§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Minister to move the second Motion on the Order Paper—Agriculture (No. 1)—I think that it will help the House if I inform hon. Members that I have selected the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden).
I have not selected the other two Amendments to that first Motion. This will not inhibit hon. Members from making in the debate points which are expressed in the two Amendments which are not selected.
The House has two alternatives. Either it can debate narrowly each of the four Motions—Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the Order Paper—in which case we shall have a series of narrow and separate debates on welfare provisions for pigs, cattle, turkeys and domestic fowls, or it can have a general debate on the four Motions—
§ Mr. Speaker
It seems to me that it would mean a much better and useful debate if we debated the Motions generally. I hope that that commands the support of both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Then I will call the Minister to move the first Motion. I will then call the hon. Member for Gillingham to move his Amendment, after which a general debate can take place.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
I beg to move:That this House takes note of the Paper entitled Code No. 2 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to pigs, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, and approves the Codes contained in paragraphs 1 to 33 thereof.This Motion, and the other Motions before the House, are to approve each of the codes entitled "Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock". There is one code each for cattle, pigs, domestic fowls and turkeys, and copies of the codes were laid before the House on 26th June. Identical Motions have since been approved in another place on 14th October. I know that these codes 826 have created quite a great deal of interest among hon. Members concerned with the welfare of animals as well as among those concerned with agriculture.
I hope that the House will permit me to say how sorry I am that when I glance below the Gangway I do not see the figure of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, (Mr. Emrys Hughes), whose characteristic expressions enlivened the House, but who displayed a deep interest in agriculture, representing, as he did, an agricultural area. He was a very close and personal friend of mine.
The history of these codes which are now put forward for approval starts with the setting up in 1964 of the Committee on Intensive Livestock Husbandry Systems, under the chairmanship of Professor Rogers Brambell. This, in itself, was a new development, and much of the committee's work was of a pioneering nature. The Government's decisions on its report were announced in August, 1966 by the then Minister of agriculture. The House will remember that the Government accepted the general principle that new farm animal welfare legislation was needed; and that there should be a standing advisory committee. It is fair to point to one particular aspect of the committee's report in which it showed a very healthy sense of realism.
It recognised the inadequacy of scientific knowledge about animal behaviour and emphasised that the standards which it recommended were based on subjective judgments of what the animals' interests would be. It also made clear that it did not regard its standards as immutable.
On the contrary, in paragraph 221 of its report it explicitly looked to modifications which would avoid putting the industry in a straitjacket—the words of Brambell. The Government accordingly took the very understandable view that, at the first stage, they should not impose mandatory standards. Instead, they adopted a more flexible approach, which has since been enacted in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968.
Section 1 of the 1968 Act, to which the Government attach the greatest importance, makes it an offence to cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to any farm animals, whether kept under 827 intensive systems or not. Section 3 of the Act enables Ministers to prepare codes of recommendations for the welfare of farm animals for the guidance of persons concerned with livestock. The codes require the approval of Parliament before they are issued, and that is the occasion of this debate.
The status of the codes is made clear in Section 3(4) of the Act. They are to be guidelines to livestock owners in the same sense that the Highway Code is a guide to the conduct of road users. They are not mandatory. The codes will not only serve as guidelines to individuals; they will also fully be taken into account when the State Veterinary Service and other advisory services of the Agricultural Departments give advice on farm animal welfare, as they are enabled to do under the Act.
The codes now before the House have been prepared by an independent standing committee appointed following the recommendation of the Brambell Committee. The committee's chairman is Professor Hewer, Professor of Zoology at the Imperial College. Its membership is both authoritative and eminent. It comprised, at the time of making its report, four scientists, four members with a special interest in animal welfare, four farmers, a veterinary surgeon and two other people with non-farming rural occupations.
The Hewer Committee has built on the foundations laid by the earlier Brambell Committee and has also spent two additional years on detailed and intensive study of the issues. During this time its members visited many commercial and research livestock units and obtained much first-hand evidence from those with a wide range of practical, professional and scientific experience of stockman-ship and farm animal rearing systems.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
How many intensive farm units did the advisory committee visit as a committee.
§ Mr. Ross
I can no doubt obtain that information for the hon. Gentleman. In the meantime, I assure him that as well as visiting such establishments, the members of the committee spoke to a great many people about this matter. They therefore got the benefit of observational 828 experience over a very wide sphere indeed.
On this basis, they drew up draft codes and circulated them very widely among interested organisations, inviting comments. These comments were taken into account—in some cases they were supplemented by oral representations—before the committee prepared the final version of its draft codes for presentation to Ministers. The Government accepted these codes and the recommendations in the codes now before the House are exactly those which were presented to Ministers by Professor Hewer on behalf of his committee.
In presenting the codes, Professor Hewer said that some members had felt that they could not agree with certain of the recommendations, but that none of the dissenting members proposed that the codes should be completely rejected.
Since then, three of the ladies on the committee have changed their minds and have expressed their view that the committee should be given a further opportunity to consider certain aspects before the codes are approved. One member has resigned from the committee, not because of disagreement with the codes, but because he has identified a conflict of interest between his membership of the committee and his work as Scientific Director of the Universities' Federation for Animal Welfare.
The reasons which have led to these developments are appreciated, but it is perhaps significant, and more important at this stage, that the Act itself provides for the revision of the codes, should that be necessary, and that the committee is fully entitled to make recommendations to Ministers at any time for specific revisions.
Meanwhile, Ministers are convinced that it would not be in the interests of animal welfare to start again from scratch. This would delay progress for an indefinite period. By going ahead now with the codes as drafted in the form which commands the greatest unanimity which at present can be achieved, progress is being made and the way is left open for future improvements when more scientific information is available.
§ Mr. Chapman
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for responding when I asked, "When?". As there is a conflict between what one might call the Brambell lobby, the supporters, and the scientific people, on crucial issues, would it not be possible for my right hon. Friend to say that he will bring the two sides together as soon as possible to try to obtain an agreement about whether there is need to amend the codes? That is the question I primarily had in mind when I asked, "When?".
§ Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the setting up of the advisory committee arose out of one of the major recommendations of the Brambell Committee?
§ Mr. Ross
I have already said that. My hon. Friend is helping to trace the story in that it was set up in response to the Brambell Committee's recommendations.
The codes themselves set out detailed recommendations covering the main factors which affect the welfare of animals. These are housing, space allowances, food and water and general handling and management.
It is well known that the codes have been publicly criticised by the animal welfare organisations, and the Government respect the reasons which have prompted these criticisms. But we are convinced that the codes which have been prepared by the advisory committee represent the best advance that can be made now having regard to the present state of scientific knowledge.
The main criticisms relate to the recommendations about space allowances for poultry and calves and the feeding of calves. The allegation is that the 830 codes fall far short of the Brambell Report. We should bear in mind, however, that most of the main Brambell recommendations have already been implemented. For example, new legislation on animal welfare was passed last year—the 1968 Act—a standing advisory committee has been set up, the State Veterinary Service has been given powers of entry, and there are now, under Statute, wide-ranging powers to make regulations on all aspects of livestock welfare.
Moreover, it is important to bear in mind the statement of principle which is quoted as a preamble to each of the four codes. It is closely based on Chapter 4 of the Brambell Report, as will be evident to those familiar with its terms. The preamble says:The basic requirements for the welfare of livestock are: the provision of readily accessible fresh water and nutritionally adequate food as required; the provision of adequate ventilation and a suitable environmental temperature; adequate freedom of movement and ability to stretch limbs; sufficient light for satisfactory inspection; and rapid diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease; emergency provision in the event of a breakdown of essential mechanical equipment; flooring which neither harms nor causes undue strain; and the avoidance of unnecessary mutilation. This code is based on these requirements, and takes account of available scientific knowledge and current farming practice.There are five main differences between the codes and the Brambell recommendations. First, the Brambell recommendations would have required palatable roughage to be made available to calves at all ages from a week after birth. The Cattle Code requires calves to have roughage at the end of the second week unless they are being fed to appetite on a liquid diet that is complete in all known nutrients required by the calf.
On this issue the advisory committee took account of a great deal of evidence presented to it and consulted leading scientific authorities on animal physiology and nutrition.
§ Mr. Ross
It is not only an important point. I hope that it is an important 831 debate and that hon. Members will be able to put their points of view to the House. I have already given way a considerable number of times and would like to present the Government's case fairly fully.
Secondly, the Brambell Committee referred to the importance of iron as a constituent in the diet of calves. The Government have already announced their intention to introduce a regulation to govern the level of iron in animal calf foods and Ministers have asked the advisory committee to address itself particularly to this problem.
In the meantime, the recommendation in the code about diets containing all known nutrients the calf requires will apply to iron as to any other constituent of the diet.
Thirdly, the Brambell recommendation about the space allowances for calves was thatIndividual pens for calves should be of a sufficient size to allow the calf freedom of movement including the ability to turn round, and those for calves of 200 to 300 lb. live-weight should measure at least 5 ft. by 3 ft. 6 ins.".Paragraph 20 of the Cattle Code states:All cattle, whether tethered or in pens, should have sufficient freedom of sideways movement to be able to groom themselves without difficulty and, if in a pen, sufficient room to lie down on their sides and extend their legs within its confines.This rebuts the criticism that the codes would allow calves to be housed in pens with hardly any room to move. There has been an element of exaggeration about this.
§ Mr. Ross
Turning round may not be advisable from the point of view of the animal. I can assure my hon. Friend that anyone who knows anything about farming would accept that right away.
Fourthly, the Brambell Report recommended specific space allowances for poultry. The codes emphasise that the welfare of the birds can be at risk in intensive systems even at low stocking densities. The advisory committee felt that it would be wrong to recommend a maximum density as this would imply 832 that below it all would be well but to go above it would automatically mean suffering.
Instead, the codes indicate the densities above which the highest standards of stockmanship are vital if welfare is to be safeguarded. In reaching its conclusions the advisory committee considered scientific opinion and observational data not available to the Brambell Committee.
Lastly, the Brambell Report was against close tethering except for specific purposes for short periods. The advisory committee is satisfied—as are the overwhelming majority of farmers—that cattle can be kept tethered without being caused pain or distress, and that there is no need on welfare grounds to disturb this long-established husbandry practice.
Anyone who has visited a north country dairy farm or a Scottish farm, in winter, and has walked through the byre, can surely be in no doubt that the tethering of cattle is compatible with their obvious contentment. This has been done for generation after generation without complaint.
There are many welfare matters affecting both principle and detail where the advisory committee found themselves in full agreement with the earlier report by the Brambell Committee. There are also a number of issues in which the codes deal with aspects of livestock husbandry on which the Brambell Committee made no recommendations. These include, for cattle, the provision of dry bedding, methods of marking for identification, docking, and feeding space allowance in group housing.
For pigs, guidance is given on farrowing quarters for sows and the accommodation of boars. All the codes refer to fire precautions and those for cattle and pigs also deal with escape routines and emergency procedures. Most of the departures from the Brambell recommendations stem from further observation and later information.
If the codes are approved, they will be used as the framework within which the Veterinary Service will guide farmers and stockmen on the welfare of their stock. The service, which since the passing of the 1968 Act has had specific powers of entry for welfare purposes, will make full use of the codes. Incidentally, 833 in the course of the 10,000 or so inspections which have been made since the Act came into operation the opportunity has already been taken to consider animal welfare matters.
The service will proceed by means of advising on and encouraging the use of the codes, and prosecution will be very much a last resort used only when other means of persuading a livestock owner to protect the welfare of his animals have failed.
It is intended that the committee should make an early start on a code dealing with sheep. It is also understood that it is already considering whether codes will be needed for other species.
Another important task will be to advise Ministers on the need for regulations for those aspects of welfare for which they consider a mandatory control desirable. This may include the provision of lighting for routine inspection purposes in pig and poultry houses, control on the docking of pigs and, as already mentioned, provision to specify minimum iron content in manufactured calf food. The committee has already set up a research sub-committee which is reviewing the whole field of further activity.
The Brambell Committee said that its recommendations ought not to be prejudiced by imports of livestock products produced elsewhere under what we would consider unacceptable conditions. The farming industry naturally shares this concern. On an earlier occasion I assured the House that the Government would continue to watch this issue and would ensure that there was fair play. The Government have carefully considered whether the introduction of the codes will adversely affect the competitive position of British producers and have come to the conclusion that no change of this sort is implied. Consequently, no action is called for.
The N.F.U.s, however, asked me to make it clear that in their view certain aspects of the codes—and they have instanced the space allowances for veal and poultry—will have an economic impact and that they rely upon the Government to continue their earlier undertakings. I gladly reaffirm that the Government will continue to keep a close eye on how matters work out under the codes.
834 Some critics of the codes have alleged that the Government are retreating in the matter of animal welfare. This is just not true. The legislative record of this country on animal welfare is one of progress from the consolidating Acts of 1835 and 1849, through the Protection of Animals Act of 1911 and the Scottish Act of 1912 and various other statutes leading up to the most recent Act passed last year.
In spite of the increasing complexity of livestock farming today, farmers and other stockmen are for the most part fully competent and deeply concerned to ensure the welfare of their animals. It would be wrong to fetter their good sense with restrictions for which there is no objective justification.
It is fair to repeat that the Brambell Committee itself emphasised the need for more knowledge and experience before arriving at final conclusions. It was for this reason that the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was set up under Professor Hewer. This is a standing committee and will be continuing with its work. Revisions may be expected in the future, but for the time being the codes represent a considerable measure of progress.
Before the 1968 Act there was nothing there at all. Let us appreciate the progress that has been made. Both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association, the professional organisations most concerned, have given us their support for these codes. They are, I emphasise, a starting point, and a unique starting point. So far as is known Britain is the only country which has produced codes of this kind. They are an earnest of our deep concern for animal welfare, and I ask the House to take note of them and approve them.
§ Mr. Speaker
I remind those who were not here at the beginning of the debate that I have selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) and some of his hon. and right hon. Friends. We are taking the four Motions together and debating the whole issue generally. It is obvious, that many Members wish to speak. Brief speeches will certainly help.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I beg to move, to leave out from "June" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof:'regrets that this Code fails to implement the recommendations of the Brambell Report and, whilst approving paragraphs 1 to 33 thereof as a temporary measure, requests Her Majesty's Government to introduce an amended Code in the forthcoming Session of Parliament'.The concern of the public about intensive farming started to be felt early in the 1960s. It was no doubt in many ways made more urgent when Mrs. Ruth Harrison published her book on factory farming. Following that there was undoubtedly a growth in public concern and even among hon. Members. It was as a result of that, very largely I believe from pressure by certain hon. Members, that Mr. Christopher Soames, in 1964, set up the Brambell Committee.
As we are discussing the Brambell Committee's Report and animal welfare in general, it is right that we should remember exactly the terms of reference of the Brambell Committee. They wereTo examine the conditions in which livestock are kept under systems of intensive husbandry and to advise whether standards ought to be set in the interests of their welfare, and if so what they should be.No one in the House will quarrel with those terms of reference. They were clear, concise and positive. There could be no possible misunderstanding about them. There is no question of assessing the rights or wrongs of factory farming. The terms of reference were an acceptance of the fact that intensive farming was something that we had to accept and they dealt with the conditions of the animals kept under it.
Some people think that all forms of factory farming are morally wrong and cannot be justified. That is not my view. I accept that intensive production in agriculture is as necessary and as much a part of our way of life as it is in most other industries. But in most of the industries, no matter how intensive production may be, the conditions of the workers are jealously guarded the whole time. In almost every case workers are dealing with inanimate objects which they are fashioning for man's use.
In the farming industry the situation is entirely different. It is right and proper that every care should be taken to ensure 836 the welfare of workers in the farming industry. But they are not handling inanimate objects to fashion without the possibility of pain or stress. They have under their complete control from the day of their birth to the day when they go to the slaughtermen creatures which feel pain, stress and anxiety, perhaps in lesser degree, but in the same way as man. But they have no trade union. They have nobody to look after them. Therefore, because of the complete and absolute control which man has over the lives of those creatures, he has a responsibility to ensure that they are treated as humanely as possible from the day they are born to the day that they die.
