Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-359)|
13 SEPTEMBER 2004
Q340 Mr Mitchell: How did it come to
be defined in this way? You say in your evidence that the consequences
for commercial fishing seem to have arisen inadvertently. What
is the story behind that?
Mr Denton: In our conversations
with Defra, I have been told by the animal welfare people that
when they first started this exercise they consulted with the
fish people in Defra and I think they probably looked at the headline
purpose of the Bill as it is put to extend protection to kept
animals. I think they assumed that there was no problem for the
fish industry, but, as it turns out, in the wording of the Bill,
particularly in the definitions which are so all-embracing, they
do in fact suck in our industry to the ambit of the Bill to become
Q341 Mr Mitchell: And the fishing section
of Defra ignored that or did not realise that?
Mr Denton: I cannot speak for
Q342 Mr Mitchell: You as an organisation
were not consulted?
Mr Denton: That is a fact.
Q343 Mr Mitchell: Were the anglers consulted?
Dr Broughton: Yes, we were consulted
Q344 Mr Mitchell: That was after the
definition had been arrived at?
Dr Broughton: Yes. We have to
work with what we have got. We have similar issues about several
of the definitions of words in the Bill, particularly this word
"kept". To elucidate, the word "kept" as defined
in the Bill could be interpreted to include fish that cannot escape
into the wild. That is a very imprecise definition but it could
be considered to include fish in reservoirs, estate lakes, gravel
pits, small ponds, large bodies of water, anything that has a
defined boundary as opposed to a sea or a river.
Q345 Mr Mitchell: It could include goldfish?
Dr Broughton: It could include
goldfish indeed, yes. It could also include fish which are in
the temporary custody of the person who caught them: they are
kept at the instant that you have them in your hands. Our concern
is that clearly the act of angling is to catch a fish and, one
way or another, it ends up in your hands.
Q346 Mr Mitchell: With commercial fishing,
the fish have been brought up in a net?
Mr Denton: Yes, and you can construe
the Bill as applying to anything, even as it is herded toward
a trawl, for example. From there onwards until the point the fish
dies, you can interpret the words in the actual Bill as covering
us. If we had been involved earlier on, we would have advised
against these words, obviously.
Q347 Mr Mitchell: What would you rather
was done? Should "animal" simply be redefined? Should
there be a specific section omitting fish, saying that it does
not apply to fish, or what?
Mr Denton: You would have to look
at this carefully. As I said before, the key is in the definitions.
The choice is either to change the definition of "animal"
so that it does not include fish or to look at some specific exemption
for fish. There are two ways of coming at it. It is a matter for
the lawyers and consideration as to how to do it but the key is
Q348 Mr Mitchell: The RSPCA want to include
squid, octopus and cuttlefish. What would the consequences of
Mr Denton: From my industry's
point of view, it is a piece of nonsense that the Scots should
be proposing to include those, whereas the English and Welsh are
not. The fish do not recognise the borders. The fishermen do not
recognise the borders. How does this work?
Q349 Chairman: To be specific, in paragraph
1.2 of your evidence you give a series of very detailed definitions
of different aquatic species. Is your solution of resolution to
build in something as detailed as that to the Bill?
Mr Denton: You are looking at
a different piece of evidence to ours.
Mr Bird: That is our evidence.
What we were trying to say there is that defining the animals
we are seeking to protect is very complicated, particularly if
you look at definitions scientifically. It is quite diverse and
would make the Bill, dare I say it, very complicated with all
the Latin names, definitions and everything else. We tried to
show that it is an over-simplification to say "animal and
vertebrate" because it is too diverse. We tried to show that
diversity. There are two routes you could go with regard to fish
and fishing: one is purposely and clearly to exclude fishing and
fisheriesthat is recreational and marine; the second is
to put in a more precise definition of the types of animals you
are trying to protect in a realistic and well intentioned waycats,
dogs, birds, pets, farmed animals, which are normally covered
elsewhere. We tired to show that it is a hell of a job to get
this so that it is understood by all. Forgive the complication.
Q350 Chairman: May I say to Ms Roxburgh
and Mr Buckhaven that we are not ignoring you but, in terms of
good orderliness, it is as well we finish our line of questioning
on the area we have just been discussing and then we will concentrate
Mr Buckhaven: May I add one point?
The Animal Welfare Act in New Zealand in 1999 has a wide definition
of "animal". That includes: reptiles, amphibians, fish,
octopus, squid, crab, lobster and crayfish. It encompasses the
whole lot. The Scottish Parliament is now debating including these
in the same way as the New Zealand legislation does.
Q351 Ms Atherton: Do you three gentlemen
support the proposal that children would not be able to take a
goldfish back from a fair?
Mr Denton: It is not my position
to support that or otherwise because it is beyond my remit and
my industry does not deal with that. If you want a more constructive
response in the sense of what can be done to the Bill, then it
is not merely a matter of species but what is being done with
that species. You could describe that animal as a kept animal,
and you may well think that the Bill should cover it from that
point of view.
Q352 Ms Atherton: I do not think I follow
that, but never mind.
Dr Broughton: I am not sure, in
the context of angling or fisheries, that I have view. I can give
you a personal view, if that is any help to you.
Q353 Ms Atherton: That would be interesting.
Dr Broughton: From a personal
point of view, as a fishery scientist, I think it is probably
on balance of more benefit to a youngster to be able to purchase
a goldfish. I am not so sure about winning a goldfish at a fair.
You would certainly get used to keeping an animal. Actually looking
at the physiology and the anatomy of the animal and what can happen
to it, fish are so low down the evolutionary order of thingsand
I am speaking from a personal point of viewthat from the
scientific point of view I do not think I could mount a case to
say that it was justified to prohibit that practice.
