were kept indoors during the winter, usually on "hard concrete grids". It also claimed that many young calves suffer from castration and dehorning without pain medication.

The group is demanding that castration and slatted floors in sheds be prohibited.

"Irish beef has an animal- friendly image of grazing cattle on green meadows. But that is in the summer. In winter, these animals can really have a rotten life," said Valeska Hovener, from Wakker Dier. The group wants Dutch supermarkets to stop selling Irish beef as long as it does not meet its welfare standards.

However, according to Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy, the allegations do not give a factual representation of the standards of Irish beef production. In 2017, Bord Bia audited 33,000 farms. Only seven farms of all the audited SBLAS farmers housed animals indoors for the full year.

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