HC Deb 29 June 1989 vol 155 cc1097-9
9. Mr. John P. Smith

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if his Department will consider introducing legislation to ensure that farm livestock are slaughtered as close to the farm of origin as possible.

Mr. Donald Thompson

No, Sir. There are already extensive controls protecting the welfare of animals during transport.

Mr. Smith

Bearing in mind the fact that there has been a huge increase in the export of livestock to the continent for slaughter, that there are proposals to reduce the number of stops for water and food—which means that livestock can be in transit for up to 24 hours or more, which is particularly cruel and unnecessary—and that there are good economic benefits to the farming community and slaughtering industries in encouraging domestic slaughter, may I ask the Minister to consider these arguments when he and his colleagues examine livestock transport arrangements?

Mr. Thompson

The hon. Gentleman does well to mention this matter, especially in relation to Welsh sheep which are exported throughout the continent, both dead and alive. I always consult my colleagues about the transport of animals. The controls laid down in the United Kingdom are, in some respects, even more stringent than those broadly laid down by the EC. All animals leaving this country have to be rested for at least 10 hours on this side of the water in approved lairages.

Mr. Ron Davies

At the moment.

Mr. Thompson

The hon. Gentleman says "at the moment". I understood that the purport of the question was that we should keep a watch on Europe where the distances involved are much greater. Animals emanating from this country are at an advantage, not a disadvantage.

Mr. Knapman

Does my hon. Friend agree that we cannot have it both ways? If more meat is to be slaughtered in big, modern abattoirs which are licensed to export meat to other countries, it logically follows that less meat will be slaughtered close to the farm gate.

Mr. Thompson

That is a good point which I fully understand and shall explain to Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen because obviously they do not. They have been pressing for licensed abbatoirs—export abattoirs—which, of necessity, will be bigger and more efficient, but will also have to be further away from the farm. Animals will have to be taken to those export-approved slaughterhouses. There is a good trade in live animals abroad because once a live animal is abroad it can be killed as a French or German animal would be killed. That is an attraction to the countries that import our animals. We take a great deal of trouble to ensure that those animals are taken abroad in the best possible way and that their welfare is safeguarded.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Can the Minister confirm that there has been a steady increase in the number of sheep exported live? Surely it is much kinder to slaughter sheep in this country rather than abroad, and also much better for British jobs.

Mr. Thompson

There has been an increase in the amount of sheepmeat going abroad, both dead and alive, and the number of live exports has increased in proportion with that. If the sheep are properly conducted, housed, lairaged and transported, they travel very well.

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