§ 11.8 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Anthony Stodart)
I beg to move,That the proposed alterations to the 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 2nd July, be approved.Perhaps it would be convenient to the House, Mr. Speaker, if these alterations were discussed together with those relating to Code No. 2 for pigs, Code No. 3 for domestic fowls, and Code No. 4 for turkeys, which are the subject of separate Motions—That the proposed alterations to the Code No. 2 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to pigs, a 971 copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.That the proposed alterations to the Code No. 3 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to domestic fowls, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.That the proposed alterations to the 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 2nd July, be approved.
§ The Motions are to approve the changes proposed to be made to the four documents entitled, "Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock ", and hon. Members have before them the four lists of the alterations which my right hon. Friends propose should be made.
§ I hope that in the speech I am about to make I shall be able to set the tone for the balanced debate which I think it is highly desirable that we should have.
§ The British people feel deeply about the welfare of animals, be they domestic or agricultural. We have a reputation for such feelings, and I dare say that we feel more deeply about this than any other nation. I shall try to convince the House that I am one who numbers myself among them. This perhaps inevitably, when the way in which animals are treated is discussed, arouses emotions which all too often make a balanced view apparently almost impossible to sustain. Despite the fact that I am a farmer who does not keep livestock under what are usually described as factory conditions, I have received numerous letters of personal abuse because I am not prepared to condemn what has come to be known as factory farming. This in itself does not disturb me as these are no more than the slings and arrows of public life; but what does worry me is when information which is wholly inaccurate is distributed.
§ I was inundated with letters some months ago assuring me that there were two what are called Unicar cow units in use in this country. They are not, they were not and they never have been in use in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) may recall that I told him in the House on 11th May that the Unicar system was not in use in this country and that if what my right hon. Friend and I had 972 heard about it was true, it was highly unlikely that we would authorise its use here.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend so early in the debate, and I am grateful to him for giving way. Does he know that since then there has been a very strong amount of pressure from the Swedish interests concerned to try to sell this unit to this country and that, in fact, they issued a Press report which is headed:Swedish agricultural expert praises the Unicar system"?This is really giving concern and I hope my hon. Friend will undertake that this diabolical contraption will not be allowed into this country.
§ Mr. Stodart
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this intervention. The contraption is, in fact, not even in commercial use in Sweden itself. It has been used, as I understand, for experimental purposes and the experimental unit was dismantled. Whether it is going into commercial production in Sweden or, at any rate, outside this country would naturally not be a matter for me. I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that what I have said about the feelings of my right hon. Friend and myself go a very long way towards meeting the point that he has put to me.
What I was going on to say was that letters are still arriving in my office complaining of the cruelty of the Unicar system—this may be explained by what my hon. Friend has told the House—demanding of those colleagues who forward the letters to me that they should do something about it.
More recently people have been expressing anxiety about what is called the Protecta pig system. I would not for one moment dispute that there is genuinely room for argument about this, but when responsible people issue leaflets on which it is written that the sow can only stand up or lie down on what I call her tummy and that she cannot stretch out on her side, I wonder whether they have the faintest idea how a sow suckles her litter and that if she cannot suckle the litter successfully—believe me, she certainly could not do it standing up—what conceivable point there can be in keeping her in such conditions. In fact, 973 the conditions as described are totally inaccurate.
The confining of animals is unattractive, but it is not true to say, I think—this is where I attempt to find a balance—that it is without certain merits for the animals themselves. I do not think it can have been anything but cruel for a sow to be bullied by others because she was the least sturdy member of the herd. It cannot have been other than agony—I use the word deliberately; I have seen it happen—for pigs in their first days of life to be crushed to death by the mother who was careless enough to flounce down on top of them and literally squeeze them to death.
Having said that, hon. Members will recall that the four Codes were approved on 20th October, 1969 on a Motion by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) who was at that time the Minister, and in the course of the debate hon. Members on both sides of the House expressed their concern about certain recommendations in the Codes and the Minister gave a number of undertakings. These were that he would instruct the State Veterinary Service to report on how the Codes were working on the farms, and that he would place a copy of their report in the Library of the House. He also said that he would ask the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to look again at the recommendations which had worried hon. Members, and to seek the Committee's advice in the light also of the veterinary report, on any changes which it thought ought to be made in the Codes. The right hon. Gentleman took immediate action to enable him to honour those undertakings, and it now falls to my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland to conclude the train of events thus begun.
In September 1970, we placed in the Library a report prepared by the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry following a special programme of visits by veterinary staff from February to May last year to more than 4,000 livestock premises throughout Great Britain. I think this is a point which will be of particular interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham, because I can very well recall him during the debate expressing particular anxiety about the actual number of visits that had been paid. As I say, 4,000 livestock premises throughout Great Britain were visited, on most of 974 which stock were being kept under intensive husbandry systems. The survey found that sound standards of stockmanship are the rule. It confirmed that the welfare Codes are based on sound principles, and it leads to the conclusion that broadly speaking the Codes are pitched at a level which will safeguard the welfare of the stock and can be applied in practice.
The report did, however, identify some areas in which the Codes should be modified, either to clarify their meaning or to take account of additional minor points found during the survey; and it suggested that some recommendations should be reviewed in the light of the observations made in the report. In line with what I can assure the House is usual practice, the advice which the Farm Animal Welfare Committee gave us has not been published. That is entirely in line with the practice of many of the advisory committees—the Hill Farming Advisory Committee and many other Departmental Committees which give advice; the advice is not published.
Also in September of last year the Welfare Committee took a somewhat unusual but, in my view, a most useful step. It agreed to the publication of a report setting out the two main points of view which influenced their deliberations and which, I think, colour all discussions on welfare—the ethical considerations and the scientific ones. The report really is required reading for anyone who wants to make a serious and objective contribution to animal welfare. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are glad to take this opportunity of expressing our appreciation once again of the thorough manner in which Professor Hewer and his Committee tackled this task and of the devoted and detailed work which they have done and are continuing to do.
On the basis of these Reports, the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and the observations received from the British Veterinary Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its Scottish counterpart, proposals for alterations in the Codes were drawn up and were circulated to 128 interested organisations in England and Wales, and 41 in Scotland—considerably higher than 975 what is known as the Goschen formula—for comment.
A lot of comment and criticism was received and sifted, and the final proposals now before the House are the result of this consultation with a very wide range of organisations representing farming, veterinary, scientific and welfare interests.
The review which has been carried out has proved very useful. The operation of the codes has been thoroughly considered and, as a result, the Codes are felt to be generally satisfactory.
The amendments proposed can be said to fall into two classes: those which make some improvement to the scope of the Codes, and those which seek to remove some ambiguity or difficulty of interpretation.
Hon. Members have before them papers which set out all the proposed alterations and their purpose. Because these papers are largely self-explanatory, I do not intend to take up the time of the House by speaking about each proposal, as I know that several hon. Members who feel deeply on this subject wish to speak. Instead, I propose to give one or two examples of proposed changes in each of the two classes to which I have referred.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Before he moves to that stage, will my hon. Friend clear up one ambiguity? The report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee made certain recommendations for amendment of the Codes which are not embodied in the proposals before us. Are we to understand that the report of the Advisory Committee was unanimous? Also, could my hon. Friend explain in rather greater detail than is done in the report the difference between the ethical approach and the scientific approach? Are we to understand that one is a majority report and the other a minority report, and, if so, which?
§ Mr. Stodart
With the greatest respect to my right hon. Friend, I must say again what I have said before, that it is wholly without precedent, I believe, for details of the findings of advisory committees to be published. That it was not a unanimous report is, I think, clear, because of the devotion in detail to the two 976 approaches, the ethical and the scientific. My right hon. Friend has asked me to go into that subject now, but I wonder whether he would accept it if I tell him that this is a matter with which my right hon. Friend the Minister wishes to deal at some length when he replies to the debate.
Examples of amendments which improve the scope of the Codes are the proposed new paragraph 17 in the Pigs Code and the proposed changes to paragraphs 40 and 41 of the Domestic Fowls Code.
The new paragraph in the Pigs Code recommends that when sows are being dried off they should receive food and water at intervals of not more than 24 hours. I emphasise that the proposal to introduce this new recommendation does not mean that we know of any widespread practice of any scope at all of withholding food and water for more than 24 hours when drying off sows. It is normal to achieve drying off by restricting food and water rather than by completely withholding it.
As with virtually all the recommendations in these Codes, the experience of our veterinary officers is that the majority of those who keep livestock have a natural concern for the well-being of their animals and follow sound husbandry practices.
Paragraph 40 of the Domestic Fowls Code is concerned with dubbing, while paragraph 41 of that Code and paragraph 37 of the Turkeys Code deal with toe cutting. The effect of the proposed change is to reduce from five days to 72 hours the age up to which it is recommended that these operations should be performed. The change as it affects both practices arises from the report of the State Veterinary Service and, as it affects dubbing, from the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee as well. It is a recognised sound practice for these operations to be carried out at the hatchery at day-old, that is within 72 hours, and there is no reason why they should be delayed.
An example of changes which seek to remove some ambiguity or difficulty of interpretation is that proposed for paragraph 20 of the Cattle Code. Paragraph 20 of the Cattle Code deals with the space allowances for penned or tethered 977 cattle. It has a direct link with one of the basic requirements for welfare stated in the Preface of the Code—adequate freedom of movement and ability to stretch limbs.Veterinary staff found that the present wording of the paragraph caused problems of practical interpretation. The proposed change seeks to remove this difficulty without departing from the basic principle.
The State Veterinary Service report sets out the official interpretation placed on the present recommendation, and the report by the Advisory Committee confirms that it is what it originally meant. So we have tried to clarify things by amending it so that it recommends a width of pennot less than the height of the animal at the shoulder".I realise—I have made the point already—that a number of hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, and my speech has not, I am afraid, been as short as I should have liked.
