HC Deb 30 July 1872 vol 213 cc110-2

wished to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council. Yesterday, he (Lord Elcho) received a telegram from the convener of his county, stating that carcases of cattle which had died of disease had been washed ashore on the coast. He communicated that information to his right hon. Friend, who informed him that his attention had been directed to the subject; that not several, but only one carcase had been washed ashore; and that an Inspector had been sent down to inquire into the matter. He (Lord Elcho) telegraphed the substance of that communication back to his own county, and this morning he had received a letter from the convener of his county which showed the dangers that would arise if careful precautions were not at once taken. The letter stated that since Friday night last the entrails and carcases of the diseased cattle killed at Leith had been coming on shore; that on Saturday no less than forty pieces of entrails, some intact, had been buried; that four carcases had come on shore that morning; and that the district was running a serious risk, especially as the cattle of the neighbourhood were in the habit of going to the links on the sea-shore at this season of the year and standing for hours in the water. He wished to know, whether the Government are taking any steps to guard against this very great danger, in consequence of the destroyed cattle which have been thrown overboard being washed ashore?


said, he was very glad the question had been asked. The Government had done all that it was possible for them to do. They had informed the local authorities of the danger, and had acquainted them with the provisions of the Act. They had informed them also that the responsibility rested on the local authorities, and that though the Government were not responsible, they had sent down the two best Inspectors they had—Professor Simonds and Professor Browne—to give them advice, and to assist them as much as possible. He was sorry to hear the statement of the noble Lord, which, from its circumstantiality and detail, was in all probability correct. Three infected cargoes of cattle had come in—one at Newcastle, one at Leith, and one at Hull—and in each case the cattle plague was found on board. At Newcastle the Inspectors succeeded in persuading the local authorities to destroy the cattle with the greatest precautions at the port of landing. At Leith and at Hull there was very great difficulty in obtaining the destruction of the cattle, owing to the difficulty of burying the animals, and therefore the local authorities undertook to sink them in the sea, informing him that they had taken certain precautions to ensure the sinking of the lighters to which the condemned cattle were removed. If they had not taken those precautions he could only say that he very much regretted it. He had no doubt that Professor Simonds was warning the local authorities on the coast to guard against the animals that might come on shore, and to put the people of the neighbourhood on the qui vive. In the case of the cargo going to Deptford, an animal was thrown overboard on the high sea by the captain, and it was impossible for the Government to prevent such a proceeding as that, although the captain of the vessel ought not to have done so. There might be some danger of an animal so thrown overboard coming ashore on the coast of Essex; but he had requested the secretary of the Department to telegraph to the local authorities of the county to guard against that danger. There was no use in denying that the country was in danger from the cattle plague; or, at all events, that there would be an opportunity for testing the efficiency of the Act passed by Parliament. He might mention that there seemed to be a most extraordinary outbreak of disease in cattle in the East. Indeed, every vessel with cattle coming from Russia seemed to have the cattle plague on board. The import of cattle from that country would be entirely stopped in a day or two.


wished to know what precautions were taken with regard to disinfecting the vessels bringing suspected or diseased cattle, and whether they were prevented from carrying cattle coastwise as well as on foreign voyages?


said, the greatest care was taken to disinfect them, and they were prohibited for three months from bringing cattle from unscheduled countries.


wished to know if the vessels that took the diseased cattle out to sea, in order that they might be sunk, had been disinfected?


said, he did not know the exact details of the case at Leith, but he believed that the same course was adopted there which was adopted at Hull. At Hull the animals, after being slaughtered, were put on board the lighters and towed out to sea, and the orders given were, that the lighters on board which the animals were placed should be sunk with them. Of course in such a case as that there was no necessity for disinfecting.