Amendment 71

Part of Agriculture Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 10:15 pm, 17th September 2020

My Lords, I wish to speak against Amendment 71. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for the thrust of her argument, with which I agree. I agree also with the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes—but not that she is an old boiler.

This is one of a series of amendments dealing with the export of live animals for slaughter. At the heart of Judaism is animal welfare and the very strict prohibition from causing harm to animals. The UK Jewish community has often raised the issue of animal transport, as it has serious concerns over both the length of time animals spend in transport and the conditions they are kept in during the journey. I stress that I know of no such exports from the UK for the kosher food trade, so I have no problem with Amendment 72.

In principle, I support a blanket ban on the export of live animals for slaughter. However, Amendment 71 singles out religious communities, such as Jews and Muslims, for no logical welfare reason. It suggests that only animals destined for religious slaughter should be forbidden from being exported, as if the method of slaughter makes the slightest difference to the animal’s horrendous journey. Furthermore, the standard of welfare at slaughter, with only very slight variants, is uniform across Europe as governed by EU directive 1099, which I understand will be retained in UK law post Brexit. No welfare benefits would accrue by preventing animals being transported for religious slaughter alone, travelling to France or other European countries, as regulations on religious slaughter there are identical to those here.

Amendment 71 seeks to claim that industrialised slaughter is somehow more humane than religious slaughter, and there is simply no conclusive evidence to support that. Just visit any abattoir—they are pretty horrendous. Stunning is an all-encompassing animal welfare panacea, which some hope will be unquestioningly accepted as such. We have had this argument often in this House, but in reality mechanical stunning methods, which may include asphyxiation by gas, electrocution by tongs or water or shooting with a captive bolt gun, cause pain to the animal. They also frequently go wrong, leaving the animal in even greater, prolonged distress. We have had this argument before on labelling an, came to the conclusion that we should label everything to say how it was killed. I have no problem with that.

Shechita—kosher killing—incorporates an integral and irreversible stun by severing the anterior structures of the neck with a rapid transverse incision using an instrument of surgical sharpness. I could go on at greater length about the methods but it is rather bloodthirsty, for the reasons needed to kill an animal.

Amendment 71 only seeks to stigmatise religious communities by belittling their legal method of slaughter for no logical welfare benefits. Yes, ban animals from travelling long distances. We should be against—as Amendment 72 is, quite correctly—sending animals on long horrendous journeys to be slaughtered by any method. So please look in the long term at the fact that we need to stop animals having horrendous journeys, so that what happens at the end of them is irrelevant because they are not being exported.