Amendment 71

Part of Agriculture Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:30 pm on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat 10:30 pm, 17th September 2020

My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hodgson of Abinger and Lady Fookes, for tabling these amendments and enabling these important animal welfare issues to be debated tonight. I shall speak on Amendment 71 first, prior to taking on Amendments 72 and 73.

On Amendment 71, I accept the scientific evidence that the practice of killing by throat cutting, without pre-stunning, compromises animal welfare. This is also the view of the BVA. However, I respect the arguments of those who believe that the animal welfare concerns do not outweigh the rights of our own communities to religious freedom.

Government trade policy should refuse to look at exporting our livestock to other countries for slaughter without pre-stunning, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, so powerfully articulated. It is possible to take advantage of new trading opportunities that we are told will open up post Brexit without agreeing to export animals slaughtered without pre-stunning. New Zealand exports huge quantities of sheep to the Middle East, and all are pre-stunned with halal certification.

In supporting the aims of this amendment, I ask the Minister to confirm that when the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, said earlier today, in response to a question, that the UK is at

“the cutting edge of free trade agreements” this does not include the Government seeking to increase trade through increasing our exports of farm animals which are not stunned before slaughter.

I absolutely support the principles of Amendments 72 and 73. In fact, when I joined the RSPCA in the 1990s my first campaign, and one of the proudest I have worked on, was on the issue of live transport. I echo all the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about the number of animals who suffer and the quite unnecessary levels of suffering that go on, given that this is all about profit. While I support the aims of these amendments, I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said about concerns over the WTO complications. Equally, I think I am correct that live transport is a devolved matter and, as such, the Bill cannot make provisions concerning it for another Government. My personal understanding is that the Scottish Government oppose a ban on live exports.

The Minister might therefore say to us at the end that the Government are not able to accept this amendment. However, he can outline how they intend to tackle the economics that drive this trade. The Farm Animal Welfare Committee report, which the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, reported to, was commissioned by this Government and the devolved nations back in 2018. It recommended improvements to transport journey times, ship and lorry standards and possible maximum journey times, once we leave the EU’s regulatory orbit. This approach would be WTO-compatible and achieve the same results as stopping the live exports, as it raises costs, and live exports only happen because of the economics.

When will the Government release the report from FAWC—now known as the Animal Welfare Committee —and, at the same time, undertake alongside it a consultation on live transport and exports? I would like to hear that it is an imminent consultation because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, mentioned, during Brexit we heard a lot about how Brexit was going to be about improving animal welfare, and live transport was an issue that was trumpeted. We have had that FAWC report since 2018. If we do not see something imminently—and I would expect that to be in the next few months—we can only assume that this is just another hollow promise from the Government on their commitment to animal welfare.