Ban on use on organic farms also lifted
The Department of Agriculture has responded to objections about Teagasc’s recommended use of peat for animal bedding by stating that the authorisation has only been made in the ‘exceptional circumstances of the current fodder and bedding shortage’.
Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] had written to the Minister objecting to a recent Teagasc Factsheet entitled ‘Alternatives to straw bedding’ which recommended peat as an alternative to straw for animal bedding. The environmental charity’s submission provided evidence that Bord na Mona and independent operators are aggressively marketing peat for animal bedding this autumn.
‘It is not Teagasc policy to recommend peat as a long term option for bedding, rather as a temporary and very limited alternative this year,’ the Minister’s office informed FIE. ‘The Teagasc Factsheet of 18 July 2019 (Alternatives to straw bedding), which referred to the use of peat for bedding will be updated to reflect this position.’
The Department has also informed FIE that organic farmers, who are normally prohibited from using peat as animal bedding, can also use peat for bedding ‘on a temporary basis for the period of the winter housing 2018/2019’.
While ‘both the Department and Teagasc recognise that peatlands actively sequester carbon from the atmosphere and have high biodiversity value’, the Department told FIE that ‘the provision of adequate bedding for livestock is essential to ensure animal health and welfare’.
The peat is being extracted without planning permission or EPA licensing, according to FIE. The High Court this year confirmed a 2013 An Bord Pleanala ruling that these industrial operations required planning permission, but the 2013 stay on the ruling permitting continued operations without authorisation remains in place until the legal appeals process is concluded.
FIE, who have been monitoring extraction sites on the raised bogs of County Westmeath, found that the practices being used by private companies have seen whole fields ‘literally gouged out, down to the minerals below, making future regeneration almost impossible.
Ironically,’ Director Tony Lowes said, ‘this new market arises from extreme weather events due to global warming which will only be increased by the use of peat for animal bedding. The problem is not too little fodder or bedding, but too many animals.’
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