Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine Debate
Vol. 1 No. 9

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Deputy Simon Coveney Zoom on Deputy Simon Coveney] For example, amendment No. 92, in the name of Deputy Pringle, concerns the requirement for the gathering and collection of data and making data available to the public. He is seeking to add to that a number of categories that the Minister could consider in regard to the future data collection. I am not saying I agree with everything he is seeking but I can understand the spirit of what he has said and perhaps we can try to accommodate that in an amendment on Report Stage.

It is important for me to be upfront. Amendment No. 26 seeks to ban hare coursing and the use of animals in sporting events which may result in physical suffering. I believe that is included in the performance section already in regard to ensuring animals are not on display or performing in a way that is cruel. In the section on cruelty we have made a specific distinction in regard to hunting and so on. The Deputy also seeks a ban on hunting, a ban on the shooting of wild birds, except for the purposes of disease control, a ban on the use of certain traps, a ban on the use of ferrets for the hunting of animals, a ban on badger culling, a ban on farming of mink or foxes for their fur and the use of wild animals in circus performances. Some of his concerns are being addressed in other parts of the Bill around general animal welfare standards, what is prohibited in terms of animal cruelty and obligations in terms of looking after one's animals but an outright ban for all these sectors is not in place. Badger culling and the use of wire snares to capture badgers is absolutely illegal. The culling of badgers happens in as controlled a way as we can make it. The types of snares used are specifically designed to ensure damage to the animal is minimised when it is being caught in order that it can be put down in as acceptable a way as possible.

I would like to move on to a vaccination programme when I get advice that it makes sense to do it. Ultimately, there are broader issues around TB that need to be dealt with. Likewise, in regard to fox hunting, there are lines in the legislation around acceptable codes of conduct. We will get to those when we move to the various sections.

I am not accepting amendment No. 26. Many of the other amendments are linked to amendment No. 26, amendment No. 92 concerns a different issue and, perhaps, one or two of the others are different. My initial reaction to amendment No. 26, which is the heart of this group of amendments, is that I cannot accept it but I want to read into the record what the Government is doing in trying to improve or support standards already in place or that have been put in place in the various areas. I hope to get a chance to do that on the next day.

Chairman: Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle On 22 November.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That is as upfront as I can be at this stage.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív On amendment No. 26, it would be useful if the Minister could outline to the committee that hare coursing is legally permissible and there is no proposal to ban it. The use of animals in sporting events, in other words hunting, is legally permissible. Will he explain whether the use of canines for the hunting of any animal, digging out of any wild mammal gone to ground and the use of terriers to attack and extract the wild mammal above or below ground, is legally permissible? The Bill provides that unnecessary cruelty is not permitted. Is that issue covered in the Bill? I do not agree with that particular procedure but I do not have a problem with normal hunting. Nature can be quite cruel but that appears to be going too far. If the Bill is passed, will the digging out of foxes be legally permissible, given the other terms about cruelty to animals? I thought stag hunting was banned already.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My understanding is that the only stag hunt in the country has not got a licence renewal, therefore, it is not happening. That is different from outlawing it. So far as I am aware there is no intention to renew that licence.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív It would be very useful if we could get a briefing note before the next meeting on the various points in amendment No. 26. The Minister has pointed out that badger culling and the use of wire snares to capture badgers is not legally permissible.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Yes. That might be useful. I can provide a briefing note to members of the committee on the various areas in order that we can have a discussion on the issue the next day. I do not want to raise people's expectations that I will start banning a series of practices that I do not believe should be banned. However people need to know the actual position in terms of what is legally permissible, the codes of conduct and whether they are being adhered to and the powers I have under this legislation to introduce new codes of conduct, if that is appropriate. For example, people who use working terriers have asked that I introduce a mandatory code of conduct to ensure a distinction is made between the people who know what they are doing and behave in a reasonable way in that area and those who do not. Those issues need to be examined.

In regard to prohibition of animal cruelty, section 12(12) states:

Nothing in this section applies in relation to anything which occurs in the ordinary course of-
(a ) fishing,
(b ) lawfully hunting an animal, unless the animal is released in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition, or
(c ) lawfully coursing a hare, unless the hare is hunted or coursed in a space from which it does not have a reasonable chance of escape.

We have put some qualifications in place and I am sure we will have a long discussion on that section. I do not have an opportunity to get into that debate now.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Two other issues arise. There is an entire section on the use of hares for blooding greyhounds for greyhound racing. May we have a briefing note on the current state of play and what is allowed in respect of hares? The other issue is the killing of mink in fur farms. I do not have enough information on it to make a judgement. That appears to be a major issue. I am not an expert in this area. I would like to know what is the practice and how humane is it compared to killing other animals, such as, a cow, a pig, or a sheep. What is the method used, how humane is it and is it environmentally sensitive? I would appreciate a note to help the committee to make a more informed decision.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney That would be very useful and it will be done before the next meeting.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Can the report be circulated beforehand?

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney We will put the report on the Department's website in the next couple of days.

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