asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many horses, ponies, cattle, sheep, and pigs, separately, died from cold or starvation during the recent snow, storms and floods this year; how many prosecutions took place; how many of each class of animals were involved; and, in view of the neglect of making adequate provision for their shelter, feeding, and protection, what action he is taking to avoid a repetition of such cruelty.
The detailed information asked for in the first part of the Question is not available but reports so far received do not suggest that the recent snowstorms have caused abnormal losses of livestock. My right hon. Friend is not aware of any prosecutions nor of any justification for the general implication in the Question that any losses which have occurred have been due to neglect on the part of stock owners.
Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the duty and responsibility of farmers and agriculturists to safeguard the lives of these domestic animals under such conditions, and in view of the fact that these climatic conditions do occur with regularity every winter, and a large number of animals are killed—one paper has given a figure of 250,000 sheep, which may be exaggerated—what precautions are taken to safeguard the interests of these animals?
I can put the hon. Gentleman's mind at rest in regard to the losses of which we are aware. A preliminary report on Caithness, Orkney, Shetland, and Sutherland, the counties principally concerned, indicate that very few deaths are attributed directly to the snowstorm. There are always losses of sheep in winter, but from the snowstorm so far very small losses indeed have been reported. In regard to any precautions taken, I think the majority of sheep farmers are out on the spot the moment the snow appears, and they take the best precautions they can to safeguard their sheep.