§ Mr. Burden
Is the measurement to the height of the shoulder to the top of the withers? There could be a difference of a foot in the measurement. It is ambiguous, and I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that the measurement should be the top of the withers.
§ Mr. Stodart
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I undertake to deal with it before the end of the debate. As I read it myself, my interpretation is that it would be to the top of the shoulder.
We have been faced, as were the previous Government, with difficult decisions in considering these matters. As the Advisory Committee's Report clearly sets out, there are, basically, two different approaches to animal welfare. There is the scientific approach, which says that, when science can provide an answer, it should be used, but that, when doubt arises in people's minds, the decisions taken should not go against scientific findings. On the other hand, we have the approach which says that, no matter what science says, man has a moral duty to treat the animal in his care as he himself, as a human, would wish to be treated.
In between—as with so many other subjects, I think that the answer lies 978 somewhere in between—we have the practical British farmer, acknowledged widely to be the best stocksman in the world, deeply concerned to ensure that welfare of his stock, so that he makes a living—not an altogether irrelevant consideration in his keeping of livestock at all—while engaged in the important task of feeding us all.
The fact that, by and large, we have come down in favour of relying wherever possible upon scientific findings does not mean that we are insensitive to the views of those who argue from the ethical standpoint. We deeply respect their feelings. But my right hon. Friends must have regard to all their responsibilities. They believe that, after the long, thorough and conscientious consideration which the Codes have received, the right balance has been struck and the Codes as amended will contribute widely to ensuring the welfare of animals on British farms.
I invite the House to approve the changes proposed.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
Before he sits down, will my hon. Friend answer a simple question, because that may save a speech later? I do not complain about the Codes as amended, but my hon. Friend made no mention of his views on enforcement. Is it still the Government's view that there can be no sanction other than the rather loose one that the Codes should be a guide as to whether or not there has been cruelty?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the Minister had embarked on that field of discussion he would have been out of order. The debate relates only to the alterations, and I am not aware of any alteration in enforcement arrangements.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)
We have an opportunity to debate again today what my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) called in 1969, when the Codes first came before the House, a great moral issue. The Parliamentary Secretary a few minutes ago also used the word "moral" which is often overworked by politicians. But on this occasion I think many people would agree that it is definitely the right word to describe the way in which man treats those 979 animals which are provided by God or the laws of nature for man's well-being.
In the debate in 1969 the point was made that Britain is the first country to introduce Codes of this kind. Whatever we may feel, whatever differences there may be between hon. Members about how far the Codes should go, or about the alterations before the House, that is surely something of which we can be proud.
As the Parliamentary Secretary said, the alterations before us stem from my right hon. Friend's undertaking to instruct the State Veterinary Service to report on how the Codes were working and then ask the advisory committee to consider its report so that changes could be recommended. The alterations are very marginal, and may disappoint some hon. Members who took part in the last debate. But we are dealing with an area in which progress can be made only fairly slowly. First, a balance must be struck, and many of us on this side will agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about a balance. We must make sure that we do not make the mistake, particularly where the stresses to which animals are subject do not lead to any overt signs of harm, of attributing to them a greater capacity for suffering under those conditions than they may have, but we must also be most careful to do all we can to prevent the crude exploitation that can take place where the only consideration is the highest possible productivity.
In certain situations it is very difficult to be clear about what the stresses are to which animals are subject. We welcome the research that the Advisory Committee is doing and the use it hopes to make of developments like electro-encephalography, which could be very important in leading to greater public knowledge about stresses which do not lead to overt signs of harm or injury. I am sure that, as more is learnt about the stresses involved, public opinion will demand the raising of those standards of which we have the beginning in the Codes, and particularly that more space should be given to veal calves and poultry under intensive conditions.
We must also bear in mind that if the Codes are to be complied with they must reflect to some extent the industry's ability to adapt to any alterations pro 980 posed. If the Codes are not to be mandatory, and if the progressive improvement and tightening goes ahead too fast, they may well lose some of the authority that they now have, by being widely disregarded in certain circumstances.
Although the alterations are marginal, we on this side welcome them. The National Farmers' Union is opposed to the alterations on single-penned cattle, but there is a great public concern about that subject, particularly over white veal production units. Surely, for calves to have room to lie down and stretch out their limbs at 90 degrees to the body must be an absolute minimum requirement under factory farming conditions?
Might not it be possible to make faster progress towards more humane conditions by planning the alterations to the Codes on a longer-term basis, perhaps phasing them in over, say, five years, so that the industry could have longer notice of the standards to be recommended as the years go by, in the hope that that might make it easier for it to adapt to those improvements?
Because there is so much public concern about the issue, should not there be more opportunity for Parliament to keep in closer touch with the whole question of the welfare of livestock than is possible in debates like this? We debate the matter and then two years later come back to it. The same arguments are put, and very often not many conclusions are reached. If, for example, an ad hoc Select Committee were set up, which could take evidence from Professor Hewer and his Committee, and see at first hand some of the research, that would not only help us in the House but would demonstrate to many people in the country, who are most concerned about some of the current practices, Parliament's desire to make the fastest possible progress towards improving the environment in which animals are kept in intensive farming conditions. I hope that the Minister will consider that suggestion. If we had a Select Committee on Agriculture on a continuing basis, as many hon. Members wish, that is the sort of task that it could perform very usefully.
The more we fuss about our own standard of living in the sort of society we have in a country like Britain, 981 which we do a great deal, the greater our obligation to be mindful of the conditions in which we rear those animals on which we depend for our sustenance.
§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food seriously to consider the suggestion by the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) that we should have a Select Committee.
I was very interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I cannot help referring to a remark he made during the debate in October, 1969, when he said that one of his greatest pleasures was when he first turned his cattle out to grass in the Spring and saw them kick up their heels. When he saw the pleasure he leant on his gate and watched them for quite a long time. He added that the farmer is not expected just to stand back and admire what is obviously the happiness of his cattle but to consider the economics. But I think that his remark was very important, and one that we should all bear in mind, because it shows the happiness that normal conditions bring to cattle, and it should help us to consider realistically the stresses, strains and hardships imposed upon them by intensive farming.
I have already stated that I hope I am not a sentimentalist about animals. I am not one of those who believe that intensive farming can be abolished. I do not think that it can. I think that it is here to stay. But because it is here to stay, it is our duty to ensure that the standards of life of the animals which are reared intensively are seriously considered at all times.
I was interested to hear my hon. Friend refer to scientific evidence and how this must always prevail over that which is ethical. I had a great lesson during the war, when I served under a very great leader, Lord Mountbatten. He told us that we should consult the experts but that we would find to our surprise how often they totally disagreed—and, having consulted them, we should make up our own minds in what we believed to be a logical way. I believe that that was good advice then and that 982 it is good advice now. It is extraordinary how often the scientists disagree. Perhaps too often that scientific view which suits the book is accepted and the contrary ones are excluded.
We are not discussing today new Codes of practice, and I do not propose to go into the Codes as they are to any considerable extent. Indeed, I shall hardly touch upon them. Other hon. Friends will do that. I hope to refer to something which I think is far more important and which was not even referred to in October, 1969. It is true that the Codes today are an improvement on those that were presented to the House in 1969, but they are very minor additions. The small adjustments are mostly changes in phraseology and clarification—and that after the very heated and critical debate that took place in October, 1969, when hon. Members on both sides made it clear that they were dissatisfied with many of the terms of the Codes. I have no doubt that a great many of those hon. Members, some of whom have expressed to me their regret that they cannot be here today because of previous constituency arrangements, would be equally critical today.
The main criticism in October 1969 is just as true today. It is the failure of the Codes to implement the minimum requirements proposed by the Brambell Committee for the treatment and care of animals reared under intensive farming conditions. The Brambell Committee was set up by the last Conservative Government in 1964 to examine—and it is important that the House should recall this—… 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.Those are clear and precise terms.
The Committee reported in December 1965, and there has been no real debate on the report, despite pressure from myself and others. Among its many recommendations, the most important was that a statutory farm animal welfare advisory committee should be set up with the purpose of advising the Minister. The report said:It should not be representative of the interests concerned …983 That is a very important statement. It also proposed that the Committee should include… an expert on animal behaviour or comparative psychology …It suggested that the committee should consist of not more than 10 people. The first move to do anything about the Brambell Report was made by the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I know the hon. Gentleman's great interest in these matters, but I am advised that this debate must be a fairly narrow one. One cannot range over the whole background to the original Codes or to the Brambell Report. Although I will be as lenient as possible, the debate must come back to these alterations.
§ Mr. Burden
I have no desire to stray, Mr. Speaker, but these are the conditions under which the Codes were set up. This is the body which produced the Codes. Indeed, it produced the report on which those Codes are made. If one is unable to refer to the Committee that advised the Minister and produced the draft Codes and the original Code, and which will go on doing so, it is difficult for us to have a sensible debate at all.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand the difficulty, and I will try to interpret the rules as leniently as I can. But I am advised that it is only in order to discuss these alterations.
§ Mr. Burden
I will do my utmost to keep in order but I feel that, arising out of these Codes, it is right that we should be able to look back to the body that produced them and to the way in which it was set up in contravention to Bram-bell, which was the basis of the Codes.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that that would be in order. The hon. Gentleman will be able to develop a certain amount of this argument in suggesting that the alterations do not go far enough, or that other alterations might have been made, but the basic conception behind them is out of order.
§ Sir R. Turton
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gathered from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that he is basing his advocacy of 984 these alterations on the advice given by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Surely it is in order for my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) to see who the advisers were who made these recommendations and to consider the Advisory Committee that was recommended by the Brambell Report. I understand that that is as far as he is going. If we are to look at these alterations, we must be able to judge whether those who advocate them are disinterested people.
§ Mr. Burden
That is exactly how I was going to limit it, Mr. Speaker. If you will be a little patient, you will realise that that is my intention.
