HL Deb 04 August 1971 vol 323 cc1199-241

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House approves the proposed alternations to the Code No. 1 of the Codes of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, relating to Cattle, a copy of which was laid before the House on July 2. It would probably be for the convenience of your Lordships if at the same time we discussed the proposed alterations to the other three Codes: these are for pigs, domestic fowls and turkeys. It would also be right, while introducing these alterations, that I should declare that I have an interest, in so far as I am a farmer, and one of the enterprises in which I am involved is the growing of table poultry.

The rapid advance in techniques of all kinds which has taken place in every sphere of agriculture in the last ten years or so has inevitably had its effects on the methods under which livestock are kept. The increasing necessity for large units, which industry has found essential for its successful operation, has also been found to be equally essential in agriculture, whether the units are the size of holdings, the size of fields, the size of machines or the size of livestock enterprises. And it is as a result of this that there was, and is—and I suggest rightly so—a genuine concern, which I think is felt by everyone, by the Government, your Lordships, farmers and the public in general, that somehow the progress of technological evolution, which is inevitable and in many, ways desirable, and from which we cannot escape, should nevertheless not be allowed to be pursued in respect of animals regardless of the fact that they are living beings.

It was, therefore, in order to meet this new situation, and to try to find a way of balancing, on the one hand, the new methods and techniques which modern science and knowledge has taught us and, on the other hand, the adequate and reasonable conditions in which all fair-minded people would wish to see animals kept, that the Brambell Committee was set up in 1964. This was the first attempt—certainly in this country, and I believe in the whole world—to try to investigate the problem in depth. It was as a direct result of this that the Codes of Practice which are in operation to-day were introduced by the last Government in 1969.

These four Codes which are currently in use were debated in the House on October 14, 1969, on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, on behalf of the previous Government. During that debate, it was clear that some noble Lords, although welcoming the Codes in principle, did not consider that they went far enough in some of their recommendations in order to provide adequate safeguards for the welfare of farm animals. It was as a result of the doubts that were expressed then, and those which were expressed in another place, that after the Codes had been approved, the Government of the day asked the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to re-examine certain Code recommendations; and at the same time, the Government arranged for a survey to be undertaken by the State Veterinary Service, which is now the veterinary arm of the Agricultural Advisory Service, to determine how the Codes were in fact being applied in practice on farms throughout the country.

As is in general the custom, the advice which was given to Ministers by the Advisory Committee and which followed their re-examination of certain Code recommendations was not published, but a report by the Committee which explained the issues and the arguments upon which their advice was given was placed in the Library of your Lordships' House in September, 1970, and it was also published. This report, which sets out very clearly on the one hand the ethical considerations and on the other hand the scientific considerations which influenced the Committee in their re-examination, includes a bibliography and, I might add, is an excellent commentary on the subject of animal welfare. The Government are most grateful to the Advisory Committee for agreeing to the publication of this very valuable material, and I commend it to anyone who wishes to make a detailed and objective study of the subject. At the same time (September, 1970) the Government also placed in the Library of the House a report by the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture on the survey which was undertaken by the State Veterinary Service to find out how the Codes were being operated in practice. This survey involved visits by veterinary staff to more than 4,000 livestock premises throughout Great Britain during the period February to May, 1970. On most of the premises which were visited, stock were being kept under intensive husbandry systems. The survey found that the standard of stockmanship was generally satisfactory and it confirmed that the welfare Codes were based on sound principles.

In general terms, the report leads to the conclusion that the Codes provide safeguards of the right kind and at the right level for the welfare of farm animals and that they are capable of being applied in practice. But the report suggested some areas in which modifications should be made to the Codes. In some cases these were to clarify the intention, and in others to take account of further minor points which arose in the course of the survey. My right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland have therefore not only had the advantages of these two reports but also the advice of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, as well as observations from the British Veterinary Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, together with its Scottish counterpart. It was in the light of all this advice that proposals for change in the Codes were prepared. These proposals were then circulated for comment to 128 interested organisations in England and 41 in Scotland. The final proposals, which are now before the House, were prepared after consideration had been given to a great deal of the comment received from the very wide range of these organisations representing filming, veterinary, scientfic and indeed welfare interests.

I do not doubt that your Lordships will have noted that the proposed alterations are of a relatively minor nature, and there may be some who feel that the substantial amount of time and effort which is represented by the reports and consultations to which I have referred has produced a rather meagre result. I suggest that it would be wrong to take this view. I am sure that it was right to re-examine certain of the recommendations in depth, and that it was right to appraise thoroughly the application of Codes in that field; and I am also sure that it was right, as the Act requires, to give ample opportunity for comment. The purpose of the proposed alterations is to remove ambiguities and difficulties of interpretation and to make small but significant improvements to the scope of the Codes. The papers before the House set out all the proposed alterations and their purpose. As they are in the main self-explanatory, I do not propose to take up time by speaking on each and every proposed change. I shall therefore restrict my remarks to just two of the proposed alterations which I feel might be regarded as being among the more important and which might serve to illustrate the kind of considerations the Government have given to these proposals and the care taken to frame them in such a manner as to achieve a positive improvement which is capable of practical application.

The two alterations I propose to deal with are those to paragraph 20 of the Code for Cattle and to paragraph 24 of the Code for Domestic Fowl. Paragraph 20 of the Code for Cattle deals with the space allowances for tethered or penned cattle and it is intended, both in its original form and as proposed to be revised, to provide—I quote from the basic requirement as set out in the Preface to the Code: adequate freedom of movement and ability to stretch limbs ". The original wording of the paragraph was found by veterinary staff to pose in practice problems of interpretation, and the proposed alteration is intended to remove those difficulties without departing from the basic principle. Noble Lords will note that the current Code recommends that penned animals should have sufficient room to lie down on their sides and extend their legs in their pens—that is, within the confines of the pens. But it was found that the width of pen which an individual penned calf would need in order to enable this recommendation to be implemented varied with the way in which the animal lay and the angle at which it extended its legs. Both the published reports to which I have referred mentioned this problem. The veterinary report sets out the official interpretation based upon the original recommendation, and the Advisory Committee agree that the official interpretation meets the Committee's original intentions, which were sound and should not be changed. The proposed alteration gives effect to both these views and recommends a pen width of not less than the height of the animal at the shoulder. This will ensure that when an animal lies down with its legs at right angles to its body it will have the same width of the pen as is its height from the floor to its shoulder when it is standing.

The second example relates to paragraph 24 of the Code for Domestic Fowls, which is concerned with the space allowances for poultry. The Government have not proposed any alteration in the allowances recommended, but both in order to change to terms more commonly used by poultry keepers—and they tend to think in terms of stock intensities, rather than of space allowances—and to clarify the intention, we are proposing that these areas should be related to"maximum acceptable densities"and not, as at present, to"space allowances given as a guide to those below which sound management may become the critical factor ". This phrase has been seen by some poultry keepers as synonymous with recommended densities, and this was a point which substantially disturbed the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, when the Codes were introduced. It may be recalled that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, expressed the view that it might be possible to write this paragraph rather differently in order to make it clearer. This is what has been done. In addition to this basic change, noble Lords will have noticed that the proposed alteration seeks to tidy up the paragraph in general and it now includes a tabular rather than a prose form of presentation.

The Government believe that these alterations will strengthen the recommendations and will also clarify the meaning of the Codes. I know that there may be some noble Lords who would wish to see a drastic reduction in stocking densities, particularly for caged poultry. This aspect of the Code was dealt with in some depth in the two reports made available to the House. The Government consider that neither report justifies a change in the densities recommended. The State Veterinary Service reported no evidence of pain or distress among birds stocked at the Code densities; and the Advisory Committee in their report gave, in their statement of the scientific approach, a well-documented analysis which contained no evidence that stocking density within the range practised by the industry is itself a critical welfare factor. It is worth noting that the veterinary survey found that in the majority of poultry units visited the stocking densities used were in fact below the levels recommended as maxima in the Code.

I hope your Lordships will agree that these proposed alterations are an improvement to the Codes. I am very much aware that there are those who will be disappointed that the proposals do not go further than they do. I respect their point of view and their intense, and indeed sincere, concern for the welfare of animals. I hope that they, in turn, will accept that the Government are equally concerned for the welfare of animals, and that my right honourable friends have tried, as did their predecessors, to discharge carefully their responsibilities in this matter and to balance fairly and justly the advances of science and techniques, together with the modern methods and requirements of animal husbandry which these bring, with the reasonable and appropriate dignity of man in relation to the living stock over which he has control.

