Lord Livsey of Talgarth asked Her
Whether they will place a moratorium on the European
Union animal by-products regulation relating to the disposal of animal carcasses
until such time as adequate collection and disposal facilities are in place and
accessible to the farming community.
My Lords, the Government will
not be seeking a moratorium relating to the disposal of animal carcasses. The collection and
disposal industries advise that there is already sufficient capacity within the
existing infrastructure to deal with the estimated additional quantities of
fallen stock arising from the ban on on-farm burial.
of Talgarth: My
Lords, will the Minister acknowledge that dead farm animals have been buried for
the past two millennia in Britain? Given the current problems which the farming
unions predict will result in chaos after the 1st May deadline, will he take
urgent action to provide a free disposal service and a dispensation for burial
for remote upland areas in Wales, south-west England and the north of
Lord Whitty: My Lords, farm burial has been a feature of
farming for longer than I can remember—two millennia is almost certainly
correct. However, it presents environmental problems for watercourses and in
terms of animal disease, which is why the European legislation was introduced.
The animal by-products regulation will apply from 1st May. As I indicated the
other day in response to a different Question, the Government have been trying
since last April to discuss the issue with the industry in order to try to
establish a system of collection and disposal. The capacity is there, as I said
in my initial Answer, but the industry is reluctant to put any of its own
resources into providing that disposal system. So any failure to have a fully
operational system as from 1st May lies at the door of the industry, not the
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, why is it permissible for human beings
to be buried but not animals?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, by and large, human beings are buried in
coffins and in land that has been limed. That prevents the type of seepage about
which we are concerned that occurs when there is a substantial quantity of
animal burial. If the same precautions had to be taken for animal burial as for
human burial, the cost to farmers would be considerably greater than that
required by the directive.
Lord Renton: My Lords, bearing in mind that incineration has
proved a respectful and successful way of disposing of human remains, would it
not be one of the best ways of disposing of animal remains?
Whitty: My Lords,
incineration is possible under the regulation. What is not possible is on-farm
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, a number of those who farm the hill and
upland areas in places such as Dumfriesshire will be very disappointed by the
Minister's Answer. The moratorium would, I believe, be a suitable way of filling
in the period between what is available and what is not available. Since the
local hunt has been disbanded, we have had no real service to remove fallen
stock. I have just come from a meeting at a fish farm on a river in
the south of England. It
has exactly the same problems, with no way of getting rid of fallen fish stock.
Can the noble Lord help in this area?
My Lords, we have discussed
the issue with the various elements of the industry, and both the collection
organisations and the disposal organisations have always indicated that there is
sufficient capacity to cope with the additional problem. The issue is how it is
organised and who pays for it. The Government are prepared to put forward £30
million towards the estimated £50 million cost. But some of that cost has to
rest on the farmers themselves. Any failure to have the system fully in place as
of 1st May rests very much with the farming organisations.
Monro of Langholm: My Lords,
at the end of October, the Minister said that he would urgently examine the
issue in the hope of finding a solution. Is he aware that, come 1st May, in
practical terms, there will not be the facilities to uplift fallen stock and
that farmers will not be allowed to bury the stock on their farms? What answer
should he give farmers?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the answer that I would give to
farmers—and I think that it probably needs to be communicated directly to
farmers rather than through their organisations at the moment—is that the
facilities are there. The way of organising the facilities would also be there
were the farming industry to accept some element of the costs. The TSE disposal
arrangements would be made available for that duty: that is the £30 million and
the small additional sum that the Government would be prepared to provide to set
up such a system. However, the farming industry itself, through its
representatives, is refusing to have even the minimum levy to ensure an
industrial contribution. It is not a question of logistics or of the facilities
not being available. It is a question of the industry being prepared to take its
Lord Avebury: My Lords, it may be a requirement that human
bodies be buried in coffins in consecrated land and in land belonging to public
graveyards, but is the Minister certain that the same rules apply to people
buried in private land?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not sure what customs prevail in
the area of Avebury. However, in recent years, by and large, private burial has
had to be approved by the authorities. I accept that the requirements for such
burial may not be exactly the same as those for burial in consecrated land and
graveyards, but they are nevertheless considerably more precautionary than those
for burying sheep half way up a hill—where the possibility of seepage into the
watercourse is very substantial and is therefore a much higher risk than any
form of human burial of which I am aware.
The Duke of
Montrose: My Lords, I declare my interest as a livestock farmer. The
Minister mentioned the £30 million that DEFRA currently spends. When the
Minister in another place used
that figure, he said that it was for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
monitoring under the over-30-month scheme and for a variety of other reasons. If
the Ministry is going to pay for the collection of all adult cattle, which falls
within the provisions of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathy
regulations, how much money will be left over for organising the start-up of
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I will not try to follow the noble Duke
in spelling out the regulations. The collection system already exists under the
TSE regulations and it applies only to cattle. The point is that, under these
regulations, we are extending the same facility to the collection of fallen
stock including animals other than cattle. Therefore, the facility will be
sufficient, provided that it is topped up by the other £20 million that we are
seeking and provided also that a communications system is established. In
addition, there is the facility for on-farm incineration.