HL Deb 25 November 1971 vol 325 cc1170-202

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I must confess that I had hoped that I should have been able to get my speech in before the Statement, because then I should have had a very full Chamber to address. But, unfortunately, luck has gone against me. Many of your Lordships may remember that last January I asked an Unstarred Question on the subject of the export of live animals. My noble friend Lord Denham, who answered for the Government, assured me then that everything I had said would be conveyed to his noble friend, and may I assure him now that I have not the slightest doubt that this was done. But the fact remains that I have heard nothing whatsoever since, and therefore I felt that the only way I could raise the matter again was to introduce this Bill. This Bill will prevent the export of animals to the Continent for slaughter, whether that slaughter be immediate or postponed. I do not think I need go through the Bill itself, except just to mention the fact that of course there are exemptions for animals which are sent abroad for the purpose of either breeding or showing; but I should like to discuss some of the aspects of the problem the Bill is supposed to cover.

My Lords, I know that it is impossible to assess with any accuracy just how much an animal suffers during any one particular experience, since animals have no means of telling one; and although those who have lived with them and worked with them have learnt to recognise certain little signals which they are able to give to express their feelings, it does not go very far. But I hardly think that a young calf can be driven into the hold of a ship, which it has never seen before, can remain there for several hours, perhaps in rough weather, and then be driven ashore into a country which it has never see before without some mental stress, even if not actual physical pain. But if that were the only problem with which one was concerned with regard to this traffic I should never have dreamed of introducing this Bill. That is not the chief problem at all. In fact, it is the very least of them. The main problem concerns what happens to these animals when they get to these other countries.

Most of your Lordships will know that in 1957, on the recommendations of the Balfour Committee, we asked those Con- tinental countries to which we export animals to sign four assurances, which have since been known as the Balfour assurances. These assurances were: first, that these animals would not travel more than 100 kilometres from their point of landing; second, that they would not be re-exported; third, that they would be suitably penned, fed and watered while awaiting slaughter; and, fourth, that they would be humanely slaughtered with electric stunning or a captive bolt pistol. This would have been entirely satisfactory if it were not for the fact that it has been discovered that these assurances are practically totally ignored. This was first discovered, I think, by two officials of the R. S. P. C. A. who went to Belgium last year to see what was going on. They saw a great many sights, and they made a long report. I shall not read all the report to your Lordships, but I should like to quote one or two things from it. I quoted them last January, but there may be some noble Lords present to-day who did not hear them.

The investigation was carried out by Superintendent Butfield and the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer. Among other things, they followed a shipment of young calves which had arrived at Ostend. They say: The veal calves arrived at the Ostend lair-age from Zeebrugge at midnight on Friday, 23rd; they were in good condition, having travelled well. One was blind in one eye and it was noticed that they seemed very out of breath with the exertion of loading and unloading. Also, their vision seemed to be defective as one could go right up to them before they appeared to see you". Further on, the report continues: The slaughterhouse at Putte"— that is where they were taken— is 186 kilometres from Zeebrugge and where the calves disembarked". Your Lordships will remember that the limit is supposed to be 100 kilometres. The report continues: The calves would arrive at Putte at 5 a.m. and the owner of the calves told us that he insisted that they were given something to drink on arrival. We ourselves arrived at Putte at 9.30 a.m. the following morning, by which time about half of the calves had been slaughtered. Slaughtering methods and the slaughterhouse itself can only be described as barbaric. The method of stunning used was to hit the animal over the head with an ordinary carpenter's claw hammer. I examined some of the heads of the killed calves and found no bullet holes but in one or two cases fractured frontal bones. The calves may, or may not, have been stunned by this method. The calf was then hoisted by the hind leg by a travelling hoist and its throat was cut. Out of deference to us, the slaughterman was requested by the manager to use a Cash pistol while we were there, but he resented having to use it and was not proficient in its use. The pistol had not been greased for some time and was not working satisfactorily. In other words, they did not bother about the Cash pistol at all.

If that were the only case that had been seen I suppose one might, by some stretch of the imagination, think that it was exceptional. But, unfortunately, it is not. In an article in the Farmer's Weekly about the visit of some Welsh farmers to another Belgian market and abattoir, it said: Members of the party, farmers, auctioneers and butchers, were shocked at the way that cattle especially were handled. They thought that the brutality involved was not only unnecessary but actually made the job of moving cattle more difficult. The normal practice is to have the animal on a halter belabouring the beast on the nose to slow it down and one behind driving it on with a stick. The net result is that the animal panics and begins to struggle and so the stick wielding becomes more vigorous. Every man in the market carried a stick and was very ready to use it. It says later on: An R. S. P. C. A. inspector could have had a field day picking fault with slaughterhouse technique. Certainly the buildings were old and due for rebuilding but that could not account for the fact that the slaughterers paid only lip service to humane slaughtering methods. Things do not seem to be any better in France. The Secretary of the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society had a letter from a well-known French humane slaughtering association, the Oeuvre D'Assistance aux Bêtes D'Abattoirs, giving a description of some of the methods of slaughter that are used in France. They appear to have four methods which are carried out in full consciousness—stunning is not used at all. The four methods are: (1) a large opening is cut from one ear to the other a hole is cut at the side of the neck; a very deep hole is dug in the neck through which the medulla is cut by means of a knife; and, (4) the animal is first immobilised by driving the tip of the knife into the occipital area—the part responsible for co-ordinating muscle movement. Thereafter, the throat is cut acording to the slaughterer's convenience. And there is a comment on that: that nobody seemed to think that anything was

wrong. They were all wandering round buying bits of meat; nobody thought that there was anything wrong in the least.

My Lords, if we cannot enforce the assurances—and we certainly cannot because the moment the animals land on the other side of the Channel they are beyond our control—it seems to me that the only method we can adopt is to prohibit live exports altogether. There have been, I know, some objections to this. For instance, I believe that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has stated that the trade brings in foreign currency and is a valuable contribution to the balance of payments. Well, imports of meat and meat preparations are now running at over £ 11 million a day. Every pound of meat exported, alive or dead, must be replaced by imports—much of which comes from the many countries to which we export. Each year we get less meat for a greater sum of currency outlay, while each imported pound of meat brings with it a risk of disease; that is to say, foot and mouth or anthrax. Another objection is that our Continental customers prefer fresh killed meat.


