HL Deb 13 July 1990 vol 521 cc610-21 3.15 pm
Lord Houghton of Sowerby

rose to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1242], laid before the House on 14th June, an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1240], laid before the House on 14th June; and an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1243], laid before the House on 14th June, be annulled.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the three Prayers standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I shall have to curtail my remarks very considerably for the convenience of all concerned, disappointed though I am that we are considering these three statutory instruments, which are complex, distressing and important, after having waited so long for their introduction. However, the best news on animals this week is not that there is any great progress to report but that the Church of England Synod decided last weekend to readdress itself to the question of the relations between human mankind and the animal kingdom. I think that that is overdue in all Churches. I believe that public opinion will be very insistent as time goes on that we should be clearer about our relations with the animal kingdom.

However, I shall not trespass this afternoon on the time of the House to deal with any questions of principle, or moral, political or constitutional questions, relating to animal welfare. Nevertheless, we are bound to refer to what is called "religious slaughter" because the statutory instruments deal with improvements in animal welfare in respect of the practices of Jews and Moslems in their slaughter of animals.

I cannot say that I am particularly inspired by the fact that we have had a week which started with religious broadcasting and ended with religious slaughter. Sometimes I think that we are becoming too preoccupied with religion in this House.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I trust that the noble Lord realises that there is another point of view in that respect.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Oh dear! I have only just started. Please may I continue? In fact, I am so dispirited that I feel I could even pack up and get out.

I should like to say a few words about the course of these statutory instruments and how they come to be presented to the House this afternoon. These instruments have been 10 years on the way. They began in 1979 when some of us went to see the now noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, when he was chairman of the Conservative Party. We persuaded him to put animal welfare in the Conservative Party manifesto for the 1979 election.

One of the changes which we secured at that time was the upgrading of an advisory committee on animal welfare to the Ministry of Agriculture which then existed. It was upgraded to what it now is; namely, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, with a status that it never had before, but still without the authority of a fully-fledged advisory body for such an important matter. That was before 1986 when we established a new kind of statutory committee in connection with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. That committee is not a hireling of the Minister. It has a status of its own. The FAWC should be uprated to the same status as the Animal Procedures Committee under the 1986 Act or it will be difficult to continue to persuade members of the professions and other interests to serve on a body which is so shabbily treated. I said earlier this week that advisory committees are shabbily treated because they are all expedients. Many of them are just charades. The reality of their advice is never impressed upon Ministers under our existing system.

The statutory instruments before us contain nothing like the full recommendations of the FAWC. There is no suitable forum where this matter can be gone over in detail with the attention that is needed. It is disappointing for some members of the FAWC to spend so much time and to go through such disagreeable experiences in the interests of what they consider to be their public duty towards animals.

A woman member of the FAWC, Mrs. Ruth Harrison, was a member of a group that dealt with two subjects included in the statutory instruments—red meat slaughter and religious slaughter. Any woman who trails around slaughter-houses, as she had to, to see what goes on so as to provide a report on both subjects, for the first time, as completely impartial and independent as it was in connection with these matters, shows a devotion that should be rewarded far more adequately than eventually has been the case.

As I said, I shall not say anything about principles except that one day sooner or later—I believe sooner rather than later—we shall have to decide, as a matter of constitutional principle, whether our laws relating to cruelty to animals shall apply universally throughout the land to all people who deal with animals, no matter what their religion, creed, nationality or activities. The standards applied by law to safeguard animals from unnecessary cruelty should not be open to variation to suit religious practices or beliefs but should leave the animals free under the law to enjoy its full protection. I leave the subject there.

I come to the FAWC report. I am afraid that I must start with the recommendations that we are asked to accept in connection with slaughter by religious methods. The change for which the regulations provide—the phasing out of what is generally called the revolving casting pen under the Jewish method of slaughter and its replacement by an upright pen—is a marked improvement. There has been much public concern about the way in which, under the Jewish procedure, the animal is revolved and turned upside down and its throat is cut while it is on its back, no doubt struggling and in great distress. Now, after 1992, we are to have a pen which allows the animal to stand upright. It will be slaughtered from that position.

