19 April 2002

Irish cattle boycott on

IRISH cattle dealers are to press ahead with their boycott of live auction marts next week, in protest at a continuing 30-day movement ban.

Introduced over a year ago to counter the threat of foot-and-mouth, the rule prevents anyone buying an animal at a mart from re-presenting it for sale within 30 days. That, say the dealers, is destroying their businesses.

The planned boycott was suspended two weeks ago, when other farm and trade organisations persuaded the dealers to try and thrash out a compromise to put to government.

But those talks collapsed this week, with the groups unable to agree on whether livestock should be allowed one or two appearances at marts within the 30 days.

Tensions were also heightened by a strongly worded statement from agriculture minister, Joe Walsh, who accused the dealers of having forgotten the difficulties caused by foot-and-mouth.

"There is clear evidence that the principle trigger for spread of disease is animal movement, particularly repetitive movement such as through dealers premises or movements involving multiple contacts." In such circumstances, allowing animals to move freely would wipe out all the current disease control benefits.

Faced with this intransigence, dealers leader Stephen Foley told FW on Wednesday (Apr 17) his 2000 members had no option but to withdraw their services from marts next week. &#42

"We have our hands tied," he said. "I dont know what the impact will be on throughout or prices. All were doing is highlighting our problems."

The decision to mount a boycott has been condemned by other trade organisations who believe it will achieve nothing other than disruption and a loss of sales for market operators.