Farm Ireland
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Thursday 15 November 2018

Largest Dutch supermarket chain backs Irish beef despite animal welfare claims

A spokesperson for Albert Heijn told local media
A spokesperson for Albert Heijn told local media "we do feel that the excesses have been highlighted here, however regrettable they are".
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Netherlands largest and oldest supermarket chain Albert Heijn has said that it will continue to stock Irish beef despite controversial claims of poor animal welfare standards on Irish farms.

Claims of welfare abuse on Irish beef farms was reported by a host of Dutch news outlets this week after a Dutch animal rights group Wakker Dier made claims of poor animal welfare standards on Irish beef farms, following what it described as ‘undercover research’.

A spokesperson for Albert Heijn told local media "we do feel that the excesses have been highlighted here, however regrettable they are".

"We were in Ireland at the companies we work with, we saw that the cattle had enough space, lay quietly and spent a lot of time in the meadow."

The supermarket also backed Bord Bia's Quality Mark stating that "it complies with EU rules and actually more". 

An Albert Heijn spokesperson told FarmIreland that it has long-term relationships with its Irish suppliers that it does business with and has "good contacts with them". 

"The farmers feel responsible for the welfare of the animals and also have a great economic interest in this because animals only grow well when they are well cared for," the spokesperson said.

The Group which made the animal welfare claims said that in the winter of 2017 and 2018, an undercover research team visited 13 Irish farms, some of which it said were part of Bord Bia's Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) and permitted the 'researchers' to enter the farms and take pictures.

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In its report, the group said that the researchers were given access to the farms after pretending to be journalists.

Among the main criticisms that the group has made is that animals are kept indoors during the winter, usually, they say on ‘hard concrete grids’.

It also claimed that many young calves suffer from un-medicated castration and dehorning. 

The animal rights group is now calling on Dutch supermarkets to stop selling Irish beef as long as it does not meet its animal welfare standards, including that cattle are kept outdoors all year round.

However, according to Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy, the allegations made by Wakker Dier do not give an honest or factual representation of the high standards of Irish beef production.

“To judge, and seek to damage, the reputation of our entire nation’s beef production system based on an analysis of just 13 farms is unjust and willfully malicious.

"Equally, to suggest animal welfare it is not important to Bord Bia’s SBLAS members is fundamentally and entirely inaccurate. SBLAS is an important guarantee for buyers of Irish beef throughout the world, and farmers who do not meet the strict criteria of the system, will not be certified.”

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