Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-379)|
13 SEPTEMBER 2004
Q360 Chairman: Can I follow that with
the specific line on fish farms? Following Joan Ruddock's line
of questioning, and I may not have detailed knowledge of the laws,
in terms of the way in which animals are kept in fish farms, whether
they be tank-based activities, for example like trout, or sea-based
activities for other species, the way in which you look after
them can have a material effect on the welfare of those fish:
the removal of excrement, the use of chemicals, different feed
types and that kind of thing. Do you accept that that is a legitimate
area for legislation?
Mr Denton: This fits and the fish
farmers are genuine keepers of fish; they are interested in the
welfare of their fish. It makes economic sense for them to be
interested in that welfare. I believe at the moment that animal
welfare law does not really extend into the fish farming area
in the EU and in the UK. It has been under consideration for a
long time in Europe but the fact of the matter is that fish farmers
are concerned about the welfare of their animals. They take common
sense measures to look after their animals. From the point of
view of public image, they are interested in humane slaughter
and practices like that. I think the fish farmers can be encompassed
Alan Simpson: I was not sure whether
you were answering yes or no to the Chairman's question there.
Q361 Chairman: I think I read this in
some evidence that we are considering later this week, and I therefore
will not mention the organisation unless I can find the particular
bit that caught my eye, because from fish farms we move to aquaria.
One of the things that intrigued me is that you are constraining,
sometimes in relatively small pieces of waterand I appreciate
this is not the direct area of responsibility of the sea fish
industry but I am exploring some of the issues connected with
fishthe keeping, for example, of sharks in what man might
think as large tanks but sharks are used to roaming the oceans.
Does that raise welfare issues that ought to be encompassed by
Mr Denton: I believe that in Europe
they have been tussling over a code of practice for fish farming
activities for the welfare of fish. I think that has been going
on for 12 years. They have been trying to develop a code to cover
some of these issues but it is difficult. To my knowledge, they
have not reached agreement on this. My response previously was
on the principle of this, that fish farmers are genuine keepers
of animals and they are interested in the welfare of those animals.
Q362 Patrick Hall: Both organisations
have said that the provisions of the Bill should not apply to
their area of interest. In order that I understand the context
of that, could you both say what, if any, welfare provision, backed
up perhaps by regulation, et cetera, exists to cover both commercial
sea fishing and more leisure-based angling and perhaps inland
or sea loch fish farms? What existing set of behaviour legislation
welfare practice exists which you may or may not say is more than
adequate and therefore this Bill should not apply?
Dr Broughton: From an angling
context, in England and Wales, before somebody can fish in fresh
water it is necessary that they buy a rod licence from the Environment
Agency and in so doing they are covered by the provisions of the
Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act, the regional fisheries byelaws
and a number of other pieces of legislation which regulate angling,
the exploitation of fish and the protection of the resource. By
law, anglers already have to abide by pieces of legislation. Before
they fish in a particular place, they also need the consent of
the owner of that fishery in fresh waterin the sea it is
slightly differentand they would also be governed by any
rules or regulations that that owner would insist they complied
with when they went fishing there. That is commonplace. In addition
to that, there is a plethora of codes of conduct, but there are
some national ones which would sometimes, and increasingly, be
the standard by which fishery owners would regulate their own
inland fisheries, but would they would also be and are quite rightly
promoted to anglers and angling. Although anglers will tell you
for ever that it is an escapist sport, in actual fact angling
is quite highly regulated at law already. The other way of approaching
your question, and this is something that might be helpful to
you, is to tell you that the Government instigated a review of
the fisheries legislation several years ago under the Chairmanship
of Professor Linda Warren. That sat and took evidence for about
a year and a half. That was shadowed by a committee under Lord
Moran's chairmanship. The report includes 196 recommendations,
some of which can be accepted and scooped up in other ways, but
there is a proposed Fisheries Bill, which hopefully is not gathering
too much dust and is due to come forward. I would certainly see
that issues which cannot be resolved revolving around fisheries
and angling within this Animal Welfare Bill could be scooped up
in that way under the proposed Fisheries Bill.
