HC Deb 04 May 1995 vol 259 c422
2. Mrs. Roche

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about fur farming. [20933]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Angela Browning)

Welfare conditions are monitored regularly by the State Veterinary Service on the basis of recommendations adopted by the Council of Europe. The Ministry is responsible for the issue of licences to keep mink in secure conditions.

Mrs. Roche

Does the Minister accept that there is great concern among many people, including my constituents who are concerned about animal welfare, about keeping arctic foxes in cages? Should not that practice be banned immediately?

Mrs. Browning

The hon. Lady will know that the Golding report of 1994, as considered by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, covered the question of arctic foxes. We have consulted on the matter and are currently considering whether further action is needed.

Lady Olga Maitland

Will my hon. Friend confirm that every fur farm is visited by the State Veterinary Service to ensure that the very highest standards are maintained?

Mrs. Browning

Yes, I can confirm that. In addition, they receive visits from the Agricultural Development Advisory Service in respect of their licensing conditions.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Minister knows that I took evidence to one of her predecessors showing many clear examples of mink farms not following any acceptable standards. Why on earth do we allow fur farming in this country? It is a barbaric practice and we should stop it.

Mrs. Browning

There are two key points. First, if the hon. Gentleman has evidence, I shall be happy to look at it again as I did not deal with the matter when he originally made his complaints. If he will furnish me with the evidence that he gave to my predecessor, I will look at the individual cases again.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman will know that although the FAWC report disapproved of fur farms, it did not recommend that they should be banned. He will also be aware that there has been quite a significant drop, particularly in the number of mink farms.