HL Deb 27 June 1991 vol 530 cc709-11

3.34 p.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. I hope to be permitted to make one or two brief observations. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, cannot be here and wishes to express his regret.

The Bill obtained its Second Reading on 2nd May last and has not occupied any of the time of your Lordships' House since that date. The reason why no amendments were put down was not lack of interest or a lack of ideas as to ways in which the Bill might be improved or extended but solely because the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, beseeched us, in advising us what the Bill contained, that we should if possible allow it to go forward without delay and not go back to the House of Commons as it is already long overdue. That is what happened, so the Bill can now go straight from your Lordships' House for Royal Assent.

The Bill becomes operative in two months' time. It has been on its way here for years. It left the Farm Animal Welfare Council as long ago as 1988 and the recommendations that it contains have gone unreformed ever since. It is high time that the new conditions regarding the training, employment and supervision of the staff of slaughterhouses were brought into operation. Those noble Lords who read the Second Reading speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, will have been shocked to read of some of the malpractices that have crept into methods at slaughterhouses. They are abhorrent and should be stopped. The noble Lord gave us the example of the metal discs in the ears of cattle which are often ripped out of the ear before the animal goes forward for execution. That puts the animal in serious discomfort and pain on its way to slaughter and should be stopped.

In addition, we are probably less well-informed than we should be as to the kind of people who are employed in slaughterhouses. It is not a prestige occupation and we probably do not pay enough attention to it. We are all responsible for it and to a large extent we probably are concerned with what they do. The conditions that are now to be imposed are therefore long overdue. The Bill relates to the training and supervision of slaughtermen, to codes of practice, and so on, so I hope that we shall send forward the Bill promptly.

Some of my cynical friends ask, "Where does the welfare of animals at slaughter come in? What kind of welfare do you wish to provide for an animal on its way to slaughter?". I reply by giving a human parallel, saying that we all like to think of our welfare at the point of death. The principle is exactly the same. We would not like to be ill-treated however near to death we were. It would only add to the misery of the final tragedy. Our humane instincts extend that consideration to animals.

Noble Lords will welcome the Bill. The supervision under the Bill may not be adequate because so much can happen at great speed in slaughterhouses today. Tens of thousands of sheep go through slaughterhouses in a day. It is a mechanised operation and things can happen which many people deplore. The Bill is just a thought for the welfare of animals for slaughter and in passing it we shall probably improve the final moments, if no more, of the existence of animals which have to undergo the final solution in the interests of mankind.

Before I sit down, perhaps I may add that I wonder whether this situation will go on for ever. Will humankind slaughter animals by the million every day in order to feed man? Is there no alternative in sight? Will it extend and increase with the population? If so, the world will have as one of its biggest industries the slaughter of animals for human consumption. The nobility of the human race deserves better. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, perhaps I may simply say that animal welfare is a matter that we take very seriously indeed. I submit that our record is a creditable one. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby, for bringing this short Bill before the House. I am equally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for gallantly picking up the threads of this last round. I look forward to introducing further provisions for the welfare of animals when time permits.

On Question, Bill passed.