Unlike man, the animal cannot tell us precisely how he feels. But—and the Minister stressed this—subjectively we know that they suffer. Of course they suffer. If we know that they suffer at all, why is it so subjective? It is an objective fact that animals suffer. So much play is made on the words "subjective" and "objective". It is usually said that a person is subjective if we do not agree with him and objective if we do agree with him. We must be extremely careful about the way in which we use this argument when dealing with the protection of animals. Because they are unable to protect themselves, it is that much more our responsibility to give them protection. Surely the Brambell Committee accepted that.
In some quarters it seems to be the desire, if not the intention, to imply that the Brambell Committee was an indiscriminately selected group of fuddy-duddies. Anyone who believes that should look up the record in "Who's Who" of all these people. They are men of tremendous experience, knowledge and integrity, renowned for their knowledge, not only in this country, but, in some cases, in the world. They were a very carefully selected group of distinguished men charged with a specific and precise duty. They included the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture; and let it be known that not one of them had a vested interest.
When I asked the Minister how many organisations and farms the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee visited, he could not answer. But I can tell him how many the Brambell Committee visited. It met and interviewed 837 representatives of 20 organisations. It visited 63 intensive farming units in this country and in the Netherlands. It had on the spot talks with the Government of Denmark. It took oral or written evidence, and in some cases both, from 49 individuals. We know from its report every one of the people whom it saw. We know every one of the organisations which it saw. They included the most prominent organisations in this field in this country.
Did the advisory committee see the same people or different people? Were the people it saw more qualified than those whom the Brambell Committee saw? Are we not entitled to know? The House has before it none of the evidence presented to the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Why not, if we are asked to say which of these two Committees is right? If the Minister looks at the Brambell Committee's Report he will see the people, organisations and places which it visited. It is an interesting and impressive group of places.
The Minister has made much tonight about acceptance of the Brambell principles, but, of course, a lot was left out. Let me tell the Minister exactly what the principles were. In Chapter 4 of its Report, the Brambell Committee laid down the principles that any animal should have sufficient freedom of movement and be able without difficulty to turn around, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs, and have adequate food and drink to prevent it suffering from hunger and thirst. I admit that, very largely, the rest of it was as the Minister stated, but that very important first part was left out.
In response to a question by one of his hon. Friends, the Minister also made play with the fact that the Brambell Committee asked for the setting up of a farm animal welfare advisory committee. The Brambell Committee did not, however, expect that advisory committee to take hold of its principles and tear them apart. It did not expect that that committee would throw out the specific recommendations which it had made, yet that was what happened.
Or was it? Not really, because many of the decisions were made by the Government before the advisory committee was set up. The Brambell Committee's 838 Report was produced in 1965. Mr. Peart, then Minister of Agriculture, made a statement in the House—
§ Mr. Burden
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. The former Minister of Agriculture, now Leader of the House, made it clear that the Government had already made up their mind to throw out a great deal of the Brambell findings. He made the old point about subjective information about how animals feel, When shall we ever have legislation to protect animals if first we, human beings, must know precisely how much pain they have in all circumstances? We shall never have the legislation. That, of course, was a red herring and it cannot be supported on any other basis than as an effort to exclude obligations.
On 5th August, 1966, the former Minister of Agriculture went on to say:In general, research must be prerequisite to any comprehensive development of statutory standards. The question of research is one which the Standing Advisory Committee will be asked to consider at an early date. We ourselves shall wish to discuss this subject with the interests concerned on the understanding that the Government could not undertake to finance it. Nevertheless, we believe that the Committee have justified their case for mandatory controls in some cases".That was what the then Minister of Agriculture said. There are no mandatory controls, however, under the codes. The right hon. Gentleman said that he believed that they had justified themselves.
I do not wish to keep the House too long but there is one more important quotation of which the House should know. The right hon. Gentleman also stated to the House:We must reject, as being impossible to enforce, the Committee's recommendation about the inclusion of roughage in calf diets, but the code of practice will include advice on feeding régimes.… we intend to advise that the animal should normally be able to groom its flanks "— only "normally"; not always, but only sometimes.The code of practice will also give advice on the provision of bedding and use of slatted floors".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th August, 1966; Vol. 733, c. 202–3.]The Government and the Minister had therefore, made up their minds before the advisory committee was set up to 839 throw out much of the Brambell findings.
Then, a curious thing happened. In 1968, proposed draft codes were produced as a result, we thought, of the investigations of the advisory committee. They said that a calf should not be fed throughout the whole of its life on a liquid diet. The Brambell Committee said also that this was wrong and that calves should be given roughage.
What did the Government say? In September, 1968, in the draft Code for Cattle, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said this about veal calves and calves generally:Calves are ruminant animals; nutritionally adequate solid food should therefore be on offer to all calves by the end of their second week of life. If this food does not contain milled fibre, palatable unmilled roughage should also be available to them.The Government went further, however, because with that document they issued another entitledNotes for interested organisations".I have been rather like a squirrel in these matters and I have kept these notes. This was what the Government said:In drawing up the draft Code for Cattle the Advisory Committee have examined the welfare implications of the methods used to rear calves for 'white' veal, bearing in mind the announced intention of Ministers to introduce a regulation prescribing a minimum iron content in manufactured calf feeds. The Advisory Committee have endorsed the Brambell Committee's view that some of these methods are not acceptable on welfare grounds because they involve, for example, diets calculated to upset the calf's normal functions and the deliberate postponement of rumination.And yet the codes now permit the animals to be fed throughout their life on a milk diet.
Obviously after those notes for guidance were produced, it was suddenly found that the Minister had already made a decision in 1966 that those who wanted to keep calves on a milk diet could do so. There was a flurry and the result was that provisions in the draft codes for the feeding of roughage were withdrawn. That, however, was the considered view of the advisory committee only a year ago, six months before the codes reached the light of day. There is no argument about this. Ministers can look among themselves, but those are the facts.
840 Why do Ministers intend that calves should be kept without roughage? It is purely and simply to deny them iron. If the calves are left to get as much iron as they can from roughage and also enabled to ruminate, which is their natural function, they get the iron through the roughage naturally. It is intended under the codes that they shall still be kept without the power to ruminate and the possibility is that their intake of iron will be below that which is acceptable so that the veal shall be white.
The R.S.P.C.A. has obtained some of the crates in which calves are put at the age of one week and in which they stay until they go to slaughter three months later weighing between 200 lb. and 300 lb. The crates are 5 ft. long and 2 ft. wide. If the Minister thinks that these animals can groom their sides when they get to slaughter size, he is living in fairyland. This is absolute nonsense. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the size.
I know that many hon. Members wish to speak but I feel that I should make this further point. I do not intend to deal with fowls, because I know that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) wishes to speak. There has been much talk about Professor Hewer, who is now Chairman of the Advisory Committee. On 27th June, 1969, he wrote to me a letter in which he said this:I have been surprised at the amount and character of the criticism levelled at the draft Codes and in today's paper, after the publication of the definitive Codes. I had, in fact, anticipated that most opposition would come from the industry and had arranged to meet agricultural group M.Ps in the next week or so. Now it looks as though I should have concentrated in the other direction to ensure that criticism is well-founded and not based on misconceived ideas.He went on to say that the codes must be accepted in toto or rejected. Professor Hewer met members of the committee, most of whom were horrified by what he said. He stated that the debeaking of adult birds was allowable under the codes. On being asked to explain it, he said, "It is just as if you were cutting your own nails." That is not the scientific evidence which I have had. He said also that dewinging was permissible under the codes, and that this was done to stop birds kept in deep litter from getting frightened and attempting flight. When pressed to illustrate what it meant, he 841 said, "It is as if you cut off a man's arm at the elbow."
If these practices are allowable under the code, it is time that the code was changed, and I hope that the Minister will undertake to give serious consideration to this and to bringing in immediately amending legislation.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
Before I turn to the content of the debate, may I, as representing a Scottish constituency, associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the death of Mr. Emrys Hughes. If he had been here tonight, we would have heard some of his devastatingly good-humoured comments and interventions. He was always enormously interested in agricultural matters and I should like to say how much we on this side of the House, and particularly those representing Scottish constituencies, will miss him.
I shall be brief, as many hon. Members wish to speak. The right hon. Gentleman has introduced tonight codes in accordance with the powers which he was given under the 1968 Act. The attitude of my right hon. Friend and myself then was that we were in no doubt that a set of codes would be of great value to the farming industry. This subject has rightly aroused very wide interest. We have all received many communications, most of them urging that the codes do not go far enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), with great eloquence and sincerity, has voiced these anxieties, and it is to the aspect of whether the codes go far enough that I wish to address myself.
I have been farming for 35 years and, as farmers rarely agree with one another, it is almost inevitable that I may well be speaking only for myself among my farming colleagues. I do not keep livestock of the kind dealt with by the codes, but I have, as every farmer has, seen many of the houses to which the codes apply, and many of the conditions under which livestock are intensively kept. A tremendous lot has happened in farming during those 35 years. What used to be called "the way of life" has disappeared and the business of farming has come in.
Output has doubled with less than half the hands employed, and I have seen 842 nearly all the old draughty farm buildings disappear, as well as bits of ground which were pig sick and infested with fowl pest. Those farm buildings and the old conditions did not disappear because of any public outcry. Perhaps they should have, because the conditions under which farm animals were kept, which many people would say were natural conditions, were much less comfortable for the animals than the conditions which they enjoy today. That is, admittedly, only an expression of opinion, but it is based on what experience I have.
Those conditions went because the advisory services, plus certain economic pressures, prevailed, and I am in absolutely no doubt—and I do not think any hon. Gentlemen could shake me on this —that there were on those odd bits of land and in those buildings far more of what farmers call bad doers than under modern stockkeeping conditions.
The advent of intensive methods of stockkeeping has brought about higher productivity and the identification of bad layers; it has brought about better food conversion rates, increased fertility and reduced mortality. Having said all that, I freely admit that I do not find it attractive. I do not like it very much.
I recall the day each spring when I put the cattle out to grass. They loved it, and I adored it. I used to spend an hour or two, particularly on a sunny day, leaning on the gate and watching the cattle kick up their heels as they went out to grass for the first time. But many hon. Gentlement would say that public money—and quite a lot of it is involved—is not given to farmers so that they may be happy leaning over their gates. Efficiency is expected of us as well, and efficient the industry has tried to be.
Public anxiety in 1964 was such that Mr. Soames set up the Brambell Committee, and I can very well recall taking part in consultations with him on behalf of the Scottish Office about the personnel of that Committee. Brambell has reported and made recommendations, one of which was that an animal welfare committee should be appointed to prepare the codes.
It is probably fair to say that the R.S.P.C.A. and other organisations which may broadly be described—and I say it without the slightest offence—as the 843 animal welfare lobby would say that the codes are not enough, while the N.F.U. in one of its briefs has said that they go a little bit too far. I have often heard it said in this House that where someone says too much and someone else says too little, the answer may be just about right.
Possibly that is a poor way of coming to a decision. But erudite though the Brambell Committee was, the codes have the support of bodies which are just as well informed, namely, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association. No one could dispute the integrity with which they would view this matter.
It is logical to ask why the Government have not gone in form pure unwatered Brambell. It is not for me to say, but I have read that if the Brambell Report were to be fully implemented it would cause an extra £50 million to be placed upon the industry through a drop in productivity every year. I do not know how those who advocate pure Brambell would go about ensuring that farm incomes were to be maintained. Perhaps by higher subsidies, possibly by putting up the price of food.
Unless they are prepared for one or other of these steps, the profits made would be whipped away. Away, too, would go the chances of stopping men leaving farming because wages are not high enough. It is out of the profits of farming and keeping livestock efficiently that good wages can be paid, wages good enough to compare with those in industry.
If pure Brambell was out of reach it is clear that a marriage had to be attempted between the practical and the ideal. Undoubtedly, this is only a first step. There will certainly be others. We are the first country to adopt codes for the welfare of livestock. This is yet another chapter in the long history of animal welfare for which the United Kingdom is famous the world over.
It is absolutely right that people should be anxious and should express anxiety and that the House should be as concerned about this matter as is clearly shown by the attendance here tonight. I as a farmer have spent much of my time trying to create interest in farming among those who are outside the industry. Therefore, 844 I should be extremely depressed if, when a matter of this kind were being discussed, hon. Members other than those with agricultural interests did not attend.
I said that I would be brief, and I have gone on longer than I intended. My own feeling on the matter is that this is a step in the right direction. I believe that it would have been a mistake to attempt to make the matter mandatory in the first place. It is a good compromise and is supported by knowledgeable and sound authorities. Speaking for myself, I shall support the introduction of the codes.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)
In this debate we shall hear many references to experts. But after all the expert evidence has been considered, it will be up to hon. Members to make up their own minds about the decision they take.
I intend to speak mainly about poultry. When I considered all the evidence and the figures, I found it difficult to visualise what the experts actually were talking about. At least they talked about the numbers of birds per square foot, and so on.
In the code itself one finds the following:Irrespective of the number of birds per cage, each bird should have a minimum trough space of 102 mm. (4 in.).That is clear enough. Then it goes on:In cages holding three or more lightweight birds the floor area should normally allow not less than I sq. m. per 39.1 kg.I do not know whether there is any hon. Member in the House, or indeed any member of the public, who realises what this means in regard to the actual number of birds as related to a given area. I find it impossible to fix in my mind the idea of one square foot per 8 lb. liveweight which is the alternative given. Before the war birds were usually of the order of 6 lb., but in these days with hybridisation and better methods of rearing, producers have got down the weight to between 4 and 5 lb. Therefore, on a figure of 8 lb. one tends to think in terms of two birds rather than one.
The code continues:For heavier birds the allowance should not normally be less than 1 sq. metre per 44 kilograms (one sq. ft. per 9 lb.) liveweight.845 When I sought guidance in my dilemma in trying to find out what sorts of standards were envisaged, I received the following help from the Ministry:A direct mathematical comparison between the maxima recommended by the Brambell Committee and the figures given in the codes of practice is not possible, because the former are expressed as numbers of birds for a given area and the latter are expressed as body weight against area.That is a flat statement, but the Ministry goes on to say:It is true that the figures in the codes will normally represent a greater density than the Brambell maxima.They give away part of the case, but then they hastily retract:This is not, however, a fair comparison, since the object of the two sets of figures is not the same.By this time I almost felt like giving up.
I then went and spoke to some excellent people who are gathered together in the Food and Farms Society, which is not a wealthy lobby. We discussed the construction of a cage so that one could actually see what was in mind.
I understand that it is within the rules of order to demonstrate an argument with the aid of an exhibit, and I hope that the cage I hold in my hand will help hon. Members to see how I present my case. I understand that it is permissible to do this. Indeed, I have checked that an hon. Member in order to demonstrate what he is talking about may produce an item such as this. This object has been of the greatest use to me in envisaging what is involved. This cage is not intended as a gimmick but to show the sort of conditions in which birds will live.
This is a standard cage which is greatly used in the commercial world at present. The measurements of the cage are 19 inches by 14 inches and it contains three birds. What does Brambell say about such an object? The Brambell recommendations for three birds provide for a cage which is three inches wider and one inch deeper.
What do the codes propose? Again we have difficulty because the recommended space works out to about one bird to something like half of one square foot. I am open to correction, but I believe that it is right to say that if the cage which I have shown to hon. Members 846 were increased in size to about two square feet—in other words, if it were increased in size by about 20 square inches—according to the code it would be possible to put in another bird.
The industry has gone into the matter scientifically, wanting to get as many birds as possible in a given space. I believe that evidence is now being considered which indicates that, in order to keep birds in battery cages and broiler houses to the required density, they will have to be given antibiotics in their food. It may follow from that that, since the birds eat the food and then human beings eat the birds, in time human beings will be adversely affected by the chemicals fed to the birds. It may be that, when human beings come to take antibiotics for illness, to some extent they will be immune to them, and it will become necessary to cut down the amounts given to livestock, in which case it will no longer be possible to rear birds so intensively.
