Veal Crates

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford 12:00 am, 14th December 1995

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has taken to work for an EU ban on the use of veal crates. [4133]

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Government have already achieved a review of directive 91/629 on the welfare of calves, bringing it forward from 1997. As a result, the Commission has obtained the advice of its Scientific Veterinary Committee and is on the point of putting proposals forward to the Council of Ministers. We shall press the Council for an end to the veal crate throughout the European Community and for changes to the unacceptable EU dietary requirements.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I thank my hon. Friend for that comprehensive answer. Is not the way forward for it not to be necessary for calves to be trans-shipped to Holland or wherever, and that the issue should be tackled by having a robust United Kingdom calf-rearing industry, which will meet the market's requirements? Is work not being done in that respect at the Rosemaund experimental husbandry unit near Hereford? Will my hon. Friend tell the House what progress is being made?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The launch of the Rosemaund experimental unit has attracted much interest. We have worked with the Meat and Livestock Commission to target interest in the catering industry especially, where much of the Dutch-reared veal is used; veal reared in those unacceptable crates. I assure my hon. Friend that the unit has proved very successful in introducing to people who are interested in raising welfare-friendly veal in the UK ways in which to go about it in the most welfare-friendly manner.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Bethnal Green and Stepney

Have the Ministry and the Commission in Brussels never heard of the word subsidiarity? If they have heard of the doctrine of subsidiarity, why do not they apply it to the veal trade? Why does the Ministry not come forward with legislative proposals in this House to ban the export of veal under the present conditions and then wait to be challenged, if need be, in the European Court?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

We took the decision in the House in 1990 unilaterally to ban the veal crate. I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that if we are seriously interested in the welfare of animals generally in the European Union, it should be as much a matter of concern to know that just over the channel those deplorable practices continue. We in this country have led the way with the banning of veal crates, and we hope that as a result of our actions—this year I have visited other Agriculture Ministers personally about the issue—other countries will understand that we did it not from an emotional viewpoint but from one of very clear science that shows that it is not in the animals' best interest. We want to see that policy applied throughout Europe—not in little England with the drawbridge drawn up.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the personal efforts that she has made to try to bring an end to a vile practice? We had hoped to see a ban imposed on the use of veal crates throughout the European Union by the end of the year. When does my hon. Friend think that a ban may be possible? I ask her and her departmental colleagues to seek to ensure that farm animal welfare has a proper place at the intergovernmental conference next year.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I can assure my hon. Friend that at the meeting of the Council of Ministers next week my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister will be seeking to hear the results of the Scientific Veterinary Committee. We are hopeful that our policy will be taken forward in Europe. The presidency has expressed its interest and concern that progress should be made, as have, interestingly, the Italians, who will take over the presidency in January. There is continuity in Europe to take forward the policy.

It has been the Government's policy to seek European-wide policies on animal welfare. But that is not the Labour party's approach. I shall share with the House a letter from a shadow Opposition spokesman. It was written only last month to Franz Weber. It reads:

Thank you for your letter about the transportation of live animals across Europe. I strongly support your call for an end to the current legal provisions which allow the export and transport of live animals for slaughter. Opposition Members should understand that the greater prize is to be concerned about the welfare of animals throughout the Community.