My Lords, this is a balance upon which nobody can claim to have achieved the right and only answer; differing shades of opinion on all sides may claim that the balance should be tilted in a different direction. Nor do the Government claim that these Codes are perfect and will remain so. Constantly changing knowledge, and the result of new research, will doubtless cause the Codes to be altered again. But I believe that the Codes, as amended, will, if properly applied, constitute an effective safeguard for the welfare of livestock on farms, and I hope that your Lordships will approve them. I beg to move.

Moved, That the proposed alterations to Code No. 1 (Cattle) of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock, laid before the House on July 2, be approved.—(Earl Ferrers.)

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy to say a few words about this subject. Perhaps we might go back a short period to find out how the whole matter arose. It was my privilege in another place to pilot through the other place this particular section of the 1968 Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act which gave birth to these Codes. During that process I was told not to go so far as to make it an uneconomic proposition for those who were engaged in farming. So we had to strike a balance then, of not only being fair to the farmer, but to make it possible to introduce conditions that would be humane so far as livestock were concerned. That is what we set out to do, and that we ought to remember in any criticisms of these Orders that we may care to make.

We ought to take a little pride in the fact that this is the first and still, I think, is the only country in the world where Codes of this kind exist. It is to our credit that, despite all the difficulties, we took time, and are now taking time, to deal with a subject of this kind. It is true that immediately we go into codes of practice on animal welfare we create, apparently, emotive forces. When I was at the Ministry I had to deal with hundreds of letters about the destruction of seals and their pups in Canada, as if we had the right or some power to put a stop to that. I know that as soon as this sort of subject arises all the attention is directed to the Ministry in our country on many matters over which it has no control.

When the Orders were first introduced in another place (if I may say so, it was not after they were introduced) my right honourable friend Mr. Cledwyn Hughes intimated that he would instruct the State Veterinary Service to report on how the Codes were working. He promised, even at that time, to place a copy of the report in the Libraries of the Houses of Parliament so that Members of both Houses could see what was said about the Codes and how they had worked. He also promised to ask the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to look again at the recommendations and, if they could see any improvements that were necessary, to make a report to the Ministers, whoever they might be, so that any recommendations could be taken into account, and the Codes be amended accordingly. My right honourable friend at the time did not delay in issuing instructions, and the job was put in hand immediately. It was as a result of these instructions that these reports were presented, and it falls to the present Government to adopt the recommendations suggested. That is what we are doing this afternoon.

It is always difficult when we come to deal with these Codes to measure how far we ought to go. We have never led the country, or anyone in it, to believe that we could move so quickly that overnight we could create perfection so far as these matters were concerned. We had before us at that time the Brambell recommendations. There were those who thought that as we did not implement the Brambell recommendations completely we had failed in the job we had set out to do. Your Lordships will agree that in the course of the working of these Codes, over a very short period at least, we have been able to assure ourselves that in the main they have worked reasonably well, not only for those engaged in husbandry, but for the welfare of the animals concerned.

It is not my intention to be critical of the recommendations that have been made, or to criticise them for not going so far as perhaps I should want them to go, because I know that it is always simple to criticise Codes. I see that my noble friend (and I believe I may call him that) Lord Conesford is present, and many a time I have had to listen to him in another place dealing with Codes. I remember on one famous occasion he delivered a speech of some fair length, which contained good humour and good sense, on the Highway Code, and nearly convinced me that it would not work at all. I believe we have made a good start with our codes of practice and I will do nothing to delay the passing of the Order which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has moved.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers that we are going through a period of technological evolution, and what we are trying to do in this and other fields is to see that we maintain certain standards, whatever a technology may try to dictate to us. This is the approach which many people make towards this problem. I was glad that my noble friend showed that we are really concerned about the subject we are talking about to-day, as the Minister did in the other place. That is proper because it reflects the profound anxiety which is felt by many people in all parts of the country about what is happening in this branch of technology, if you like to call it that.

I hope that those in this House who are interested in farming will not to-day be too sensitive about what is being discussed. We are concerned with a small minority of the trade as it exists; anyone can see that from the extremely interesting report of the State Veterinary Officer. It is not a large number, but we want to increase it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, that a Code is probably the right way to handle this, but I should like to test the Minister in this way: is it a minimum Code, or is it regarded as a norm? I hope that he will say that it is a minimum Code.

There is a big difference between this occasion and a former occasion when we discussed this matter. On the last occasion I divided the House, and a great number of Members from different parts of the House came into the Lobby with me. The Minister this time has not only shown his concern in a very real way, but has said without ambiguity that it is his responsibility that these Codes are issued. He is not trying to pass the responsibility on to an advisory board; he is accepting full responsibility. I also want to thank the Minister for the publication of the two reports which we have in front of us, of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the State Veterinary Service.

I cannot say that the Minister has been very brave. As has been said, the results are rather meagre, but I suppose that in due course they will be incorporated in a new edition of the Codes. I must say that he made a curious statement when he said that he prefers science to ethics. This is an extraordinarily interesting subject for a philosophical essay, but it is irrelevant to the subject which we are discussing to-day. If one likes to call it a subjective judgment as compared with objective evidence, then by all means one may do so; or should a dentist next time put a hole in my teeth and not pay enough attention, would it be preferable to call him unethical? I should like to do that, but I have some doubts as to whether it would be the correct adjective to apply to him.

Science cannot measure pain and indeed scientists have not even a norm or a unit of pain. I doubt very much whether they ever will have. There are limits to scientific information on this matter, and with great respect it is highly limited. I see in the report of the Advisory Committee that Professor Hewer says that protein metabolism is almost a decisive issue as to whether there is stress or pain. If I may say so, I suspect that the protein metabolism of those in the mining industry before the Factory Acts probably altered a great deal, but whether they were considered to have been happy or satisfied I should have thought was highly doubtful. So I do not feel greatly persuaded by the use of this particular terminology.

Moreover, although the Minister chooses what he calls science instead of what I call a subjective judgment, the State Veterinary Service uses no other judgment at all except a subjective judgment. It does not pretend to submit any kind of scientific basis. I am saying, therefore, that I think the Minister's insistence on science is not very well conceived in this matter. I should not like to say it was an excuse for doing very little, but I must confess I am disappointed that more has not been done. I only hope, after hearing the noble Earl's statement, that other codes can be evolved in due course, and I very much hope that they will be.

I liked the State Veterinary Officer's report. It was frank. But I should like to know the position about enforcement. He mentions three prosecutions. I do not know whether that is the sum total, but from some of the pictures he gives I am a little surprised that there have not been more prosecutions. For instance, he said on pages 7 and 8 that in certain cases calves cannot groom themselves. It is perfectly clearly laid down in the Code that calves should be able to groom themselves. Is it not considered an infringement—really a fundamental infringement—of the whole purpose of these Codes if they cannot do so? I say this particularly in regard to Code 1, paragraph 20. Further on he refers to the number of premises in which water and food is withheld for two days—this is in respect of pigs. He says that there is no evidence of pain or distress. I should have thought that that was arguable. I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen human beings who have not drunk for twelve or twenty-four hours, but it would be very hard to say that they had not suffered a certain amount of distress. I should have thought it was quite clearly laid down in Code 2, paragraph 16, that this was contrary to the Code. I have therefore to ask this simple question: Are there enough veterinary officers looking after this position, because these seem to be pretty serious cases, although I accept readily that they are only in a minority?

The other point is the astonishing detail with which it appears necessary to go into this matter. For instance, Code No. 1, paragraph 20, says that a tether must not cause injury to the cattle. Is it really necessary to put this in? Surely this situation is fully covered by the 1911 Act. In Code 3, paragraph 5, it is said that injury such as open wounds and fractures should be treated. Is it really essential to put this in? Is it not part of the general standards which are already being observed?