I gave careful consideration to the reasoned Amendment and concluded that at least it was a start. After all, this is the first time on which legislation has been proposed. How can we tell what cruelty is until we begin to define it?
I have given one example of an existing state of affairs which cannot be intensified further because of the possible health risks to human beings. Notwithstanding that, we are proposing to bring in a code which allows a greater density than exists today. In my opinion, that is going backwards, not forwards.
Where can we go for evidence? I am sure that every hon. Member has received a copy of a memorandum from the Federation of British Poultry Industries Limited, which takes this very point into account. The federation says:Performance levels achieved by British poultry keepers are probably higher than anywhere else in the world, with egg production averaging 250 per bird per year.… The 'so-called' animal welfare organisations have placed much stress on density of livestock, whereas controlled ventilation, lighting and heating are equally important. Easy access to food and water is also an essential prerequisite to the welfare of poultry.These are times when we want to encourage good stockmen who very often look after thousands of birds. They can only do the job with the most sophisticated modern methods in order to switch 847 on equipment and make sure that ventilators are operating properly, and so on. However, it is very difficult to present a fair picture without introducing an element of the horrific. One has only to refer to the Press for details.
In the last few years, these are just some of the accidents which have been reported. There were 2,600 hens killed in a battery unit at Foveran in January, 1968. There were 13,000 chicks burned to death in a broiler house at Starston, near Harleston, in February, 1968. There were 13,000 chicks killed by a fire in a broiler house near Abergavenny in April, 1968. In a broiler unit at Sway, 21,000 chicks died by fire. In April, 1969, 18,000 chickens were killed in a blaze at Buxten Chicken Farm, at Hilmarton. Those are golly a few of the many reported cases. The difficulty is that stockmen are not on duty 24 hours a day. In my opinion, a provision should be written into the codes of practice to the effect that, where large numbers of birds are involved, someone should be with them all the time to keep a close check on their welfare.
Originally, I intended to congratulate my right hon. Friend on having at least made a start and taken action which has been needed for a long time. However, I have come to the conclusion that whether we pass the necessary legislation is an academic matter, since the intensiveness of the system already in use cannot be made more intensive. The only result of attempting to do so will be to kill off the creatures which it is intended to rear. In the proposed regulations, we shall be doing something less and something which even in the hand-outs which we have received is accepted to be less.
As to the evidence of the two committees, I prefer the findings of the Brambell Committee to those of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. The latter body includes a member of the Agricultural Research Centre and the Poultry Research Centre, both of which are Government-sponsored organisations. Then there was a member of the Medical Research Council, which again receives Government funds. There was a director of Double-A Hatcheries, supplying birds for intensive units and himself engaged in intensive pig-keeping. Then there was a landowner with an intensive poultry 848 unit, a member of the Cambridge School of Veterinary Medicine, which no doubt receives a Government grant, and a civil servant in the Ministry. Of the remainder, Major Scott, the Scientific Director of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, has resigned for one reason or another. Mrs. Ruth Harrison, an undoubted expert, also has gone. Mrs. Walshe, representing the R.S.P.C.A., has also gone, as has Miss Maynard of the Union of Agricultural Workers.
These are people of note. I have talked to some of them, as I have to farm workers. I have heard the stories which go round, one of which concerned an electrician who went to do a job at an intensive broiler house. There he saw a pack of bodies stretching away into the distance. He had been asked to mend a switch on the far side of the broiler house. He asked, "How do I get over there? I will have to walk on the birds". They told him, "All right. Walk on the birds".
I am not an expert, by any means. I did not know very much about intensive poultry rearing before I began my inquiries. I am always suspicious of people who wear plus-fours, go for long walks and eat carrots. However, I have been impressed by what I have learned about such matters as wiring and cabling in intensive poultry houses. I am told that any cables have to be armour-plated. The ammonia fumes coming up from the ground attack ordinary insulation, and all electrical wiring has to be armour-plated.
The Farmer and Stockbreeder of 24th September published an article by a Mr. Solomon Shaver in support of the Brambell Committee's recommendations.There's not the slightest doubt that we are going to industrialise our agriculture: this is coming as sure as Christmas. But all of us on the farming side of the fence have to recognise that an increasingly sophisticated public is taking a more intelligent interest in animal welfare, and it's no longer any good saying, sweepingly, that all the consumer wants is cheap food and that he doesn't care where it comes from. Somehow we must devise a fair and just compromise between the interests concerned, until the results of scientific research can provide an acceptable and firmer base for our standards of livestock management.I could add more to that statement, but I will rest my case on it. I hope that the Minister will agree to have another look at these codes. I think that 849 Brambell was a fair compromise. It does not go as far as I would wish, having looked at it, but it was a fair compromise. I ask the Minister to take the codes back or to give a firm promise, if we allow him to have his way tonight, that he will look at the evidence and come back to us with a firm pledge that he will go at least to Brambell's standards.
An over-statment of the case was made by someone in a group of people discussing why certain battery-produced eggs were so small—there are good and bad producers in this sphere—when he said, "That egg is so small because it is from a battery chicken. They are packed in so tight they cannot get their bottoms off the flood to lay a bigger egg." I do not go all the way with that statement, but I know what that man was talking about.
The Minister said that we should be proud that this country is legislating before all others. I think that he is right. But we ought to do a bit better. Let us at least make the regulations relevant and something that the rest of the world can follow.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)
First, I must declare an interest in the poultry industry. When dealing with animals there is always a certain amount of heat engendered in an argument whether we are being cruel, reasonable, economic, experts, non-experts, those who farm, those who have not farmed, and so on.
The Brambell Report agreed originally that the intensive rearing systems are an economic necessity and that a tremendous increase in the production of poultry at prices that everyone can afford could not be achieved without them.
Like many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, I have had the opportunity of being a practical farmer. I have had to look after poultry and animals. It is an accepted fact that no animal or bird will ever do—I use that word in the agricultural sense—unless it is reasonably happy and contented. I have seen it in this country and in other countries, and I am satisfied that the present system of intensive—I do not like the word "factory"—farming is 850 reasonable in the circumstances. I am not awfully fond of the words "experts" and "non-experts", because it is like talking about statistics, which can be made to mean anything, but coming down to the basic facts of agriculture, if a man is farming in a professional capacity, heaven knows it is in his interests to look after his animals or birds. It is in his interests to see that they are well looked after, that they are warm, comfortable and well fed.
Last week, in another place, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge said—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot quote verbatim from a speech in another place.
§ Mr. Ensor
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I accept your Ruling.
From my own experience, the facts are perfectly simple if we are not to have intensive rearing of poultry. In the old days it was accepted that free ranging of poultry required approximately one acre of ground for 150 birds, the land to be rested every two years. We have a national flock of 70 million birds. I suggest that it would be a little difficult to find land to sustain such a flock and to sustain the flow of poultry-meat and eggs now being produced at prices that people can afford.
Over the last 12 years the poultry industry has increased its turnover to approximately £300 million a year. In those 12 years the price of chicken has come down from approximately 5s. 6d. a lb. to an average of 2s. 9d. to 2s. 10d. and turkey from 7s. to an average of 3s. 6d. per lb.
Twelve years ago chicken meat was a luxury. This is an inescapable fact. Today it is no longer a luxury. It is a food, a meat, which is eaten by an enormous number of the population of this country. If right hon. and hon. Members on both sides were to go round and see, as I have, millions of birds reared and producing in these circumstances, happy, contented, well-fed and well looked after, then there is a different situation from 12 years ago when a flock of birds would be out in the winter and would produce, with luck, 140 eggs a year compared with the figure now of approximately 851 270. In those days birds spent half their life during the winter up to their bellies in mud, slush and snow. They lived in very unpleasant and uncomfortable circumstances and they were eaten by foxes, cats and goodness knows what.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that things have so improved that we do not need any code at all?
§ Mr. Ensor
I have never said that. I am saying that at the moment these birds are very much better off than were those of 12 years ago. These free-ranging chickens roosted in coops which were often broken into by foxes, weasels, stoats, and so on. The birds often had their legs bitten off. With the new methods of rearing, one sees these birds warm, comfortable, and happy. I doubt whether there are many children in this country who live in such comfortable circumstances as some of these birds do, but if one complains about cruelty to children one does not get very much response. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) with his cage was slightly theatrical and not entirely accurate. These birds, with a life span of about 18 months, live in extremely hygienic and comfortable circumstances.
I do not believe that Brambell is wrong. On the other hand, perhaps it could have been—
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
My hon. Friend referred to the theatrical nature of the cage produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis). Will my hon. Friend accept that in practice these cages are surrounded by others on top, and by still others below, and that cages stretch for hundreds of yards on either side of them?
§ Mr. Ensor
That is a matter of opinion.
I do not believe that these birds are being ill-treated. It is not in the interests of the owners that they should be. These birds live in conditions of the utmost 852 cleanliness and comfort. [Interruption.] I am not going to be put off by a lot of nonsense going on behind me.
§ Mr. Ensor
I am satisfied with what has been happening. No country in the world has a better reputation for looking after its animals than this country has. I am a member of the R.S.P.C.A., and I do not think that anybody in the House will disagree with me when I say that I am well known for my attempts to ensure that there is no ill treatment of animals. No country in the world has ever produced a code of conduct for its animals and its chickens. I have seen all the countries in Europe, and no country that I know of has produced a code such as this. If hon. Members do not agree with it, let us try it for five or ten years to see whether it will work. I believe that this is the right thing to do.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I found the presentation by the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) of poultry as a sort of new privileged class very fascinating but slightly overdone, and my remarks will not follow very closely the arguments that he has advanced to the House.
If I were to act—and I think that this goes for everybody in the House—in the light of most of the letters that I have received on this subject, I should denounce these codes as morally indefensible and vote for their reduction as a betrayal of Brambell. That is the sense of much of the correspondence that I have received.
Having looked at some of these establishments, and having tried to make independent inquiries, I have come to a rather different view. I have a lot of sympathy with the critics of these codes, for reasons which I shall give later. It is wrong to deride them. It may seem regrettable that we should have this campaign which involves charges of cruelty against a section of the farming community, which is grossly unfair to the great majority of farmers. That is a mistake, and is calculated to stir up a great deal of bad blood.
Against that, beyond any doubt these intensive methods of stock raising raise 853 very big issues in anything but foolish minds. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) said, when he weighed it all up very carefully, "I do not like the method". We have no right to expect people to be silent on this. I do not resent any of the letters that I have received. There is a case to be argued, and it cannot be pushed out of sight.
A main charge is that Brambell's recommendations have been emasculated by the Government—a view expressed publicly by some authors of that report. I cannot accept that these codes betray Brambell. I do not think the doctrine that a Government are duty bound to enact even the main recommendations of a committee on a technical subject can hold water.
To charge the Government with bad faith, as my hon. Friend did—reluctant though I am to side with the Government on any matter—seems to me overdoing it. The same principle arose over the Wootton Report on cannabis, with which I was closely connected. I defended what the Government did then, and in a sense I do so again now. The Government's job is to reconcile ideals with the practical, and above all to avoid standards or regulations which cannot be enforced. Nothing could be worse than codes of practice, mandatory or otherwise, which could not be enforced.
At least one strong sanction against the downright cruelty which so many fear is not these codes, in any form, but the natural and inescapable truth that a person cannot hope to make a profit from animals which are badly treated, ill kept and unhappy. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burton) that animals have strong feelings and very often these will be expressed through their state of health. In fact, good husbandry equals profit and bad husbandry equals loss.
I put this doctrine to the test a few days ago when I visited an intensive calf unit, perhaps the most difficult element in all this. In round figures a week-old calf costs £12 and another £26 to rear, and if it is slaughtered at 13 or 14 weeks it brings in £50, thereby providing a profit of about £12. But this depends on two factors. The first is that the product is grade A—which will come only from a healthy animal. The second is that for 854 about ten weeks it will give a conversion ratio of one in one, or one lb. of food, with water added, to one lb. of weight. That depends on getting the right conditions of light, air and humidity and warmth, and for at least the first few weeks of life, quiet. These things must be provided if a profit is to be made. That is a forcible argument. In other words, within the system that we are discussing in most cases the standards must be high in order to pay.
I am sure that farmers in this business would do well to show their critics some of the establishments in question. One of the weaknesses of some of the critics that I have cross-examined is that they have felt it repulsive to go anywhere near such farms. Therefore, they do not know what goes on. Even then not all misgivings would be allayed. I am increasingly persuaded that what many object to are not the defects in the system—which the codes go some way towards remedying—but the system itself. Many people are instinctively prejudiced against intensive methods, however they are conducted. They object to animals being made units of production. The very term "factory farming" has become pejorative. I share much of this sense of unease not at the way that it is done but that it is done at all. I accept that there is an enormous question mark over this branch of technology.
But the time when this question should have been raised was 20 years ago, and it should have been raised more sharply. Why did it begin? I hope that this debate and the controversy round the subject—which will intensify—will serve to establish one truth far too little regarded today. It is the inexorable economic pressures which are bearing down upon the farming industry, internally and externally. I was profoundly impressed by the speech made by an old friend of many Members—the noble Lord, Lord Nugent—speaking in the other place. He said that he had been a farmer for 40 years, and he explained his part in this system and how it came about. He traced fairly the inexorable pressures which led him and his family business into intensive methods of husbandry, and I sensed in his words a feeling of regret. He spoke on behalf of thousands more.
The fact is that intensification of methods like this has been implicit in 855 almost every agricultural White Paper that we have published since the war. We have willed it. The whole price machinery is geared to inexorable pressure upon farmers to develop the most efficient, low-cost methods. We withhold a proportion of the annual profits accruing from higher productivity in order to make their methods more intensive. We urge this upon farmers every time we produce a White Paper. It is the technological phase of what has long been called a cheap food policy.
Well may the R.S.P.C.A. and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham voice misgivings. But they should be directed on to the system that we have required farmers to adopt and not the methods which some are now adopting. When hon. Members here talk of farmers with their backs to the economic wall they are greeted with incredulity. Everybody seems to know wealthy farmers, but nobody knows the size of their overdrafts. It all adds up to economic pressures far more severe than is generally realised.
That is what Brambell is about. We see more of this in the wheat belts—and they are now belts—which are not relevant to this debate. Plenty of thinking farmers will privately share the misgivings of the R.S.P.C.A. Nobody knows better what is going on. To an extent the Government themselves are caught up in the backlash. They could not implement Brambell if they wanted to; it would doom a sizeable section of the industry to penury. They would fall behind foreign competitors. We would simply import the stuff. Many farmers who have turned to this method would be ruined. To that extent the right hon. Gentleman is a victim of the system that he and his predecessors—on our side as well as his—have spelt out year after year since the war.
So I say that we had better pass these codes and review them in the light of experience. They are the best advance which can now be made. But we ought not to ignore the warning light that this controversy throws on the way that we are going and the way that we are compelling farmers to go.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I am sure that we all have in mind tonight that we are speaking for dumb animals— 856 those that cannot speak for themselves. The Amendment standing in my name an dthe names of other hon. Membersdeclines to approve a Code of Practice which fails to provide for freedom of movement as recommended in paragraph 37 of the Brambell Report, Command Paper No. 2836.I should like to remind hon. Members of what Professor Brambell said in his report:An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs.I should like to make one small extension to that sentence. I want the animal to be able not only to stretch its limbs but to be able to do so fully. Every one of us who has watched dogs or cats, or even the canary in the cage, will know that stretching their limbs, or wings, fully is an essential feature of the animals' need.
