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Hydatidosis Control

Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 3 March 1992

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5.1 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit dogs being fed on raw meat and offal derived from fallen or casualty livestock; and for connected purposes.
I welcome the opportunity to introduce the Bill, to highlight the fact that dogs fed on raw meat and offal from fallen livestock are a major source of a disease that not only costs the farm and meat industries millions of pounds, but annually kills people and puts hundreds in hospital for surgery.

Under present arrangements, a provision by the Government enables fox and other hunting packs to bypass health regulations on the disposal of dead farm animals. Hunting hounds are virtually all fed on uncooked meat and offal from fallen stock from farms, despite the fact that European directive 90/667/EEC requires that animal waste be disposed of by rendering, burning or burial to prevent the spread of diseases.

At present, at least 25,000 hounds are kept in Britain to hunt foxes, deer, hares and mink. Virtually all of them are fed on uncooked meat and offal from farm casualties. The hounds ingest taenia hydatigena tapeworms from the uncooked casualty animals and then defecate the tapeworm eggs back on to pasture while the hounds are out hunting. Sheep and lambs, in particular, ingest the eggs while grazing and become reinfected with the tapeworm, which damages the animals' livers and causes cysts.

Investigations by veterinarians published in The Veterinary Record have revealed that, in a single abattoir, lambs' livers were so badly damaged by tapeworms that the majority were rejected for human consumption, representing in that abattoir an annual loss of £25,000 at 1984 prices. Another investigation published in The Veterinary Record concluded:
"Taenia Hydatigena causes very high rates of liver condemnation and it is probable that, nationally, it is now the major cause of the lesions and losses in lambs' livers."
In all reports, researchers state that untreated raw meat and offal from fallen livestock should never be fed to dogs.

The Meat and Livestock Commission claims that such tapeworms cause
"considerable harm to the production of sheep."
It adds:
"About a fifth of lambs slaughtered in Great Britain are infected with cysts. This loss is caused solely by tapeworms in dogs and is avoidable … Never feed raw meat, offals or sheep heads; feed only cooked meat … Working dogs and hounds are the main reservoir of dog tapeworms affecting sheep; foxes and pet dogs much less so."
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Agricultural Development and Advisory Service also acknowledges the dangers of hydatidosis to human and animal health. It points out:
"Eggs laid by the tapeworm are passed in the faeces of the dog and this may contaminate herbage consumed by cattle and sheep or vegetables intended for human consumption."
If an egg is swallowed by livestock or humans, it hatches in the intestine and eventually ends up in the liver, where it develops into a cyst. Cysts can also form in the lungs, bones or even in the brain. Records from ADAS state:
"on average 12 persons die each year from hydatidosis. In addition several hundred persons have to undergo surgical operations for the removal of the cysts."
In recent answers given to me by the Ministry, I have been able to establish that at least five people died in the past 12 months because of that illness. ADAS advises:
"Dogs must not be fed raw meat or offal. It is safer to boil or sterilise all meat and offal before feeding."
I have a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture, which states:
"Undoubtedly, hounds, or hunting dogs, arc also sources of tapeworm infection …studies by the Ministry's veterinary officers have demonstrated that hounds are frequently infected with a variety of tapeworms, including Taenia Hydatigena and they may contaminate pastures over which they roam."
A further report published in The Veterinary Record stated that an examination of 11 packs of hounds in the west country—seven packs of fox hounds, two of stag hounds and two of beagles—found that all but one were fed on uncooked raw meat and offal. Tapeworm segments were even found in the faeces of hounds wormed every two months.

MAFF has written to the League Against Cruel Sports saying that its officials have regularly met the Masters of Fox Hounds Association. That correspondence stated that it had
"brought to their attention the risks which hounds may pose to the industry … and the need to feed cooked offal" However, virtually all hunts still continue to ignore that risk to human and animal health. The Government refuse to order hunts to feed cooked meat and offal only to their hounds, despite the acknowledged damage that the disease causes to livestock and human life and health.
The Dogs Act 1906 makes it an offence to leave sheep carcases unburied because of the risk of dogs finding and feeding upon them and thereby spreading parasites and disease. However, it is not an offence to feed deliberately such carcases raw to dogs. It is an offence under the Protein Processing Order 1989 and the Diseases of Animals (Waste Food) Order 1973 to include unprocessed animal material in feeding stuffs for livestock or poultry. It would be a simple matter for the Government to amend the orders to apply the same regulations to the feeding of dogs. However, because the Government choose not to do so, I find it necessary to present the Bill.

The House might also wish to know that The Veterinary Record of 4 January 1992 contained a letter from two experts in the disease who complained that a control scheme in south Powys had been "eased". Mr. T. M. H. Walters, the co-ordinator of the disease control campaign and Dr. S. Lloyd of Cambridge university's department of clinical veterinary medicine warned that that easing of controls might lead to a breakdown, and added:
"such a breakdown might first be confirmed as new cases in children."
Hydatidosis is a disease which, if tackled in the way that the Bill suggests, could be eliminated from Britain as it has been from Iceland, which had a much greater incidence of it. New Zealand is also engaged in a similar eradication campaign, with considerable success. Those countries have taken steps to prevent dogs from having access to condemned offal.

It is clear that Britain will continue to suffer human death and illnesses, as well as the loss of millions of pounds to the farming and meat industries, if the Government refuse to ban the feeding of uncooked meat and offal from casualty stock to the 25,000 hounds that run in packs, two or three days a week, for nine months of the year on agricultural land.

I have access to video film and photographs taken last summer at the kennels of the Tegryn fox hounds in Pembrokeshire. Those hounds were kept in a ramshackle hut and pen, which they shared with the rotting carcases of sheep, cattle and ponies "donated" by local farmers. That exposure has led to those kennels being closed, but it is safe to assume that similar conditions exist elsewhere, particularly among the 40 unregistered "fox destruction clubs" in Wales.

On boxing day every year, about 400 hunts assemble in their various local centres. The hunters encourage children to fondle the hounds, which, unused to such affection, are often seen licking the children's faces. Allowing hounds fed on raw meat and offal from casualty stock in various stages of decay to lick and be fondled by children is totally irresponsible. A child need swallow only one egg from the thousands produced by a single tapeworm to be infected by a disease which could result in hospitalisation, surgery and even death.

All the evidence shows that the hidden costs to farming, the meat industry and the national health service caused by hounds defecating disease on grazing pasture and crops must be considerable. My Bill seeks to save the country those costs. Hunt kennels should cook or freeze the meat and offal that they obtain from farmers before it is fed to their dogs.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Alan Meale, Mr. Don Dixon, Mr. Frank Haynes, Mr. Allen McKay, Mr. Tony Banks, Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie, Mr. Bob Cryer. Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Ray Powell, Mr. Richard Caborn and Mr. Terry Lewis.

Hydatidosis Control

Mr. Alan Meale accordingly presented a Bill to prohibit dogs being fed on raw meat and offal derived from fallen or casualty livestock; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 6 March and to be printed. [Bill 101.]