I should now like to ask one or two questions—I will not keep your Lordships for long. First of all, in regard to pigs, Code 2, why are they not allowed the same proportion of space as cattle in single pens? Cattle are supposed to have a pen as high as their shoulder. May I ask the noble Earl to confirm that that is the top of the shoulder—I think his right honourable friend said that in the other place—and not some arbitrary place on the shoulder? Secondly, in regard to birds, Code No. 3, when it is said that they can stretch their wings without difficulty, does that fairly mean both wings? I understand that certain problems have arisen with regard to the phrase"without difficulty ". This indicates to me that there is some difficulty, and the question is:"How much?" Is there no chance of allowing animals out of their enclosures for one day, or part of a day, to stretch their legs outside the enclosed pens?

I should like to say one other word in general terms about the question of white veal. White veal, I should not have thought by any scientific standards, was a good diet. It is produced by anaemic animals. There is what one might call an ethical choice. I would prefer to call it a subjective choice of the consumer. But is it right that we should continue to encourage people to eat meat which is produced from animals which are not healthy? During my life-time doctors have changed their views a great deal on what is good for dietary and what is not good for dietary. Are we sure that before long doctors may not declare this meat possibly the basis of some of the diseases whose origins have not been fully traced right up to the present time?

I know that we are probably going to join the European Economic Community and that some of the farming population think that we must not put too heavy a burden on the farmers. First of all, let us be quite clear that the reports indicate that the vast majority of farmers are well above the standards, better than the standards. So it is not very likely that raising the minimum standard is going to impede the agricultural community at all. Secondly, I should like to hope that when we go into the E.E.C., if we do, we carry with us standards which are indeed worth while; that they are going to be something which we can gradually impose, or at least encourage other countries in Europe to adopt.

My Lords, in conclusion I will simply say this. Ought not the terms of the 1911 Act, which are quite strong in paragraph 1, to be brought clearly to the attention of those who engage in this particular industry? After all, no prosecution can lie under these particular Codes. A prosecution, as I understand it, will lie under the 1911 Act. Should farmers not be more aware of just what does lie under that Act? Secondly, the noble Earl has said that the new Codes should be perused. I am sure that the House will welcome them to show a steady willingness to raise the lowest standards that still exist, and not too readily to adjust standards to what is currently practised.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, until I arrived in your Lordships' House this afternoon I was unaware that a general debate would be taking place on these proposed alterations to recommendations for the welfare of animal livestock. I imagined that probably a series of questions would be put to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and this in fact is all I wish to do. I have just a couple of queries which I should like to raise while generally welcoming the amendments proposed.

Following the Brambell Report, I wonder whether something more could be done to put the message over to the general public and to impress upon them that the vast majority of farmers are not completely inhumane and entirely without feeling. Notwithstanding the fact that an unhealthy or an unhappy animal cannot possibly thrive and consequently must be an uneconomic proposition, I am sure that both farmers and their stockmen have a certain affection for animals; they certainly have an interest in and show great concern for the health and welfare of their animals—animals upon which they depend for their livelihood, and to a certain extent animals upon which the life of every citizen depends.

I believe that the National Farmers' Union suggest that there is a tendency for the new Codes to embrace extensive systems of production. I would agree with them that this is so and it would appear to be unnecessary. Nevertheless, constant watch needs to be kept over the complex systems of modern intensive livestock keeping, and I personally thoroughly welcome the alterations and the proposed amendments to paragraph 20 (I think it is) regarding increasing the size of pens in veal production.

I should like to ask the noble Earl one or two questions. First, can he tell me how many veterinary field officers are doing animal welfare work and what portion of their time is committed solely to this purpose? Is the Minister satisfied that following the veterinary report the amount of time devoted to this work is sufficient? For these Orders to be effective, there must be an adequate veterinary complement, and I wonder what the average age of the veterinary officers mainly concerned with this work is, how many recruits have taken up employment in the field service, and what have been the losses due to resignations and retirements from the time that the Order became effective, I believe in September, 1968? Perhaps the noble Earl will be able to give some figures.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, as the House is aware, I do not often intervene on any agricultural matter, for the very good reason that I have no direct experience as a farmer and am ignorant of the technicalities of the subject. But this question of factory farming has concerned me very much indeed, and my only previous interventions on an agricultural Bill have been on this subject. On April, 30, 1968, my noble friend Lord Selkirk introduced, and I supported, an Amendment which sought to put into the text of this Statute those famous words in paragraph 37 of the Brambell Report: An animal should at least have sufficient freedom of movement to be able without difficulty to turn round, groom itself, get up, lie down and stretch its limbs. My noble friend and I, and many others, thought it desirable that that declaration of rights for animals, if I may so summarise it, should be available on the face of the Statute. That paragraph is referred to in many subsequent paragraphs of the Brambell Committee's Report, and it was their fundamental doctrine. On that occasion we were defeated by 96 votes to 23.

Then we come to the debate on the Codes themselves, on October 14, 1969, to which my noble friend the Minister has already referred. On that occasion the opposition to the Codes was deployed with brilliance and humanity in a most moving speech by Dr. Fleming, then and until lately Lord Bishop of Norwich. Perhaps I might say, in passing, that there is no one whose departure from this House I more regret than that of my friend the former Lord Bishop of Norwich. On that occasion I mentioned some of the moral considerations as I saw them. I thought I was not a sentimentalist; but if I was, I found myself in very good company: the Lord Bishop of Norwich himself, Professor Brambell, my old friend Julian Huxley, Dr. Tinbergen, F.R.S., the great authority from Oxford University, and Professor Thorpe, who has written an appendix to the Brambell Report itself. On that occasion we were defeated in a much closer Division by 67 votes to 38. This House was really concerned, as was another place, in the debate to which the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, has already referred, and I think that it is now quite clear that both Houses of Parliament are acutely concerned, as is the public outside.

Let me say at once, to relieve my noble friend the Minister, that of course we all welcome the improvements in the Codes that are incorporated in these Amendments which he has moved. If I may say so, I particularly welcome the Amendment to meet a rather savage criticism that I made on a previous occasion, and that was on Code No. 3, dealing with domestic fowls. On that occasion the standards laid down on what I may call"overcrowding "—although that is probably not the right technical term—which might have been right had they been real standards, were made quite absurd by the words that then appeared in the paragraph concerned. It said: The following allowances are given as a guide to those below which sound management may become the critical factor. Thus even those minimum standards did not have to be observed to comply with the Codes. If a poultry farmer disregarded those standards, he could still allege that otherwise he was so good that it did not matter. Those ridiculous words have now gone, and we have words that are much more sensible; namely: The following figures are given as a guide to the maximum densities acceptable in most circumstances for domestic fowl husbandry in current use. I am grateful for all the Amendments made, and in particular, perhaps, for that one, which meets a point that I made.

But, my Lords, I do not think that the Codes as they now stand, though improved, are good enough. The reason for this, I think, is that there is complete misunderstanding among Ministers about the nature of our criticisms of the Codes and the principles involved. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I very much welcome the production of the two booklets with which the Government have furnished us. The report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is the one to which I am going to refer a little. It refers to two different approaches, described for convenience, and for convenience only, as the"ethical"and the"scientific ". These are only the most general descriptions, and anybody interested in ethics or in science knows that as a dichotomy of the whole of knowledge it would of course be completely absurd. If my friend Julian Huxley writes, with other experts on animal behaviour, a letter to The Times criticising these Codes and saying what ought to be done, is he writing as an ethical expert, a moralist, or is he writing as a scientist? Of course he is doing both. To cover the field of human knowledge or theory, of course, it would be an impossible dichotomy.

For this I do not in the least blame the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. They state on the very first page of their report that this division is only for convenience, and the two, of course, do not represent the exclusive views of two sets of members. I mention this because a very wrong use has subsequently been made of these terms. Immense harm is done to clarity of thought on the matter if it is assumed, quite wrongly, that there is less scientific support for the ethical approach than there is for the so-called scientific approach. There is not. The ethical approach is backed by a most impressive list of scientists. There is, I am glad to say, a bibliography in this report itself in which the proof of what I have said can be seen at a glance. Let me mention some of them. I have mentioned Professor Brambell, the Bishop, Julian Huxley, Professor Thorpe, and others, and there is another whom I shall mention in a moment. They all take, not the so-called scientific approach, but the ethical approach. And let that not be forgotten!