I come now to the point, which I hope is in order. The right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who was then Minister of Agriculture, announced in a Written Answer on 25th July, 1967, the composition of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which has produced these codes. That completely flouted the proposals of the Brambell Committee, which proposed that the membership should be not more than 10; it was 14. Although the Bram-bell Committee recommended otherwise, it included a dairy farmer, a poultry and pig farmer, a cattle and pig farmer, and a dairy and beef farmer, all interested parties, and the membership entirely omitted an expert on animal behaviour and comparative psychology. It included men actively engaged in the industry, not disinterested, and omitted the one person whom above all the Brambell Committee considered necessary, an expert on animal behaviour and comparative psychology.
What were the reasons for these departures from the Brambell Committee's recommendations? None was given in the debate in 1969 and none has been given in the presentation of Codes of practice. Was it done deliberately to invalidate many of the Brambell Committee's proposals? That Committee did not contain anyone with a vested interest, and that is important because the whole of this legislation arises out of that Committtee's work. It did not just happen.
It was obviously the intention of Mr. Christopher Soames when he set up the 985 Committee to have that membership of those eminent, experienced and impartial scientists and others, and he deliberately excluded everybody with a vested interest. We may therefore assume that he would have followed the advice of the Brambell Committee, because its recommendations were in line with what he clearly had in mind when he set it up—that the Advisory Committee should consist of independent impartial people without interests in the industry. As it turned out, the setting-up of the Advisory Committee is the most important development to emerge from the Brambell Committee's proposals. It was the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee which was largely if not entirely responsible for the Code of practice presented to the House in 1969. Had I forced a Division that day, the House would have turned it down.
§ Mr. John Mackie(Enfield, East) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Burden
At least the Government would have had only a very small majority. The hon. Gentleman, who was a member of the Government at the time, has admitted to being an intensive farmer. It was that threat which forced the Minister to reconsider the Code. The reason that the House did not then divide upon it and will not divide upon these Codes today is that everyone connected with animal welfare regards them as an advance on nothing, and they are welcome from that point of view.
Since the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was formed in 1967 there have been some changes and some resignations. Some members have been replaced at the end of their period of office. Since becoming Minister, my right hon. Friend has increased the number from the 14 introduced by the right hon. Member for Workington, against the 10 recommended by the Brambell Committee, to 16. This was announced in a Press release on 24th February, 1971, which also said that the terms of reference were to be widenedso that the Committee may in future advise the Agricultural Ministers on matters pertaining to the welfare of livestock irrespective of the system of husbandry under which they are kept.That Committee has been advising my right hon. Friend and no doubt it has influenced these Codes of Practice. But the House has a right to know when 986 changes are made in the composition and structure and terms of reference of such committees. Hon. Members should not have to learn from them through Press releases. It was only by research that I discovered the change.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will give an undertaking today that if there are further changes in the personnel of the Committee, or alterations to its terms of reference, he will tell the House, either by Question and Answer, which may be arranged, as we all know, or by a statement to the House. I understand from the Library that no statement was made in the House, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will undertake that there will be no recurrence of this practice, so that hon. Members may have the opportunity to question his decision.
My right hon. Friend has no responsibility for what happened in the formation of the advisory committee, or for the Codes of Practice introduced before he took office, but he is now responsible and I hope that he will accept the responsibility fully. These Codes undoubtedly represent the opinions expressed to the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee by hon. Members. After the last debate, because of the feelings then expressed, a meeting was arranged between hon. Members, members of another place and the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I think that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members in saying that we were grateful for that arrangement. But anyone who was there will agree that there appeared to be a strong undercurrent of disagreement among members of that Advisory Committee.
As a result, when the Report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was published in September, having read it carefully and gained the impression that there was not complete unanimity, as my hon. Friend has confirmed today, I tabled a Question asking… if the review of recommendations in the Codes of Practice recently published by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee was endorsed unanimously by all members of that Committee.The reply that I received was:The Committee unanimously endorsed the report as a statement of the views which the Committee has taken into account in its reexamination of the controversial recommendations in the codes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 5.]987 I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for saying this, but there have been occasions when I have felt that he was a wonderful exponent of the art of stonewalling. That reply does not answer the question, and I intend to press my hon. Friend today. Other hon. Members are concerned about this matter. Was that report unanimous? This House is asked to accept these Codes of Practice. In view of that, we are entitled to the fullest information on these matters. It is difficult to see how hon. Members can have an informed opinion unless they know all the background information
It is all the more important that these facts should be disclosed to the House when one realises that there are vested interests among the members of that Committee. I do not suggest that they are considering only their vested interests. However, if there are differences and disagreements, we should know what they are so that we can form a balanced judgment.
It is not unknown for members of committees to disagree and issue minority reports. In them, they give their reasons, and Members of this House have an opportunity to assess them. In the last few days, we have had examples of the rights of hon. Members to examine all the aspects of different problems. We have seen evidence of that in our recent debate on the Common Market White Paper.
When we are asked to come to a decision on such a matter as this, why cannot as much information as possible be made available to us? I press this point, because I asked my hon. Friend another Question on 18th May, 1971:… if the members of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee were unanimous in their support for the use of sow stalls.I was told:The recommendations of the Advisory Committee are confidential to Ministers, and I am not prepared to disclose them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1971; Vol. 817, c. 263.]In other words, we are asked to rubber-stamp these Codes without having the information available to which I believe we are entitled. Many hon. Members who are deeply concerned about animal welfare are not actively connected with it. 988 Certainly the majority are not farmers, and do not understand the arguments and implications as clearly as farmers do. But surely that is the strongest possible argument for their having made available to them as much information as possible.
Ultimately, my right hon. Friend is responsible for these Codes of practice. I have known my right hon. Friend for a long time, and I am sure that he will accept full responsibility and see that hon. Members are given as much information as possible. However, we are not discussing the economics of factory farming, any more than we were when almost the same codes were produced on a previous occasion. The hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. J. T. Price), who has asked me to express his regret at not being able to be present today, pointed out on that occasion that we were discussing the morality of factory farming. We cannot escape responsibility. We all accept that there must be a limit to the confinement to which we can subject animals. To confine them beyond that limit is cruel. Surely we must admit that it is wrong to keep animals in complete or almost complete darkness and to create conditions of humidity which cause them constant distress. Surely we must admit that it is wrong to suppress all the natural instincts of farm animals.
As the House knows, I am extremely interested in the conditions in which veal calves are raised. I pointed out in 1969 how the Minister had said first of all that it was not necessary to give veal calves roughage and how a few months later the Ministry said that it was essential that they be given roughage after a certain stage in their lives. Now, we have scientific evidence to the effect that they need have no roughage. It is based on an American scientist's view that there is no need for a calf to ruminate provided that the milk diet includes additives which produce the other nutriments that it would presumably get from roughage.
If we accept that, we are reaching an extraordinary state of affairs. Why should not the same theory be applied to the human frame? As our children grow older, why should they be given anything other than milk to which something has been added? How convenient that would be. At the same time, how cruel and morally wrong it would be.
989 Today, we are dealing with morality as much as with anything else. I have always believed that a civilised society must be a compassionate one. In this House, compassion runs strongly through the activities of individual Members of all parties. We all care for those who are unable to care for themselves—the crippled, the mentally handicapped, the young and the old. Compassion is no less necessary towards animals over which we have complete control.
I hope that in future my right hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee has on it an impartial, eminent man or woman who is an acknowledged expert on animal behaviour. Because the Committee consists of people with vested interests, and because hon. Members have a great interest in animal welfare, although most of them have no knowledge of farming, I trust that my right hon. Friend will ensure that when there are clashes of opinion on important matters within the Committee the House will have an opportunity of weighing the evidence on both sides before making up its mind.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not place too much reliance on the opinions and scientific evidence of the Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. He is the dominant member of the Committee because of his position and background. When we last debated these matters, I questioned some of the remarks which the chairman had made at a meeting of the Parliamentary Animal Welfare Group about the de-winging of chickens. I wish to point out to my right hon. Friend the danger of accepting scientific evidence. Recently there was a clash between Professor Thorpe, the Professor of Animal Behaviour at Cambridge, and Professor Hewer, the Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. Professor Thorpe said that in his view battery cages should enable chickens to have sufficient space to spread their wings. Professor Hewer wrote a reply in the New Scientist and Science Journal on 10th June, 1971. He said:Surely Professor Thorpe knows that domestic fowl stretch their wings by extending them, one at a time, backwards and downwards usually stretching the leg on the same side backwards, simultaneously. The wing span can only have relevance to flight which galliform birds, unlike passerines, only 990 use as a last resort in escape behaviour or to attain a safe roost at night. Galliform (game) birds are essentially ground birds, nesting and living on the ground, escaping first by running (hence their powerful legs) and only secondarily by rocketing upwards and gliding from a height to safety. Unless danger is imminent they do not fly.That is the biggest nonsense that I have read in a long, long time. Galliform birds include domestic fowl, pheasants, partridges and a great many other birds. If Professor Hewer really believes that the only time that a pheasant or partridge flies is when it is in imminent danger and then rockets to a great height and glides down to safety he should go back to the country and see partridges and pheasants flying freely from one field or covert to another; and of course chickens frequently stretch both wings at the same time.
I ask my right hon. Friend to accept and realise the great importance of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and to look at its composition again. I hope that he will ensure that it will be able to keep abreast of scientific developments and in so doing not only take the advice of that part of science which suits it but accept that scientists differ in their views, and that he will also ensure that in the final analysis, whatever may be the views of scientists, the moral treatment of farm animals will have a place of great importance in his considerations.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
I wish first to apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary for not being present to hear the beginning of his speech. I, with my wife, was crawling along the Embankment in a tin box between Blackfriars Bridge and Parliament Square in appalling heat, together with thousands of other people, in conditions which would have made the conditions of intensive farming seem like heaven.
