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Signing Into Law of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry Bill

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and the Minister of State with Responsibility for Biodiversity and Land Use, Senator Pippa Hackett, have welcomed the signing into law by the President; of new legislation relating to Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry. The bill had been passed at all stages by the Oireachtas last week.

The main purpose of the Animal Health and Welfare and Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is to prohibit the farming of animals primarily for their fur or skin in Ireland and provide for a compensation scheme for the current farmers affected. It also introduces some unrelated but important amendments to the Forestry Act 2014.

Minister McConalogue commented, “I welcome this legislation. It allows the government decision to prohibit fur farming, as outlined in the Programme for Government, to be implemented – it provides for the statutory prohibition of farming of animals primarily for their fur or skin in Ireland. While fur farming was once societally acceptable, attitudes have changed on the matter. The prohibition of fur farming was one of the commitments in the Programme for Government and I am glad to have been able to bring the legislation through to completion.”

The Minister added, ”I am fully aware that the Bill will impact in a major way on the three farm businesses who are currently operating lawful businesses to the highest of standards. For this reason, I am working with the farmers to ensure that both them and their staff are treated with respect through this process. I will shortly meet with the farmers and their representatives.”

Commenting on the Forestry aspects of the bill, the Minister said, “the government has the stated policy goal of incentivising small-scale tree planting and of re-engaging farmers with afforestation. However, the inclusion of small-scale tree planting measures in support schemes is constrained by the 0.1ha size limit imposed by the forest definition in the Forestry Act 2014. Key to the success of increasing afforestation rates is to build confidence among landowners of the benefits of forestry as a viable option to complement existing enterprises.”

The Minister continued, “introducing an exemption for afforestation in certain circumstances facilitates the exclusion of clearly defined activities from requiring an afforestation licence. This exemption is an enabling proposal that allows woodlands to be created through initiatives, other than an afforestation scheme, thereby contributing to Ireland’s targets in relation to a wide range of environmental priorities particularly climate change, biodiversity and water quality.”

Minister of State for Biodiversity and Land Use, Senator Pippa Hackett said, “I am pleased to see the progressive and historic fur farming ban come to pass. This Bill had the support of Veterinary Ireland, Animal Welfare Groups and the vast majority of the public.”

“The forestry aspect of the bill is also a really welcome development. It may help to expand existing native woodlands, create new areas, play a significant role in contributing to riparian margin planting, and have a positive impact on both our biodiversity and water quality. I look forward to working with the many stakeholders that have engaged with me in recent weeks and months as we now begin work on a scheme design.”

In conclusion, Minister McConalogue noted, “the requirement to comply with environmental law is not undermined by making this change, as all works are controlled by regulation through a departmental scheme. The development of a scheme will be undertaken, taking into account the outcome of a Strategic Environmental and Appropriate Assessments, both of which will now take place. Eligibility criteria will be incorporated into the scheme which will ensure that all tree planting works are undertaken in a legally compliant and sustainable manner.”

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