Part of Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 16 November 2021.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:30, 16 November 2021

The amendments are about the level of expertise required of a veterinary surgeon. Our view is that more specialist expertise is required for primates. Looking to expertise in the room, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border may wish to comment.

All veterinary surgeons have skills and qualifications, but given that this will be a relatively unusual occurrence one wonders whether they will be in the right place to do what is needed. I understand that a range of organisations, including Born Free, the RSPCA, Wild Futures, the British Veterinary Association, the Ape Alliance and others have expressed concern that premises inspections for licences, renewals and check-ups should be conducted only by competent veterinary surgeons with suitable knowledge and experience of primates. We have discussed how infrequent those checks could be. We do not know what the geographical spread will be, so it is possible that people will be doing this very rarely. Therefore, the question is: do they fully appreciate what is required?

I hinted earlier that the Government have failed to spell out the ideal conditions. I understand that further work may be done in regulations and so on, but, as we have just been reflecting, these creatures have extremely complicated welfare needs. They are long-living, intelligent —highly intelligent, in some cases—social animals. It is hardly surprising that many animal welfare organisations believe that a high level of expertise should be a prerequisite of assessing whether a keeper will be able to provide the right environment for a primate.

Amendments 110 and 111 address the aspects of the Bill that cover premises inspections for licence applications and renewals, which under the Bill currently can be carried out by a veterinary surgeon. An average veterinary surgeon will have a broad and extensive knowledge of a wide variety of animals, but how rarely will this arise? I genuinely do not know how many primates the average vet sees, but I guess it is a few. I shall happily take an intervention from a vet. How many primates does the average vet see?