Seanad Éireann - Volume 116 - 22 July, 1987
Abattoirs Bill, 1987: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy) Michael O'Kennedy
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): I should like to be associated with the tributes paid to a former colleague of mine as a Member of the Seanad from 1965 to 1969, the late Senator Dinny Eoin O'Sullivan. I was a Member of this House during that period and I would like to be associated with the tributes paid to him by the House and also with the sympathy expressed for his family. I hope Senators will understand that I do not want to indicate any discourtesy to the House if I am not able at this point to hear the preliminary statements of the leaders of the parties on this legislation. I had arranged a programme today so that I would be able to hear their statements but I mistakenly assumed that I might be starting this speech earlier. I  have made alternative arrangements but I will be back in the House later on.
The fundamental aim of this Bill is to meet the need for a comprehensive and uniform set of national quality standards for slaughtering of meat for the home market. Changed trading practices and increased consumer awareness in recent years have shown also that many of the existing controls in this area need to be updated. The Bill also provides for a new system of controls on meat disposals for non-human use.
A significant aspect of the Bill is that for the first time it gives my Department a pivotal role in the control and regulation of the domestic meat trade. Hitherto this trade was regulated by a large number of virtually autonomous local sanitary authorities operating through some full time but in the main part time veterinary officials and in certain respects by the regional health boards through their environmental health officers.
For many years concern has been expressed about conditions at abattoirs providing meat for the home market. The main criticism has been that these abattoirs operate under much lower standards than the export plants. A survey of abattoirs and knackeries conducted in 1982 by my Department indicated that there were 854 local abattoirs in operation. While high standards prevailed in many, some premises were found to be old and insanitary, difficult to keep clean and far short of the standards considered necessary for any food premises. Together, these premises handle an annual slaughtering throughput of 230,000 cattle, 790,000 sheep and 320,000 pigs, representing the vast bulk of this country's home meat requirements.
Local abattoirs are supervised by veterinary inspectors employed by the sanitary authorities and/or environmental health officers from the health boards. The lack of proper and uniform standards is partly due to this diffusion of control and also to the fact that outside the major centres of population the veterinary inspectors are for the most part employed on a part time basis only. Of 160 veterinary inspectors employed in the local  authority veterinary service only 24 are full time employees and these full time officers are concentrated in only nine local authority areas.
By contrast, there are some 70 factories engaged in the export trade, including licensed bacon plants, which are comparatively modern and well equipped. They operate under the full time supervision of officers from my Department with over 250 personnel, including 64 veterinary inspectors, so engaged. This corps of full time officers is backed up by some 400 private veterinary practitioners who are employed at the plants on a part time basis. The cost of this supervision is met by the imposition of a fee on each animal slaughtered. These export factories have to comply with stringent national, EC and third country requirements in regard to premises and equipment, slaughtering standards and hygiene, and most of the Bill's provisions will not, of course, apply to them. While this Bill and the regulations to be made thereunder will not attempt to convert local abattoirs into export meat plants, many of the provisions, particularly in the area of hygiene, will mirror the controls applicable on the export side.
As regards knackeries it must be acknowledged that a valuable and practical service is rendered to the farming community by the majority of these premises. However, I am not satisfied that the activities of all correspond with the best interests of both public and animal health and this is the reason for tightening up the controls applicable to the knackeries as provided for in the Bill.
Existing legislation, some of it dating from the mid 19th century, places responsibility for the control of local abattoirs and knackeries on 87 sanitary authorities. This legislative maze is further complicated by the separate, existence of 11 local improvement Acts each of which contains provisions relating to abattoirs within the area of the sanitary authority concerned. It could be said that the present unsatisfactory position regarding local slaughtering premises is at least partly due to both the number  and the antiquated nature of the laws themselves just as much as it is to the discretionary powers they give to sanitary authorities to administer them. Some authorities have not adopted meat inspection by-laws and only some 70 per cent of abattoirs are licensed. Add to that the predominantly part time veterinary control exercised over these premises and it is easy to understand the variations in standards and practices as applied from county to county. Moreover, the penalties for breaches of the existing legislation are so small as to render prosecutions largely ineffective.
These divergent standards are also manifested in the trading area and nowhere more so than in the pigmeat sector. The House is aware that the pigmeat industry has been going through difficult times. Increased competition on the home and export markets has presented the licensed bacon plants with serious problems. Rationalisation within the industry has already taken place and, indeed, more must follow if the industry is to secure and develop its position in the economy. In this connection, earlier this month I announced a major programme for the development of the industry to enable it to exploit export market opportunities. Currently only 25 per cent of pigs slaughtered are exported. The bulk of the kill therefore is chasing a market in which significant inroads have been made by local pork butchers in the last five years. Pig slaughterings by pork butchers have increased by 70 per cent during this period. The licensed bacon plants are thus being placed at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis their unlicensed competitors owing to the cost of observing stringent hygiene standards and meeting veterinary inspection fees. Unless competitive equality can be restored to the home market I can see prices paid to pig producers suffering in the long term. Through the extension of veterinary controls, including fees, to all local slaughterings this Bill should also provide useful assistance to the pigmeat industry as a whole.
The butchers' trade itself has been undergoing change. The growth of  wholesaling and the development of slaughtering facilities by wholesaling establishments have cut the number of private abattoirs by about 350 since the early seventies. Slaughtering for their own businesses would appear to have become unattractive for many small butchers particularly at a time when labour and other costs were continually increasing. Consumer preferences and concerns have also pushed the trade into change. The battle is on at present to arrest an unwelcome decline in home consumption of meat and I am glad to say that it appears to be succeeding. Other challenges to be met include meat substitutes, the prospect of increased imports of fresh meat and meat products and new EC controls on domestic meat supplies. Clearly, the trade needs to be flexible and adaptive now more than ever. To their credit, the majority in the trade recognise the need for fresh ground rules on the preparation of meat and also the need to root out the cowboy operators who can give the trade a bad name. Most of our abattoirs are owned by family butchers, many of whom have been in the trade for generations. Their name and good reputation underpin the quality of their meat and in meeting fresh challenges, this Bill will greatly assist them in making the transition from the old to the new while securing an enhanced reputation for the meat they produce.
The Bill proposes two major divisions of responsibility aimed at improving standards namely: licensing of premises by my Department and veterinary control of premises, including supervision of all slaughterings, to be vested in the 27 county councils and the 5 county borough corporations.
As I mentioned earlier, because licensing of premises is lax in many areas and given the Bill's objective of establishing a national domestic standard on a par with export standards, there is a need for a central licensing body, at least in the short term. My Department, who for long has been closely involved with the export meat plants, have the necessary expertise to do this job. I am providing,  however, that the licensing function may be returned to local authorities if it is found desirable or necessary to do so at a future stage. Under the new arrangements, every abattoir and knackery will have to be licensed annually and a licence fee in the range of £10 to £100 will be payable. Proprietors will be allowed time to bring their premises up to standard where this is called for and appeals to the Circuit Court are being provided for in the event of refusal or revocation of a licence. Licensing will commence soon after the Bill's enactment.
The Government have decided that enforcement of the new veterinary controls should continue to be exercised at local level. Each of the major local authorities will be required to employ sufficient veterinary inspectors to ensure effective implementation of the controls. Each authority, or where warranted a combination of not more than two authorities, must employ at least one full time officer. It is envisaged that the existing experienced local authority veterinary staff structure will form the nucleus for the necessary staffing to implement the Bill's provisions. All slaughterings will be subject to veterinary examination by way of ante and post-mortem inspection and all meat found fit for human consumption will be stamped with a health mark. There will also be regular inspections of knackeries. Veterinary inspection fees will be introduced on slaughterings at local abattoirs at the same levels as those applicable at the export plants. The revenue which will accrue to the local authorities from these fees is expected to be sufficient to cover staffing and other costs. Application of these new controls will have to be deferred to allow time for the recruitment of full-time veterinary inspectors. I would hope, however, that the Bill's provisions will be fully operational within six months of enactment.
At present, full supervision of slaughterings, including the charging of inspection fees, is conducted by a very small minority of local authorities, notably in Dublin and Cork where all meat for human consumption carries a health mark. It is not good enough that full  slaughtering controls should be confined to a handful of areas. As I mentioned earlier, this Bill will provide a national standard and one which can be readily identified by consumers. It will provide an assurance to the Irish housewife that meat being sold on the home market has been prepared under hygienic conditions, is fresh, wholesome and in every way fit for human consumption. In this way also it should provide a major fillip to the trade in its efforts to increase consumption of red meat.
Section 2 contains definitions of the terms used in the Bill. While poultry is excluded from the definition of animal I am satisfied that slaughterings at non-export poultry plants are adequately covered under the food hygiene regulations. Similarly, deer and rabbits are excluded from the definition, as commercial slaughterings of such species are, in the main, aimed at export markets and as such are already subject to controls. Should the situation arise where such species are slaughtered in significant numbers for the home market at our local abattoirs they can be brought within the scope of the Bill under subsection (3) of this section. However, to cater for poultry slaughterings, leading up to Christmas time especially, and also for the occasional deer found in local abattoirs, provision is being made under section 39 (3) for such slaughterings to be subjected to veterinary examination. Requests were made on grounds of illegal slaughtering to have farmer slaughtering made subject to the Bill's provisions but I feel that “abattoir” as defined is sufficiently tight to prevent any abuses. Farmer slaughtering is both traditional and in casualty cases necessary in Irish farming. Sufficient controls will exist through the proposed full time local authority veterinary inspectorate structure coupled with stamping of meat and trade vigilance to counter any abuse of this facility. However, should abuse occur I can, by order under section 2 (3) (c), redefine abattoir to include farm slaughterings.
The repeals referred to in section 3  have been divided into three parts to permit each part to be brought into operation at different times. Part I of the First Schedule will come into effect in the first phase, i.e., licensing of premises by my Department; Part II will come into effect when the regulations for veterinary inspection are operational and Part III will be brought into effect when my colleague, the Minister for Health, makes an amendment to the food hygiene regulations to update those regulations in relation to the transport of food, including meat.
Section 4 excludes licensed bacon and export meat plants from the Bill's provisions as they are already closely regulated by my Department. Similarly, on the knackery front and as provided for in section 2 (1), the Bill will not apply to any premises where animal waste undergoes processing such as rendering plants, meat and bone meal plants, etc. Such plants will be the subject of a separate set of processed animal protein controls which I will be making under the Diseases of Animals Act, 1966. These controls will, complement the knackery provisions under this Bill. The Acts referred to in section 5 contain provisions in relation to markets, slaughterhouses and offensive trades generally including power by local authorities to make by-laws in relation to same. As full repeal of these provisions would not be appropriate the application of certain sections of the Acts in question is restricted under this section.
Sections 8 to 10 deal with abattoir licences and make it unlawful for a person to use any premises as an abattoir unless he holds a licence issued by my Department. A licence will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue. An annual licence fee at the following rates will be payable: for abattoirs with annual slaughterings of fewer than 500 animals, £10; between 500-1,000 animals, £50 and in excess of 1,000 animals, £100. I estimate that roughly speaking 40 per cent of premises will attract the £10 fee, 40 per cent the £50 fee and 20 per cent, the £100 fee. Where a licence is refused the fee paid will be refunded. The fees may be altered by way of regulations should the  cost of licensing tend to outstrip the revenue received. Section 11 sets down the conditions which must be satisfied before an abattoir licence will be granted or renewed. I am also providing in this section that the licence may limit the class and number of animals which may be slaughtered and that a distinctive number or letter may be assigned to every licensed premises.
Section 12 provides for the keeping of a central record of licences issued. This central record will be useful for control and reference purposes and also in the event of a dispute or prosecution. Equally, it is intended that premises operating under a permit as opposed to a licence, and as provided for in section 17, would be included in such record. Section 13 provides that a licence will not be transferable but, on the death of a licence holder, the licence will continue in effect for the benefit of the personal representative of the deceased for two months or longer as circumstances may dictate. Sections 14 and 15 set out the grounds for licence refusal or revocation including information to the applicant or licence holder on appeal procedures. As the licensing authority, it would be wrong of me to sit in judgment in an appeal situation. Accordingly, section 16 allows for appeals to the Circuit Court.
Arising from the 1982 survey of premises, which I mentioned earlier, it would seem likely that quite a number of premises will require modifications, in varying degree, to achieve the required standard. To meet this situation, I am providing, under section 17, for a permit system, somewhat like a provisional licence, for a transitional period of five years. A permit will be issued for a specified duration and will be renewable, if necessary, to allow proprietors time to bring their premises up to standard. It will have the same validity as a licence for all purposes, including fees under this Bill. I propose to have the permit indicate the improvements required, be they structural or in relation to equipment or otherwise. No permit will be granted for a premises which is quite clearly incapable of being brought up to standard. Having regard  to the increased number of inspections which will be necessary in the case of a premises operating under permit and in an effort to speed up the works required, it is proposed to charge the appropriate fee each time the permit is renewed. This permit system will only apply to abattoirs currently in existence which are capable of being brought up to standard.