My Lords, so do we!


Exactly, my Lords—so do we. I was going on to say that it is perfectly easy for them to have meat as freshly-killed as any of us ever eat over here. For one thing, the Meat Trade Association is entirely in favour of this Bill and there have been many letters in the Farmer's Weekly in favour of it. I will not weary your Lordships by reading them all, but I have them here if anybody wishes to see them. There is no doubt that there is a very strong feeling among the public, and particularly among farmers who do not wish their stock to be subjected to this treatment.

But apart from the humanitarian side of it, there are other considerations. There is the economic side. For instance, we have 46 licensed slaughter houses in this country; licensed, that is, for the export of meat. Most of them are running at a very heavy loss for the simple reason that they have not enough to do. The conversion to a carcase trade would be an absolute blessing to them. They would be able to make good our losses and give employment to many people—surely a thing that we should think of seriously at a time like this. So far as transport concerned, I told your Lordships last January about the fleet of refrigerated vehicles we have which operate on the "drive-on, drive-off" system which would enable meat killed in our slaughterhouses to reach the Continental market within a few hours. What could be fresher than that? They say that occasionally the Continental buyers would object to not having the hide and the offal. But there is no reason on earth why they should not have the hide and offal. They could be sent as well, if they wish to pay the price for them.

I must confess at this point that I felt sonic slight qualms about this Bill when we were making our plans to enter Europe. But I have studied the Treaty of Rome very carefully and I cannot find anything in it which would prejudice the Bill at all. In fact, export of meat to the Continent would remain exactly the same, with the exception that it would be killed on this side of the channel instead of that. My Lords, I am as much opposed as anybody to a sentimental concern for animals which is based on fantasy or fanaticism, but I do hold very strongly that we have a duty to the animals in our charge not to allow them to be subjected to needless cruelty. After all, is not the desire to ensure that they are not subjected to needless cruelty one of the things that raises us above the beasts? I should have thought so. Therefore, my Lords, I sincerely hope that you will see fit to give this Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Somers.)

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, we have an inherent national regard for the welfare of our animals, and clearly this has been the inspiration behind my noble friend's Bill. I think that we are rightly proud of this regard for the welfare of animals, and your Lordships will appreciate the initiative of my noble friend Lord Somers in seeking to improve the safeguards. In 1964 the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Soames, said that the Government of the day would like to see the trade in live animals replaced by a trade in carcase meat. That is also the view of this Government. An increased export of carcases at the expense of trade in live animals would be welcome. Nevertheless, the Government consider that adequate safeguards for the welfare of animals which are exported are practicable, and that in the main they are provided by the existing legislative and other provisions. The prime purpose of this Bill is to end the export of farm animals—cattle, sheep, pigs and goats—for slaughter or for further rearing, while permitting the continued export of such animals for breeding or for exhibition.

The Bill seeks to achieve this objective by prohibiting the export of any cattle, sheep, pigs or goats unless the Minister or Secretary of State is satisfied that they are intended for one of the two specified purposes, breeding or exhibition; and only then provided that they are at least of a minimum value to be prescribed by Ministers. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to describe the provisions which exist already to safeguard the welfare of ex-ported animals. There are regulations to ensure that the animals are properly rested, tended and inspected before embarkation and that they travel in good condition to places abroad. These regulations are at present being revised and strengthened and will be extended to cover air transport. In addition, the welfare of cattle, sheep and pigs intended for slaughter is safeguarded by restricting export to those countries which have given the Balfour Assurances. My noble friend has described in detail what the Balfour Assurances are.

Further, several countries, including the United Kingdom. have signed the Council of Europe Convention for the protection of animals during international transport which the United Kingdom Government, when the necessary legislation has been passed, intends to ratify. The Convention is a step by means of international agreement towards improving welfare safeguards for exported animals. Your Lordships will remember that Clause 3 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill started the steps that needed to be taken in this direction.

My Lords, the Continental regulations on the operation of slaughterhouses are, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, no less stringent than our own. although of course the occasional lapse can occur anywhere. Reports of any such lapses are investigated, and such a step was taken only a year ago with the full co-operation of the Government concerned. This is the report which my noble friend Lord Somers has talked about. I should like to go through the allegations made then. First, that calves of under 110 lb. were exported. Exhaustive inquiries were made and this allegation could not be substantiated. Secondly, that the slaughtered calves had travelled over 100 kilometres after disembarkation. This allegation was substantiated and the Belgian authorities assured us of their intention to observe and enforce the Balfour limit in future. Next, that calves were slaughtered in humanely. This allegation was not proven, but the Belgian authorities withdrew their approval of the slaughterhouse concerned on hygiene grounds. So far as we know, the premises were later reinstated, but as they are over 100 kilometres from the port, they may not be used for slaughtering animals from the United Kingdom and are not on the Belgian approved list for this purpose. Lastly, that calves imported from the United Kingdom for slaughter were re-exported. Inquiries showed that the calves to which the allegation referred had been imported for further rearing and the Balfour Assurances do not apply to calves for further rearing.

The Belgian authorities gave very full co-operation in these inquiries, for which I think we should all pay tribute, and Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that they are keeping an eye on this matter. Recent years have seen a good deal of improvement in the facilities available for the safe and speedy transport of animals. The design of road vehicles is now much improved and the use of roll-on/roll-off ferries has speeded up sea crossings. Road networks, both here and also on the Continent, have been much improved. All these factors make for better conditions in livestock transport. The constant review of the adequacy of legislative provisions by the Government, and their participation in international efforts to protect the animals, helps to keep everyone on his toes. Despite the existence of these wide-ranging safeguards, this Bill has obvious attractions, since the transport of animals by sea can involve hazards. But there are important issues which should be examined carefully when considering the proposals.

The Government's misgivings are mainly concerned with practicalities. The Bill shows some affinity to the Ponies Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, introduced into your Lordships' House some two years ago. Like the Ponies Bill, it seeks to achieve the desired result by requiring the Minister to be satisfied as to the purpose of export and to prescribe minimum values below which even export for permitted purposes may not be allowed. But the ponies exported are comparatively few in kind and number, and in his Bill the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was able to quote the actual minimum values to be used for ponies of different heights. The export of farm livestock is another matter, and the Bill leaves it to Ministers to specify minimum values, which would be extremely difficult. The values would have to be related to different types and ages of animals, and, if set high enough to make the export for slaughter or rearing purposes uneconomic would obstruct the legitimate trade in breeding animals.

