Committee Reports::Report No. 11 - Ireland's Foot and Mouth Derogations::06 December, 1984::Report



1. The Joint Committee has examined Ireland’s trade derogations in relation to foot and mouth disease and their imminent termination under Commission proposals to harmonise Community control measures. The following documents were examined:—

(1)Council Directive of 26 June 1964 on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine (64/432/EEC),

(2)Council Directive of 12 December 1972 on health problems affecting intra-Community trade in fresh meat (72/461/EEC),

(3)Council Directive of 12 December 1972 on health and veterinary inspection problems upon importation of bovine animals and swine and fresh meat from third countries (72/462/EEC),

(4)Council Directive of 7 February 1983 amending Directive 72/462/EEC on health and veterinary inspection problems upon importation of bovine animals and swine and fresh meat from third countries and Directive 77/96/EEC on the examination for trichinae (trichinella spiralis) upon importation from third countries of fresh meat derived from domestic swine (83/91/EEC),

(5)Proposal for a Council Directive introducing Community Measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease (COM 82/505 final),

(6)Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 64/432/EEC as regards certain measures relating to foot-and-mouth disease and swine vesicular disease (6627/1/84),

(7)Communication from the Commission to the Council on derogatory measures currently applicable to Ireland and United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland in the matter of intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine and fresh meat (CÓM (84) 217 final.)


2. The documents have been examined for the Joint Committee by its Sub-Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Matters under the Chairmanship of Deputy Joe Walsh. The Joint Committee is indebted to Deputy Walsh and his Sub-Committee for their work.

The Sub-Committee had discussions on the subject with representatives from the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society and with Mr. Vincent Keane and Mr. Albert Costello from the Department of Agriculture. It also took into consideration the views of the Irish Livestock and Meat Board and the Irish Farmers’ Association.


Foot and Mouth Disease

3. Foot and Mouth disease is a virulent, infectious epizootic disease which is extremely difficult to prevent spreading. It affects all cloven-hoofed animals, both domestic and wild. In its acute form it tends to be fatal mainly to young animals. In all cases it has a very serious effect on the productivity of livestock farms, and the economic future of animals which recover is jeopardised. All in all, foot and mouth disease is one of the greatest threats to livestock farming. The disease is particularly prevalent in Continental Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa and South America. In the case of the UK, Australia, New Zealand and North America, despite some outbreaks from time to time, the disease has never taken a firm foothold.

4. Ireland has been free for many years from the major epizootic diseases of livestock. Foot and Mouth disease has not occurred in the State since 1941. The North of Ireland has a similar disease free status. The standard slaughtering policy was strictly enforced, to good effect, where outbreaks took place in the past. Vaccination was absolutely forbidden.

5. The general freedom of Ireland from animal epizootic diseases puts it in a very favourable position in regard to exports of livestock and livestock products. This freedom is due not only to our geographical position as an island country but also due to the strict controls on imports of animals and animal products which are the common agents of disease introduction. These stringent controls have been in operation for many years and are implemented in close liaison with the authorities in Northern Ireland where a comparable disease situation exists and where the full benefits of Ireland’s disease free status are also enjoyed.

The disease free status of the Irish cattle industry is very important and enables Ireland to export cattle and beef to virtually every country in the world.

Recent Outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease in other Countries

6. Both Denmark and the UK are relatively free of Foot and Mouth Disease and apply the same control and eradication procedures as in the case of Ireland (i.e. slaughter and no vaccination). Both countries enjoyed the same derogation status on live animals and fresh meat imports as in the case of Ireland up to the end of 1977. Since 1 January 1978, both Denmark and Britain no longer have derogations in respect of fresh meat imports. However, both countries experienced outbreaks in recent years; Denmark in 1982 and Britain which had two cases in 1981.

7. The causes of these outbreaks have been put down to atmospheric or airborne spread. The Foot and Mouth Disease situation in other Member States and countries near the Community has been less satisfactory and the Appendix gives details of outbreaks of the disease in these countries in the period 1971 to 1981. It is worth noting that the two countries shortly to accede to the European Communities, Spain and Portugal do not have a good track record in relation to foot and mouth disease. There have also been many recent outbreaks in the eight countries which surround the Community. Turkey is particularly bad and has had anything from 267 to 1,361 outbreaks a year since 1971.