In his letter of 23rd June, 1969, Professor Brambell was disappointed that thecodes for domestic fowls and turkeys fall far short of our recommendations regarding stocking densities.He went on to say:We made it clear in our report that we did not regard battery cages for domestic fowl as tolerable unless the minimum standards that we laid down were met. These densities defined in the codes are a compromise approximating to current practice, a compromise on a compromise for which no case other than commercial expediency exists.It is suggested that because criticism is directed against only eight paragraphs out of the 200 with which we are concerned, we ought to be grateful for such mercy and accept the codes as they stand. But these eight paragraphs, as has been made clear time and again, are vital. They deal with bedding, lighting, stocking rates, slats and the quality of the animals' food. For example, the stocking rate proposed for pigs means that when all are lying down in their house they cover the floor completely and they have only enough room to do that. In such conditions it is not surprising to know that the floor tends to be covered with excreta, which perhaps explains a common but completely wrong view that the pig is a dirty animal. The truth is that pigs are only as dirty as man makes them. They have no escape from lying in unclean quarters and so their bodies become covered with dirt. If floor feeding is 857 practised, their food will also be mixed with unwholesome material. That is a consequence which cannot be escaped.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
I feel that the hon. Member has not seen a pig house of this description recently. Pigs will never eat off a floor which has been fouled. They will not eat the food. Pigs lie very close together and, taking the conditions which the hon. Member mentions—and they are not adequate—they always lie very closely huddled together. When did the hon. Member last see the conditions which he describes?
§ Mr. Rankin
I will not be drawn into across-the-floor argument on the matter which I have quoted. It is a quotation from a report which basically has not been challenged and it also deals with the type of pig house which I have seen personally on occasions.
§ Mr. Rankin
I agree that intensive methods are coming into use for keeping breeding sows as well as for fattening pigs. A recently introduced practice is that of keeping pregnant sows in cubicles in which they cannot turn round. The cubicle is either open at the rear and the sow tethered or it is closed with the sow's head free. We are told that this practice prevents bullying as adult sows are more vicious in establishing a social order than are young fattening animals. It also simplifies management and allows control of the individual food intake. But, says Brambell,despite these advantages we are unable to approve such close confinement continuously throughout pregnancy".The Government's proposals fall far short of the minimum standards recommended by the Brambell Committee which presented its Report to Parliament as far back as December, 1965. The remit given to the committee by the Government of the day wasto examine the conditions in which livestock are kept under systems of intensive husbandry and to advise whether standards ought to be set in the interests of their welfare and, if so what these standards should be.The committee's report reveals that closely confined calves spend the whole of their brief lives on slatted floors, in dim light in pens only slightly larger than themselves. They cannot lie down nor 858 can they stretch their limbs fully, as young animals want to do, and they cannot groom themselves. From birth to early death they are the prisoners of human greed. Their natural way of behaving is completely distorted.
What I have said about pigs, and merely mentioned in respect of calves, can be repeated in regard to turkeys and domestic fowl, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) so well showed earlier. In defence, or at least in partial defence, of this practice, we are told that man shall not live by bread alone, and that is true. He also depends on the animal and at the same time he preaches kindness towards it. Now is his chance to practise what he preaches.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)
We are debating a subject of very vital importance to all those engaged in the livestock industry as well as to those who buy our products. We are all quite clear in our minds tonight that we are not dealing with the economics of livestock husbandry, although that has a very strong bearing on our discussion.
Like other hon. Members, I have received a great many letters on this subject, and if I had not been so intimately connected with livestock husbandry I would have been very alarmed indeed on reading some of the letters. I agree that all those who have written to me have the very highest motives, but I am afraid that many of them are not familiar with the conditions in which most of our livestock are reared and the attention that is given to them.
Most of those who rear livestock are animal lovers in the truest sense. They know the animals' habits intimately. They are also aware that without good stock-manship animals will not thrive, and since animals are bred to grow and develop into profitable animals it is imperative in the interests of the rearer that they should be reared in conditions which will help them to develop.
The trained stockman knows at a glance whether an animal is thriving, or whether it is suffering from stress or discomfort from lack of food or water, on the one hand, or the elements and lack of space on the other. This is quite clear to him.
§ Mr. Burden
I am obliged to the hon. Gentlemen for giving way. Does he say that the experienced stockman knows more about whether or not these animals are suffering stress than those distinguished people of experience and knowledge who have come to the decisions set out in the Brambell Report?
§ Mr. Mackenzie
I think that they do know a lot more than some of the members of the Brambell Committee. They have the practical experience. I have been rearing animals now for 50 years, and have taken very close note, and this is my candid opinion—
§ Mr. Burden
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for again giving way. Will he, then, say that a calf weighing 300 lb. and kept in a cubicle measuring 5 ft. by 2 ft. is happy, and able to groom itself and carry out its proper functions?
§ Mr. Mackenzie
No, but I should like to come to that very point later.
In my opinion, we are dealing with a minority. I listened with great interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) and I am sure that none of us was happy about the conditions he described. Calves kept in conditions such as described by the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will not be contented, and it is difficult to see how anybody who is really a lover of animals would rear them in such conditions. Nevertheless, as I say, I think that we are dealing with a minority.
There is a lot more to be done, and it is necessary to appoint an advisory committee on which the best of the experts will serve. Not long ago no notice whatever was taken of the conditions in which animals and birds were reared. The codes we are discussing therefore represent a real step forward and I urge hon. Members to support them. We must continue, however, to investigate the position and discover the minority who treat animals cruelly.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)
I am glad of this opportunity to comment on the codes and I will be brief because other hon. Members desire to put their points of view before the House.
Almost without exception, all hon. Members will have received masses of 860 correspondence from well-meaning people about the codes and on the subject generally. The vast majority of this correspondence has, I am sure, indicated that the codes do not go far enough. To an extent I agree with some of the observations that have been put to me in some of my mail, but I feel that a great deal of this correspondence has been based on sentiment without the writers having what the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) described as a real knowledge of what is going on.
It is easy to take a photograph with a particular angle in mind. It is easy to point to conditions at exceptional places and talk about what goes on generally. We should not lose sight of the fact that, by and large, our farmers and stock-keepers are interested in their jobs. Generally speaking, they are as much craftsmen as their counterparts working in industry; perhaps more so because the man or woman looking after poultry and stock has a closer knowledge of the job in hand than most workers in industry.
There are, of course, individual producers who do not adhere to the rules and who think that by crowding an extra bird or two into a pen they will raise egg production. Some producers think that by going in for very intensive methods—many of us would say too intensively—they might increase their turnover. Most people recognise, however, that if one crowds too many birds into a pen, egg production per bird will ultimately fall. It is also generally recognised that if one becomes too intensive, one will not necessarily achieve a higher financial return.
Most farmers adopt a commonsense approach to this problem. While, as I have said, there are exceptions to this rule, most of them seek advice from the advisory services and others about the best ways to make their holdings more profitable and at the same time maintain their stock in reasonable conditions.
Much of the criticism that has been voiced today and much of that expressed in correspondence is about the fact that these codes do not have legal enforcement.
The codes have been tied up with the 1968 Agriculture Act, under which there is a provision for prosecutions if a veterinary surgeon feels a case is made 861 out, or if someone makes a report to him and he finds on investigation that some degree of cruelty has taken place. Like the Highway Code, the codes provide part of the evidence when a prosecution is undertaken under the terms of the main Act. I am sure that the House will pass the codes, but not because it likes every aspect of them.
There are some features of which I am critical. I do not like the idea of a continuation of the production of white veal under the methods tolerated by the codes. If it were not that some people were prepared to pay a very high price for a meal in a costly restaurant, there would not be the demand for white veal, which restaurants seem to have created. I would like to see this firmly tackled in future codes.
I do not like the idea of the docking of pigs' tails. This can be very cruel. It can be done when prescribed by the "vet". I do not like the fact that an ordinary farm worker can do this provided that it has been prescribed. In Standing Committee, I stressed that I thought this job should be done by qualified people, not by the farm worker or even the farmer who has not had professional training. I would like the Minister to take this up in further codes and introduce some amendment.
I have been to a lot of intensive poultry units in my constituency and further afield. I do not like to see birds wearing spectacles. It seems sheer bad husbandry if it is not possible to maintain productive poultry units without the use of spectacles, which can become entangled with other birds. Surely it would be better to improve stockmanship than adopt this gimmick, because it is nothing more. It is repugnant.
I have been to units in Norfolk where debeaking had been undertaken. At one place I was told the reason, and I fully understood it. At another place there had been no debeaking because the man in charge had made a greater study of the matter, and by careful control of lighting, and so on, was not faced with the same problem. This is all part of good stockmanship, showing the need for training of workers and farmers. Whether dealing with flocks of poultry or animals there is a necessity to obtain first-class knowledge. Then some of the things 862 which constitute cruelty would not be necessary.
I return to the point that the general level of husbandry in agriculture is high. There is no reason why it cannot be improved. Tonight, it has generally been appreciated that the debate is not about factory farming. That is good, because if factory farming was to be tackled it should have been tackled 20 years ago. Those who think that we should go back to a free-range poultry system should remember that, with 60 million birds, if we adopted such a system—and it is highly unlikely—a vast acreage would be required and the cost of eggs would rise quite substantially.
It is easy for us to say in this Chamber, "If we were a little more generous perhaps the cost would rise, but the consumer will pay". Many people who have tremendous sympathy and express their sentiments very forcefully would object strongly if they had to pay substantially more for their eggs or for their poultry. I can recall when a chicken on the table in my home was a luxury. Today, chicken meat is commonplace, and economics have made it cheaper than beef and other products.
We can never contemplate going back to old methods, even if they were desirable. And were they really desirable? I have seen hundreds and hundreds of wet and bedraggled hens on farms in winter. We could not rely on the quality of the eggs which we bought. True the yolks were deeper in colour, but often the eggs when collected from a farm dyke or from under a farm hedge had half grown chickens in them, or were bad, particularly in the spring of the year. Do not let us kid ourselves that in years gone by conditions on the farms were perfect and that poultry were raised in satisfactory conditions and that we have deteriorated as a nation by the introduction of intensive methods. If we kid ourselves in this way, we do not understand agriculture or what went on in the past.
We can all disagree with some aspects of the codes. I am sure that all hon. Members hope that in time the standing advisory committee which assists the Minister in bringing forward codes of this nature will recommend amended codes so that a little more humane treatment may be afforded to our animals and 863 birds. But these codes are a step in the right direction, and, therefore, the House should support them.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) stressed that farmers and stockmen are kind to animals. That is true. But we are not arguing about that. We are discussing whether these codes of practice are satisfactory standards of humane treatment of animals.
The Secretary of State for Scotland made a very fair speech, with one lapse, which was when he said that Major Scott had resigned from the committee because of a conflict of loyalties. Major Scott said thathe found it impossible to serve on the advisory committee, which has ignored basic essentials for the welfare of animals. This was particularly true of the space allowance for hens in battery cages and the feeding of veal calves.It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State did not mention that fact when he opened the debate, because it is on that fact that the whole debate turns. A great deal of the codes is very satisfactory but it is on those two points —the space allowance for battery hens and veal calves—that the country is rightly concerned.
The whole idea of a code is not to apply mandatory methods but to give guidance for those who keep these animals, especially under intensive conditions, about what the nation considers to be humane and not cruel.
The parallel to this is the Highway Code. Clearly, if we are to lay down guidance, it must be precise, clear and unambiguous. Otherwise, there is an appalling risk that codes which are obscure, not clear and ambiguous may lower the standards of behaviour and encourage people to resort to a degree of cruelty that is not at present practised. That is a risk which must be faced.
When the Lord President of the Council presented the Bill on Third Reading on 21st February, 1968, he said:We set great store by the codes of practice provided for in Clause 3… The aim is to make the recommendations in them clear, precise and reasonable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 586.]864 That is how the recommendations are presented in the Highway Code, of which I would like to remind right hon. and hon. Members. Paragraph 35 of the Highway Code, which deals with space allowance and stopping distances, lays down clearly and precisely in terms of feet the overall stopping distance. In paragraph 49, dealing with animals, it states clearly and precisely what is meant:Go slowly when driving past animals. Give them plenty of room. Do not frighten the animals by sounding your horn.Let us turn, first, to the Brambell Report concerning battery hens, because this is where I think that the Government have made a mistake. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) has graphically illustrated what the Brambell Committee said about battery hens, but he forgot to mention that that committee said, first, that there should not be more than three birds in a cage. The committee said that when there were three birds in a cage, it must be of a minimum size of 20 in. by 17 in. by 18 in. in height and that the birds must be able to stretch a wing comfortably. Those Brambell recommendations were clear, precise and unambiguous.
The code for domestic fowls specifies that the space allowance should be 1 sq. ft. for eight lbs. In other words, in terms of the Brambell recommendation for the three-bird cage, it should be able to hold five lightweight birds or four heavy birds. We have seen what is the Brambell size—five birds! Does the Minister of Agriculture tell me that to have five lightweight birds in a cage of Brambell size is humane? I do not believe that more than a very small minority of the intensive units have five lightweight birds in the Brambell-size cage.
Secondly, the code states that the birds should be able to stand normally, and turn round and stretch their wings. How can five birds in a Brambell-sized cage do that? Thirdly, paragraph 24 of the code states:The following allowances are given as a guide to those below which sound management may become the critical factor.Is that the right phrasing? Would that phrasing appear in the Highway Code? The spokesman for the Government in the other place said that it was possible 865 to write this paragraph differently to make it clearer.
If that is so, the Amendment should be accepted, and the Government should take the code back and write it more clearly. That is all we are asking. Have this as a temporary measure, certainly, but do get it right, because we are worried about battery hens and veal calves. In introducing the code in the other place the Government spokesman said that the phraseology was not happy.
In a recent Gallup Poll farmers were asked whether all poultry should have room to spread their wings and 78 per cent. of the farmers said that they should. Therefore, 78 per cent. of the farmers and 91 per cent. of the public cannot be satisfied with a code that will allow five lightweight birds or four heavy birds in a Brambell-sized cage.
Paragraph 145 of the Brambell Report states that the diet of veal calves should be reinforced with iron, and recommendation 19 says that all calves should have roughage from one week after birth. Paragraph 148 says that there should be no close tethering, and paragraph 149 says that veal calves should have room to turn round and to groom themselves. Paragraph 150 recommends that for calves over 200 lb. the pens should measure 5 feet by 3 feet 6 inches and not 5 feet by 2 feet, as they do in many veal calf units. Paragraph 152 states that there should be straw or bedding on which the calves can lie down.
The recommendations of the Brambell Report were submitted to a farmers' co-operative organisation in the north of England that goes in for calf weaner units and battery hens. It has a turnover of £7 million and it is a considerable enterprise. Those five recommendations on veal calves were pronounced by a subcommittee of that organisation to be acceptable, with the exception that it preferred 3 feet of solid sides in the pens to 2 feet solid sides.
When an intensive calf co-operative has agreed with the recommendations, why have the Government not accepted them and brought in codes to deal with veal calves on those lines? In the Gallup Poll farmers were asked whether there should be any diet deficiency induced deliberately. Ninety-four per cent. of the farmers said that there should not be any such deficiency, and 85 per 866 cent. of them said that calves should be able to turn round in their pens.
What does one find when one looks at the codes for veal calves? I admit that the question of iron is to be governed by regulation and not by the code, but one sees that there need be no roughage if there is an adequate milk substitute. It was the whole argument deployed by the Brambell Committee that there must be roughage for ruminants.
Further, there is nothing in the code to stop close tethering of calves. There is no space allowed as laid down by Brambell, nor is there any provision for turning round as recommended by Brambell. They must be able to groom themselves, with sufficient room to lie down on their sides or extend their legs within the confines.
The real question is whether this means their being able to stretch their legs to the full extent. Unless this is put clearly, the whole issue is left in doubt. There was a good deal of argument about this matter in the other place. Certainly, the code on veal calves is not clear and a great many people are worried about it.
The code does not even follow Brambell on the question of bedding, which is a good illustration of the imprecise way in which the advisory committee handles these codes. The code says that for calves up to 12 weeks straw may be necessary. Brambell says that one must have bedding for calves, and suggests straw or other material. The code leaves it in such a way that the type of bedding is not known.