From a public health point of view, section 18 is important. It empowers an authorised officer, specifically authorised to do so under section 54 (2), to direct in writing the closure of any premises, or part thereof, or the cessation of slaughterings where there is grave and immediate danger to public health arising from either activities on the premises or the manner in which such slaughterings are being conducted. Such power will be of a suspensory nature in that the written direction may specify what needs to be put right before the premises may be reopened or slaughterings may be resumed. The section also provides for recourse to the District Court for persons who feel aggrieved by such action.
All sanitary authorities have power derived from section 105 of the Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878 to provide public abattoirs. At present the county boroughs of Galway and Limerick and the urban district councils of Ennis, Kilrush, Longford and Tralee own public abattoirs but only that at Galway is being operated by the county borough. The rest are either leased or closed. I am repealing existing powers on the provision of such abattoirs and, while I feel that in present circumstances there is unlikely to be any need for new public abattoirs, I consider it prudent to retain this option for any county council or county borough corporation who might wish to provide such a facility in the future subject, of course, to the licensing arrangements in this Bill. This is being done under section 19. The control of operations within slaughtering premises will be set out by me in regulations to be made under section 20. These regulations will embrace such matters as lairaging and the times at which slaughter may take place, meat preparation and processing, the hygiene of  staff, premises and equipment and the storage and disposal of animal wastes. As to the times of slaughtering, these will be fixed by the local authorities in consultation with the local trade. The primary consideration will be, however, that they must be at times which facilitate the veterinary inspection of all slaughtered animals.
Part III of the Bill contains similar provisions in relation to knackeries. Two sections in this Part of the Bill, however, warrant particular mention. In view of the activities of a number of rogue operators on the meat supply scene, section 22 places an absolute prohibition on the sale for human consumption of any meat which has originated in a knackery. From both the public health and animal health points of view, section 23 is important. Knackeries owe their existence to the very causes affecting the health of our national herd. They operate on the periphery of our agricultural scene without adequate controls on their activities. As I mentioned earlier, they perform a very necessary service to local farmers and butchers in collecting and disposing of dead animals and animal wastes. For hunt and greyhound kennels involved in the business it is a very practical and economic undertaking. The sad fact is, however, that some knackers are less than scrupulous in their activities and others just careless when it comes to animal health or environmental matters. This section will bring these premises under strict control. It will enable me to make regulations controlling sales from these premises such as minced meat at greyhound tracks, supplies to cats' and dogs' homes, etc. Advertising for dead or casualty animals will be regulated and the maintenance of specified records of animals handled in such premises will be obligatory. I hope that in this way also we will be able to get a better picture of animal losses and the causes of these losses.
Section 35 requires each local authority to employ sufficient veterinary inspectors, at least one of whom must be full  time, to enforce the Bill's veterinary control provisions. Apart from supervision of the domestic meat trade the local authority veterinary service has a range of other functions. These include supervision of dairies and the liquid milk trade, organisation of the sheep dipping programme and attending to sheep scab outbreaks and other scheduled animal diseases. As the Minister responsible for the local authority veterinary service I am only too well aware that, in the absence of a full time presence, attention to all such duties cannot but be less than satisfactory. As I mentioned earlier, veterinary control and inspection of meat and milk for the home market in over two thirds of the country is done solely on a part time basis. The provisions of section 35 will redress this situation through the establishment of a corps of permanent official veterinarians throughout the country. Subsection (4) of this section will allow any two local authorities, subject to my consent, to pool together for the purpose of making the full time veterinary appointments required. This facility is being provided to cater for a small number of local authority areas where it makes more sense, either logistically or on financial grounds, to combine for the purpose of providing a full time veterinary service.
Section 36 requires each local authority to provide for the allocation of a veterinary inspector to each abattoir at the designated slaughtering times and periodically at knackeries to enforce the Bill's provisions. Administratively, it should make for far better management to have the local authority veterinary service functioning under the 32 major local authorities as opposed to the present situation where 87 sanitary authorities are involved. Accordingly, sections 37 and 38 provide for the transfer of the existing veterinary staff and the functions and records relating thereto, from sanitary authorities to their corresponding county councils or county borough corporations. Section 39 allows me to make veterinary examination regulations towards establishing the fitness of meat for human consumption.
 This Bill will provide a guarantee that the meat leaving our abattoirs is in all respects fit for human consumption. It is important, therefore, that consumers can readily recognise that the meat they are buying has undergone and passed veterinary inspection. The application of a health mark to such meat will provide this assurance. Equally important, having regard to meat wholesaling particularly, will be the control and tracing facility inherent in such marking. The health marking arrangements are set out in sections 40 to 42. Under section 40 I will be making regulations prescribing the type of mark, and how and by whom it is to be applied. Section 41 details the conditions which must be complied with before a health mark may be applied to meat while section 42 will make it an offence to sell, supply or have possession of meat which does not bear an approved health mark. Section 43 will allow the section 39 provisions on veterinary examination to apply in the case of meat undergoing inspection at meat export plants. This is particularly important in the context of new controls regarding antibiotic and hormonal residues in meat which if present will mean that such meat may not be passed as fit for human consumption here at home or in export markets.
Sections 44 to 46 deal with the payment of veterinary inspection fees which will be payable on each animal slaughtered at the following rates per head: cattle £3.25, pigs £0.75 and sheep £0.55. These fees are the same as those applicable in the export meat plants and will be payable by the licence holder to the local authority. Provision is also being made to allow for the fees to be altered, or to vary the classes of animals in respect of which the fees are payable, by way of regulations having prior Dáil and Seanad approval.
The opportunity is being taken in this Bill to update a number of relevant provisions in other legislation as set out in Part VI. The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935, governs the humane treatment of animals being slaughtered and the licensing of slaughtermen. It is operated by the sanitary authorities and its provisions are equally applicable to the meat export  plants. Section 47 amends this Act by providing for the transfer of its administration to the major local authorities in tandem with a similar transfer under this Bill. It also provides for an increase to £500 in the fines under the Act which range from only £5 to £50 at present. The meat export plants and the licensed bacon plants are regulated under the provision of the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts 1930 to 1978, and the Pigs and Bacon Acts, 1935 to 1961, respectively. Amendments are being made to these Acts under sections 48 and 50 to bring the fees and fines into line with those proposed for abattoirs under this Bill. Section 49 amends the Milk and Dairies Acts, 1935 and 1956 by transferring responsibility for milk and dairies from sanitary authorities to the major local authorities in line with the transfer of responsibility for abattoirs. Under the Bovine Diseases (Levies) Act, 1979, one of the levies payable is in respect of each bovine slaughtered in the State. Section 51 amends the provisions in that Act relating to animals slaughtered at local abattoirs by providing that an abattoir will mean one licensed or permitted under this Bill. Under section 52 a similar amendment is being made to the CBF Act, 1979.
Section 53 provides for the appointment of authorised officers both from my Department and by the local authorities. I envisage that the officers to be appointed by me will, in the main, be veterinary inspectors drawn from the meat export plants whose involvement would be confined to the annual licensing of premises. The authorised officers to be appointed by the local authorities would again, in the main, be their veterinary corps. These officers will be concerned with slaughtering inspections, detection of unlicensed premises and overall implementation of the Bill's provisions in their particular area. Section 54 confers powers of entry on and inspection of abattoirs and knackeries, or vehicles and containers used in connection therewith, and seizure of meat by authorised officers and by members of the Garda Síochána.
The existing penalties for failure to  licence an abattoir or for violation of slaughtering by-laws are no more than £5 under the Towns Improvement Clauses Act, 1847. This has given rise to situations whereby it was quite profitable for a slaughterer to continue in breach of the rules and face only this minimal penalty. Section 56 increases the penalties considerably. The new penalties will have maximum fines of £1,000 or six months imprisonment or both on summary conviction and £10,000 or three years imprisonment or both on indictment. The level of these penalties should present a real deterrent to any would-be offenders. As public health is the primary consideration I make no excuses for raising them to those levels. Should it be found necessary to do so at some future stage, I am also making provision to enable these fines to be increased by way of regulations which again would be subject to prior Dáil and Seanad approval. Sections 57 and 58 deal with prosecutions. Either a local authority or myself will be empowered to prosecute offences but I envisage that in most instances prosecutions will be brought by the local authority.
Under section 59 licence holders will be required to keep records of animals slaughtered. Section 60 will allow me to monitor the application of the Bill's provisions in each area through returns to be made by the local authorities. These returns will be important also from a statistical point of view in that they will give an accurate picture of slaughterings for the home trade. They will also help to identify, to a greater extent, diseases affecting stock and to indicate whether they are cyclical or localised disease outbreaks. Section 61 will enable me to make regulations prescribing the requirements in relation to the construction, lay-out, siting, water supply and equipment of abattoirs and knackeries. It also provides that these requirements may be modified in relation to existing premises. These standards will be reasonable and realistic and should be attainable by the majority of butchers. The emphasis will be on hygiene which is a basic requirement in  any food premises. Local authority by-laws relating to abattoirs and knackeries and the inspection of meat will no longer be necessary as regulations to be made under this Bill will lay down the standards to be observed. Section 62, therefore, has the effect of cancelling any such by-laws once the corresponding provisions of the Bill come into operation. Similarly, any by-laws relating to meat transport will be superseded by amended food hygiene regulations in relation to the transport of food.
Section 66 provides that all licence fees received by me will be paid into the Exchequer. Such fees are expected to amount to some £40,000 annually and should be sufficient to cover the cost of licensing. As I mentioned earlier, the veterinary inspection fees will accrue to the local authorities. These are estimated to yield some £1.4 million annually and will be used by the local authorities to fund the employment of the staff necessary to implement the Bill's provisions. As regulations to be made under this Bill will, in the future, set out the standards to be met in abattoirs and knackeries, section 67 excludes the provisions of the food hygiene regulations from applying to such premises. The food hygiene regulations will, however, continue to apply to the transport and retail sides of the meat trade.
These are the salient features of the Bill which I commend to the House and in so doing I would like to thank my predecessor in office and all the bodies who have contributed to its preparation.
The House will recognise, too, that while this legislation deals essentially with meat being prepared for the home market, it is in line with that we have been endeavouring to convey at every level — that in a country where this essential element of our primary product, be it meat, dairy, or whatever, is of such vital importance to our economy in terms of home consumption and export consumption, it is essential that in every respect nothing but the highest standards will be accepted. We want this country to be known in every respect as a country where the food we produce will meet the  highest standards anywhere in the world. I also want to put it on record that, while a lot of this legislation deals with regulations and control, which will obviously be implemented by my Department and by those responsible, the best guarantee we will have that we have reached those standards is an awareness by the people themselves. Anything less than the best is unacceptable. I am very confident that this House, in which I am privileged to introduce this Bill, and the people generally will take the same view. We have reached the point now where success will be guaranteed not just by a regulation from Government or the Civil Service but by the people themselves demanding nothing but the best. I am please to introduce this Bill in the House.
Mr. Connor Mr. Connor
Mr. Connor: This is thoroughly praiseworthy legislation which is long overdue and my party welcome it. Most of the preparatory work was carried out by the previous Government. It is strange that in a country a large part of whose economy is devoted to the food sector we have had very little legislation dealing with food hygiene at abattoirs. We have had, as the Minister stated, the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935, which dealt mainly with the conduct in relation to the actual slaughter of the animal in the slaughterhouse and had little to say about hygiene in the premises where the slaughtering was carried out. We have adopted over the years other legislation in the food hygiene area. We have also adopted certain hygiene regulations imposed upon us by the EC. But, all in all, they made up a rather disjointed programme of supervision at abattoirs. For that reason, if I may repeat it again, the changes proposed in this Bill are welcomed by my party. They are praiseworthy in most respects.
Recently, television publicity has been given to illicit slaughtering of animals along the Border. These slaughterings were carried out in conditions where no health regulations applied. It was also alleged that the meat coming from these operations was sold very often in the shops or reputable meat businesses or  was sold door to door in our cities, particularly to low income families. While we do not know how many of these allegations are true, obviously quite a number of them are. The fact that some of them are true makes it all the more obligatory and all the more urgent that this legislation is passed urgently.
