§ 4. Mrs. Castle
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will consult the National Farmers' Union with a view to taking steps to prevent the infliction of unnecessary suffering to farm animals by the methods used for castration, the dehorning of calves and the docking of sheep.
§ Mr. Soames
I am sure that in general farmers are concerned for the wellbeing of their animals. The Protection of Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, which provides against unnecessary suffering to animals from operations on sensitive tissue or bone structure, was brought in in 1954, with the support of the veterinary profession and of the Animal Welfare Societies, the National Farmers' Unions and the National Cattle Breeders' Association.
Fresh thought is, however, being given to this matter. I am in touch with the veterinary profession, and I am expecting to receive from them suggestions on any improvements that can be made. I will then, of course, consult the National Farmers' Union, the Animal Welfare Societies and the other interests concerned.
§ Mrs. Castle
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman very warmly for that sympathetic reply, may I ask whether he would not agree that we cannot be too vigilant in this matter of preventing 8 unnecessary suffering? When the right hon. Gentleman receives the report on the need to bring the Protection of Animals Act up to date, particularly in the use of anaesthetics on farms, will he contact the Home Secretary with a view to introducing amending legislation?
§ Mr. Soames
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the patience she has shown in keeping this Question on the Order Paper for about two months before I have been able to answer it. I take the point she has made. We have said that we would see whether improvements could be made. It is almost eight years since this Measure was before the House, in 1954, but if we can see the possibility of making any necessary improvement in the legislation we will certainly do our best to have that improvement made.