The codes should be taken back and improved as they apply to battery hens and veal calves. Farmers should be told quite clearly that it is intolerable that battery hens should be unable to stretch their wings. I hope that the Minister will tell us his intentions in this matter.
The other matter which arises in this connection is whether the Minister intends to stop the production of white veal. The country and the House demand that it should be stopped. In the code the situation is left uncertain.
One of the difficulties is that the Minister has not adopted the Brambell recommendation that there should be an advisory committee which did not contain representatives of interests. The Minister appointed an advisory committee which contained a number of members who 867 were interested in factory farming, others who were interested in animal welfare societies, and a number of scientists who were interested in research, vivisection and all the rest. What happened in the advisory committee was that these conflicting interests disagreed, with the result that there was a minority report as well as a majority report.
I ask the Minister to think again on this matter. The authority of the Brambell Committee is that it had no one interested in factory farming or animal welfare. It was composed of distinguished members of the Ministry, the Agricultural Land Service, N.A.A.S., a professor of animal husbandry, and a professor of zoology. The Brambell Committee suggested an Advisory Committee having only 10 members and that they should not represent any interest, but merely be distinguished by their knowledge and general reputation.
We know that most farmers and stockmen hate cruelty to animals. They care far more for the welfare of their animals than any other section of the population. But we know that there is a danger of what I call concentration camp farming coming in, not stimulated by agricultural interests. We want that to be stopped, and we look to the Minister to stop it.
I shall not vote against the Minister's codes, but I ask him to think over what has been said and next Session to bring in a new code, advised by a new advisory committee—he will have to reorganise it; he will have many resignations—designed to deal with battery hens and white veal calves.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
The debate has illustrated clearly the conflict between the economic interests of farmers and the Government and the inevitable compassion for our fellow creatures which everybody feels. There is a constant battle to match one with the other, and we have ended with a rather lukewarm set of codes from the Government, who are trying to appease both sections and in the result have done neither very successfully.
We have heard a great deal about how animals are now looked upon increasingly as units and batches rather than as individual creatures with feelings. I do not 868 feel that the House should accept these rather lukewarm recommendations, not because it opposes them as such, but because, if it accepts them, it will be acquiescing in many measures which are now being carried out by the more ruthless minority of farmers in the community.
The introduction of the code claims that it provides basic guidelines to ensure the welfare of cattle. Is that the most that the Government can do—simply give us basic guidelines? It seems to me, as we have heard throughout the debate, that these codes will tolerate what is nothing less than cruelty to animals.
I say again that the majority of farmers are humane and compassionate, but these codes put them at an economic disadvantage when in competition with ruthless and unscrupulous farmers who are out for a quick and easy profit. These farmers, who are out for short-term, maximum exploitation, will laugh at these codes and carry on with what they are already doing.
When I was a student of zoology I learned that the basic difference—
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes)
My hon. Friend has made some serious statements in the course of her speech. Will she give the House evidence of the ruthless and cruel farmers who are exploiting in the manner she describes?
§ Dr. Summerskill
We have had examples of it throughout the debate. I have sat through every minute of it, and every hon. Member who has done the same will have been left with a picture of some ruthless and cruel acts committed to animals. I am taking the evidence of hon. Members—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It will be better if the debate continues in the orderly way that it has done so far.
§ Mr. Burden
One piece of evidence of possible cruelty came when Professor Hewer, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, stated that, under the codes, the cutting off of a chicken's wing "as at the elbow" would be allowable under the codes.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot have a tripartite debate. Perhaps the hon. Lady will continue, and then she may possibly give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
I must correct the inaccuracy for which the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) is responsible. It is stated specifically in the codes that de-winging is not permitted.
§ Dr. Summerskill
When I was a student of zoology, I learned that the basic difference between a plant and an animal is that an animal can move whereas a plant cannot. To deprive an animal of the basic ability to move about and turn round and stretch out to the maximum that its legs will allow is a freedom which should not be denied it. If we wish to punish a criminal, we deny him his freedom. In concentration camps, the worst punishment possible was to put a man in such a small hole that he could not stand up or move about. The Brambell Committee was adamant that a bird should be able to stretch its wings and that an animal must have freedom to move round. Since that report, there has been no scientific evidence to refute that fact. I would ask the Minister whether he can provide any scientific evidence to refute that an animal must be able to move round.
We have heard too little of behavioural distress in animals. Many people seem to think that if an animal looks all right, appears to have a good coat and the rest of it, or if a hen lays enough eggs, mentally there is no stress or strain. However, the patients of mental hospitals are often plump and well-fed. Physically, they feel fine, but they are under mental stress and anxiety and are suffering from mental disease. There is not necessarily a very clear correlation between physical deprivation and mental deprivation, and the latter cannot be dismissed so easily.
My right hon. Friend has great faith in his advisory committee. However, we have learned that four farmers served 870 on it. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, except that it would have been better to have had a committee where vested interests were not represented. It would have been better if members of the committee could have been drawn from the Department of Education and Science, zoologists, people who have studied animal behaviour, academics, and others without a vested interest in the subject.
Major Scott resigned from that committee. So far, no one has quoted what he said when he resigned. These were his words:The codes represent a compromise approximating to existing practice for which no case other than commercial expediency exists.Members of the public are often told by some farmers that they have no right to interfere in this matter and know nothing about rearing animals. It is the duty of Parliament to look at this objectively, and not subjectively. We should interest ourselves in the feelings of animals. After all, they have no trade union, and they cannot speak for themselves, quite apart from the fact that the taxpayer is supporting agriculture.
There is a fundamental difference between the advisory committee and the Brambell Committee. The Brambell Committee was unanimous in its decision. The advisory committee's recommendations were not unanimous. These codes are maintaining the status quo. They are a small advance on present-day methods. A code should be something to aim at, something to improve towards, yet these codes represent the lowest and not the highest standards. By recognising them we are doing harm rather than good to agriculture in this country. There are standards in these codes which many of us would not accept or tolerate among our domestic pets or among animals in the zoo. Even animals used for research in laboratories are often kept in better conditions than these codes will permit.
Why do the Government have to stop at this point? They mean well, but the answer is obvious. They are yielding to economic pressures, to economic interests, as I said at the beginning. It would cost farmers a great deal of money to adapt themselves to new and more modern layouts to look after their animals.
871 The Minister boasts that these codes are the first in the world. What good is a boast like that if the codes are inadequate? We want good codes to boast about, not just any codes at all, especially if they are in some sense officially recognising that cruelty to animals is permitted, and laying that down as a standard.
If we accept these codes, they may eventually form the basis of an international set of codes under the United Nations. I had hoped that the House would present the world with a far higher standard of codes than we have to accept this evening. We should adopt a set of codes of which we and Britain can be proud, in order to maintain our great reputation for kindness to animals.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
Like right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, I must express my deep concern for the welfare of our livestock. I am a practical farmer of 30 years' standing, and during that time I have had the good fortune to travel round the world and see the immense strides which have been taken in the intensification of livestock production.
I remember seeing, about 30 years ago, the beef lots of the Middle West, which were possibly the precursors of the intensification of livestock production. A few years ago I went to Eastern Europe, where I saw that intensive livestock production was moving forward very rapidly. When I flew over the Mississippi Valley, I was rather surprised to see some enormous houses. They looked like factories, and I asked the pilot what they were. He told me that they were giant poultry houses.
I know from experience that the intensification of livestock production in this country is moving forward. When I speak in the House, I like to have reasonably up-to-date information about the subject under discussion, so last Friday, to refresh my memory, because I am reasonably conversant with these conditions, I visited a large turkey breeding establishment, a large pig unit, and two large poultry units. I did not visit a veal calf unit because one was not available. I saw all the signs of intensification in the keeping of livestock.
872 We have to be extremely careful about this trends, because when one gets vast concentrations of animals doubts arise in one's mind about whether the animals can be looked after as well as they should be. Hon. Members may recollect that in May of this year it was exceptionally wet. I was told that in our own area 5,000 dead sheep were brought into one animal disposal establishment.
I make this point only to indicate that if livestock losses on that scale had been countenanced in an intensive livestock unit the owner would have been out of business. Much greater hardship is caused to animals on free range than is ever caused to them in these intensive livestock units, because there losses must be kept to a minimum. I believe that the losses in these units are about half the percentage of the losses that occur on free range.
I have looked at these codes from three angles—first, from the angle of the welfare of the livestock. I do that critically, because I am not a lover of intensive livestock production, which has been forced on the farming industry, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) so graphically pointed out. Having accepted that it has been forced on our farming industry, it is necessary to look carefully at the welfare of the animals.
I had the good fortune to visit a large turkey outfit—possibly the foremost breeding outfit for turkeys in this country. I met the owner and, significantly, I met the chief veterinary adviser as well. In Peru, only last year, I went to one of the large beef units, with 10,000 beef animals on one feed lot. They were entirely intensively fed. Looking at the backcloth of the Andes one would have thought that all those animals would have been on the ranges, but today everything is changing. The feed is being brought to the animals. There again, there was a veterinary surgeon in charge, as well as a nutritional expert.
One can say that in the best intensively organised livestock outfits in the world—and we must aim at having the best—there is a first-class state of welfare for the animals, and also a first-class state of nutrition, and combined with it a wonderful conversion rate of food into meat.
873 I want to say a word about the economic trends. Without doubt farming today, with 10 per cent. interest rates on borrowed capital necessitates a very high throughput. I have experienced this myself. To my loss, I am not an intensive keeper of livestock, but I know that to attain the maximum return today intensification must be practised.
The other aspect of the situation to which I wish to draw attention concerns the trends in husbandry. It is amazing to think of the amount of grass which can be produced in any field today during the course of a year. It is almost sacrilege to turn a cow on to a field today because she tramples on the grass that she should be eating. That indicates that on a day not too far distant cows will be fed by having grain, fodder and succulence brought to them.
I had a dream the other night of a scientist who invented a "munching machine" and of an automatic cudder producing milk at the other end. It sounds fantastic, but things are moving extremely fast in science and agriculture and in the turning of animal food into products which the housewife wants to eat. It is not so fantastic to think that these things will come to pass, when cows will not be seen in the fields.
It was against this background that I looked at the codes and asked myself, "Should these codes be mandatory or advisory?" I had the experience of living through the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 1967–68. For six months I never went into my own farm buildings. During that time the veterinary advisers of the Ministry had to work within a specified code of regulations laid down by Parliament. The veterinary advisers were in great difficulties because everything was laid down in detail in the regulations and no flexibility was allowed in those regulations.
I should like to remind the House of a picture of the Prime Minister which I always carry with me. I do not carry so many pictures of the Prime Minister so close to my heart! But I have this one mental picture of the Prime Minister standing on a mat which had been soused in an approved disinfectant before he flew by helicopter to the Channel Islands. Everybody with experience of the Ministry regulations relating to approved disinfectants knows that the Prime 874 Minister would have had to stand on that mat for 24 hours before the virus was killed. I give this as an indication of the great danger of laying down in a Statute regulations concerning agricultural subjects. In this instance, the Government are doing the right thing in laying down these flexible codes.
I wish to draw attention to two basic safeguards which have possibly been overlooked. One is that when an officer of the Ministry's veterinary service, for which I have the highest regard, goes on to a farm everybody knows that that man knows his business and will put some searching questions. Under the 1968 Act the Ministry inspectors can go on to any farm and see whether there is any cruelty. Added to that is the other safeguard: these codes will have to be observed.
I believe that those things taken together are a very large step forward. I welcome these codes; I hope they will later be amended and improved. I know that we are taking a real step in the right direction.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I confess at once that I am quite incapable of indulging in the kind of sophisticated juggling with words that the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) has done, and, although we all like him personally, he must forgive me if I strongly disagree with some of his ideas.
I have listened with close attention to most of the speeches this evening, and I say at once that although one cannot dismiss the economic arguments in favour of these practices, we are not discussing tonight the economics of factory farming. We are discussing the morality of factory farming. The speeches that have been critical of these codes have come from those who feel that the limit has been reached at which we can willingly tolerate a further movement in a downward direction which puts into a second-class position the welfare of animals because man needs them so much as a result of the increasing population. I am well aware of the arguments presented by the economists.
My right hon. Friend, who has a difficult task to discharge, has stated quite fairly that these are the first codes 875 and are liberal in relation to what happens in other parts of the world. As a British subject, I have always been proud of the fact that we have a better record in this country than most of our neighbours on the Continent and elsewhere for animal welfare. But I am dismayed that because of these economic arguments we are accepting a situation in which, for the sake of economics, we are going to create an anthill civilisation, in which man does not escape from the moral consequences of what he is doing.
I realise that, at this time of night, the House will not welcome a long speech from me, but I recall to the memory of some of the more senior Members present what happened about 40 years ago when there was such a revulsion of liberal feeling in this country—I am not speaking in political terms; I mean liberal with a small "1"—that people refused to eat some of the delicacies which were produced on the Continent of Europe, in Strasbourg and elsewhere. I refer, in particular, to pâité de foie gras. Such things scandalised public opinion in this country 40 years ago, because of the inhuman conditions in which those unfortunate creatures were penned in hundreds of cellars in the city of Strasbourg and in Alsace-Lorraine—I have seen them for myself—in order to produce delicacies to titivate the palate of gourmets and others who like delicate meals.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Ellis) illustrated the way in which these creatures are confined in a dramatic way tonight, though quite in order, I believe, by showing the tiny space within which hens are now being confined by factory farmers. That sort of thing has been done in Strasbourg for the past 50 years, and some of us have always refused to eat the products of these processes, yet they are now becoming endemic in British agriculture, too.
I do not wish to be unkind to my right hon. Friends in the Government, who are under all sorts of pressure, and none greater than the economic pressures, but I ask them to think again on what they are doing here. They have to a large extent antagonised a great deal of liberal opinion in this country, including my own and that of many hon. Members, regardless of the side on which they sit.
876 We cannot afford to allow the mere economics of the situation to dictate a code of agriculture which, whatever may be said in its defence, pays scant regard to the animal which is ultimately destined for human consumption. Yet today animals are kept in conditions which give them no life at all, save to be penned, for example, as calves are, within a space of 5 feet by 2 feet, unable even to turn round or stretch their legs. We cannot justify it.
Earlier in the debate, one hon. Member made a passing reference to the need to produce more food because more people are coming into the world and there are more mouths to feed. I do not stand against efficiency. I have always stood for efficiency in all kinds of ways, but here we are dealing not with inanimate objects but with animal life of a high order, with cattle and other creatures which are destined for human consumption.
I protest, as moderately as I can, that we cannot allow these codes to be the last word. There is an idea that, if only we have some sort of nominal code, without statutory backing, everyone will obey it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) when she says that that will disadvantage the farmer who does not like this rotten system to a far greater extent than he is already because he will be in competition with people who do not care a damn how they rear their animals so long as they produce a lot of meat and good profits.
Perhaps I have spoken a little too strongly. I try not to be emotional about these things, but this is an emotive question. It is distasteful to many of us even to have to discuss it. But I have always found in my time here that the House is at its best when discussing a moral question; and this is above all, for me, a moral question. Therefore, without taking up more time, I make my position clear. Over the years, I have often found myself in a dilemma, as my right hon. Friends find themselves in a dilemma tonight. There have been times when my sense of loyalty allowed my better sense of other loyalties to be overridden, and I have trailed into the Lobby against my better judgment. Tonight, however, I shall follow my conscience.
877 I shall not burke at the final sanction. I do not like these codes and I shall vote against them.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) was his usual clear and interesting self tonight. He expressed an opinion which other hon. Members on both sides of the House have tried to pinpoint—the great difficulty in which people who farm in this country on a large scale find themselves when seeking to reconcile ever-increasing costs and expenditure with the need to produce more and more to maintain their income. I declare an interest in the matter, although I do not produce any of the animals mentioned in the four codes, except cattle. We produce cattle in Northamptonshire, but I am pleased to say that they are all reared in the traditional manner. The hon. Member for Westhoughton would not find any white veal calves on my farm because I do not have any.
