HL Deb 14 May 1980 vol 409 cc255-7

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is aware of the general public concern arising from recent reported cases of cruelty to animals and neglect for their welfare; and whether it is intended to review the legislation in Northern Ireland governing cruelty and welfare of animals.


My Lords, the Government are aware of the recent disturbing reports of the cruel neglect of the welfare of farm animals. These reports are being investigated and appropriate action will be taken, including amendment of the legislation if this is found to be necessary.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for a very helpful reply. Would the noble Lord not agree that there is an urgent need in Northern Ireland for the establishment of a Farm Animal Welfare Council similar to the body set up by the Government in July 1979 for England, Scotland and Wales; and if not a separate Northern Ireland Council perhaps there could be representatives from Northern Ireland on the existing council?


My Lords, there are no special aspects of animal welfare that are peculiar to Northern Ireland. The Department of Agriculture obtained details of the advice and recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Council and make use of that advice in considering legislative requirements. There are therefore satisfactory arrangements which have worked well in the past and I have no reason to believe that they will not continue to do so. The Department of Agriculture maintain very close liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for all matters of animal welfare, and if any changes in welfare legislation are being proposed in Great Britain my honourable friend will give serious consideration to similar provisions being applied to Northern Ireland.


My Lords, since animals in Northern Ireland are mercifully spared religious differences, the grievances of hgistory and membership of the IRA, what have these wicked people got against them? Does the noble Lord think that a delegation of humanists from England might help to restore the standards of animal welfare and kindness in Northern Ireland?


My Lords, I would hesitate to predict the reception that such a delegation would get.


My Lords, would the noble Lord the Minister not agree that, if we could get an amalgamation of the approach to animal welfare North and South, it might have a bearing on easing the burden of cruelty that exists in the North and does not exist in the South to the same extent?


My Lords, we are concerned with human as well as animal nature in this question. Human institutions vary; animal nature is continuous across the border and across the water. As I said in my earlier reply, I do not think that the harmonisation of institutions will actually have any appreciable effect on the treatment of animals since the information which can be derived from all three sets of institutions is available to each.

The Earl of SWINTON

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that perhaps in some ways animals are rather better off in Northern Ireland than they are here, as some of us learned last night during an order which was debated in this House, in regard to the penalty in Northern Ireland if one is found drunk in charge of cattle or horses? So perhaps some types of animals have greater protection in Northern Ireland than they do across the water.


My Lords, I do not think that it is from that sort of circumstance that the noble Lord who asked this Question wishes the animals to be protected.


My Lords, if I may ask one further question, is the noble Lord aware that the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has already made public the difficulties they are having in pursuing in the Northern Ireland courts 20 cases of alleged cruelty to animals? At the same time I welcome the approach that the noble Lord has made.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that point. As I have said, we are watching what happens in Great Britain and I will draw the attention of my honourable friend to the points made by the noble Lord.

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