Skip to main content


Volume 170: debated on Thursday 19 April 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on measures available to protect horses and other equines from abuse; and if he will make a statement.

There are numerous measures that protect equines on common land, on farm, during transit and at export. We hope to introduce specific controls on horse markets in the next few months, and will press in the Community to retain controls on export of horses for slaughter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the horse is man's oldest and most faithful friend and that our history and prosperity have been borne on his back, but that horses will suffer severe and cruel deaths in the knackers' yards of Europe after 1992, unless suitable action is taken to replace British legislation on minimum values? Will he ensure that the Government will somehow get into place right across Europe proper legislation to safeguard horses, especially British horses, from cruel deaths?

I should think that only my two dogs would disagree with the first part of my hon. Friend's assertion about man's best friend. I can give him the absolute assurance that we are determined to fight as strongly as we can for the unique British system of minimum values for horses, because we are all aware of the strength of feeling that horses should be protected better than the present EC proposal suggests.

What are the Government doing to improve the EEC standards? Does the Minister accept that many people are worried about live animals exported for slaughter, because standards of care for animals throughout the Common Market vary and are often lower than United Kingdom standards? Is not it about time that the Government stood up to the EEC Commission and told it to get on with the job of improving standards, instead of capitulating on every occasion?

The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends must decide which tack to take. Previously they have accused us of resisting too many EC proposals that we think are disadvantageous to the interests of this country. Now the hon. Gentleman's line is that we are capitulating. We shall not capitulate on animal welfare. We shall fight strenuously for our animals and their welfare at slaughter. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister recently took an initiative in the EC to extend the excellent British system throughout the EC. We shall argue for that.

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is nationwide anxiety that when our horses and ponies finish their useful lives they should not be allowed to be exported live for slaughter, with all the misery that that may entail? Does he think it intolerable that our European partners should force us to reduce our standards in any way? Will he please do his best to ensure that that does not happen?

I am delighted to give my hon. Friend that assurance. I urge him and our hon. Friends to lobby in the European Parliament and the European Commission, to show the extent of feeling in Britain for our unique system of minimum values. My hon. Friends and I are doing our bit, arguing to maintain the system, but we need the support of welfare organisations in this country and Europe to convince everyone that minimum values are good and should stay.