HC Deb 09 February 1971 vol 811 cc266-7
20. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to abolish the use of sow stalls in which the animal spends its life and in which it can neither walk nor turn round.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

The Pigs Code provides that where sows are housed individually they should be able to feed and lie down normally and that if tethers are used they should not cause injury or distress. My right hon. Friend does not feel justified in banning the use of sow stalls.

Mr. Burden

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the code is advisory only, that there is nothing mandatory in it, and that unless restrictions are imposed in these matters there will be considerable cruelty? If my hon. Friend feels so strongly about this, will he see that the code is observed?

Mr. Stodart

With great respect to my hon. Friend, neither he nor I knows whether cruelty will be caused. This is a matter of opinion. The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) when he was Minister, with our support, asked the Farm Animal Welfare Committee and the State Veterinary Service to go into the matter. They have done so, and have laid their findings. We have placed them in the Library. That is more expert advice than my hon. Friend or I are capable of giving.

Mr. Molloy

Is the Minister aware that there is profound feeling in the country about some aspects of factory farming, notwithstanding the technical reports to which he has referred? If he is so confident that he can rest his argument on those reports, would he be prepared to see a deputation from the National Society for the Abolition of Factory Farming, which consists of a good cross-section of the community, to put some other facts before him?

Mr. Stodart

I am perfectly aware—no one could fail to be—of public thinking upon the matter. I am always ready to see people who wish to discuss such matters with me. But I return to the fact that we cannot do better than accept the advice of those who know more about this than we do.