HC Deb 16 May 1972 vol 837 cc227-8
13. Mr. Burden

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many of the 63 veal calf units visited by his officers in 1970 in which the calf pens were narrower than the measurements recommended it the codes of practice, and the six in which the lighting failed to meet the requirement of the codes, are now conforming to its standards.

Mr. Peter Mills

This information is not available. The welfare codes are not mandatory, and, as none of these cases involved unnecessary pain or distress to livestock, we would not be justified in concentrating attention on them.

Mr. Burden

That answer will be greeted with indignation by many right hon. and hon. Members and a great number of the public outside. Does not my hon. Friend recognise that, when they were considered by the House, these codes of practice were felt to lay down the minimum standard conditions in which animals should be kept in intensive farming units, and that, unless they are to be enforced, or, at least, people are to be persuaded to abide by them, the codes as a whole will be made an absolute farce?

Mr. Mills

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I ask him to accept that we are most concerned with animal welfare—some of us deeply concerned—and we are looking into these matters. The present welfare codes are not mandatory, and the question is whether unnecessary pain is involved. None was found in these cases.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that on previous occasions when the House debated the diabolical practices going on in factory farming, involving cruelty inflicted by the artificial penning of young animals so as to produce white meat for expensive restaurants, the House was in no doubt about its utter abhorence of such practices? Although we were fobbed off by a previous Minister—one of my hon. Friends, I am sorry to say—who, under heavy pressure from the House, gave support to these codes of practice, it was generally recognised that those codes of practice fell far short of what is required to stop these abominable practices. Will the Minister now take serious note of the great feeling in all parts of the country about what is being done by commercial farmers without any regard to the welfare of the animals involved?

Mr. Mills

I do not accept that they are diabolical practices. The codes of practice have done a considerable amount to educate farmers and to help them in methods of production. I believe that, with our vets going round and inspecting, much has been done to bring matters up to standard.