HC Deb 02 April 1873 vol 215 cc483-504

Order for Second Reading read.


in asking the House to read a second time the Bill for amending the 55th clause of the 7 & 8 Vict., c. 84, which he had had the honour to lay before them, said he had felt great confidence that, unless he failed signally in his simple narrative of the facts and history of the case, he should carry the House with him. In the year 1844 the Government of the day entrusted the then Lord Lincoln to bring in and conduct through the House a Bill for the regulation of buildings, new and old. It consisted of 120 clauses; it contained 15 closely printed pages of Schedules, with 8 lithograph diagrams, all referring to the height and thickness of the walls of warehouses and private dwellings. In the 55th clause of the Act, however, by the abrupt introduction of four words in the 7th line, one of the three methods by which the metropolis was supplied with meat—namely, by animals bought by the retail butcher, and kept by him in his private lairage, to be slaughtered as and when required to supply demand—was, after the expiration of 30 years, to be abolished. He asked any experienced Member of the House whether legislation vitally affecting the food supply of this metropolis could be fairly dealt with, stifled by a position so cramped as this? This section of the 55th clause would come into operation next year (1874). It was a bold prophecy of the Government of the day to affirm what was to take place in 30 years' time—a bold forecast to pass a sumptuary law, with this simple disadvantage above others of its class, that it prejudicially and not beneficially affected the cost of living of the common people—a law interfering with a trade of primal supply and demand—a law to come in force 30 years after its enactment, and this without a single provision for rendering the carrying of the law into effect practicable. His case did not require him to deny, but to acknowledge the gross and flagrant neglect of needful sanitary precautions and conditions, of social conveniences and the duties of humanity which led to the outcry against intramural slaughter-houses. He took part in that outcry. That the private and public slaughter-houses, as they then existed, must be dealt with by the Legislature the metropolis felt and demanded. But how dealt with? By means of extermination, as contemplated by this clause, or by the means suggested both by the Select Committee to whom the House referred this subject in 1866, and in conformity to suggestions made by a Committee some 12 years before, and on whose Report the Government took action, resulting in the creation of a system of inspection and licensing, with jurisdiction given to local governing bodies in conjunction with the magistrates in petty session, empowering them to grant or to refuse licences to any private or other slaughterhouse which was unsuited for that object, or to discriminate and licence either for the killing of beasts or sheep, as to them seemed suitable—a system confessedly beneficial, and, wherever carried out faithfully and in the true spirit of the Act—absolutely and undeniably successful. It need not be dwelt on here that in some parts of the metropolis the local governing bodies did not appear to have been educated up to the required standard, and that sheds had been recommended for licence to the magistrates, ill-adapted for the purpose. This was, perhaps, a blot in the Act, but one easily hit and easily erased. What would be easier than to require the magistrates, as they acted in granting or renewing the spirit-dealer's licence by calling in the police attached to the district to ascertain the character of the houses in question; so in granting or renewing licenses for slaughter-houses to call in the medical officers of health and Inspectors, and in any doubtful case to require the shed to be visited, withholding the licence till the report of the visitors was received, and then dealing with the case summarily. Add any further security of additional conditions precedent to application for the licence, as to apparatus, ventilation, and other accommodation, and all these private slaughter-houses would be, what the vast majority already were, as clean and wholesome as any private gentleman's kitchen or larder. But these useful amendments to the Licensing Act were rendered impossible, till the House had dealt with this section of the 55th clause. It was on other grounds also impossible to continue the clause as it stood. The endless litigation it would entail, the great uncertainty felt by legal men as to the meaning of this clause, taken in conjunction with the 56th and 58th clauses—the doubt as to the interpretation of the terms used, must lead to the repealing of this part of this section. If the House would look at the 56th clause, they would see that it purported to give direction to the trade how they were to proceed to obtain a suspension of judgment, a mitigation of penalty, or, even in conjunction with the 57th clause, immunity from prosecution in carrying on their trade, perhaps; but the 56th clause was so obscure that, as he was advised, the legal profession could not come to a decision as to what interpretation to put on it. He had in his hand the opinion of two of the most eminent counsel in London, that of Mr. Manisty and Mr. Poland, in relation to part of Clause 56, which he would read to the House—"We have carefully considered the first enactment in Section 56, and are unable to give any meaning to it." And as to Clause 58, which enabled the prosecuted butcher to have the matter tried by a jury, there was no little obscurity as to what was to be submitted, whether the fact, or the law, or, further, the function of legislation. Then, as to the appeal to the Court of Queen's Bench. Was it intended that Court should decide whether each of the 1,100 butchers who were to be brought before the Court had done all that science had directed to render their trade innocuous, and, if so, whether they were to go a step further and say to the Court below—"Your interpretation of the law is right, but you shall not carry out your sentence?" A pretty trap for a class of tradesmen! A position