I am glad that this change is fully approved by a study that has been undertaken and published quite recently by the Veterinary Record. On 26th May this year, that journal deals with stress reactions of cattle undergoing ritual slaughter using two methods of restraint. Having read it carefully, I feel that it justifies the change and will be a marked improvement for the animals. It does not interfere with the main conditions for Jewish slaughter. Within the principles of the scheme, the animals will be somewhat better treated than they were.

Another point in connection with the Jewish methods of slaughter which seems to be open to some doubt or difficulty is what kind of process the slaughter is to be. The Farm Animal Welfare Council stated in paragraph 71 of its report: We observe that the 'single transverse cut' (often described as one clean cut) demanded by the Jews … means in practice a backwards and forwards stroke. On one occasion we observed a Jewish slaughterman make as many as seven backwards and forwards strokes with the knife, using a sawing action which was clearly in contravention of the Shochet's training. Indeed with both Jewish and Muslim slaughter the requirement for a single incision is open to different interpretation. Our observations suggest that the current procedure is in practice a single uninterrupted backwards and forwards motion". The regulations refer to forwards and backwards movements as if they were to proceed for a little while, in which case they would be more in the nature of a sawing than a cutting motion. That point needs to be cleared up. Will the new regulations modify in any way the requirement that there should be this swift and precise cut in the final act of slaughter of the animal?

The regulations contain numerous references to time limits. Presumably some kind of enforcement will be undertaken as regards those time limits. That brings me to the matter of enforcement officers. I believe that in some cases an animal should not be removed and hoisted up for 20 seconds after it has had its throat cut. In other cases 30 seconds must elapse before an animal is hoisted up. Similar conditions apply in the slaughter of poultry and turkeys. The regulations state: 9. No person shall suspend, or cause or permit to be suspended, any turkey kept in captivity or any other bird so kept for more than 6 minutes in the case of a turkey, or for more than 3 minutes in the case of any other bird". Who will enforce those time limits? Who will be present to ensure that they are adhered to? Everything depends on the time limits.

I have received a report from a wise and experienced enforcement officer in which he states: The new Regulation 25(2) seeks to protect animals which have had their throats cut from being shackled and hoisted for 20/30 seconds. This is well-intentioned but quite unenforceable. As slaughtermen are generally paid on headage or bonus it is to their financial advantage to rush animals through the slaughterpen. Anyone who has worked in an abattoir will know that while an inspector stands in the slaughterpen the throughput slows down, and that when he is elsewhere it resumes its usual frenetic pace. Slaughtermen simply will not leave a sheep to bleed undisturbed for 20 seconds unless they are forced to do so by an inspector at their elbow or by some mechanical device. It is not proper to pretend that one has solved a problem by producing regulations which everyone knows are valueless". That is a serious indictment of the time-keeping system. Unless there is constant supervision, it appears that slackness and slovenliness may creep in. Whether it is a matter of birds or animals, time-keeping is essential. In some cases it appears that 90 seconds must be allowed to elapse before a bird is taken to the scalding tank. In such circumstances enforcement is the clue to the success of these new regulations.

The Minister should be able to assure us that there will be enforcement. If that is not carried out, the same old habits may creep into practice. I finish by saying that probably the greatest amount of cruelty occurs in the slaughter of poultry and turkeys. We have certainly not found the answer to that yet. Turkeys are heavy birds and therefore have special problems. When they are kept in close confinement, their cannibalism is a great problem.

All in all, the draft regulations are improvements, but I am not sure whether they have been worth waiting 10 years for. They cannot represent the end of what we seek to attain in terms of better treatment of our animals. While we have been waiting for these draft regulations to be finally approved, 80 million lambs have been slaughtered in British slaughter houses under the former methods. While we have been waiting for turkeys to be given a squarer deal at the end of their lives millions of Christmas turkeys have gone on the dinner tables of the British people. I hope that the regulations, modest as they are, will be applied strictly and give greater comfort to those of us who are concerned about the production of meat and foodstuffs for our people. I beg to move.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1242], laid before the House on 14th June; an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1240], laid before the House on 14th June; and an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the regulations [S.I. 1990 No. 1243], laid before the House on 14th June, be annulled.—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.]

Lord Jakobovits

My Lords, as the religious head of the community that has been singled out for the special attention of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, in the Prayer that he has put before us, I shall presumably be expected by your Lordships to say a few words to explain that we shall under no circumstances ever accept the charge that our method of slaughter is in any way inferior in terms of animal welfare to any other yet devised or in practice anywhere.

