Lord Whitty (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
My Lords, the House will no doubt decide on the amendments. However, the ban on terrier work and the exemption thereto reflected a very strong concern in the Commons about the animal welfare effects of terriers. The House of Commons was, with some difficulty, persuaded that there should be an exemption because otherwise this would interfere substantially with the shooting sector. It was a very specific exemption, known generally as the gamekeepers' exemption, which the House of Commons was persuaded to accept. These wider issues would further antagonise the Commons because one could claim to use terrier work for the protection of any birds, not just game birds, and of any livestock. My view is that that is a much wider exemption than the Commons would be prepared to accept.
As for weasels and stoats, we are rather in Toad Hall territory here. As the noble Earl said, 25 per cent of stoats were caught by terriers. That indicates that 75 per cent are controlled by other means. Therefore, it is not essential to have dogs controlling the stoat population.
In any case, if we are talking about a registration system, then the hunting of stoats and weasels could go through that system. So I am not at all sure that a convincing case is made for a blanket exemption in this area.