Control Measures

8. Most of the countries with repeated outbreaks practice vaccination on a regular basis as a preventative measure. Ireland, the U.K. and Denmark are three countries which ban vaccination entirely while Greece only uses it to protect cloven footed animals in a specified radius around a farm where an outbreak has occurred. Some of the neighbouring countries practice vaccination. There are different regulations in different Member States, both for prevention and control. In Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, all cattle over four months of age are vaccinated annually. If disease breaks out on a farm only non-vaccinated stock is slaughtered, while the vaccinated stock is retained and there is a re-vaccination of all susceptible species within a given radius of the farm. In France and Luxembourg all cattle over four months are also vaccinated, but if there is an outbreak of disease all the susceptible stock, cattle, sheep and pigs, are slaughtered whether vaccinated or not. Re-vaccination of stock in a ring around the farm may be practised if necessary. Ring vaccination is also practised in Greece when there is an outbreak, but all the susceptible stock on the farm are slaughtered and there are strict control methods applied in the vicinity. Ireland, the UK and Denmark all have the same approach of no vaccination, either annual or in the case of an outbreak, and all susceptible animals are immediately slaughtered when an outbreak occurs on a farm. The carcases are destroyed by burning or burying in quicklime and strict animal health measures, including movement controls, are applied within the particular area and there is also general surveillance over a wider area. In fact Ireland applies controls and health regulations whenever there is an outbreak in Britain.


9. At the time of our accession to the EEC, Ireland (and the UK in respect of Northern Ireland) was allowed to retain its national rules on imports of live animals (cattle and pigs) and fresh meat from Community and third country sources as a protection against foot and mouth disease. With considerable difficulty extensions of these derogations were secured three times, viz. in 1976, 1982 and 1983. They were due to expire on 30 June 1984 but were extended for a final six months until 31 December, 1984.

At present our national rules operate as follows:—

(1)Importation of Livestock — effectively prohibited with the exception of pure-bred breeding animals following quarantine

(2)Importation of Fresh Meat — no imports allowed from Member States (except from Northern Ireland which has similar import controls) or third countries.

From the ending of the derogations we will have to adopt the EEC systems for intra-Community trade and trade with third countries in live animals and fresh meat.

Commission Proposals

10. At a meeting of the Council of Agricultural Ministers on 18/19 June, 1984 agreement was reached on the derogations issue. However, the agreement formed part of a package of veterinary proposals and as it was not possible to reach an overall decision in the Council the derogations on foot and mouth disease were extended for a further six months until 31 December 1984. The extension was effected by Council Directive 84/336/EEC of 19 June 1984, amending Directive 64/432/EEC as regards certain measures relating to foot and mouth disease and swine vesicular disease. The whole package of veterinary proposals, including the agreed elements regarding the foot and mouth derogations, will come up for decision by the Council of Ministers on 10/11 December 1984. It is expected that Ireland will be allowed a period of nine months from the ending of the derogation to amend domestic regulations.

11. The following is the substance of the agreement reached in relation to the foot-and-mouth derogations:—

Live Animals

The derogation in respect of trade in live animals contained in Article 4 (a) of Directive 64/432/EEC will be replaced by a permanent regime which will provide guarantees for Ireland in terms of being able to demand certain vaccination, testing and quarantine conditions in relation to imports of live animals from

(a)a Member State which is free of foot and mouth disease but practices vaccination and

(b)a Member State not free of foot and mouth disease.

The new regime will be subject to a triennial report to and review by the Council.

Fresh Meat

The derogation in respect of trade in fresh meat will end (i.e. Article 13 of Directive 72/461/EEC, will no longer be applicable) but Ireland will be permitted to require maturation and deboning in respect of meat coming from a Member State in which there has been one or more outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. This is a temporary exemption for Ireland to last until 31 March 1987. After that date Ireland in common with the other non-vaccinating countries (UK and Denmark), with regard to the part of the territory of a Member State where an outbreak of foot and mouth disease has occurred, need only accept bone-in-meat from animals:

—from a non-affected herd,

—from a holding more than 10 kms from an affected holding,

—subjected to ante and post-mortem testing, and

—slaughtered more than 10 kms from an affected holding.

EEC/Third Country trade in live animals and fresh meat

12. This trade is regulated, in accordance with Directive 72/462/EEC, by way of Commission Decisions adopted at Standing Veterinary Committee meetings. Heretofore, animal health decisions adopted by the Standing Veterinary Committee for the import of fresh meat from third countries have provided for derogations for Ireland (and N. Ireland) in the case of countries that vaccinate against foot and mouth disease. The continuation of that arrangement has been assured.

13. In conceding our national protection measures in favour of the Community régime the question arises as to whether the safeguards built-in to the Community proposals are adequate to protect Ireland’s disease free status. In a submission to the Joint Committee the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society stated

“The following are compelling arguments for the continuation of the trade derogation in the absence of adequate protection for Ireland’s unique Foot and Mouth free status:—

(a)The efforts to eradicate Foot and Mouth in the six original countries of the EEC have so far proved unsuccessful.

(b)The continued threat from Eastern Europe (e.g. East Germany and Turkey).

(c)The unsatisfactory Foot and Mouth situation in Spain and Portugal, the incoming members of the EEC.

(d)The recent outbreaks in Denmark and the UK where the stricter trade derogations were dropped in 1977/78.

(e)The threat to Ireland’s exports of livestock, meat and dairy products to third country markets in the event of a Foot and Mouth breakdown in Ireland. Assurances from third countries in this regard may not materialise in practice.

(f)The fact that recent outbreaks in Bavaria, Denmark and the U.K. have not been attributed to trade in meat and livestock is not conclusive proof that trade was not a factor.

