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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380-389)



  Q380 Chairman: Mr Buckhaven, I am going to stop you there not out of discourtesy, but I want you to switch back to being a lawyer for a moment and assist us to understand how the Bill should be amended or used to achieve the objective which you have graphically described for us. Where do we have to change it to get to a situation where the species you have identified could be killed by the method you have identified?

  Mr Buckhaven: First, I would refer on page 2 to the New Zealand legislation, which in fact is very well thought-out legislation. It has a wide definition of animals, which as you can see includes everything there; but there is an exclusion on page 3. Although it makes no distinction between domesticated or wild animals save for an exemption, in the case of hunting and fishing and captured wild animals—so long as its capture is for the purpose of facilitating its imminent destruction; otherwise wild animals in captivity are covered by the legislation. Therefore, in this case the definition of animal should include all these, including fish, octopus, squid, crab, lobster, et cetera. At the moment for example, if you look at the background, there are slaughter regulations—and I am really talking about those here because these are what matter. At the moment, one has the European Directive from back in 1993 dealing with slaughter regulation. That applies the Directive which says, "animals shall be spared any avoidable excitement, pain or suffering during movement . . . slaughter or killing." Defra believes that that does not apply to crabs and lobsters, although there is some doubt about it because the English regulations have taken that on, and you will see that the UK legislation is 1995, which again applies the regulations in the same way to the "stunning, slaughter or killing of animals bred or kept for the production of meat". They say that it does not include these. We are seeking that this legislation should make it clear that it does apply to the larger crustaceans in respect of which we know we can deal with it in an electronic fashion. As the Committee will know, virtually all slaughter regulations in the Western world deal essentially with stunning the animal before they kill it. Most stunning takes place electronically, sometimes physically, and until now there has been no electronic method of dealing with crabs, lobsters and crayfish. We have it now. We know it works. When the question of cost has been raised, the shellfish producers in Cornwall think it is very viable in terms of the equipment they have to use. For restaurants we are talking between £1,000-£2,000 per machine. In terms of catering equipment it is minimal.

  Q381 Mr Mitchell: Has the New Zealand legislation stopped killing by boiling?

  Mr Buckhaven: No, at the moment that is all they do; they kill crabs by boiling.

  Q382 Mr Mitchell: In New Zealand?

  Mr Buckhaven: No, it has stopped that completely.

  Q383 Mr Mitchell: You mentioned the exemption of fishing and capturing for the purpose of facilitating its imminent destruction, but some anglers chuck the fish back, do they not?

  Dr Broughton: Good anglers certainly do not throw fish back; they return them carefully to the water.

  Q384 Mr Mitchell: For the purpose of its imminent destruction.

  Dr Broughton: It is almost the universal practice amongst those people that coarse fish for roach, bream, perch and tench and so on, that fish are caught and released. They might go back a little bit wiser, but they would certainly have the opportunity to get larger, and maybe somebody might capture them in the future. In game angling for trout and salmon and in sea angling it is commonplace, and it is now the law that spring-caught salmon must, under Environment Agency bye-laws, be returned alive to the water; so it is an intrinsic part of angling.

  Ms Roxburgh: We are speaking in this case about food animals, not animals used in recreation, so there is a huge difference here between angling for—

  Q385 Mr Mitchell: Well, not with salmon, if salmon have got to be put back, it is recreation.

  Ms Roxburgh: Yes it is, if it is for recreation, if they are going to be put back; otherwise they must be destroyed as soon as possible, yes.

  Q386 Mr Mitchell: If the provisions you want, like the tubes for transporting shellfish in are included in the Bill, and the method of killing everything, will there not be an enormous problem of enforcement?

  Ms Roxburgh: Is there not always a problem of enforcement? We would not include things just because we are not sure whether we can enforce it or not. There are all sorts of things we are not sure we can enforce, but nevertheless there should be legislation which considers these attitudes, and gradually introduces them. I can see no reason why they cannot gradually be enforced either. I do not think that people who are dealing with shellfish are beastly, horrible, cruel people who are going to do nasty things; if there is a way of storing and transporting these animals that actually gives a 1% death rate instead of whatever it is, then they are going to be pleased about it anyway; but they do not want to hurt the animals just for the sake of it. It is their livelihood, but they are not killing them for the sake of it, they are killing them for food. Therefore, we have to remember that this is not being done out of cruelty; it is being done at the moment out of necessity, but we could make that necessity much better.

  Q387 Patrick Hall: I think the logic of what Julie Roxburgh said earlier was that in order to ensure that the best practice with regard to disposal of shellfish of stunning becomes the norm and the law in this country, therefore shellfish must be embraced by this Bill, and that is because shellfish are being, in a sense gathered together or farmed for food. If one follows that logic, if that is the only way to ensure that that good practice becomes the norm, is it not the same as saying sea fishing must be encompassed by the Bill because they are "farmed" for food? Therefore, we may be in some difficulties there.

  Ms Roxburgh: I do not know. I am not here to talk about sea fishing. If I were, I would have answers available, but I am not. I am here to talk about the methods used to trap, store, transport and kill invertebrates. I feel that this is a very important part because whether sea fishing or commercial fishing is going to be included or not, fish are vertebrates, and in the 1911 Act they are considered to be animals, but invertebrates essentially are not. Vets generally do not even have any training in invertebrates, so they are not even thought of in these terms. This, I think, is the first time ever that invertebrates as such have been considered to be included in a bill as food animals. That is the only thing we are talking about here.

  Q388 Patrick Hall: Mr Buckhaven has gone into considerable detail about a method that is a more humane way of killing shellfish. If it could not be done within this Bill, is he aware of another way of doing that within the statutory framework?

  Mr Buckhaven: Yes, it could be included in the regulations. We already have regulations on slaughter of animals, and one would merely have to include shellfish within those regulations.

  Ms Roxburgh: I would just like to add that we would like the trapping, transport and storage to be included as well, or at least given consideration; or it could be included in such a way as Simon has said. I have got information here on pain in invertebrates that I would like you all to have copies of.

  Q389 Chairman: That last point, I know, is covered by your evidence, particularly on the question of transport. Ms Roxburgh, gentlemen, can I thank you for the very helpful answers you have given and the time and trouble you have taken, particularly in written form, to provide us with your initial submissions, and indeed the Shellfish Network for the subsequent and very helpful information that you have provided. Thank you for giving your time to give evidence to the Committee today.

  Ms Roxburgh: Thank you for giving us the opportunity.

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