intolerable! The House could hardly, in this view, reject his (Dr. Brewer's) Bill. No man could have made himself acquainted with the operation of the system of inspection and licensing without admitting that, in this direction, the Legislature have proceeded with marked success, and that if in parts of Westminster, the City, and south and east of the metropolis, the system had partially failed, the failures were attributable to the neglect of the Inspectors or local governing bodies. Of course, if Inspectors, not altogether uninfluenced, have set their minds on abolishing the live meat markets altogether, and of driving the metropolis into the dead meat supply exclusively, it cannot be surprising that they should fail to see the force of that evidence, which the Select Committee of the House, whatever their private predilections, could not withstand. This only would he add, that he could name men of high repute in sanitary science who perfectly agreed in his assertion of the success in a sanitary point of view of the action of the Legislature in passing the Licensing Acts, and in the conclusion of the Select Committee, that private slaughter-houses—if well kept—were not injurious to the public health. It was not wonderful after what he had said that the Building Act of 1844 found no favour in the House; accordingly they saw that in 1855 the Legislature repealed 111 out of the 120 clauses of which the Act consisted, and in 1866 referred the subject-matter of this section of the 55th clause to a Select Committee consisting of 21 Members, with the following Order of the House— That it be an Instruction to the Committee on 'Trade in Animals' that they enquire how far it is desirable to prevent, restrict, or regulate the slaughter of animals in the metropolis, or other populous places, and to report their opinion thereon to the House. The Committee consisted of Mr. Milner Gibson, Lord Naas, Lord Cranborne, Mr. Graham, The O'Conor Don, Sir Matthew Ridley, Mr. Banks Stanhope, Mr. Graves, Mr. Alderman Salomons, Mr. Edward Egerton, Mr. Goschen, Mr. Cogan, Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Dent, Mr. Holland, Mr. Leader, Mr. Norwood, Mr. Wilbraham Egerton, Sir James Fergusson, and Sir Morton Peto—Gentlemen of great influence, and representing all views and all interests on the subject. In the 13th paragraph of the Report of that Select Committee, it was declared that "the live meat markets are not unhealthy in themselves, nor are slaughter-houses, if well kept, injurious to the public health." Although they had a tendency to aggregate round them trades which were objectionable. Here, then, fell to pieces the whole groundwork on which this prohibition in the 55th clause, in relation to retail butchers' private slaughter-houses was founded, for it so happened that the clause was preceded by a Preamble, alleging the reason for the prohibition of the trades contained in the clause— And now for the purpose of making provision concerning businesses offensive or noxious, be it enacted with regard to the following businesses:—Blood-boiler, bone-boiler, fellmonger, soap-boiler, tallow-melter, tripe-boiler, slaughterer of cattle, sheep, or horses.… from the expiration of 30 years, it shall cease to be lawful to carry on such business within such distances, &c. This business of butcher's private slaughter-house the Select Committee of the House declared "not to be injurious to the public health" itself; but it was in this clause classed arbitrarily with businesses both offensive and objectionable, and further it was no less arbitrarily coupled with the knacker's trade, to which in every essential particular it was antagonistic. Why tie the butcher to the knacker? Cattle and sheep were killed for human sustenance; they were given for food to man by Him who had the right so to dispose of them. They were killed to support the existence and re-invigorate the exhausted strength of man—that was the express object for which they were bred and reared. Was it so with horses? Were they not killed because they were diseased, for the most part; never, surely, in fulfilment of the object for which they were reared? It mattered little how far from human habitation tallow was melted, blood and bones were boiled, or horses were slaughtered, but it made all the difference in the world, especially to the humbler stratum of society, whether the flesh they depended on for their sustenance—their meat supply on the only day in the week perhaps on which they could afford the luxury, were fresh, whole some, and attainable, which it would not be if private slaughterhouses were abolished. Up to this time the metropolis had been supplied by three methods—1st, by country killed meat—the dead meat market; 2ndly, by meat slaughtered in London by car- case butchers, who sent it to the wholesale markets; and 3rdly, by meat slaughtered in London, as and when required, by retail butchers in their private slaughter-houses, all now duly inspected and licensed, to meet immediate or known demands. The House must be under no misapprehension as to the position in which London would immediately find herself if this part of the 55th clause of the old Act were not virtually repealed—namely, in the substitution of one source of supply, and that the least reliable, for the three sources now and from time immemorial enjoyed by this metropolis. He was warranted in saying that few persons comparatively seemed to know or realize what the dimensions of this metropolis really were, and what the magnitude of the question before them. They read letters in the Press affirming that London covers an area of 10 square miles—again, that it contained little short of 100,000 houses; and in the Select Committee a Member of great experience and weight in the House, Question 5013, said— I asked the question upon the supposition not that there is to be one public slaughterhouse, but that there are to be distinct slaughterhouses, and that they will be within a mile or two. Schemes had been proposed, in many cases, on the hypotheses to which he (Dr. Brewer) had referred. But what were the real factors of this sum? What was the actual state of the case? Why, that London