Mr Denton: In the sea fishing
area, as regards commercial fishing, there is not enough room
in this office to encompass all the European legislation controlling
the fishing industry and much of that covering the techniques
used for fishing, such as controlling the size of meshes and things
like that. I do not believe there is anything in law to cover
the welfare aspects of the capture process itself, although all
these methods are recognised in law under the Common Fisheries
Policy, et cetera, by either European or UK law. I believe the
1911 Act can apply after a wild fish has been caught. That is
an interpretation, but in the 1911 Act there is provision for
dealing with animals for the purpose of food production, which
is what our industry is doing, and so there is protection for
the industry built into the 1911 Act for doing that. There have
been some further pieces of legislation of EU origin which some
people interpret as having superseded some aspects of the 1911
Act in that respect, but if you look at them carefully, they apply
to animals that are bred and kept for meat production et cetera,
and so they do not apply. I think we are only left with the 1911
Act applying at the moment.
Q363 Patrick Hall: Is commercial fish
farming the area that may have some welfare provision whereas
sea fishing does not?
Mr Denton: The application of
the law to fish farming operations is a little grey. It is not
my area of speciality, you understand. There is EU law regarding
farm animals. Whether or not that encompasses fish farms, I do
Chairman: I am going to stop that line
of questioning because it is not fair to ask you on that, but
I think we need to make note that we should follow that up with
Defra. I know that they are keeping a watching brief over our
proceedings. Perhaps, if they are listening, they might be kind
enough to enlighten us about fish farms in the context of our
line of questioning.
Q364 Alan Simpson: I was just going to
register a word of caution about the role or the interface between
EU legislation and our own domestic responsibilities. We have
seen in the problems in relation to cetacean by-catch that the
Minister can intervene to stop a form of fishing which is responsible
for the by-catch but we have not been able to persuade our European
partners to do the same outside our territorial limits. There
seems to be a block at the European level to produce effective
legislation. Mr Denton, I just wanted to come back to the answer
that you gave about fish farms, and I know you have said it is
not an area in which you specialise. At one point I thought you
were saying that these are people who clearly keep fish and they
therefore have interests in the welfare of fish. I was not sure
whether you were saying that is fine, they will be quite happy
to be brought in under this legislation, or whether you were saying
it was because they keep fish and they have an interest in the
welfare of the fish that they do not need to be brought under
the legislation. You just need to be clear with us.
Mr Denton: I should not speak
for them. In my conversations with them they have given me the
impression that they would be prepared to be encompassed by a
Bill such as this, but of course it would need a code of practice
geared to their requirements rather than four-legged animal requirements.
Q365 Alan Simpson: Then I can keep my
question very simple: can I take it from what you are saying that
you are not appearing before the Committee today to make the case
for excluding fish farms from the remit of this legislation?
Mr Denton: That is my position.
Q366 Mr Mitchell: I cannot resist this.
I am horrified by what is going to happen if all these bleeding
hearts keep going on about what we are going to do to protect
a few goldfish taken home by kids from fairs. We are going to
open a Pandora's box that will hurt commercial fishing and anglers.
Those fish know they are going to a better place, namely Grimsby!
I am worried about the repercussions and I think you are right
to be concerned. Let me ask you both one question which is often
raised: do fish feel pain?
Dr Broughton: The straight answer
to that is no.
Q367 Mr Mitchell: How do we know?
Dr Broughton: There is a straight
answer and there is a more complicated answer. The more complicated
answer is that if you look at all the evidence from what we know
scientifically and weigh it in the balance, there is a mass of
evidence that would indicate that they do not at an anatomical
level, in terms of their structure, their physiology and their
behaviour; and there is a small amount of evidence on the other
side from which you could advance an argument that they do. I
weight that evidence up and conclude, as a scientist, that they
cannot feel pain. That does not mean that they do not feel anything,
and it does not mean that fish cannot be stressed, but the word
"pain", the infliction of pain and the registering of
pain by fish cannot be proven and the weight of evidence suggests
that they cannot. That is what I believe.
Q368 Chairman: Ms Roxburgh, do shellfish
Ms Roxburgh: I believe that you
probably feel pain, but I cannot prove it. It is as simple as
that. If I went round and kicked you all on the shins, you would
all react. I might say, like the Cartesian philosophy, "Well,
it is purely a motor reaction". I do not know whether you
feel pain or not. I know I would, but I cannot say about you because
pain is a subjective experience. All subjective experiences are
experienced in different ways subjectively by the individual.
