HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc295-8W
Miss Fookes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made with the Government's review of their animal welfare policy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Government are anxious to increase their impact on matters concerning the welfare of animals.

For this purpose we have decided to appoint a Farm Animal Welfare Council, which will have the broadest possible remit. Its terms of reference will be to keep under review the welfare of farm animals

  1. (a) on agricultural land;
  2. (b) at markets;
  3. (c) in transit;
and to advise the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary".

I am pleased that Professor R. J. Harrison, who has since May 1974 been chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, has agreed to chair the council. I will be announcing the full membership of the council within the next few days but I am pleased to announce already that amongst other members will be Mr. R. J. Hopking, the executive director of the RSPCA; Mr. P. L. Brown, chief veterinary officer of the RSPCA; Mr. S. Burgess, a director of a firm prominent in livestock exports who will be able to provide the council with considerable knowledge as to the welfare problems involved in sending animals abroad; Professor J. O. L. King, professor of animal husbandry at the University of Liverpool, and Mr. J. McCaskie, past president of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scot land, who will be able to provide the council with specialist knowledge of live stock markets. Members of the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee who have given valuable advice in the past will also be invited to serve on the council. Organisations and members of the public will, of course, be free to provide the council with information or views that they believe the council should consider.

The Government have also decided to introduce added legal safeguards for animals being exported and to update some of the legislation for the protection of farm animals.

We intend to press vigorously for the introduction of an EEC requirement that the actual journey of farm animals to the slaughterhouse should not last more than 12 hours and for this requirement to apply domestically in each country as well as in intra-Community trade. We shall amend our legislation specifically to prohibit the export of farm animals that have given birth in the previous 48 hours.

We intend to see that the revision of the welfare codes which was being under taken by the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will now be conducted as speedily as possible by the new council. We intend to see that these revised codes will reflect advances of knowledge since the Brambell committee reported in 1965.

We are already pledged to bring up to date legislation on experiments on live animals. In consultation both with the animal welfare organisations and with research and professional interests we are playing a full part in the current preparation of a Council of Europe convention on the protection of laboratory animals. We intend that our legislation should take account of the provisions of the convention in due course. Mean while my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is reconstituting his advisory committee on the administration of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 on the retirement of the present chairman, Lord Cross. It will be renamed the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments and will have the following terms of reference:

  1. "1. It shall be the duty of the committee to consider from time to time, in consultation with such bodies or after hearing such witnesses as they may think appropriate, such matters arising out of the administration of the Cruelty to Animals 1876 as may be referred to them by the Secretary of State, including in particular:
    1. (a) specific proposals for experiments on living animals intended to be carried out under the authority of the Act;
    2. (b) trends in such experimental work;
    3. (c) questions of policy, procedure or practice;
    4. (d) proposals for revision of the law.
  2. 2. It shall he open to the committee to pro pose to the Secretary of State at its discretion matters arising under(b), (c) or(d) above which in its opinion might usefully be referred to it for its consideration.
  3. 3. In considering the matters referred to it the committee shall have regard on the one hand to the legitimate requirements of science and industry and on the other to the protection of animals against avoidable suffering."

We are pleased that Mrs. Warnock, who has been a member of the existing committee since 1975, has agreed to chair the new committee. Consultations are taking place about the appointment of the other members to be drawn from scientific, professional, animal welfare and lay backgrounds and my right hon. Friend will announce the full membership as soon as possible.

The Government believe that the Farm Animal Welfare Council and the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments will be more effective in tackling the problems of animal welfare than a superimposed all-purpose body which could be cumbersome and wasteful of resources. The actions the Government intend to take will provide a more efficient and effective means of furthering the interests of animal welfare.

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