The disagreement in the House is not on party lines. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that an improvement in the welfare of livestock will take place as a result of these four codes. The question is how big an initial step should we take. Most hon. Members who have spoken have taken the view that the Government's initial step of introducing the four codes is not enough. It seems to me a very small result of four years of deliberation since the Brambell Report to produce these four codes which serve to do no more than to guide farmers and other producers.
The Minister intervened in an earlier speech and said that de-winging would be forbidden under these codes. That is not the case. The whole point about these codes is that they forbid nothing. All is advisory. If they said that de-winging were forbidden or that something else were forbidden they would be of value, but even if the House approved these recommended codes, I could go tomorrow to the right hon. Gentleman's constituency and de-wing a lot of hens on his front doorstep without breaking the law.
Possibly the Minister intends later to introduce Orders to implement these codes of practice and to put some power behind them. At the moment we have 878 some very good intentions recommended by the Government, but if I am to support these codes of practice I want an assurance that sooner or later they will be introduced as statutory requirements and implemented by order or by some other form of agricultural legislation. The codes seem to me a long way from the Brambell standards and they would be acceptable to me only if they were to lead to the introduction of legislation.
I say that in the knowledge that the vast majority in farming concerned with the production of livestock welcome these four codes and would welcome their introduction as a statutory measure. The average farmer and the average livestock producer has nothing to hide. He cares for his stock properly and sees that his employees care for his stock properly, and he has no more sympathy than have hon. Members with those relatively few who are concerned to make as much money as they possibly can out of the business, regardless of the conditions.
There is profit to be made by the few pig producers who care to crush their stock together, and who resort to other methods to produce the leanest meat. There is money to be made for the few veal producers who care to emaciate their calves in an endeavour to satisfy some sophisticated London market where, for some funny reason, people want meat that is white. And there is profit to be made by those few people without principles or scruples who are determined to extract the largest number of eggs from the minimum possible floor space. It is no use the Minister thinking that these four codes of recommended treatment will have any effect on those people who, by and large, are out of the normal run of the farming community, and who will not pay heed to the message they get from this House until that message is backed up by statutory powers.
For a long time now I have hoped and believed that one day I shall see it quite clearly established that there is a vast difference in the nutritional value of food got from animals that are housed and caged in unnatural and unsatisfactory conditions compared with that got from animals which are looked after and cared for in a natural and traditional manner. I believe that one day the scientists will show that, nutritionally, the value of the 879 battery egg is not half that of the free-range egg. I believe that one day, and I hope that it will be before long, the scientists will show that this milky white veal meat which is being passed off in large hotels today is not a patch on the traditional joint of Leicestershire beef.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
I have been impressed by the fact that those hon. Members who are farmers have, almost without exception, painted for us a picture of the best type of intensive farming and have indirectly condemned some of the practices which are permitted under these codes. Their evidence has been extremely valuable to us.
I would remind the House that what some of us are most concerned about are the conditions which will be permitted for the rearing of broiler chickens and white veal calves. I have in my hand a copy of HANSARD. The nub of the matter is that in this space one 6 lb. bird—a bird with a wing span of 33 inches or 36 inches—or two 3 lb. birds could be housed. What worries me is how, under those conditions, the stockman to whom the farmers have referred, with his knowledge and understanding of birds and animals can possibly exercise that compassion and understanding on them. How can he possibly do so? Are not these codes making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for this to be done?
Ruth Harrison, without whom, I suppose, we might not have had the Brambell Report, the provisions of the Act, the Hewer Committee, or even this debate tonight, told me that she had never in all the visits she had paid to factory farms seen birds stocked as tightly as they are permitted to be stocked under these codes. She said she asked one of her farmer friends to stock at this rate, and she was appalled when she saw how close birds were kept together. Her evidence must carry some weight in view of her wide experience of this subject.
I am a layman in these matters. However, I was a member of the Littlewood Committee which considered animal experiments and I support—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.880
That the Proceedings on Government Business may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Dobson.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.
I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) said about the difficulty of defining stress in animals. It is difficult to see whether stress is taking place. We had a long discussion about this in the Littlewood Committee and I am strengthened in my view about this difficulty in considering the codes because there was not an animal behaviour specialist on the Hewer Committee. There were veterinary authorities, but nobody with special knowledge of animal behaviour.
When we are considering whether cruelty could take place under these codes, it is important for us to know the views of animal behaviourists on this issue. Articles have appeared in the Press critical of the codes and pointing out that nobody on the committee had special responsibility for this aspect of animal keeping.
So we must use our common sense and accept that if a calf cannot lie down with its legs fully stretched at right angles to its body or if a hen cannot stretch its wings outwards, and not just downwards, there may probably be a case for saying that they are suffering from stress. I do not believe that any responsible research laboratory would tolerate these confined conditions for the animals in its care. How many animal welfare organisations have accepted these codes? It is important that we know this information because we are considering animal welfare. There is no point in introducing codes unless we meet their requirements.
These codes have been described as being parallel to the Highway Code and we have been assured that the Act will prevent unnecessary cruelty. If a farmer is prosecuted for causing unnecessary cruelty under the Act, will he be able to call in aid his compliance with a code to prove that he is not being cruel to his animals? If so, one wonders whether the standards should be much higher than they are under the codes.
881 The Secretary of State referred to there being some control on the import of intensively reared animals in the form of meat. If the Ministry is so certain that these codes will permit a high standard in Britain—a standard much higher than that on the Continent—one would have thought that it would immediately have introduced some control on imports of meat from the Continent. If my right hon. Friend is saying, "We will watch the situation closely and, if necessary, take action", he must be admitting that the Ministry is not too sure on this point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North (Mr. Ellis) referred to the use of antibiotics in intensive farming and suggested that we were waiting for the Swann Committee's Report to tell us authoritatively what the dangers are. But we already know the dangers. An article in the New Scientist in 1967 underlined this point. In it Dr. Bernard Dixon, the microbiologist, said:There is now a mass of evidence showing that the misuse of antibiotics as growth-promoting food supplements and as mass prophylactic agents has caused a serious increase in the bacterial drug resistance in recent years. The threat to human and animal health has been made abundantly clear and warnings from experts in the field have mounted over the past year… Over the past few years microbiologists have published a stream of facts and figures illustrating the growing seriousness of the situation. Those experts I have spoken to … are now staggered that further inquiry"—by this he is referring to the Swann Committee—should be thought necessary.In other words, we already have all the evidence—I have masses here with which I will not weary the House—to show that there is this relation between the ever closer stocking of birds and animals and the use of antibiotics on an ever wider scale and their effects on human drug resistance. The point in raising this is that the Minister has a copy of the Swann Committee's Report, and on the basis of the evidence we have it is fair to assume that this report will at least suggest that the stocking of animals and birds in intensive units should be less tight and that there should be greater ventilation and freedom to prevent these dangers of drug resistance in human beings.
What interests me is why we are now considering these codes without any knowledge of the Swann Committee's 882 recommendations when they may be published in a few weeks. A few weeks would make all the difference to the debates that we could have on this subject. It has been suggested that these codes can very easily—I do not think that it is an exaggeration—be brought up to a higher standard. But how quickly can this be done? Supposing the Swann Committee comes out very strongly on this point in a few weeks' time? Can the codes be amended within a few weeks? My experience of this House is that it is usually a matter of years before action of this kind is taken.
Again, we are assuming that if the codes are to be changed they will be changed for the better in the animal welfare sense. What the right hon. Member for Ashford (M r. Deedes) said about the relentless economic pressure on farmers makes it much more likely that these codes will be altered to bring about an even tighter stocking rate rather than the stocking rate suggested by Brambell. I should like assurance on this point because I am not at all happy about the situation we have had put before us tonight.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Like other hon. Members, I was in Peru last year, as was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). My abiding impression, against the vast backcloth of the Andes, was not of modern farming methods but of the most backward intensive human methods at producing human beings living in mad huts against mountains. That may not be altogether an irrelevancy because we in this country are in a different situation as an advanced industrial nation.
When I became a Member of the House I thought that I would here consider the humanities, having left the world of industry and business where my concern was with productivity, profits and production. The House has been rightly reminded tonight that it has a duty to stop and consider the humanities and humane questions. I do not dissociate the Ministers on the Front Bench tonight from that thought. They have been present pretty well throughout the debate. I sense that they and the Government feel that this is not a frivolous debate by any 883 means and that much sentiment and much sense has been aired tonight on this difficult question.
I must, however, join in criticising the two Ministers who have presented these codes of behaviour, not because I am against the idea of producing more food by more intensive methods, but because they have been too woolly in their approach to setting standards in what they have said they regard as an important factor in modern farming.
When I first became a Member one question which I had to ask was, what is Brambell? Who is he? "I had many letters about Brambell three or four years ago. There was then, and there has been ever since, great anxiety expressed to me in letters from my constituents, not all from emotional old ladies and old men, but often from young people concerned about the standards which we adopt in this country in manufacturing foodstuffs and other things—people concerned at the morality of our behaviour; in other words, our codes.
It was this public disquiet which brought the Brambell Committee into being. New intensive methods of farming had opened up opportunities for exploitation, and I am glad that in 1964 the Government appointed a committee of such distinction to look into this problem as a matter of urgency. I do not think that anyone today has criticised the membership of the Brambell Committee which was made up of men of distinction and ability.
We know that there are serious pressures on the food producer, on the farmer, and they were aired dramatically in an extremely serious and good speech by my neighbour, my right ron. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). He may have come down on the side of the argument which I cannot support, but he saw both sides of it. However, I cannot agree with him about the need for greater production and greater profit—or, to be fair, simply the need for greater production.
Other factors are involved to which the Brambell Committee referred in its report. It said that it believedin a flexibility that will permit progressive development of sound systems of husbandry "—884 which would—also cover the welfare of animals.This is what we are discussing. We recognise the need for intensive production to cope with the problem of feeding ourselves and selling food abroad and o0btaining the right price for our foodstuffs. But we are concerned—and this is why the Brambell Committee was set up—to guard against the dangers of exploitation.
We hoped that the Brambell Committee would make some firm recommendations, and it did. It came up with very firm and clear recommendations, often in simple, one-line sentences. It said, however, in paragraph 220:The Protection of Animals Act 1911 (and the corresponding Scottish Act of 1912) confers little protection on farm animals because of the inadequacy of its definitions in relation to farming practices, and the inability of the authorities to take effective enforcement action under it. In framing our recommendations therefore, we have realised that these will involve new legislation. specifically relating to the welfare of animals kept for food production.The Brambell Committee came up with a recommendation, very strongly called for, for regulations.
What did we get, however? From the advisory committee, and now presented to the House, we have got codes of behaviour. I accept that they are a considerable advance and they go a long way towards the aims of all those of us who are concerned that there should not be exploitation which goes against the human grain. The Brambell Committee warned us in its report that those pressures would exist. It asked that the Government would make recommendations, and make them clear. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) so correctly reminded the House, the Minister in his codes has not been sufficiently specific, has not given us regulations and has given us phraseology which allows the greatest latitude of interpretation.
I ask the Minister to bear in mind what we are saying when he responds to this debate. In a way, we are congratulating the Minister and the Government for recognising the problem, but I am not congratulating them for the methods which they have suggested to tidy up the position.
885 I wonder whether these codes will be approved tonight. Will the House of Commons accept that animals should be made to live a half life only to satisfy our requirements in the intensive life which mankind is producing for itself? I am concerned with the direction in which mankind is today moving—towards more production, more profits, more productivity. Will we forget altogether the humanities and our feeling for humane treatment to all living things?
I am not an old fuddy-duddy yet. I believe that we have to match the difficult economic problems which face us, and intensive farming is one of the things that we must face. I ask the House to face up to it, and the Minister to accept that we must face up to it with humanity.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)
I share with other hon. Members pride in the fact that ours is a nation of animal lovers. It is one of the reputations for which we are well known throughout the world. I am pleased to say that I am quite emotional on this subject because I feel emotionally towards animals. One of my hon. Friends—the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), I believe—spoke about well-meaning people with, I fancy, a little bit of a sneer. I am not ashamed of that at all. I believe that compassion for animals is akin to compassion for human beings.
Compassion is indivisible. One cannot feel compassion for human beings and not for animals. If a person is against suffering by human beings, he is against suffering by all creatures. It is a question of soul. I know that the General Election will be fought on "soul" and I am sorry that we have made such a bad start, as souls extended to animals as well as to human beings.
I was astonished by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor). He recently introduced a Private Member's Bill, which I supported, dealing with cruelty to animals during the last few minutes of their lives. How can he accept misery for animals during their whole life? He said that if we were as well informed as he is and went around the batteries and factory farms we would see that everything was all right, we would be quite satisfied and support the Government.
886 But it is because more people do not visit factory farms and broiler stations that they accept the situation, although I am not speaking in favour of their abolition. If more people in this nation of animal lovers were to see animals in conditions which they would not tolerate for their pets, they would condemn those conditions for farm creatures. They would not tolerate those conditions, and neither would inspectors, because it would be against the law. We have a split mind, and an attitude to farm animals which we would not tolerate for our domestic animals.
The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) made the surprising statement that the hazards to animals on free range were much greater than those in a factory or broiler. He said that 500 sheep were destroyed during a flood last May, but hon. Members have spoken about tens of thousands of creatures being destroyed by fire. It is possible also for animals in buildings in low-lying areas to be drowned, as human beings are drowned in buildings. I fail to understand how animals can be safer in cooped up conditions than on a free range.
If we are to make this excellent start and lead the world into adopting a code for the safeguarding of animals, we should start with a really good one. To start with a poor one is a had example, and I hope that we can produce something better. The Brambell code is a minimum standard, not a high standard; it is the least we can accept.
An Opposition Front Bench spokesman estimated that the difference in cost between implementing Brambell to the full and the Government code would be £50 million. I put it to him that that is a wild guess. No one can know at this stage, and I challenge him to tell me how this figure was estimated. It is just a wild guess which will not help us.
I pay tribute to the altuistic speech of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). It is a question of competition between good farming, as described by the hon. Gentleman, and the worst practices of people who come into the business and who are often not farmers. The fact that these codes are insufficient will encourage the pseudo farmer to come in and use the worst methods, just as in 887 the past the absence of the Factory Acts encouraged the bad employer.
I consider that the small extra cost involved would not worry the taxpayer. He willingly pays between £300 million and £400 million a year to maintain the farming community and would gladly spend more on animals. I have the impression that, popular as are farmers in the mind of the British public, they are not as popular as animals.
During the debate we drifted into comparisons between poultry farming today and that which existed in the past. Nearly 30 years ago when I was a boy just leaving school I was in charge of a poultry smallholding. I can never remember foxes being a hazard in my district, nor can I remember my hens going through snow. Neither is a particular hazard in poultry keeping in this country.
From what has been said one would think that poultry keeping 30 years ago was thoroughly bad and that there were no good poultry farmers, but I feel that there has been a great deal of exaggeration. We must keep a sense of perspective. In the action we are taking tonight we must not pretend that we are abolishing broiler farming.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) spoke about poultry no longer being a luxury. It is not only cheaper and much more plentiful. These days it is just not worth eating. It is not a luxury because it is not worth having. I have lost my taste for chicken entirely. We are concerned at the lowering of quality of our food. We are also concerned that in some cases it is being made dangerous for human beings. The subject of antibiotics has already been mentioned.
One reason why I support the code is that I like meat. For many years I was a vegetarian since I could not stand the thought of animals being slaughtered, but I like meat so much that I had to give in. But if I had to depend on present-day chicken flesh for my meat, then I should gladly become a vegetarian.
I am glad that the Government have taken action, but I regard their proposals as nothing more than a compromise. They are taking an historic step in introducing the code, but let us have a good one. The very least we can ask for is the Brambell code.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I support the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). During the short time I have been a Member of the House, I have had more letters about animals than on any other single subject. If we applied to all human problems the same intensity of feeling that animal problems evoke, we would soon get nearer the Utopia to which we all aspire.
