Concern as new figures reveal 900 lambs/day rejected by slaughter houses for being too 'dirty'

  • Farmers say new rules are 'way over the top and have to stop'
  • Department vets sent home up to 3,600 lambs
  • Minister says policy is a public health measure
Photo: Brian Farrell
Photo: Brian Farrell
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers met with senior vets in the Department of Agriculture again this week over the ongoing problems with the implementation of the Clean Sheep Policy by the Department at the lamb factories.

IFA National Sheep Chairman Sean Dennehy said analysis shows that more than 900 lambs per day, or between 7pc and 9pc of the kill, are being classified as Category C and ordered home or back to farm by the Department.

He said this approach cannot continue as it is imposing major unnecessary costs on farmers, it is not provided for under EU regulations, and seriously disrupting the normal sale of sheep.

While up to 93pc of sheep are categorised A and B and deemed suitable for slaughter, Sean Dennehy said it was never the intention under the Clean Sheep Policy that sheep would be sent home or that the Department would insist on full shearing of some sheep.

He said this approach is way over the top and has to stop.

In addition, he said both factories and farmers are reporting a complete lack of consistency on the policy between plants and vets.

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said food legislation requires that primary producers rearing animals or producing primary products of animal origin are to take adequate measures to ensure the cleanliness of animals going to slaughter. 

"My Department has, accordingly, developed a clean livestock policy which has been agreed with farmer, haulier and Food Business Operator stakeholders.  The policy document was finalised in February 2017. 

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"This policy is a public health measure, intended to reduce the potential risk to consumers that may arise if meat is contaminated by dirty fleeces," he said. 

However, the IFA sheep farmer leader accused the Department of breaching their own protocol on the Clean Sheep Policy.

“Nowhere in the policy is there reference to sending home consignments of lambs or using arbitrary figures of 10pc Category C to refuse loads of lambs. In addition, it was never intended that farmers would have to fully shear some sheep.”

Sean Dennehy said there is rising frustration among sheep farmers at the way they are being treated under the Clean Sheep Policy.

“Sheep farmers will do their best to have their animals as clean as possible but the Department and the factories have to be practical and take account of the difficult weather conditions.”

He said sheep farmers are getting very fed up with the way their livelihoods are being threatened, “There needs to be a realisation that this is a very low income enterprise and not capable of sustaining excessive red tape and bureaucracy such as over the top regulations on the likes of clean sheep and EID tagging.”

In the week ending February 10, the Department sent home up to 3,600 lambs that were deemed as category C.

Last week, the Department rejected another 3,500 lambs, ordering that they be sent back.

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