Dáil Éireann - Volume 346 - 14 December, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Meat Testing Procedures.

8. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will ensure that the same testing procedures are applied to meat for consumption on the domestic market as are at present in operation for the export market.

Mr. Deasy: The question of improvements in the inspection and testing procedures for meat from slaughtering premises which cater for the domestic market has been under consideration for some time. My Department have had discussions in the matter with the Department of Health and other interests concerned and a survey of all the slaughtering premises has been carried out by veterinary [2048] officers of my Department. There are nearly one thousand such premises altogether and the results of the survey are now being analysed. When this analysis is completed it is envisaged that there will be further discussions with the interests concerned with a view to the introduction of necessary modifications and improvements. The proposed control measures on the sale, distribution, use and residue monitoring of antibiotics and hormone implants, which I announced recently, will have a direct bearing on these follow-up discussions and any changes made.

I should say, however, that since meat for home consumption is derived from animals coming from the same farms from which the export market is supplied, it is reasonable to assume that the high standards of quality disclosed by tests on meat consigned for export also apply to meat destined for the home market.

Mr. S. Brennan: Could the Minister confirm the existence of a Department of Agriculture survey on the one thousand slaughter houses he mentioned suggesting that well over half of them have been deemed by his Department to be unsuitable for the purposes for which they were designed under the Local Authorities Act? Would he also say if he is satisfied with the procedures and tests which are available for meat for consumption at home as opposed to that going abroad? The people at home are as much entitled to good quality meat as the people to whom we export.

Mr. Deasy: I referred to the first question which the Deputy asked in my original reply: I said I had just received the results of a survey——

Mr. S. Brennan: The Minister did not give any results.

Mr. Deasy: I said we had just received it.

Mr. S. Brennan: I believe over 50 per cent of slaughter houses are unsatisfactory.

[2049] Mr. Deasy: I have seen the newspaper reports and perhaps the number could be greater than 50 per cent.

Mr. S. Brennan: Is the Minister saying that more than half of them are unsuitable?

Mr. Deasy: Yes.

Mr. S. Brennan: That is a very dangerous situation.

Mr. Deasy: Of course it is but we must have an opportunity to study the survey.

Mr. S. Brennan: It is a very serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is no reason why the Minister should not be allowed to complete his answer without interruption.

Mr. Deasy: This is more like a Second Stage debate. Of course I agree that it is a very serious matter. With regard to the second question which the Deputy asked, a certain Deputy from County Mayo, who shall be nameless, has been raising this question for some time now——

Mr. H. Byrne: He got into trouble for doing so.

Mr. Deasy: It was Deputy Byrne who got into trouble in New Ross over the Jehovah's Witnesses or was it the Moonies? Most animals, irrespective of whether they are destined for the home or exports markets come from the same herds and will have been subject to the same animal husbandary practices. Moreover, steer production, which is most responsive to responsible hormonal treatment, is largely directed towards export.

Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Does the Minister propose to bring in legislation to control pork butchers?

Mr. Deasy: The Deputy must have inspired information, perhaps he heard [2050] that I took steps three or four months ago in this regard.

Mr. N. Treacy: Does the Minister agree that the best locations for these abattoirs is in rural areas? Is he aware that there is an attitude in the veterinary section of his Department which is prohibiting the erection of modern abattoirs in rural areas?

Mr. Deasy: That is news to me.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is a separate matter altogether.