Also, my Lords, the exporters of breeding animals would have to employ a valuer to value each animal, taking account of such variable factors as breed, age, sex, confirmation, condition and the current economic position. The Bill would not control movements of animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which in practice comprises a relatively small number of bulls for breeding purposes. Nor would it control exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland or elsewhere. Clearly, it would be impracticable to interfere with the traditional trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic which accounts for two-thirds of the United Kingdom exports of cattle, sheep and pigs.

There is a further possibility that the Bill would lead to an increase in the export of animals from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland and that these animals would then be shipped elsewhere abroad. If traders saw scope for this and such a trade developed, the result would be to involve the animals in a longer sea crossing, instead of a short cross-Channel journey from here to the Continent. Furthermore, the protection afforded by the Balfour Assurances which we have received would in such circumstances be lost. Present arrangements provide reasonable safeguards for the welfare of exported animals. There are serious practical difficulties in the operation of the controls envisaged in the Bill. The measures proposed are too extreme for the benefits to be expected. Powers in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill now before Parliament will, in due course, enable Her Majesty's Government to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on international transport, and we believe that effective regulations are preferable to the ban on exports which is proposed.


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? He is bearing a great deal on transport, which I said at the beginning is the least of the problems. He is not saying anything about what is going to happen when the animals arrive at their destination.


My Lords, I think I have already said that the complaints have been investigated by my right honourable friend's Department. He gave my noble friend instances of this and what had been found, and I will come to that later. For all these reasons, the Government would be reluctant to see the Bill proceed, and I hope that my noble friend will not press the Second Reading of this Bill. My right honourable friend will study the Report of this debate very carefully, and of course he is always ready to investigate specific complaints of ill-treatment of animals. Such reports are helpful in the continuing review of the efficiency of animal welfare provision. I would also restate my wish to be given details of any such complaints. I would point out that I gave a similar earlier invitation on May 20,1971, in answer to a question by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, but since that time no specific complaints have been brought to my attention.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, if Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that the safeguards now existing are adequately enforced, I can only say that most of us are not satisfied. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, has said that he will be delighted to receive complaints of non-satisfaction of the safeguards. I can only say that somehow they must have got lost in the post—which is perhaps not surprising. Recently I had to ask one of the leading champions of this cause not to send me nearly so much literature, because hardly a morning went by on which I did not receive authentic accounts of the misuse of these legislative safeguards.

Going back to the Balfour Report, I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, is not present at this debate, because she signed that Report. She said that among the evidence received was some evidence which had caused her disquiet, and I should have liked to recall this to her memory. The Balfour Commitee reported in 1957, when this was a new trade. It was in its infancy, and since then it has grown greatly. The terms of reference of the Balfour Committee were: To inquire into the export trade in live cattle from Great Britain to the Continent for slaughter, the considerations affecting the continuance of this trade, and steps to avoid any unnecessary suffering of the cattle at all stages of their journey; to consider whether slaughter before export would be a desirable and feasible alternative, … The Committee came to the conclusion that this would be a desirable alternative. They said that there was justification for anxiety, on all grounds, about the conditions under which cattle were exported, but they also said that they could not assent to the complete abolition of this export trade. They concluded: Slaughter for export would be desirable, but the overwhelming weight of evidence is that except to a very limited extent the alternative of a carcase trade is not feasible. It was not feasible at that time, my Lords, for various reasons. There was an insufficient provision of suitable containers for slaughtered meat; there were insufficient slaughterhouse facilities, and insufficient possibility of the use of interfrigo wagons, which were not available in adequate numbers at that time. But when we consider what has happened since the publication of that Report, we find that all those conditions no longer exist. So far as slaughterhouses are concerned, not only have we a sufficiency, operating under decent humane conditions, but we have an over-sufficiency and many of them are standing idle. I would have wished that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, could be here, because he knows something of the present cost to the ratepayers of Manchester of the large and excellent slaughterhouse which is insufficiently used. And that situation is not peculiar to Manchester: the ratepayers up and down the country are spending money on insufficiently used slaughterhouses.

As a way out, the Balfour Committee laid down certain conditions which they believed would, if enforced—I emphasise, if enforced— render this trade reasonably humane. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, has mentioned them. They are known as the Balfour assurances and concern the conditions of transport and non-re-export, suitable berths, feeding and watering and all the rest of it. Those assurances have been accepted by the Governments of Holland, Belgium, West Germany and Italy for all species of exported cattle, and by France for cattle only. But, unfortunately, we know now that those assurances are more honoured in the breach than in the fact. As I have already said over and over again, we have examples of their failure. Mr. Anthony Stodart, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, explained recently, in a letter to a Member of Parliament, that there is a limit to the extent to which we can attempt to exercise control over arrangements for the welfare of the exported animals once they have passed beyond our jurisdiction, as we cannot presume to interfere in matters which other countries regard as their own domestic affairs. So much for the Balfour assurances.

May I expand on the non-effective enforcement of the Balfour assurances? There are certain trades which have fallen outside the scope of these assurances. For instance, we are now faced with the airlift in a big way of live calves to North Africa. There is no way of enforcing the conditions to which these animals are subjected when they get to North Africa, and there is much information to suggest that they receive very poor treatment when they get there. Here is a report, which was published in the this month. It reports an export contract for, … 5,000 calves between Oakdene Estates Ltd., Cowfold, Sussex, and the Greek Government. The deal will be completed this year. The company is also flying calves and beef stores to the Canary Islands every fortnight, and has exported animals by air to North Africa, Italy, Bermuda and India. The report continues: The only problem is to get enough of them to meet overseas orders. We are short of good calves and are looking for additional suppliers, said managing director, Mr. Bill Chubb, who next year is planning to fly calves from Canada to Greece to help fulfil the demand. Well, we have no control over Canada. That is one form of the trade in live animals, which has broken through any controls which we can or have tried to operate.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, referred to the export of live animals from Ulster to the Irish Republic, over which, again, we have no control. As the noble Lord, Lord Denham, has said, at the moment we cannot control the Republic of Ireland in a great many respects, including this one. But it is a fact that animals cross the Border from Northern Ireland in great numbers, and off they go—nobody knows where. The question is who is responsible for this trade and who is to a large extent making money out of it? I have here a letter written to Mr. Clarke, the Secretary to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, from the Ministry in Northern Ireland, referring to a report on the export of fat cattle from the Republic of Ireland to North Africa. It says: I have read this excellent and comprehensive report with great interest and appreciate that a great deal of work and effort went into it. Let me assure you that this Ministry shares your Society's concern about the shipment of cattle to non-Balfour countries for slaughter and regrets very much that such a trade has developed. I wonder, however, if you have sent your report to the appropriate place. We in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain take every possible precaution to ensure that our ports are not used for shipping cattle for slaughter in non-Balfour countries. It is in fact the Republic of Ireland which creates the back door for this trade by not subscribing to the Assurances, and I suggest that it might he more appropriate and more fruitful if your Society made a direct approach to the Government in Dublin…. You will be aware of the constitutional limitations placed on the Northern Ireland Government in respect of international trade. Well, we are of course aware of it.

