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Beef 'at risk' as penalties for feeding steroids to cattle may be cut

An Taisce has called for a vote by the European Parliament Agricultural Committee scrapping penalties to be reversed.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

HERITAGE GROUP AN Taisce has called for the reversal of a vote by the Agriculture Committe of the European Parliament last month to scrap penalties for farmers who are feeding illegal steroids to cattle.

The vote, which removes the use of the drugs from the ‘cross compliance’ programme, means that farmers found feeding the illegal growth-promoting steroids will not see cuts in their EU farm payments.

Today An Taisce said that if steroid residues are found in EU beef, “consumers will see no distinction between European and US beef”. “The US has ill-advisedly let steroid residues enter its food chain with significant adverse health consequences,” the group said.

Hormone-tainted beef is associated with reduced sexual capacity in males in the form of lower sperm count as well as the development of male breasts. Among girls, hormone use in cattle is associated with early puberty. The feeding of steroids and other artificial growth-promoters to cattle remains legal in the US, and this is implicated in the decline in the age at which girls enter puberty, which has fallen to an average of 10 years of age today, down from 13 years of age in 1950.

An Taisce said a lax approach at European level would soon cost jobs on Irish farms and processing facilities and have consequences for human health.

The group said that, in light of the recent horsemeat scandal, the last thing Europe needs is to “tear down its fabric of checks and balances to let soft-touch regulation jeopardise the integrity of what we eat and drink”.

Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness has plans to table a amendment this month to restore the position so that a farmer breaking the law by using illegal steroids will have single farm payments suspended. McGuinness had previously voted in favour of the changes to the ‘cross-compliance’ programme.

Read: Farmers to stage protest during visit by EU agriculture commissioner>
Read: Birds Eye says products containing horse DNA came from Ireland>

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