Thursday, 25 February 1954
Seanad Éireann Debate
Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Walsh): The purpose of this short Bill is twofold; firstly, to continue for some time the operation of the General Cattle Diseases Fund established under the Diseases of Animal Acts and secondly, to extend the power of making Orders under those Acts to  enable the export of live pigeons to be controlled.
The General Cattle Diseases Fund is used to effect a more equitable incidence among local authorities of the cost of performing their functions under the Diseases of Animals Acts. Its income is derived from three sources: (1) local rate assessments, (2) contributions from the Exchequer equivalent to one-fourth of the compensation paid by local authorities for animals slaughtered under the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926, and (3) fines for certain offences against the Diseases of Animals Acts. The maximum contribution to the fund from local rate assessments was fixed in 1894 at 1/2d. in the £ at any one time, subject to a maximum total of assessments of 8d. in the £, which was subsequently increased by a number of amending Acts to 1/8 in the £. This total amount has now been assessed and as the fund is nearing exhaustion, further increase of the maximum total of assessments by 2d. in the £ is proposed under Clause I of the Bill.
Payments out of the fund to local authorities comprise half of each local authority's expenditure under the Diseases of Animals Acts. The main items of such expenditure are (1) the salaries for duties under the Acts of local authority veterinary inspectors, (2) compensation payments under the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926, and (3) expenditure in connection with sheep dipping.
The local authority veterinary inspectors, most of whom are part-time, are employed for public health duties in relation to meat and milk hygiene as well as for duties under the Diseases of Animals Acts but only expenditure in connection with the latter duties comes within the scope of the General Cattle Diseases Fund. Over the years, the functions of local authorities under the Diseases of Animals Acts have gradually tended to become the responsibility of the central authority and while it would not be appropriate to abolish entirely the local authority veterinary services under the Acts they may be expected to continue to diminish as such.
The existing local authority veterinstructiona  ary arrangements, however, need some reorganisation as regards the extent and grouping of individual districts, the salaries attached to the posts, etc. This reorganisation is at present being carried out by my Department as far as circumstances allow but it will be some time before it can be completed throughout the entire country, as the existing tenure of posts in many cases makes immediate reorganisation rather difficult. Part-time local authority veterinary inspectors may, of course, engage in private practice and an important effect of the reorganisation should be to bring about a better distribution of veterinary surgeons in some counties, particularly in certain counties on the west coast where the reorganisation measures will involve an increase in the number of local part-time inspectors.
With regard to expenditure by local authorities under the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926, the position has been that three-fourths of such expenditure is met from the Exchequer. The number of animals slaughtered under the Order in recent years has, however, been very small, less than 1,000 per annum. As I have already announced, I propose to introduce before long a comprehensive scheme for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis. Proposals for obtaining some money from American aid grant counterpart funds in connection with initiation of the scheme were submitted early last year to the American authorities whose approval it is hoped to obtain shortly. The Government fully appreciates the importance of taking steps to eradicate bovine tuberculosis and I can assure Senators that the proposed comprehensive scheme will be introduced at the earliest possible date. The intention is that the scheme will provide for intensive eradication measures in one area with less intensive measures for a start in the rest of the country. The scheme will commence in each area on a voluntary basis but will have to be made compulsory when the proportion of farmers participating in it warrants such action. The administration of the Bovine Tuberculosis Order will, of course, need to be reviewed in connection  with the initiation of the comprehensive scheme.
As regards the administration by local authorities of the sheep-dipping requirements, the number of outbreaks of sheep scab has been declining in recent years and is now very small. With the full co-operation of sheep owners there is no reason why sheep scab should not be entirely eradicated.
With regard to the proposed extension of the power of making Orders to enable the export of live pigeons to be prohibited except under licence the position is that since 1950 the export of live pigeons has been prohibited by an Order made under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Acts but this control will lapse when the supplies and services legislation will expire next year. There is a possibility that in the course of return flights to this country racing pigeons may introduce poultry or other animal disease. It is essential that there should continue to be power to regulate the export of such pigeons.