Let us inquire a little further into who is responsible in this country for making money. I cannot find among my papers the reference to the firm in this country that is carrying on this export in a big way, but I will look it up and let the noble Lord know. It is a firm which is finding it a very profitable business, and I should think that the Balfour Assurances sit very lightly upon their operations. When the noble Lord says that he is satisfied that we have sufficient legislation to make the abuse impossible, I find it extremely difficult to share his view. He says that we have a national interest in the wellbeing of animals, and I only hope that this is so.

About a century and a half ago the people of this country woke up to the fact that large numbers of small children were being exploited for gain in mines, factories and even chimneys. I suppose children had always been exploited, but when they were exploited in large-scale industries one could see it going on. This country decided to stop it, and did so. There were certain economic arguments used in its favour, as no doubt there will be by certain sections of the farming community in the case of the export of cattle. It was argued that it would save ratepayers' money, and the like, because it was a good way of disposing of the workhouse children. It was argued that the marginal profits of the large and growing textile industry depended upon this particular form of cheap labour. It was argued that the parents were poor and needed the earnings of the children.

But it was not the economic arguments that won the day a century and a half ago; it was the argument of compassion. That is the argument that many of us are putting forward to-day on behalf of the control of the export of live cattle: and 1 am only sorry that the Episcopal Benches should be completely empty when a question of compassion is being discussed. It is possible of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, that there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome which would preclude us from going forward with this Bill. Indeed, it is quite possible if we go into the Common Market (and it looks as though we will) while this export of live cattle exists, that we might be able to stiffen up the acceptance of the Balfour Assurances by the Common Market countries and secure some real co-operation for their enforcement. But this I doubt. I only hope that if do go into the Common Market our entente will not be so cordial as to preclude us from saying rude things about French and Belgian slaughterhouses.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, my reaction from listening to the noble Lord, Lord Denham, is that this is just the type of Bill which should go to a Committee stage. Quite frankly, a large number of the remarks the noble Lord made I regarded as equivocal, or at least deserving of close examination. In this country we have been at great pains to ensure that humane slaughter is properly carried out. We now raise the question, as we have done before, as to what is to happen to animals exported from this country. There was a halfway stage with the Balfour Assurances. The Government, I take it, were reluctant at that time to go much further than that.

I have spoken to the same inspector as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, spoke to, and there is no doubt that the Balfour Assurances are being substantially disregarded. I cannot say how far they are disregarded, and I do not believe the noble Lord can say, either. I should like him to tell us, for instance, how much inspection is carried out in the many different countries to which animals are exported from this country. He says that there are safeguards. This is quite different from the stories that I have heard, and the description of the barbaric methods to which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, referred. But this is not all, my Lords. I have a letter from France, dated November,1971, which says: Today in France about 85 per cent. of sheep and 50 per cent. of calves have their throats cut while fully conscious, and often are not pre-stunned when hung up by a leg for bleeding. I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen a calf hanging by its legs with its throat cut although perfectly conscious. I have seen it, and it has left on me an indelible impression. It is something that I think we should all wish to avoid. This Bill may not be the best way of doing it, but it is a way in which we can do it, and I believe that we should do it.

There is an economic side to this problem which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, mentioned, and it is by no means inconsiderable. I do not know exactly how important it is, but we have been to great pains in many of our municipalities to have well-appointed slaughterhouses. Let us use them to the full. If Mr. Soames, when Minister of Agriculture, could say: "We should like to go to carcase trade only", why do we not do so? I think the Government should explain that on Committee stage. If it is not possible to do it, let us hear why it is not.

We have not mentioned Northern Ireland: at least the noble Lord has not. Perhaps it is too difficult and is a matter which may be taken up on another occasion. At any rate, it is not part of the Bill at all and we are dealing with exporting elsewhere. But I do not think the practical difficulties of valuation are as great as all that: it is only a question of minimum value. I think we ought to give the Bill a Second Reading and have these words thoroughly examined at the Committee stage.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, in principle I agree wholeheartedly with the object of the Bill of Lord Somers, but in practice I am against it. It is too limited: it is limited to Great Britain. Secondly, if the Balfour Assurances were more rigidly complied with abroad there would be no need for the Bill. Surely it is up to Her Majesty's Government to urge people who agreed to the Balfour Assurances to see that they are carried out and also to give more publicity to them. Personally I am against the export of animals on the hoof for slaughter abroad, not only from the R. S. P. C. A. point of view but because it is more costly to export animals on the hoof than it is to export a carcase. Gradually exporters are coming round to this view; so that is another reason against passing the Bill. If your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading I shall introduce an Amendment to insert a new clause to prohibit the import of live animals from abroad, with the exception of store cattle, to this country. Breeding animals should be imported only under very strict supervision and by permission of the Ministry of Agriculture, with a suitable quarantine period. We are leaning towards entry into the Common Market but we have no knowledge of whether or not imported cattle may have been in contact with foot-and-mouth disease, brucellosis and other diseases. Therefore I advise the prohibition of the import of cattle on the hoof. I hope that Lord Somers will withdraw this Bill.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I appreciate and have sympathy with the wholly admirable and humane sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, which prompted him to place this Bill before us. I am indeed deeply concerned with all aspects of the welfare of farm animals, and certainly not least during their transit from place to place. Probably I shall be rather a lone voice in the Chamber this afternoon, but I should like to speak for a few moments within the context of this Bill on the interests of the producer, which it seems to me have been completely overlooked. Perhaps I should declare an interest, in that I am a producer of stock; and although it is highly unlikely, I suppose it is possible that at some time or other I may sell stock to someone who may eventually wish to export it.

