Animal rights group uses pretend journalists in 'undercover research' on Irish beef farms
Shock as animal rights organisation claims on Irish beef hit the headlines in the Netherlands
Irish beef is in the headlines in the Netherlands for all the wrong reasons after animal rights activists alleged welfare abuses on farms here.
Claims of welfare abuses on Irish beef farms was reported by a host of Dutch news outlets after an influential animal rights group in the country Wakker Dier made claims of poor animal welfare standards following what it described as ‘undercover research’.
Aberdeen Angus - a well-known Irish beefbred in Ireland and grass-fed. With the integration of traditional pasture farming and advanced technology, the cattles are fed to be of high quality and more tender.
The Group which has almost 31,000 members said that in the winter of 2017 and 2018, an undercover research team visited thirteen Irish farms. 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.
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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.”
In 2017, Bord Bia audited 33,000 farms. Only 7 farms or .00001pc of all audited SBLAS farmers were housed indoors for the full year. These farms were specifically finishing cattle.
Bord Bia has said the SBLAS is widely recognised, based on an internationally accredited standard, benchmarked against similar quality standards internationally and provides requirements for the welfare of animals on 49,500 Irish beef farms and almost 5 million cattle.
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.