Department officials wash their hands of factories' dirty sheep row
The Department of Agriculture has refused to be drawn into the controversy around the charges being imposed for the clipping of what factories deem to be dirty sheep.
Farmers have complained that excessive charges are being levied by the factories on farmers for clipping dirty sheep, with up to €2/animal being deducted from sale prices in some cases.
In addition, farmers maintain that clipping charges are imposed on additional animals in loads where dirty sheep are identified.
One farmer told the Farming Independent that clipping costs were levied on 13 animals supplied to a sheep factory, although he insisted that just four were dirty.
Questioned about the charges being applied by the factories, the Department stated that "any fees or charges collected by an FBO (Food Business Operator) are a commercial matter between the supplier (farmer) and the food processor."
The Department also confirmed that factories are allowed under the Clean Livestock Policy (CLP) to move sheep from the lairage of slaughter plants for the purposes of clipping.
"In relation to achieving the objectives of the CLP, there is a provision whereby an FBO at DAFM-approved slaughter plants are permitted to move sheep to a location other than the lairage to enable them to be cleaned sufficiently to allow them to be slaughtered. This provision may be applied to any of those sheep entering the slaughter house premises where it is deemed necessary for the protection of public health and food safety," the Department stated.
"Clean livestock and the need for an effective policy are basic requirements in order to comply with current EU and national food safety regulations," the Department added.
"Sheep producers supplying animals for slaughter for human consumption are food producers and therefore have responsibilities for food safety. Dirty animals pose a significant risk factor in the contamination of carcasses during the production process," it stated.
Both the ICSA and IFA have slated what they describe as a "severe interpretation" of CLP rules at some slaughter plants.
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