I am gratified to hear that the noble Lord is satisfied with some of the improvements effected by the new regulations. I am also able to assure him that any cut made in a sawing fashion, as he described it, is invalid in Jewish law. Therefore, we would disqualify a religious slaughterer who resorted to that method. The noble Lord need not suspect that it is our intention to inflict any such discomfort on the animal being slaughtered.

Since the declared object of his Prayer, as the noble Lord has stated in a newspaper interview, is the eventual abolition of the Jewish religious method of slaughter, or for that matter the Moslem method of slaughter, and not merely the contents of the regulations placed before Parliament by the Minister, perhaps I may be permitted a few words of explanation. Perhaps I may also say a few words in rebuttal of the implied charge that we are guilty, through our long tradition, of applying a method in the preparation of animal food that inflicts unnecessary suffering upon brute creation. My remarks will therefore deal not so much with the new regulations, which we have broadly accepted—we certainly accept them as they stand now—as with the principle of allowing Jews and Moslems their religious freedom to prepare meat foods according to our millenial tradition.

The matter was last raised in this House in a debate on the Slaughter of Animals Bill, a Private Member's Bill presented by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in December 1962. That Bill was later withdrawn. In the debate the late Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, one of the most eminent physicians ever to grace this House, eloquently and with rare erudition refuted the charge that the Jewish method was cruel. After quoting and examining leading scientific opinion, in addition to his own expert judgment, he stated that: the available scientific evidence supports [the] conclusion, which is the most recent of those who have gone into the matter with great care, that the method is humane and will almost immediately render the animal unconscious". —[Official Report, 3/12/62; col. 46.] As have numerous other leading veterinary and medical authorities since then, Lord Cohen asserted quite categorically: Shechita"— which is the technical name for the Jewish method of slaughter— is as humane a method as any". I need not weary your Lordships with all the technical evidence for that view. Two further quotations from Lord Cohen's speech at the time will suffice.

What are the scientific data? When you cut the throat of an animal … the blood pressure falls off very rapidly. Within four seconds the blood pressure drops in the femoral artery to half what it was before the cut, and that rate of fall means unconsciousness must have occurred earlier".—[Official Report, 3/12/62; col. 43.] He declared further, on the cut itself: The cut, as made by the shochet"— that is the highly trained religious slaughterer—is somewhat similar to the experience of having been cut by a razor blade and know of it only when the blood flows; [this] is almost certainly painless". Then he added: I would say that it is certainly painless".—[Official Report, 3/12/62; col. 44.] Jews need hardly be lectured on the prevention of cruelty to animals. They introduced the whole concept long before any other civilisation or any other faith cared about animal welfare. To inflict any suffering on animals is a religious offence in the Mosaic legislation enshrined in such laws as the obligation to assist an overloaded animal or not to remove chicks or eggs from a nest in the presence of the mother bird, and —better known still—to include domestic animals ("your ox and your ass") among the beneficiaries of the duty to rest from work on the Sabbath, as expressly declared in the Ten Commandments. No wonder that the pioneer of the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was a Jew, by the name of Lewis Gompertz, in 1824 in London.

However, there is something strangely inconsistent in the agitation against the Jewish method of slaughter and the allegation of cruelty. We have never deemed animal welfare more important than human welfare. The Hebrew prophet Hosea denounced the perversity of placing the loving care of animals above the care for humans in the immortal words, "They who slaughter men kiss the calves".

Let us look at a brief history of this sordid inconsistency. At the dawn of man's history there were the first two brothers: Cain and Abel. Abel was a herdsman and brought of the firstlings of his flock as an offering to the Lord. Cain was a vegetarian. He would not touch an animal. He offered of his fruits instead. Yet that same Cain who cared so much for animals did not shrink from killing his own brother in cold blood in history's first recorded murder. Later, at the end of the Book of Genesis, there are the ancient Egyptians who worshipped animals and forced Jacob and his sons to live in the land of Goshen away from the rest of the population because, as is stated: all shepherds of flocks are an abomination of Egypt". Yet, those same Egyptians had no compunction in brutally drowning Hebrew babies at birth and building huge pyramids with slave labour tortured without pity.