It is particularly welcome that following the enactment of this law all animal carcases destined for the domestic meat market will carry a health stamp. That is one of the major changes that will take place. This, should eliminate for once and for all the possibility of meat from shady sources being sold in the shops of reputable butchers, or being sold door to door. I hope also that it will eliminate the possibility of meat from TB reactor animals coming onto the domestic market.
We are told that meat from TB reactor animals — I mean no lesion animals — is perfectly safe for human consumption, but many people object to its use as prime red meat. If the consumer and the farmers object — I share their objection on aesthetic grounds — they have good reason to do so because the price given for a reactor animal is substantially less than the price given for a healthy one. There has been a suspicion for a long time that there is profiteering in this sector of the trade and that the meat of non-lesion but reactor animals finds its way onto the counters of reputable meat businesses and is sold to consumers as prime meat and fetching the price of prime meat.
The Minister made the point in a general kind of way about veterinary fees and the licensing fee for each abattoir. Two things are involved here, first that each abattoir has to have a licence varying from £10 to £100 depending on its throughput and that a veterinary fee will have to be paid in respect of each animal slaughtered. This is very much in line with the practice carried on at our export meat plants. The Minister stated that the yield from veterinary fees will come to something like £1.4 million in the current year and that this should be sufficient to finance the operations of the new inspectorate and all the new activities which are  aimed to come into force under this Bill. I disagree with this; £600,000 of the £1.4 million is earmarked to pay the salaries of possibly 26 to 30 new veterinary inspectors.
The Bill states that each county council, and there are 27, and each county borough council of which there are five, in some instances or in some special cases a combination of two — this will only happen in relatively few cases — will appoint a full time veterinary inspector to oversee and implement the new controls. Allowing that £600,000 of a total of £1.4 million is spent on the salaries of the inspectors, £800,000, 80 per cent of £1 million is left to pay for all the other controls and staffing that will come into force under the Bill.
At present throughout the country there are about 160 part time veterinary officers enforcing the local authority by-laws in relation to the inspection of abattoirs. It is obvious that every one of them will be re-employed under the provisions of this Bill. I submit that we need many more veterinarians to carry out adequately all the new duties laid down. There is simply no way that the amount of money put aside — £0.6 of £1 million — can fund these activites. At present in the ad hoc way in which the veterinary surgeons carry out the controls under the by-laws laid down by the local authorities it is costing £400,000 and it is impossible for an additional £200,000 to fund the additional activities. It is essential that there be ante and and post mortem inspections of animals. At present animals before they are slaughtered must be seen by a veterinarian who must be satisfied that no animal shows any signs of disease, stress or distress. The veterinarian may also be present at the slaughter of the animal but at the post mortem stage he will have to carry out a detailed examination of the carcase to determine that the animal is fully fit to be turned out to the retail trade and sold to the consumer. The health mark must be applied at that stage.
The amount of time under the new arrangements will increase at least six or  sevenfold as opposed to the amount of time veterinarians had to devote to their duties under the old regulations. It is quite obvious that additional money will have to be found but our party object to it coming from the fees charged to farmers.
In the case of a bovine animal supplied to a butcher's abbatoir, an obligatory fee of £3.25 will be collected, as has been the case in the export meat plants for a number of years. We object to the fact that under section 44 of the Bill the Minister may vary these fees from time to time as necessary. We say he may only vary these fees in line with changes in the consumer price index or in the rate of inflation. We object to him changing these regulations to pay for the greatly increased cost of carrying out these new controls which have not been properly researched. The amount of money mentioned in the explanatory memorandum to pay for these new controls is totally inadequate. In addition to the costs and what has to be found in total out of the amount of money from the fees, each veterinary inspector will be entitled to employ sufficient back-up staff, secretarial, etc., to service his activities which must all be found from the sum of £800,000.
The people most affected in a direct way by this Bill are the ordinary high street butchers. The Irish Master Butchers' Association inform me that there are about 850 private abattoirs throughout the country, most of which are attached to the ordinary high street butcher's shop, usually part of the family enterprise. People in the trade are extremely worried because it is not stated — this being purely an enabling Bill — what will constitute an abattoir when all the regulations are made under this Bill. The people in the trade are anxious to know and justifiably wonder why the physical proportions or dimensions of an abattoir are not stated. They wonder why it is not stated specifically now what equipment will have to be installed in an abattoir. They wonder why it is not stated where these abattoirs must be located.  Will many of them be found in their existing locations to be unsuitable and, consequently, have to be closed?
I am calling on the Minister to intimate to the House, to the trade and the country exactly how his Department are thinking in relation to the points I raised. There are thousands of people, perhaps, involved in the domestic meat trade who are very worried about their future. One sees all these things while fully approving of what the Bill sets out to do to improve the standards, but we must be cognisant of people's livelihood and we must not impose upon the people in the trade, requirements which they cannot economically bear.
If we do that, the Minister will have to give some financial inducement to these people to cushion them against these changes. I realise we are living in times of great financial stringency and that a lot of grant-aid for housing, etc., has been abolished recently, but this is a major change, a major adjustment for many people in the trade and some financial inducement — I will not say whether it should be a grant or some kind of interest subsidy — should be given to people who can be very adversely affected in an economic and financial way by these measures. Alternately, the Department should be looking into the area of encouraging the establishment of central abattoirs for regions. That can be brought into operation by offering financial inducements or encouragement. At present the only meat plants that qualify for grant aid from the IDA, or any other source, are the very major ones involved in the export trade. In County Roscommon, in the town of Ballaghadereen, there is a meat plant which has been established for generations. The owner wishes to modernise the plant and service the local meat trade, i.e., slaughtering animals for local butchers located over a wide area but despite the proposed expenditure of £750,000 to £1 million, the proprietor cannot qualify for one penny of grant-aid or any other financial inducement to carry out work that is very necessary and very worthy. I ask the Minister to look at those two aspects — how  we can cushion the people who will be adversely affected, the ordinary small butcher, and encourage private central abattoirs to service the meat trade.
If I may go back to the amount of money provided for financing this Bill, and the fact that under section 67 we find that Part V of the Health Act of 1947, as amended, and the Food Hygiene Regulations of 1950, as amended, shall not apply to premises licensed under this Act, unless there is a substantial increase in the amount of money allocated to veterinary inspection, there is simply no way we could have adequate inspections carried out, I find it regrettable that the services of the environmental health inspectors have been eliminated under this Bill. These officers had a role in the supervision of hygiene at slaughterhouses and abattoirs. Their continued role would be to ensure that there is comprehensive supervision in this area and at no additional cost to the State. The environmental health officers are very happy to carry on this work. They feel they are competent in the areas of water supply, chilling and so on, and because their special training can be superior to the veterinarians. Again, I ask the Minister to reconsider section 67 which eliminates the role of the environmental health inspectors.
In 1986 £5.3 million in veterinary fees was collected in meat export plants but that was 80 per cent less then what was needed to pay for the veterinary controls and the veterinary inspections at our meat plants. The Minister did not advert to that in his opening speech, but it is a fact. That means about 25 per cent of the costs of full veterinary supervision at our export meat plants had to be met by the Exchequer. That applied to meat plants where there was a large throughput at a very rapid rate with ultimate economies of scale, but to kill an animal in an export meat plant costs the same as in a private abattoir. Therefore, the money collected by way of veterinary fees at our meat plants was adequate to finance this service. In the small private abattoirs situated throughout the country, there can to no such economy of scale, although  the economic cost of supervising each animal will be much greater than in an export meat plant. For that good reason and to keep costs down I again plead for the inclusion of the environmental health officers as part of the supervision service because they will be sharing the workload with the veterinary inspectors.
I know it is not part of this Bill, but I will refer to it in passing because I have been consulted by a number of people about the ritual slaughtering of animals in our meat plants. This has become a very widespread practice in recent years. We now sell a very high proportion of our beef to Islamic countries and a significant proportion of our beef to Israel. We have ritual slaughterings under the Islamic rite and the Kosher rite. Many people make the point that there is something cruel about this form of slaughtering. As we know, all animals are first rendered unconscious or stunned before evisceration, but when these ritual slaughterings are carried out — which are a necessary requisite if we are to sell our meat to these countries — no such stunning or rendering the animal unconscious takes place. I ask the Minister to look into the possibility of having ritual slaughterings carried out after the animal has been stunned or rendered unconscious. I am fully aware of the economic consequences of our export trade to these countries, which now amounts to millions of pounds. Among the EC countries, Ireland is one of the largest users of the export funds which allow us to collect an export rebate, or export compensation, for exporting meat to third countries. This is naturally a great economic boom and boost to this country. Nevertheless, because these points have been made by quite a number of interests, I feel I should make them in the House and I am fully conscious of all the difficulties involved. That is all I want to say at this stage. We will be teasing it out in greater detail on Committee Stage.
Let me say again to the House that my party welcome this long overdue Bill. Nevertheless, we have raised some queries in relation to the costing of it and who  is to pay. We reject the proposal that farmers should be sent the bill for the additional costing. We also raised the question as to the implications for small sized family butchers, in particular. We do not want to see any of these driven out of business, although there are many instances of inadequate standards and so on. I welcome the five year transition period. The Minister has made the point also that the sales of red meat are stagnant or are falling and that holds an implication for the people in the trade. The result is that many people in the trade would not be able to withstand a new set of regulations that would create for them new overhead costs that they would not under any circumstances be able to bear. We plead with the Minister, when making his regulations under this Bill, to be very careful and very cognisant of these facts.
I would also plead with him that in his winding up speech he tells us a little more in relation to the physical size of abattoirs and the kind of equipment that will be expected to be there. Will all of them need chilling equipment? We would like to know the kind of waste disposal and, above all, the locations. It would not be too much, because of all the people who are affected by this legislation, to ask the Minister to be forthcoming on these questions before the Bill is fully enacted. If the first we know about them is when the orders under these regulations are laid before the House, we will have very little influence over them.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I call Senator Ferris, by agreement.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
Mr. Ferris: First, I want to thank Senator Hussey for having allowed me to speak before him. I appreciate that facility and because of it I will not delay too long on the legislation. I want, first, to welcome the Minister, Deputy O'Kennedy, to the House to present the Bill. I say that as a fellow county man, though from a separate electoral area.
I thank the Minister for his generosity in accepting the fact that his predecessor  and other bodies contributed to the preparation of this Bill. As a member of the Animal Health Council I was privileged to have worked with some of the interdepartmental groups who helped to prepare the Bill. I appreciate the fact that the Minister was aware that outside bodies had an input into this legislation but I left all my notes on that procedure outside this Chamber because my duty today is as a legislator.
Of the people who have consulted with us since the Bill has been published, I was particularly pleased at the response of the Irish Domestic Meat Traders' Association, an association who represents the 1,000 or so small butchers throughout Ireland. I have had lengthy discussions about this legislation with one of their vice-presidents over the last number of days. I welcome the spirit in which they have approached the legislation and have accepted the need for it. They appreciate how the Minister and his Department, and indeed the local authorities, will go about the preservation of the food that comes through abattoirs and the table for human consumption.
There has been a feeling for some time that something needed to be done in this area. The small butchers are more aware of the concern of the consumer than many of us would have thought. It is obvious from their representations to me that they welcome this legislation, first in that it will reassure the public of the concern of small butchers about presenting in a hygienic way meat which will be free of disease and which will be a wholesome food, whether fresh, prepared or chilled meat, slaughtered properly and presented and sold properly. The Minister will agree that the number of animals which are still diseased despite our eradication schemes is very high.
We are unable to export or are precluded from exporting these animals which have been shown to be diseased, but it is obvious, once the diseased part is removed from the carcases, that the remainder is considered to be edible. There is always a worry in the consumers' minds of where this meat is going to or coming from. It is obvious that it is not  coming from the small butchers because most of our small butchers are responsible for the purchase of their own animals or for the rearing and killing of those animals they offer for sale subsequently as meat. The customer must be reassured that that process is now subject to scrutiny by the Department and to regulations. In the past, it was unlikely that animals suffering from either tuberculosis or brucellosis would have come into the hands of the consumer through the small butchers. These have in the past, as is known, kept full records and have refunded to the Department the disease levies, although they have been unable at the source of purchase to reduce the cost of the animal by the levy, unlike large factories, in particular, which have a facility under which, when the animals are brought in, the customer is immediately docked the necessary levies under the two disease eradication schemes and under other schemes. There is a whole range of levies. Senator Connor has referred to these.
