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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D. has today launched a consultation process on the development of a new National Farmed Animal Health strategy framework for Ireland.

“A coherent and robust animal health strategy has the capability to deliver very significant savings per annum as has been evidenced in the case of the recent progress being made on the BVD eradication programme. The existence of sub-optimal animal health impacts negatively at individual farm level, on processor returns, on the environment and ultimately on international trade and domestic employment levels. In addition, zoonotic infections in animals as well as the avoidable use of antibiotics in animals may impact on public health.” said Minister Creed.

The Minister noted that the livestock sector represented almost 90% of Ireland’s gross agricultural output, as well as forming the critical element of the € 10.8 billion in agri-food exports in 2015 and in sustaining some 170,000 jobs in the agri-food sector.

“It is therefore opportune to work towards the creation of a national strategy framework that will guide the development and implementation of policies and programmes towards making a lasting and continuous improvement in the health and welfare of farmed animals in Ireland. The new strategy will be developed in tandem with the sustainability objectives already set out in Food Wise 2025.” the Minister said.

Minister Creed stressed that prevention of disease remains key to limiting significant financial losses to farmers, the broader agri-food industry and the country. The principle of ‘prevention is better than cure’ seeks to change the focus from one of post event response to, and the management of disease, to one that promotes animal health as a driver of optimised production, improved margins for producers and providing the best quality for consumers.

Whilst pointing out that the benefits arising from optimal animal health primarily accrue to producers and processors, he acknowledged that in certain instances, there may be rationale for Government intervention – this however must be justified on identifiable ‘public good’ interests, informed by legitimate societal concerns and based on sound scientific evidence.

The Minister added, “beyond improved efficiencies at farm and processor levels that will in turn lead to increased international competitiveness, there should be the improved capacity to protect public health. Many new and emerging biological threats to human health have their origin in animals and the matter of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is now universally accepted to be a major global health risk.”

Concluding, the Minister said “I look forward to a consultative process that will build on the ideas being put forward by my Department and which will allow Ireland’s agri-food sector to continue building on the progress of recent years. In order to achieve this there will be an absolute need for all stakeholders in the sector to work in partnership towards delivering an overall outcome that best serves Ireland, from a social, environmental and economic perspective.”