In modern times, one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by the Nazis in Germany after assuming power in early 1933 was to prohibit the Jewish method of slaughter, for they cared deeply about animals. However, that did not prevent them from gassing and incinerating human beings by the million in history's supreme orgy of inhumanity.

Lately, that perversity has begun to blemish society in our own country when supporters of animal liberation, as they call themselves, out of concern for animal welfare, laid bombs to kill human researchers seeking to bring healing to suffering humans by carefully controlled experiments on anaesthetised animals.

I seem to recall that, in our recent debates on embryo experimentation and abortion the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, expressed little concern for embryonic or fetal human life in relation to the expression of concern by many others. I detected a similar indifference to human victims of mass murder and mass torture when the noble Lord referred to the perpetrators of those unspeakable crimes as: a few miserable old men over the age of 70 who are probably hard of hearing, have failing sight and are ill". Shall we have a new ethic in which the care of mice and guinea pigs counts for more than the life and health of humans and in which the pity for arch-criminals is greater than the pity for their victims? We as Jews care profoundly to prevent causing pain to animals, but not to the point of absurdity in which human welfare is ignored or violated. A society which still tolerates the cruelty of battery farming or blood sports, with the agony of the chase and the often slow, writhing death of misfired shots should have more important concerns than the few seconds' interval between a painless cut and the cessation of all consciousness from the brain in the Jewish religious method of slaughter.

We did not seek the regulations, but we understand their intent. As of two days ago, all leading Rabbis supervising Jewish religious slaughter operations in this country unanimously agreed to accept the new regulations as compatible with our religious requirements. On behalf of the entire Jewish community, I must express appreciation to three successive Ministers of Agriculture and their officials for the understanding that they have shown for our religious requirements throughout the prolonged period of negotiations leading to the issuance of the new regulations. The regulations will combine every reasonable care for animal welfare with the freedom to practise our ancestral faith as a heritage which has preserved our people and has helped to bring inspiration to other peoples the world over.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby for his Prayers against the orders because it gives us an opportunity to discuss them—an opportunity which I shall take briefly in view of the lateness of the hour and of the succeeding business.

We on this side of the House acknowledge that the Farm Animal Welfare Council's reputation has been rising almost every year since it was established in 1979. In view of that, we are concerned that the council's recommendations about slaughtering have not been accepted in their entirety by the Government.

My first question is: what reasons are there for not accepting 33 out of the 51 recommendations which the Farm Animal Welfare Council made for red meat? Was their rejection due to the fact that in general our slaughterhouses are not capable of implementing all 51 recommendations? If not, what if any are the deficiencies in the facilities which now exist in slaughterhouses?

We are aware that there was an excess capacity in slaughterhouse facilities in England and Wales even before the present decline in beef sales. Do we now have a position in which Her Majesty's Government are obliged to hold back on certain slaughtering measures because in certain cases the present facilities are not equal to modern requirements?

Can the Minister say what consultations on the council's proposals took place with employers and trade unions represented on the joint industrial council for slaughtering workers? We regard that to be most important in view of the recommendations of the Farm Animal Welfare Council on welfare training in general and the headage basis of remuneration which is at the heart of the JIC's proposals for this category of workers.

How will proposals in SIs 1240 and 1242 meet with the Ministry's current remit to the Tyrrell Committee on slaughtering practice under the BSE investigation procedures? As regards religious slaughtering methods, were there good reasons for not accepting labelling requirements? The consumers' right to know in the description of food is now regarded as paramount. The most recent example concerns tuna fish in our supermarkets. Labelling now shows the fishing method by which the fish were caught; that is to say not by nets which are capable of catching dolphins and similar species. It may be that Her Majesty's Government's answer on labelling is that they must await the Community directive; one contrasts that position with that of food irradiation. In that case the Ministry were not prepared to wait for Brussels and offered a steady resistance on that important aspect throughout the passage of the Food Safety Bill. I accept that stunning before slaughter on religious grounds is not acceptable to persons of the Jewish faith. In our opinion that makes it essential that the Shechita technique achieves what its advocates claim. Is there independent monitoring of that by veterinary surgeons?