Mr. S. O'Donovan: This Bill, consisting of two clauses, does not convey much to the average member of the Seanad or the average member of the public who would read it but the explanatory statement of the Minister gives us a very wide field for discussion. As far as the two clauses themselves are concerned I doubt that an extra 2d. in the £ in the rates levied by local authorities will achieve much to implement this scheme which is a comprehensive and an immense one if we are going to realise its objects satisfactorily. The first impression I would get is that this 2d. represents a very small amount and being taken from the local authority rates instead of being provided by the central authority will be of little assistance apart from the suggested fund that is referred to later in the Minister's speech.
At present there is practically no effort being made towards the eradication of bovine tuberculosis because what we call the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926 was really a public health Order for the safeguard of the human population  rather than the animal population. The net result is that through these years the amount of effective work done under the provisions of the Order of 1926 was negligible. The Minister mentioned some 1,000 cases in which animals were slaughtered under the Order but many animals are dealt with under the Order without being reported to the local authority. They are simply dealt with by the veterinary staff of the Dublin Corporation.
The reporting matter is important because it means that nothing has been done unless a farmer sees that his animal is in decline or is a piner. In order to save whatever little money he can he reports the animal to the local authority to be dealt with under the Tuberculosis Order and thereby salvages some of the loss. Of course, what he is paid under the Tuberculosis Order is not the market value of the animal, which would be very small, and depends on the amount of T.B. which is in the carcase on post-mortem examination. Some of the animals can pine from causes other than T.B.
The Bovine Tuberculosis Order, although not exactly a public health Order, was an Order to safeguard the human population rather than the animal population because one of the clauses under which an animal can be taken up under the Tuberculosis Order is a case where the beast is suspected of suffering from T.B. of the udder. Having dealt with many of these cases, I can say that one feels a sense of having done something important for the community as a result of detecting one of these cases of T.B. of the udder and taking appropriate action. There is a percentage of animals in the country suffering from this form of T.B. and disseminating in the milk T.B. bacilli with which adults and children in the community may be infected. I do not want to be misunderstood because a large proportion of the milk in the City of Dublin, at any rate — I do not think there is any pasteurisation in Cork — is pasteurised, thereby rendering it safe as far as T.B. bacilli are concerned. However, milk with this infection is generally consumed throughout the country and  many members of the human population are affected with T.B.
I would say to the Minister that the veterinary profession has been far kinder to him than the medical profession has been to his colleague, Dr. Ryan, the Minister for Health, and to other Ministers during the past 20 years because over 20 years and more the Veterinary Medical Association has been urging the Department of Agriculture to initiate a scheme for the total eradication of bovine T.B. I remember suggestions were made to deal with areas like Clare, Galway, and Kerry where the traffic of cattle is entirely outward and there is no traffic inwards. In that way, generally, our country is far better situated for the surrounding and elimination of this disease because there is no through traffic which is so common in Great Britain — cattle coming from this country and cattle being shifted within the country itself. Here we have the traffic from the farms bar those small animals which are bought as calves and transferred to parts of the country until finally they reach the pastures of Meath.
In the main, however, districts can be taken where the animal traffic is mainly outward. You would have a chance there of getting a district and being assured that you will not have animals which are affected with T.B. coming into it from an outside area. That was suggested down the years but we never got much help. We also suggested it before the Post-Emergency Agricultural Policy Committee who reported in 1944. The Veterinary Medical Association then put up a comprehensive scheme — the word “comprehensive” is used pretty frequently to-day in “comprehensive schemes”— in an endeavour to pave the way towards this attack towards the eradication of animal diseases. The committee did not adopt those recommendations from the Veterinary Medical Association in their entirety. They suggested regional operations. I am sorry that Senator Johnston is not in the House now because he was a member of that committee. There were several minority reports as well as the majority report. However, in  the main, they suggested regional operations and regional laboratories to deal with this attack on animal diseases.