covers not an area of 10 square miles, but of 117 square miles. And was this metropolis, with its area of 117 square miles and a population of 3,500,000—the largest meat consumers in Europe—to be tied down to the dead meat market alone? His hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) saw this clearly enough, for he stigmatized his as a retrograde policy, in seeking by his Bill to discourage the dead-meat market scheme for the metropolis; but there must exist no doubt on that score. Let him ask why the carcase butcher's trade should be tolerated when the retail butcher's trade in his own fresh-killed meat was abolished? Nay, the Report of the Select Committee would by the House be deemed conclusive on this head, for finding fault with the existing practice of the carcase butchers. In Paragraph 16 the Committee added— The slaughter-houses of retail butchers stand on a different footing; their abolition would cause great hardship to many butchers, who have slaughter-houses adjoining their shops, and can slaughter animals as they require them under their own superintendence. But the objection went much further than to carcase butchers; it extended also to public abattoirs in very large towns altogether. The Select Committee, under evident misapprehension of the nature of the evidence he was about to tender, brought up a witness from Liverpool, whose complaint was that the whole neighbourhood of the public slaughter-house there was rendered noxious by reason of the effluvia and decomposition going on, consequent on the number of animals brought together to be killed, and the neglect to remove the blood and other matter which found their way into the public sewers, and caused increase of fever and other zymotic diseases. One leading Member of the Committee got out of the witness that the district was suffering great deprivation consequent on loss of employment, which the witness seemed unable fully to appreciate, but the House would. The mortality in Liverpool in the decade 1851 to 1860 had been 33.32 per 1,000, or 100 to 3,000. In the year preceding his evidence it appears to have risen to 37. In 1872, however, it fell to 27.00 per 1,000 (81 in 3,000), owing to the more prosperous trade and condition of the people. London, from 1851 to 1860, had a mortality of 27.76 per 1,000; but in 1872 it fell to 21.40 per 1,000. But if disease be due to private slaughterhouses, it was London which should have had the high mortality, and not Liverpool; because London, and not Liverpool, had in it 1,100 private slaughterhouses, and Liverpool had not one. To revert once more to the dead meat market. From the evidence, and even from the Report of the Select Committee, it was clear beyond dispute that London could not be adequately supplied with meat from this source alone, for although in cool and fresh seasons of the year, London, at enhanced prices, could be supplied to a great extent with dead meat, yet in hot and sultry weather—a period extending over three months fitfully—London could not depend on the dead meat market. The evidence was irresistible that there were seasons wherein meat became tainted, within the eight or ten hours after being killed required for the "setting of the flesh," and then on the butchers' private slaughter-houses not his customers alone, but the whole trade of the metropolis mainly, if not wholly, depended for their supply of fresh, wholesome meat. Mr. Butler gave evidence that in transmitting a consignment of meat from Aberdeen to London in the month of May he lost by heat 973 stone; and being asked if it was a very uncommon occurrence for him, his replywas—"It occurs frequently through the year." He need not remind the House that it was the movement or friction of the fleshy particles which caused decomposition; and that the setting of the car case was indispensable to its being moved with safety. In hot weather some of the finest fat beasts—short-horns weighing 1,2001bs and over, and worth to the butcher in his own lairage £35—were known to set very imperfectly, especially if crowded into a confined area with many hundreds of other beasts, huddled together by mere slaughtermen, who had no regard for the ultimate condition of the meat and no interest in its sale. And here he must notice a most gratuitous charge against a whole class of London tradesmen—namely, that of cruelty to the animals they had purchased for their private slaughterhouses. That would be sheer suicidal folly. No man pursued evil as evil, and for its own sake, in direct opposition to his interest and the strongest motives which could influence human actions. If a short-horn in fine condition were overdriven only half-an-hour the flesh set badly and the market was lost. If the beast had a bruise—and it bruised very easily—the joint in which it occured was unsaleable. Surely, they would take the best security for good treatment in the interest the man had in the comfort and case of his beast no less than in the pride he felt in the condition of the meat which he displayed in his shop front. The still more incredible statement that retail butchers objected to the doing away with their slaughter-houses because they were now enabled, undetected, to purchase and slaughter diseased beasts was easily disposed of. First, he asked, where was it that the rejected contract meat—the skin of which, like a fine layer of parchment, tightened on the shrivelled flesh—came from? Invariably, in his experience, from the dead meat supply. It was notorious that breeders and feeders did not care to send their best meat when they knew that the worst would happen to their cattle either at the port, or at many miles from their purposed destination or market. There were no means of telling, save very generally, whether meat sent to the dead meat market was killed in the early stages of disease, because the journey dulled the "bright gloss" of all dead meat, whereas there was no better security against the purchase of diseased meat than on obtaining it from the retail butchers' private slaughter-houses; because the rest the beast obtained in the private "lairage" allowed the disease, if it existed, to develop, and the car case lost its market; its