Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill [HL]

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Let us consider what this committee will do. We are told that it will be independent, so it can produce reports on anything that it wants. My noble friend Lady Fookes says that it cannot produce a report on the whole question of ritual slaughter, basically because that has already been taken care of in legislation. Is that true? If the committee is completely independent, presumably it can produce a report on anything that it wants. It could put pressure on the Government to say, “Actually, the existing legislation that covers ritual slaughter is inadequate, therefore something should be done about it.” This committee is either independent or it is not. Presumably, it can produce a report on the poisoning of rats. They are sentient creatures—the Bill covers both animals in the wild and domestic animals. Their poisoning is not very pleasant in the absence of terriers which, let us face it, kill rats rather more cleanly and humanely than any other way. Nowadays they invariably get poisoned; presumably, a report could be produced on that. We are creating a monster here and in the long term we will live to regret it.
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab)
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My Lords, can I add to what the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, has just said? I remind those in the House who have not looked closely at the terms of reference of the relationship that is anticipated between this new committee and the excellent existing Animal Welfare Committee. They are to have a joint secretariat with Defra, a joint website, a joint point of contact and the same Defra budget. Both will give views and advice about the effects on animal welfare of policy decisions, including prospective future policy and policy currently being formulated, and they will consult one another. The same people can be members of both committees and on occasions give joint advice and attend one another’s meetings. I repeat: I still do not understand why, with a powerful and excellent committee already in existence, we are spending time on the Bill in this House today.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I have listened with care to what has been said and find the arguments convincing. However, I am slightly concerned about the proposition put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and supported by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. As I understand the procedure now, if the Minister agrees to such a meeting but then decides to do nothing, we can do nothing at Third Reading. I would like clarification that we could not bring forward an amendment at Third Reading unless there was an indication from the Government today that it would be accepted. I think that is the new procedure.

I have two questions for my noble friend that are relevant. Does he agree with the situation north of the border and the attitude taken by NatureScot that:

“The death of an animal, at an individual level, is not a welfare issue but the manner in which an animal dies is”?

If he agrees with that, will he give an instruction to the committee to follow that same principle? Does he also agree with the thoughts of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in New Zealand, which distinguishes between societal ethical values and public opinion? Again, if he agrees with that animal sentience committee’s thoughts, would he give the same instruction to the committee that he proposes to set up?