Claims of welfare abuses on Irish beef farms have been denied after an animal rights group in the Netherlands sent an undercover research team to visit farms.
The animal rights group Wakker Dier, which has almost 31,000 members, sent an undercover team to 13 farms over a two year period starting in 2017.
On its website it claimed that a number of the thirteens farmer said they were part of Bord Bia’s Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) gave permission to enter the farms and take pictures.
However, in its report the group also states that the researchers were given access to the farms with a cover story.
They pretended to be journalists from a Polish newspaper who were investigating the influence of the Brexit in the Irish beef sector.
Among the main criticisms that the group has made is that animals are kept indoors during the winter, usually they say on ‘hard concrete grids’.
It also claimed that many young calves suffer from castration and dehorning without pain medication.. Among other things, the group is demanding that castration without pain medication and slatted floors in sheds be prohibited.
Irish beef has an animal-friendly image of grazing cattle on green meadows. But that is in the summer. In winter, these animals can really have a rotten life, ” stated Valeska Hovener from Wakker Dier.
Wakker Dier wants Dutch supermarkets to stop selling Irish beef as long as it does not meet its animal welfare standards.
However, according to Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy, the allegations made by Wakker Dier do not give an honest or factual representation of the high standards of Irish beef production.
To judge, and seek to damage, the reputation of our entire nation’s beef production system based on an analysis of just 13 farms is unjust and wilfully malicious.
“Equally, to suggest animal welfare it is not important to Bord Bia’s SBLAS members is fundamentally and entirely inaccurate. SBLAS is an important guarantee for buyers of Irish beef throughout the world, and farmers who do not meet the strict criteria of the system, will not be certified.”
The Netherlands has been among Ireland’s top five export destinations for beef so far this year with almost €70m exported in the first four months of 2016 alone.
Photo credit: Bord Bia, Irish Food Board