Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 10:30 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I am speaking against Amendments 254 and 258.

What concerns me is not the labelling of meat products, as it is right that, as far as possible, purchasers should know how an animal was killed. There is an increasing number of people who are against the slaughter of animals for food. I respect these views; however, what is being addressed in these amendments is an acceptance of people eating meat, but a desire to label as to the method of slaughter. I must say, a visit to an abattoir could easily make one a vegetarian.

What concerns me is that when the supporters of labelling make their case, there is often a concentration on whether the animal was or was not pre-stunned—in other words, a preoccupation with describing meat killed by kosher or halal methods. I have no problem with this labelling as long as it describes all methods of slaughter. I draw your Lordships’ attention to FarmWell’s proposal: a method-of-slaughter label with 12 categories. Three are electrical methods and two are gas methods; then, there is halal, halal pre-stunned, the Jewish shechita method, the non-penetrative captive bolt, the penetrative captive bolt, and, of course, lastly, being shot—the animal, that is, not your Lordships.

Where the bolt method is used, it should say whether it takes more than one attempt to kill or sedate the animal. If meat is to be labelled as humane religious slaughter, why not label when it is shot? Why not label that a captive bolt gun to the skull was used for cows and sheep? Why not label where chickens were shackled by their ankles and dipped in a water bath with an electric current running through it, which your Lordships should know does not always work, depending on the size of the chicken? Should labels also say whether pigs are herded into a room and gassed? A previous speaker has told the Committee about the numbers so killed. Then there is trapping and clubbing, but that is mostly by hunters. here are reputable reports on the failure rate of mis-stunning for the penetrative captive bolt for cattle as being 6.6% to 8%. The failure rates at the first attempt for non-penetrative captive bolt stunning and electric stunning could be as high as a fantastic 31%.

Some 2 million cattle, 8 million pigs and 9 million sheep and lambs are killed each year. The Jewish community slaughters only 90,000 red meat animals. Rounded to the nearest percentage point, I get 0%. Some 750 million birds are killed. The Jewish community kills a mere 500,000—that is a lot of chickens, but still not a lot.

Previous speakers—particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu—spoke very eloquently about labelling. She made an important point about labelling the country of origin. I certainly subscribe to labelling the country of origin for whisky. I like to think I can tell the country of origin, but maybe it should be labelled for others who cannot. When she went on to say that the method of production should be labelled, the only production method she mentioned, as far as I am aware, was whether it was pre-stunned or not. What I am trying to make clear is that I am against Amendments 254 and 258 but I am for labelling as long as it is comprehensive or not labelled at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, produced what I suppose could be a red herring, but it was actually horsemeat. Labelling horsemeat as beef or lamb is fraud; it is nothing to do with whether the customer has the choice.

If we are looking at labelling to stop cruelty, I am afraid that most abattoirs are really cruel. They try their best, but the electricity method of killing animals—mainly chickens—very often fails. The bolt system fails and they have to do it again. If we are labelling, can we just bear in mind that it should be labelling not specifically with regard to stunning and pre-stunning but for all forms of slaughter?