Environment, Halal Food, House of Lords, Islam, Speeches

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – Committee Stage

Posted by Lord Sheikh

Amendment 19

My Lords, I speak in support of Amendments 19 and 31, beginning with Amendment 19. We must ensure we can still use animals in the advancement of medical research. A great deal of research still needs to be undertaken in the research and development of vaccines and pharmaceutical drugs. The results of this research must be properly recorded and submitted to the appropriate authorities, before any chemical, biological or surgical treatment is approved for regular use. As such, processes must remain in place for effective certification of all life-saving treatments.

For years, animals have been used as a crucial component in the development process. Pharmaceutical companies have successfully produced a range of medical advances as a result. Drugs, vaccines, surgical procedures, insulin, pain relievers and nutritional supplements—to name a few—have been developed. We are living in a changing world with new diseases or variations on existing illnesses, where there is a need for continuous research and development. For certain diseases, we have not yet found appropriate remedies and the work of R&D is not yet done. Suitable experimentation on animals must continue and improve to offer other potentially life-saving and life-improving products to those in need. It is therefore important that the practice of developing and testing on animals is continued. There should be no interference in this process, as it is for the benefit of humanity, on a global scale.

is located hereII add that, in the research and development of vaccines against Covid-19, studies and experiments were undertaken on certain animals to assure the vaccine as effective and safe for use worldwide. I therefore support this amendment, which seeks to ensure the continued existence of this essential aspect of the advancement of our understanding of medical science, for the benefit of the people of the entire world.

Amendment 31

I should now like to speak to Amendment 31. As we have left the European Union, we must commit to animal welfare standards and uphold any recommendations or protections that were applied previously under Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The article stated that the administrative provisions and customs of member states must respect the religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage of their citizens. We should not dilute that.

I am a practising Muslim and eat only halal meat. In addition to me, there are 3.4 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and we make up 5% of the British population. Among the Islamic community in the United Kingdom, a number of British Muslims eat only halal meat. It is important that they are allowed to do so and there should be no interference on the issue of religious slaughter.

I have received representations from a number of Muslim communities that have asked me to make the points that I have raised today. In addition to Muslims, a number of members of the Jewish community would like the practice of shechita to be maintained. Unfortunately, some members of the British population are critical of halal and other slaughter practices, perhaps due to misconceived ideas of what religious slaughter entails. I should emphasise that Islam forbids the mistreatment of animals and guarantees their welfare and well-being. That is enshrined in our deeply held Muslim beliefs.

Islam, of course, prescribes how an animal can be slaughtered for food and we would like that to continue. I and other Muslims believe that when we undertake halal slaughter, we are acting humanely. Indeed, there is no evidence to suggest that halal or other forms of religious slaughter are less humane than conventional methods. I have spoken in your Lordships’ House previously on the issue of halal slaughter and discussed it with the then Ministers from Defra. I also corresponded with David Cameron when he was Prime Minister and was assured that the practice of halal and shechita would be continued. I very much hope that such matters will remain an integral part of the slaughtering process. We should therefore include Amendment 31 in the Bill in order that those practices and other matters are preserved for the sake of our religious communities.

Amendments 11 and 14

My Lords, I should like to comment on Amendments 11 and 14. I agree in principle with what has been stated about these two amendments, which are concerned with clarifying the operational capabilities of the animal sentience committee.

I love animals and care deeply about their well-being. I have pets and I was brought up in home where we had chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats. I formed a bond with these animals and know that they had emotions and felt pain. In my language we say, “An animal is not able to speak but it does have feelings”. Of course, this makes it even more important for us to care for them, which is the reason I support the Bill. However, certain improvements need to be made to address this fact. We must ensure that the animal sentience committee is able to undertake its work as adequately as possible to fulfil its range of responsibilities.

I am a businessman and have been the chairman and chief executive of a successful public company. In business, if a company wants to undertake a project, it must thoroughly work out the details. Thereafter, adequate resources must be provided, including funding, the provision of appropriate staff and the sourcing of suitable accommodation. is located here

Similarly, we must set out quite clearly what we are trying to achieve, and we must set out our objectives throughout. If the intention is to establish and maintain an effective committee, the terms of reference among other things need to be set out in clear terms. Amendments 11 and 14 address these requirements by setting out provisions, making adequate resources available for staffing composition as well as defining the relationship and appropriate consultation between the Secretary of State and the committee. I support all that is set out in the amendments but would like them to be streamlined and consolidated in one properly worded clause.

Amendment 10

My Lords, I was going to speak in favour of Amendment 10, particularly relating to the appointment of a person with knowledge of slaughterhouses. I feel there is no need for me to do so, in view of the assurances given by my noble friend the Minister that there will be no interference in the continuation of religious slaughter practices. I am grateful to my noble friend for giving these assurances.

Link to full debate on Hansard.

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