Q354 Mr Wiggin: My concern also starts
with the goldfish. We had evidence from the koi keepers who display
their fish. There is very little difference between the carp that
fishermen will catch in the wild and the fish that you can buy
in the pet shop on an equal basis but we do have to separate the
types of treatment that we expect. When a fisherman catches a
fish on the side of the riverbank he will hold it in his hands,
he will weigh it, he will put it in a keep net and then he will
release it. That is very different from somebody who may be farming
large quantities of goldfish for prizes or for feeding to other
things. Have you any suggestions that the Committee can make to
the Government as to how it should alter this Bill so that it
can be constructive as regards your particular areas of responsibilities?
Mr Denton: Yes, and this is the
point I made previously to Candy Atherton. The definitions are
not one-dimensional but two-dimensional. It is a matter of species
and purpose in dealing with the animal. You could describe that
koi as genuinely being kept by man under the care and welfare
of man, which is a different situation to catching a wild fish.
Q355 Mr Wiggin: But they are equally
bothered by the definition in this Bill because they have shows
and they cannot show their fish, they feel, according to this
Bill because the fish will be out of their control when it is
being judged. There is a whole variety of problems. The key thing
we need is to get the definitions right. What I am digging for
is the wording that you would like to see in the Bill. We have
heard from Mr Buckhaven what they do in New Zealand. It might
be constructive if we got from you how you would like it put.
You could do that at a later date, if need be.
Dr Broughton: I am happy to try
and answer the question now. I am sorry to deal with the scientific
side of things but that is what underpins the Bill. I am trying
to keep it on that level rather than just purely an emotional
one. If one looks at a fish and tries to examine what happens
to it in certain scenarios, then it is extremely difficult, I
would probably contend impossible, to demonstrate that that fish
is capable of feeling pain. It would follow, depending on your
definition, whether it is also capable of feeling suffering. In
direct response to your question as to how we propose to resolve
this issue in relation to sea fishing, my answer, which might
be unhelpful to you, would be that fish are excluded from the
Bill; in other words, that the definition of "animal"
excludes fish. If I was to start with a blank piece of paper,
that would be how I would approach it. I appreciate we are not
starting with a blank piece of paper.
Q356 Mr Wiggin: Unfortunately, excluding
things is not always the only option. I appreciate what you have
said in terms of answering the question I initially put. We are
going to have to face the fact that the Government's intention
is to tackle fish as prizes, and we mean goldfish in fairs rather
than fishing as you read about that in The Angling Times.
We do need to address this. I was a zookeeper at London Zoo and
so I do not agree with your feelings about stress and pain in
fish. The point is you can see people dropping the goldfish that
they have just won from the big wheel and we do not want that
sort of thing, and so we do have to address this in a sensible
Mr Bird: Are there not three dimensions
to this? One is fishing, commercial and recreational, and one
is aquaria, whereas when you look at fairs and goldfish, although
we think it is nice for a young person to have a goldfish and
look after it well, it is of benefit to the goldfish as well as
to the person. It is a difficult area to look at. I am sure that
if you talk to the koi people and the aquaria people, they are
extremely professional; they have very high standards. If you
look at fishing and fisheries from a recreational point of view,
we are very well regulated. We keep on improving conditions and
research to make sure that the welfare of our fish, fished for
whatever purpose, whether to eat or to catch and release, is paramount.
I can see where you are coming from with regard to the goldfish
in the poly bag because, even if the youngster takes the fish
home and cares for it, if the goldfish is two hours in the poly
bag in a hot car, that is not a good thing.
Q357 Mr Wiggin: Either way, you will
be affected by the efforts in the Bill to tackle the wrong sort
of people and we do not want your good practice dragged in.
Mr Bird: That is right. It is
a difficult point.
Q358 Joan Ruddock: I want to put a number
of things to you. It seems to me it would defy logic to suggest
that fish were not animals and certainly they are vertebrates.
There is no way that can be denied. Altering those definitions,
I put it to you, would be really problematic because in any situation
where human beings are keeping fish, no matter which kind of fish,
there is always the potential for treating those animals poorly,
keeping them in very bad conditions and creating situations in
which they can either be directly tortured by human beingsand
there are cases where people seek to do these thingsand
certainly where they can become subject to disease because of
the conditions in which they are kept. It seems to me that what
you are all saying is that the definition of the keeping is more
significant, not whether it is an animal, a vertebrate or whatever;
it is the keeping of the creature that is the big issue. In that
area you seem to be suggesting that commercial fishing and angling
ought to be exempt so that there is no possibility of your being
considered as keepers of fish. Does that clarify things? There
seems to be a difference.
Mr Denton: I think you are right.
Going back to the bit about vertebrates, that is not entirely
logical either. I know of no science that conclusively shows that
vertebrates suffer and invertebrates do not suffer. Built into
this Bill already is that illogicality.
Q359 Joan Ruddock: I can agree with you
there. Some of us find it unpleasant to watch fish that have been
fished twitching as they die on the decks of fishing boats and
think that perhaps they do suffer. Equally, I would not want to
put a shark's spike into a fish's mouth. Personally, I believe
they could be suffering. We need to have some relationship between
what people understand to be animals and where common sense lies.
I think people consider fish to be animals and where they are
being kept and grown and bred by human beings, then they are kept
animals. We cannot take fish out of this Bill, in my view. That
is why I am trying to put to you that it is the keeping element
of the Bill that you need to address to us and that is where change
ought to be. I cannot see any other way of dealing with the objections
that you have.
Mr Denton: Broadly, yes, and if
we can address the keeping so that the commercial fish industry
is not subjected to these inappropriate requirements, then we