Now, my Lords, what is the so-called"scientific"approach? The scientific approach appears to involve the belief that the only evidence of stress in an animal is provided by the protein metabolism; if there is not some change in the protein metabolism then it is impossible to deduce with any certainty that it is suffering stress, or is suffering at all. That is complete and absolute nonsense. Is it really suggested that the evidence given by Julian Huxley, when he wrote one of his letters, of the difference between the stress experienced by an animal at the London Zoo and that experienced when the same animal was free to roam at Whipsnade, ought to be disregarded because he had riot investigated the effect on protein metabolism? is there a single Member of this House who has not experienced and known that some animals are happy and some animals are unhappy? in a previous debate, a farmer was quoted about the pleasure he derived from seeing his animals gambolling in the field. Although it is said that we do not know whether an animal is happy or miserable, in many cases that is absolutely untrue.

I quite agree that these Codes, when observed, are sufficient to keep the animal alive, and sometimes something a little better. But, my Lords, I find it unbelievably repulsive if the only time an animal—which, after all, has a mind—is allowed to see God's daylight is when it is going to its own execution. The conditions of the production of white veal seem to me so unspeakable that I shall say nothing more about them. But if any noble Lord wants further comment I would urge him to read the speech made last Friday, when these Codes were before another place, by a man who is, I think, the Father of the House of Commons and who has himself represented with distinction an agricultural constituency and knows about farming—I am talking about Sir Robin Turton.

I said I would read a letter, or an extract from a letter, of another expert, making this point: that nobody should be deceived into believing that the ethical approach has not got scientific backing or that the so-called scientific approach is preferred by the scientists. I have permission to read either the whole or part of a letter from Professor Ewer of the Department of Animal Husbandry in the University of Bristol. I shall not read the whole letter, but perhaps the House would allow me to read an extract. This letter, I hope, will be published by The Times. It has not yet been published, but I have permission to use it: The survey by the veterinarians revealed a commendably small incidence of careless husbandry and overt cruelty. The modifications suggested to the Codes are modest enough and should receive public support. What is alarming is the revelation of serious dispute in the Advisory Committee's report. Support for revision of the Codes is gathered under what is called the ' ethical ' point of view. Every claim is then countered by arguments stated to be the ' scientific ' viewpoint. The inference is that scientific opinion is united on these matters and that it alone is guardian of the truth. This is not so. To counter every suggestion of allowing more space or comfort to a severely confined animal by claiming that there is no evidence of disturbance of protein metabolism is to reveal a surprising degree of scientific naïveté. This is not a precise nor, in all probability, a suitable measure of stress situations. Protein metabolism, so much dependent upon the amount and quality given in the ration, is widely different in pigs, poultry and ruminants. Until much more is known about precise measures of the effect of stressful situations, our Codes should clearly seek to give all farm animals the space allowances, comfort and health safeguards set out in the Brambell Report. The public conscience should not retreat in the face of a dubious ' scientific ' view. I cannot believe that there will be many in this House who would dispute the passage that I have just read.

I have praised the Advisory Committee for their Report, and for giving us what, for convenience, they describe as the"ethical"and the"scientific"approach. So far as I know, there is only one man in England who has hopelessly misunderstood what has been said, but he, most unfortunately, is the Minister of Agriculture himself. I propose to read lust two sentences of what he said in the House of Commons on Friday. I hope I have not been too harsh, because I am one of his admirers, but I regard these as unfortunate lapses. He said: We have now reached the stage where we must try to separate ethical considerations on animal welfare from scientific considerations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 30/7/71; col. 1011.] We have not reached that point. We never will reach that point and if we did reach that point we should show ourselves absolutely incapable of rational civilised thought. The next passage shows the basis and extent of his misunderstanding: The point about the Brambell Committee was that it looked at the problems entirely from the ethical point of view… "—[col. 1012.] My Lords, I do not believe that anybody could even glance at the Brambell Committee's Report and come to that conclusion. What about Appendix III by Professor W. H. Thorpe himself? The fantastic inaccuracy of that statement really baffles description.

Then we are given a little lecture on the dangers of the anthropomorphic approach. If we see that an animal, a living creature, is miserable, and if we say so (with perhaps sufficient guidance from such men as Julian Huxley, who have spent their lives in this field and have a world reputation), is that anthropomorphic? If these scientists who study animal behaviour say that this animal is miserable because all its instincts are being completely frustrated, and it is not allowed to obey any of the natural instincts implanted in it, is that really something that we should ignore? Are we being anthropomorphic if we say,"We agree with this "? Are we being anthropomorphic when we say that men should be humane in the treatment of animals?"Humane ", by its very derivation, implies a quality of man. There is nothing anthropomorphic, in any bad sense, in having sympathy with a suffering animal.

The moral principle that I believe to be involved is fairly simple. I do not believe that men are entitled to use living creatures as mere things for their imagined benefit or convenience. I do not believe that we are entitled to deny them every element of a natural existence, regardless of their own nature, instincts and desires. I hope nobody will say that I am hostile to farmers; I am not. I have had among my friends a great many farmers, including, I hope, even Members of this House. Doctor Fleming, the then Lord Bishop of Norwich, was not hostile to farmers when he opposed these Codes and persuaded a large part of this House to vote against them. I do not believe that I am being the enemy of farmers if I say that I look forward to a revision of these Codes, which will make them conform much more nearly to the Brambell requirements.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, since this subject was last debated these Benches have suffered two losses, which I to-day feel acutely, in the retirement of Dr. Gresford Jones from being Bishop of St. Albans, and the translation of Dr. Fleming from Norwich to be Dean of Windsor. I shall have great pleasure in conveying to him the kind tribute which was paid to him by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. It leaves me feeling extremely diffident about interfering in this debate, in which I have so little competence, but I feel that since the Bench of Bishops made a contribution to the first debate, and since my friend and neighbour the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells (who had hoped to speak last week) is not able to be here to-day, I should venture to make one point which I hope your Lordships will feel lies within my competence. I can make it the more briefly because I first want to endorse a point which has been so ably made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. I speak genuinely out of a rather ignorant but deep concern for all those aspects of the stewardship of the whole of our natural resources, of which we are happily becoming more conscious under the wide connotation now given to the word"conservation"and of which the whole topic before your Lordships' House is indeed one aspect. I speak also because I know from contact with farmers in my own diocese how greatly they care that the welfare of animals should be a combination of their ethical considerations with effective and efficient farming. It is to this supposed antithesis between the ethical and scientific considerations that I should like to return, following the lead of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford.

In the debate in this House in October, 1969, the then Lord Bishop of Norwich, said: Without confusing the difference of status of man and beast, it has always been recognised that, within their particular status, the animal has certain rights and that man has a duty to see that these rights are preserved. The Common Law recognises this in the many Acts concerning cruelty to animals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14/10/69; col. 1341.] I, too, rejoice that our country is giving a lead in these standards. I recognise the complexity of the issues which are raised to a non-farmer in the voluminous literature which I have looked at, but I should like to concentrate upon this ethical and scientific distinction, which seems to me so misleadingly made, and to have such disastrous consequences if it is misused, because it is surely wrong to suggest that the whole subject is to be conceived simply as a conflict and compromise between the ethical and scientific considerations.

Certainly, there are far-reaching ethical considerations lying behind the whole discussion. There is the whole issue of the nature of man's dominion over creation and the importance of knowing the difference between trusteeship and exploitation. There is the whole issue of whether man can degrade other species without in the process degrading himself. There is the whole urgent question in out time of how far that which is scientifically and technologically possible should, simply because it is possible, therefore be done. It is in the translation of such principles into practice that detailed and factual evidence must be enlisted. It is for this reason that the scientific and ethical considerations are not mutually exclusive. The ethical considerations and the scientific considerations mentioned on pages 1 to 5 of the report by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, in the form in which they are couched, often appear to be in conflict. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, the distinction there made was intended to be a distinction of convenience and not of radical difference. Therefore, we must not regard the ethical principles as being simply starry-eyed idealism, while the scientific principles are regarded as the realistic ones. That is indeed a false contrast.