The small butcher had been unable in the past to recoup himself for what was then his responsibility, the surrender of these levies. I hope that this Bill will tidy up that procedure. I will talk, on the various sections, briefly on the suggestion the butchers have made about the transmission of these fees which they will keep from the owners of the animals in future. In the past, larger factories had, of course, been grant assisted and grant aided by IDA and other agencies of Government to help them to achieve standards which were required for export purposes. They also benefited from these grants in the production of meat to larger supermarkets and to other outlets. There was a tremendous advantage to factories vis-á-vis butchers, in terms of numbers and of the grant assistance.
There was concern being expressed initially that somehow this legislation was going to close down every small butcher in the country. They have made submissions welcoming the legislation, but they want points of clarification in the course of the legislation going through the Seanad.
 I would also like to put on the record that although the country has achieved disease free status on brucellosis there are still outbreaks of the disease throughout the country. Recently I had occasion to make representations to the Department about the payment of depopulation grants because of brucellosis, a disease that everybody presumed had been totally eliminated but there are still the isolated groups of brucellosis infected herds in the country. Of course, it would be a concern that animals from that source might get on to the chain for delivery to the consumer. It is necessary that we would have proper veterinary control and inspection to ensure that they do not. The same, of course, applies to tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a disease to which animals react under a test. They may not necessarily have lesions confirmed in the factory. But we must not disregard the fact that almost two million people in the world will die this year from TB.
During the last century Mr. Koch isolated the bacilli of brucelli and much work has been done in the meantime particularly in relation to a cure for humans. Unfortunately the same cure is not forthcoming in animals and they are subjected to compulsory slaughtering. We have to ensure that the meat of slaughtered animals is inspected so that consumers can be assured that there is no risk from contamination by bacilli. In this regard I was pleased to see that there is a section in the Bill which controls the private slaughtering of animals by farmers for consumption by their families. I am worried that due to looseness in the section there might not be proper control of the disposal of that slaughtered livestock. The farmer might give some of it to his neighbours not for money but as part of an old custom whereby people killed their pigs, filled the puddings and distributed the griskins. Some Members of this House will remember those days. It was a laudable thing to do at that time but with the possibility of infection of salmonella  nowadays it is important that some control is effected on animals that are killed privately.
The six Acts being amended are listed on page three of the Bill. I would have preferred if this legislation had consolidated the Acts because one has now to refer back to some of the Acts because although they have been amended they will still be in operation. It would have been a cleaner job if the Acts were consolidated into one Act. It might have been legislatively difficult to do this. No doubt the Minister will respond to that small criticism of amending acts instead of consolidating them.
Section 2 of the Bill gives a description of “animal”. The Minister outlined the other animals which are outside the definition of “animal.” Cattle are defined as bovine, sheep as bovine, pigs as porcine and horses as equine. These descriptions will not include deer, rabbits and other wildlife which are now being disposed of in butchers' shops because there is a demand for them. Will these animals be dealt with under other fresh meat Acts or did the Minister decide not to describe other animals which are being killed and disposed of for human consumption but which are not specifically included in the definition of “animal”?
In the same section the word “offal” is described as “all parts of a slaughtered animal, other than the carcase”. The definition of “viscera” is “offal from the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities (including the trachea and oesophagus)”. This might sound like very technical jargon to the consumer but we would want to be able to convince them that somehow we are not producing haggis, which is a Scottish delicacy, and that the kidneys, the pancreas and the sweetbreads, which are part of the carcase, can be removed and sold separately, as there is a demand for them. We need to explain to people what we mean when we talk in veterinary terms about the “viscera” or “offal” of an “animal” because many of these are taken out and not used for human consumption. Of course, the kidneys and the pancreas are; they are a delicacy and there is a demand for them.
 A question was asked in relation to the Pig and Bacon Acts, 1935 to 1961 and whether premises licensed under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts were excluded. The Minister answered my query when he said that these premises are already governed and do not necessarily need to be included in this legislation. Section 5 relates to the non-application of certain provisions to abattoirs and knackeries and the Minister mentioned places in Counties Clare, Cork and elsewhere. Does this section exclude all public abattoirs because in spite of what has been said by Senator Connor, there are reservations in the trade about how public abattoirs have functioned and how successful they have been in achieving the standards of hygiene we as legislators want and to which consumers are entitled to under the food hygiene Acts. The state of public abattoirs depends on how butchers leave them for the next customer using them. The experience of public abattoirs in rural areas has not been a good one. I would prefer to see an abattoir that is subject to regulation being under the jurisdiction of a butcher so that he could ensure that proper standards are maintained. Because he is subject to inspection by the Department or the local authority there is an incentive to keep his abattoir up to the required standard, whereas if it is a public abattoir the same incentive may not be there. None of us would condone the situation which has arisen in certain areas. I hope this Bill will help to regulate existing public abattoirs and bring them into line and also ensure that the existing killing facilities of small butchers come up to the required standard.
Section 10 (6) says: “The Minister may, by regulations vary the amount of the appropriate fee” This was commented on by Senator Connor. The Minister said that any regulations to increase fees would be brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas for approval by way of an order so that we would have an opportunity to debate the pros and cons of any increases he might want to make. In that section there is no reference to  the fact that the Minister would return to the House of the Oireachtas for our approval. I hope I am wrong in believing that it is not included and that there is some other subsection which requires the Minister to do that. I take it that the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1935, will still be in operation although it is being amended by this Bill.
A point raised by Senator Connor and which has been raised with me is that guidelines will have to be set down in relation to the standards of slaughtering facilities in butchers' shops. The amount of carcase that is allowed per square foot of premises and the minimum requirements to be met will have to be standardised. There will have to be consultation also with the people concerned to allow them the facilities to achieve that standard. These will have to be uniform throughout the country; otherwise there will be discrimination against some people who at present have a very high standard but which may not be as high as that set down in the Bill. It will be obligatory on the Minister to set down guidelines which we can debate at local authority level where I presume, these will also have to be approved under the Planning Act, if we require people to extend their premises. Also the actual location of some of their premises will have to be approved. At present some butchers do not have facilities on the high street for preparing animals for slaughter and after slaughter for storage, so that, there is often miles between the slaughtering location and the location of sale.
I am concerned about butchers transporting animals from their private abattoirs for long distances to the counter where the products are sold. People often worry, especially in warm weather about the transportation of animals ready to cut up for human consumption. Where possible facilities should be available as close as possible to the selling location so that there will be less likelihood of disease or contamination of food in the transportation between the slaughter house and sale counter.
When we talk about EC regulations, Ireland can be proud of the standards it  has already achieved in this area. Our standards are much higher than the standards that have been achieved in other parts of the Community. People are aware that on the Continent beef, deer and lambs are transported in public view in open vehicles directly into butcher's shops. I hope the EC tidy up their act in this area, because people in the Community are entitled to expect uniform standards to apply. Many of the standards we have already set are an example to some of our colleagues in the Community.
The process of an appeal by a butcher or a factory against the Minister's refusal to grant a licence is set down in section 16. If there is a refusal to grant a licence or a revocation of an existing licence, a person can appeal to the Circuit Court. That is the worst way to set about this. There will have to be regulations setting out the minimum requirements. Small family butchers will want to comply with those regulations but they will also want to ensure that they do not have to deal with an unreasonable inspectorate. That sometimes unfortunately happens even in a democracy. People imbued with enthusiasm for new legislation could make it almost impossible for somebody to comply with the commas and dots in all legislation. I hope it will be unnecessary for somebody to go into court to appeal under this legislation. Under common law, a person is entitled to have recourse to the courts in any case, but I hope the Minister and his officials can set up a procedure of appeal outside of court procedure. The Minister might not think it appropriate for him to be involved in the appeal procedure but the trade and the Department should set up an appeals procedure at which consultation could take place, similar to what takes place in any planning application or appeal before it goes into court, and during which people could make their views known and try to achieve a consensus. The Minister should look at that possible area of appeal in this section and take it outside of the Circuit Court where it may have to be dealt with finally.
 The question of public health inspectors was raised by Senator Connor. Public health inspectors have given a very useful service in the whole area of hygiene related to food being delivered to the consumer. In section 18 of the Bill it is not clear whether an authorised officer is to be a veterinarian, or a public health inspector working towards a veterinarian. I also have reservations about counties not being in a position to employ a veterinary surgeon of their own, because of the question of inspection times for killing. If we were to depend in a county on one veterinary surgeon to be available to all the butchers at the time of killing, obviously this legislation would be inoperable. The veterinary profession would be unable to meet the demand. Will the Minister specify who an authorised officer is, so that butchers will not be inhibited from killing animals at the normal killing times?
There is general debate among the professionals, from a public health view point, about when meat, particularly minced meat, is edible and how long it should be left hanging. Minced meat has to have a certain time for hanging and be bled for long enough to be appropriately put through a mincer. A mincer generates a certain amount of heat which along with a certain ripening of the meat immediately starts off a process of increasing bacteria. By the time it goes on sale, if it is stored for two days by the housewife, it is then questionable. In the whole area of public health guidelines, who will decide if the meat is ready for mincing, in particular, because in that area the meat goes through a heat process with the cutting blades. It is only a minor question but it is one which might lead to a person's licence being revoked if some inspector felt that the meat had reached a certain degree of ripening after which mincing would be a health hazard. Revocation of a licence is expensive; it costs £1,000 and then there is the appeals process. Out of concern for the consumer but just because somebody did not have guidelines, a small butcher could be put out of business. That is a possibility unless we define the standards and the research  facilities that will be available to people. If the butcher says that a joint is edible and the inspector says that it is not is there some other resource, like a research station, available to butchers so that other independent, arbitrary views can be taken on the quality of meat? This whole area has been the subject of quite a lot of debate and discussion amongst experts.
That brings me to the times specified for slaughterings. I take it that these times are the normal times of slaughtering and that there will be dialogue between the local authority and the butchers about the killing date, to allow the inspector to be present. Section 20(c) refers to slaughtering times. I want an assurance that these times will be arranged by consultation and by agreement. One may have a nine to five inspector, but one certainly may not have a nine to five butcher. Some butchers will want to kill on a Saturday but a veterinary surgeon may not want to work on a Saturday. Any such problem could arise depending on the demand at butcher level for an additional killing date to comply with the demand that might occur in a particular area.
I hope there will be consultation because I know butchers who kill in the evening time. They are busy all day in the shop and want to kill in the evening time. They require and request veterinary inspection at that time but, because it is outside the normal veterinary surgeon's office hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. they would not be allowed to kill. They have not got access to the veterinary inspection which they require.
I should like to refer to a further section of the Bill which deals with the marking of meat on which the Minister laid quite a lot of emphasis — the health mark which will be applied to carcases. The Minister has not yet spelled out in the legislation who will apply the mark, how the mark will be applied, where it will be applied and what substance will be used for the mark itself. I mention this because there are also penalities for selling meat which does not have the mark applied. A mark can be applied to the whole carcase.  Individual steaks cannot be dye stamped with the dye which is being used at the moment because they would be ruined. It is a blue inedible dye which stains the meat and because of its marking qualities it remains on.
When and on what part of the animal will the carcase mark be put and who will apply it? The Minister will make regulations about this. When can the dye actually be removed from the meat? Many butchers would be unable to sell a piece of meat with a blue dye stamp because the consumer might presume something had gone wrong with the meat. I am not sure what amount of meat will still require to be marked. Inspectors call in to inspect it, not at the killing process but at the selling process. Somebody might arrive and find a piece of meat with no mark on it although the carcase may have had a mark. Perhaps the Minister might say if the butcher will be allowed to remove it when cutting up the meat for distribution to the customer. I do not want people to suddenly find themselves guilty of an offence under section 40 (2) (d). If the dye stamp is forged that is different. We can understand that some people will make an effort to forge anything nowadays and I have no objection to fines if that happens. If in the actual cutting up process a mark is removed we would need to have clarification so that there would be no doubt in anybody's mind that the mark was there legitimately, and when it could be removed for the purpose of sale. I hope it will never be done with the intention to deceive.
Section 42 (3) (b) deals with the slaughtering of animals for consumption by the residents on a farm. The wording is a little loose. We must make sure that meat killed in this way for human consumption is also subject to inspection in the interests of public health. We must ensure also that if a person gives away the meat or sells it, there will be some control. The paragraph refers to “meat from an animal slaughtered in a place situate on a farm which is used for the occasional slaughter of animals kept on such farm and which meat is intended for consumption only by the residents on  such farm.” Section 42 (3) (c) refers to “meat which the person in whose possession it was found can establish was acquired by him in good faith and he did not know that it required to be marked with a health mark.” That could happen between neighbours. We need to be very careful.