condition was obviously and apparently deteriorated, and as to its escaping undetected, this was incredible on every score. He had said that to a great extent London could be supplied with dead meat in cool and temperate seasons, but only at enhanced prices. They must examine into the causes of this enhancement. First, there was the reason given in the Report of the Select Committee— Compulsory slaughter at a port, like compulsory slaughter at a market, is more expensive to the butcher, hampers the trade, and will raise the price to the consumer. But, further, the Select Committee of 1866 examined Mr. Salmon—manager of the traffic in the cattle department of the South-Western Railway—who stated that— The railway could never carry dead meat so reasonably as it did live meat, in consequence of the double porterage required for dead meat, and the loss and risk in transport incurred by the managers. The carriage of one ton of dead meat from Liverpool to Manchester," he added, "costs 18s., whereas a waggon for seven beasts costs only 15s. 6d. Live meat," he said, "cannot deteriorate to the extent dead meat does in transit, and this results from the simple fact of the flesh being moved. But, correct as this observation was, other witnesses bore testimony to the injuries sustained by dust, and the smoke from the funnel finding its way through the venetians of the meat vans. Witnesses further stated that the packing of several car cases in sacks generated heat, which accelerated decomposition. In the conclusions at the end of the evidence the Select Committee drew attention to the fact that "the trade generally objected to a dead meat system, that the supply was too irregular to be relied on;" and that the consignees lost their market through this irregularity; and that this extended to the condition of the meat as much as to the time at which it was received. They stated that they had hitherto met this irregularity by buying cattle and keeping them alive in their private "lairs" to slaughter when required. Meat so dealt with was worth more by 30s. a-head than if obtained at the public markets. In Answer (4,568), Mr. Giblett estimated the loss from this source alone, weekly, on 6,000 beasts, 30,000 sheep, 5,000 calves, and 1,000 pigs, to be £14,000 He had there omitted the 15,000 lambs killed weekly during spring. "Of course," he added, "this loss must fall on the consumer." A further enhancement consisted in a practice, well known in the trade, of passing the meat nominally through successive hands, each requiring a percentage—a practice, in the event of a panic, likely to prove most expensive to the trade, and, consequently, to the consumer. But the most serious loss, and consequent cause of enhancement, whether we considered it in its direct deprivation of numerous families of their meat in a fresh and unobjectionable condition, or in its ultimate effect of rendering the whole meat supply dearer, was the loss of what was technically known as the offal, by which was included all the esculent parts of the animal except the two sides. He was informed the offal of 20 sheep would afford food, which, when fresh killed, was much sought after, for 100 individuals. When they considered the relation in which those customers stood to others, they found that they were dealing with little less than 250,000 persons, many of whom were dependent on that food for their weekly meal. Now, it was plain from the evidence, and admitted by the Report of the Select Committee, that this mass of food was lost to this metropolis, if they deprived it of its live meat markets, as this offal did not pay for being moved. The demand for it was greatest on Saturday night; the customers waited about the butchers' shops, and, if they could not be supplied at the time, they were informed at what hours the butcher intended to kill, when they again applied, and were able to procure it. By refusing his (Dr. Brewer's) Bill, the House would be cutting off the meat supply of thousands of families to whom occasional animal food was a necessity, whilst, unfortunately, it was a rare luxury. The alternative plan, in place of that actually in operation, was a system of public slaughter-houses established at proper intervals throughout the metropolitan area. Paris proper, said a popular itinerary which had gone through many editions, contained 52,000 inhabited houses. He should think this statement was much under the mark. London, said a writer in the public Press, contained nearly 100,000 inhabited houses; that he know was ludicrously wrong. This metropolis in 1872 contained 417,348 inhabited houses, of which 243,697 had been built since 1849. The table was of new houses since 1849, 243,697; new streets, 6,277; new squares, 70; number of miles added, 1,111. The metropolis of 1873 was not the same with that of 1844. It was more extensive than 1844 was over the metropolis of 1664, which contained 65,000 houses; and they had no reason to believe it would be less like its former self in 1904 (30 years hence). The metropolis in 1844 consisted of about 142,908 inhabited houses; to which there had been subsequently added about 274,440, and 1,311 miles of streets, consisting of about 7,400 new streets. Paris proper contained 1,800,000 of population; this metropolis contained 3,500,000. Paris had three large and two smaller abattoirs. The foulness of their condition was attested by some of the French themselves, who said they could smell them for several miles distance. They constituted colonies of the largest, fiercest, and fattest rats seen in France. The population of slaughter-men were the wildest and the most dangerous to social tranquillity in Paris. What number of abattoirs would London require? The amount of animal food taken per head in London exceeded that of any other European capital, and the number of those in proportion to the population attending the meat shops was also greater. England, of all flesh, consumed per head 136 1bs., of which 78 67/100 1bs. was beef. France, of all flesh, consumed per head 46 3/10 1bs.; Prussia, 35½ 1bs.; South Italy, under 27 1bs. If nine square miles of inhabited houses would require at least one public slaughter-house, then