Speaking on radio yesterday, Mr Cullinan defended Ireland’s live export trade, as campaigners welcomed the recent move by New Zealand to phase out live exports.
Gerry Boland, founder of Animals Behind Closed Doors, said New Zealand’s decision was “a striking political statement” and “great news” for people concerned about animals being put on ships for “enormous journeys”.
He said: “Young cows are going off to Libya, Turkey, Kazakhstan… and 15-day-old calves going off to the continent. We should not be doing this, it’s a simple as that.
“These are sentient animals, yet we treat them in this appalling fashion by sending them off on ships... on horribly long journeys.”
The authorities, Mr Boland claimed, will say we have the best animal welfare regulations in the world but “they are constantly flouted and I have evidence of that”.
Mr Cullinan said Ireland has an “excellent system for transporting live animals out of the country, which is certified by the Department of Agriculture”.
Teagasc, he said, is continuously researching the movement of live animals and they agree the system we have is appropriate.
He said that because there are three dominant players in meat processing, without export competition beef farmers would not survive.
The vast majority of live exports go to EU countries, with an excellent demand for calves, he said. “We absolutely need this competition. It’s critical and essential to protect the sector.”
Mr Cullinan also said improvements are constantly being made to the export system.
However, Mr Boland said it was a fallacy that live exports provided competition here.
“The economic value of live exports to Ireland is minimal,” he said.
“But even if they were larger, why should animals pay the price for a dysfunctional agricultural system that insists on sending sentient animals off on these horrible journeys?”