Although the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has told the House of my interest in this matter, I should declare it again. I wish first to get the issue of factory farming in perspective. Factory farming can be intensive livestock production on any area of land outside agricultural land and it need not be intensive. Factory farming is any farming carried on outside agricultural land. Intensive farming can be carried 991 on there, too, as it can be carried on at a farm. But to bracket everything within the phrase "factory farming" is quite ridiculous.
I should like to mention something which I am sure will give comfort to the hon. Member for Gillingham. I am trying to make a new tenancy agreement with a landlord who shall be nameless. Everything was fixed when he suddenly said, "I have been reading some books on factory farming and I insist on a clause being incorporated in the agreement to prevent you from carrying it on". That was nearly four months ago. I understand that letters have been going to and fro between learned counsel trying to define factory farming. I have not yet had a reply from them, and I have no idea what they are doing. This is a very difficult problem, and we can get into difficulties when making comparisons between factory farming and intensive farming.
It is difficult to keep in order in the debate because we are discussing changes in the codes, but the hon. Member for Gillingham pointed out that I was a junior Minister in the Ministry when the codes were presented to the House and discussed. The hon. Gentleman talks as if any Government should follow a report made by a committee which it had appointed. One Minister recently—I think it was the Secretary of State for the Environment—made the point that we do not govern by report. Reports are made to Ministers, and it is up to them to decide what to do with them.
§ Mr. Burden
The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I did not say that any Government must follow a report made to it. I went out of my way to point out what the Brambell Committee had said and the composition of that Committee and its impartiality, obviously intentional.
§ Mr. Mackie
Perhaps I misheard what the hon. Gentleman said, but as far as I could make out he was saying that the Minister should have implemented the Brambell Report almost to the letter. If the Minister appoints a committee to advise him, then the hon. Gentleman cannot say that the Minister should not give weight to what the committee says or that 992 he must adopt all its decisions. That is what I think the hon. Gentleman said, but the Minister will be able to reply to that in due course.
The first point I would make about the changes is that they show the value of what my right hon. Friend did in putting the Veterinary Service to look at the whole question over quite a long period and to make a report. These changes are the result of reports from the Veterinary Service, which, I think, is second to none in this country. I am sure it has been as objective as it possibly can be on the subject, and I should like to compliment it on the work it has done.
As the hon. Member for Gillingham said, the changes are small, but the emphasis does not pinpoint intensive farming as such. They are changes in general farming and stock keeping, whether intensive or not. I have seen more cruelty in what I suppose one can call extensive stock keeping than in factory or intensive farming, or whatever we call it. For instance, on Dartmoor—all over the country for that matter—one sees out-wintered cattle literally starving. I have been approached by the Dartmoor Pony Protection Society about the matter. Some years ago there was a great snowstorm on Dartmoor and helicopters were used at great expense to take hay to the cattle. It is quite worth having a look at this question of cattle having a free run. It can cause suffering. Having small caches of food in an area is not enough. They are often too small, and, anyway, if one cannot get to the cattle because of the weather conditions the cattle often cannot get to the food, and so it is better to bring the cattle down. I think there is a point here. I am not sure whether horses come under the code but one often sees horses out-wintered and chewing bark. I could take the Minister and the hon. Member for Gillingham along one road in partcular where they could see horses chewing the bark off the trees.
There is cruelty to animals where they are not able to get food, even cached, and where they are kept in large numbers, and so I say that there is extensive farming which is cruel to animals.
I would make a point on paragraph 20. I am a little worried about the question of the width of a pen being equal to the height of the animal, whether tethered or not. As the Parliamentary Secretary 993 knows, all over Scotland fat cattle are kept in stalls. I think that if the test is that the stalls are to be of a width equal to the height of the animal, no standard stall in Scotland would be found wide enough. Does this apply to cow cubicles? After all, that is where cattle lie down, of course, and they are not nearly wide enough judging by that test.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I think this applies to calves and not to cattle as such, but I will check on it.
§ Mr. Mackie
I am sorry to contradict, but if the Minister will look at paragraph 20 he will see that it says "All cattle". Perhaps he will look at this point. It is rather important. There are tens of thousands of cow cubicles all over the country.
The veterinary people have noticed some points about poultry and signs indicating good health or otherwise in poultry. One is their chatter. In Scotland we do not call it that but call it claik. It is a sign to anyone going into the poultry house that the hens are doing well, and if one cannot hear it, it is a definite sign that something is wrong.
I will conclude by saying how much I welcome the work which has been done. I think that the system is working well, and that alternatives are being sought.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I know that a number of hon. Members want to take part in the debate. Therefore I will concentrate my remarks on Code 1, for cattle, particularly on the question of the treatment of veal calves in veal units, because I believe this is where the Codes are weakest and where there is widespread concern in the country which should be voiced in Parliament.
First, I should like to congratulate the Minister on the material he has given to hon. Members for studying these Codes. It is a very great advantage to have the report of the State Veterinary Service. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend in that connection how these visits were arranged. Was prior notice given to the 70 veal units which were inspected? If so, what was the length of the prior notice? I ask this because 994 some of us are suspicious about the barbarities which are carried on in veal units and it would relieve our suspicions to know that they were spot inspections and not ones where much advance warning had been given.
Secondly, I agree that the decision to publish the report of the Farm Animal Advisory Committee is unusual, but I am sure the Minister is to be congratulated on giving us this material. I hope he will deal with my earlier interjection on the question of a majority report and a minority report, because it is disturbing to read that the Minister's Advisory Committee says that the Code is inadequate and should be amended and then to find that no action is being taken. It seems to us that in the minority report some scientists are saying that it is unnecessary.
I am sure that the former Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), is absolutely right in saying that it is wrong to have one code for cattle and not to distinguish adult cattle from calves. I hope the Minister will take note of the point the hon. Gentleman made about paragraph 20 in the Cattle Code. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. One cannot really lay down for fully grown cattle the same sort of codes of behaviour as that for calves. The time has come when the Minister should apply his mind and the mind of his Advisory Committee to devise a separate code for calves.
We know that 70 veal units were looked at and I want first of all to consider this question of slatted floors and bedding. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) gave us an assurance when he introduced his regulations that that was being adequately dealt with by the Code, but when we look at the report of the State veterinary service, paragraph 16, we see that the advisory service found that in some cases the animals have a history of lameness or foot problems. As Code 5 lays down specifically that all floors, particularly slatted floors, should be so designed as to avoid any lameness or foot trouble, it is clear that the Code is not working properly in the view of the veterinary surgeons. The paragraph goes on to say:In the great majority of veal units visited the calves were kept on slatted floors with no bedding.995 I remind the House that this matter was examined by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which made a strong recommendation in paragraph 43 of its Report:It is accordingly concluded that bedding for cattle and pigs is essential for the welfare of the animals and the cattle and pig codes should be amended so as to encourage the provision of bedding in sleeping areas.We have a strong recommendation made by the Minister's Advisory Committee and a certain amount of evidence from the State Veterinary Service that the codes are not being carried out, particularly in veal units, but no action at all is being taken. I beg the Minister to think again on this point in view of the evidence that he has submitted to us.
I come to Code 20. I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Enfield, East. I can quite see that the new amendments to Code 20 which I think are inadequate for veal units may be over-rigorous for cattle, but I find this part of the State Veterinary Service Report the most disturbing of all. I should like to remind the House of what the vets found on a visit to field units. Remember, only 70 veal units were visited, we do not know with how much warning:63 [out of the 70] veal units inspected had pens which were not wide enough to allow the calves to extend their legs at right-angles to the body.That is a definite recommendation in Code 20 before it is amended, and in 63 out of 70 veal units that was not being carried out. That is the evidence not of a crank, not of someone with a merely ethical approach, but of the Minister's own State Veterinary Service, and I am alarmed that the Codes should have been in operation for two years without action being taken on that. The vets said:In the majority of the units the calves were unable to turn round after the sixth or seventh week of life and in their last two or three weeks of life many of them had difficulty in grooming.I remind the Minister that there was considerable discussion in our previous debate on whether this wretched little calf incarcerated in his little dungeon cell should be allowed to have room to turn round, but there was no dispute that he should have room enough to groom himself.
996 I do not want to be unfair to the Minister. Quite clearly he has appreciated that Code 20 as originally drawn was totally inadequate for veal units. Even with these amendments I am concerned that it will not be adequate for veal units, although it may be excessive for cattle. A great deal must depend on the answer to the question put by my hon. Friend about what is the height of the shoulder, but this provision means that for a calf of up to 350 lb. the cell in which it is incarcerated would have to be 3 ft. wide. Professor Brambell in his Report recommended that the minimum width for a calf between 200 and 300 lb. in a veal unit should be 3 ft. 6 in. That is the measure of the difference between the new improved provision and the Brambell recommendation. I believe that Professor Brambell had the space allowance for calves about right, and I beg the Minister to remit this question again to his Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
I share some of the misgivings expressed by my hon. Friend about the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. They are all worthy members but, unfortunately, it is difficult to be disinterested in giving advice if one is either engaged in factory farming or bitterly opposed to it. I would prefer it to be a more disinterested committee.
§ Mr. Burden
This point is emphasised by the fact that it is a tradition of the House that when an hon. Member has a vested interest in any matter that enters into debate he should declare that interest so that hon. Members shall be able to accept his views accordingly.
§ Sir R. Turton
Whatever one feels about the Farm Animals Welfare Advisory Committee, undoubtedly it is a body of well-known and responsible people in whose individual capacities I have the highest confidence.
That committee was fairly strong on the question of space allowance in paragraph 5 of its Report, which said:There appears to be no convincing scientific evidence that keeping animals for the major part of their lives in near-darkness on slats and tethered or confined so closely that they cannot freely turn round is conducive to their welfare. It is doubtful whether scientific evidence can ever be established as to the amount of suffering which may be involved in these conditions.997 Those are strong words from the Minister's own advisory committee.
