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Earl Ferrers: If that is so, and I quite accept it, what is so objectionable about having a skin in the form of a shoe which does not apply to having a skin in the form of a fur? They are both skins. It is merely the amount of fur or whiskers that come out of the skin which determines whether or not it is a fur.
Baroness Hayman: The noble Earl is focusing on the end product, which is not what we are trying to outlaw, rather than focusing on what we are trying to outlaw--the breeding and slaughter of animals for the sole purpose of their fur. If one thinks about leather production, one is talking about a by-product for a dual purpose; one is not talking about a sole or primary purpose. The Bill does not outlaw the wearing of fur or the wearing of leather, or the selling of fur or the selling of leather. We are talking about the activity of farming; that is, breeding for slaughter animals for the primary purpose of fur production.
Lord Monson: Perhaps I may put a question to the noble Baroness. She said that the Government object to the breeding of mink for the sole purpose of their fur, and I understand her position in relation to that. But I presume that the meat of slaughtered mink is not currently suitable for use as pet food. Otherwise, it would surely already have been used in that way. Let us suppose that chemists devise a method of treating mink meat so that it became suitable as pet food and was subsequently sold as such. Would that not undermine the Government's support for the Bill, because then there would be a dual purpose for the slaughtered mink?
I turn to Amendment No. 5. The Bill provides for the ending of the keeping of mink solely or primarily for slaughter for their fur. It does not matter for how long mink are kept, whether it is a day, a year or a decade, the point is the same. We do not want to see animals imported solely for slaughter for their fur on the same day. We regard this as unacceptable in terms of public morality and, therefore, we could not accept the amendment as it would permit such a trade to continue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, made the point that we should be supporting an import trade in an activity that we are setting out to legislate against within England and Wales. On that basis, I hope the Committee will agree that the primary issues behind these amendments have been dealt with within the Bill and I hope that they will not be pursued.
Lord Kimball: Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she clear up the point about a mink that has escaped and is then taken, quite correctly, in a cage trap. What is the position in regard to that? There is no reason why that mink cannot be sold and so on. It is a wild animal and has been caught in a trap. Why can it not be sold?
Baroness Hayman: I shall try and think on my feet while others think sitting down. I suggest to the noble Lord that what we are talking about here is not sale; we are talking about breeding and slaughter for commercial purpose. In that sense, a wild mink caught in the trap would not be covered by this Bill, and therefore the sale of its fur would not be illegal.
Lord Davies of Coity: Perhaps I can ask a question arising out of that, because there seems to be a problem inasmuch as it perhaps opens the door for some abuse. As mink can be released into the wild and then trapped that undermines the purpose of the Bill, if the Minister is correct in that regard.
Baroness Hayman: Other legislation covers that issue, and my noble friend Lord Hardy referred to it at Second Reading and again today. There are very tight strictures against the release of mink into the wild, and so an offence would be committed by anyone who was trying to circumvent the law in that particular way.
The Earl of Carnarvon: Perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. If a farmer was keeping merino sheep for wool, or a rabbit farmer was keeping chinchilla for fur, you are saying that those two areas would not be involved. Is that correct?
Baroness Hayman: I am saying that the sole purpose of the keeping and slaughter for the production of fur--and we have had some debate about that--is an offence. If the fur is shorn or clipped--one can think
Baroness Hayman: Yes it will. It is quite clear that it includes rabbits if they are not kept primarily for the purpose of meat. The issue is whether there is a joint purpose of food production and fur production. That is one test. The other test is whether the fur can be extracted without slaughter, which is the alpaca question.
Earl Ferrers: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for those answers. I understand that she was struggling a little for the appropriate riposte. The majority of the amendments that have been put down are really for clarification, and I would have thought that they could do nothing but help the Bill. I was surprised when the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, said that she did not like Amendment No. 5 because it encourages trade. I thought the Liberal Democrat Party liked to encourage trade, but apparently not over this.
I was also interested by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. I know how keen he is on the wildlife and so forth, particularly that near to him. He said that mink would do terrible damage if it were let out. Of course, it is perfectly true. One mink farmer had 9,000 mink and an animal rights group let out 7,500. It is not the farmers who are doing the harm; it is these people who are deeply offensive--and more than deeply offensive. They throw things at them; they swear at them; they even follow their children to school. It is the farmers whom the noble Baroness should be protecting rather encouraging through the provisions of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that he was in favour of the mink being destroyed, because if they escaped they would eat up all the wildlife. Mink have a right to live too, and should not necessarily be destroyed.
Earl Ferrers: That is not much of an argument. I do not see why people cannot bring things from outside. If the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, were to look at his garden and other gardens, he would find endless cherry trees that were imported from Japan. They are not indigenous to this country, but they add to the glory of it. It is not much of an argument to say that, because an animal started off in another country, it has no right here particularly when it is being kept securely.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said that it was not necessary to include moles because we do not farm moles. However, the mole catcher farms moles; he makes his living out of the pelts, and they are not caged.
Earl Ferrers: I do not breed them; they breed themselves! The argument that it is all right to breed rabbits if you keep them for meat and fur, but not if you keep them for fur only is absurd. When I was a child, I used to keep rabbits; I remember having chinchillas and silver foxes. One would now be described now as a criminal if one kept those animals only for their fur.
It is an absurd argument that it is all right to keep an animal if you kill it for its meat, but not if you kill it for its fur. I know some people do not like using fur, but others do. It is not the Government's duty to pontificate and moralise as to who is right or wrong. For the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, to say that it is right to kill for an animal's meat but not for its fur is a bad argument.
Lord Davies of Coiyy: Before the noble Earl sits down, I am somewhat intrigued that he failed to make any distinction as regards the breeding of animals for the purpose of food. We eat; we survive; and we live. That is to be distinguished from the breeding of animals simply for decoration. That is the essence of the argument. We breed animals to eat, and that is permissible. However, it is not permissible to breed animals simply in order to take their fur for decoration.
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