February saw a mixed bag of issues discussed in the House of Lords, as Hannah Jordan, parliamentary intern to Lord Trees, reports
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This month in the House of Lords began with issues surrounding badgers and bovine TB. After a brief foray through exotic pets and animal welfare, we explored neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and food security, revisited welfare at slaughter and finished the month thoroughly lost in the depths of the Palace of Westminster.
In late January, the Parliamentary Scientific Committee held a meeting to broadly discuss badgers and the part they play in the UK bovine tuberculosis control strategy. Two weeks later, the Badger and Cattle Vaccination Initiative (BACVI) was launched by Brian May in a tiny, packed meeting room. Its aim is to generate sufficient funds and volunteers to develop five-year badger vaccination programmes in the areas worst hit by bovine TB. In the meantime, we wait with bated breath for the Independent Expert Panel report on the pilot culls.
The sale and welfare of exotic pets in the UK was the subject of the most recent meeting of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare. There were firm views on both sides, but an important point was made about the value of taking the discussion forward. It would be marvellous to see a collaborative effort between advocates of feline, canine and exotic companion animal welfare.
In February, Lord Trees spoke in Baroness Hayman's debate on the progress made towards combating NTDs since the 2012 London declaration to urge the Government to exert pressure on the developed nations that have not already committed funds. I was interested to learn that only 0.6 per cent of overseas health development assistance is directed at combating NTDs, as well about the limited number of governments that have pledged funding.
There has been a constant stream of coverage in the press on food security and agricultural development including, but not limited to, antimicrobial resistance, the horsemeat scandal and, specifically, the pros and cons of large-scale farming. This last debate has opened my eyes to numerous factors (including animal welfare, environment, food prices and infrastructure) that will sway any political decision made on large-scale farming.
Discussion of welfare at slaughter has rumbled on since the debate in the House of Lords in January (VR, January 25, 2014, vol 174, pp 81-82). The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Beef and Lamb and the APPG for British Jews have both met to discuss the subject, and Lord Trees commented briefly on Radio 4's Farming Today programme. In Europe, the Danish Government has decided to follow the example of Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland and has banned the non-stun slaughter of animals for production of Halal or Kosher meat. We now await the European Commission's report, which is due in April, on labelling products according to their standard of slaughter welfare.
In between all the excitement, I have busied myself investigating where all the doors and staircases in the Palace of Westminster – that I hadn't yet acquainted myself with – end up. Thus far, I have spent a considerable amount of time lost, but have also discovered some nifty shortcuts.
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