M-Compass Media has been contacted by a spokesperson and a Petitioner for pedigree cattle breeders who claim they are being “blaggarded” by both the Department and the pedigree cattle breeding societies that’s forcing them to cull 4-5 star pedigree breeding cattle by sending them for slaughter as regular commercial cattle instead of being able to trade them as pedigree cattle at full market value.
The leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie McGrath raised this issue with Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue during the Dáil debate on culling the national herd held on Wednesday 28 June.
It would appear that anyone who tries to challenge some of the breed societies over their failure to follow proper governance and EU regulations end up in serious bother.
This problem has been ongoing for decades – the late Owen O’Neill successfully sued the Minister for Agriculture, the Attorney General and Ireland in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court that resulted in important case law in 1998 around the use of beef genetics.
In a separate case, he successfully sued the Irish Hereford Breed Society around governance issues and his 1990 case established case law around natural justice.
The society held a “Kangaroo court”, acting as judge, jury and executioner which was deemed “null and void” by the High Court.
The light touch approach to the EU regulation for pedigree cattle persists in spite of the findings in these court cases.
Joe Casserly a pedigree Charolais breeder in Longford told M-Compass Media that he is currently challenging the Charolais Society through the courts over what he believes is poor governance and questionable practices in the society. He says his case is very similar to the ones taken by the late Owen O’Neill more than three decades ago.
He claims that the society refused to issue certificates for his pedigree cattle after he raised a number of governance issues at an AGM which resulted in him being forced to send his pedigree cattle to the factory for slaughter rather than sell on as pedigree cattle at a premium price.
Needless to say, Joe has paid a very high price over his attempts to improve the society’s governance and auditing practices. He claims that he was subjected to vile attacks on social media over this issue.
Anne Pounds a pedigree Hereford breeder in Cork says she has been subjected to a similar fate as Joe Casserly.
The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) certify pedigree cattle using DNA testing which is partially EU funded and the breed society is then responsible for issuing the pedigree certificate. Within the EU this two-step process is unique to Ireland and is causing huge difficulties for many breeders like Anne Pounds.
She says the Irish Hereford Breed Society refused to issue certificates for her ICBF certified pedigree animals after she raised the issue of poor governance and auditing practices in the society.
She claims that the society spent approximately €145,000 of breeders’ money on lawyers to prevent her from obtaining certificates for her pedigree breeding cattle.
Like Joe she is presently being forced to send 4 and 5-star breeding heifers to be culled in a local factory and take a huge financial hit.
Anne Pounds claims that pedigree breeders like herself, are poorly served by certain individuals in the upper echelons of some breeding societies who have multiple conflicts of interest and the response when challenged about governance and auditing is to withdraw and withhold certificates for ICBF-certified breeding animals.
“Is this any surprise, because some people in these societies are very closely connected to a female Cabinet Minister who sits beside the Minister, Deputy McConalogue, every day at Cabinet?” Deputy McGrath told the Minister and added, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it and try to defend what is going on.”
Aidan Holahan from Leitrim is also a pedigree Hereford breeder who has had a similar experience to Anne Pounds after he too, questioned governance and adherence to EU regulations by the society.
He has been trying to get certificates for his pedigree breeding animals for 4 years.
His herd went down with TB and had to be culled, he is entitled to compensation from the Department of Agriculture based on the value of his animals.
Because the Irish Hereford Breed Society is refusing to issue certificates for his ICBF-certified pedigree cattle, the Department of Agriculture is insisting on valuing them as regular commercial cattle rather than pedigrees.
This is where it gets interesting and the conflicts of interest start to show.
Individuals in the Department of Agriculture who are responsible for the oversight of the breed societies also sit on the Department of Agriculture TB Arbitration board which is responsible for paying compensation. The Department stands to make huge savings when the breed societies withhold certificates.
The same cohort of Department of Agriculture officials also sit on the board of ICBF.
What we have here is a classic case of triangulation where a select few state officials have a say in the certification of cattle, the issuance of certificates, the administration of the TB compensation scheme and the rollout of EU subsidies.
Ireland’s reputation of having a high herd health status is threatened by the failure to have proper governance with the TB Eradication scheme.
“The Department is not fit for purpose,” Deputy McGrath told the Dáil. “We have word now from Europe that it will not provide further funding for TB eradication. That is going on for decades and billions have been spent on it, but a bloody racket is all it is, money for the boys. It has not even been sorted, as TB was never as bad,” he said.
The EU is withdrawing their funding of the TB eradication scheme at the end of this year due to poor governance and the tax payers are going to have to meet the shortfall from 2024 onwards estimated to reach €1bn by 2030.
Farmers who have invested huge sums of money and significant time to build up a pedigree herd of breeding cattle which contributes hugely to Ireland’s reputation as a producer of prime beef are the ones that incur huge losses also.
Elizabeth Kingston the spokesperson and petitioner, a sustainable Hereford breeder who outwinters all her cattle in Waterford has a high health status herd, and has all her breeding animals validated by DNA, tells me that Department of Agriculture officials are on the boards of some of the pedigree breeds societies.
When she raised serious governance issues and failure to follow EU regulations with the Hereford Breed Society competitors on the board of management and Department
Officials she claims that she felt very bullied and intimidated by certain individuals.
She explained to M-Compass media that the failure to enforce a number of EU regulations on the certification of breeding animals exposes taxpayers to the possibility of having to pay huge fines down the line.
Department of Agriculture officials sitting on the boards of these societies are, according to Elizabeth Kingston well aware of Ireland’s failure to follow these EU regulations because she has made it her business to inform them.
Their response has been to send her what she describes as threatening letters.
Elizabeth made an official complaint to the Ombudsman over the Department’s failure to apply EU Regulations relating to the certification of pedigree cattle.
The Ombudsman did not uphold her complaint claiming she is no longer a breeder of pedigree cattle which is extremely bizarre.
On the issue of the failures of the Minister for Agriculture and his Department, Deputy McGrath said: “You can run, Minister, but you cannot hide. Your hiding days are over because you have abandoned the people of rural Ireland. There is the subterfuge and deceit the Minister and the Government goes on with, the blackguarding it does of farmers and the ineptitude of the Department.”
He continued: “You are in bed with Mr. Goodman and the big beef barons. You are in bed with the big supermarkets and everything else.”
Ireland’s reputation as a producer of the finest beef in the world is threatened by the failure to have proper oversight of some of these breed societies.
“All we want is the truth,” Deputy McGrath said and pointed out “RTÉ was praising itself for the truth in the news, but my goodness look at it now, nakedly exposed. The Government will be nakedly exposed. The game is up for the cabals. It is about the good people of Ireland. We are talking about the farmer, who I am proud to represent.”
Surely we must ask the reasons why Ireland hasn’t got the same reputation for breeding world-class cattle as we do for equines?
Surely the failure of successive ministers for Agriculture to heed the judgments in the two cases taken by the late Owen O’Neill and the failure of the Minister and his Department of Agriculture to ensure that the pedigree breed societies are following EU regulations answers that question.
A European Parliament Petition has been raised on alleged breaches in Ireland of Regulation (EU) 2016/1012 on zootechnical and genealogical conditions for the breeding of farm animals
Any support and sharing of the EU petition would be greatly appreciated
Owen O’Neill and Bova Genetics Limited vs Irish Hereford Breed Society Limited [1989 8687p]
Owen O’Neill and The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Ireland and the Attorney General
[1994 No 61 J.R], [S.C. No. 269 of 1995]