As an animal rights campaigner, I always object to the fact that
I have to talk about pain at all because I do not believe animals
should be killed under any circumstances, whether they feel pain
or not, but while I am here I have a different hat on; I am talking
about the welfare of the animals. I believe that whether we can
prove it or not, we have to give the animals the benefit of the
doubt. We do this in our courts; why can we not do it for the
animals? I am not saying that all of us should stop eating fish
and we should all stop killing the fish and catching the fish.
I am not talking about that here today. I am talking about the
way we treat food animals when we are rearing them. My remit is
for the invertebrates.
Q369 Mr Mitchell: Let me stop you there.
Your evidence is much more sympathetic to the shellfish we are
dealing with. Indeed, you say in the opening sentence: "Shellfish
suffer at all stages . . ." That is an absolutely frank statement.
Ms Roxburgh: That is right.
Q370 Mr Mitchell: What should the legislation
do about that?
Ms Roxburgh: In our submission,
we are talking about: trapping of the animals when they are in
the wild state; transport of the animals when they have been caughtand
all of this is in our submission of which you probably have copies
and have seen; storage of the animals when they have been transported;
selling the animals live to the public; and the killing of the
animals. In all those areas we believe that legislation can be
Q371 Mr Mitchell: So all those should
be included in the Bill?
Ms Roxburgh: Yes, all those should
be included in the Bill because they are food animals. We are
treating these as food animals, and therefore in all aspects we
could say that these are similar to farmed animals, because once
they have been caught, then they are treated in the same way:
they are transported, stored and killed. Therefore, they should
be treated in exactly the same way, and with the attitude that
these creatures, because scientifically there are some on one
side who say you canand I have a whole pile of stuff here
that you may be interested in and that is why I brought it alongCan
Invertebrates Suffer? This is all about suffering in invertebrates,
and a great deal of research has been done on that. This is the
Baker research, and I have read all of his diary notes on it as
well. We have others on pain in fish. It is not a small amount;
I am sorry, but it is not a small amount of scientific research;
there has been a lot of scientific research. We feel that it is
absolutely essential that we consider in those terms that there
is a strong possibility that these animals suffer in their way.
It may not be the human way, and it may be of course that we do
not have enough information and do not know whether we can prove
whether or not they suffer. That is our problem.
Q372 Mr Mitchell: You are not going to
eliminate the suffering, are you? We are going to eat them eventually.
Ms Roxburgh: Well, probably you
areI am not. Yes, a lot of people are going to eat them
eventually. It is a huge industry, so I am a practical person
and I am not going to say that overnight this industry is going
to come to an end. It is the welfare of the animals in
Q373 Mr Mitchell: What welfare provisions
are currently in place relating to shellfish?
Ms Roxburgh: Very few provisions,
to be quite honest, currently in place for these animals. In the
trapping of the animals you can use at the moment any kind of
pots, when we are talking about lobsters; the lobsters can be
left in those pots; they can be washed up on beaches; they can
die from sunstroke or starvation; they can be left in the sea
for many, many days or weeks on end. The transport of the animals
means they are put into conditions that are totally unnatural
for them. There is no reason for that. There are actually good
practices being considered. There is research on the type of traps
that could allow for much sooner release. The trap itself could
release the animal after so many days.
Q374 Chairman: These are your bio-degradable
Ms Roxburgh: That is right. How
much research has been done on that recently, because we have
been putting this forward for years now? It is quite a possibility,
like with the stitches that are self-dissolving. That could happen
in a much, much sooner time and could be included in the Bill.
Q375 Mr Mitchell: Is there any legislation
about how they are killed?
Ms Roxburgh: Not really, no. You
can put a live animal into boiling water; you can put a live animal
into cold water and bring it to the boil; you can cut the flesh
out of the live animal; you can cut an animal any way you like;
and you can sell live to the public. The public have no idea how
to kill an animal properly. There is a lot of good practice among
chefs, and they will practise properly on how to kill these animals,
especially crabs and lobstersthe others are very small
and more difficult. Let us concentrate for instance on the crabs
and lobsters. Good practice is methods of killing them as fast
as possible so that they do not suffer. A lot of the research
that has been done with boiling shows that they do suffer because
of their behaviour.
Q376 Chairman: In your evidence you juxtapose
death by being boiled, and the alternative, which you seem to
say is more humane, is death by being frozen in a plastic bag.
