Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Jopling: The debate seems to be moving in the direction of trying to suggest to the Minister how the Government should be thinking between now and Report stage, when they will come back with their proposals with regard to dogs. I support the amendments and I, too, am glad that the Government are having a rethink on this. We all look forward with great interest to seeing what the Government come up with.

I ask the Government not to take steps in their new proposals which could do a great deal of damage to one of the traditional Lake District sports, hound trailing. I declare an interest as a member of a hound trail association, as a part-owner of a trail hound and as patron of Ambleside Sports, which is one of the premier hound trail events during the summer.

For those of your Lordships who may not be familiar with hound trailing, a paraffin and aniseed drag is laid over a course of about 12 miles around the mountain tops; up to 30 or 40 hounds are let off together and they have what amounts to a race. There is huge local interest in this. The hound trails are reported on the local radio every morning they happen by the lady who trains my hound, who is also a part-owner of it.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1401

The hound trails take place on high land. The course is run over common land and over land which is more than 600 metres high. It is essential that the Government double check to ensure that when they come back with their proposals they do not inhibit in any way the great sport of hound trailing, which is followed by hundreds and thousands of people.

The sport is extremely carefully policed. If a hound disappears and does not come back from a trail, after a period of time all hound trailing is suspended; and if there are any cases of sheep-worrying the most stringent steps are taken to deal with it. It is a well regulated sport. I hope that the Government will not do anything inadvertently to upset the sport. I am sure that they would not wish to do that. It would be a tragedy if anything were to appear in the Government's new regulations which would make it impossible to continue hound trailing.

Baroness Mallalieu: I, too, thank the Minister for what he said about the Government's willingness to look at this matter, but I must sound a slightly discordant note following the remarks of my noble friend Lady Young about what I accept is an idiosyncrasy so far as rights of way are concerned. When the Government come to look at whether the same provisions should apply to rights of way as to open access land, I hope that they will bear in mind that a great many people in this country enjoy riding on bridleways, with dogs under control but which clearly cannot be on a short lead. Indeed, in many cases a long lead would be positively dangerous. I hope that the Government will not restrict access which, on the whole, works very well now. Will the Minister bear that in mind if he is considering imposing further restrictions on rights of way?

Lord Plumb: I, too, support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Byford. I welcome the comment of the Minister that he is prepared to look at the whole issue. I should like to know what the proposals might be before commenting further.

Will the Minister consider Amendment No. 126, which is tabled by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and to which he may refer later? It comes under the same umbrella of the problem of dogs, many of which may move in packs and do untold damage, particularly among sheep flocks. I have personal experience of that. Not so long ago, I was called by a neighbour at four o'clock one Saturday morning, and we found more than 100 sheep lying dead or dying, with their guts hanging out. I assure the Committee that it was a horrible sight. If those who say that dogs must have every right to roam in these areas had witnessed what I witnessed that morning, they would perhaps have second thoughts.

Will the Minister also bear in mind the fact that, following the BSE crisis, the traceability of animals or animal products is now completely under control? We have reached a stage where there is complete traceability of animals from stable to table. Therefore, there should be control of all the domestic animals on farms, bearing in mind the fact that Amendment No.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1402

126 refers to the introduction on land which forms part of an agricultural holding and is subject to a nationally administered help or management scheme.

Therefore, this comes down to the holding itself. Since every animal moved from farm to farm, from land to land, must carry a passport, I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the fact that dogs that are allowed to roam in those same areas should at least carry a veterinary certificate to satisfy people that there is some cover to stop the spread of either parasitic disease or other diseases that might spread from animal to wild animal, and which can then cause more damage in the countryside. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take these points into account when considering how to deal with the problem. I agree with other speakers that the Government will have difficulty in reaching a solution acceptable to all in terms of presentation.

12.45 a.m.

The Duke of Montrose: Prompted by the speech of my noble friend Lord Plumb, perhaps I may speak to my Amendment No. 126. I have received great support for the amendment from all who understand what it is to try to make a living from farming. I am afraid that I cannot readily accept the contention of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that it is only those with an interest in shooting and game conservation who are proposing amendments to the Bill. I have represented farmers in my area for over 25 years in different capacities. The negative effects on their livelihoods that could emanate from the Bill are likely to be much greater proportionally than their effect on the city gent who likes his shooting. For some, it may be all they need to make them quit.

As my noble friend Lord Plumb said, great efforts are being made to improve the standards of our livestock husbandry and to produce a quality-assured product, and to produce animals of higher health status. All of these schemes have rules and criteria on which the guarantees are based. Among them are regulations regarding the treatment using anthelmintic products for worms in dogs. Under the assured British meat scheme inspection process, one of the criteria is that the non-worming of dogs can be marked as a serious non-conforming to the rules. Only two or three such serious non-conforming aspects are needed in order for one to find oneself thrown out of the accreditation scheme, with the loss of the money that one has invested. One then has to start again. There are parasites in dogs that are a threat to sheep and to the health of man.

I should mention a case concerning some neighbours of mine, a young couple. The wife originates from the neighbourhood of some mining villages in Wales. She had suffered the effects of one of these parasites and was lucky to survive by having only one lung removed. The seriousness of some of these diseases is very great. However, I shall leave the technical element in all this to my noble friend Lord Soulsby, who can give the Committee a much clearer idea of the seriousness of the matter.

3 Oct 2000 : Column 1403

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: In view of the Minister's statement that the matter will be further considered as regards dogs, it seems appropriate to deal now with Amendment No. 126. The problems of parasites and parasitic infections have been mentioned by my noble friends Lady Byford and the Duke of Montrose, as has their transmission by dogs accompanied by their owners on land. The risks here are greatest on marginal land, especially with sheep farming. However, it does not apply entirely to sheep farming because dairy farming may also be concerned.

The parasites that are of particular concern are Hydatid Tapeworm, which is a distinct problem in Wales particularly in sheep. But it is also occurring increasingly in humans now. Unfortunately, the control programmes that were in place have been allowed to lapse somewhat. An increasing number of childhood cases are being recognised. Dogs carry this tapeworm and can contaminate the land where sheep are grazing. The other is the ascarid parasite Toxocara, which is the cause of ill-health in children but can also affect both sheep and pigs. There is a relatively new parasite that affects cattle--Neospora--which is responsible for abortion in cattle and, indeed, in other animals.

The amendment identifies the local veterinary surgeon as the person who would prescribe at intervals the necessary treatment. We believe that he is the best person to know the local situation with respect to parasitic diseases rather than making an overall directive. He can assess the local situation much better than other people.

Lest noble Lords should think that this amendment addresses a minor hazard of low risk, perhaps they can recall the very recent problems of swine fever in East Anglia, which was caused not by dogs but probably by the discarding of a sandwich containing meat from the Far East. That has yet to be proved, but the virus concerned has been traced to a Far-Eastern strain. No doubt the owner of the sandwich thought that there was no major difficulty in getting rid of it, but that slight mishap has caused an enormous problem in East Anglia. That is the type of hazard--

Baroness Thornton: Although this is actually nothing to do with dogs, I feel it is important to mention something in terms of the ham-sandwich theory and swine fever. Many noble Lords will have received documentation about this clarifying that it is much too specific to say that that is what caused the outbreak of swine fever. All that MAFF has stated about this matter so far is that it was the result of an illegally imported pork product. All other reports are simply speculation. I thought it important to clarify that point at this stage.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page