HL Deb 26 June 1981 vol 421 cc1237-9

11.8 a.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the escalating exploitation of the immunities granted to religious minorities under our Slaughterhouses Acts, and whether they will advise local authorities concerned with planning applications and/or applications to license premises for slaughter of animals for export to seek the agreement of the applicants to the pre-stunning requirements which are imposed on all other slaughterings in this country.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, I am aware of some apparent increase in the use of religious slaughter, but the exemption from the pre-slaughter stunning requirement in the Slaughterhouses Act applies to any slaughtering of animals for the food of Jews or Moslems provided that the conditions which are laid down in the Act are met. Use should be made of this exemption only where it is clear that the customer requires for religious reasons that the animals are not stunned.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the immunities in the present legislation derive from the first Slaughterhouses Act in Scotland in 1928, which were put there expressly to protect the position of Lascars, members of the crews of ships in the ports of Scotland; yet 50 years afterwards the protection of a minority religious persuasion in this matter has become big business and is becoming bigger business? Are the Government indifferent to this? Do they think it is in accordance with the intentions of Parliament throughout the period of this legislation? My Question asks whether they are prepared to advise local authorities to seek agreement with applicants for licences or planning permission to accept the pre-stunning conditions. Would the Minister kindly answer that?

Earl Ferrers

Parliament has discussed this question on a number of occasions, my Lords, and it has always come to the conclusion that it is correct to make such exemptions for the purposes of those religious minorities who require them. Parliament deliberately permitted this method of slaughter for those reasons, and it is not the Government's duty to seek to influence either the increase or restriction of this method of slaughter; the local authorities are the enforcement authorities.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, some local authorities have passed by-laws by resolution to regulate the method of slaughter of animals in their areas, and those by-laws are subject to confirmation. One particularly, near Kidderminster, has already been passed and is awaiting confirmation. Will the Government confirm by-laws passed by local authorities which seek to regulate the method of slaughter of animals when granting licences in their areas?

Earl Ferrers

It depends on the nature of the by-law and the nature of the request, my Lords. The Ministry of Agriculture's duty and the duty of the Government is to see that the laws which Parliament has provided are permitted, and those laws are that there should be this form of slaughter for those people who require it.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, in giving further thought to this matter, may I ask the noble Earl to bear in mind that a very distinguished physician, the late Lord Horder, after a detailed investigation, pronounced the method of slaughter by Jews as the most rapid and merciful way of killing he himself had witnessed?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is an interesting observation of which I was not aware and I am grateful to the noble Lord for informing me of it.