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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘A snail, in the Irish government’s eye, is the equivalent of a cow’

An independent TD has expressed his concerns regarding red tape in snail farming in Ireland.

Michael Healy-Rae, a representative for Kerry, shed light on the matter during a Dáil debate on the agricultural industry last week.

During the exchange, he revealed that Ireland is home to approximately 30 professional snail farmers.

Snail farming in Ireland

The deputy revealed two main challenges facing snail farmers in Ireland, which he then went on to discuss.

“Firstly, a snail, in the Irish government’s eye, is the equivalent of a cow. Secondly, when we want to process snails, we must send them to Greece, bring them back and then send them out again.”

“A snail is classified here as an animal, but, obviously, it does not qualify for any farm payments.”

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He said that France classifies snails as shellfish, therefore allowing for an easy processing system.

“Because a snail is deemed an animal in Ireland, it is necessary to have the same documentation to process each snail as for a cow,” the deputy said.

“We must bear in mind that a tonne of snails contains approximately 115,000 snails.”

“This is an absolutely insane situation. How can two EU member countries have totally different rules for this agricultural sector?” he questioned.

He called on the government to remove the “complications, paperwork and unnecessary bureaucracy” that this creates.

Processing snails

The deputy then proceeded to tell the Dáil about the second issue.

“In snail farming, there is a requirement that all live, farmed Irish snails must be shipped to Greece to be processed and then be shipped back to the Irish snail farms, where they can be jarred and sold as a processed product.”

“This is laughable. The government talks about going green, but it is also telling us to ship the snails out for processing and then to ship them back again.”

He said it is “as bad as the situation with peat and the importation of bales of briquettes”.

The deputy believes the government must recognise snail farming as a viable enterprise. He called for its inclusion in possible grants and funding for farm diversification aid.

He believes the government must bring the classification of snails on par with the rest of Europe to consider them shellfish.

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