Humane Trapping Standards

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Dr. Vis: I have read the RSPCA literature. I do not always read the material that comes before this Committee because I represent an urban constituency, not a rural one in which there are more animals than in Finchley and Golders Green. However, what I have read is quite unacceptable. We strengthen our hands tremendously in the context of the EU if we collectively vote against the measure.

2.25 pm

Mr. Foster: We purists, who feel strongly about animal welfare, think that the package is not good enough. I am always persuaded on such matters, and I am aware of the Minister's and the Department's concerns for animal welfare, so they are almost certainly doing the best they can. In the European context, we often need to accept half a loaf rather than going without any bread at all.

I support the Government's position on the basis that the directive is better than the current situation, but I urge the Government to retain the higher standards that we employ. If possible, we should persuade colleagues in the European Community, who have not always been as conscious of animal welfare as we have, that it is good to have high animal welfare standards not only for animals, but for people. I genuinely believe that the way we treat animals often affects the way we treat people.

2.26 pm

Mrs. Dean: The Minister has explained that if we vote for the motion, we are not voting in favour of the directive. Therefore, I support the motion on the basis that I hope that the Minister will convince his counterparts in Europe that the directive needs strengthening, particularly in relation to imports from countries that still use leghold traps. This Committee should send the message that we want more humane trapping, where trapping is necessary, and that by supporting the motion we are not supporting the directive, but are giving the Minister ammunition to fight the corner for the arguments that we have all expressed today. We need to ensure that our MEPs are aware of the feelings of this Committee and can battle for an improved directive.

2.27 pm

Mr. Bradshaw: I thank members of the Committee for their contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Foster) made the important point that it is always important to remember that, if at all possible, we want to maintain or improve animal welfare standards in the United Kingdom while not jeopardising any improvement that might result from new regulations or directives in other EU countries that do not have the same levels of animal welfare. The
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Government's objective in all this will be to achieve an overall improvement in animal welfare in the UK and other countries while not plunging us into a new trade war—the hon. Member for Ludlow warned us against that—which would be damaging to all concerned.

This has been a useful initial canter around the issue. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Ludlow in his place as the official Opposition for the day at least, fulfilling a long-time ambition for him and his party. I reassure members of the Committee and others who may be following our proceedings that this is the beginning of a process; there is no directive as such before us at the moment. We will continue our discussions with interested parties, such as animal welfare organisations, and suggest to the Commission ways in which the directive can be improved. An agreement is still a considerable time away. During that time we will undertake full consultation and all the representations made during that consultation will be made publicly available.

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Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 4, Noes 1.

Division No. 1]

Dean, Mrs. Janet
Foster, Mr. Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Green, Matthew
Palmer, Dr. Nick

Vis, Dr. Rudi

Question accordingly agreed to.


    That the Committee takes note of European Union document No. 12200/04, draft Directive on introducing humane trapping standards for certain animal species; and supports the Government's view that the humane trapping standards should be implemented and adopted in the United Kingdom.

        Committee rose at twenty-nine minutes past Two o'clock.

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