HC Deb 16 May 1960 vol 623 cc914-5
37. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what examination he has made of the practice of rearing calves by the broiler system; and whether he will make a statement.

41. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his attention has been called to the commencement in this country of the practice of rearing calves intensively in order to produce veal of a white colour, for which purpose the calves are kept in cramped boxes in darkness and fed on demineralised and devitalised food to cause anaemia; and whether he will take steps, either by advisory methods or modifying the subsidy arrangements, to prevent this kind of calf husbandry being developed in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

I am aware of the practice to which the hon. Members refer. This system of calf production is new to this country and some preliminary investigations into the husbandry aspects of it are being made at a research station and at one of my Ministry's experimental centres. Until more information is available I can add nothing further.

Mrs. Butler

I thank the Minister for that reply, but is he aware that public opinion has been revolted to learn that some farmers are deliberately making calves anaemic and keeping them in cramped dark boxes in conditions as humid as in a Turkish bath? Does he realise that people look to him to prevent this practice spreading? When he has completed his inquiries, will he be prepared to introduce regulations or take action in some other way to stop the practice from spreading, if it is as bad as veterinary surgeons have reported it to be?

Mr. Hare

I am glad that the hon. Lady added the qualification at the end of her supplementary question. As I told the House, we are making investigations. As regards cruelty, I hope she realises that the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, which is administered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, makes it an offence to cause or to commit unnecessary suffering to animals, and the question of cruelty can be determined only by a court of law.

Mr. Willey

I understand what the Minister has said about cruelty to animals, but, none the less, will he ensure that there is consultation between his Department and officials of the R.S.P.CA. about this?

Mr. Hare

I see no reason why I should not do that.