HC Deb 26 February 2001 vol 363 cc478-9W
Mr. McDonnell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Government's progress in preventing cruelty to animals. [150280]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

This Government are committed to improving standards of animal welfare and I am pleased to report that since May 1997, we have agreed a significant number of measures designed to prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals, these includea whole range of United Kingdom, European Union and Council of Europe legislation and recommendations designed to improve the conditions in which farm animals, of all kinds, are kept, transported and slaughtered; revising pre-export procedures for sheep and pigs destined for fattening, production or slaughter in other European Union member states; announcing a review of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 to ensure that we have veterinary para-professionals are effectively regulated; supporting the private Member's Bill which became the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000: this will allow for better care to be made of commercial animals while proceedings under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 are in hand; legislation to prohibit fur farming in England and Wales—the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000; introducing the Pet Travel Scheme, which allows dogs and cats coming from Western Europe and certain other rabies-free islands to enter the United Kingdom without quarantine, provided that they meet certain conditions. The Government are consulting on statutory provisions for the welfare of those animals still subject to quarantine while there; agreeing, during the United Kingdom's Presidency of the European Union, the European Union Zoos Directive which requires zoos to accommodate animals under conditions that satisfy their biological and conservation requirements; creating the Zoos Forum which advises the Government on all zoo matters and came into existence following a review of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981; updating the Secretary of State's Standards of Modern Zoo Practice; commissioning a review of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 to look at its effectiveness; supporting a private Member's Bill which became the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999, a measure aimed at tightening regulation of commercial dog breeding establishments, and the issue to local authorities of related detailed guidance; preparing, with the Association of Circus Proprietors, a code of practice on the care and welfare of animals in travelling circuses; making an order that allows for an indefinite prohibition of the culling of seals on the east coast of England.

We are also working to ensure that the highest possible standards of animal welfare are applied to those used in scientific procedures and that they are used only where it is fully justified—where the benefits outweigh the costs and where there are no suitable alternatives. To this end we are promoting the fullest application of the 3Rs—the replacement of procedures with others which do not use animals, the reduction of the number of animals used and the refinement of procedures to minimise pain and suffering.

In addition to our commitment to the 3Rs, the other main individual measures this Government have introduced since the election to ensure that animals are used only where fully justified are as follows. We have: secured a voluntary ban on testing cosmetic finished products on animals; increased the budget made available to the Animal Procedures Committee to sponsor research on alternatives by 45 per cent. to £265,000 for 2000–01; banned the use of animals to test alcohol and tobacco products; increased the size of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate from 18 to 21, and recruited seven new inspectors to fill these and other vacancies; introduced a requirement that all establishments licensed under the 1986 Act have local ethical review processes as a complement to the existing controls under the Act; announced our intention never to allow the use of Great Apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, pygmy chimpanzees and orang-utans); announced the phasing out of the use of ascitic animals in certain forms of monoclonal antibody production; and ended the licensing of the LD50 test and of tests for skin corrosivity and phototoxic potential where valid alternatives exist.