I criticise the present project of trying to bring within the central authority all the work connected with the eradication of animal diseases, or practically all, if that is the intention. In his speech, the Minister mentioned more or less “eliminating” or “eradicating” local authority inspectors. The local authority veterinary inspectors throughout the country have dual functions to perform: they have functions under the Ministry of Health and they have functions under the Ministry of Agriculture. You will find that to effect that supervision by using any other means from headquarters will be far more difficult than effecting the subdivision through the local men who are in contact with the local people and who know their difficulties. I have often heard it said that the man from Dublin or the team from Dublin who come down to visit an area will not be as effective as the co-operative movement by men who are known locally and who have constant contact with the farmers and owners of live stock in the local areas.
I will say this from this bench for the Minister's sake that, as far as whole-time officers of the local authorities are concerned, in the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 1941, beginning here and spreading like wildfire through Dublin, his central authority staff would be in a very dangerous position and would not have dealt as efficaciously with the disease in Dublin but for the assistance of the whole-time staff of the Dublin Corporation. Therefore, local authority inspectors and officials, whether they be part-time or whole-time, serve a function and I would feel disappointed if it were to be absorbed into a central authority machine where, possibly, there would not be greater cohesion but they would have their finger in headquarters on what is happening throughout the various areas.
The Veterinary Medical Association's recommendations were that each county should be a unit and should have its  own veterinary staff to enforce and transact all business in connection with diseases of animals and public health work and other relevant enactments of the Oireachtas. That was not adopted. However, I will say in favour of it that animals can be disposed of very quickly in Dublin where the local authority can function with its own little laboratory and diseased animals are removed from premises not alone within 24 hours but within 12 hours.
With regard to the work throughout the country under the Bovine Tuberculosis Order, as I see it, the scheme will continue to operate and the scheme will mean that samples of milk will have to be sent from West Cork or from Galway to a central laboratory, let it be in the vicinity of Dublin or in Abbottstown, and with the delay there, it will certainly be at least a week before you will have the results. Similarly with samples of sputum.
The Bovine Tuberculosis Order deals with T.B. of the udder in the heading, that is, examining the milk, and the next heading is a chronic cough. In the case of a chronic cough in a cow, the sputum would be examined for bacilli. That sputum could be examined within half an hour and, if found to be positive, the animal could be slaughtered within six hours. If we send these samples away for examination, and have to await their return, it means an immense delay. So far, my remarks have dealt with the Tuberculosis Order, as such. I hope that the Tuberculosis Order in future will just be by-passed. It must be by-passed if we are to make an effective step towards the eradication of disease. That means that the animals will have to be tuberculin-tested and every animal which reacts must be removed.
Some people may think that this will cost a lot of money, but I do not think it will. The price of an animal, post-mortem, at present is practically as good as the price of milch cows that were bought some years previously. It will be seen, therefore, that the salvage after slaughter in most of these cases will recoup to a wonderful extent the amount that has to be paid in compensation in respect of animals that must be removed as  reacting. Many of these animals which react will have more or less local lesions and that would not entail the condemnation of the total carcase. Only in very bad cases would the entire carcase have to be condemned. I believe, therefore, that there will be a considerable salvage and that, to a large extent, that salvage will compensate for a number of animals that would have to be removed.
I hope that the scheme will be implemented without further delay. I had an idea that the utilisation of portion of this grant from the Grant Counterpart Fund was suggested for years. Unfortunately, we had not got the American Government to give us the final “go”. If we had, we could say to the Minister: “Go now, or we will be shouting at you.” Unfortunately, he has that excuse still, but I hope he will not have it for very long.
The single dipping scheme in the treatment of sheep scab has had tremendously satisfactory results, and a case of sheep scab now is a rarity. If we had the complete co-operation of the farming community and the sheep owners, sheep scab could be wiped out in a year or two. The incidence of it has been reduced enormously in the past ten or 15 years.