the 117 square miles of the metropolis would exact 13 abattoirs. There must in the whole metropolis be 2,200 compartments, at least, for retail butchers' meat. Proper railway communications and roads; access for 2,200 carts; lairage for 8,000 bullocks, 30,000 sheep, 15,000 calves, 17,000 lambs, and 2,000 pigs—these were some of the essentials for the requisite abattoirs. How a number of abattoirs within the 117 square miles, not more than from two to three miles from the shops of retail butchers throughout the metropolis, was to diminish the evil of driving cattle through its streets, it would be hard to show. But where were these public abattoirs? Where were they to be placed? Where were the funds to purchase the sites and construct the needful buildings to come from? One of his stoutest opponents had suggested that the butchers must pay for them; but was not that saying that the mass of consumers must, by enhancement of the price of meat, pay both the butcher's cost and his risk? Where, then, was the substitute for the two sources out of the three by which the metropolis had been hitherto supplied? The whisper was—the Metropolitan City Market. But where were the approaches; where the provision for the demands of trade and for the convenience of purchasers? No unprejudiced person in the City even assumed that their market was, or could be, by any outlay adequate; the radical defect being the approaches, which must ever seriously impair the general usefulness of this market. They had seen what a small excess of demand over supply could do, in any article of primal necessity, to create panic and raise its price three-fold in coals. Out off two out of the three sources of supply on which this metropolis depended for meat, and what was that but to enact that none but the wealthiest should be privileged to purchase food in the capital? It was merely trifling with the people of this metropolis to point to Edinburgh or some Continental capitals as examples to be followed. No parallel between Edinburgh and London could be drawn, save for the sake of contrast. In situation, easy access, the neighbourhood of its mountain pastures, in its nearness to the sea, in its streets, down which the breeze travelled accelerated by the narrowing of the valley by the Calton Hill, the Castle Hill and Arthur's Seat. Then, the mean temperature, the prevailing cool winds, its cattle hill-born and hill-reared, their size and compactness—the car case being cool and easily set—form together a simple contrast in every particular to London and its neighbourhood. He did not desire to prove too much. He asked what his opponents were bound to show to the House in order to defeat the second reading of his Bill? Not that some other method than that into which demand had moulded the present means and method of supply was practicable—not even, to some minds, preferable—but that the present mode of conducting the trade was inconsistent with the health of the community, and that nothing short of its total abolition and suppression could satisfy these primal requirements; but that they had not shown and could not show, for the House had the verdict of the authority it deemed of highest credibility—namely, that of a Select Committee—a verdict based on evidence absolutely irrefragable, that the butcher's private slaughter-house was not a trade injurious to the health of the people. But, it was urged, there were accidents to which the trade was obnoxious, such as the tendency of other trades to gather round it which were objectionable or offensive, and that if the houses were not well kept they were noxious. But could either or both of these be valid reasons for abolishing a useful, if not an absolutely needful, business? Look for a moment at such a proposition. Were not the areas of private houses, if not well kept, even more dangerous to public health than slaughter-houses? Were not private and public stables, the builder's trade, the baker's, and a score of others? In 2,181 complaints lodged by the police there are 869 against bakers, 76 against confectioners, 26 against builders, 40 against dyers, 66 against eating-house keepers, 63 against engineers and founders, 23 against fishmongers, 76 against hotel-keepers, 53 against potters, and 83 against restaurants. In the local nuisances books, for one complaint against private slaughter-houses there were a score against private and public stables. Well, what would the House do? Would the House leave untouched the stables of the sons of wealth and luxury and deal only adversely with the meat shop of the humble sort? Let such a phrase remain in the region of clap-trap, let not their acts make the phrase a reality. He knew of no source of disease so fruitful of fatal consequences as that of interfering with the food supply of the people, which precluded their obtaining fresh and wholesome meat, and drove them to tainted and deteriorated victuals. This was the Alpha and Omega of his advocacy of this cause. What was the history of the typhus fever epidemic here or elsewhere? Scarcity of whole some meat and the resort of the humble classes to half-decomposed food. That was the secret of the "pestilence that walketh in darkness, and of the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day." The great nitrogenizer of the blood was good fresh wholesome animal food in climates like ours. The great efficient carbonizer was defective or deteriorated food which scarcity forced on the humbler classes. What was the alternative here proposed? Health, with easily cured disorder; or disease, with the tendency of slight maladies to degenerate into diphtheria and soft mortification of the palate and face. Look at the way in which those hideous ills were gaining ground on the Continent, especially the South, where for revenue far more than for sanitary motives these centralizing schemes were enforced. He would not enter here into the recent scientific investigations, nor into the proofs afforded by history, sacred and profane, of the unwisdom of our crusade against the slaughtering of beasts for human food in the cities of our Empire. He would not believe the City of London could be so ill-advised as to