The Bill seeks to prohibit the export of live farm animals other than those intended for breeding or exhibition. I cannot understand why there should necessarily be any greater degree of cruelty in shipping for slaughter than in shipping for breeding. We all know the Balfour Recommendations— the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has told us about them—and surely these can be upheld and the same stringent rules applied. I agree that it is practically impossible for us to be certain that the Balfour Recommendations are enforced after the stock have disembarked, but various Governments have given their assurances that those Recommendations will be carried out, and surely we should accept such assurances. I did not know of the appalling conditions of slaughter described by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, which occur in various other countries; but I still cannot think that people of other countries are necessarily so much more inhumane in their treatment of and attitude towards animals than we are. It may be so, but I hope the Government will endeavour to seek further assurances from, for example, the Belgians (who seem to be the worst offenders) that some more humane means of slaughter may be found.


My Lords. may I ask the noble Lord one question? Is he aware that the French have declined to give any undertaking whatsoever in regard to sheep, goats and pigs, so that the Balfour Assurances do not apply in respect of those animals at all?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for that information. I was not aware of that. But from a purely mercenary point of view, it is obvious that buyers, in their own interests, will ensure that their stock will arrive at their destinations in the best possible condition. This fact alone should do much to eliminate any ill-treatment during transport. As I said, I have no knowledge of the slaughtering methods. Obviously there will always be isolated cases of cruelty which we all deplore, and unfortunately such cases occasionally happen in our own country also. I do not consider them to be an adequate reason to stop the exporting of live animals, to the detriment of the home producer. Only a very small proportion of the total production of commercial stock in this country is exported, and I believe that most of this is of the type which is most suitable for processing purposes and for which, as yet, there is not a complete home market. However, this comparatively small percentage acts as a support to the market and ensures a reasonably stable and satisfactory return to the producer for this type of stock. Without its regulating influence, producers would be at a disadvantage and market returns would inevitably fall.

I am hopeful that more capital will flow into the home meat-processing industry. I think that the diminishing number of stock exported is indicative that this is the case. It may be possible for the home market to absorb the stock, and I hope that this proves to be so, not only for the sake of the stock but to the benefit of the national economy as well. It surely cannot be an economic proposition to sell stock to other countries and buy the meat back again when it has been canned. However, until that time comes I do not feel that home producers should be penalised in this way. Animal transport is generally very well carried out and is continually improving. For these reasons I feel unable to support this Bill.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for having introduced this Bill, and congratulate him on the manner in which he has done so. Those who know the noble Lord know that he has devoted a great part of his life to the cause of dumb animals and has rendered great service to that cause.

This Bill is justified on two grounds. First, animals that are exported suffer and are treated with cruelty. Secondly, there is the economic consideration. It is no part of the case of the noble Lord, Lord Somers—nor is it mine, or anybody else's—that the animals suffer in transit crossing the Channel. In fact such evidence as we have is that they take the crossing exceedingly well, and when there is a rough crossing the human beings suffer much more than the animals. Therefore that is not part of the case. Our concern is what happens to the animals after they reach the other side of the Channel. Here, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Denham, may say, we have no control. From time to time questions have been asked of various Ministers, both of Labour and of Conservative Governments, and each time we have been told that we have no control, and that we are not able to exercise any control over what happens on the other side. We have received certain assurances, but the noble Lord, Lord Denham, admitted that these assurances have been broken. Every one of them has been broken. I will not go into detail, but that is a fact. Have we any reason to assume that, having obtained the word of the various Governments abroad that their undertakings will not be broken in the future, they will be adhered to? It is not a matter which rests with the Government; it rests with the people who use the animals, and who are trading in them. Unless there is a tremendous amount of supervision on the other side of the Channel—which there is not—there is no assurance whatever that these four safeguards will be carried out in the future any more than they have been in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, gave a number of examples of cruelty. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, and my noble friend Lord Wise, said that they may be isolated examples. But that may not be so. Why do they assume that those are isolated examples? The noble Lord, Lord Denham, says, "If you have any complaints, let us know about them." But what will he do with the complaints after the event? If I were to write to him to-morrow and tell him that a certain animal was killed in a cruel way, what would he do? Would he write and make inquiries and have it denied? There is no way by which he can safeguard himself and be sure that he is giving the right answer. The fact is, my Lords, that investigations have been made by a number of organisations, including the R. S. P. C. A., who have gone over the Channel deliberately to inspect the methods of slaughtering there. They have seen it with their own eyes and reported on it. The result has been that in each case every one of these organisations has recommended that this trade should be ended. If we are not to end it, the onus is on the Government to show why it should not be ended.

I will not enlarge on this, although I could give examples of inhumane methods of slaughtering. But that is not the only cruelty. The cruelty and suffering which animals undergo often start from the time they are landed on the other side of the Channel. In many cases they are taken from one market to another and are sold and re-sold. The price at which we sell these animals lends itself to a little profit being made by each trader. I was surprised to hear it, but the fact is that we are selling these live animals at something like one-third of the price which people abroad have to pay for them. Naturally it is very good business for those who handle them. These poor animals are taken from market to market. Very often they are not fed or watered, and they are not given enough rest, so that they are tired out. This is in addition to the cruelty caused by the methods of slaughtering that they undergo. For myself, having inquired into this, I am satisfied that there is a substantial amount of cruelty and suffering by the animals that are exported. For the sake of our good name, and if we want to retain the reputation of avoiding suffering to animals, we should tackle this matter.

I admit that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, made the point about Ireland. That is a matter that we shall have to look at in Committee. It may be that the only way of dealing with the Republic of Ireland is to prohibit the export of animals to that country, even through Northern Ireland. I welcome the opportunity to examine this matter in Committee to see what can be done to pre vent it. I hope that this Bill will get a Second Reading, and that we shall have the co-operation of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, in trying to ascertain how we can prevent the evasion of what we all want to achieve.