Ethics is, in the last resort, a recognition of reality. It is an obedience to moral law, to ignore which is to court some kind of disaster. On the other hand, it needs to be recognised that science often includes much subjective opinion—for example, in defining animal welfare in terms of this protein synthesis theory—that is still speculative. As the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has said, the Brambell Committee was certainly not defective in scientists. I, too, have a copy of the letter by the Professor of Animal Husbandry at Bristol University, which I was intending to quote. But since the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has made such effective use of it, I shall repeat only the final sentence, lest in this whole discussion there should grow up a false attribution of authority to scientific considerations when they counsel caution, and a disbelief in the ethical considerations when they counsel us to go further. Professor Ewer concluded The public conscience should not retreat in the face of a dubious ' scientific ' view. It is to endorse that plea that I venture to speak to-day.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, I have been a farmer all my life, and I have also had considerable experience of wild animals, training sheep dogs and training horses, so I can claim to have a wide experience of animals from several points of view. I have never indulged in factory farming, though I have plenty of buildings which could be converted to that purpose. It must be obvious that the reason why I have not indulged in it is that I do not approve of it. I certainly welcome the amendments to the Codes but, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, they are rather meagre or marginal. From my point of view, the Codes themselves are, on the whole, inadequate. Many of them condemn animals and birds to an artificial way of life in which their natural instincts are frustrated to an abominable degree. It is true that, if you give an animal plenty of food so that he does not have to strive for it, it is a certain comfort to the animal. But when his movement is restricted and he is denied a free range, then his natural instincts are frustrated to a serious degree.

May I point out how very meagre and marginal these changes are? If we take paragraph 5 of Code No. 3, which is concerned with poultry, the amendment recommends the segregation of ailing birds wherever possible. One would think that that was common sense, but in a big hen battery it is very difficult for one man, who may be looking after 2,000 or 3,000 birds, always to tell whether certain birds are ailing. When we come to stocking densities—in other words, space allowances—it is wholly inadequate for a bird in a laying cage to have less than half a square foot. I think that is very cruel. Under the proposed alterations the Code will refer to"stocking densities"instead of to"space allowances ", but that is going to do very little to improve matters. I should like to delve into the subject of the space allowed to poultry, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, mentioned.

On the question of stretching wings, may I read a quotation made by an honourable Member in another place? In the New Scientist and Science Journal of June 10 Professor Hewer, who is Chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, took to task Professor Thorpe, who is the Professor of Animal Behaviour at Cambridge. Professor Hewer wrote: Surely Professor Thorpe knows that domestic fowls stretch their wings by extending them one at a time backwards and downwards, usually stretching the leg on the same side backwards simultaneously. The wing span can only have reference to flight, which in galliform birds "— and by"galliform birds"the professor means birds such as partridges, pheasants, grouse and chicken which descend from the wild jungle fowl; in other words, birds which spend a lot of their time on the ground and nest on the ground— unlike passerines "— which are birds such as swallows or rooks, which spend a great deal of time in the air— only use their wings as a last resort in escape behaviour. You have there a difference in scientific opinion, and it is obvious to me that Professor Hewer cannot have seen grouse flying off the moor to feed in cornfields, to feed on the stubble; he cannot have seen partridges flying to shelter or food; he cannot have seen hens on free range flapping their wings; lie cannot have seen hens dusting themselves and flapping their wings. It is really extraordinary, I think, for a professor as distinguished as Professor Hewer to say that galliform birds use their wings only in flight to escape from danger, because it is completely untrue. I can only imagine that the professor has never been out of a town, but I can hardly believe that.

My Lords, I also found some statements in this report of the State Veterinary Service rather perplexing. On the whole, I think that the reports and work of the State Veterinary Service are very good; but one report here I find rather perplexing, regarding the Cattle Code, Code 1, paragraph 5. They state—and here they are referring to the construction of floors for cattle: Our findings support the view that where floors whether slotted or solid are specially designed for the class of animal to be housed on them, and are properly constructed and maintained they cause no unnecessary suffering to cattle. What do they mean by"no unnecessary suffering "? And as they say"no unnecessary suffering ", does not that therefore imply that where you house cattle in cramped conditions you must have suffering? I can only presume that it does.

The other factor about factory farming which I find highly objectionable is—actually, I find the whole of factory farming objectionable—the docking of calves' tails. A considerable time ago the docking of horses' tails was stopped by law. As to the docking of calves' tails, it is true enough that the veterinary service advise that it should be done only on the advice of a vet, and at a, very early age; but, if any flies enter the sheds where the calves are, it can be very uncomfortable for them if they have no tails with which to swish the flies away. The whole trouble with this Code is that it is not sufficiently mandatory. There appear to have been very few prosecutions. If one reads the report of the State Veterinary Service, one sees that they point out many instances where farmers have not abided by the Codes; but there appear to have been no prosecutions. There is really not much point in having a Code if you cannot implement it. Anybody who knows anything about animals knows that if you overcrowd them—rats, for instance—they indulge in various vices. I am quite sure that the chief reason for the tail-biting, the ear-chewing and all that among pigs is overcrowding, and probably boredom. That is probably one of the reasons why, in our own society, we have such a great increase in crime to-day. It is because we are overcrowded. I am quite sure that that is one of the reasons.

We must not get too emotional about these Codes. We must not attribute to the animals the same emotions as we have—the emotions that we would have to endure if we ourselves were confined under the same conditions. Nevertheless, I am extremely distrustful of the scientific evidence, because it is so much at variance. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, I think, alluded to the fact that the defence for extreme confinement in farming appeared to rest on the fact that protein metabolism is the surest indicator of the presence of distress in an animal. I quite agree with everything my noble friend said. Of course you cannot fully measure the distress in an animal by its protein metabolism. We do not know enough about that. I think a great number of scientists will agree that scientific knowledge has not advanced that far. It is definitely not proven; you cannot go by that. It certainly runs completely contrary to my experience with animals.

I do not think many scientists really give credit for the sensitivity of some animals. I am also quite convinced from my experience of training animals, having myself come across instances of it, that some animals can reason. I think hardly any scientist would allow that an animal can reason, whereas I could give your Lordships many instances (though I will not do so) where animals have, to my knowledge, reasoned. But I must not speak too long, my Lords.


Why not?


My Lords, I could give instances, if you like, but I think it is rather irrelevant to the debate. Noble Lords will have to take my word for this. I can tell any noble Lord afterwards if he would care to hear about them. As to confining an animal, Professor Hewer does not seem to think that a hen wants to flap its wings. He says that it is quite happy just stretching its wing and its leg at the same time. I wonder whether Professor Hewer would apply the same doctrine to, perhaps, a swallow. Would he think that, if you put a swallow in a cage, it would lose its migratory instincts, that it would be quite happy to stay in this country and not fly off to Africa? Sheep and cattle on the hills are better forecasters than the Meteorological Office. If a gale is coming up from the Atlantic, the sheep, cattle and deer, 24 hours before, all run for shelter. The reason is that they feel the pressure in their ears. It is rather like going into a tunnel when on a train. We feel the pressure of an approaching train. Animals' physical senses are better developed than are ours; so if you put animals into conditions of extreme confinement, it must be cruel. As various speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the right reverend Prelate, have said, it is a question of how far we are prepared to degrade ourselves by confining animals in order to make money. It really boils down to that. I suppose that animals will have to suffer to a certain extent to feed man. I agree that the ethical point of view is not completely separate from the scientific one. As Lord Conesford said, there are many scientists who support the ethical point of view.

