A LEADING minister in the Irish Government has been attacked by the Association of Hunt Saboteurs over his failure to advance the cause of animal rights during a lengthy career in politics. Minister for Agriculture Joe Walsh’s record was lashed by the group’s founder, Bernadette Wright, who said that Mr Walsh, who recently announced his retirement from the Government, was "no friend of animals".
"The problem is animals don’t have any votes. The power lies with people who are making money out of animals," said Ms Wright.
She claimed Mr Walsh, who has held the agricultural portfolio since 1997, was "pro-blood sports" and in favour of most issues which animal rights and welfare groups opposed.
Although Mr Walsh’s department does not have direct responsibility for the much-maligned Irish Greyhound industry, Ms Wright criticised the Government for its reluctance to tackle the problem of ageing greyhounds.
"Over 30,000 ... are being killed every year because they are no longer capable of racing," she added, pointing out that nothing was done to protect the dogs from abuses when they were no longer fit to race.
The Association of Hunt Saboteurs also criticised Mr Walsh for failing to enforce police legislation relating to animal welfare including such issues as horse licensing and the transport of animals.
Ms Wright called on Mr Walsh’s replacement, who has yet to be announced, to introduce a similar ban on fox hunting as is currently being proposed by the British Government. She also urged the Government parties to support a Green Party bill due to come before the Dáil in the autumn to ban fur farming in Ireland.
Ms Wright said she hoped that Mr Walsh’s successor would take a stronger line in advocating animal rights, although she was "not optimistic."
Reacting to her comments, a spokesperson for Mr Walsh said the Minister had a record of bringing forward initiatives related to animal welfare.
He pointed out that Mr Walsh had established a Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council that had proposed recommendations to improve the general conditions of livestock.
The spokesperson said Mr Walsh had also attempted to reach an agreement between all EU member states during the recent Irish EU presidency on the welfare of animals in transit.
"The Government was disappointed that an initiative to improve the condition of animals being transported was unsuccessful," he added.