I turn from space allowance to the question of light. Paragraph 16 of the Code makes it clear that the animals must be kept in sufficient light to enable them to see each other and to be seen on inspection:Throughout the hours of daylight the level of indoor lighting, natural or artificial, should be such that all housed cattle can be seen clearly.The Report of the State Veterinary Service on this point says:Of the 70 veal units inspected there were six on which calves were kept in darkness except in feeding times.I do not want to get emotional, but let us think of an animal that is being so confined that it cannot turn round, in many cases cannot groom itself, is in a space only 2 ft. 6 ins. wide—this wretched little calf, doomed to spend its whole mortal life in that little dungeon cell and in the dark except at feeding time: how can the House tolerate these conditions in the 20th century?
What worries me more than anything else is that the State Veterinary Service, notwithstanding the provision in the Code, states:We found no evidence that this practice caused pain or distress to the calf.This, to my mind, is quite contrary not only to the Minister's Codes, but to any moral standard we have. I beg the Minister to look at this matter. What happened in those six veal units where the calves were being kept in darkness except at feeding time? The report is dated August 1970: next week we will be into August 1971. Has the procession of calves kept in these conditions and in darkness in those six veal units continued all that time? I ask the Minister, for whom I have a very great respect, to try to clean up this veal unit trade which, in my view, is a shame on the whole country. I have the greatest confidence in our stockmen and farmers, and they, equally, are concerned about these veal units.
I turn to the subject of the feeding of calves in veal units. The Minister's own advisory committee in paragraph 58 made a clear recommendation that roughage should be given to veal calves, but in paragraph 35 of the evidence of the Veterinary Service we read: 998We found that, except in veal units, roughage and fresh clean water were available to calves at about two to three weeks of age.In other words, in veal units roughage was not being given. Except in 14 veal units roughage was not available to the calves, which means that in 56 out of the 70 cases there was no roughage.
The State Veterinary Service says that it noticed that calves tended to lick or nibble objects, although this did not happen in so many veal units as it expected. Brambell came down very strongly with the view that roughage should be given to these small ruminant animals in these veal units. Paragraph 58 of the report of the Minister's own advisory committee says:Paragraph 24 of the Cattle Code should be amended to recommend the provision of roughage.As I remember, paragraph 24 of the Cattle Code is drafted in a way in which we would never have drafted a highway code. It states:All calves should receive liquid food daily during the first three weeks of life. They should also have access to palatable unmilled roughage and fresh clean water by the end of the second week of life unless they are being fed to appetite on a milk substitute diet …Quite clearly, therefore, in 56 of the 70 veal units that rather vague terminology used in paragraph 24 is not being complied with. The recommendation of the Minister's advisory committee is that the wording should be tightened up, but the Minister has today presented no amendment.
I remember very well that when, on 20th October, 1969, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) introduced these Codes he said:… 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 …He also said, that the question of the nutrient in the diet of calves… will apply to iron as to any other constituent of the diet.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1969; Vol. 788, c. 831.]The right hon. Gentleman said that on 20th October, 1969. That regulation was not introduced by the previous Government. At the end of last year I asked my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary whether that regulation had been introduced, or was being introduced, and 999 he told me that the matter was being looked at. Two years is too long a delay in implementing what many of us thought was the most serious of all of the recommendations in Brambell—the fact that, in order to produce white veal, young calves were having an iron deficient diet. It revolted the whole farming industry, and certainly all the British population not engaged in farming.
Why has that regulation not been introduced? Why is there not even a specific recommendation in these Codes about an iron deficient diet for calves? What is the reason for the delay? There is great concern over this. There is also some feeling that the Minister, realising that our Continental neighbours have different standards of husbandry and that cruelty to farm animals is much more common on the Continent than here, and realising that we may be integrated into Europe in the near future, is holding back, and is not taking such steps as he ought to take to ensure less cruetly in these forms of intensive husbandry today.
I hope that by his words today and by his actions afterwards he will disprove that feeling, so that we can have the high standards of animal husbandry that have always been our pride, notwithstanding the fact that we may, unfortunately in my view, be integrated with lower standards in the future.
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
It is usual for a Member who speaks in the House to declare his interest, if any. I intend to do the other thing and declare a non-interest. I am not a farmer and I am not by any means an expert in farming or agriculture. I therefore hope that the experts in the House, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), will excuse a comparative novice for intervening in the debate. I have, however, always felt an interest in animal welfare, in particular after I had seen certain things on certain farms.
I give a cautious welcome to these Codes of Recommendations. They are far from perfect, but they are at least a start. The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968 was designed specifically to safeguard the welfare of farm animals, but it seems in many respects 1000 to be defective. When it talks, for example, of unnecessary suffering or pain it is concerned only with physical suffering. This seems to be echoed by the Report of the State Veterinary Service. Mental suffering seems to be completely passed over. Paragraph 29 of this Report, to which the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) has referred and which deals with veal units, states:In the majority of the units, the calves were unable to turn round after the sixth or seventh week of life and in their last two or three weeks of life many of them also found difficulty in grooming.No criticism of this state of affairs was made by the State Veterinary Service. An animal should be able to groom. It is part of its life. Cattle are highly intelligent animals. Would we keep a foal so that it could not turn round? If we would not do so, why treat cattle in this way?
The Brambell Report states:—In principle we disapprove of a degree of confinement of an animal which necessarily frustrates most of the major activities which make up its natural behaviour. … 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.Here I can voice a welcome for paragraph 20 of Code No. I which states that:All cattle … should have sufficient freedom … to lie down freely: thus the width of the pen for a single-penned animal should not be less than the height of the animal at the shoulder.Although this paragraph says "All cattle", I believe that it affects mainly calves kept for the production of white veal.
As I understand it, the effect of this provision if adopted would be to double the size of veal pens or halve the number of calves in each unit. It would also involve a considerable alteration to temperature and ventilation controls. I believe that the National Farmers' Union is resisting this on the grounds that it is in the calf's best interests to be prevented from turning round, because it can then be fed at one end and dunged out at the other and is less likely to pick up disease from its dung.
The flaw in the argument is that for the first few weeks of the calf's life when it is least resistant to disease it can and 1001 does turn round, even in its present pen, and it is only when it is bigger, around a month or so old, that it ceases to be able to turn, and by this time the disease risk is much less.
Paragraph 28 is beneficial in recommending the provision of shelter for out-wintered cattle.
I do not believe that these Codes will be necessary for most farmers, because most farmers get the results they want without going to extremes. I understand that most farmers have even shown that they are actually opposed to extreme systems. There is, however, a minority which uses extreme methods and which disregards the Codes. For example, although paragraph 21 states:all cattle should receive a daily diet which is nutritionally adequate to maintain health",this minority—I think fewer than 100 producers, producing about 50,000 white veal calves a year—produces these white veal calves by creating anaemia in the young calf. What a way to treat an animal.
Another example is the keeping of fowls in battery cages. I am informed that only 21 per cent. of commercial egg producers keep fowls in battery cages, but they hold nearly 87 per cent. of the hens. The decent farmers cannot hold out against the indecent minority, because it is uneconomic to do so. The indecent minority has it all its own way.
In the absence of labelling, shoppers who want to discriminate against factory-farmed produce and to encourage good farmers have little opportunity to do so. My case is one in point. My wife tries never to have a factory-farmed egg or a factory-farmed chicken in the house. We are assured when we buy them that they are not factory-farmed chickens, or eggs, but there is no guarantee that this assurance is true.
I suggest that the Codes do not go far enough. It has been said before, but I regard certain conditions as the sine qua non for animal farming. First, each animal or bird should be fed on a diet such as to maintain it in full health. Second, each animal should have access to natural light during the hours of daylight, and then there should be sufficient light in the building to see the condition of the animals, because often there is not sufficient light in the building to do this.
1002 Third, all animals should have room at least to turn round without difficulty. Fourth, poultry should have enough room to spread their wings. Fifth, flooring causing discomfort should be prohibited and a dry-bedded sweeping area should be provided for all stock. Sixth, all livestock—this includes poultry—should have access to the open for some part of the day if the weather is fair. Seventh, there should be a ban on skip-a-day feeding systems, on beak trimming, on spectacles for poultry, and on the dubbing of combs after the age of five days. Eighth, the provision of alarm systems and alternative power in the case of electric failure where the safety of the stock is at risk should be made mandatory.
Mention has been made of the scientific and ethical views of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee Report. I quote the approach set out in the ethical columns.The fact that an animal has limbs should give it the right to use them; the fact that a bird has wings should give it the right to spread them; the fact that both animals and birds are mobile should give them the right to turn round; and the fact that they have eyes should give them the right to see.I trust the Minister will take note of these principles. The Codes are unfortunately not mandatory, so it is about time that the Minister made regulations, because he has power to do so under the Act, and those regulations would be mandatory. I trust that having taken note of these principles the Minister will act accordingly.
§ 12.59 p.m.
§ Miss Mary Holt (Preston, North)
These Codes are prepared under Section 53 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968, and must contain recommendations with respect to the welfare of animals. Five and a half years ago we had the Brambell Committee, to which every speaker in the debate so far has referred. That Committee was a technical one. Every member of the Committee was a specialist in some way connected with agriculture or animals. Their concern was, as they said in paragraph 7 of the Report, with the welfare of animals and they defined "welfare" in paragraph 25 asa wide term that embraces both the physical and the mental well-being of the animal.They were humane, practical men who paid special attention to the possible 1003 cumulative effects upon a farm animal of conditions which might be tolerable in the short-term. For that reason I reject the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) when he said that when sitting in his shed on wheels the conditions were similar to those of an animal under intensive livestock conditions. But he was not expected to continue in those conditions for a long time.