I queried the provisions in section 43 which request control over whether meat was fit for human consumption. Will the final decision be made by the veterinary inspector, or will the facilities of the research stations be available. Perhaps the Minister might address his attention to section 43 (i) in his reply as well. The table in section 44 (2) of the Bill lays down figures per head of cattle, sheep or pigs as a levy or a fee. What is the acceptable age at which calves become cattle? Are they cattle at six months or at 12 months? I want to protect the butcher who carries out a limited amount of slaughtering of animals for veal which could be milk fed calves and not considered to be cattle because they have not been subjected to TB tests, or recording, or ear tagging. Quite a few butchers kill a lot of calves. Are they subjected to this levy as well? The question of the collection of fees has been raised and I will deal with it briefly.
Section 45 (3) of the Bill which deals with the payment of fees states that:
The holder of the licence in respect of the abattoir concerned shall, within the period of 28 days after the last day of a month, send to the local authority the total amount of the fees that became payable during that month.
Anybody who collects money from anybody at any level will realise that the vast majority of people will either forget or be unable to comply with that date line. I am a great believer in collecting money from people who owe it. That is the problem in this country. Many people do not collect money that is owed to the State. We finish up by having to cut back on the services. I agree that the fee should be collected and there is a satisfactory system in operation at present whereby  fees are collected once a month by the local TB office in the area. I suggest that we use the same system for collecting fees rather than leaving it to the butcher to send the fee to the county council within 28 days. He may forget it, or be away on holidays, or be doing something else. I am worried about that number of days because, if that happens, the person is guilty of an offence and has to go through the whole process of fines and so on. Every butcher will want to pay this fee and it will be in his own interest to pay it. I suggest that the present system of collection is the one that should be used.
Section 48 refers to a fairly high fee of £500. Under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act, 1930, that £500 is required, apart from the licensing fees mentioned elsewhere. Is that because these groups of people are required to achieve a higher standard for export purposes than is required for home consumption? That figure appears high. I wonder why £500 is required under that Act as other levels of fees were required under a different Act.
In section 59 butchers are required to keep records. Under the disease eradication programme. I agree that butchers should have complete records of where they buy the animal, who is the owner of the animal and the tag number of the animal. The blue card should be surrendered to the Department or the local district veterinary officer which proves that the animal has finished its day, so to speak, and that the records are kept. Perhaps the Minister would outline what records are now required to be kept. Apart from other requirements the Minister might include, does he require records in connection with the TB scheme? If so, that is very welcome. I hope that the local authority regulations will be uniform throughout the country in regard to requirements. Otherwise, different counties will be treated differently under the legislation. That point was made also by Senator Connor. We want that clarified. People will want to know if uniform regulations apply to every butcher in Ireland, collecting the same fees, paying the same licence fees,  collecting the same disease levies etc. I want to make sure that all butchers will be treated in the same way under this Bill.
In fairness to Senator Hussey who is waiting to speak, I will leave further comment until we are dealing with the sections in detail on Committee Stage. I welcome the Bill. It will be good for the trade and for butchers who already achieve a very high standard. It will be reassuring for the consumer to know that the Government and local authorities are taking an interest in the presentation of meat and meat products, that high standards apply because of investigation at killing and sale points. Though we in south Tipperary implement the existing by-laws which cover the sanitary operation of slaughterhouses and ensure that cruelty to animals does not take place, we welcome the Bill which gives legislative teeth to what we have been trying to do in this area. At the end of the day. when this House has passed the Bill, I hope we will have proved to people in the export business and to consumers of our meat exports, whom we are trying to convince, that we produce the cleanest and best meat products in the world. We must reassure all those concerned that the standards we achieve in the actual processing of that meat — at killing, at counter level and in exporting — cannot be surpassed. If we achieve that kind of standard for our food products, especially meat, it will have been a worthwhile day for the country as a whole. We will have unproved our status and our image abroad, and we will have convinced our home consumer that there are people who are concerned about the standards which apply to food. Because of the welcome the Bill has received from those in the butcher trade particularly, I am confident that butchers are only too willing to try to achieve standards which they had been trying to set over a number of years in consultation with the Department of Agriculture.
Mr. Hussey Mr. Hussey
Mr. Hussey: The Leader of the House recommended this morning that we confine our speeches to about seven minutes  on a certain motion, and so give an opportunity to other Members to contribute to the debate. Certainly, on this Bill I will more or less comply with his suggestion because I understand there is a number of people who wish to contribute and also because, at the end of a session, nobody is interested in long speeches.
Anybody who viewed the recent television programme which highlighted the activities of certain operators in the meat business will be delighted with this legislation because it will curtail their illegal activities. Everybody purchasing meat will be delighted with that. This comprehensive measure we are discussing here today will establish an up-to-date framework of control and supervision of meat plants catering for the domestic markets. Of course there will be points of contention in relation to this Bill but I am satisfied that those can be teased out on Committee Stage. I understand there has been consultation between officials of the Department of Agriculture, the meat trade, local authorities and the professional bodies and that there has been a fair measure of agreement between them on the necessity for this legislation.
This Bill is long overdue and I welcome it. Meat, particularly meat destined for the home market, has been under attack in recent years. By reason of what is being said by vegetarian lobbies, of veterinary scaremongering and of what is reported in the media, consumers are confused and are being led to believe that the consumption of meat is unhealthy. This could not be further from the truth. Meat, especially red meat, is the genesis of a balanced diet which is very relevant to today's lifestyle. It is important, therefore, to re-establish and consolidate in consumers' minds the intangible value of meat.
The total banning of the use of hormones for growth promotion since 1 January last and the restrictions on the use of antibiotics for therapeutic purposes will help to counteract the bad image of meat that was being portrayed. This Bill, I am glad to say, will provide the further assurance that the meat we buy at home has been processed under strict hygenic  conditions and is of a quality second to none.
Part of the problem on the home meat market has been the lack of a uniform system of controls on the slaughtering of animals and preparation of meat. Up to now it was left to individual sanitary authorities to adopt their own system of controls on the slaughtering of animals and preparation of meat. They adopted their own by-laws on the licensing of abattoirs and on meat inspection. Some sanitary authorities did so as far back as the last century, others have only done so recently, and still others have not done so at all. Their enforcement of the by-laws has been found wanting on occasion, owing to the predominant system of part time employment of veterinarians by the sanitary authorities.
The growth of meat wholesaling has also brought its own problems into this area. Frequently, animals are slaughtered in one part of the country and their meat ends up in a city or towns miles away. How can the official responsible for meat inspection at the point of sale be expected to satisfy himself as to the bona fides of the meat in question, when we have no uniform national standard? Ninety nine times out of 100 this meat is perfectly wholesome and has been prepared with professionalism and high regard to hygiene. The 1 per cent, however, raises suspicion and taints the rest. I welcome, therefore, the national standards on meat preparation which this Bill will provide.
I also welcome the creation of the corps of full time veterinarians throughout local authorities who will ensure that this standard is adhered to in every corner of the land, and I would ask the councils and county managers to recruit these full time veterinary personnel quickly. There is nothing to stop local authorities now from going ahead and securing these appointments. Nine local authorities have done so years ago and it would make for good sense for the other authorities to start the ball rolling now so that we could have an early starting-off date for implementation of the controls.
 I am confident that the trade will cooperate in every way with making the Bill's controls a success. It is as much in their interests as everyone else's that these measures should work and, moreover, be seen to be working.
While we have often concentrated on the export side, we should not overlook that the domestic trade has been making a valuable contribution to Irish agriculture by providing a ready market for some 250,000 head of cattle annually. In addition they buy from our farms 800,000 sheep and over 300,000 pigs each year. These are sizeable numbers by anybody's reckoning and represent a very worthwhile market outlet for Irish farmers.
The butchers' trade, of course, has had its own problems to contend with. Increased competition from wholesaling and supermarket outlets has left its mark on a large number of small butchers' shops. It is a tough business with long hours between buying, slaughtering and retailing. The personalised attention they can give their customers will be always welcome as a valued part of Irish life. The last thing the trade wants is an image problem created by a few cowbody operators in the business of selling meat. These cowboys should have a good read of this Bill, particularly the penalties section. The message for them should be clear — stop this or else. I know the Minister will be consulting with the trade and all other interested parties on the requirements and standards to be set out in the regulations to be made under this Bill. Indeed, such consultations would help towards a greater understanding and effective implementation of the regulations on the ground. I am satisfied that there are certain worries among people in the trade as regards the type of abattoir they are expected to set up, what constitutes an abattoir and so on. Under the system of appeal the only recourse a person who loses his licence has is to the Circuit Court. This might seem pretty hard and the trade might be worried about it at this time, but I am sure that in the remaining Stages of the Bill and in the discussions that will take place between the trade and the Minister all  those points can be ironed out satisfactorily for everybody involved.
The important thing is that this Bill will provide an assurance to the Irish housewife that meat being sold on the home market has been prepared under hygienic conditions and is fresh, wholesome and in every way fit for human consumption. If that is so we are doing a good day's work for the meat business which is a very important part of our national economy at present.
The Minister for Agriculture and Food recently announced a programme for the development of the pigmeat industry. The central feature of that programme is the rationalisation of the slaughtering-processing segment of the industry. That programme involves total investment of £104 million by 1992 and has an ambitious job creation target close to 1,500 new jobs in the production and processing segments of the industry. The pig output in that programme is targeted to increase to £3 million annually by 1992.
In all, we have here a programme set out by the Minister and the Government to help the meat industry. Our primary concern is to help the export business and, indeed, give the home market the same benefits as the export market has enjoyed for a number of years. The regulations we are imposing now under this legislation have been there all along for the export market. As I said, if it helps to provide the Irish housewife with meat that has been properly prepared under hygienic conditions and is fresh and wholesome, we all should welcome this Bill wholeheartedly.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Mulroy) Acting Chairman (Mr. Mulroy)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Mulroy): I understand Senator Fitzsimons is next to speak, by agreement.
Mr. McMahon Mr. McMahon
Mr. McMahon: That is fine.
Mr. Fitzsimons Mr. Fitzsimons
Mr. Fitzsimons: I have been waiting here to express my welcome for this Bill, but I am already over a quarter of an hour late for the meeting of the Committee on Womens' Rights of which I am a member, so my contribution will be very brief indeed. I welcome the Bill. I am  glad that it has been introduced in this Seanad like so many other Bills and I am sure that my colleagues join with me in that, even Senator McMahon who expressed some reservations this morning about the constitutional aspect.
I will confine my contribution to one matter already mentioned by two Members, Senators Connor and Ferris, with regard to the environmental health officer. Regarding the regulation of standards in slaughterhouses and abattoirs, at present the environmental health officer employed by the health board has had a very important role, as has also the veterinary inspector employed by the county council or the corporation. In my professional capacity I have had reason on many occasions and during a long number of years to meet health officers who have always been very forthcoming and very helpful. Everybody will agree with me that they did a very good job in the upgrading of slaughterhouses and butchers' premises. It now looks as if there is no role for the environmental health officer. I am not sure if that is so; I hope it is not. It might be more appropriate to say they will have a diminished role. What assurances can the Minister give that the health boards will retain their present function in relation to the transport of meat and the retail sales of meat? It is important that he should give assurances of that nature. The environmental health officers deserve reassurance. I hope the Minister, when replying on Second Stage, will deal with this aspect.
Butcher shops are registered by the health boards under the Health Act, 1947, and the Food Hygiene Regulations 1950 to 1971. It is generally conceded that the food regulations were not designed for slaughterhouses or, indeed, for butchers' shops. The duties of the environmental health officers are being eroded in this Bill. The veterinary inspectors are employed mostly on a part time basis, as the Minister and previous speakers have said, except in a few instances where full time inspectors are employed. The veterinary inspector's duty is related specifically to the standard of meat.  There are other considerations regarding the residue, the offal, the equipment, the refrigeration and the structural and operational hygiene. This was a very big part of the work of the environmental health officers. They dealt with such things as fly infestation, rodent infestation, disposal of blood, smell, nuisances and things of that nature.
The Bill is a very good one. I have not heard any real criticism of it, particularly from those in the trade. The Bill is needed at present. The licensing idea is very good. It is a vital aspect of the Bill. It is a great weapon. I suppose the intention is to make standards so high that the small slaughterhouses will, in time, go out of business and I would regret that because they have played an important part in this area. I presume the charges will be reduced by reason of this Bill. That is an aspect which, perhaps, we can go into in greater detail on Committee Stage. If those who slaughter cattle in private slaughterhouses could have the job done at a lower cost in a central abattoir, it would be a considerable advance.
The Minister for Agriculture and Food is responsible for this Bill. Would it not be more appropriate that the Minister for Health should be responsible for it? Perhaps the Minister might refer to this when replying on Second Stage.