In spite of all this correspondence I find it difficult to make up my mind on this matter. I do not criticise the majority of farmers, nor do I wish to be unfair to the Ministry of Agriculture, which has had a hard job in putting proposals before the House. But I feel that the codes are disappointing, and I add my voice to the amount of pressure being put upon the Government.
I do not find it wrong that we should be putting forward standards which are not mandatory. But, given that, it seems odd that the standards being proposed are so much less exacting than those proposed by the Brambell Committee. It could be argued that any code of practice which is not mandatory should be more and not less strict than what the Brambell Committee suggested.
Another serious criticism, in which I would echo what was said earlier, is that these codes in many respects are vague and imprecise. It would be difficult to use them as evidence in any prosecutions which may, unhappily, be necessary under the 1968 Act. They add up to a curiously lax interpretation of the words "unnecessary distress" in that Act.
I will not add to the many examples already given in the debate to illustrate the misgivings which are so widely felt about these codes. They have been expressed to me by a great many correspondents, notably by Profesosr Thorpe, Professor of Animal Ethology at Cambridge University, who was a distinguished member of the Brambell Committee. In that connection, I was very glad to hear the reference by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) to the views of the animal behaviourists.
On balance, it would be wrong for hon. Members to oppose or try to reject the codes. On the other hand, I shall be satisfied only if we have definite assurances 889 that there will be amendments soon in a number of directions. To be specific, I will list six amendments which I would like to see.
First, any animal should at least have room to turn round freely. Second, a dry bedded area should be provided for all stock. Third, palatable roughage must be readily available to all calves after one week of age. Fourth, sows may only be kept in stalls for feeding, and straw must be provided. Fifth, the Brambell recommendations for space for all poultry must be substituted for the recommendations in the codes of practice. Sixth, skip-a-day feeding systems, beak trimming of fowl, spectacles, and the dubbing of combs after the age of five days must be made illegal.
From all our party conferences in Brighton recently there came a common concern that, as we pursue efficiency, we must not forget or trample on other, deeper values which make up a civilised society in the best sense of that phrase. Nor should we forget the need to listen to the strength of public opinion. I believe that both those dangers are present here. I beg the Government to think again, and I hope that, before this debate ends, we shall have from the Minister much stronger assurances than we have received so far.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
As one of the hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment, I hope that the House will allow me to say that it would be greatly apprecated if we could hear very soon the comments of the Minister in reply to this lung debate. Every hon. Member is anxious to hear my right hon. Friend's views on the strongly expressed opinions which have come from all parts of the House.
I will not go into the emotional issues which are at stake. I want simply to try to register one point in the Minister's mind. It is that there is no need to vote on this issue, provided that my right hon. Friend makes the kind of speech which will enable us to withdraw the Amendment. To my knowledge, no one is anxious to press it to a Division. The whole matter is in my right hon. Friend's hands, and everything depends on the quality of his reply.
890 We look for a speech from him on the following lines, "I have heard the strongly expressed views in the House tonight. I know that those views are very deeply and emotionally held, not only here but outside. I feel that there may be some force in them."
I want the Minister to say what he is prepared to do. The kind of undertaking that we would be grateful for from the Minister is something on the following lines. If he is prepared to say that he will reconstitute his advisory committee —and he cannot do much else, because it is in ruins with the resignations that he has had—in a form which we would leave him to judge, in the light of the debate, because we are not so impudent as to want to dictate to him in that respect, and will ask it immediately to consider the half-dozen major crucial issues which have been raised tonight, I am sure that we would be satisfied.
The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) listed six issues, but I do not think that he meant his list to be exclusive or all inclusive. However, he set out the kind of list which is of concern to most hon. Members who signed the Amendment.
If the Minister is prepared to say "I will ask the advisory committee to consider these issues again, because of the strength of feeling expressed; I will ask for a special report on these issues and, when it is considering its report, I will ask it specifically to meet the sort of point which has been broadly called the Brambell lobby"—I use the expression" Brambell lobby "in a complimentary sense, not in any pejorative sense; I mean the people dedicated to the Brambell standards as they have emerged in recent years—"expressed in a form best suited to the occasion; and if I then sense that there is a real division on the advisory committee about this matter, I, as the Minister, will make up my mind on these disputed standards which are at stake and I will come to the House with a report on the issues which have clearly been of concern tonight", I feel that it would be enough for most of us to say that we would not press the Amendment to a Division.
This would be in the best traditions of the House of Commons. This will have been a good debate in which we have 891 aired deeply held personal views and we will have had a Minister responding and saying, "I understand these views. I will now play my part in, first, getting new advice on each of the crucial issues at stake and, secondly, in coming to the House with my own views if I sense that a political decision is needed at the end of the day because the advisers are, in effect, divided."
If we could have that, I would certainly urge the sponsors of the Amendment, with myself, to withdraw it and to leave the matter in the hands of the Minister. But, if the Minister is not prepared to go as far as that or is in any sense wanting to go a good deal less far, I would urge the House to proceed to a Division. In those circumstances, I hope that we would be able to carry it not in a spirit of defiance, but as showing that these views are deeply held, that we have done our best to reach a compromise with my right hon. Friend, with perhaps honour satisfied all round, and that the standards of the House of Commons have been upheld on what is a crucial matter of personal conscience.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)
I do not wish to delay the House long at this late hour.
I speak as a farmer who has farmed for many years, but has never practised any of the methods which were frowned upon by the Brambell Committee.
I have listened to every word which has been spoken in the debate. My conclusion is that if all hon. Members who have spoken had been asked to draft the codes, we would have as many different codes as hon. Members who have spoken. The matter is so much one of opinion, and animal behaviour is something which people do not fully understand.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister, who is temporarily absent, but I trust that someone will pass this comment on to him, will tell us that we shall have a great deal more research in future on animal behaviour, about which we know all too little.
Like other hon. Members, I have had many letters on the subject. I am grateful for them, but, like the speeches that we have heard, they are all different and 892 would all have drafted the codes in one way or another. Some hon. Members who have spoken tonight would go far beyond Brambell. The hon. Lady the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), and the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), both showed that their preference is for something far beyond Brambell, because they both said that they would like a code which laid down that a bird in a cage should be able to stretch both wings. The Brambell Report gave only enough space for a bird to stretch one wing. There are those who would go far beyond Brambell, and those who would not go as far.
Some people have tended to regard the Brambell Report as a sort of tablet of stone on the basis of which everything should be done. I want to give two examples to show that Professor Hewer's Committee has improved on the Brambell Report.
Much as I dislike beak trimming, I cannot help feeling that it was wrong of the Brambell Committee to suggest that it should be prohibited. The codes say that beak trimming should be used only as a last resort, and only when more suffering would be caused in the flock if it were not done. They also say that it should be done by a skilled operator. Anyone who has seen cannibalistic poultry cannot imagine a more appalling habit and a more appalling sight. If cannibalism can be combated in the last resort by beak trimming, it should be allowed.
Brambell said that the docking of pigs should be prohibited, and that tail biting is rare under good management. I dispute that. Tail biting can happen in the best managed of herds. Nobody understands how it starts, and I think that it is far better to have the prohibition in the codes which say that it should not be carried out unless it is prescribed by a "vet"—because "vets" will not necessarily prescribe the docking of pigs' tails —and that it should be carried out only where it is really necessary.
In those two matters the codes have improved very much on the Brambell Report. They have also improved on Brambell with regard to the tethering of cattle. Brambell suggested in Recommendation 23 that the prolonged or permanent short tethering of cattle for beef production should be banned, but in the upland areas it is essential that cattle for 893 beef production are tethered. The reason for tethering in the north of England and in Scotland is traditional. It is not cruel. I have seen hundreds of cattle for beef production which have been tethered. This is mainly because in the upland areas there are no suitable buildings, no suitable open yards, because there is no straw, due to the fact that no corn is grown, and tethering is a much more economical way of keeping cattle. It would be wrong, in fact it would be ruinous, in upland areas such as that which I represent if the tethering of cattle for beef production was banned.
I yield to no one in my desire to eliminate unnecessary cruelty, but today most animals are more contented, better fed, better housed, and live longer than they would without man's interference and without the modern methods of agriculture. There are some who are insensitive to some of the practices which exist, and we condemn them. The Brambell Committee did a fine job, but I believe that in detail it was wrong, as I have tried to show the House.
The codes are a first-class first step towards getting better standards for the management of animals. Some people have said that the codes represent half a cake. I think that they represent very much more than half a cake, because I think that they go a long way to implementing the suggestions in the Brambell Report.
Although I do not like certain aspects of the codes—some of the wording is woolly, and so on—I hope that the House will accept them tonight as a wonderful first step in arriving at a better standard of management of farm animals.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I make no apology for speaking in this debate, because it is one of the greatest debates that this House has had for a long time. This subject is one that the House should debate. The debate is not about animals; it is about human beings and about the way in which they are in a civilised society treating animals in that society. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support the Amendments.
I sympathise with the Government in this matter, but it seems to me that this debate—and I am surprised that some hon. Members opposite oppose what the 894 Amendments try to do—is the sort of debate that would have taken place in this House in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. We have had many bitter party squabbles and debates about the Industrial Revolution, yet many of the early pieces of legislation that removed the crunch of that Industrial Revolution came from the Tories—Lord Shaftesbury and others.
Our opportunity tonight is the opportunity of bringing in a 10-hour Factory Act for animals. It is something on which the House should decide tonight. Throughout our history domestic animals have been our friends, and have been of enormous value to the people of the world, but only in during the last 20 or 30 years has the economic and industrial development of these animals begun to gather pace, and it has lately been gathering pace at an enormous rate.
This is a repetition of the situation that occurred in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. We have, therefore, an opportunity of putting on the Statute Book the first illuminating and humanitarian steps designed to see that this process does not go too far. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), the Government and many agriculturists argue about it, but the question remains: do we, as human beings, go on having a higher standard of living because we are doing something to the domestic animal that in our hearts we know we should not do? This House has shown clearly in tonight's debate that the answer is a firm "No".
Nobody in the House wants to produce a code of conduct which will never be altered in the next 30 years. The House has reached the conclusion that the Government should not merely bring in a code of conduct but should bring in—as exemplified in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), on which I congratulate him, as one of the best speeches I have ever heard in this House—a code saying that factory farming has limits beyond which this House will not sanction it, and that those limits will be laid down by law.
That is as far as I want to go. We are prepared to accept that a great deal more research will be carried out over 895 the years. Perhaps we shall not get it quite right; but I am sure that the majority in the House is convinced that the time has come for some specific chain action, with the power of law behind it, to see that these methods, introduced purely and simply for the economic advantage of the human race, will not be allowed to go any further. That is what the House wants the Minister to say tonight.
I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) that if the Minister can say it in a strong enough manner we shall probably accept what he says, but we want from him a clear enunciation that this is now the road of progress that humanity is taking in dealing with this problem, and that we are not prepared just to accept a code of conduct which can be ignored by many people.
I think that that is the view that this House has taken tonight. I hope that we may avoid a Division, but I believe that in these matters it is often better for the House to divide and show its strength of feeling than leave it as a protestation of belief. But whichever way the debate finishes, I hope that the Minister has no illusions that in all quarters of the House there is a great desire for stronger measures and further action than he is prepared to take at the moment.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
I realise that the House wishes to come to a conclusion, and I shall be as brief as I possibly can.
I have sat through the whole of the debate. It has been a moving debate and one on which all of us will be able to look back with some pride, in that in this House we can spend this amount of time showing this manifest concern for animals on our farms. I doubt whether any other Parliament in the world would debate this subject in quite this way.
As I have listened to the debate it has seemed to me that it has resolved itself into three issues. The first issue was put most clearly by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) when he said precisely that what we are discussing is the morality of factory farming. That is one issue which has been put with 896 great depth of feeling on both sides of the House, and it is one which we can all understand and with which we can all sympathise. But it is one which, I believe, goes beyond the whole concept of these codes, because if one were seriously thinking of banning factory farming altogether one would have to approach it in a very different way indeed.
However, I recognise this instinctive feeling among many people throughout the country that there is something wrong here because it is unnatural. On the other hand, some hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out that some of the advantages in nature are not quite so manifest to those who are in closest contact. So, while recognising this feeling, it is not one which I myself go along with.
The second issue is the economic issue which was so clearly raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), and I thought that he put the issue extremely clearly indeed. He reminded us of the economic advantages —though "disadvantages" might be the right word to use—that accrue from the use of some of the methods in factory farming, or intensive farming as I would prefer to call it. There is little doubt that many of the foods which are produced in this way would be much more expensive to the community if these methods of farming were eliminated. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there is an economic necessity for the farming community at the present time to produce as cheaply as possible, and this undoubtedly affects the issue.
Related to this issue is that of imports. Thinking in terms of economic advantage, it becomes very important that if we are going to prevent production in this country by which our farmers would get some economic advantage, we must, in fairness to the farming community, prevent the importation of that particular type of production from overseas. The Secretary of State for Scotland was quite specific in saying that he was not prepared to make recommendations of this kind.
I take this argument further and say that if we are looking at this matter, as I know hon. Members are, from the point of view of humanitarianism we must be equally concerned if the birds or the animals which are produced and turned into meat 897 for us are produced abroad. If we restrict production here and allow free importation, all we do is transfer the cruelty which we believe is happening from this country to another.
§ Mr. Godber
Will my hon. Friend forgive me? He has interrupted quite a number of times today. I am on a perfectly clear point, and I hope that he will follow the argument.
It is simply that, if one is really concerned, as, I believe, every hon. Member is, about cruelty, one must remember that it is just as much cruelty if it occurs across the Channel as if it occurs here. Therefore, we must ensure that, if we are to put severe restrictions on our home production, we must do the same for imports as well, not only from the standpoint of the economic argument for the farmer but from the standpoint of the humanitarian argument with which everyone in the House is concerned.
§ Mr. Godber
I have just declined to give way to my hon Friend. Time is getting on, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. He has made his points, and I hope that he will allow me to make mine.
We shall expect from the Government a clear indication of where they stand on the issue which I have just stated.
The third issue, as I see it, is more of a technical one, namely, whether the proposals of Professor Brambell and his colleagues set the correct level to prevent hardship and cruelty or whether the level should be at another point. I have been a little surprised at the criticisms which have been directed at Professor Hewer and his colleagues on the Minister's advisory committee.
I have tried to listen to all sides in this matter. I have had the advantage of listening to Professor Brambell. I have had the advantage of listening to Professor Hewer. I have discussed the question with the farmers' leaders, and I have met those who are concerned with factory farming, including, among others, Mrs. Ruth Harrison, who takes a particular interest in these matters. I have tried genuinely to listen to all points of view, and I can see in all of them some elements 898 about which one can think seriously and probably support. But what we are trying to determine here is something which will produce a degree of safeguard which is reasonable and which the House can accept.
Many people have used Professor Brambell's name almost as though he had arrived at a magic decision which was precisely at the right level. I have no desire to take issue with Professor Brambell. I have read his report and I have discussed matters with him. But I have listened also to Professor Hewer, and I and that he puts forward some very cogent arguments in favour of some of the proposals which he has made. It is not a matter of black and white, that Brambell is perfect and others are wrong. We must recognise that it is a matter of judgment. That has come out clearly in our debates in the House.
I note that in today's Daily Telegraph Professor Brambell is reported as saying, when asked whether these codes should be accepted or rejected:I am not on one side or the other. Nor, as the Report made clear, am I against intensive husbandry. I want to see it run on reasonable lines.I think that that represents the view of most right hon. and hon. Members.
There are several points here, and I thought that my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) brought some of them out very well. He concentrated on battery hens and veal calves. I have little experience of battery hen keeping. I have seen a great many battery cáges, and I have seen different stocking rates, I have seen some conforming to Brambell, I have seen some which conform to the Ministry's proposals, and I have seen some which are even more closely confined. My view is that the code will go some way to meet the case. But I think that the Minister will be well advised to keep the matter under close review. If he has his present codes and then keeps this particular issue under close review, that will be well worth doing.