Ms Roxburgh: Yes. We do not know
whether that is a better way to do it. We have been told scientifically
that the very quick freezing method, which is putting them on
separate trays in bags and putting them at minus 20 in a deep-freeze
is probably much quicker and much less likely to cause them suffering,
but we do not know because they might get crystalline deposits
in their joints. We do not know. If you are going to kill them
at all, we are suggesting the Crustastun, and this is where Simon
comes in. It is an electronic stunning device that stuns them
immediately. Simon has sponsored this, and it is in the process
now of being manufactured.
Q377 Mr Mitchell: This does not have
to be handled by a vet.
Ms Roxburgh: Not necessarily,
no. They are not handled by vets now.
Q378 Mr Mitchell: I know, but the stunning
Ms Roxburgh: No, not at all, no.
Mr Buckhaven: Can I give you some
information about this? I have put together a small bundle, if
I can hand those in.
Ms Atherton: Can I just ask a question
while you are doing that? Coming from Cornwalllobsters
and crabs are quite an important part of our industry and
Chairman: Are you speaking for the industry
or the crabs and the lobsters?
Q379 Ms Atherton: I have to be honest,
that there is always a great debate as to who is going to be the
person and how we are going to do it. We have opted for the freezing
option for lobsters, because I agree with you that they do seem
to want to get out of the boiling water; they do not seem to just
stay there, do they? Will this stun gun though be of a price that
people in their ordinary kitchens can afford and not just our
great chefs? If it is of a price that people who are in a position
to purchase crabs and lobsters livewhich, let us face it,
is not cheapif they can get a stun gun in their kitchen,
that would be understandable and people would probably go along
Mr Buckhaven: At the moment, there
is no known method, apart from ours which we have developed between
the Bristol University Food and Animal Department and Silsoe Research
Institute. The only way of stunning crabs and lobsters is electronically.
We have devised that. You can have what is called a stand-alone
for fishmongers in restaurants. We have now also developed a continuous
flow method for processors who have to have about 1.2 tonnes of
crabs per hour. The first prototype has been manufactured in Canada
by a producer of shellfish equipment. Someone in CornwallI
will not name hima new processing plant has ordered it.
It is now being finally tested in Canada and will be shipped over
in the later part of this month for production. It works perfectly.
The crabs are almost instantaneously knocked out, anaesthetised,
and they are killed within 10 seconds. This goes through a conveyor
belt system. You can do this with crabs and lobsters, and with
crayfish, although we have not actually made the crayfish one
yet. That already has been purchased by a shellfish producer.
There are a number of shellfish producers in Scotland who want
the same equipment because it is economically viable for them
to have it. This is not even on humanitarian grounds. At the moment,
you cannot boil a crab immediately without it losing a claw, sheddingit
is a reflex action; it loses and sheds something. Some people
relate that to pain. In order to therefore produce it commercially,
they bring in the crabs and they put them in holding tanks of
fresh water. It is regarded by most scientists, because it swells
up within the body, as being more cruel, but that is the only
way they can do it, and it takes between eight to 12 hours. All
the shellfish producers throughout the world work on that basis.
What they have found is that sometimes they fight each other and
lose limbs, and sometimes you have a dead crab that has been brought
up, and that deteriorates between 25-30% faster than anything
boiled; so they are cooking something which has already gone past
best buy. In this way, as soon as it comes off the sea, they are
brought in; they are put in these conveyor belt systems; they
are as fresh as anything and are seen by each individual as they
go through. They are zapped immediately, and there is virtually
no wastage at all. The company in Canada are even less squeamish;
they chop up the crabs alive, and in doing that they have 18%
wastage, so they are interested in this because this actually
kills them first. They do not bother about anything else and they
sell them fresh, cut up, and therefore they are interested in
this machine. This machine now is working and, as I say, there
is demand from the producers themselves. I have two photographs
there of the machine. It is quite large, but it fits in. The one
you see in the photograph does 1.3 tonnes per hour of crab. So
far as the stand-alone one is concerned, that has been developed
and we have a prototype, which is at the moment being re-designed
for commercial catering establishments. At the moment it looks
a bit primitive; it has an ammeter, and one does away with all
that. So far, I have had inquiries from at least one relatively
large chain of restaurants in Belgium, and something like 50 restaurants.
Because this has been dealt with in the catering and fishing news,
they have got to know about it, and so they have approached me
about that, and I have potentially something like 50-70 restaurants
wanting to use this machine.