Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examinations of Witnesses (Questions 297-299)



  Q297 Mr Mitchell: I welcome Mr John Thorley, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association, and Mr Lawrence Alderson, Chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. May I start, as we have done with all the other witnesses, and ask for a broad statement about why you think the Bill is a good thing, if you do, and why it could be a bad thing, just a for and against statement of your position.

  Mr Thorley: We in the National Sheep Association think the Bill is in fact a very good thing because updating legislation which dates back to 1911, which has had an enormous amount of alteration and amendment in the interim, is very important. What we are concerned about is that some of it is open to interpretation. We see an enormous potential for problems in interpretation. Last night, I sat through a meeting of APGO, the all-party group on animal welfare. I am a member of that. I was very pleased to hear that this is a draft Bill. The Minister made it very clear that there are areas open to redrafting and sorting out. On that basis, I am reasonably content.

  Mr Alderson: Similarly, we would welcome the draft as an opportunity to update the legislation and make it more coherent. We would agree with much of what is in it. We are very concerned by the feasibility of incorporating under one set of regulations groups as disparate as wild animals on the one hand and some of the farm livestock on the other, with leisure and pet animals in between. It is very difficult to see how they could be accommodated within the same legislation. Secondly, we would have reservations about sections 6 and 7, which seem to need much more attention, and hopefully will have much more attention because if they were applied in detail, they could lead to legislation which would be unacceptable and not feasible for much of the livestock industry.

  Q298 Mr Mitchell: Would you prefer a separate Bill then, say for farm animals as opposed to companion animals?

  Mr Alderson: No, I do not think it would be necessary to go that far. To a certain extent, that would be fragmentation, which we are not in favour of, but, when it comes to codes of practice, then I think it could be dealt with in that way.

  Q299 Mr Mitchell: This question is to you both. In the end, if altered—and I am sure Ministers will be listening to the kind of evidence we are getting here which is an important contribution to the Bill—do you see this as something that will improve the welfare of farm animals or just lead to more red tape?

  Mr Thorley: We would take the view that provided we can get the bits which we consider to be anomalous at the moment sorted out in a satisfactory way, that will lead to an improvement.

  Mr Alderson: We would endorse that.

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