The examination of the meat is important but the after care is equally important for those who purchase the meat. This has been referred to by other Senators. There is no provision for the environmental health officers or the health boards who played such an important role in this area heretofore. We should give some thought to this. The role of the environmental health officers has improved over the years. They now receive better education. Degree courses are available to them in the universities, whereas in the early stages they received diplomas only. This does not mean they were not as well qualified. Health education is now made available to butchers. In my own county of Meath there are courses for butchers, hoteliers and others  engaged in that area. Oral and written examinations are held and certificates and diplomas are awarded. This is a good thing.
The Minister for Health, I understand, made some orders recently to close down a number of slaughterhouses due largely to the efforts made by the environmental health officers. It is good that the law is now being standardised. Some Members have already referred to the by-laws which were introduced in some counties, including Cavan, but in my own county of Meath, a neighbouring county, they were not introduced. While it was possible to an extent to reach a high standard with regard to existing legislation, the penalties were much too low.
Senator Connor referred to the physical side of the abattoir and said he hoped that the Minister, when replying to Second Stage, would deal with this matter. It should be possible for the Minister, within very broad parameters, to do so. It would be a mistake to feel that in this House we could deal to any great extent with the physical side of the matter. There are comprehensive and expensive textbooks available. My experience in the past has been that the officers in the Department of Agriculture and Food have been very helpful in this regard. There are very useful guidelines available in the Department.
I welcome the Bill. It is timely and necessary. It will make a very worthwhile contribution in this area. I hope some of the matters raised by me and by other Members will be teased out on the later Stages of the Bill. I hope the Minister, when replying, will deal in some detail with the role of the environmental health officers and how he envisages that role will continue when this Bill becomes law.
Mr. McMahon Mr. McMahon
Mr. McMahon: Most if not all of us welcome a Bill of this nature. I do not share the views expressed by Senator Hussey that adequate consultation has taken place. I would like to refer briefly to our discussion earlier today when I sought to have the Government's views adequately explained with regard to the  introduction of Bills in this House rather than in the Dáil. I hope the press will give more attention to this Bill than they have given to the other six initiated in the Seanad this term. This is an example of what I was trying to get the Seanad to understand this morning, that less attention apparently has been given to Bills initiated in the Seanad than to similar Bills initiated in the Dáil. We fail to get an adequate feedback in many instances before the Dáil deals with a Bill, in this case in the second instance.
If a Bill is introduced in the Dáil it gets a fair public airing and we get a reaction from interested sections of the community. That adds to the democratic process and assists in getting the views of many people. While I appreciate all the views in this House and indeed in the other House and that a cross section of the general population is represented here, I still maintain that many points could be picked up from specialised bodies outside and enshrined in the various Bills enacted in the Oireachtas. I do not share Senator Hussey's view that adequate consultation has taken place.
I was not fortunate enought to have seen the recent programme on RTE but I heard about it. I have been involved in the meat trade down the years, having served most of my years as a victualler I knew what was happening then and I have a fair idea of what is happening at present. This Bill is long overdue. It is a great pity that a very high percentage of meat consumed by our population could be regarded as unfit for human consumption. I do not make that statement lightly. The vast majority of victuallers operate to pretty strict hygiene standards and the vast majority of meat served and consumed is as high in quality from a hygiene point of view — or indeed in any other respects — as in any other country in the world. Notwithstanding that, a very high percentage of it is unfit for human consumption. I am glad to see some attempt being made to regularise the situation so that our own people as well as tourists may partake of some of the best food we have in the knowledge  that it has been handled in a proper manner.
I am not sure that the Bill in one respect goes far enough because much of the meat to which I referred a moment ago as unfit for human consumption is not always contaminated in the slaughterhouse. Meat is delivered to other premises, shops or supermarkets for further processing and very often contamination takes place at this stage. It is a pity the Bill does not deal with that matter. I know the Minister will say there are other Acts—some of them were referred to here today—to deal with those situations but one cannot be sure, until that gap is filled, that the meat consumed is of the highest standard. It is possible to get unmarked meat in retail outlets and indeed in some supermarkets and one cannot say where it has come from. There is no brand mark on it and no indication as to where it was processed. Beefburgers or meat burgers of any description are in the high percentage of meat which is unfit for human consumption. Sausages are sold throughout the country and there is no label, good, bad or indifferent on them, no indication as to where they were manufactured.
There is no way of tracing back except through the retail outlet and the retailer will be slow to give an indication to a consumer with a complaint as to where the products in question come from. The Minister and his colleague in the Department of Health should tighten up the gap that exists there. In other words, the Department of Agriculture should ensure that the home consumer and those who visit our country are consuming meat of the highest standard. It is only when that gap is filled that most of us will feel — in so far as it is reasonably and humanly possible — that the meat is of the highest possible standard.
There should have been more consultation with interested bodies, victuallers and the farmers for that matter because they have an interest in it, and with the local authorities. While the bones of the Bill were outlined by the Minister this morning, when you get  down to detail there may be some difficulties to which the Minister did not refer. I am referring to inspections which will have to be arranged because it will be inconvenient for many victuallers and it has been made more difficult for them to arrange to have their killings at a time suitable for an inspector. Most public servants work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and most victuallers have a 12 hour day or even more. Many family businesses will be very much affected by this Bill and the Minister should come some way in meeting them. The unfortunate part of it is that the victualler who has been operating down the years in an adequate, proper and hygienic manner will suffer because the person who has been operating otherwise has little regard for regulations and will continue to flout them. You will not change a person's attitude simply by bringing in a measure. It is up to those responsible to ensure that the regulations are carried through and that cowboy operators are caught and penalised.
They must also ensure that they do not operate under a different name in another locality. It is up to the local authorities to ensure that there is adequate staff to do the job. This is a point I am particularly worried about. There is provision in the Bill for more than one local authority to operate with the same staff. That could make it even more difficult to ensure that the regulations are carried through and that these illegal operators are apprehended. Presumably the staff would work a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day but a great deal of the illegal slaughtering takes place after those hours, as does much of the legitimate business. There is a real difficulty here because the local authorities will be restricted in the number of staff they can employ, depending on the return from the killings and the licences. The local authority may not have sufficient staff to adequately carry through the provisions of the Bill. It would be a great pity if these provisions were to fall short for want of adequate staffing.
There should be provision for overtime  working — I have no doubt it will be necessary — otherwise we will be encouraging people to slaughter without inspection. Those who would otherwise continue to operate within the law might be forced to operate outside the law simply because an inspector was not available after 5 p.m. In the case of most family butchers, killing is undertaken in the evenings. It will create a lot of difficulty where an inspector has to cover a county or two if the butcher has to arrange his killings to fit in with that man's or woman's time. Most butchers serve in their shops in the mornings and the killings are done either in the afternoon — during the working hours before 5 p.m. — or after tea. This could mean that the inspector would be expected to be in many parts of the country at the same time and that would be impossible. It is not normal for butchers to kill after Wednesday, in fact most of them now seldom kill after Tuesday. This means most killings are done on Monday and Tuesday. This is adding even greater difficulty to the working of the Bill because the inspector would be expected to be in different towns at the same time.
This Bill may call for a far greater number of staff than is envisaged by the Minister and provision should be made to enable local authorities to employ sufficient staff to ensure that the provisions of the Bill are properly carried through, because there is nothing as bad as having a Bill enacted and not putting it into operation. I receive many complaints about the control of dogs. Everybody was crying out for legislation in this area but now that the Control of Dogs Act is on the Statute Book, everybody is wondering what difference it makes because it is not being enforced. There is nothing as bad as having legislation enacted and, through inability or insufficient provisions being unable to ensure that it is carried through.
There should be a uniform specification for the country. The regulations should apply equally to Dublin, Donegal, Galway and Kerry. I noticed that in his speech this morning the Minister referred to a section which gives him power to  alter the regulations where there is an existing slaughtering outlet but he did not give the reasons for taking this power unto himself. I think that is a dangerous section. I believe the vast majority of victuallers would like to see the regulations operated uniformly from north to south irrespective of whether it be a city or country area. I ask the Minister to assure the trade that this power will only be used in very exceptional circumstances, although I cannot think of any reason the Minister should use it.
Of course, there will be many victuallers who create a fuss at having to bring their premises up to a certain standard, and the Minister may have great sympathy for these family businesses that have been operating for quite a number of years, but there is another way out. The Minister can grant aid those who raise the standards in their slaughterhouses. This would not create a precedent because, as I understand it, the export slaughtering outlets have been grant aided, some of them by the EC. In requiring the trade to bring their slaughtering yards and slaughterhouses to a higher standard, I would like to see the Minister make provision in the Bill for grant aiding such operations because there are many small family businesses killing two cattle and six sheep weekly in their own slaughtering yard and selling through their own retail outlet. It could be a hardship on those families to have to bring their slaughtering yards to a standard required by the Minister. If you were to ask me what is that standard, I could not tell you because I do not think the Minister has spelled out what the standard would be. It could be different from one end of the country to the other, depending on the local inspector.
There should be uniformity of specification for the raising of standards of slaughteryards and there should be grantaid, because the alternative is to run the small man out of business. All of us will agree that for far too long we have been running the small man out of business and going for the big national or international operation, not only in the meat trade but  in other trades as well. This was detrimental to the general operation of the country and we should be making an effort to keep the small person in business rather than putting obstacles in his way.
I sincerely hope the Minister will give consideration to grant-aiding the slaughterhouses that are now being required to come up to a higher standard. Many of them had the highest standard of hygiene. Most of them, while not operating improperly, nevertheless will be required to give a higher standard and I seriously believe they should be grant-aided. It would be sad if this measure were to put out of business any small business person who has been operating to a high standard down the years.
I hope also that it will not eliminate — and I am sticking my neck out here because I am sure there are many who will disagree with me — the killing of an animal on a family farm for that family's use. This is a tradition which is centuries old. If a person is farming and cares for animals and rears them for the market, either home or export, that person is entitled to eat his own produce and it should not need to leave his farm. There are very many people who will kill a lamb or a goat and fowl which may not be covered here, but they kill them for their own consumption on their own farms. It would be a pity if that were done away with because no man more than the person who has cared for and killed the animal is going to ensure care, even after killing, for the highest possible hygenic standard. I would hope it will not eliminate the killing of one or two animals per year on the farm for their own consumption. I know there is a danger but it is no doubt a danger of which inspectors will be aware, that many will claim when caught killing an animal that it is for their own consumption while it could be for a retail outlet somewhere.
This brings me back to the burgers I spoke about earlier that were unmarked and their source untraceable. None of us wants to see that kind of operation. The farmer or the producer is entitled to consume his own produce and it should not have to go into a slaughteryard to be  slaughtered for that purpose. There are many reasons for that. One which I have given is that it has been a tradition for many centuries. Indeed, the killing of a pig was a festive occasion on many farms, when not only the farmer's own family but the relatives would gather for the great occasion of the killing, preparing and curing of a pig. Very often it was an occasion for a family gathering and a party. I would not like to see that done away with. I hope these farmers will not be leaving themselves liable to prosecution.
Before I get away from this section of the Bill, I would stress to the Minister the difficulty that may be experienced by victuallers in having an inspector present for ante and post-mortem examinations. All the killings normally, particularly in a country area, are done in the earlier days of the week, in other words, Mondays and Tuesdays. In many instances, it may happen that the local authority will have one inspector and he will be expected to be in many places at the one time. I do not know how the Minister proposes to deal with that. There is no point in the Minister saying that it is the responsibility of the local authority. The only way they can deal with it is to force a person to operate his killings outside normal hours without inspection or, alternatively, to inconvenience butchers by forcing them to kill on days on which they have never been used to killing or, indeed, to operate their slaughterings in the mornings rather than in the afternoons to facilitate an inspector. I do not think this pressure should be put on the trade.
The trade is paying for this measure; it is not like other measures that we would have had. If this Bill had been brought in ten or even five years ago there would have been no such thing as charging for the slaughtering of the animals, although perhaps there might have been a charge for the licensing of a slaughteryard. We should have had the Bill then and maybe before then, or some regulations. There would not have been a £3.25 charge or any charge for the slaughtering of an  animal ten years ago. The trade would not have been asked to pay for it. It would have been considered a necessary health regulation for the Government to carry out, just as food premises are inspected without charge. The butcher is now being charged for this service and he is going to be inconvenienced to a great extent.
I want to deal briefly with the charges I have just mentioned. They can be pretty harsh. Indeed, I am wondering if the Minister has given adequate consideration to the charges which he has enshrined in the Bill which can, of course, be changed, as he said, from time to time. These are the initial charges and we do not know what they will be in 12 months' time or in two years' time. It could be for an initial six months and then the charges could be increased. I am sure the Minister does not intend that, but he will not always be Minister. A new Minister could very well double the charges if he found that the local authorities needed twice the number of inspectors this Minister envisages the local authorities as needing.
