Lord Trees (CB)
My Lords, I first declare my interest as in the register. I am co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare. I thank the Minister for useful discussions during the passage of this Bill, and I hope that he is a very happy grandfather this afternoon.
I accept these amendments, particularly Amendment 1, but, as a vet and a veterinary scientist, I have to say that I do not condone some of the activities covered under the amendment in terms of,
“religious rites, cultural traditions and historical heritage.”
Some of those activities are not consistent with best practice in animal welfare science or indeed regulation, and I will take this opportunity to make a plea to those directly involved to consider very carefully and to reflect on whether practices which had some historical relevance in ancient times are relevant, necessary or at all acceptable in the 21st century. Having said that, I respect national and international laws pertaining to freedoms—in particular, Article 9 of the Human Rights Act on religious freedoms.
I will make one further point. During prolonged discussions about the Bill in this House, a number of noble Lords raised the potential threat to the use of animals in medical research. That was a fair concern, but one which could be countered—I spoke to that effect, as did others at the time—by the fact that the rigorous application and implementation of our Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 was a sufficient response to the requirement for government departments to have due regard to animal welfare and the development of policies. We have thorough, world-leading regulations around the controlled use of animals in medical research.
Recently, it has come to my notice that there are changes afoot in the Home Office with regard to the implementation of the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act. It is not yet clear to me what the effect of those changes might be on the welfare protection of animals used in medical research. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to ensure that any changes with regard to the implementation of the law pertaining to the use of animals in medical research should not weaken—or be perceived to weaken—that regulation, which could lead to increased legal challenge to the use of animals in medical research when the Bill becomes an Act. I support the amendment.