The second point is the economic one. I must confess that here I am at a complete loss. How can it possibly be worth our while to have our slaughterhouses half empty, not fully used, and, at the same time, send animals abroad to be slaughtered? We import carcases and canned meat, and often the very animals we send abroad are sent back to us in that form. How can that be to our advantage? Surely, if we were to carry out the slaughter in this country we should provide work, fully occupy the slaughterhouses that are at present under-occupied, and provide the housewife with the boon which we are presenting to the Continent—fresh, home-killed meat. Why should the British housewife be satisfied with imported meat?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? Could he give any indication of how much of this meat is in fact re-imported?


My Lords, no, I cannot.


My Lords, I wonder if my noble friend would permit me to help, because I happen to have a figure?


Certainly a good deal of canned meat is re-imported. There is a thriving trade between the Continental countries and ourselves, and it is quite obvious to me that the meat which is purchased cheaply forms a very profitable undertaking to them. So I would suggest that both on the economic ground and on the humane ground we give this Bill a Second Reading, and if there are any defects in it, or if we can strengthen it, by all means let us put our heads together and see what we can do on Committee stage.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to apologise to my noble friend Lord Somers for walking out of the Chamber before he finished his speech, but I had to attend a Defence Committee on the North of Ireland. Perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me. I apologise also to my noble friend Lord Denham.

This question of the export of livestock abroad is rather a hardy perennial, but it all boils down to how far one is prepared to give away commercial advantage to secure humane treatment of animals. It is really a question of ethics. Perhaps I can help the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on one of his questions. The noble Lord appeared to be perturbed—or perhaps "confused" is the right word: he wanted to know why farmers export some meat on the hoof. This is a small trade. I am a farmer and an agriculturist, and have some practical experience of this. The reason is that standards of grading on the Continent for fatstock—when an animal is fat and is killed—are lower than ours. They can get a fatstock price for what we should call a store animal, an animal which in our country would not be ready. Therefore at certain times of the year it pays farmers to export store animals on the hoof that are not fat enough to be killed here, although they may be killed abroad. Perhaps that will answer the noble Lord's query. It is a small but lucrative trade, and I personally, as a farmer, should be quite happy to see it stopped; but there arc many farmers who I suppose would not agree with me. They could not argue over the ethics or morals, but I do not think they would agree with me.

We have heard about the Balfour assurances and it is true that these are unenforceable. One noble Lord pointed out that in France the Balfour assurances apply only to cattle and not to other livestock. In Italy, humane slaughter is not statutory, so there is no reason why the Italians should adhere to the Balfour assurances; and I presume they do not. In regard to the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, I think the Government have mentioned that they are going to ratify the Convention of the Council of Europe for the international transport of livestock. That will certainly help on paper; I do not know whether it will help much in practice. However, it is a step in the right direction. We have to remember that when we go into the Common Market, as I presume we shall, Mr. Wilson allowing, we shall presumably have far more say on the Continent in ensuring that the Balfour assurances are adhered to.

There is one great omission concerning this Bill (perhaps it has already been mentioned), and that is regarding its application to the North of Ireland. This Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. I have some figures here to which I would refer. In the first nine months of 1971,200,000-odd animals were exported on the hoof. Of that number, apparently 78 per cent. went to the Republic of Ireland. Presumably most of these would go through the North of Ireland. Therefore, if my noble friend Lord Somers wants his Bill to be effective he will need to have an Amendment made on Committee stage of the Bill to include Northern Ireland and I fear that he will find that very difficult.

One or two noble Lords have, quite rightly, said that we in this country have, on the whole, up-to-date slaughterhouses, and therefore it would provide more work here and would be more practicable to slaughter all our animals in this country rather than to export any on the hoof. That is a fair comment; but, as I say, the numbers are small. One noble Lord asked the question: how is it when you are exporting livestock for breeding there is no cruelty? The answer is that we come back again to filthy lucre. If one is exporting pedigree animals, of course they are valuable and more care is taken with them. My noble friend Lord Somers quoted the instance of some calves that had been exported and said, I believe, that their vision was affected. Their vision would not be affected by the journey. Those calves had probably been reared in dark conditions, and their vision would be affected by that. Surprisingly, the noble Lord quoted the figure that we import into this country £ 11 million. worth of meat a day. It seems extra ordinary if we do because I understood that we produced about two-thirds of our meat.


A half, my Lords.


Is the noble Lord sure that that is the correct figure?


One million pounds worth a day, I said, my Lords.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I understood him to say £ 11 million and thought he was exaggerating a little. However, I heartily sympathise with my noble friend in this Bill. After all, kindness is probably the most noble of all the virtues, and I personally should like to see this trade stopped. I quite understand the viewpoint of my noble friend on the Front Bench. I agree that there are certain interests and that if this trade is stopped it will harm them. But if we join the Common Market I think we can look forward to getting our good influence to bear on the Continent to ensure that the Balfour assurances are adhered to, so that in the not so far distant future every country on the Continent, or at any rate every country in the Common Market, will treat animals with the same consideration as we do here. As I have said, I should prefer to see this trade stopped, but I can sec very little hope of that. Having said that, I certainly support the Bill, and I hope that it will reach its Committee stage during which we can thrash out all these problems.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose it would be true to say that I know more about the slaughter of animals for food than any Member of your Lordships' House. In fact when I look back over many years I remember that in days gone by I must have slaughtered many hundreds with my own bloody hands. Therefore, possibly I know more than most people about the abuses which can take place in the slaughter of animals. I believe that those abuses, which took place in a great many places in the past, have now gone from this country. We have put that matter right. But I am not at all satisfied that it has been put right in other countries, and it is because of that great doubt in my mind that I am an enthusiastic supporter of this Bill. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Somers, on sticking to this matter and once more raising it in your Lordships' House. In view of the debate which has taken place I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Denham, can now still hope that there will be no Second Reading for this Bill. It seems to me that if he takes notice of the debate he must agree that there the Bill be given a Second Reading and that we should have the opportunity of debating it in closer detail at the Committee stage. I am sure that is right.

I shall try to be brief, but this is something about which I feel most strongly. After what has been said this afternoon I feel that I ought not to make new points but to emphasise some of those that have been raised. Like my noble friend Lord Silkin, I come back to the two essential matters: the humane side and the economic side. May I remind your Lordships how this trade in movement of live cattle to the Continent for slaughter came about. The Americans, in about 1955–56, decided that they could not accept bodies of beef and of iamb and sheep for the use of their forces on the Continent because of the conditions then applying in British slaughterhouses. They were not satisfied at that time with those conditions. So they said, "We will have the live animals here and we will slaughter them on the Continent for ourselves". That was the beginning of the movement of animals to the Continent.

