My Lords, since April 2002, the Government have been holding discussions with livestock and disposal industry stakeholders with the aim of developing a national fallen stock disposal scheme. At a stakeholder meeting on 18th September, the collection and disposal industries submitted a joint proposal for a national fallen stock collection and disposal scheme. This received industry support and is now being considered by Ministers.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and declare an interest. Do the Government have any idea of the urgency of resolving this problem quickly? Will there be a national fallen stock collection service in being by April of next year? Will the Government pay for it, as is done in Germany and France under public health regulations?
My Lords, I would not exclude some public contribution but it is not normal for the Government to pay industries to meet legal requirements—and this will be a legal requirement restricting burial on farm. Disposal is primarily the responsibility of the industry, the costs of which may be met, for example, by levy schemes, insurance or joint arrangements. Those various options form part of what is being studied by both UK and devolved Ministers in this context.
My Lords, would there be any legal objection to a group of farmers co-operating to buy an incinerator that met all the approved standards and collectively incinerating their fallen stock on one person's premises—in other words, a number of farmers will bring their stock to one place? Is there any objection to that?
My Lords, on the face of it, I cannot see any objection to that. Provided that the incinerators meet the requirements, it is possible to incinerate stock on farm. What is banned by the new development is the burial and open burning of stock. I shall check for the noble Countess, but it seems to me that her suggestion would fall within the legal requirements.
My Lords, what will be the cost to farmers of the disposal service? Are there plans in place to expand the rendering plants geographically in accessible places throughout the United Kingdom? At the moment, some livestock areas do not have rendering plants at all.
My Lords, the rendering industry will be capable of meeting demand provided the disposal scheme is capable of picking up carcasses. It is the collection problem rather than the disposal problem that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. That is what the discussions are about.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that we are not talking about a small number of animals? I believe that on average somewhere between 200,000 and 250,000 tonnes of fallen stock need to be disposed of each year. While I follow the comments of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, is not the Minister concerned about the biosecurity implications of transporting diseased and dead stock from one farm to another?
My Lords, as regards the example given by the noble Countess, I am assuming that, as with other vehicles that go on, off and between farms, the normal biosecurity rules would be applied for both dead stock and live stock. Provided the rules are observed and the incinerator meets the standards, such a scheme will probably be acceptable. But I shall check on that.
My Lords, are figures available for the number of animals or the tonnage which is now buried on farms and which is disposed of in the way in which it will have to be disposed of in future?
My Lords, it varies by species. Of fallen stock, about 20 per cent of bovines is disposed of in that way and a significantly higher proportion—more than 60 per cent—of goats and sheep. So we are talking about large numbers.
My Lords, there is a role for hunt kennels in this area. They have been one method of disposal in the past and are not affected by this provision.
My Lords, there are other rules to deal with that. They are not new regulations and farmers are well aware of them.