Before I end, I should like to say that I sincerely hope that the Government will in the near future implement the Brambell recommendations, particularly for poultry and calves. We have had these recommendations for quite a long time but we are moving only very slowly towards their implementation. There is one recommendation that I should very much like to see implemented: that animals should have proper bedding. It is very unnatural for animals, wild or domestic, to lie down to sleep on a concrete floor. No animal would do that of its own volition. I could go on with these examples: for example, keeping stock in darkness. Animals like cattle were not supposed to spend their lives in darkness; if so, they would not have been given eyes. I should like just to say that I hope the Government will do all that they can when they next produce Amendments for the final version—and I hope it will be the final version—to bring conditions up to the level of, and if possible to improve upon, the Brambell recommendations.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Viscount who has just spoken I find the whole business of factory farming disquieting. It seems to me to be more scientific than ethical. But I shall not labour the distinction between those two concepts. That has been adequately dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and by the right reverend Prelate. If I were to do so, I should no doubt make noble Lords so bored that, who knows, they might begin eating one another's ears. There is one thing in the report of the State Veterinary Service to which I should like to draw attention; namely, the figures on page 119, relating to the density of stocking of domestic fowls. I shall not quote all that are relevant but the statistics can be summarised by taking those for total deep litter fowls: 71.4 per cent. density of stocking is below the Code guidelines; 20.6 per cent. is at Code guidelines and 8 per cent. is above the Code guidelines. As one goes down the page one sees similar contrasts in every case. Of those below the Code guidelines the percentage is very much higher than those at the Code guidelines or above them. I find these figures very disquieting, and I only hope that the Ministry of Agriculture does, too.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by apologising to my noble friend Lord Selkirk and to all noble Lords for having risen to speak at the wrong time. I had not realised that there was a list of speakers. For approval of Motions like this very often there is not. I suppose it is true that a few rather insignificant crumbs of bread are better than no bread at all; and it is from that point of view that I welcome these Amendments. I should have liked them to have gone a great deal further. The one in the Code on cattle which is particularly welcome is the Amendment to Paragraph 20. I think that is a real improvement. Incidentally, I believe that the Minister of Agriculture himself has confirmed that the height at the shoulder is the total height and not merely the height to the withers. It might not be a bad plan to put that fact in the proposed new paragraph. That will make it quite certain that the animal has room to stretch its legs at rightangles to its body. Also I welcome the alterations to paragraph 22 in the Code on fowls. That has gone a step farther; but, quite frankly, I think we might have had a great deal more than this.

I should like to read the results of a recent opinion poll among a cross-section of farmers apropos whether or not they agree with certain provisions of the Brambell Report. First: Each animal or bird should he fed on a diet such as to maintain it in full health; that is, a diet in which there is no deliberate deficiency. Ninety-four per cent. of the farmers consulted agreed with that. Secondly, Enough light should be available in farm buildings in order to see whether or not an animal is in good condition. Of the farmers consulted, 95 per cent. agreed with that. Each animal should have access to natural light throughout the hours of daylight. Of the farmers consulted, 72 per cent. agreed with that. All farm animals should be freely able to turn round in their pens except when tethered or restricted for veterinary treatment or for other temporary purposes. Eighty-five per cent. of the farmers agreed to that. There are several others, but I will not weary your Lordships with them. But they show, as incidentally does the list of densities quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, that farmers are far more willing to provide good conditions for their animals than the Codes recommend. That to me makes absolute nonsense of the statement that for economic reasons one has to restrict the Codes to a certain level.

There is no getting away from the fact that we cannot use living creatures as machines. I am not for a moment saying that they are like human beings, but they are perfectly capable of feeling pain and also frustration. The frustration of lack of movement causes great mental stress to animals, who suffer from it to a great degree. Many of your Lordships will have suffered from mental stress when you have been sitting during the past months in the same position up to midnight or perhaps two o'clock in the morning; but at least you were free to get up at intervals and go for a drink or a meal. What is more, you were doing it voluntarily and you knew what it was all about. But suppose your Lordships did not know what it was all about, that you were not doing it voluntarily and that you were tied to your Benches, albeit quite comfortable Benches, so that you could not move. Add to that the fact that the Chamber was practically in total darkness, that all your upper teeth had been removed (to correspond with de-beaking), that the lobes of your ears had been cut off (to correspond with clubbing the combs) and add to that the fact that it was not just for one day but for the whole of your lives—is that a very pleasant outlook?

I do not think that we have any right to subject living creatures to that sort of life. This may be looked upon as mere emotionalism. It is not. It is perhaps ethical conviction, and I entirely agree with what was said by my noble friend Lord Conesford, that we cannot separate science and ethics. We may regard one or the other as the more important. My noble friend Lord Ferrers has said that he regards science as the more important. I differ from him; I regard ethics as the more important. But it is significant that, as my noble friend pointed out, the most distinguished scientists of the day regard any subject from both angles and chiefly from the ethical angle. Science can produce some unpleasant things as well as pleasant ones. It produced the atom bomb. The only thing that has controlled the atom bomb has been the ethical consideration.

I sincerely hope that this idea that we have to throw away all our ethical convictions, simply for the sake of making it possible for people to make more money quicker, will soon fade out from Government policy and that very soon we shall have a new and much more revised form of these Codes and, incidentally, that they will be mandatory, because as they are at present they are completely useless. It is only thanks to the wisdom of Parliament that they work at all.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, like earlier speakers, I would add a qualified welcome to the alterations to these Codes and echo a much stronger welcome to these two pamphlets with which we have been furnished. Further, I should like to thank the Government for giving us an opportunity, albeit on almost the last day before the Recess, of discussing these revisions of the Codes of Practice. I have read, with interest, in the report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee the statement on page 2: The present Codes set bare minimum standards, and it would have been far better to have allowed ethical considerations to have filled the gap left by the doubts stemming from inadequate scientific knowledge. If this had been done the Codes would have set high standards and left no doubts about their ability to ensure welfare. In the stock-rearing and stock-marketing field, this country has a leading position and has great responsibility to the stock world, because the sheep, pigs, cattle, turkeys, and so on, find their way, as breeding stock initially or as individual animals, from this country all over the world, and our conditions of management are guidelines which show how these animals are produced. I welcome the Codes on that account. I echo very heartily what has been said by other speakers, and I would add a further view—one which we have not heard in this debate up to now: the view of the consumer.

On this we have had very little information given to us in the Codes. I have scanned them over, without finding any details of the degree to which animals are to be subjected to the use of antibiotics. I read with interest, therefore, in the same report of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee the statement on page 3: It is tempting to think that if an animal is thriving its welfare is completely covered. But this argument has many flaws. We are dealing mainly with young animals in which the longer-term effects of permanent discomfort may not become manifest. The animals' tolerance may be masked by the routine use of antibiotics and by the reliance some systems place on near-darkness or mutilation. It is a method of approach aimed solely at finding the lowest common factors on which an animal can exist. That statement, I feel, is a very good summary of my views on this whole question, but I should like to dwell further on certain aspects of mutilation, because I feel that the Codes do not provide us with sufficient guidelines on the subject.

For instance, turning to Code No. 1, on Cattle, we have very little information on mutilation, though we start off, as with each of these Codes, with a piety to the effect that the avoidance of mutilation is one of the basic requirements of animal welfare. However, when we get down to details, the question of castration is avoided altogether in Code No. 1. In paragraph 32, we have very little information or advice on the disbudding of calves and the handling of fractious or horned cattle and the point on docking, to which my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard has already referred, is left in the air. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that further consideration should be given at an early date to the question of mutilation, not only of cattle but of pigs, to which the same docking details refer. There is the further point under the same Code on pigs of detusking boars. I feel that the information here is very slight, and perhaps the Code could be expanded a little.

With regard to the proposals in the other Codes on turkeys and domestic fowls, I was delighted to see that the alterations to the two Codes concerned go a long way in this direction. However, there is further progress to be made on the question both of debeaking and of toe-nail cutting. I do not wish to go into any greater detail at this stage on the question of mutilation, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this matter their urgent and particular concern.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, first I must declare an interest in this subject, because on my farm livestock are kept intensively. I want to begin by thanking my noble friend and his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for both these reports. The report of the Chief Veterinary Officer is, I think, reassuring within the general context of this system: the fact that over 4,000 farms have been visited by the Ministry's veterinary officers and only 36 of these have been found to fall below standard, and to be at a standard where pain and distress were being caused. As a result of this survey the Ministry's Chief Veterinary Officer has made the recommendations that we see in the Amendments to the Codes before us. In my opinion, they are unexceptionable, and I am glad to see that the National Farmers' Union have also accepted them, with one exception; namely, that they are against the modification recommended for the single penning of cattle. Otherwise, they accept them generally, and this, I think, is to be welcomed, because the National Farmers' Union speak for the factory farmers who keep the livestock, and we certainly want their co-operation in this general field. To me, it indicates that the standards of the original Codes were set about right in terms of the general standards of stock-keeping in this country.

I notice that in the note which they circulated the National Farmers' Union expressed anxiety about the future, especially in the light of our possible entry into the Common Market, to which my noble friend Lord Selkirk referred. If and when this happens, the British farmer, as we all know, will be in straight competition with the European farmer, and although some sections of British farming—that is, of course, cereal growers—will benefit, in the main the livestock growers will not. We should bear in mind that all livestock sections—milk, pigs and poultry—operate on very small profit margins. I would just add the point that in the past year many hundreds of poultry farmers have gone bankrupt, and many thousands have packed up altogether.

