Animal Health Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 7th October 2002.

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Photo of The Bishop of Hereford The Bishop of Hereford Bishop 7:30 pm, 7th October 2002

I do not want to return to the diagnostic test although I am sure that important steps could be taken in that direction. I entirely accept what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, says about animals being kept indoors—they may have been exposed previously and the disease may be present but not detected.

I do not believe that the Minister understood the force of what I was trying to say: perhaps I am the only Member of the Committee who feels this way. There is a disagreement between us about whether a pre-emptive cull and a pre-emptive vaccination are equally valid policies; I do not believe that they are. I hope that we are moving towards a policy of normally using pre-emptive vaccination, with pre-emptive culling being used in exceptional circumstances. The phraseology should cover that. The cavalier use of the word "immaterial" conveys entirely the wrong impression, which will be greatly resented in the farming community.

We must find a way to express the fact that there may yet be exceptional circumstances in which it is still necessary to cull animals in such categories but not in relation to paragraph (d), because if vaccination works, we will certainly not cull animals that are covered by that provision. It is the tone of voice that desperately needs to be altered. I hope that the Minister will say that he understands that and will do something to change the provision's phrasing. There may be occasional—exceptional—circumstances in which pre-emptive culling is necessary of uninfected and unsuspected animals. However, we need to say that in a way that reassures people, rather than make people feel as if they are being hit over the head with a blunderbuss of a policy that can be applied absolutely indiscriminately anywhere and to any animal.