Clause 2 - Extension of power to slaughter

Part of Animal Health Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 29 November 2001.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Conservative, Leominster 2:30, 29 November 2001

This morning we heard the Minister explain how other amendments had not been eloquent enough to be worthy of his approval. How much more eloquent can they be than ``insert the word `contagious'''? I am pleased to speak on a very important improvement. Some may think that some amendments are not as helpful to the passage of the Bill as others. How much more helpful can we be than adding just one word?

It is important to point out at this stage that this part of the Bill refers to diseases other than foot and mouth. It is extraordinary for the Minister to find it necessary to slaughter animals that have a disease that is not contagious or infectious. Why would he want them slaughtered? Having thought a great deal about that, I wondered whether the cat-loving Minister, in the kindness of his heart, wished to put suffering animals out of their misery. Realistically, however, I do not believe that that is what is going on in this part of the Bill.

I also wondered whether he thought that there was a genetic reason for slaughtering animals, which is why he omitted the words `infectious' or `contagious' when he drafted the Bill. I know that we shall deal with transmissible spongiform encephalopathy later and discuss the different types of diseases that are transmissible. I also realise that that could not be the Minister's reason for omitting those words. It may be to do with the spread of genetically modified diseases. This morning, Radio 4 announced that evidence had been found that the spread of genetically modified maize pollen was considerably more extensive than first estimated. That is of great concern to my constituents, as there are several GM crop test sites near my constituency.

Then I thought that bovine TB might be the reason that we needed the amendment. Bovine TB can also be spread by badgers, so perhaps the words `infectious' and `contagious' have been missed out of the clause because the Minister plans to slaughter badgers. [Hon. Members: ``Oh, come on.''] It might not be such a bad idea. More legislation is written on badgers than on any other animal, including pandas and blue whales.

I have written to the Minister about the fact that, in my constituency, bovine tuberculosis appears in herds of cattle that could not have been in contact with other cattle because they are surrounded by crops. The only change has been the appearance of badgers. I shall not go on about badgers, because those who remember my father know that they were his obsession and that the Agriculture Select Committee had to consider badgers more than perhaps they should have done.

If it is not badgers, perhaps it is worms. I refer the Minister to the letter that I sent him some time ago about a poor constituent whose sheep were slaughtered in the cull. The run-off went into his worm pit and now he cannot sell his worms in case they have eaten the soil containing the virus and have become infected with foot and mouth. With this gentle nudge, I hope that the Minister will remember to reply to that letter. Why on earth would such vital words as ``contagious'' and ``infectious'' be missed out?