Hannah Jordan, parliamentary intern to Lord Trees, describes what's been happening in parliament since the Easter recess.
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Parliament reconvened after Easter and business started swiftly with a much-anticipated meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare. The meeting – to discuss welfare at slaughter – had been postponed in order for it to follow the publication of a European Commission study into consumer views on including stun ‘status’ on meat labels. However, like many long-awaited documents, the publication has been delayed. Nonetheless, the meeting went ahead and there was a robust and, at times, heated exchange of views.
The All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Beef and Lamb has also been busy, taking evidence from stakeholders in order to produce a report on slaughter welfare. Lord Trees gave evidence with others to five MPs from the APPG. It was fascinating to watch this session because there is more back and forth discussion than in the Lords' chamber. Evidence giving is definitely not for the meek – you cannot make an assertion without clear evidence to back it up or an MP will have your guts for garters. The next session is scheduled for June 3.
On Monday, May 12, the Animal Welfare Foundation held its annual Discussion Forum. The day was well attended and the discussions were well delivered and thought provoking. It was interesting to hear the difficulty vets and farmers have in interpretating transport legislation: it all seems well and good when the legislation is written, but the practicalities of using or enforcing it are often not so straightforward, and may have negative consequences on the welfare of the animals involved.
The Medical Detection Dogs (www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk) charity recently held a reception to which Lord Trees was invited and I managed to gate-crash. The dogs are trained to screen samples for volatiles produced by cancer cells or as medical alert dogs that detect odour changes in their owners that are associated with certain events. I was dubious that these dogs could sniff out cancer, but both the presentation and demonstration were most interesting; I would urge you to find out for yourself.
Last, but not least, this week Defra quietly informed the industry that, following further consideration by ministers, the Welfare of Animals at Time of Killing (England) legislation (WATOK) will be revoked before it has come into force. It was due to be brought into force in May 2014, but now enforcement in abattoirs will continue under the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 as amended and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It will be interesting to find out what the further considerations were.
Parliament was exhausted after two weeks sitting and has since prorogued for another three weeks until the State Opening of Parliament on June 4. I am lucky enough to have been allocated a ticket in the gallery of the Lords' chamber and a mild panic has ensued as I have to acquire an appropriately small hat. Wish me luck!
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