The Brambell Committee objected to mutilation and especially to mutilation which affected the natural behaviour of an animal. It laid down minimum standards which have since been accepted by all civilised and right-thinking humane people in this country, and the Committee's requirements which are set out in paragraph 37 bear repeating. They have been stated once already in the debate and I do not hesitate to mention them again. They state that every animal should have sufficient freedom of movement without difficulty to turn round, to groom itself, to get up, to lie down and stretch its limbs. The Committee also recommended that thefloors of buildings and cages should be so constructed that the animals can stand, move and rest in reasonable comfort. The animal should be able to feel secure when it is on its feet. The floor should not be such as to produce undue strain on the legs or feet …I could not with a clear conscience support the Code or the alterations to it which require less than these minimum standards laid down by the Brambell Committee.
Let us examine the Codes and the alterations to them. They do not match up to those minimum standards of the Brambell Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) and other have mentioned the white veal industry. In my opinion, the white veal industry is, if anything, more vile than the white slave trade. If the public realised how white veal is produced most people would refuse to eat it. Calves are kept under the same conditions for the whole of the 12 weeks of their lives in small wooden crates of tiny dimensions and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton pointed out, they not only cannot turn round after the first three weeks of their lives but in the last three weeks they cannot even groom 1004 themselves. Let us not forget that this is an animal which in its natural state roves over the country. It is deprived of fodder and is fed on a liquid diet which prevents it from following its natural pastime of rumination.
Previous speakers have mentioned that some of the veal units which were inspected were in total darkness. The Brambell Committee condemned this method of rearing animals as inconsistent with their welfare, and it says in paragraph 150 that individual pens for calves should be of adequate size, that those for calves of 200 to 300 lbs. should be at least 5 ft. by 3 ft. 6 ins. and pens for more than one calf of this weight should allow at least 12 sq. ft. per animal.
§ Mr. Burden
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for giving way. In, I think, 1964 the President of the British Veterinary Association and I went to Holland to inspect these conditions in which animals were kept in darkness. Six months after we returned to this country a law had been passed in Holland forbidding the keeping of veal calves in complete darkness. We are, therefore, now in a worse position than Holland.
§ Miss Holt
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. I, too, am appalled that the keeping of calves in total darkness has not been forbidden in this country. There is scarcely a mention of these requirements. In fact, there is no mention at all in the alteration in the Codes or in the Codes themselves of these requirements as to size.
It was also stated in the Brambell Committee Report that the sides of the pen should not be solid above 2 ft. from the floor so that the calves can see others. Regulation 7 of the Code says that this should be the case whenever possible. Of course, any unscrupulous farmer can ignore this requirement as not possible. The Brambell Committee say that calves should not be kept without bedding, but Regulation 6 on cattle states that "straw or its equivalent" may be used. There is nothing to emphasise the absolute importance of calves having bedding, and it is about time that there was. It is simply a scandal in this country that this state of affairs should be allowed to continue.
Let me refer to the Code on pigs. The Brambell Committee was concerned about the conditions of sweat houses in 1005 which pigs are reared, and the Report states in paragraph 118 thatbasic mandatory standards should be set in the general interest of the welfare of pigs …It also recommended that totally slatted floors should be prohibited, but the alterations to the Code, as I understand them, contemplate that slatted floors should continue.
The Brambell Committee recommended that pregnant sows should not be kept without daily exercise in quarters which do not permit them to turn round. They should not be tethered indoors. Neither the Code nor the alterations specifically mention these requirements.
The public and various hon. Members who have spoken in the debate have expressed concern about battery hens. The Brambell Committee's Report points out that they are often reared in cages containing three or four birds, measuring 12 in. by 14 in. wide and 17 in. deep where the birds cannot stretch their wings, cannot move without touching one another and cannot stand fully upright in the middle of the cage. I regard such conditions as inhumane and barbaric and a disgrace to civilised society, and I would never knowingly buy a battery egg or eat one.
The Brambell Committee recommended that there should not be more than three birds in a cage. What do we find on looking at the Codes and the alterations? They contemplate that there should be more than three birds in a cage. Brambell states that the dimensions of the cage should be sufficient to enable the birds to stand upright at a point where the roof is lowest and to stretch a wing comfortably. But regulation 24 of the Code on hens only says that the cage should be sufficient for the bird to stand normally. It does not say that the bird should be able to stand normally where the roof is lowest, and this is just as important.
The Brambell Committee makes certain recommendations as to the size of cages for three birds. I have seen the alterations to the Code and I should like my right hon. Friend to confirm that from now on each bird will get 2 sq. ft. according to its requirements. Is this true or not? It is difficult to follow from these small charts in the recommended alterations. If the present alterations do not conform to the Brambell Committee's 1006 requirements, I suggest that he should reconsider the alterations to the Codes.
Brambell states that the floors of bird cages should have a wire gauge no finer than No. 10. Regulation 9 of the Code on hens states thatfloors, particularly slatted or metal mesh ones, should be designed … to avoid injury or distress …With respect to my right hon. Friend, something more specific is required. The Brambell Committee states that ventilation plant should be regulated up to a rate of two cubic feet per minute per lb. liveweight housed. There is not a word of this in the Code or in its alterations.
It is also recommended in Brambell that the gangway in front of any vertical tier of cages should beat least two-thirds as wide as the tier is high and for the floor of the bottom cages to be at least 12 inches above the floor level of the gangway.Neither the Code nor the alterations say a word about this.
The Brambell Committee recommended that certain practices should be prohibited, a point already made in the debate. It said, for example, that debeaking ought to be prohibited, but the Code allows it as a last resort, although my right hon. Friend must know that such a practice may involve great cruelty. The Brambell Committee recommended that blinkers should be prohibited, but they are allowed by the Code. So is dubbing, or the removal of the comb.
I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider these Codes and the proposed alterations. The economic pressures on farmers are very great, but they do not justify barbaric and inhuman treatment of animals. In the name of humanity, I beg the Minister to think again and to impose at least the not very exacting minimum standards laid down by the Brambell Committee, so that he and all right hon. and hon. Members may not merely sleep with a clear conscience but may eat with a clear conscience, too.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
I entirely agree with everything said by the hon. Lady the Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt). Indeed, she has saved both the House and me some time by her detailed criticism of the Codes. Where we are so critical of the Codes is in their 1007 application. This is why so many right hon. and hon. Members have referred already to the fact that, since the Codes are not mandatory, their provisions have in many ways already been overlooked or neglected by a good many farmers. It is a minority of farmers overall I agree, but that is certainly true of some, and, if this process goes on, it will cause even greater concern about the extent of suffering caused to animals among all those who take an interest in these matters.
We all know what the old idea of suffering caused to animals was and what the categories used to cover, for example, in Ralph Hodgson's poem—Tamed and shabby tigers,And dancing dogs and bears,Wretched blind pit ponies,and little hunted hares.We all agree about those animals, the caged animal, the animal worked to death in inhuman conditions in the pits and so on, quite apart from those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie), the animals outwintered and near to starvation on Dartmoor. We know what those animals have suffered in the past, but our concern now is in another direction.
Hon. Members who have spoken today and many people outside the House are concerned with suffering through stress and the cruetly through stress which is caused by some of the new farming methods. These are the matters being studied, as much as anything else, by those interested in animal psychology and animal behaviour patterns. Those who have raised the ethical considerations mentioned in the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee direct their argument equally to the matter of stress as well as to the question of cruelty. Undoubtedly considerable stress is caused in animals kept in these conditions.
What concerns us is what is admitted in the second paragraph of the State Veterinary Service Report, that the fact thatfailure on the part of any person to observe a provision in a code does not of itself render that person liable to proceedings of any kind.Regrettably, this is no more than the truth. Many of us will have seen the article in The Guardian on Wednesday 1008 this week referring to a number of failures by producers, particularly in the veal calf industry, to meet the recommendations laid down in the Codes already, calves being kept in darkness contrary to paragraph 16 of the Cattle Code, pens not permitting an animal to lie down or to turn round, inadequate feedings systems, contrary to the present paragraphs 20 and 28 of the Code.
What concerns us so much is that this sort of behaviour by some producers, a minority of producers, was observed by the State Veterinary Service, but it appears to have been, if not accepted and condoned, at least regarded as not leading to undue stress and not necessarily damaging to the welfare of the animals involved. It is the contention of many of us here that the suffering of animals in these conditions, although, perhaps, it cannot be measured in terms of physical ill usage or lack of physical well being, can none the less be measured in terms of the behaviour patterns of the animals involved.
The State Veterinary Service Report examines the way in which the Codes have so far been applied. I found paragraphs 23 and 49 quite astonishing. The right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) has already referred to the 70 veal units which were inspected. According to paragraph 23, in six of these, calves were kept in darkness except at feeding time. But the State Veterinary Service said:… we found no evidence that this practice caused pain or distress to the calves ".In paragraph 49, the State Veterinary Service said:In those cases where pigs were kept in darkness or where the light was so reduced as to be insufficient to enable the pigs to be seen clearly we found no evidence that these systems of management were causing any pain or distress to the pigs.If the inspecting officers could not see the pigs clearly—indeed, I imagine that they could hardly see the pigs at all—I wonder how they knew the degree of distress involved.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I entirely agree. This is why I find the entire Report somewhat bland in its assumptions.
1009 In 1969, in our debate when the Codes were first introduced, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) listed six amendments which he would wish to see made in them: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th October, 1969; Vol. 788, c. 889.]The hon. Lady has already outlined how little the proposed amendments now before us go to meet those various requirements.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck), I welcome the reference in paragraph 20 of the Cattle Code, and I entirely dispute, from what I have seen of the veal calf industry, the contention of the National Farmers' Union, as we are told, that it would be deleterious to the calves to be able to turn round for they might soil themselves or pick up disease. As my hon. Friend said, they can turn round during their first weeks of life anyway, and that it the time when they are most open to disease.