oppose his Bill, under the impression that thus the monopoly of the supply of the whole metropolis would be thrown into their hands. If such a whisper were credible, the sooner the hallucination were dispelled the better, for no Government would attempt so insufficient and unwise a scheme. That the attempted forcing of the dead meat market would enhance the price of meat in the country markets might, he thought, be admitted. The evidence before the Select Committee pointed that way; but let not the farmer or his friend rise at such a bait. The farmer's real interest would be found in the long run identified with that of the consumer and not with the speculator, who would pocket all the advantage of the panic he had created and fostered. The hon. Member for South Norfolk called this a retrograde policy. Well, he (Dr. Brewer) was not sure that in the face of the famine price in coals—brought on by that very irregularity of supply to which the conclusions printed at the end of the evidence of the Select Committee drew the attention of the House as the result of abolishing the live meat market, as it existed now in the metropolis—a retracing of their steps would be unwise. He was not ashamed in the face of the great contrasts of gigantic fortunes with struggling mediocracy and pinching poverty; in the face of that weight of rating, which the rejection of his Bill would inevitably greatly increase; in face of the dearness of the first necessaries of life, which was causing the middle trading classes to stagger, and driving the vast body of professional men to their wits' end, to glide back from that uphill course of interfering with trade, which always ended in making supply more expensive, to the first principles of legislation, and to follow the advice of Jeremy Bentham—to let trade alone; to interfere only when the greatness of the abuse rendered it absolutely needful, and then no further than was absolutely needful. He moved that the Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Dr. Brewer.)


in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, that his experience as a Sanitary Commissioner and as a member of the Sanitary Committee of the Paddington Vestry, had induced him to oppose the maintenance of private slaughter-houses in London, as proposed in this Bill. He thought that the success which had attended the abolition of private slaughterhouses in Glasgow and Edinburgh was a sufficient reason why the same example should be followed in London. The valuable and exhaustive Report of Dr. Thudichum to the Medical Department of the Privy Council in 1865 might be advantageously consulted, and should induce the House greatly to restrict the number of private slaughter-houses in London, and to place them under severe regulations. The Blue Books contained much evidence to the same effect from medical witnesses, who stated that the blood and other emanations corrupted the sewers, and that these private establishments were almost always a nuisance. They rendered the inspection of meat much more difficult, and whenever diseased meat went into consumption in large quantities, the public health was prejudicially affected. The effect of the Act, which was to come into operation next year, was not to abolish private slaughter-houses altogether, but only to place them under stringent restrictions. All the large towns had special arrangements or by-laws by which these places were brought under sanitary control and constant supervision; but the metropolis had no such by-laws. The authority in London which would grant licences would be the magistrate, whereas the licensing authority ought also to be the authority that inspected. That was the recommendation of the Sanitary Commissioners. He trusted that Parliament would not abandon a Bill passed 30 years ago with due deliberation, and with ample notice to the interests concerned. What was now wanted was a public authority to construct public abattoirs in convenient localities in the metropolis, and to regulate these places. To pass the present Bill would be, however, to introduce a state of things that would be simply intolerable. The best course would be to withdraw the Bill, and submit the whole subject as res integra to a Select Committee. Although this might be said to be a vestry question, it was also a question of Imperial proportions. They lived in London, which was, in truth, a great kingdom with 3,500,000 inhabitants—a congestion of population such as had never existed on the surface of the globe. Great reforms had taken place in the sanitary condition of London. There was the Main Drainage, which was a great honour to those who designed and carried it out. There was a water supply which, considering the difficulties to be overcome, was admirable, and there were in every parish men labouring with valuable but obscure toil to mitigate the evils attendant on such vast accumulations of population. He asked the House not to take a retrograde step, as compared with the wisdom which had characterized the Legislation of that House and the action of those entrusted with power, by passing this Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Francis Powell.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


observed that by the present law, all the persons who had slaughter-houses in the metropolis would be compelled to shut up such places next year, and then the question would arise, where were we to get our supply of meat? One abattoir had been built, and that by the Corporation of the City of London, but it was no joke to build an abattoir. So expensive was this place, and so badly did it pay, that the City of London had never built another, and they had never been able to induce anyone else to build one. If it were really intended to shut up all the private slaughter-houses next year, some one ought to calculate how many abattoirs would be wanted, and what would be the expense of constructing them. But even if they were built, he doubted whether they would be of any benefit. In any case, the people who carried on this trade in private slaughter-houses said that no substitute had hitherto been provided. They had laid out their money upon this kind of