Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 7:15 pm, 7th October 2002

The proposition particularly from the Royal Society but also to some extent from Anderson and the Europeans is that the vaccination option should be considered as a first resort, but not as a replacement for all culling and not necessarily as an absolute priority. As I said in speaking to a previous amendment, there will have to be some culling provisions in relation to both diseased and exposed animals. In some circumstances there will have to be a firebreak cull, and in other circumstances there will have to be a firebreak vaccination. We hope to vaccinate to live rather than to vaccinate to kill, as was previously being contemplated.

As it is pre-emptive, the vaccination proposal—not in this clause but in the equivalent provision—also requires the powers of entry provided for in the Bill. Hitherto, everything has been based not on pre-emptive or preventive culling and vaccination but on the proposition that animals are or might be exposed to the disease. As I explained earlier—I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was in the Chamber at the time—it is wrong to think that the recommendations which the Government have accepted on taking a much more positive line on vaccination replace the need for culling diseased and exposed animals or, in some circumstances, for culling for pre-emptive purposes.

This clause very explicitly expresses the recommendation of the Anderson inquiry to clarify the powers in this respect. Indeed, that is one of Anderson's most powerful recommendations. As I said, those who oppose the provision would go against Anderson's recommendation. I would therefore not be prepared to accept amendments along those lines.

I also do not think that the suggested exemption for animals kept indoors would be appropriate. I think that it is inappropriate not only because of the detailed reason spelled out by my noble friend Lord Carter, but because an animal could still be a carrier of the disease or exposed to the disease although it had been indoors for much longer than the incubation period. I therefore believe that we must have the ability to slaughter animals that are kept indoors to restrict the spread of the disease.

As I said, I do not think that the earlier concerns expressed most recently by the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, are valid. The concerns about preventive culling are valid. However, if the Committee were to go along those lines, it would be very much flying in the face of the recommendations of both of the main inquiries. I therefore hope that the Committee will not pursue that.