We believe that a guidance circular should accompany the regulations. Their complexity requires nothing less. As we are now amending legislation dating from the 1950s, we believe that the Government should find time for new legislation to update and consolidate. Do the Government accept that there is now a need for new legislation on this important question? We accept all three orders but in our opinion too much concerning slaughtering and slaughterhousing remains unresolved.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, the regulations before us today are the fruits of many years' work by the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the many organisations which have contributed to the development of policy on animal welfare. The welfare of animals is a subject which raises an emotional response in all of us. I am sure that there is no Member of your Lordships' House who is not in favour of improving the welfare of farm animals. The regulations before us will greatly improve the welfare of farm animals at slaughter. I am equally sure that, although there may be points in the regulations which remain controversial, there is no noble Lord here today who would like to see them annulled in their entirety and thus lose the benefits of the work done for a further period.

The regulations replace the Slaughter of Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Regulations 1958 and the equivalent Scottish regulations, and amend the Slaughter of Poultry (Humane Conditions) Regulations 1984. They implement 28 recommendations from the independent Farm Animal Welfare Council made in two separate reports—the report on the Welfare of Livestock (Red Meat Animals) at the time of Slaughter and the Welfare of Livestock when Slaughtered by Religious Methods.

The regulations form an integral part of the Government's initiative to improve the welfare of farm animals both here and in Europe of which your Lordships will be aware. At home, we intend to press on with the implementation of those FAWC recommendations, already accepted by the Government which can be implemented in secondary legislation or codes of practice. We have issued for consultation draft regulations on the licensing of poultry slaughtermen and a draft code of practice on the humane treatment of poultry awaiting and during slaughter. And when parliamentary time permits we intend to introduce the primary legislation needed to enable implementation of the other accepted FAWC recommendations.

Some say that these regulations are too little too late—a familiar complaint to any government anywhere. Others say that the regulations go too far, particularly in regulating religious slaughter. Yet everyone who complains will say that he or she is in favour of improvements in animal welfare. It is because of these differing but all sincere strongly-held views that the regulations have been so long in gestation.

Let me put the regulations in perspective. The Slaughter of Animals (Humane Conditions) Regulations safeguard the welfare of livestock from the time they enter a lairage, slaughterhouse or knacker's yard until they are slaughtered. They lay down conditions on how the animals are to be treated while awaiting slaughter, conditions concerning the stunning of animals and the slaughter itself. Important changes include the phasing in of head restraints for cattle to improve the accuracy of stunning, the prohibition of hitting, prodding or handling of animals in a manner likely to cause unnecessary pain or distress (which would include abuse by plastic piping or sticks), the phasing in of devices to prevent stunning equipment delivering insufficient current and the prohibition of stunning most animals in the poll position. They require the phasing out of the casting pen for the slaughter of cattle by the Jewish or Moslem methods and the introduction of upright pens to be individually approved by Ministers. They specify requirements for the cut used to slaughter animals. A full list of the main changes is in the explantory note to the regulations.

The Slaughter of Poultry (Humane Conditions) (Amendment) Regulations introduce a general requirement, previously missing, prohibiting handling of birds awaiting slaughter in a manner which causes pain or distress. They extend certain safeguards, previously covering only domestic fowl and turkeys, to other types of poultry. They lay down conditions for housing birds offered for sale before being slaughtered in the premises and specify requirements for the cut used to slaughter birds by religious methods.

Most of the regulations are welcomed on all sides. However, it is distressing that those concerning specifically Jewish and Moslem methods of slaughter have given rise to such disagreement. The Farm Animal Welfare Council recommended that we repeal the legislation which allows the slaughter without stunning of livestock by Jews and Moslems. After much consultation and heart searching, the Government decided not to accept FAWC's recommendation. The issue involves a fundamental matter of religious belief to many and we have accepted the importance they attach to the issue. The Government believe that people must be allowed the freedom to practise this aspect of their religion. We are not alone in this and in particular most European countries permit religious slaughter without previous stunning. The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter also recognises the rights of religious communities not to stun livestock.

Although we are not requiring animals to be stunned before religious slaughter, we have introduced provisions for improving procedures for such slaughter. The provision which at the end of two years prohibits the casting of cattle and makes the use of upright pens for the slaughter of cattle mandatory is a very important welfare advance.

I mentioned earlier the extensive consultations which have gone into the making of these regulations. I should like to thank all concerned for their contributions. In particular I should like to thank those members of the Jewish community, including the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, who made a powerful and moving speech. I should also like to thank the Moslem communities who have participated so constructively and who have accepted changes in the legislation relating to their slaughter practices.