I am glad to join with other noble Lords in taking credit for the establishment of these Codes. This is unique, and it is something for which we as a country can take credit. But while this is an achievement to be proud of on humanitarian grounds, it is right to bear in mind—and I know that this is borne in mind by my noble friend and by the Minister—that the Codes inevitably carry economic implications which can have some effect on costs of production. But, with the standards as now defined in the Code, and as now established and here amended, my personal view is that there should not be anxiety on economic grounds, even when we have to meet the direct competition of European producers, who almost certainly will not be subjected to such Codes. Broadly speaking, these are the normal standards of good commercial stockmanship employed in intensive methods of stock-keeping.

This brings me to the major issue on which a number of noble Lords have spoken; that is, the principle of intensive farming methods. I feel that I should say a word or two about this before I conclude. My noble friends Lord Selkirk and Lord Conesford, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol and others, have spoken strongly, and indeed passionately, on this matter; and certainly in some of the speeches there has been a strong indictment of the whole principle of these intensive or factory methods of stock-keeping. The right reverend Prelate made an interesting comment about the philosophical considerations of stock-keeping and man's management of animals for the commercial supply of food and livestock products. This, I think, goes to the heart of what we are talking about.

I would ask noble Lords to focus their minds for a moment on the reality of this. Take the most fundamental livestock product of all—milk. We have taken the natural cow, whose function is to produce enough milk to suckle her calf, and no more, and have bred her up to produce 4, 5, 6 or 7 gallons a day. When she calves, her calf must be taken away from her in the first three days, and her milk is then taken to be delivered to us in the towns to keep our lives going. This is the first reality of our milk supply, our livestock farming. Here we have done something completely unnatural. But if we are to have regular supplies of milk—and earlier this afternoon we were discussing the importance of milk as a nutritional aspect of our lives—we must, as a start, completely change the whole course of nature for this animal, keep her in completely unnatural conditions and oblige her to produce far more than Nature ever intended. Are we to say that this is wrong in order to get a supply of milk for our people?

Turn now to pigs. The wild pig, in its natural habitat, probably produces a litter of two or three piglets, enough to keep the stock going. We have bred her to produce a litter of 12, 14 or 16 pigs. Why is this? It is because we want rashers of bacon on our breakfast table. Then take the chicken. In her natural habitat, in the jungle farms in the Far East, she produces probably three dozen eggs a year. We have bred her up, in order to give us an egg on our breakfast table every morning, to produce about 20 dozen eggs a year. Do we want these livestock products as an essential part of our lives? Because if we do we must accept that we have contrived, by intensive and highly selective breeding methods and by intensive and highly selective management, to train and breed these animls to produce the food on which our lives depend.

This then brings us directly to the question of factory farming. It is virtually impossible nowadays for a farmer to make a living out of these three principal products unless he uses intensive methods. I do not wish to bore the House with my own experiences, but I have mentioned on a previous occasion that in days gone by on my farm I had cattle roaming about the fields, and also chickens—hundreds of them. From a commercial angle, perhaps we kept that system going far too long, until indeed we were making a substantial loss. And at that point either we went out of business or we changed the whole structure of the farm so that we could make our production economic and we could make a profit—because if you cannot make a profit you cannot remain in business. It is as simple as that. So in the last ten years we have had to transform the whole of our farm, and our methods are completely intensive and no chicken to-day lives outside at all. Eighty-six per cent. of our eggs are produced in batteries. Why?—because that is the most efficient method of producing eggs. Even on my farm we have a battery. We are primarily breeders, and therefore our breeding flocks will naturally mate and live in deep litter. But all our customers have birds in batteries and we of course wish to see how our birds can perform when they reach the customers; so we have a battery and the birds produce very well there.

These are the realities of factory farm production to-day and these are the realities which produce our daily food. Here I come to the point made by my noble friend Lord Conesford. He argued brilliantly, as he always does, that the report of the Advisory Committee which set out the ethical and scientific arguments completely confused the issue. In fact he argued that there was probably more scientific evidence to support the ethical arguments than the reverse. I would ask my noble friend to believe that in the farming world there are many ethical farmers who are using intensive methods to-day and there are just as many ethical men and women there as there are among those who plead this case so passionately here. If we are to take one in good faith, we should also take the other in good faith.

This report of the Advisory Committee, in my opinion, does a good service to all of us because it sets out the basic problem. Of course I should like to join the angels with my noble friend here. I like to see animals moving about the fields, I like to see chickens living in the fields—although they do not look so happy in the middle of winter, I can assure my noble friend, and they are much happier inside. I should like to do all this. But if I wish to remain in business I have no alternative, nor has any other producer, but to use intensive methods. These are the realities of the situation. The pressures to bring down the price of food and to keep it down are great and the margins within which a farmer must operate to-day if he is to remain in business are very small indeed. Therefore I reckon that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture did us all a great service in publishing this report, which was a most exceptional thing to do, and setting out the realities.

What the Government are trying to do, quite rightly, and what the previous Government were also trying to do, is to find some reconciliation between the decent humanitarian feelings which we all have about animals and the harsh realities of getting a regular supply of food at the lowest possible prices. That is the attempt here, and I think it helps us to see the two sets of argument set out. I hope that as the years go by they will come closer together, though I daresay there will always be a fair amount of gap there. However, I would ask my noble friends on both sides of the House to bear in mind, when they are delivering their strongly, passionately and rightly-held feelings about this subject, that there is another side, which is that the farmers, whose daily job it is to produce our food, are just as humanitarian.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I know quite a number of farmers who do not use factory farming methods but who still manage to make a profit. Therefore it is not true to say that you cannot make a profit unless you use factory farming methods.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has made his living out of livestock farming for twenty years I should like wholeheartedly to endorse the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. I have to face the practicalities of these things, and I am quite certain that in many cases, as the noble Lord suggested, animals are much happier indoors than they are left free outside, especially, as he said, in the middle of winter. I have seen animals up to their knees in deep mud, thin, miserable, with their hacks to the wind and the rain, only wishing that they could have a nice straw bed indoors. However, I was stimulated to speak this afternoon by what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, and into trying to recollect certain behaviour by cattle. I am most concerned that nothing should ever get into these Codes for want of correct observance of animal behaviour. Animal behaviour is very interesting.

For instance, I do not know, if I asked your Lordships, how many would be able to say whether a cow gets up with her front legs first or her back legs first. The reason that a cow kennel works is that some kennelman observed that a cow never goes up a step backwards—she can go down backwards but not up—and this is the only reason that a cow kennel keeps clean. What the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said—at least I think I heard him say this—was that an animal ought to have enough room to stretch out its legs at right angles. I have seen horses lying with their legs at right angles but, to the best of my knowledge and belief, if ever I see a cow with her legs stretched out she is dead. A young calf will lie with legs straight, but I think I am right in saying that a cow will not.


I am sorry to interrupt, but I was speaking of calves.


It applies to very young calves but not, one might say, to calves of middle age: that is to say, those of two months or so, and there are all kinds of characteristics of animal behaviour which must be taken into consideration. I hope that noble Lords who, from the most laudable motives, oppose factory farming do not let their humanitarian or, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said, anthropomorphic, ideas run away with them when making comments or suggestions as to what should be put into the Codes.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, may I say at the outset that I am very grateful indeed to noble Lords who have taken part this afternoon in this debate, because among other things they have highlighted the difficulty faced by any Committee that may sit, whose object and business is to advise Ministers: that is, that there are widely differing opinions, which are held on all sides with great conviction and sincerity. I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said, because he really touched the nub of the question when he said that these were the realities of agricultural life. Once we start to domesticate anything we move away from the natural; and as we live in this world we continue to move away from the natural, whether it concerns animals or human beings. We drive ourselves around at great speeds in motor-cars, and we shut ourselves up in air-conditioned offices, all of which is not natural. Yet this is part of progress. In the same way, animal husbandry has also been affected by technology, and who would say that this should not be? Who would say that technology should not be allowed to advance? It must do so; it is inevitable. The real problem is where does one draw the line and say,"This is so far as we shall permit progress in the realms of animal husbandry "? This is a problem which has exercised many people.