As my noble friend Lady Stocks has pointed out, all that has gone; the situation is different now. The legislation that has passed through both Houses of Parliament in the days since 1956 has ensured that the conditions in the slaughterhouses of our country are right. All over the country we have done away with those miserable slaughterhouses where the conditions were so vile. and now we have great municipal—and even private—abattoirs where cattle, sheep and pigs are killed in the best possible conditions.

So we need not concern ourselves with what motivated the Balfour Committee, because the whole situation is different. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Denham, that there is no reason whatever why the movement of meat to the Continent should not be dead meat rather than live meat. However much he has tried with his Ministry brief to instil this into us this afternoon, I suggest that he failed completely to show that there was any need to send a single animal for slaughter abroad from this country. All of us who go fairly regularly to the Continent have often seen at the ports cattle boats which have arrived from Britain and have observed the treatment of the cattle from the French and Belgian drovers. It turns me over to see it, and, my goodness! I have had a lot of experience with cattle for slaughter.

That being so, my Lords, has not the time come when we should say, "This is a shocking trade and we should have nothing whatever to do with it"? We can do that by passing the Bill which we are discussing this afternoon. It is a fact that no animals like to travel. That is why they are different from us. I have never yet seen any brochures from travel agents directed at cattle and sheep, asking them whether they would like to travel somewhere. To my mind, whatever the conditions may be, travel exposes them to some amount of cruelty, and I believe that on the humane side this Bill would save many hundreds of animals every year from fatigue and cruelty when they are exported from this country. That, as far as I see it, is the humane side.

I now come hurriedly to the economic side. To me this is just as important, too. Why on earth do we export live to the Continent our best cattle, in many cases heavily subsidised by the British taxpayer, when we have to import from other countries to replace those very cattle? The noble Lord, Lord Burton, asked my noble friend in the course of his speech about the importation of meat from other countries. So far as I can make out, we imported dead meat in carcase or in cans at a cost of £ 23 million over the last nine months from January to September.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he can tell us what amount is actually re-imported of what has been exported from this country? I think he will find that the amount that comes back into this country is very small.


My Lords, the figure I am talking about concerns the meat that is brought into this country in cans and in all manner of ways from other places: £ 23 million worth in the nine months. But let us consider Denmark and Holland, and the amount of meat that pours into this country from those countries. It is replacing what we are sending out. Where is the sense in that? I appreciate that you have to import in order to export, and vice versa: we all accept that principle; but it need not be a straight exchange of two commodities like cattle and meat. We are a manufacturing country, and surely our export trade must be based on that.


My Lords, may I just point out to the noble Lord that it is not a sheer exchange. I do not agree with it, but I am giving the facts: We export the animals on the hoof at a greater price than we pay for the meat which we import. There is an economic advantage in that.


So that it does not matter a hang about the humane side—


Oh yes, it does, my Lords. I have already said that I do not agree with it.


My Lords, this important matter in the noble Viscount's mind is that there must be some profit—


My Lords, I did not say that.


— and a big profit, my Lords; and I am suggesting that this is not the way in which we should be thinking on an issue of this kind. I am quite sure that we are wrong if we think of it in those terms alone.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord once again, is it not right that the bulk of the export consists of old cows that we do not like eating in this country?


Oh no, my Lords, not at all. My goodness, that is not true! It is anything but true. We are sending some of the best cattle we rear to the Continent. They have such poor cattle themselves, and in France they have a different system altogether from ours. They only kill off female animals for beef after they have finished milking them. Our system is heifers and bullocks, good beef; we send it to them and we are exporting it in large amounts all the time.

The other side is the economic one. It has already been mentioned very ably this afternoon, and this is only a question of emphasis. Let us take employment. As has been pointed out by several noble Lords, there are these under-occupied abattoirs in this country. My noble friend Lady Stocks mentioned Manchester, and I know the Manchester abattoir. They could probably take on twice the amount of slaughtering that they carry out at the present time. It is probably the largest and best abattoir in Europe, a very fine abattoir, but it is quite under-occupied at the present time. It would find work for all manner of people for whom we do not now find work when we send the cattle live to the Continent—slaughtermen, packers, hide and skin firms, tanners and all the people concerned witth curing and with by-products generally. At a time of unemployment such as exists to-day can we ignore any section of the employment market? We could find work for a great many people in this country by ceasing this type of trade. Not only is there advantage on the employment side, but we could also save for our own use in this country hundreds and hundreds of hides and skins which we need for our leather manufacture, as well as all the ancillary parts from inside the carcase, such as bones, glands, blood, hooves—all things needed in manufacturing industry ill this country.

I would say one last word on transport. It it is silly to suggest that we could not satisfactorily move dead meat to the Continent to-day. Modern refrigeration, transport refrigeration particularly, is completely adequate for anything we should need to take the meat to the docks and beyond. Those of us who have crossed on the boats from Dover to Boulogne or Calais, or from Newhaven to Dieppe, have seen great refrigerator vans right down in the bottom of the ship with the engines ticking over, keeping the meat, or whatever is in the carrier, cold and ready for the other side. This system could be used in place of moving the cattle in the way we do. With my noble friend Lady Stocks, I think much of the worry is caused by vested interests, I want the Government to dig their heels in on this and to say that vested interests are not going to affect our point of view in this very important matter.

One last word to my noble friend Lord Wise. He said that there was not much difference so far as cruelty was concerned whether it was cruelty to breeding animals or animals for slaughter. Surely, if he gives it a little more thought, he will appreciate that people would nurse animals much more carefuly if they were going for breeding rather than for slaughter.


My Lords, I agree with tile noble Lord in that respect, but the point I was trying to make is that surely that should not be so. It perhaps is so. but it should not be. We should be able to ensure that it is not so.


