Ireland fights EU over animal welfare

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:

DUBLIN––Scientists warned
Ireland in August that by mid-year it
had already exceeded the national
“greenhouse gas” emission limits set by
the European Union and United Nations
under the 1997 Kyoto Agreement to
limit global warming––despite special
dispensation allowing Ireland a 13%
increase in emissions by 2010.
Since nearly half of all Irish
“greenhouse gas” comes from cattle,
the warning meant in effect that Irish
farmers must find a way to reduce
bovine flatulence. Or else.


Ireland has been taking a
beating from the EU over one animal
issue after another since late 1998.
The first confrontation eased
when the Irish Farmers Association
National Pig Producers Committee
agreed that new pig facilities would be
built in accord with an EU ban on the
use of tethering and crating to hold
nursing sows. The ban is to take effect
in 2006. The IFA-NPPC balked, however,
at meeting a stiffer British standard,
effective since January 1, 1999.
As the pig barn battle calmed,
the European Commission in December
1998 sent Ireland two “reasoned opinions”
warning Dublin that Irish law falls
short of EU standards in regulating animal
experiments and in regulating the
impact of economic development on
endangered species.
The only law governing animal
experimentation in Ireland is the
1876 British law, carried over without
amendment since Irish independence.
The law has been updated in Britain,
but in Ireland the original definitions of
prohibited conduct and fines of £5 to
£50 per offense remain in effect.
After Dublin failed to update
the law to comply with the EU directive
on animal experimentation, issued in
1986, the EC in July 1999 sued Ireland
in the European Court of Justice. The
case remains pending.
Two days later the EC warned
Dublin that failing to designate protected
habitat for endangered and threatened
species could cost Ireland £2.9 billion
in EC environmental project funding
over the next seven years. The
warning came just as Irish culture and
heritage minister Sile de Valera introduced
a new national wildlife bill which
had reportedly been under discussion
for 15 years. The bill included provisions
to regulate canned hunts, raise the
fines for poaching, and protect critical
habitat. But––to the vocal disappointment
of Green Party wildlife spokesperson
Trevor Sargent––it did not actually
designate any specific habitat to be protected.

Ireland has so far designated
only 114 Special Areas for
Conservation (SACs) under the 1992
EU/EC Habitats Directive, while
admitting need to designate about 370.
Coastwatch Europe, the Irish
Peatland Conservation Council, the
Irish Wildlife Trust, An Taisce, and
Birdwatch Ireland on September 1 jointly
asked Dublin to protect 201 additional
proposed SAC sites, 46 of them to
safeguard otters and 22 to preserve
salmon streams.
The Irish government appears
to favor the use of voluntary conservation
agreements instead of laws to protect
habitat. A bad precedent for that
approach recently popped up in Britain,
where voluntary agreements have nominally
protected about 6,000 Sites of
Special Scientific Interest since 1949.
A joint investigation by the S u n d a y
T i m e s, Friends of the Earth, Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds, and
the Wildlife Trusts reported in May
1999 that sites supposed to have been
conserved by 10 of Britain’s richest and
most influential landowners had instead
been destroyed or severely neglected.
Germany, France, the
Netherlands, and Portugal received
similar warnings from the EC before
Ireland did. Britain received a warning
on September 6, after submitting a list
of 340 SACs, while the World Wildlife
Fund and other nongovernmental organizations
contended that at least 1,000
should have been listed.
Altogether, 13 EU member
nations are four years late in completing
their SAC designations, according to
Tony Long, European policy director
for the World Wildlife Fund. Long in
March 1999 blamed Spanish delays in
designating SACS for the extinction of
the Pyranean ibex, of whom just one
living example remains.
Dublin was preoccupied
through the late summer with two other
conflicts involving Irish livestock
exports. After several slow years for
the livestock industry due to global
fears of BSE, Ireland shipped 189,000
cattle abroad during the first half of
1999––130,000 more than during the
first half of 1998. Other members of
the EC/EU took 145,000, of whom
Spain alone bought 89,000.
The Irish Farmers’ Association
hoped to more than double livestock
exports in the second half of 1999
after Swansea Cork Ferries resumed
cattle shipping, a practice it claimed to
have ceased in 1994, under pressure
from Compassion in World Farming.
However, as CWF tried to
mount new opposition, Spain abruptly
banned receipt of cattle from Ireland,
allegedly because of renewed concern
about BSE. Irish observes took the ban
as a thinly disguised trade barrier meant
to protect Spanish ranchers. The ban
coincided with the end of British subsidies
for rearing bull calves, while
France and Germany continued to delay
accepting them.
Acknowledging concern that
British farmers might be shipping
calves to Northern Ireland and smuggling
them south for export to Europe,
the Irish Department of Agriculture on
August 30 announced increased vigilance
at border crossings.
Irish horse breeders, racers,
and fox hunters meanwhile asked
Dublin to try to avert an EU ban on the
use of several drugs commonly used to
treat horses. The drugs’ residues are
believed to be dangerous to humans
who eat horseflesh.

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