HC Deb 14 February 1957 vol 564 cc1435-7
40 Mr. Chapman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) whether the Dartmoor, and similar ponies, now being exported to Canada from Glasgow and other ports, are examined individually by his veterinary officers and rested beforehand; and if he will give an assurance that none will be exported in an unfit condition;

(2) whether he will prohibit the export to Canada of any pony likely to foal while on board ship;

(3) whether, in order to avoid the necessity of using his statutory powers, he will institute discussions with the commercial interests concerned to get voluntary agreements to prevent the export of ponies via the long Atlantic crossing during the worst winter months, to secure separate penning in the ships, and to arrange, if possible, shipment from other ports than Glasgow in order to save the long overland journey beforehand.

60. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied as to the conditions under which Dartmoor and other ponies are exported to Canada; and if he will take all steps necessary to ensure that none of these ponies are exported unless in a fit condition to undertake the journey across the Atlantic.

Mr. Amory

Discussions have been held with the shipping companies, and with their co-operation this traffic is being closely supervised. The ponies are inspected by veterinary officers who satisfy themselves that each pony is fit to travel before it is shipped. Any pony likely to foal on board ship would not be allowed to travel. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are satisfied that the steps we have taken should prevent any unnecessary suffering by ponies being exported even in winter.

Mr. Chapman

Could not the right hon. Gentleman try to make a little more progress? Is he not aware that one of the worst troubles is the long Atlantic crossing in winter? Could he not get the commercial interests voluntarily to stop exporting in the worst months? Secondly, could he not do something about the question of separate penning? Is he aware that what happens is that the unbroken ponies do great damage to each other in their terror during a stormy Atlantic crossing, and that it would be a help if he could get the commercial interests to obey at least those two requests?

Mr. Amory

I will pay the greatest attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said, because I know how interested he is in this important matter of humanity to animals. On the two points he has specifically asked me about, I am doubtful if much trouble arises through winter crossings, as such, but we are in close touch with the shipping companies.

On the second point of separate penning, I am assured that separate penning might even be a drawback. At present the pens are designed to hold about five wild or wildish ponies, and technical advice at present is that these ponies are unaccustomed to being alone—like Members of Parliament, I think—and that if they were put into separate pens they would become even more alarmed than they are at present.

Further, because I treat this matter seriously, I want to say that the main trouble occurred over the first consignment, and that as under the present law there was no need for veterinary inspection of that consignment, it was not made. Since then, the veterinary inspection has been done very carefully and the results, I think, have been reasonably satisfactory.

Sir H. Studholme

My right hon. Friend knows that I have written to him about the export of Dartmoor ponies, about which I am worried. Will he satisfy himself that there is adequate veterinary inspection? I understand that in the past this has not been so and a number of in-foal mares have died en route. These poor little ponies are quite wild, and, therefore, it must be a horrible experience for them.

Mr. Amory

I can give my hon. Friend an assurance that I will keep in very close touch with the veterinary inspection side. He will be glad to know that, apart from the first consignment, only four ponies out of 500 have died, but I agree that even that position is not satisfactory.