Why is there nothing in the provisions of the poultry Code about what the Advisory Committee called "mutilations of benefit only to the farmer"? Again, paragraph 21 of the Pigs Code has been flouted time and again. This is what the State Veterinary Service said on this point in paragraphs 57–9 of its Report:Tail biting among pigs was reported on 355 of the premises visited. Various methods were being used for its control, but we encountered none which could be claimed to be universally effective. Docking was practised on 165 units, either to prevent the onset of tail biting or in an attempt to remedy the situation when it occurred … On 35 of the 165 units where docking was practised there was evidence that the vice was occurring in the form of tail-stump biting.The Codes of practice say that docking should be carried out on the advice of a veterinary surgeon, but my own opinion is that the farmer tends to use docking as a cure for vice or for tail biting without sufficiently realising that tail biting is itself a symptom of acute stress among pigs 1010 kept in these conditions. One does not stop the stress by cutting off a pig's tail. One simply allows the stress or other forms of vice to come out in other ways.
I am extremely sorry that the revised Codes do not say more about the control of mutilation. In my view, we should have mandatory regulations. I want the Minister to tell us what he would say to a body like the Co-ordinating Committee on Factory Farming, which has called for immediate regulations supplemental to the Codes dealing with, for example.A minimum iron content in milk substitutes for veal calves. The provision of alarm systems in the case of electrical failure. … A ban on the use of sow stalls except at feeding time. … A ban on skip-a-day feeding systems. … A ban on mutilations such as de-beaking, de-winging, and tail docking in pigs and cattle.If such regulations were introduced, how would the right hon. Gentleman see their acceptance under Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome, should we enter the E.E.C.? As the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton said, there is no doubt that in some continental countries practices of considerable cruelty are followed. We would not want to see the limited lead already being set by this country on conditions for animal welfare diminished by having to fall into line with continental practice. I am thinking particularly of the veal industry. Although we have only about 100 producers, it is clearly an industry which would expand with the growth of intra-European trade.
If we have such regulations, we shall be able to do more than we can with the Amendments to the Codes to control that minority of farmers using intensive methods who have consistently flouted the Codes and who will in no way be deterred by the limited amendments to which I am giving a limited and lukewarm welcome.
We are talking about animals. We cannot turn a pig into a collection of spare ribs and bacon, held together by muscle and gristle, any more than we can turn a hen into a simple machine for producing eggs. By de-beaking, dehorning, de-tailing and de-snooding we also in some degree are de-naturing and de-humanising ourselves.
In view of the moral, ethical and behavioural consequences of the way in which animals are treated by a minority 1011 of poultry producers, veal producers and factory farmers, I consider that we should first record the opinion of this House as to the way in which we have detracted from our own common humanity.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I do not think that any issue which comes to the attention of any Minister of Agriculture causes more difficulty or concern than the treatment of farm animals and domestic animals. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I take extremely seriously all the problems of animal welfare brought to our attention, whether in relation to methods of husbandry or the transport of calves or other animals, within this country or abroad, or just views expressed to us about new methods of husbandry which are in use in other countries and could possibly come here. I think that my hon. Friend could justifiably say that he answers more letters from hon. Members on this subject than on any other single subject. This reflects the great concern of the House on the issue.
I am grateful for what hon. Members on both sides have said, because it shows the country at large how concerned we are. It is a concern which transcends party politics.
I shall deal with as many questions as I can, but hon. Members will agree that an almost encyclopaedic brain would be needed to answer all the problems raised today. I probably shall not remember some, but if hon. Members feel that they have not had an answer—I am not referring to an answer that they do not think satisfactory—I shall try to write to them or see them about the question.
Domesticity in itself started to create problems for us in animal husbandry, and those problems have increased as the economic pressures on farmers have increased over the years. We have now reached the stage where we must try to separate ethical considerations on animal welfare from scientific considerations. Subjective judgments are not necessarily a sound basis for action in this difficult area. We readily accept that a great deal more knowledge is required, and as it is acquired changes will be needed in the Codes.
1012 The hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) thought that a good deal more research was necessary, and that the House should be kept as well informed as possible on the subject. I support that view, and we shall try to meet it. As to keeping the House informed, for the first time we have published the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee's Report, and we have also published the report of the State Veterinary Service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) asked whether the Committee's report was unanimous. It is clear from reading it that it was anything but unanimous. We would think that no Committee consisting of such a wide cross-section of interests was doing its stuff if it produced a unanimous report.
The report sets out clearly that there are two very different approaches to the whole problem of the welfare of stock. There are the ethical approach and the scientific approach. At times my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton) was quoting from the ethical approach as if it were the agreed view of the whole Committee, which it was not.
§ Mr. Burden
My right hon. Friend the Minister will agree that the Brambell Committee was unanimous. Had it not been unanimous, there would undoubtedly have been a minority report. By his reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton), my right hon. Friend has just emphasised the importance of the House knowing just how the division stood.
§ Mr. Prior
The point about the Brambell Committee was that it looked at the problems entirely from an ethical point of view not a scientific point of view. Therefore, the Government of the day, whose decision I support, were not prepared to accept in full what the Brambell Committee suggested.
1013 As my hon. Friend said in opening, we recognise that the changes we propose are small. But they are nonetheless worth while, and it would be a great pity if the House, because of its concern over certain controversial points which had been raised and have been quite thoroughly debated, were to forget that we are moving forward the whole time along the road that all hon. Members want to see.
§ Mr. Prior
I believe that it is much better to move forward on sound scientific grounds rather than to leap in the dark on things on which there are no objective views. There must always be amendment in the light of further knowledge, but our veterinary staff have established that standards of stockmanship on British farms are generally sound, that the Codes are pitched at about the right level to safeguard welfare, and that they are capable of application in the field. I do not want to see these Codes in any way belittled or discredited. If that were to happen, farmers would tend to ignore them and the valuable advice they contain would go by default. I hope, therefore, that by their approval of the Amendments, hon. Members will show that they support and endorse the Codes and the standards they lay down, even if they think that in some cases they do not go far enough.
My hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett) has explained that he has had to leave for a constituency engagement, but I promised to deal with a question he asked. This was whether the Codes were statutorily enforceable. The Codes themselves are not statutorily enforceable but on page 1 it is shown quite clearly that:A failure on the part of any person to observe a provision of a code for the time being issued under this section shall not of itself render that person liable to proceedings of any kind; but such a failure on the part of any person may, in proceedings against him for an offence "—that is, a cruelty offence—under section 1 of this Act, be relied upon by the prosecution as tending to establish the guilt of the accused unless it is shown that he cannot reasonably be expected to have observed the provision in question within the period which has elapsed since that provision was first included in a code issued under this section.1014 In other words, if a producer does not follow the Codes, and he is then brought to court on an action for cruelty, his non-observance of the Codes helps to establish his guilt.
§ Mr. Burden
This is all very fine but that passage, which ends,… since that provision was first included in a code issued under this section",is referring to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1968, Section 3(4). Could not that be clarified and made much more simple for people who may receive the Codes? I am sure—I think that my right hon. Friend will agree-that vast numbers of people who may receive the Codes and try to put them into practice will not even know what the passage he has quoted means unless there is clarification. Will he look at this to see whether it can be clarified?
§ Mr. Prior
I will consider that, but we are dealing with a very small minority of people, because most producers look after their stock very well indeed. On the whole, the person who is going to treat stock badly and, therefore, render himself liable to prosecution is not the sort of person who will bother to read the Codes in the first place. But apart from that, I will consider the point.
§ Mr. Whitehead
While we accept and welcome the definition of unnecessary suffering in the 1968 Act, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many prosecutions for unnecessary suffering have used this Section of the Act and of the Codes?
§ Mr. Prior
I cannot give that information without notice. If I can get it before the end of my speech, I will tell the House. Otherwise, I will let the hon. Gentleman know later.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham mentioned, amongst other things, the proposal by Brambell for statutory standards. The Brambell Committee frequently stressed in the report the lack of scientific knowledge relating to animal welfare. It indicated that the Standards the Committee was recommending were based on its judgments, which in the circumstances could not be backed by scientific findings as to where the animals' interests lay. It recognised that these judgments might require 1015 revision as knowledge of the subject improved. That was the view which the Labour Government took and it is the view which I take today. In the present state of scientific knowledge, it would be wrong to make the provisions of the Codes enforceable at law so that a farmer would be committing an offence if he failed to comply with any one of them. It remains true, however, that while failure to observe a provision of the Codes does not of itself render a person liable to prosecution, it is, as I have said, evidence helping to establish the guilt of the person concerned.
My hon. Friend also drew attention to the constitution of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I thought he was unfairly critical of the Chairman, who has done extremely valuable and good work. If we are to be critical of these chairmen—and any hon. Member has the right to say what he likes—we must realise that it will be extremely difficult to get people to do these jobs. I have great admiration for anyone prepared to be chairman of a committee such as this. He is on to a loser before he starts, and the wretched man must know it. But he does it because he thinks that he is performing a public duty and is trying to keep a balance between the conflicting views expressed.
There is a behaviourist on the Committee—Mr. Ewbank, a veterinary ethologist from Liverpool University. The Committee is now slightly larger, but it is very well balanced. One can rely a great deal on what it has to say. I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that it is well balanced and is trying to do as good a job as possible.
§ Mr. Burden
This is an important point. How many people on the Committee are themselves engaged in intensive farming?
§ Mr. Prior
I have the names of the Committee members here. Two of the new members appointed have farming experience, and another two are farmers. Whether any of these four out of the 16 are intensive factory-type farmers I do not know, but I will find out. Only four out of the 16 members are directly connected with farming.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton asked about visits 1016 paid by the State Veterinary Service officers during the preparation of their report. They made about 4,000 special visits, and the report before the House was based on them. Since the Act came into operation, they have made visits to 22,000 premises, and, therefore, the whole report is based on a widespread inspection. The 4,000 special visits found 36 premises where welfare was less than satisfactory. The other 22,000 visits produced about 50 such cases. In virtually all cases the owner readily acted on the advice given, and in all cases where follow-up action has been completed conditions have been found to be satisfactory. This is spelled out in paragraph 11 of the Veterinary Service Report.
