HC Deb 19 January 1995 vol 252 cc837-8
5. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to ensure the welfare of equines; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Ancram)

The Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 makes it an offence to cause, procure or permit any unnecessary suffering to any animal, including equines. Veterinary inspectors from the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland enforce this legislation and, where serious breaches are found, prosecution action is taken.

Mr. Greenway

Will my hon. Friend assure me that no horses or other equines will be allowed to be exported from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland for slaughter for food or for onward export in defiance of minimum values? Will he also accept my invitation to join the pledge given to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), the former Minister for Food, that he, like me, will never knowingly eat a horse?

Mr. Ancram

I can certainly confirm that I would not knowingly eat a horse although I am sometimes accused of eating like one. In Northern Ireland, the horse is a much-respected creature both as a means of healthy recreational activity and sometimes as a vehicle for speculative, if often unsuccessful, financial investment. It is certainly not regarded as a culinary delicacy. Horses which are exported through the Republic of Ireland come under welfare controls which effectively prevent their export for slaughter.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker

Given the greatly increased population of the equine species in Northern Ireland, will the Minister consider giving some financial assistance to the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in its efforts to protect those animals from human cruelty?

Mr. Ancram

I shall certainly pass the hon. Gentleman's remark on to my noble Friend who has responsibility in that sector. However, there have been no prosecutions in Northern Ireland in relation to horses over the past three years. I understand that that is largely because people in Northern Ireland have an immense respect and affection for their horses.