The remarks which have been made this evening have been an indication of the wide variety of feeling that is felt about this matter. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and my noble friend Lord Selkirk, have complained that in these Codes we used different bases from those which Brambell suggested. It is perfectly true that the Brambell Committee put forward certain recommendations, but all the way through the Report they stress that there was lack of scientific evidence and they were bound therefore to give their own judgments. One of the suggestions of the Brambell Committee was that an Advisory Committee should be set up. The Committee was set up and it came to different conclusions. It is perfectly justifiable for noble Lords to say that they have come to the wrong conclusions. This is bound to be a matter of opinion.

It was also suggested by my noble friends Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Somers that these Codes should be made mandatory. They are not mandatory because it is difficult to find a set of Codes which can be such that any farmer who disobeys one facet of them should therefore be liable to prosecution. I suppose it would be possible for this to be done, but we do not believe that it is the right way. The way that this has been constructed is under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968, in the very first section of which is the specific statement that there should be no undue pain or distress. I am paraphrasing the words. Where there is undue pain or distress then that is a criminal act. With all the advice that has been given to the Minister, the welfare codes are suggestions as to the lines beyond which one might be running into danger.

The non-compliance with the Codes as such is not an offence, but where a person is prosecuted under the Act then the fact that he has not complied with the Codes can he taken in evidence against him. My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard asked why there were not more prosecutions. There would be more prosecutions if it was considered that there was deliberate, purposeful negligence. We have taken the view that the right way is to try to point out where people are going wrong—and the veterinary service have done this—and try to encourage them to take the right course and the right point of view. The report of the veterinary service shows that they went to a vast number of places—over 4,000—and there were very few places where the Codes were being contravened. In those where they were being contravened, the mistakes were pointed out and in all the cases the faults were found to have been rectified. We believe that this is the right way to deal with the matter.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk referred to pigs when they were penned. Pigs have the rights specified in the Code, to be able to stand up and lie down at will. This is different from the way in which it is stated in the cattle Code, when it is suggested that the amount of width of a pen should be the same as the measurement from the top of the shoulder of the animal to the ground. The right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Conesford referred to ethical and scientific views put forward by the committees. The right reverend Prelate said that this was a distinction of convenience and not difference. I believe that that is the correct attitude to take. These are different approaches, but they are not the only ones. When there is a huge diversity of opinion it has been found helpful to try to precipitate the two types of view, as was done in this Report. My noble friend Lord Conesford delivered a monumental broadside on my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture when he said that the Minister appeared to be the only person who could not understand the fact that the ethical and scientific views should be taken together. This was not the view that my right honourable friend was putting forward. He was not saying that the ethical view takes less of a priority than the scientific one. The point that he was trying to make was that where you have to legislate—if one uses the word"legislate"to cover the production of Codes—you can only do it, within reason, on fact.

My noble friend is an eminent lawyer and he, of all people, knows that all his arguments go on fact. He would be one of the first to criticise if my right honourable friend came up with some suggestions for alterations or restrictions in a certain law without producing any evidence that it was necessary. That does not mean to say that the ethical point is of less importance than the scientific point. My right honourable friend has the view that where there is to be a change there must be reasonable evidence that this is necessary.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for dealing with this matter. I did not criticise the Advisory Committee for dealing with what they called the"ethical"and the"scientific"approach. They explained quite clearly that they did not regard these as mutually exclusive. I criticised the idea that the second approach had scientific hacking, but that the first did not. I pointed out that the so-called"ethical approach"had just as much scientific backing as the other approach. The statement which I criticised above all (and it may have been a slip) will he found at col. 1012 of the debate in another place on July 30, in which the Minister said: The point about the Brambell Committee was that it looked at problems entirely from an ethical point of view not a scientific point of view. That is simply untenable.


My Lords, my noble friend has said that there is just as much scientific evidence to back up the ethical point of view as the scientific. I would, with respect, have doubted that somewhat. In the very first page of the report of the Advisory Committee, in the middle paragraph, there is reference to the ethical and scientific arguments and it goes on to say: These are not mutually exclusive nor do they represent the exclusive views of two sets of members. Members have been guided by considerations derived from both methods of approach. Of the seven key welfare issues mentioned in paragraph 12 "— and were my noble friend to look at paragraph 12 he would see that they are mentioned— the first four would be unconditionally accepted under the ' scientific ' approach ". Then it goes on to say that the remaining key factors would obviously be open to doubt. Where one has the problems of trying to consider all these difficulties one is bound to move, I would suggest as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, has suggested, slowly and on the basis of facts and evidence. That is not to underrate one iota the views which my noble friends I have mentioned.

The noble Lord, Lord Wise, asked me one or two points about the veterinary service, and I will furnish him with the information. The field service has 400 veterinary officers in post in England and Wales and Scotland. Their average age is 49 years. Three hundred and forty-two of the officers are concerned with welfare matters in the field and at ports, and the actual visits to livestock premises are being carried out mainly by the 260 officers in the veterinary officers' grades 1 and 2. The service has 40 vacancies on its complement, all in the basic recruitment grade. During the period between the coming into operation of the 1968 Act, on September 3, 1968, and June 30, 1971, 51 officers have been recruited, and in the same period 51 officers have resigned by normal wastage, and a further seven have left in the Agricultural Development Advisory Service reorganisation. The veterinary staff are required to cover the full range of duties that the service is charged with carrying out which includes dealing with outbreaks of notifiable diseases and disease eradication schemes. The time available for each of the many duties of the service obviously varies widely from time to time and between one area and another. The service has three officers engaged full-time on welfare work at headquarters, and we estimate that some 3 to 4 per cent. of the time of the 260 officers in the field who bear the main burden of welfare visits to farms is spent on that work.

The noble Lord went on to ask:"Are the Government satisfied that there are a sufficient number of inspections?"I think the answer must obviously be:"No; the Government are not satisfied," and I do not think they ever can be. Because if there are to be adequate supervisory powers, it means that there will be vast numbers of highly skilled people going round farms checking up to make quite certain that farmers are acting in accordance with the Codes. This may be something that is desirable, but I am sure that, on balance, the noble Lord will agree that such highly skilled officers could probably be best utilised in doing work for which they are better qualified. Again, that is not to underrate the need for the work to be done.

My Lords, I am grateful to every noble Lord who has spoken, but before I conclude I should like to mention one other point. My noble friend Lord Sandys asked one or two specific points with regard to de-horning. De-horning is governed by the Protection of Animals (Anæsthetics) Acts of 1954 and 1964 and these expressly forbid without the use of an anæsthetic the de-horning of cattle, and, except by means of chemical cauterisation applied in the first week of life, the disbudding of calves. Anaesthetics in these cases are usually given by injecting a suitable local anæsthetic around the nerve supplying the area. The noble Lord also referred to the castration of pigs. Again, this is not covered in the Code because Section 1(3) of the Protection of Animals (Anæthetics) Act 1964 has the effect of limiting castration without anæthetic to the first two months of life and of forbidding castration by a rubber ring or similar device to restrict the flow of blood unless it is applied during the first week of life.

There are a great many points which I know noble Lords have raised which they may wish one to answer. I have tried to answer the majority—


Hear, hear!


I beg the noble Lord's pardon.


I said,"Hear, hear! "


I beg the noble Lord's pardon; I thought he was saying,"No, no." I would merely say to noble Lords that we are grateful for what they have said, and I hope they realise that these Codes are not the product of a cavalier Ministry of Agriculture which does not really care about these things; they are the product of a tremendous amount of work and effort, care and advice given by a tremendous number of people. We hope that the balance is reasonably right. It may well not be. We know that it will not satisfy everyone, but I hope that your Lordships will approve these Codes.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I remind him of one question which I asked? Are these to be regarded as minimum standards or are they to be regarded as norms?


My Lords, I am not quite certain what is meant by"minimum standards ", but these are to be recognised as standards beyond which it would be dangerous to go. Having said that, I would add that it is not an offence to go beyond those standards, provided that undue pain and suffering has not been caused. My noble friend will realise that it is perfectly possible to cause undue pain and suffering, and therefore for a farmer to be liable under the Act, although keeping well within these Codes. But these are recommended Codes beyond which it is undesirable to go.

On Question, Motion agreed to.