Wednesday, 4 December 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
35. Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry when he will ensure full computerised traceability of cattle from birth to slaughter; if he has examined the feasibility of electronic tagging of animals; the reason he retains the old-fashioned manual system of cards for cattle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23373/96]
53. Dr. O'Hanlon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry whether he intends to put in place full traceability of the national herd; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23235/96]
Good progress has been made in providing computer facilities in relation to identification and tracing of bovine animals. Deputies will be aware that I recently launched a new computer facility which has been made available to my control staff at meat plants and export points throughout the country to enable them to validate the identity of male animals being presented.
In addition, arrangements are well advanced for establishing a single computer file which will bring together relevant information on all cattle from data which is already available on various departmental computer systems or which is amenable to being readily input to a computer. This new system, which will be known as the Animal Location File, ALF, will be available to the Department's control staff throughout the country around the end of the year. It will include data from the following sources: database of headage/premium schemes, animals recorded in ERAD special category herds, animals registered under the new calf registration system, animal slaughtering at meat plants and local abattoirs and animals exported live.
These measure will provide significant additional reassurance as regards the origin and status of cattle and beef. The provision of a comprehensive and computerised system of full traceability for cattle, incorporating data on all individual animal movements, will take some time. A departmental group will shortly complete its consideration of all aspects of the requirements of such a computerised system. I will give priority to putting that system in place at the earliest possible date.
As to the electronic tagging of animals, I refer the Deputies to the major initiative, known as “IDEA” recently launched by the EU Commission in that regard. The Commission will select and provide funding for projects throughout the Union involving large scale and extensive research on the use of electronic animal identification devices, inserted both externally and internally, over a three year period. It is prudent to await the outcome of that research  and the resulting proposals of the Commission on the type of electronic animal identification system to be adopted for use in the member states of the Union.
In regard to cattle identity cards, their use, with eartage identity, has been essential over the years for purposes of animal identification and disease testing arrangements, marketing of animals and premium/headage schemes. A revised identity card was introduced earlier this year under the new national plastic tagging and computerised calf registration systems. Cattle identity cards continue to be important for the purposes mentioned. However, it may well be that when we have a comprehensive and computerised system of cattle traceability, up and running, the present card system may then no longer be required.
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