Ireland has been remarkably free from the virulent contagious diseases that have afflicted the Continent and that have been afflicting even our neighbours, the British. They have been subject to attacks of foot-and-mouth disease, and even now there are such outbreaks from day to day in different parts of Britain. We have been lucky, by God's goodness as well as by the assistance of the veterinary section of the Department, to have escaped those outbreaks. When the fowl pest came to the country some years ago—it is prevalent still in England—we succeeded in eradicating it without too much difficulty. Therefore, as a country Ireland is in a remarkable position in regard to freedom from disease.
Bovine T.B. is the main problem now. The British have been going ahead for several years and have reached the stage where 50 per cent. of the cattle are guaranteed free from  T.B. Those steps mean that a screw can be put on us to ensure that all our cattle going through are free from T.B. The Danes are free from it, and even during the German occupation, they succeeded in going ahead with the eradication of T.B. Therefore, there is no excuse for us to say we could not do it. We must go ahead and we must make progress from month to month and from year to year in eradicating this scourge from our cattle.
In regard to the discussion we had in the Seanad, when the Minister himself was not able to come here, on a, motion at the end of February or the beginning of March, the Seanad unanimously adopted the request to the Minister to take effective action to prevent the warble fly infection. This is the period again when the Minister and his staff should do everything possible to ensure that the ravages of the warble fly are minimised. I am not going over ground covered then, as I am sure the Minister is conversant with the position. We have to depend as much as possible on the publicity to farmers' clubs, Macra na Feirme and Muintir na Tire, to obsess them with the idea that it is in the national interest to prevent the ravages of this fly.
It does not require any inspections, any supervision by veterinary staff or other staff. It simply requires the farmers' own co-operation. If they cooperate, we will be rid of this affliction. Unfortunately, if you have three farmers agreeing to dress their cattle every month while these warbles are coming in, and you have the fourth or fifth man who will not do it, the warble fly does not mind over whose fence he flies or whose gate he goes through, and without this communal co-operative attack, while you may not Fáil, the efforts are not as effective.
Mr. S. O'Donovan: I will leave that point. It was dealt with in publicity  quite recently. Finally, while Clare, which is to be the focal point, may be a hard county to work from, the incidence of T.B. is not too high there, compared with some of the dairying counties and it should be easier to deal with. There are other counties where the traffic is outward and if we had good dairy stock of different breeds in those areas we could be assured of buying tubercular free cattle for our herds, as well as having tubercular free cattle for export to foreign markets.
Mr. O'Dwyer: I would like to support the Bill, which is trying to rid the cattle of the disease of T.B., especially in view of the situation in England, where the market will probably be lost if we do not succeed in doing it. I suggest that a first step would be to pasteurise the separated milk. We discussed this in 1938 at the Agricultural Commission. We found that there was a number of cows suffering from tubercular udder and this tainted the milk. In the farmyard or in the course of transition, these bacilli multiplied at an enormous rate. The separated milk comes back to the farmer, the calves drink it and get the disease also. I have heard accounts of experiments where calves which were not fed on contaminated milk were free from disease, while the others were not. That has been the means of spreading the disease, especially in the dairying counties. The first step towards dealing with that would be to pasteurise the separated milk. It was done in Northern Ireland years ago and I think it should have been successful.
In regard to Senator O'Donovan's point, that you have to get local help, I suggest that co-operative societies and public bodies should deal with this matter. If the aid of the co-operative societies could be enlisted, they could enlist the support of the farmers and the whole thing could be done not only cheaply but effectively.
One aspect of this matter which has not been mentioned is the question of T.B. in fowl. The evidence we got at the Agricultural Commission was that  fowl were responsible for half the T.B. in pigs and it is a matter which requires looking into. Much of it arises from want of proper houses on the farms and the fact that fowl and pigs are allowed to mix together.
Another matter is the reaction test. I have heard that in several cases cattle which reacted to the test, on further examination, failed to react, and I suggest that, in cases in which cattle do react, there should be a second examination before they are condemned. Otherwise, a great number of cattle may we lost, with consequent cost to the State, perhaps without any necessity for it.