My Lords, I accept that at once. I end where I began. I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading. If it needs examination on the Irish question or matters of that kind, let us look at it in Committee. But meanwhile the House could pay a compliment to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, for his activity in this regard by giving his Bill a Second Reading tonight.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I rise as a "jumper". The noble Lord, Lord Somers, asked me yesterday if I would speak on this, but I said that I would not put my name down to speak but would listen to the debate to decide whether I could make any worth-while contribution. I can make a contribution: it is, like myself, a very old one, but it is a very genuine one. Before the war—and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard and the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, will know that what I am saying is true—at the end of the season a great number of horses in selling races were sold. Our trainers used to ask for subscriptions; we were asked to put up £ 5 or £ 10 to buy these horses, which would otherwise he sold for next to nothing and go to what were known as "flesh-smashers" —people who bought horses for £ 5, £ 8 or £ 10 to send to the Belgian market. These thoroughbreds had been brought up under wonderful conditions and it was not their fault that they did not inherit the leadership quality, and therefore did not win, with the result that nobody wanted them. If they were bought by the "flesh-smashers" they were taken without water and without food, and thrown into boats, and arrived in Belgium, very often under intolerable conditions. This was over 30 years ago—we are all growing up. But I subscribed then and I would again. I hope that the conditions are not as bad now as they were then but this situation cannot go on.

Horses especially, but also any animal in that condition, should go to our modern slaughterhouses and be put into what is accepted now as perfectly adequate cold storage, from which they can be sent over to people who want to eat them or to feed animals that want to eat them. That is really the end of my speech. I have said what I wanted to say. Perhaps I may add this comment: I have always liked, and always shall like, many animals better than I like many people, but I should not even like to see human beings sent over under the conditions in which these horses were sent over. There must be a Second Reading of this Bill.


My Lords, perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that the export of horses is not allowed unless they are over a certain value, so in actual fact there is no export of horses from this country for human consumption.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount. I did not quite hear what he said, but I realise that if he and the honourable Mr. Wilson go into the Common Market together they will pay attention to this concern.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, it is for my noble friend Lord Somers to reply to this debate, but if I may have the leave of your Lordships' House I should like to say a few words about what has been said in the debate.


My Lords, with great respect, is it not rather unusual for any noble Lord other than the mover to make a second speech, even a member of the Government?


My Lords, not, I am advised, for a member of the Government; I think this is usual, by leave. If it is the feeling of your Lordships' House that you would not like the views of Her Majesty's Government on the debate, I will by all means give way to it.


We do not.


Continue !


Your Lordships have covered every aspect of this problem. The noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, says that she has been getting a large amount of correspondence on this subject, and I should be most grateful, if she is convinced by any of the correspondence she gets, if she would pass it on to me. I should also be grateful for details of the firm whose name she said she would let me have; and I will of course look into this.

Your Lordships do not seem to be very satisfied by the Balfour assurances. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, says that every one has been broken. I think that is probably a little too harsh. There have been cases where some of them have been broken.


My Lords, did not the noble Lord himself admit it in the course of his earlier speech? He said that they got "further assurances that these would be put right". In other words, that these firms would behave better in the future. I think that is what he said.


My Lords, I do not want to make too much of a point on this. The noble Lord said every one". I gave a case where two of them were broken, but not the whole lot. However, this is a minor matter. My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked how we check up on this; how we assure ourselves that the Balfour assurances work. The only way we can do this is by diplomatic action, and to rely on the good faith of the Governments who have given these assurances. Of course, the countries which have given the assurances will take note, I feel sure, of this debate in your Lordships' House.

There are two questions: first, are the safeguards against any cruelty resulting from exporting of live animals stringent enough; and, secondly, are they being properly applied. These questions are kept under review by my right honourable friend, and he will look very carefully into what your Lordships have said. As I said at the beginning, Her Majesty's Government would like to see the live trade replaced by the carcase trade. They do not feel that compulsion is the right answer. Your Lordships may well wish to prohibit the live trade, but I think it only fair to point out that this would not necessarily mean an increase in the carcase trade. This, of course, may not be a good enough reason for your Lordships, if you feel that the live trade should be prohibited, to stop it; but I think one should realise that there is no reason to assume that the people who buy abroad would not buy their beasts from elsewhere and still slaughter them.

In the mood of your Lordships' House, it would clearly be wrong for me to ask you not to give this Bill a Second Reading, or to ask you to divide against it. Obviously your Lordships would like it to have a Committee stage. My advice is that it will be very difficult to amend this Bill on Committee so as to carry out the intentions of my noble friend Lord Somers. We shall obviously have a look at it later, but I think we want to be very careful indeed, before actually passing the Bill, to ensure that we are not leaving the position worse than it was before. Having said that, my Lords, I will not ask your Lordships to divide.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry to have to say that I am about as unsatisfied with both the replies that I have received from my noble friend as I have been with any that I have heard. I should like to make it quite plain that I am not directing that remark at him personally. I know perfectly well what the position is of a Minister on the Front Bench he has to read from his brief and he has to adopt the policy of his superior Minister in another place. Therefore I am not blaming my noble friend at all. The trouble is, of course, that when one lives and works in a Government Department one does not come very closely in contact with real life. The result is that it only too often leads to complacency and complete indifference, and I am afraid that this is one of those occasions.

My noble friend said that the cases that have been quoted were probably just rare exceptions. I should like to read something from each of them. The R. S. P. C. A. report about the journey to Putte ended up by saying: The owner of the slaughterhouse arrived about 10 a.m. and we had a short discussion with him about the killing methods, which I told him would not be satisfactory from the British point of view. He seemed to think that there was nothing amiss with his methods. That does not seem to imply that it was just one individual case. Again, the article which described the visit of the Welsh farmers to another Belgian abattoir, ends with a paragraph which says: The most disquieting thing was that nobody seemed to feel there was anything wrong. Members of the public wandered around as they bought cheap meat from the wholesalers. but all seemed unconcerned about the animals' welfare. It seems to me obvious, if one is willing to open one's eyes—of course I realise that some people are not—that these things are a commonplace on the Continent. We always knew that the Continental attitude towards animals was different from ours, and why should it have changed? So far as the assurances are concerned and any undertaking to obtain future promises, if they signed the assurances and then paid no attention to them, are they any more likely to do so after they have given us a further promise? I should say definitely "No", there is no likelihood of it whatsoever. Before I end I must thank all noble Lords who have supported this Bill and who have spoken to extremely convincingly. I should like, in addition, to disappoint my noble friend Lord Denham in his hope that I would not press this Bill, because I certainly will.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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