Perhaps I could move on to various points raised by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, raised the matter of religious slaughter causing the animal pain. There is no conclusive proof on that issue. There are different views regarding the likelihood of pain being caused. Veterinary advisers are not convinced that slaughter is painful if properly carried out. The FAWC also accept that there is uncertainty in this regard. However, there is common ground that there is a risk of pain if the cut is badly made. The new measures now in force are designed to prevent that occurring.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, referred to the single reciprocal cut. The religious authorities have made it clear that while the single reciprocal cut is what the slaughterman should always try to achieve, it is not possible in every case—for example, because of the tough skins of large animals—and a legislative requirement to that effect would not only impede the methods of slaughter but could also be detrimental to the welfare of the animals. We are confident that the additional measures introduced will provide adequate safeguards against any malpractices.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, mentioned the piece rate payment system which he suggested encouraged bad welfare. It is the responsibility of all involved to ensure that the requirements of welfare legislation are observed irrespective of the method of payment in abattoirs.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, also mentioned hoisting time limits. Local authorities are responsible for enforcing legislation. When parliamentary time permits primary legislation will be introduced to require them to designate officials who will be responsible. We are confident that enforcement authorities will take their responsibilities seriously, and MAFF veterinary staff will visit slaughterhouses.

The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, referred to the implementation of the FAWC red meat and religious slaughter reports. The noble Lord makes the point that the Government have implemented few of the 51 recommendations suitable for implementation by legislation made by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in its report on red meat animals. In response to that report the Government gave an undertaking to implement 31 of the recommendations by legislation; of those, 18 have now been implemented and primary legislation is required before the remainder can be implemented. Guidance already issued to local authorities on the new regulations implements a further 12 recommendations, and work on research recommended by the council has been under way for a number of years. We intend to implement most of the remaining recommendations in the code of practice, with which we are pressing ahead, and will issue pending primary powers to give the code statutory backing.

Regarding the council's religious slaughter report, all the recommendations accepted by the Government, except for three, are implemented by the new regulations. Two of the remaining ones are dependent on primary legislation, and one will be implemented in the proposed new regulations on the licensing of poultry slaughtermen which the Government plan to lay before Parliament shortly.

The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, raised the point that the Government should accept the FAWC recommendation that meat from animals slaughtered by religious methods should be clearly labelled. The recommendation of the FAWC to require the labelling of meat from animals slaughtered by religious methods raises difficult issues for administration and enforcement. The Food Advisory Committee is currently undertaking a general review of food labelling and is considering the question of additional labelling to indicate farming practices and method of slaughter. Religious slaughter is one of the matters that the committee will address. The European Commission is also working on proposals for the protection of animals for slaughter which include a requirement to label meat from animals slaughtered by religious methods. The Commission's formal proposal has yet to be put to the Council of Ministers.

There regulations, which came into force on 5th July, will provide substantial additional safeguards for livestock at the time of slaughter. This subject is a matter of increasing public awareness and concern. The Government believe that the measures introduced go a long way towards meeting public expectations in this area. I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, will not press this matter to a vote.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Chief Rabbi in particular for attending our debate this afternoon and so comprehensively and forthrightly stating the case of the Jewish community and its methods of slaughter. Much of what he said went far beyond the terms of reference that I set for myself on what I regard as the constitutional question of the edict of the law covering all citizens, and so on; but that is not a matter I wish to pursue this afternoon.

I am sorry if the Chief Rabbi obtained any impression that I was, so to speak, concentrating on the Jews in this respect. As a matter of fact, a far bigger worry is the Moslem method of slaughter because it is now so much more widespread. However, that is not covered in the regulations in the same way as the detail of the Jewish method, and that is why I had to concentrate on that. All the statutory instruments in regard to religious slaughter are pretty well concentrated on the changes being made in the Jewish methods.

Other opportunities will no doubt occur for pursuing these matters but animals have such a low profile in the affairs of Parliament—unless you happen to be a dog!—that probably we shall not be coming back to this subject for some time to come. However, I am grateful to all concerned and I beg leave to withdraw my Prayer on these Motions.

Motion for annulment, by leave, withdrawn.