HC Deb 21 March 1972 vol 833 cc1332-3
22. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take immediate steps to ban the use of the Iron Maiden, in which sows are confined and in which they are unable to walk, turn around, scratch or groom themselves.

33. Mr. Golding

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to forbid the use of the Iron Maiden, a tubular steel device which keeps a nursing sow fettered to the ground from four to seven weeks.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

No, Sir. The term "Iron Maiden" has been used by the Press to describe the Protect a system for sows. This is an acceptable form of tethering under proper management.

Mr. Burden

Does my hon. Friend realise that the manufacturers of this contraption have stated that it can be inhumane unless it is administered by very efficient stockmen and is under constant supervision? No one, not even my hon. Friend, can believe that the supervision is such that it takes place at all times, including during the night. In view of the adequacy of sow stalls, why cannot this contraption be banned?

Mr. Stodart

I understand the anxiety of my hon. Friend and of very many others. However, I must point out that the Protect a system allows more freedom of movement than used to take place in the traditional far rowing crate which was in existence 30 years ago and that tethering outside has been going on for generations. It is a system which depends on good management, and there are factors on the other side which one must consider in trying to come to a balanced judgment.

Mr. Golding

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that good management is not always present? In view of that, is the hon. Gentleman further aware that representations are being made to the effect that this is a very cruel practice and that there will be bitter disappointment that he refuses to do anything about it?

Mr. Stodart

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we keep a very close eye on this system. I have received detailed reports on it from our veterinary officers, none of which has been adverse.

Mr. Jessel

Going back to the wording of the Question, may I ask how a sow can groom itself?

Mr. Stodart

It is by no means mandatory that it should be able to do so.

Mr. Molloy

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is a widespread feeling of revulsion and abhorrence about this practice and that many people believe that the only way to compel the bringing about of a decent alternative is for the hon. Gentleman to have the courage to outlaw this barbarous practice?

Mr. Stodart

I know the hon. Gentleman's view on this. He led a delegation to see me and we had a long talk about it. But I am afraid that, despite the photograph which has been widely circulated and which I think, with respect, tended to make things a good deal worse than they need have been, I cannot accept what he says.