§ Mr. Prior
Generally speaking, 24 hours' notice is given. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that if there is a structural defect, which is what we are thinking about in this case, it cannot be put right in 24 hours. I make it plain that I do not encourage, or wish to encourage, snooping activities on the part of the State Veterinary Service or any other Government service, but in this case short notice is perfectly reasonable and I am certain that this is the best arrangement between the Veterinary Service and the farmer
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham asked about individually-penned calves and what was meant by the height of the shoulder. The height of the shoulder means to the very highest part of the shoulder.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton and others mentioned roughage for calves. We do not propose to alter the cattle Code so as to recommend that calves should not be reared solely on the milk substitute diet without roughage. Again, there are conflicting views on the ethical and scientific sides. The ethical side says that roughage should be provided and the scientific side, says that there is no evidence of suffering among veal calves for dietary reasons.
1017 Roughage is one of the sources of iron in the diet, and the House will therefore wish to know that the inclusion of a specified minimum level of this element in manufactured calf feeds as a possible step for regulatory action under the 1968 Act has been announced. I understand that the advisory committee is well advanced in its consideration of this problem and hopes soon to come forward with its advice on this subject. When it does, I will report to the House and take action as desired.
§ Mr. Burden
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a year ago the veal calf industry in Holland collapsed. It was necessary for the producers of veal to hold the calves for longer than the normal three months. It was found that unless the diet was changed and the calves were given roughage, many animals died. Surely that is an indication that this is a subject which should be closely considered, for it shows that calves are brought to the limit by the deficiencies imposed by the milk diet. Should not this be completely reconsidered in view of the situation in Holland, of which my right hon. Friend may obtain particulars.
§ Mr. Prior
I have no doubt that the State Veterinary Service has these particulars. If not, I will certainly see that its attention is drawn to them.
What I am saying is that it is not in the interests of anyone, whether he is a farmer or a consumer, that we should do anything which creates pain or suffering among animals which we should all consider to be intolerable. The farming industry, of which I have been, and still am, a member, is very conscious of the problems that intensive livestock production creates and we all want to be as rational and as considerate towards animals as we can. If as a result of some dietary problem calves started to die, this would be intolerable and we should want to put it right as quickly as possible.
What I am saying is that the advice given by the State Veterinary Service and the scientific advice of the Welfare Advisory Committee does not support the view that there is cruelty in this respect. If further evidence becomes available, I shall look at it. It has proved extremely difficult so far to get a satisfactory 1018 scientific basis for an enforceable regulation on iron, but my latest information is that the problems have almost been solved and that I shall shortly receive the recommendations, and I will then act on them.
§ Sir R. Turton
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving us that explanation, because there is great concern about this delay. I hope that he appreciates that we are not being unreasonable. The whiter the veal, the less the iron, and the less the iron, the whiter the veal. This is the danger. This is not a matter of normal husbandry, and it is, therefore, important to get something done, certainly about iron and, I hope, about roughage.
§ Mr. Prior
The discussion is valuable in that it is an educative debate for the public. So often the public insists on having white veal; it believes that if kippers, for instance, are not of a particular colour, there is something wrong with the food. The more we can get across to the public the importance of looking after animals properly and that it is not the colour of food but its quality that matters, the quicker we shall be able to move on these things. When I have the proposals on iron, I will act on them. It is not that we have not acted because to do so might alter the colour of the meat. It is not that which has deterred us. It has been more a matter of trying to get a proper scientific basis for an enforceable regulation.
I got a little mixed up when I was trying to answer a question of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). It concerned paragraph 20 of the Code for cattle. This deals with tethering and the amount of freedom of sideways movement and so on which an animal is allowed. In considering whether an animal should be able to turn round in its pen, we were considering the calf in the single pen, the tethered dairy cow, and the sow in the sow stall. Those are the three cases.
For the calf it may be the width of the pen which prevents it from turning. In the case of the dairy cow, it is the tether. In the case of the stalled sow, it could be both factors. If amended as proposed, paragraph 20 of the cattle Code will recommend that the individually-penned calf should have a pen at least as wide as the calf is high at the 1019 shoulder. This should allow it to groom itself without difficulty and to lie down freely- Provided that it was not tethered, it would also allow it to turn round.
Here I draw attention to the point which hon. Members put up, only to knock it down. It is that if calves can turn round they are liable to foul their eating places. This can bring about a disease problem. It is a problem that one wants to try to avoid. I have been round veal houses where 95 per cent. of the calves remain the same way round but there is one which will always insist on being the other way round. In those places, they can turn, and it is remarkable in what a small area a calf can turn round if it wants to. But, generally, like human beings, it is the odd one out which causes the trouble, and usually it is this calf which does not "do" as well as the others.
There is the point. It could be a source of disease, and, really, it is better if calves do not turn round. We have no evidence that inability to turn round subjects a calf to stress.
As regards the dairy cow, as some hon. Members will know, there is a long-established practice in northern areas of the country of keeping cows tethered in byres during the winter, and no ill effects have been noted. Nor have we evidence that the confinement of sows in stalls is of itself detrimental to their well-being.
The aim of the Codes is to ensure that tethered animals can groom themselves and lie down freely, and that tethers are properly designed and used. I do not think that the present state of knowledge provides any justification for going further than that.
I hope that that will reassure the hon. Member for Enfield, East that the Codes, as we think they are to be implemented, will allow for the tying up of cattle in cowsheds or in byres during the winter, as they have been before.
§ Mr. Mackie
That does not quite answer the point. The width of the pen of a single-penned animal should not be less than its height. That would cut out cow cubicles.
§ Mr. Prior
I shall look further at the problem of cow cubicles. My advice at the moment is that this is all right.
1020 My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Miss Holt) had some harsh words to say and was very concerned about the space allowances for poultry. The space allowances for poultry recommended in the report of the Bram-bell Committee allow more space for the birds than our poultry Codes do. It should be remembered, however, that the Brambell Committee also recorded the fact that at the time that it reported there was a dearth of scientific findings on livestock welfare matters and that its recommendations were based on its subjective judgments of where the animals' interests lay.
Since then the allowances recommended in the Codes have been the subject of the two independent studies to which I have referred. We consider that the evidence now presented does not justify the reduction in recommended densities which adoption of the Brambell Committee's figures would require. All the evidence tends to confirm that the densities quoted in the Codes are as near right as possible in the light of the available scientific and observational evidence and that the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on the poultry industry, without evidence that they would benefit the welfare of the birds, is not warranted at the moment. But we shall continue to keep a watch on this. These Codes are not immutable. As time goes on, no doubt we shall learn more from the scientific evidence which is available.
I think that the difficulty arises when people go into a battery house or to where sows are all kept together in stalls, because they somehow feel that this is a restriction of freedom that they would not want for themselves. That is the ethical approach. But it is not necessarily the scientific approach, and it does not take into consideration the fact that so far there is no scientific evidence to show that animals would have the same feelings towards their surroundings as we should. This is where one has to go on scientific evidence and not on one's personal feelings. I know that there are hon. Members and people outside this House who would say, "I should not want to be treated like that", but that is not the question that we have to answer.
The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) asked about Article 36 1021 of the Treaty of Rome. I have no reason to believe that any of the regulations now being considered would offend in any way. Both before and after joining the Community, we should be free to do anything which did not go against the Community's directives or regulations. But certainly we are determined that our Codes shall be a starting point for us, and that nothing will be done to go back on them. I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance about that. I am rather proud of the fact that Britain is the first country to have Codes of practice in this respect. Certainly we shall want to move forward from them rather than the other way.
A number of conflicting views have been expressed. They illustrate both the importance and the complexity of the subject of farm animal welfare. No one can doubt the sincerity with which differing views are held. In the end, however, the responsibility rests with the Government to decide what is the course of action to take and, having decided, to seek the approval of the House.
The proposed amendments to the Codes will not, if they are approved and incorporated into them, make the Codes perfect. But they are the culmination of a long process during which the concern that we all have for the welfare of farm animals has been expressed in consideration, examination, drafting, redrafting, discussion and consultation. They represent our present view, resulting from all this work and based on current scientific knowledge, of the advice and guidance which we think should be given by Parliament to those members of the community who are engaged, for their own livelihood and on our behalf, in livestock production. It is our hope, therefore, that hon. Members will agree that, although the Codes as amended, may not contain all the advice that hon. Gentlemen might wish to see, the amendments are worth incorporating into the Codes, and that they will approve the Motions now before the House.
§ Mr. Burden
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, perhaps he will answer one question that I put to him. Will he give an undertaking that if in future there are changes in the composition of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, they will be notified to the House by some means other than a Press release?
§ Mr. Prior
Certainly. I will have it noted that this should be done by Question and Answer in the House. We shall always try to arrange for my hon. Friend to be notified, so that the House can be informed in the proper way.
There are divided views on this in the House. Some people take the scientific view, some the ethical view. What we need to do above everything is to display the information for the House and the country to see. If we do that, some of the misunderstandings of past years will perhaps be cleared up and we can move forward together with a better realisation of what the farmers need and what the country expects.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the proposed alterations to the 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 2nd July, be approved.
That the proposed alterations to the 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 2nd July, be approved.—[Mr. Anthony Stodart.]
That the proposed alterations to the Code No. 3 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to domestic fowls, a copy of which was laid before this House on 2nd July, be approved.—[Mr. Anthony Stodart.]
That the proposed alterations to the 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 2nd July, be approved.—[Mr. Anthony Stodart.]