Clause 59 - Repeals

Animal Welfare Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 26th January 2006.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:30 pm, 26th January 2006

I beg to move amendment No. 117, in clause 59, page 30, line 32, after ‘repealed’, insert ‘or revoked’.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 132, in schedule 4, page 42, line 27, at end insert—

‘(1)Enactments’. No. 133, in schedule 4, page 43, line 37, at end add— ‘(2)Instruments

Title and NumberExtent of revocation
Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (S.I. 1995/731)In paragraph 11 of Schedule 3, the words from “, except that” to “hindquarters”.

No. 133, in schedule 4, page 43, line 37, at end add—

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The amendments seek to tidy up the Bill and extend welfare provisions to animals awaiting slaughter. They also probe the Government to indicate whether they have been seeking other forms of animal control in abattoirs. Schedule 3, paragraph 11 of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 permits electric shocks of less than two seconds to animals’ hindquarters. Schedule 4, paragraph 8(c) exempts the use of such shocks from being criminalised.

Although I appreciate the need to control animals in abattoirs, I have been made aware that the persistent and excessive use of electric shocks can be harmful to the animal beyond the purposes for which the shock was administered. Moreover, when an animal in a slaughterhouse is stunned or incapacitated, that could be argued to fall within the welfare provisions of the Bill. The amendment is drafted with the intention of erring on the side of caution. Will the Minister state the Government’s position?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

The amendment is drafted in such a way as to, in effect, ban the use of electric goads in slaughterhouses. We can amend secondary legislation from time to time. As the hon. Gentleman will know the statutory instrument in question derives from European directives concerning welfare at slaughter. It will be changed in a year’s time, from 5 January 2007, when there will be a new regulation in force which will provide that

“Animals must be moved with care. Passageways must be so constructed as to minimise the risk of injury to animals, and so arranged as to exploit their gregarious tendencies. Instruments intended for guiding animals must be used solely for that purpose, and only for short periods. The use of instruments which administer electric shocks shall be avoided as far as possible. In any case these instruments shall be used only for adult bovine animals and adult pigs which refuse to move, and only when they have room ahead of them in which to move. Shocks shall last no longer than one second, be adequately spaced, and shall be applied only to the muscles of the hindquarters. Shocks shall not be used repeatedly if the animal fails to respond.”

Under the terms of the regulation, we shall be able to implement stricter measures in the interests of welfare. However, we are not persuaded that an absolute ban   is appropriate. The independent Farm Animal Welfare Council and the Humane Slaughter Association agree that there are circumstances in which using a goad is necessary. In our last major consultation on the subject, which was only in 2003, the view—endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive—was that use of a goad as a last resort is preferable in safety terms to workers moving in the raceways trying to compel an animal to move forward by other means. Furthermore, abolishing goads could lead to welfare problems caused by delays in the line, and could see individuals resorting to other, welfare-unfriendly means to try to move animals—perhaps even tail twisting or the use of pointed sticks.

In the light of the evidence from all those groups, we believe that goads should continue to be allowed to be used in a very limited range of circumstances, and that the on-site vet should intervene if one is being used inappropriately. We are working on a revised red meat code of practice for slaughterhouses, which will include detailed guidance on using goads only in exceptional circumstances. I hope, on the basis of those reassurances, that the hon. Member for Leominster will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:45 pm, 26th January 2006

As I am entertaining the Committee this afternoon, let me say that it is not a secret that I have cattle, and looking after cattle is a bit like a cross between animal welfare and heavy furniture removal. When a stubborn cow does not want to move, it is extremely difficult to get her to move.

I am happy that the Government have considered what is in the spirit of the amendment, reducing the shocks from two seconds’ duration to one second. The point about moving adult bovines and adult pigs is valid; it is not as safe or easy as people perhaps imagine. I am content that the Government have taken the steps that I wanted, and I was content to table the amendment to make that happen. I am happy with what the Minister has said, and I am more than happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 59 ordered to stand part of the Bill.