property, and it was a folly to say that these establishments, which were kept clean, were more detrimental to public health than a mass of slaughter-houses jumbled up together and called an abattoir. In his opinion, London could not be sufficiently supplied from abattoirs. Why should not this Bill be read a second time and allowed to pass? It was useless to compare London with Paris on a subject of this kind. London was a meat-eating place; but what was Paris in comparison with London, and what was a Frenchman in comparison with an Englishman? The thing was absurd. With the ounces of meat that a Frenchman ate and the pounds that an Englishman ate there was no analogy between the two cities. In legislating for the metropolis they were legislating for a place which was different from every other. He had been in abattoirs and in slaughter-houses also. On the Home Circuit, he had had the honour of being one of the wine treasurers; and, in that capacity, had to look after the wine. The place they selected for their cellar at Kingston was at a butcher's, and next the slaughter-house, and he recollected very well that that cellar was perfectly free from any disagreeable smell. He had the satisfaction of seeing a calf slaughtered close to that cellar, and there was not the slightest inconvenience arising from it. The place was as clean and nice as it was possible for anybody to conceive, and this was natural, because a respectable butcher could not afford to keep his meat close to a dirty slaughterhouse. The Bill simply proposed to continue the present private slaughterhouses, which caused no inconvenience, and he should support the second reading.


said, his hon. Friend had put the short-horn breed of cattle in a very high position. As a Scotchman and a breeder of Scotch cattle, he would beg to refer his hon. Friend to the weekly quotations in the London market, where the Scotch cattle were always placed at the top, and beg likewise to refer him to the decisions during the last six years of the Smithfield Club Show. He would find that four out of the six animals that gained the gold cup were Scotch cattle, and bred in Scotland, and not short-horns. If the private slaughterhouses were abolished, there would be a meat famine in London in hot weather, and the offal would be lost to the poorer classes. No doubt, if private slaughter-houses were a nuisance and prejudicial to health, they ought to be put down; but he could not agree in the statement that they were a nuisance. They were kept under the strict surveillance of the police, and from personal knowledge and inspection, he could say that they were most clean, and every attention was paid to their sanitary arrangement, with a constant supply of water running through them. Now, who were the parties most exposed to the influence of the slaughter-houses? It must be the butchers and their servants. Let any hon. Member visit the London cattle market on a Monday morning, and examine the bodily strength of the butchers and their servants, and they must come to the conclusion that there was no other class of tradesmen so vigorous, so strong, or so robust. So much, therefore, for the health of the men daily employed in the slaughterhouses. If they did away with the private slaughter-houses, two or three things must follow. They would drive the butchers to the dead meat market. London would be supplied with a very inferior article. He could speak as to this for the feeders in Scotland, and from his own personal experience. They would never think of sending the superior animals they forwarded at present, as their size unfitted them for the dead market. They would be under the necessity of feeding smaller and inferior cattle. In warm weather there must be a famine of beef and mutton, and the offal would be lost to the poor, which was a very serious matter. In summer dead meat could not be sent from Aberdeen, and the inhabitants of London could not be supplied with the same quantity of meat as they were at present. On the great day, at the New Cattle Market, there were about 8,000 cattle, which, valued at £30 a-head, would amount to £240,000. 16,000 sheep, at £3 a-head, about £50,000; 500 calves, at £6 a-piece, £3,000; 100 pigs, about £5 a-piece, £500—total £293,500. The average sold at the New Cattle Market was about 4,000 bullocks, which, valued at £23, would amount to £92,000; 25,000 sheep, at about 50s., £62,000 to £70,000; 500 calves, at £6, £3,000; 100 pigs, at £5, £500—total £157,500.


believed that if they abolished every private slaughterhouse in the metropolis there would be no more difference than now existed between the wholesale and retail price of meat, and if inspectors came to them in the country, and abolished pig-styes when near cottages, he thought the time had come when cow-houses and slaughterhouses should be done away with in the metropolis. Although it had been predicted otherwise, he was quite convinced that the removal of the cattle market from Smithfield to Islington had nothing to do with the present high price of meat. They had been told by the hon. Member who moved the second reading of this Bill that if they abolished the slaughter-houses in the metropolis it would be impossible to control and to regulate the supplies of meat from the country. He apprehended that there would be several large public slaughterhouses in London, one at Islington Market and others in convenient places. How was the fish market regulated? Was it not by telegraph? And of course it would be easier to get beasts from the country than to get fish from the sea, and yet London was always well supplied with fish. He was surprised at his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen supporting the measure, and he contended that there would be no difficulty, as had been stated, in conveying the offal from the public slaughter- houses to the districts where it was consumed by the poor. He believed it was desirable, both for the health of the community, humanity to the cattle, and the supply of good meat, that the trade in dead meat should be developed as much as possible, and as these private slaughter-houses tended to restrict it, he should offer it his opposition.


