HC Deb 08 June 1995 vol 261 cc310-1
7. Mr. Corbyn

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what concerns have been expressed to him concerning the conditions under which farm animals are exported. [25818]

Mrs. Browning

We continue to make a large number of representations expressing concern about the live export trade.

Mr. Corbyn

Is the Minister aware that hundreds of thousands of people around the country are deeply concerned about the treatment of farm animals during export? They have been demonstrating peacefully at many ports, and some have been disgracefully treated and prosecuted under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The Department claims that it is trying to persuade European countries not to allow veal calves to go into crates. As that has been so unsuccessful, would it not be better to put a one-off ban on the export of live animals to force others to recognise that people in Britain take animal welfare seriously and are not prepared to see such barbaric conditions continue for calves reared in Britain?

Mrs. Browning

I am aware of the concern in the country about the welfare of farm animals in transit. The hon. Gentleman has been in the House since 2.30 pm and will have heard my right hon. Friend the Minister explain clearly why unilateral action on our part is not only not practical, but not in the long-term interests of animal welfare generally. As for his point about people protesting, peaceful protests are the democratic right of people in Britain. However, I abhor those people who break the law, subject others to violence and quite rightly come before the courts.

Mr. Garnier

May I assure my hon. Friend that, whatever the views of the window box owners of north Islington, the farmers of south-east Leicestershire are concerned that there should not be a ban on the export of live animals, although they fully accept that there is no need to have cruel exports? Will she reassure the House that she will do her best to ensure that the live animal export regime continues?

Mrs. Browning

That is what my right hon. Friend has been doing in his efforts to persuade the Community to raise its standards to those of the United Kingdom. We believe that we have the highest standards in Europe, and this is an opportunity for other countries in Europe and elsewhere to raise their standards to meet ours. I assure my hon. and learned Friend that, if his farmers and those people who transport animals abide by the regulations and codes of practice, they have nothing to fear and the trade will certainly continue.