I was not happy about the picture of veal calves which appeared in the R.S.P.C.A. leaflet. It appeared to indicate that that was in accordance with the Minister's proposals, but when I read the codes they seemed to me to provide a measure of protection which would not 899 allow animals to be kept in conditions shown in that picture. I am sorry that that was not made clear in the leaflet.
The proposals in the code in relation to calves lying and being able to stretch out should be sufficient, but I should like to see them in operation, and no doubt this is another aspect which the Minister will want to keep under close review. But I feel a measure of concern about the feeding of veal calves. I am not sure whether there should be this allowance in respect of calves getting food with no roughage at all. It is significant that the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, which is a body whose views I respect, has sent out a note drawing particular attention to this point. The federation claims that calves are ruminant animals.
When I discussed the point with Professor Hewer he assured me that as long as the rumen was not allowed to develop no harm would be done, and he may be right. Mrs. Harrison, on the other hand, tells us that there is clear evidence that there is a craving on the part of calves and that this results in their gnawing the wood in the partitions. It seems to me that this is an issue which should have further consideration. I am not suggesting withdrawing the code now, but I suggest that it is a point which the Minister should watch carefully to see whether it can be shown that as long as the rumen does not develop no hardship is involved.
Comment was made about the iron deficiency. I understood the Secretary of State for Scotland to say firmly that we are to have regulations about that. No hon. Member will wish calves to be artificially deprived of sufficient iron in their diet. In view of the assurance, it seems to me that we can be satisfied on that point but not necessarily on the other point.
I gather from the noise that some hon. Members do not like what I am saying. I am trying honestly to present a serious issue in the way in which I think it should be handled and I hope they will bear with me for a few more minutes. I have sat throughout the debate and I have tried to assess the situation honestly in the interests of the animals.
900 I cannot help regretting that some hon. Members have spoken so strongly against the codes because it is worth recalling to the House that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association support the codes. That cannot be brushed aside. Those bodies certainly have no advantage from the codes. They are the people constantly in contact with the animals concerned—far more than is any hon. Member. They believe that these codes are an advance. The House should weigh that carefully before seeking the rejection or even a limitation of the codes.
The codes are entirely the Government's responsibility. The Opposition have not been consulted about them, nor should the Opposition have been consulted in such a matter. But I believe that the codes are a first step. It may well be that there will be additions later—and it may be quite soon; I do not wish to set down a time scale. I have mentioned two factors which I believe require careful consideration by the Minister and I hope that he will give an assurance about them.
Subject to these comments, I think that the House would be wise tonight to allow these codes to go forward, and then to keep the closest watch on the situation thereafter. I hope that those who have been critical tonight will take the opportunity of visiting farms and seeing animals in these conditions. In particular, I hope that those who have suggested that there is a large degree of cruelty will visit our farms, because the one thing I know is that the great majority of our farmers are just as conscious as any hon. Member of the need to avoid cruelty. I am sure that the whole farming community would resent any imputation that they were being cruel.
In my view, these codes make some measure of advance, and I therefore hope that the House will allow them to go through.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes)
We have come to the end of a most remarkable debate upon a subject which is of deep concern to all of us. We have had the opportunity of seeing the House of 901 Commons at its best. We have been debating a great moral issue without regard to party affiliation, and it is a privilege to have been here to listen to it. Most of us have received representations about the animal welfare codes from organisations and from individuals who are anxious to ensure that we set the highest possible standards. My colleagues and I in the Government understand this very well, and I should like to say a few words about the way in which we have approached our task. I hope that we have done so with no less humanity and compassion than anyone else who has taken part in this debate.
The demands of the growing population and the ability of people to buy more food in greater variety than ever before has meant that since the end of the last war we have seen in this country a continuing development in intensive farming. This has been happening in other developed countries as well. Of course, intensive farming is nothing new, because in winter it has always been the case that animals have been brought indoors and tethered for lengthy periods. This is especially true of Scotland and parts of Wales.
But intensive farming on the scale of the last 20 years has brought its special problems and placed new responsibilities upon the agricultural industry. If animals and poultry are kept indoors permanently for the purpose of feeding the population, Parliament and the country must be satisfied that standards of welfare are adequate, and that distress and strain and suffering are prevented.
It was for this reason that Mr. Soames set up the committee under the chairmanship of Professor Rogers Brambell. This committee performed a most valuable service and I should like to endorse the tribute which my right hon. Friend has paid to its members. Professor Brambell is a neighbour and a friend of mine, and I should like to offer him my personal thanks for his work. The report of his committee was published in December, 1965, and the sequence of events since then is important, because I think that the Government have acted with sympathy.
My predecessor, the Leader of the House, took action in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968 to make it an offence to cause pain and 902 distress to farm animals. Section 1 makes it an offence to cause, or knowingly to allow, livestock on agricultural land to suffer unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress. Section 3 empowers Ministers to prepare and, subject to parliamentary approval, to publish codes of welfare recommendations for the guidance of those responsible for livestock. This is the basic statutory provision upon which the codes are founded.
Furthermore, as recommended in the Brambell Report, an advisory committee under the chairmanship of Professor Hewer was set up. This committee, on the basis of the recommendations of the Brambell Report, drafted the codes of practice which are before the House today, and will advise the Government in a continuing capacity upon the problems of animal welfare.
I wish to stress that the Hewer Committee is as distinguished and independent of the Government as was the Brambell Committee. In other words, we are dealing with two committees composed of the most eminent and independent persons, both of which have advised the Government.
Scientific knowledge on questions of density and stress and strain in animals and poultry is far from complete. The Hewer Committee took evidence from a wide range of organisations and, on the basis of that evidence and the most up-to-date scientific information and its own observations, produced the codes before the House. We did not accept them uncritically. We studied them for a long time. We listened to what hon. Members told us and when we discussed the matter we have been aware of the concern which hon. Members have felt on the subject. We examined the codes in detail and we took careful note of all the representations which had been made to us.
Indeed, Professor Brambell came to see me to discuss them and, following that discussion, I asked Professor Hewer to consider whether it would not be right to give greater prominence to the principles on which the codes are based. This has now been done, on page one of each code, and I know that Professor Brambell has been grateful for this.
Another point of importance which the House should remember is that out of nearly 200 recommendations in the codes of practice, there is disagreement on only 903 eight. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) will bear this in mind, for I know that she speaks with great sincerity and knowledge of the subject. When she speaks of the codes being a lukewarm product of the Government, she should remember that out of the 200 recommendations there is disagreement on very few of them and that a general welcome has been given to over 90 per cent. of them.
I come to the main points of disagreement. First, space allowances for poultry. I emphasise again that it is not possible to make a comparison between the Brambell standards and these recommendations. In the period since Professor Brambell and his colleagues reported, Parliament has taken action—in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968—and has made provision for codes of guidance.
The codes do not say exactly what farmers must do, and they do not lay down upper or lower limits enforceable by law. A farmer could follow the advice in the codes and, through bad management—and management is vital in our consideration of this subject—cause pain or distress to his animals or birds and so be liable to prosecution. Thus, the poultry codes do not recommend any particular density of stocking for birds, either maximum or minimum. They say, however, that at certain specified densities the management of the unit will be crucial to the birds' welfare.
Secondly, freedom for cattle and pigs to turn round, a matter which many hon. Members have raised. The Hewer Committee was not convinced that this was essential, although it was convinced that cattle and pigs should have adequate freedom of movement and that cattle should have freedom to groom and, if penned, room to lie down on their sides and extend their legs within the pen. This is recommended in paragraph 20 of the draft code for cattle. An advantage of single pens for cattle and pigs is hygiene and reduction in the risk of disease. The code seeks to preserve this.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) asked how many visits the advisory committee had 904 made to intensive units. Committee members made 39 visits occupying 40 days.
§ Mr. Burden
That is not quite an answer. I asked how many factories as a committee. not as individuals.
§ Mr. Hughes
This is what I am dealing with. Committee members made 39 visits occupying 40 days. They included visits to poultry, pig and veal units. They consulted 140 organisations, received replies from 134, and received additional oral evidence from farm, veterinary and welfare organisations. I can tell the House that the Hewer Committee did its work in considerable detail and with enthusiasm and I have no criticisms to make of it.
§ Mr. Turton
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why Major Scott, who resigned from the Committee, said that he thought the Committee was far too large and that it had never visited any poultry establishment?
§ Mr. Hughes
This is contrary to what I have just told the House. Major Scott was a member of the committee and resigned. He wrote to me on 22nd September. I much regret that he felt it necessary to resign. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about Major Scott, perhaps I should read from his letter giving the reasons for his resignation. He said:You will no doubt appreciate that on occasions matters involve a conflict of loyalties inevitably arise. I must, therefore, ask you to accept my resignation from the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I may say that this action is in no way prompted by my disagreement with certain aspects of the recently published Codes but in the belief that agreement on acceptable conditions of farm animal welfare can only be achieved by a Committee consisting of members who are not connected directly or indirectly with some of the vested interests involved. In my capacity as Scientific director of U.F.A.W., I would of course be prepared if requested to make technical information available to such a Committee and to represent the views of my Federation.The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) raised the question of the status of the codes and asked why they were not mandatory. The codes should not be regarded in isolation from other vital welfare provisions in the 1968 Act. The Act makes it an offence to cause livestock unnecessary pain or distress and provides for inspections of farm premises. 905 The codes will provide farmers and stockmen with authoritative advice on welfare matters. Some people claim that any welfare code is useless unless it is enforced by law. This is not true and Parliament has agreed. The Highway Code has been used as an example. Is it useless because it is not mandatory? What must be enforced—and this is the crux—is Section 1 of the Act.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)
Surely the point is that the Highway Code sets very high standards. If one can succeed in proving that one acted in accordance with the Highway Code one will not be convicted. If this parallel is to be followed, what we need is very high standards here.
§ Mr. Hughes
I believe that these codes set a very high standard. There is disagreement on some of them, but I believe that they are a model for the rest of the world.
The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) raised the point about calves as ruminants. The advisory committee is satisfied that scientific evidence supports the view that calves will not suffer from postponement of rumination provided that the liquid diet provides all the known nutrients required by the calves. I agree that this is clearly a matter on which there is considerable feeling and one which should be looked at again.
The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) referred to the Swann Report on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. As my hon. Friend said, I have now received the report, which is an extremely important one, and it will be studied very carefully and published as soon as possible. It would not be appropriate for me at this stage to comment on its findings, but if it has the kind of bearing on the codes which my hon. Friend has mentioned, we shall have to take very careful account of it in due course.
I want to rebut any accusation that this is a conflict between large-scale farming interests, on the one hand, and welfare interests, on the other. I believe that this would be a complete distortion of the truth. Certainly there are large-scale intensive operations, but the House should remember that medium and small farmers farm intensively nowadays. Any 906 implication or accusation that farmers as a body treat their animals inhumanely is quite untrue. The State Veterinary Service has already carried out 10,000 inspections under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968, and these have not shown any low standard of animal welfare. Indeed, the standard of animal welfare in British agriculture is higher than in most countries and as high as the best in the world.
Quite apart from the moral aspect, it is in the farmer's interest to look after his animals properly. It is not without significance that the British Veterinary Association, as has been mentioned, and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons have expressed their general support for the codes. Furthermore, the State Veterinary Service, whose duty it is to ensure that high standards of farm animal welfare are maintained, will now have an Act of Parliament and the codes as a sanction and a guide when carrying out its duties.
To those hon. Members who have argued, with great sincerity and persuasion, that they would like to see some of the recommendations amended, I would say this. First, the codes are not the laws of the Medes and Persians, never to be changed. I would prefer to say that they are experimental in the sense that we shall be anxious to see over the coming months how they operate, what the veterinary surgeons, both in and out of the State service, have to say about them and what the R.S.P.C.A. and the welfare organisations tell us about their operation.
Secondly, Professor Hewer's Committee will continue to study these problems and he has promised me that his committee will give me its views.
§ Mr. Hughes
I hope that my hon. Friend will contain himself and be patient.
I have carefully listened to all the speeches which have been made and I have read the debate which took place in another place last week. Whilst I believe that the codes as drafted, produced by an independent committee, set reasonable standards, I am conscious of the deep feeling. I therefore undertake to the House that I will instruct the State Veterinary Service to report to me 907 on how the codes are working in the field. My right hon. Friend and I will then ask the advisory committee to consider that report, together with any new knowledge which may be available, and to advise us on any changes which it considers should be made in the codes.
I want, however, to give the House the further undertaking that I shall place in the Library of the House during the next Session a report from the State Veterinary Service, which will be as full as the limited time for which the codes will have been in operation will allow. This will enable the House, if necessary, to call for a debate on the subject. It is likely that by then we shall have some useful reports and observations from the veterinary profession and the other interested organisations which I have mentioned.
In addition, in view of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), whom I asked to be patient, I will refer immediately back to the advisory committee the points on which disagreement has been expressed here today. Furthermore, if the committee cannot reach agreement, I and my right hon. Friend will undertake to consider whether any amendment should be brought back to the House, and that will be our decision.
My anxiety is not to be rigid about a matter on which such deep feeling has been expressed. The codes should be given an opportunity so that we can see how they work out. I hope that the undertakings which I have given will alleviate the anxiety of some of my hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Chapman
My right hon. Friend is trying to give an assurance which will enable me not to vote in this matter. Do I understand him to say that he will try to distinguish from this debate the half dozen or so crucial issues, that he will ask the committee specially to report on them and that, when he receives the report, or if he discovers that there is no agreement on the advisory committee, he will come forward with a political recommendation to the House based on his decision as to what to recommend?
§ Mr. Hughes
Certainly, it must be a decision for Ministers. I hope that the House understands clearly what I now 908 have in mind. I am proposing the most careful examination of the working of the codes over the next few months.
§ Mr. Turton
Will the report of the advisory committee be available to the House if there is a disagreement, so that we shall know on what points the Minister has made his decision?
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman knows that reports of advisory committees to Ministers are not normally made public, but perhaps he will allow me to consider his point.
§ Mr. Heffer
Will my right hon. Friend —[Interruption.] Some hon. Members might not be interested in voting on this; I am. Will my hon. Friend say what will be the time limit for the report back to the House? It is rather important.
§ Mr. Hughes
I think that I used the words "the next Session". Obviously, one will need to give a reasonable amount of time so that our advisers, the State Veterinary Service and, if necessary, the British Veterinary Association and the R.S.P.C.A., can have an opportunity to see how the codes are working in practice.—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Hughes
I am seeking to be as courteous as possible, and I have given undertakings that should satisfy my hon. Friends.
No country in the world has gone to such lengths as our own to study animal welfare and to set standards. From time to time we are criticised, but it is this kind of debate and the kind of action the Government are now taking through the codes which give us the right to speak confidently of Britain's good record. Let us not denigrate the codes. Let us give them a warm welcome, because they set standards which are unique for any country in the world. The disagreement is over a very small area, and I see no reason why it should not be resolved in the light of the undertakings which I have given.
I hope that the House will accept the codes.
§ Mr. Burden
In view of the strong assurances given by the Minister, and of the strong opinion in the House which, I believe, will lead him to come back with recommendations which will meet 909 hon. Members' wishes, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Paper entitled Code No. 2 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to pigs, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, and approves the Code contained in paragraphs 1 to 33 thereof. —[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]
That this House takes note of the Paper entitled Code No. 1 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to cattle, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, and approves the Code contained in paragraphs 1 to 36 thereof. —[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]
That this House takes note of the Paper entitled Code No. 4 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to turkeys, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, and approves the Code contained in paragraphs 1 to 53 thereof.—[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]
That this House takes note of the Paper entitled Code No. 3 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to domestic fowl, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th June, and approves the Code contained in paragraphs 1 to 62 thereof.—[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]