(g)The risk of other highly contagious diseases coming to Ireland (e.g. blue tongue, swine fever, exotic foot and mouth, leptospirosis, etc.).

(h)The very considerable value to the EEC of Irish exports of livestock, meat and dairy products to third countries has been acknowledged by the Community.”

14. The Irish Livestock and Meat Board (CBF) in a submission to the Joint Committee makes the point that if the ending of our long-standing derogation seems eventual, the best approach for Ireland is to influence the terms of the arrangements and minimise the risk to our industry. They have suggested the following measures:—

1.Rigorous inspection of all imported product to certify that it is of the highest standards, to ensure that there is no possibility of Ireland’s disease-free status being put at risk.

2.Insistence on a period of grace of at least 12 months to be granted so that Ireland would have sufficient time to implement the necessary import procedures.

3.The quarantine arrangements for live animals should

(i)be made known in advance so that industry would have sufficient time to evaluate them and suggest alterations if necessary, and

(ii)apply to all countries.

4.Particular attention should be given to measures aimed at preventing the smuggling of New Zealand lamb or British lamb.

15. The Irish Farmers Association have also expressed to the Joint Committee their opposition to the ending of the derogation.


16. The foot and mouth derogations enjoyed by Ireland, under EEC Directives 64/432 and 72/461 in the case of live animals and meat have contributed to Ireland’s disease free status. The benefit to Ireland has been acknowledged in a Foot and Mouth Report by the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture, of June 28th 1983 as follows:—

“This standard of health protection has had a positive impact on the three countries1 in many respects. First, the cost of control measures is very low, costs are practically only incurred in the case of an outbreak, by the need for compensation for slaughtered animals. Second, the high degree of health protection is a distinct asset in the export of animals and meat to third countries. This is particularly true of Ireland, the largest beef exporter in the Community.”

17. In the view of the Joint Committee, Ireland’s achievement in retaining this unique status since 1941 is an aspect of animal health in this country of which we can be justly proud. The Joint Committee commends the vigilance of Department of Agriculture and customs officials and acknowledges their contribution to our success in this regard.

18. The Joint Committee therefore views with grave concern the imminent ending of the derogation which Ireland has enjoyed since our accession to the EEC. The Joint Committee accepts that a zero risk situation is impossible to achieve but the ending of the derogation can only increase the risk factor. The contagious nature of the disease cannot be over-emphasised. When an outbreak occurs the risk of infection applies not only to the immediate neighbourhood of an affected herd but — depending on atmospheric and climatic conditions — may also affect more distant areas and livestock, thus rendering conventional protection measures inadequate. This is the only explanation for the most recent outbreak of the disease on two Danish islands. Recent findings suggest that the causative agents derived from laboratories of an Eastern European country and reached the Danish islands via the atmosphere.

The Joint Committee was also greatly concerned to learn from the ICOS representatives that there is a possibility that the disease may be transmitted via germs in the air-brakes of vehicles passing through infected areas.

19. It has been argued that the UK and Denmark have successfully operated the system Ireland will take on after the derogation has ended, for a number of years, and that the outbreaks which occurred in those countries in 1981 and 1982 were not due to any inadequacy in the Community rules themselves, but were caused by the atmospheric spread of the disease against which it is impossible to guard.

20. The crucial argument is whether the safeguards built in to the Community proposals are adequate to maintain our disease free status. It cannot be said however that the Community measures are on a par with the national system we have operated for many years. For this reason the Joint Committee strongly favours the view that the derogations should continue until other Member States attain Irish animal health status in respect of foot and mouth disease.

21. The Report of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture already referred to acknowledged that the harmonisation of disease control must take place at the highest attainable level. The Joint Committee agrees with this view. Irish standards are the highest attainable. They should be emulated not lowered.

22. The question of the effect the alteration on our protection measures would have on our trade with third countries was investigated by the Commission and letters were sent to Ireland’s principal trading partners explaining Community rules and requesting an indication of their intended action should these rules be adopted by Ireland. From the replies it received the Commission concluded that Community rules should apply to Ireland as soon as possible.

23. The Joint Committee is well aware of the importance of our exports not only to Ireland but to the Community as a whole since they avoid intervention costs and maintain important sales markets in third countries. In this regard the Joint Committee is concerned that replies to the Commission’s enquiries are still awaited from three third countries.

Canada has given a verbal agreement that it would accept the principle of non-comminglement for meat production but formal confirmation is still awaited.

Mexico has indicated that sanitary restrictions will be applied to avoid imports of infected products. Clarification of the nature of these restrictions is awaited.

Panama’s initial answer was not appropriate to the question posed. A further answer is awaited.

24. The Joint Committee is hardly reassured by such responses. The importance of markets such as Mexico is demonstrated by the recent substantial export contract concluded with Mexico, despite opposition from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and the UK The contract for the supply of skimmed milk powder and butterfat is valued at IR£30m.

1 Ireland. UK and Denmark.