Mr. O'Grady: I congratulate Senator O'Donovan on his very lucid speech on this very important matter, a matter which concerns everybody in the country, regardless of whether they live in town or country. It has frequently been stated that the welfare of our entire nation depends on the prosperity of the rural community and the steps the Minister proposes to take now will help materially to add to that prosperity. As Senator O'Donovan has pointed out, people need not be scared of the cost because the salvage of animals that would have to be destroyed will, in a great many cases at all events, go a long way towards paying the major cost of the compensation to which the farmer whose animal has been slaughtered will be entitled. Years ago, I had an opportunity of acquiring a good deal of information on this subject in relation to our cattle population, and I felt, and have often felt since, that the sooner a scheme of this nature was introduced, the better for everybody in the country and particularly the youngest members of the population who depend so much on milk.
Senator O'Dwyer referred to another important point with regard to the spread of T.B. — the dissemination of the germs through the creameries. That also, I understand, is being taken in hands by the Minister under another measure and I understand also that many, if not all, of the creameries are installing pasteurisation plant which will go a long way towards  eliminating tuberculosis among the pig population, as well as among the human population, because the feeding of non-pasteurised milk containing germs of T.B. to pigs is bound to spread the disease.
I should like to assure Senator O'Donovan that he need have no worries about the working of this scheme in Clare. I know Clare fairly well and the people there are anxiously looking forward to the implementation of the scheme. The sooner the Minister is in a position to go ahead with it, the better pleased the people down there will be. I feel, however, that Senator O'Donovan may be just a little jealous that the scheme was not started in Cork.
Mr. Tunney: I am slightly disappointed that the Bill does not go far enough in certain directions. Take the case of a poor person on a mountainside, with one or two cows. If one of those cows does show itself to be a “piner” to a certain extent, and if he reports that cow and it is slaughtered, he does not get sufficient compensation to replace it. Therefore, because of poverty, that cow is kept on. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he proposed to bring in a comprehensive Bill in the near future and I hope that Bill will provide terms whereby such a poor person will get the full value of the slaughtered cow; that, in other words, he will get sufficient money to replace the slaughtered animal. I have no hesitation in stating that, if that were the position to-day, there would be requests for examination of thousands of cows down the country; but, as things are, these poor people know that they will only get a certain percentage of an animal's value. As I say, I am very glad the Minister proposes to bring forward a comprehensive Bill and I give my wholehearted support to this Bill.
Mr. Walsh: There seems to be some misconception about this Bill because some of the speakers have spoken of it as if it were a comprehensive Bill for the eradication of T.B. It is  nothing of the sort. The Bill is designed for the purpose of enabling county councils to get an increased levy in order to build up the fund which is there for the purpose of paying the salaries of the part-time, and in some cases, the whole-time, veterinary inspectors in their employment, for paying a fair measure of compensation under the 1926 Bovine Tuberculosis Act and for making provision for inspection and the carrying out of the duties appertaining to sheep dipping.
This scheme was introduced back in 1894 and at that time the limit under which a county council could raise money was 8d. At no time was a council permitted to levy more than ½d., and, as the years went by, the original sum was exhausted and it was necessary from time to time to increase the levy. As a matter of fact, in 1949, it was increased by 2d., and it is now necessary to increase it further. There are some counties where 1d. in the £ brings in a very small sum, and it is most unfortunate that it is in these counties that there is the highest percentage of losses due to T.B. and possibly sheep scab, and it may be necessary to have more veterinary inspectors or to give them increased duties. It is scarcely necessary for me to mention these counties which bring in very small sums on the basis of 1d. in the £, but Leitrim and Longford are two I have in mind.
There is also Kerry, where compensation is pretty high, but I can say that for the country a levy of ½d. in the £ brings about £27,000. At no time will councils be asked to provide more than ½d. in the £. That sum should be sufficient to enable the scheme to be carried on. I said that compensation was paid for 1,000 cattle last year. That was the number of cattle reported. If we were to accept the suggestion made by Senator Tunney that people should be compensated in full, then it would not be ½d. in the £ we would be asking county councils to subscribe but possibly about 1/- in the £.