Take a small family business of, say, four cattle and 12 lambs; that is not an excessive business. In fact, I would say it is the average business of most butchers throughout the country, four cattle and 12 lambs, £3.25 per beast and 55p per lamb, giving a total of £19.60 per week — a considerable tax on a small businessman. Add to that the licensing of his slaughteryard, which is now £50 because that calculation goes over the 500 mark. If you have 501 animals, your fee jumps from £10 to £50 with which again I disagree.
The next jump to 1,001 animals would not be as great because there would be a far greater volume of business in such a slaughteryard. A slaughteryard doing an average butcher's business will slaughter over 500 animals and I wonder how the Minister came up with the figure of 500 because most businesses will slaughter over 500 animals and it puts them into the £50 licensing category. If the £19.50 per week is added to that, the total is £160. In addition, the cost of paperwork can be put at anything from £20 to £50 a  year, and phonecalls are inevitable because of the arrangements necessary for slaughtering. It will not be possible for people in business to say: “I will slaughter at 3 o'clock every Tuesday” to suit an inspector. If he does come to that arrangement and it does not suit the inspector, inevitably there will be to-ing and fro-ing on the telephone and that will cost around £50 or more a year. That brings it to a figure of about £250. This is a further tax being imposed on small businesses and which many would consider to be enormous. The Minister has made light of the charges, and while they may be reasonable for somebody who has a large turnover — the greater the turnover the less they will think of the charge — it is the small butcher I am concerned about. We are imposing a further tax of at least £250 on them.
It is not unheard of for an inspector to ring a butcher and say: “I am at such a village, ten, 20 or 30 miles away and I want to be collected to inspect your animals before they are slaughtered”. Some people may frown at that but I have been in the business all my life and I know of cases where inspectors for transport business were collected, brought to the factory and left home again. That would be a further charge and inconvenience on a business person. It should be the responsibility of an inspector to be at a premises at a reasonable time and to get there of his own accord and not lie on the shoulder of the person who is being asked to pay all the bills.
Although I cannot see the local authorities operating it to a great extent I am glad the Minister has kept the option for them to license a slaughtering outlet. In some areas it may suit butchers to have animals slaughtered at a central point and the provision is made in the Bill for the local authorities to set up a slaughtering yard and license it. I welcome that though I see little prospect of it being used because the emphasis is on the slaughtering operations being carried out by private operators. I can have a slaughtering yard and charge business people to come in and slaughter their cattle or I could provide the butchers to do the  slaughtering for them and charge accordingly. That goes on throughout the country. I am glad the provision is in the Bill for local authorities if the need is there. However a lot of pressure would have to be put on them to build or renovate a premises suitable for slaughtering, register it and carry out the operation because local authorities want to get out of this service rather than go deeper into it.
The sale of meat which is unfit for human consumption must be stopped and if this Bill has that effect we have gone a good way down the road towards ensuring that the meat home consumers and tourists eat is of the highest possible standard. If we can ensure that meat is properly handled from the time it leaves the slaughteryard until it reaches the consumer then we will be in a much happier position. At present far too much meat is being sold which is unfit for human consumption. If you go for a drink to some public houses in this city at certain hours, particularly on a Friday evening, you can purchase a parcel of meat from £20 to £40 from the boot of a car without seeing what is in the parcel or knowing where it has come from. That type of trading will have to stop. The Minister will have to ensure that it is stopped rapidly because it has been developing over the years. It had slackened off for a while but I believe it is on the increase again. The consumer is as much to blame as the business operator because he should not take the risk of buying that meat. I do not believe they should be put at that risk. They can buy the meat much cheaper than they could buy it in the local butchers because those operators do not have to pay taxes and rates on a premises. I stuck out my neck this morning in venturing to say that we were serving democracy to a lesser degree in having Bills initiated in the Seanad rather than in the Dáil. I hope the initiation of this Bill this week will get widespread publicity so that I will be proved wrong in what I said here earlier today, and so that it will awaken people to what is happening and we will get a considerable feedback from those interested in the trade.
It is a bit unusual that we are getting a  breathing space before dealing with Committee Stage of this Bill which, I understand we are not taking during this session. This is not so with other Bills because we passed them in their entirety during the last few weeks and they are now to be sent to the Dáil. I understand that, only if they are amended in the Dáil, will they come back to us. This is why this morning I questioned the advisability of initiating so many Bills in the Seanad. They get the main debate in this House but get far less publicity and, therefore, a much lesser feedback from the general public.
I am not so sure that I got that point across to my colleagues in the House this morning. I do not want to use the time of the House in making points about something other than this Bill. I had hoped for an Adjournment debate where I could have made those points but the Leader of the House did not seem anxious that we would have an Adjournment debate to review our operations here over this session.
I know it was my party who first introduced Bills into the Seanad in the seventies but we only initiated a few Bills in the Seanad to be returned to the Dáil. This was done only under pressure of Dáil business but now there seems to be a change in attitude. I wanted the Leader of the House to clarify this for us and this is why I asked this morning for an Adjournment debate and why I said that, if we are to have a continuation of this, we are serving democracy to a lesser degree. We are running the risk of the main debates taking place in the Seanad and no matter how important we feel we are in dealing with these measures, they do not get the same airing outside, with all due respect to the men and women who frequent the press bench here. I am not blaming them. We appreciate their job and the increased publicity they have given us during this session as against what we got previously. They are in attendance and record what happens here, but it is like the meat leaving the slaughter yard, after it leaves here it is dealt with by other people in other places  and it does not get the same treatment as I am sure the ladies and gentlemen who frequent the press bench would like to see it getting. They would like to see a result for their laborious hours spent in this Chamber. It just does not get through for whatever reasons. One newspaper seems to refuse to print——
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: The Senator will agree that he is straying slightly from this Bill.
Mr. McMahon Mr. McMahon
Mr. McMahon: I hope the Minister will take heed of what I and other Senators have said and take action. By the time we get to Committee Stage I and many other Senators will have a lot more to say.
Mr. Mullooly Mr. Mullooly
Mr. Mullooly: I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution to the debate on the Abattoirs Bill, 1987. The purpose of this Bill is to amend and extend the law in this area. I join in the general welcome which has been given to the Bill, and I appreciate that this very important measure has been initiated in the Seanad. I am satisifed that the provisions of this Bill will have far reaching beneficial effects for the general public. I am also satisifed that this legislation, in so far as it applies to abattoirs, is very much in the interests of the butchering trade and of all who are involved in providing meat for the home market irrespective of whether they are operating at wholesale or at retail level.
In section 2 the word “abattoir” covers any premises used for, or in connection with, the slaughter of animals whose meat is intended for human consumption. The Bill makes an exception, however, of certain on farm premises which are used for this purpose. If such premises are situated on a farm ancillary to a hotel, guesthouse, school, hospital, nursing home, or other institution they are deemed to be an abattoir but if the on-farm premises are used only for the occasional slaughter of animals which are kept on the farm and the meat from these animals is intended for consumption only by the residents on the farm, the premises are not deemed to be an abattoir. I  wonder if the Minister was wise to have excluded such premises from the provisions of the Bill.
It would have been in the public interest if all meat for human consumption were killed and processed only in premises which met the standards which will be provided for and specified in the regulations which the Minister will be making under this Bill.
I accept that the Bill states that, in the case of the excepted premises, the animals which are slaughtered in such premises must be animals which are kept on the farm and, secondly, that the meat from such animals must be intended only for consumption by the residents on the farm. I accept, too, that the Bill further states that the onus of establishing that these conditions are complied with shall lie with the person seeking the benefit of such conditions. However, this requirement is unlikely to arise except where a prosecution is brought and, since such premises are not even required to be registered, there are not likely to be very many prosecutions relating to the use of such premises.
Will the Minister explain to the House what is meant by the phrase in section 2 (1) (a) “which are kept on such farm”? How long must such animals be kept on the farm? Must they be kept for a year, a month, a week, or a day, or must they be there from birth? The paragraph is not very specific and it is open to many different interpretations. Will the Minister also explain what is meant in paragraph (b) of the same subsection by “...is intended for consumption only by the residents on such farm”? Do the words “the residents” mean only the farmer and his family? Do they mean the household which would include permanent employees on the farm, or would temporary employees also be included in the term, “the residents”? What about visitors? Is it intended in the paragraph that residents would include visitors to the farm who might have a meal with the farmer and his family or, indeed, visitors who might stay on the farm for a few days?
 I wonder why the words “will be consumed” were not used in the paragraph instead of the words “is intended for consumption”. If the words “will be consumed” were used in the paragraph it would read “the meat from which will be consumed only by the residents on such farm.” Section 2 (1) (b), like paragraph (a), is imprecise and in my view this should not be the case in legislation. I realise that the points which I have been making are really the type of points which are usually made on Committee Stage. I am making them now so that the Minister will have an opportunity to consider them before Committee Stage.
My suggestion to the Minister is that he should remove from the Bill the exception which he has made in the case of the on-farm premises to which I have referred so that all animals for human consumption will have to be slaughtered and processed in premises which are licensed for use as abattoirs. If he does that, he will not have any problems in relation to denning the type of animals which may be slaughtered in premises which are not required to be licensed or in defining the categories of persons who might legally be provided with such meat for consumption. If the Minister does not want to go as far as I have suggested, that is, to rule out completely the use of such on-farm premises for the slaughtering of animals, he should consider a registration procedure for such premises which will ensure that they will be liable to inspection at regular intervals and that proper slaughtering and hygiene standards will be met.
The explanatory memorandum, issued with the Bill, states that the first purpose of the Bill is to provide standards of veterinary control and hygiene at local slaughtering premises providing meat for the home market — which will be on a par with those already applying at export meat plants. Part II of the Bill deals mainly with the way in which the legislation proposes to achieve this objective. A system of licensing is being introduced which will mean that a premises, before it can be used as an abattoir, will have to  be licensed annually. The licence will be granted or renewed by the Minister but under section 9 (3) of the Bill the Minister may transfer his functions in relation to abattoir licences to the various local authorities. Each local authority will be required by the legislation to employ at least one full time veterinary inspector to oversee and implement the new controls.
The fees which are specified in section 10, in connection with applications for abattoir licences, are reasonable and I welcome the provision that in any case where an application for a licence is refused the fee will be refunded. However, even though the fees appear reasonable, in very many cases the applicant will have been put to considerable expense in providing new premises or in bringing existing premises up to the standard required for the issue of a licence. In almost all such cases, substantial planning fees will also have been paid to the local authority. I hope the Minister will take this matter into account when, as I am sure will happen in the future, there will be a suggestion from some quarter that abattoir licence fees should be increased.
Another provision which is made in the Bill is that the Minister may assign a distinctive number or letter, or number and letter, to each abattoir in respect of which a licence is granted. I assume that all meat originating in each abattoir will be stamped with this identification mark. If this is done in all cases, and I feel it should be, then the abattoir of origin of all meat offered for sale for human consumption will be easily identifiable. I wonder why the word “may” is used in the subsection instead of the word “shall” if it is the intention that all meat originating in each licensed abattoir will carry the abattoir's identification mark? I would prefer if section 11 (3) were to specify that the Minister shall assign a distinctive identification mark to each licensed abattoir with which all meat originating in that abattoir and offered for sale for human consumption would be required to be stamped.
The provision in the Bill that abattoir  licences are nontransferable is reasonable since before a licence is issued one of the conditions which the applicant must satisfy is that he or she is a proper person to hold an abattoir licence. If such licences were transferable this would open up a method of circumventing this condition. However, I welcome the fact that, if the holder of a licence dies, the licence will be allowed to continue in force and effect for the benefit of the licence holder's personal representative or spouse or some other member of the licence holder's family. However two months or such longer period as the Minister may allow, after the death of the licence holder, the licence will expire. It would not be unreasonable if the period specified in this provision were at least three months. I know the Minister may extend the two months period as two months is a very short period after a death. He should give sympathetic consideration to extending this period to at least three months with the proviso that the period may be further extended at the Minister's discretion.
I welcome, too, the procedure which must be followed when an application for an abattoir licence is refused or where an existing licence is revoked. The applicant, or the holder of the licence which is revoked, must be notified in writing of the decision and also the reasons for the refusal or revocation. He or she must be informed of the appeal procedure which is available. There is also provision for permission to be given to continue the use of the premises of an abattoir pending the determination of the appeal. I am not happy, however, with the fact that the appeal in the first instance must be to the Circuit Court. This is a matter to which Senator Ferns referred also.
