HC Deb 22 April 1964 vol 693 cc1308-11

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the export for slaughter of live horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. At the hour when there is often a general exodus of hon. Members, I ask the House to consider again for a few moments the question of the export of live animals for slaughter abroad. I am asking the House for leave to bring in a Bill that would make it necessary for this business to be done in the form of carcases rather than in the form of animals on the hoof.

I know that the trade in meat sold abroad is valuable, and I do not want to do anything to interfere with it. Questions have been raised about where the subsidy on some of these animals goes, but that is not the point with which I am concerned. I am concerned entirely with the human view of the subject.

Last year, trade in live animals, in cattle alone, amounted to £8 million, and in the first two months of this year about three times the number of animals were exported as compared with the same period of last year. In other words, this is a growing trade. That makes it all the more important that we should take measures now to ensure that any increase is in the form of carcases rather than of have animals. I am not sorry to see some of these animals go abroad, although I would like to see them go dead. Other people can eat all the old cows they like as long as I do not have to do so.

The case for the Bill rests on three grounds. I have worked among livestock for many years, I keep a good many nowadays and I am anxious to have a market for them. At the same time, I hold strongly to the principle that animals should be slaughtered as near home as possible without unnecessary long journeys, irrespective of whether gross cruelties occur on the way. My opinion is that they should be slaughtered with as little journeying about the country or about the world as possible.

This matter is extremely important to the reputation of the trade as a whole. As a livestock farmer, I receive subsidies to help me on my way with the job. The taxpaying public want to know that animals which are reared in increasing numbers through calf subsidies and other subsidisation measures are properly dealt with at slaughtering time.

We should never take advantage of the fact that very often it is more convenient to move meat about the world alive than it is after the animal has been killed. When an animal is killed, something must be done quickly about the meat, but it can be kept dragging along on its feet and in good order for a considerable period. My opinion is that we should never take advantage of that fact.

The second ground on which I ask leave to bring in the Bill is to avoid the possibility of a repetition of an incident such as that which occurred when sheep were exported to Algeria for ritual slaughter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, who has told me that he has very good reasons for not being here this afternoon, answered Questions about this subject on 2nd March. Although he said that there were to be consultations with the Algerian authorities and that the whole subject of the transport of animals, particularly ritual slaughter, was to be discussed in the Council of Europe, his answers were not particularly satisfactory. After all, we are in charge of the animals at the start and it would be much better to say that they should not go abroad alive for slaughter, so finishing with the job at this end.

At Great Yarmouth, the large and export arrangements are extremely good and have been recognised as almost ideal in many ways. But that has not prevented the occurrence of an unfortunate incident. Oil 11th April, a cow due for export got into the river and had to be "swum along"—if that is the right expression—for a great distance to the river mouth, where it was eventually pulled out. I presume that it still went for export after that exercise. I know that such and. incident could occur even with animal, slaughtered near home, but that kind of thing could be avoided if we took measures to stop the trade altogether.

I do not think that there are great difficulties in the way of switching over to the carcase trade. Trade in Scottish beef is largely in beef slaughtered in Scotland and brought to London in suitable I am glad to see that there is now a new service from Northern Ireland to Rotterdam for the export of meat carcases. It is only a matter of organisation to set up the necessary arrangement in this country.

Against the Bill it may be argued that this is a valuable trade and by way of being a casual trade, arising when there is particular demand on the Continent, and that it may be lost if we switch to the export of carcases rather than live animals. The trade's casual nature, however, is itself a condemnation of the trade. It is notable that this is a demand for old cows and other rather low-quality cattle which occurs when our own demand is very high. It does not help us very much when we would like to be able to get rid of animals more easily. If we set up the necessary organisation, it would be better for the trade in the long run if it dealt in carcases.

The purpose of the Bill would be to serve notice on the trade. I would allow a due interval for these arrangements to come into operation and for the trade to switch to the alternative form. It may be better to make the switch by stages rather than in one fell swoop and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to make proposals in that connection.

The Bill would require an exporter to fulfil two conditions. It would require him to say that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, an animal would not be used for slaughter. I know that that is often hard to guarantee. Secondly, the value would have to be above a certain minimum. This is the procedure which is used with horses and it might be used with advantage with livestock. I would give the trade ample time, as I have said, to adapt itself to these conditions.

I have not been prompted by any societies. I am a livestock farmer and I have framed the Bill out of a wish to do the right thing by these animals. I merely want to stop what I believe to be unneccessary wanderings about the world.

Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)

May I ask my hon. Friend—

Mr. Speaker

No, not under this Standing Order.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bullard, Mr. Prior, Mr. Clark Hutchison, Mr. Clive Bossom, Mr. E. Johnson, and Mr. Loveys.