Mr. Walsh: I agree it would be money well spent, but, as I pointed out, I am coming forward with a comprehensive scheme to deal with the eradication of T.B. The Bill now before the House is to enable county councils to make their contribution to the fund to carry out the present scheme under the 1926 Act so long as it may be necessary to carry it out, to pay part-time inspectors and also to deal with sheep-dipping regulations.
Senator O'Donovan mentioned veterinary services. At the moment we are engaged in reorganising the veterinary services in the country. There are difficulties to be overcome. For instance, in some of the cities you have whole-time veterinary surgeons. Throughout the country we have about 131 part-time veterinary surgeons. It is my intention to have as far as possible permanent veterinary surgeons in many of the counties. Even up to the present, where we are able to go ahead with the scheme, that is, where we had not the difficulty of having a permanent man employed in any particular county without encroaching on his territory, we have succeeded in filling three posts in Clare, one in Tipperary, three in Galway, one in Cork, two in Offaly and two in Waterford. Proposals have been drawn up in respect of three in Monaghan, three in Louth and one in Meath. The position in regard to other areas, where there are opportunities for reorganisation, is being examined. We have made an additional permanent appointment in Galway for Connemara district and two in Donegal.
With regard to the comprehensive scheme dealing with T.B., I pointed out in the other House that we are awaiting approval of the American Congress to use part of the moneys from the Grant Counterpart Fund. It is our intention to start with the scheme in Clare. At first, it will be voluntary and, if necessary, compulsory. Then the scheme will be extended to the remainder of the country. We have asked the American authorities to approve of the spending of £1,250,000. We know that is not going to eradicate T.B. in this country but it is a start. As time goes on we will have to ask the taxpayer to contribute  the money that will be necessary to conduct the scheme and eradicate T.B. We are only waiting for the approval of the American Congress. The plans are ready waiting for the word “go”. I hope that word is going to come in a very short time. We will ask the co-operation and help of the farmers of this country to put it into effect in order that we may be able to deal with this dreadful disease in the quickest possible time.
Senator O'Donovan referred to the question of the warble fly. I suppose it would be no harm to say a few words about it. When the motion was before the House I was not available. I am at the moment actively engaged on an intensive campaign throughout the country to encourage and advise farmers to dress their cattle. I am asking the co-operation of Macra na Feirme, Muintir na Tíre and other such bodies to help in the drive we are making. It is very necessary because the loss to the country amounts, I understand, to something like £4,000,000. Again, with the co-operation and help of the farmers, I think that money can be saved for the national benefit.
I have on many occasions mentioned to people connected with the cattle industry, live-stock salesmen, cattle producers and various consultative bodies with whom I have had dealings that at fairs farmers should be advised. I suppose the only way in which they can be advised is by showing them that there is some compensation for carrying out action in connection with the warble fly. The farmer could be compensated who had a clean beast. In other words, he would be compensated for the beast not affected by warbles. Buyers attending fairs can do a lot in that connection. If we had the co-operation of all people engaged in the cattle trade, including the farmers themselves, we would in a very quick time be able to eradicate that trouble also.
When I introduce the comprehensive T.B. scheme for the country, the duties of veterinary surgeons and inspectors throughout the country will decline from the agricultural point of view. Actually, we will only have sheep dipping regulations, visits to fairs, etc. At  the same time, it will be necessary to retain the services of these veterinary surgeons because, as their duties diminish on the agricultural side, they will increase on the health side, so that a local authority will still be compelled to have the veterinary surgeons as they have them at present. Any moneys I ask for now will be devoted solely for the purpose of paying for duties carried out on the disease side on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. In every case we have a veterinary surgeon appointed by the local authority. He has certain duties on the disease side under the Department of Agriculture and also other duties in connection with health. The fund will bear the disease part of his salary.
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