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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 335-339)



  Q335 Chairman: May I welcome you all. I would like to put to each of your organisations the same question we have put to all our witnesses to date. You may have heard it in the previous exchanges. We have lot of information, as I indicated. If there was one thing that you wanted us not to forget in favour of the Bill and one thing that you would not want us to forget which highlight your reservations about the Bill, would you like to tell the Committee about that. We will start with Ms Roxburgh.

  Ms Roxburgh: Are you talking about why I am here representing shellfish?

  Q336 Chairman: You know why you are here representing shellfish, otherwise you would not be here. You have read the Bill; you have a lot of material. I am asking you to pick out one thing you would like the Committee, on behalf of your organisation, not to forget as to why you are in favour of the Bill. It might be that you are implacably opposed to it, in which case you could tell us that, or, in the converse, there may be one very important issue in the Bill that is troubling you and your organisation and you would not like us to forget it at the end of this collection of material. This is your chance to put those two key points to us.

  Ms Roxburgh: My key point in relation to not forgetting is that we want the Bill to maintain the idea that invertebrates are animals. As far as I understand it, the 1911 Act does not omit invertebrates and therefore they probably are included, but there is nothing specific about them and therefore virtually anything can be done to them. We would like those to be included as animals in the same way as the vertebrates and the pets are included. The other thing that I would like to point out is that I am very troubled about the sale of animals at fairs and pet markets and the live sale of invertebrates.

  Mr Denton: I am not really here to speak in favour of this Bill. On behalf of the commercial fish industry that I represent, I do not feel we should be included in the compass of this Bill. It seems to us that the headline purpose of the Bill is to extend the rules for farm animal welfare to other animals that are kept by man, such as domestic pets, zoo animals and so on. We do not believe that those types of welfare requirements are appropriate to the commercial fish industry in which we are prosecuting a wild animal for the purpose of producing food for mankind. We do not see how our industry can fit into the welfare requirements that are designed for animals, such as dogs and cats, et cetera, kept by man.

  Dr Broughton: I probably share some of the views that Wesley Denton has just mentioned. I have to view this Bill in the context of angling and fisheries. The way it is drafted, I do not think I have a view that it is going to advance those in any particular way, but clearly some of the provisions within the Bill have raised, and will continue as drafted at the moment to raise, quite serious concerns in the angling world because of the way in which fish and angling practices can be scooped up by the provisions. We have some grave reservations about some of the issues in here. That is against the background certainly of public comment from Defra and government officials that it was not the intention of the Bill to mount an attack on angling or to restrict anglers' practices, and it would be an inadvertent and unfortunate consequence of the way the Bill is drafted if that were the case. I come at this from that point of view.

  Mr Bird: Thank you for the invitation to come today. I would endorse what Bruno Broughton and Wesley Denton have just said. We see the Bill in its current form as creating great difficulties for angling because it is not clear enough. When you talk about animals and vertebrates, either description will include fish. We would contend that our fish, to all intents and purposes, are wild and therefore this Bill is primarily targeted at domesticated or kept animals. We feel that recreational fishing and fisheries should be excluded.

  Q337 Mr Mitchell: What are the implications of vertebrates, fish, being included in the Bill from your point of view?

  Mr Bird: There is one phrase that sticks out for anglers of all types and that is where the description refers to "kept animal". Whether you are fishing catch and release or not, at the time of hooking or at the time of putting it in a keep net, it is to all intents and purposes a kept animal. Our concern is that there are those out there who would use that kind of terminology to create mischief or problems for us.

  Q338 Mr Mitchell: Would you rather that "animal" were differently defined so as to exclude fish?

  Mr Bird: Yes. In our submission we actually try to put a positive slant on it by saying "animals—mammals, birds and so on", so that the descriptions we put forward by their definition excluded fish.

  Q339 Mr Mitchell: What is the view of the Sea Fish Authority? Would you rather it were defined in a different way so as not to include fish?

  Mr Denton: We think that is the key to modifying the Bill, to change the definitions to make sure that the definitions more carefully target the kind of animal that this Bill is aimed at and to avoid the collateral damage.

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