HC Deb 22 November 1934 vol 295 cc239-41
18 and 19. Sir BASIL PETO

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) whether he has any information as to the number of grey seals slaughtered on the north coast of Cornwall during the present year by order of the sea fisheries committee of the County Council of Cornwall; whether his consent was given; and whether any financial assistance was provided out of public moneys;

(2) whether, before sanctioning any further destruction of grey seals, he will take steps to see that scientific examination is made of the stomach contents of any animals slaughtered, so as to ascertain whether their food consists particularly of fish useful for human consumption or of food-eating fish?


In consequence of complaints from fishermen as to the damage to their fisheries by seals, the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee decided to undertake a demonstration of humane numbers of whole-time non-industrial adult civil servants receiving, respectively, £2 per week or less; more than £2 and up to £3; more than £3 and up to £4; more than £4 and up to £5; more than £5 and up to £500 per year; more than £500 per year and up to £1,000; more than £1,000 and up to £2,000; and more than 22,000?


As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

methods of destroying seals. On the recommendation of the Ministry, the committee was authorised to expend a sum not exceeding £30 on the demonstration. I am informed that the number of seals destroyed was 71. The cost was borne by the committee, and no financial assistance has been provided from State funds. The information at present available as to the numbers of seals off the Cornish coast and as to their food is imperfect, and in the event of the committee requesting approval of further expenditure, my hon. Friend's suggestion will be carefully considered.


How does my right hon. Friend reconcile with his conscience, in the absence of any reliable evidence for the prosecution, the condemning to death of 120 of these interesting and probably perfectly harmless animals?


After all, the fishermen are in close contact with them and continually have these animals under observation, and I do not think I can entirely disregard complaints by the fishermen that their means of livelihood are being destroyed.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

Has my right hon. Friend any reason to doubt that this slaughtering has been done in the most humane manner and at any other time than that provided by law?


It has been done strictly in accordance with the most humane way and within the time permitted by law.


Is this experiment only being made in respect of the County of Cornwall, or are there any similar experiments for any other fishery district?


This is a request by the County of Cornwall for certain things to be done with its own money and on its own coasts, and, of course, it does not apply to any other part of the country.