In the vast majority of cases where an application for a licence will be refused, or where an existing licence will be revoked, the decision to refuse or revoke will be based on the opinion of one individual, namely, the veterinary inspector involved. I would be much happier if there was a procedure which would enable an appeal to be dealt with in the  first instance by some form of independent appeals tribunal. It is most desirable and in everyone's interest that the appeal should be determined as expeditiously as possible and should involve the very minimum of unnecessary inconvenience for all concerned.
The composition of the type of tribunal I suggest would be a matter for the Minister. For example, a five member tribunal, consisting of a representative of the Minister, a representative of the trade, a representative of the veterinary profession and a consumer representative, with an agreed independent chairman, would be fully competent to deal satisfactorily with the majority of appeals which will arise. The operation of such a tribunal would eliminate the inevitable delay and the considerable expense which an appeal to the Circuit Court involves. Four or five such tribunals, established on a regional basis, would cover the appeal applications throughout the entire country.
Section 17 of the Bill is also a very reasonable and welcome provision, except in one respect. This section allows the Minister where, in his opinion, special circumstances exist and he considers it reasonable to do so, to issue a permit in lieu of an abattoir licence where the premises involved were in existence prior to the coming into force of this legislation and where such premises are capable of being brought up to the standards required by the legislation in order to qualify for an abattoir licence. This section will remain in force for a period of five years and I accept that this should be sufficient to enable all such premises to be brought up to the required standards. However, there should be some provision in this section for an appeal in a case where a permit is refused or revoked. I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter.
Regarding the regulations the Minister may make in relation to abattoirs and for the purpose of establishing the fitness of meat for human consumption, I sincerely hope he will ensure that a situation will obtain where all animals slaughtered for  human consumption will be tested for banned growth promoter and antibiotic residues. Any carcases found to show residues of illegal substances should and must be declared unfit for human consumption. The consumer is entitled to be absolutely certain that meat which is offered for sale for human consumption is free from all such residues. The only way this can be guaranteed is by the rejection in all abattoirs and in all meat factories of any carcase which shows any trace whatsoever of the banned substances to which I have referred. This, combined with the imposition of the severest possible penalties, will, I hope, have the effect of convincing those who are still using such substances that what they are doing is neither in their own nor in the public interest.
The purpose of Part III of the Bill is to regulate the activities of knackeries where animal carcases and offals are handled for industrial and other purposes. The most important section in this part of the Bill is section 22 which makes it an offence for a person to sell, offer or expose for sale any meat which originated in a knackery. I welcome the fact that the operation of such premises has been brought within the scope of this Bill and that the new controls in respect of such premises will include licensing and veterinary inspection.
Part IV of the Bill deals with the appointment of veterinary inspectors and the duties and powers of such inspectors. I note from the explanatory memorandum that it is expected that the veterinary inspection fees, which will be collected in each local authority area, will be sufficient to cover the cost of the veterinary inspector's salary and the necessary back-up services which will arise. I sincerely hope that the Department's calculations are correct in this regard but only time will tell if they are.
In regard to the ante-mortem and post-mortem examinations which the veterinary inspector will be required to carry out I, like Senator McMahon, express the hope that every effort will be made to facilitate, within reason, the carrying out of the slaughtering on the days and  at the times which are most convenient and most suitable for the licence holder.
I want to comment on section 54. This section details the powers of an authorised officer or a member of the Garda Síochána in relation to the inspection of premises, vehicles or records in connection with the enforcement of this legislation. Section 54 (1) provides that:
An authorised officer or a member of the Garda Síochána may—
(a) enter, by force if necessary, and inspect any premises which is, or which he reasonably suspects is, being used as an abattoir or as a knackery;
(b) enter, by force if necessary, and inspect any vehicle or container which is, or which he reasonably suspects is, being used in connection with an abattoir or with a knackery;
I am not happy with the phrase “by force if necessary” which is contained in each of these paragraphs. The phrase “by force if necessary” does not limit the amount or the degree of force which may be used. It permits the use of more force than may be necessary in order to carry out the required inspection. The use of excessive force will result in more damage than is necessary to the premises, the vehicle or the container in question. I see the necessity for the provision that force may be used in certain circumstances but I would like to see the degree of force which may be used limited to the maximum which is absolutely necessary. I hope the Minister will give some consideration to whether the restriction I suggest could be incorporated in the section.
In conclusion, again I compliment the Minister on having brought forward, so early in his term of office, this very desirable and necessary legislation. As I said at the outset, I believe that the provisions of this Bill will receive a warm welcome from both the general public and those involved in the meat trade.
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy) Michael O'Kennedy
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): First, I thank the Members of the House for the contributions they  made. It is gratifying that the Bill has been so well received. I anticipated, in general, the reception it has got because in my opening address I expressed the confident hope that not only the purpose of the Bill but the actual machinery of it would be supported by all sides of the House in view of the necessity to regulate and control this area. The positive response and goodwill existing towards the Bill must be capitalised on and the best way to do that is to implement its provisions as soon as possible and as fully as possible.
As I mentioned earlier, various groups were consulted in the formulation of the Bill. At this stage I should thank the Irish Domestic Meat Traders Association, the Irish Master Butchers Federation, the Irish Meat Wholesalers Association, CBF, The Irish Bacon Curers Society, The Federation of Irish Renderers, the County and City Managers Association, the Irish Society of Medical Officers of Health, the Local Government and Public Services Union, the Irish Veterinary Association, the Local Authority Veterinary Officers Association, the Irish Veterinary Union and the Veterinary Officers Association, for giving their time and for their ongoing interest in the work of helping to raise standards on the home meat market.
The wide variety of legitimate interests and interest groups involved explains to a considerable extent the time it took to get this legislation prepared and drafted. I acknowledged, in introducing the Bill, that I wanted to express my appreciation to all who have been involved at all stages, including my predecessor. On assuming office I took the decision, with my colleagues in the Department, that this matter was top priority. We had from the very first, indicated to some of the interest groups concerned that we would have this legislation which, I suppose, was awaited and expected for some years — brought into the Oireachtas in this session. For that reason I was very glad that the Seanad was still in session to enable me to fulfil that commitment because, as I indicated, it is a matter of the most considerable importance.
 I am sorry I was unable to be here for the debate, as I said. Indeed, when I came in I thought my colleague, the Minister of State here, might have the opportunity to make a comment, although it was not part of the plan between us. Then I thought that out of courtesy to the House, as I had introduced it, perhaps I should reply. In view of the fact that he has been attending here, my colleague, the Minister of State, is probably better equipped to reply to some of the points raised. I will try to deal with some of them. I am aware of some of these only from the information that has been passed on to me.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: You just pipped him, Minister.
Mr. O'Kennedy Mr. O'Kennedy
Mr. O'Kennedy: I just pipped him. We are trying to work out here between us the matter of protocol and practicalities. Will you, a Chathaoirligh, be happy if the Minister who has been here——
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: This House is so nice, Minister, and we do things that benefit the House, so if you like, your Minister of State——
Mr. O'Kennedy Mr. O'Kennedy
Mr. O'Kennedy: I would be happy then because he has been here for most of the debate. He can deal with the points raised while he was here and if I listen to some of the points I might be able to add a little towards the end if necessary.
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. J. Walsh) Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. J. Walsh)
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. J. Walsh): First, a Chathaoirligh, I welcome you and your colleagues in the Seanad to this Chamber. I know that your residence here is of a temporary nature. Deputies are rather possessive of their seats here so I hope that not too many of you at any time want to make a permanent stay here.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: You can put your pen through my name anyway.
Mr. J. Walsh Mr. J. Walsh
 Mr. J. Walsh: I am very glad that we have been able to introduce this Bill to the Oireachtas in this term as the Minister said, because it is long awaited and very important in the area of the pigmeat industry. We are talking about the raising of standards of hygiene and of quality of produce for the home market so that they will be on a par with those for the export market. That is vital, particularly as in recent times the industry has had some bad publicity. That is not good for the industry or the practitioners. Under the terms of this Bill and the regulations which will be made under it, the very fine people in the trade and in the profession — in many cases generations of their families have been there — will welcome the provisions of this Bill as I know from consultations with them. At departmental level the Minister, the Minister of State, Deputy Kirk, and I during the coming months before coming back to this Chamber and the Seanad again will, in consultation with the trade, be able to iron out particular points and deal with these matters in concert with the industry.
Senators Connor, Fitzsimons and Ferris raised the continued involvement of environmental health officers in abattoirs. Under section 67 the provisions of the food hygiene regulations will not apply to premises covered by the Bill, otherwise there would be two sets of regulations governing standards in local abattoirs. As the proposed controls are largely veterinary in nature, I see no great merit in providing for a specific role within abattoirs for environmental health officers. Rather would I consider it necessary to avoid different State paid officials being employed on overlapping functions in the same area. Section 35 (3) will, however, allow local authorities to employ environmental health officers to assist their full time veterinary practitioners. Further, the transport and retail sides of the meat trade will continue to be subject to the provisions of the food hygiene regulations.
Senator Connor raised the question of inadequate finance to fund the Bill's provisions. A detailed analysis of funding  was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Food last year. The £1.4 million in veterinary inspection fees will cover all local authority veterinary service costs. Currently the cost of the existing 160 staff approaches £0.9 million annually with no fees accruing save for Dublin and Cork where fees were introduced under the Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act, 1983. Again on costs, I am mindful of the small local authorities, where fees would be insufficient to cover costs. There is provision in section 35 for such authorities to pool together for the purpose of providing veterinary inspection services.
Senator Connor and Senator Ferns referred to the need for non-lesion TB reactor animals. At present TB reactor animals can be delivered only to export meat plants. Here they undergo full ante and post-mortem veterinary inspection and any meat going for human consumption first has to be passed and deemed to be fully fit for human consumption.
Senators Connor, McMahon and Ferris raised the question of equal treatment for butchers in each part of the country. They raised the question of specifications for abattoirs in different parts of the country. The Bill will provide a national standard and that standard will be the same in all parts of the country. It will be the same in Roscommon, Tipperary and Cork as it will be in the cities. Any regulations made under the Bill will give specific criteria for abattoirs and premises. Again, after consultation with the people involved, I see no difficulty in this area.
Senator Hussey referred to the bad image that meat had been receiving in recent years. While not all farmers welcomed the EC imposed ban on the use of hormones for fattening, there are very positive aspects to these measures for us and for Ireland as a food producing country. They will help to counteract the concern being expressed, unjustifiably, regarding the wholesomeness of meat. Coupled with the controls set out in this  Bill, the case of the anti-meat lobby falters and consumers will have the assurance that all meat has been prepared under hygienic conditions and is fresh, wholesome and in every way fit for human consumption. With present day standards and the more educated consumer looking for wholesomeness, freshness and natural products, Ireland as a good food producing country should insist on the highest possible standards in this area.
Also Senator Hussey exhorted those local authorities without full time veterinary staffs to put the wheels in motion now for the recruitment of full time staff. I could not agree more and, in echoing his request to the 23 local authorities in question, I remind all sanitary authorities that under the Bill's provision the regulation of meat and milk for the home market in the future will be the responsibility of their corresponding local authority or county borough corporation. This will mean, as provided for under sections 37 and 38 of the Bill, that their existing veterinary staff, records, registers etc., relating to these functions will rest with the appropriate local authority for a sanitary area in question. It would prove very useful, therefore, if the authorities concerned would now begin to prepare for such transfers and so be in a position to facilitate early implementation of the new controls once this Bill is enacted.
Senator Hussey also asked that the trade and other interested bodies be consulted on the abattoir requirements and standards which will be set out in the regulations. I assure the Senator that such consultations will take place before the regulations are made and that, in keeping with the detailed consultations before we introduced this Bill, we will do the same thing before it is finally enacted and in the drawing up of any regulations under it.
To sum up, in the Department of Agriculture and Food we welcome very much the constructive attitude of the Senators towards this legislation and their general welcome for it. Generally by their contributions, they were very positive. They  related to details of the Bill which can best be dealt with on Committee Stage in some cases. In particular Senator Mullooly's contribution was very detailed. Certainly we will consider in detail on Committee Stage the matters he raised. Because of the time lapse between now and Committee Stage there will be tremendous opportunity to give this Bill a great deal of attention in relation to the details for the next Stage. Some of the points raised related to detailed matters which are intended to be the subject of regulations under the Bill and obviously we are not in a position to go into these details today. However, the interest shown by all the speakers is very heartening and augurs well for a highly constructive debate on Committee Stage.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for first sitting day in September.
Seanad Éireann 116 Abattoirs Bill, 1987: Second Stage.