Animal Health Bill

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Mrs. Winterton: The people from Oaklands Park sent me some information. Perhaps the hon. Lady will confirm that they have a herd of 60 dairy shorthorn cattle and a flock of 100 Wensleydale sheep, which is a few more than just a few pets.

Diana Organ: It is a few more, but those animals have been reared from within their owners' premises. The people of Oaklands Park have built up their flock and their herd but they are not using them in the commercial sector. They use the dairy herd for milk for their own cheese, yoghurt and milk, and the sheep for their weaving wool. They are not a livestock operation in the manner of a normal farm; they are a community that needs to be catered for, because their animals are almost companions.

Mr. Wiggin: The Vietnamese pot-belly is a pig, not a sheep, but I am sure that that matters little to the people of the Forest of Dean, who obviously care about their pets very much. Approximately how many of the hon. Lady's other constituents are pet owners of that nature?

Diana Organ: Although it is a widespread tradition, the numbers involved are relatively small—perhaps a maximum of two dozen. However, many were very concerned about what was happening to those people.

It is important that the amendment be included in the Bill. It is proportionate, fair and just, and it encompasses the treatment that we seek for a group of people who have been under tremendous stress. They feel that, in a way, their families have been invaded by officialdom.

I want to ensure that there will be an accompanying veterinary risk assessment, so that the disease does not spread to surrounding farms. It is important to save those much-loved animals from slaughter. Their owners should not have to resort to judicial review to protect them. Under the Bill as drafted, the animals would be slaughtered before a judicial review reached a judgment. The point is that, to the owners, the animal is not just any animal. Even though they might win the legal battle in a judicial review, the loss of a particular animal would be the problem. It would be small compensation to win in law when a much-loved animal had been lost. I therefore hope that the Minister will look favourably on the amendment.

Debate adjourned—[Mr. Sutcliffe.]

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes to Five o'clock, till Thursday 29 November at five minutes to Nine o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Conway, Mr. Derek (Chairman)
Atkins, Charlotte
Bacon, Mr.
Breed, Mr.
Browning, Mrs.
Drew, Mr.
Edwards, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hall, Mr. Patrick
Morley, Mr.
Organ, Diana
Owen, Albert
Reed, Mr.
Sutcliffe, Mr.
Wiggin, Mr.
Williams, Mr. Roger
Winterton, Mrs. Ann

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Prepared 22 November 2001