said, the very tenderness which had been shown in the Act of 1844 in dealing with vested interests had been used as an argument against putting it into force. Divesting the subject, however, of all exaggeration, it was certain that the Act would not necessarily destroy all the private slaughterhouses; for while it left untouched such places as were 40 feet from the public road and 50 feet from any inhabited house, a discretion was left in the hands of the magistrates, who could remit the penalty where it was clearly shown that the existence of any particular slaughterhouse was not injurious to the community. It was perfectly true that the Select Committee reported these houses as a rule as not unhealthy, but they also reported that their tendency was to attract trades such as tripe-boiling and tallow-chandling, which were injurious to health, and the Committee consequently recommended that private slaughter-houses should be got rid of and that they should be replaced by public establishments. This being so, the question was whether it would be wise, as the notice which had been given destroyed any claim for compensation on the part of vested interests, to throw away the chance of dealing with the question in the manner which would be most conducive to the public interest. The experience of Glasgow and other large towns where the system of public slaughter-houses had been adopted was to show that these establishments were carried on more economically than private slaughter-houses; that the animals were more cheaply killed, and that the result was to diminish, rather than to increase, the price of meat; and he did not see why the same might not be the case in the metropolis, because a great portion of the trade was carried on by men who never slaughtered at all and who would therefore be able to procure their supply just as well from a public as from a private slaughter-house. He was not prepared therefore under these circum- stances to assent to the second reading of the Bill and to forego the advantages which they might fairly expect from the Act of 1844. Still, the subject of our meat supply was too important to be dealt with hastily, and if the hon. Member would withdraw his Bill and propose the appointment of a Select Committee, he would promise the support of the Government to that proposal.


said, that if he understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that the Government, after the inquiry, would take the initiative in the matter, he should advise his hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Dr. Brewer) to withdraw the Bill. This was not the first time he was impressed with the conviction that it was bad for Parliament to attempt to legislate through a telescope. It was most absurd to talk of the making of laws 20 or 30 years in advance. In his opinion, Parliament could never have intended these private slaughter-houses to be done away with without any public establishments having been provided in their stead; and therefore, as the Government had not taken any step towards making such a provision in this respect, the Bill had been introduced. He thought there could be no difficulty in the matter; and if the right hon. Gentleman would at once appoint the Committee, and would give them a pledge that before the end of the Session, or at all events before the penal law came into operation, he would introduce an official Bill on the subject, the measure now before the House need not be further proceeded with.


said, that if the proposed inquiry should lead to the conclusion that public slaughter-houses ought to be erected, it would be necessary to give the local authorities power to erect them, and it would be the duty of the Government to introduce a measure to confer such powers.


said, the only matter that could properly be referred to a Committee was the question how best to carry out the principle of the Act of 1844, which distinctly gave notice that private slaughter-houses should cease in the metropolis, and he considered that the inquiry should be strictly limited to that subject. The Committee should not attempt to reopen the great question of public versus private slaughter-houses; but an inquiry should be made into the means by which during the next 12 months, provision might be made for the establishment of public slaughter-houses, and he thought that such an inquiry must be undertaken by the Government itself. He believed that if a system of public slaughterhouses were substituted for private ones the former would derive enormous advantage from being taken out of the restrictions of the Act, so that this nuisance would remain more unchecked than before.


said, he hoped the hon. Member for Colchester (Dr. Brewer) would assent to the proposal for a Committee, and that the result of subsequent legislation would prove beneficial to the inhabitants of the metropolis, whose interests, he reminded the House, were far more important than those of the particular classes involved. He trusted that the inquiry would not be limited in any respect, because at present there was a difference of opinion as to whether private slaughter-houses could, or could not be continued under the Act, some people affirming that they could, and others that they could not. It was highly desirable that the investigation should be followed by speedy legislation, which should be based upon the experience of the past 30 years.


expressed his readiness to withdraw the Bill on the understanding that the Committee might inquire into the whole subject.


said, he trusted that whatever arrangement was ultimately arrived at, the slaughtering of cattle would be so carried on as to inflict the least possible pain on the animals to be killed. For this purpose, efficient inspection of slaughter-houses, public or private, should be provided. He thought that a strong argument in favour of abattoirs was that they afforded ample means of inspection on the part of the officers of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which were not given by any other system.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.