HC Deb 21 March 1890 vol 342 cc1547-66
*(6.20.) MR. LEES KNOWLLS (Salford, N.)

I desire, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the subject of tuberculosis in cattle, and to recommend that this disease should be scheduled under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. Perhaps I owe an apology to the House for occupying time with such a subject, but I hope to show that the importance of it justifies me, and that it is more within the range of practical polities and administration than the subject with which we have just been dealing. My excuse is that in my constituency is one of the largest cattle markets in the kingdom, and a large number of my constituents are connected with that market; while there are a large number of persons in the surrounding districts interested in the meat trades. There are, no doubt, hon. Members in the House who wonder what tuberculosis is, and, in fact, several have asked me the question. To put my reply as concisely as possible, I may say that it is a disease in animals which corresponds closely to the disease of pthisis or consumption in human beings, which is one of the most fatal of diseases. Tuberculosis is a new subject, but it has lately attracted much attention and has become better understood in the last 10 years, during which period the disease has considerably increased. So new is the subject that tuberculosis is not referred to in any Act of Parliament relating to cattle or the lower animals; it is not alluded to even in the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act of 1878. The disease is chronic; it may last for years. Cattle-plague, pleuro-pneumonia, and swine fever are acute. Tuberculosis, from a sanitary point of view, is much more dangerous than these diseases. Professor Cameron, when he gave his evidence before the Departmental Committee, said that whereas he would eat the flesh of a beast which had suffered from pleuro-pneumonia, he would not touch the flesh of a tuberculous animal. The disease is almost unknown among animals in a wild state. In the Zoological Garden it kills more animals than does any other disease. American and Canadian cattle are comparatively free from it, and in Australia it is only now beginning to spread, and its course can be traced from one part of the colony to another. The disease is found mostly among dairy stock, but it is found also among bullocks. In-and-in breeding is a primary cause of it. In-and-in breeding weakens the stamina, and if there is the slightest taint of the disease in a herd, in-and-in breeding aggravates it. Where there is in-and-in breeding the disease is most common. Another cause is inhalation, and another, ingestion, that is to say, animals may get it from mouthing the food, or the trough mouthed by other animals. Another cause is inoculation. The winter milk-trade aggravates the disease, and in towns, cows are more frequently affected with it than in the country. In our town cow-houses there is frequently a want of proper ventilation, and the beasts kept there are unable to get proper physical exercise, and proper natural food. The food given them is of an artificial and stimulating nature, not intended to inprove flesh and blood, but intended to increase the quantity of milk, and it acts therefore as a strain upon the animal. One peculiarity of the disease is that it does not affect the amount of secretion of milk, although the udder is frequently attacked. The disease is communicable, and I could quote a number of cases from the Departmental Blue Book to exemplify this. There are cases of a bull spoiling a herd, of a cow communicating the disease to a herd, and of a bull taking tuberculosis from a cow, and of human beings, calves, and even pigs, dying after taking tuberculous milk. In one remarkable Scotch case, which will be found in the evidence, at Question 8,800, it will be seen that the workers on a particular farm were found to be suffering from consumption to a large extent, and upon this farm many animals had tuberculosis. Some particular cattle sheds were pulled down and consumption apparently ceased. Then, I can give an instance of a mother communicating consumption to her child, and of a girl taking by inoculation infection from a human patient. Moreover, there are cases of inoculation where men have milked animals while having sores upon their hands, and have got what are called "butchers' tubercles." If tuberculous beef is dangerous, tuberculosis milk is still more so, because milk is more frequently taken in an uncooked state. It is very dangerous to particular individuals, and especially so to children. It is said that poor people suffer more from this disease than do the rich, because they are unable to get such good milk or flesh as can their richer brethren. Milk may be rendered less harmful if cooked, for it has been discovered that the "baccili" or microbes can be destroyed at a heat of 100 degrees Centigrade, or 212 Fahrenheit, in a few minutes. The strongest brine has no effect, and the ova, or spore, require a higher temperature. Boiled meat is better than roast, because the latter is often eaten underdone, while boiled meat is generally disliked if not thoroughly cooked. The disease is more prevalent among aged milch cows, and particularly prevalent among Ayrshire cattle, because they have small and narrow chests, and it is frequently found among shorthorn herds and pedigree stock. The disease has an influence on the powers of breeding, and non-breeding is often due to a tuberculous taint. I can give three instances of tuberculous cows having stopped breeding in consequence of the disease. Now, are there any tests by which the disease can be recognised? I can name three, all of which are alluded to in the Blue Book, and possibly there may be others. There are the tests of temperature and ausculation while the animal is alive, and when the beast is dead there is the test of the microscope. It may be said that our Inspectors are not sufficiently skilled to apply these different tests; then all I can say is, we ought to have men who are sufficiently competent; we ought to have specially trained Inspectors, and pay them, if necessary, higher salaries. It is a question of sanitation, a question of health, and I do not think that the consideration of cost should stand in the way. It is possible that experiments are still necessary to show whether tuberculous meat is or is not injurious to human health when the disease is in its initial stages, and especially after the meat is cooked. In France, Belgium, Saxony, and Bavaria the flesh of animals only locally affected is passed for human food. At the present time—it is rather a disagreeable part of the subject—persons trade in tuberculous animals, slaughter them in places where there is little or no inspection, remove the diseased parts, and sell the rest for food. Emaciated cows are sent from one town, where there is good inspection, to another, where the inspection may not be so good, under the names of "piners" or "mincers"—names suggestive of unpleasant associations—and are sold at prices from 30s. to £3 or £4 per beast. In Edinburgh, if an animal is in good condition, if the tubercles are limited, the glands not affected, and if the flesh on section appears sound, the animal is passed in the slaughter-houses. If the glands are at all affected the animal is always condemned; but I see from the Meat Trades' Journal for last Saturday that still more stringent regulations have been made in Edinburgh. Again, something ought to be done in reference to milk. At Paisley the Local Authority tried, in one case, to stop the sale of tuberculous milk, and for so doing were held to have overstepped their duty. Now, there are many proposals as to how tuberculosis should be treated. For instance, Professor Cameron proposes that the sale of cattle should be recorded, and that when an animal is sold at a fair, the person selling it should give to the purchaser a certificate showing the place of origin of the animal, and the name and address of the owner. That seems to me a very reasonable proposal indeed. MR. Stephenson, F. R. C. V. S., goes further, and pro- poses that all cattle intended for human food should be slaughtered in public abattoirs. I believe that at the present time meat inspection, and especially in London, is very imperfect, and it would, I believe, be greatly improved if public abattoirs were created. Of course, at the same time I would not interfere with private abattoirs under certain conditions, properly licensed and inspected. MR. Stephenson further proposes that all cattle intended for food should be examined by a properly-qualified Inspector, both before and after slaughter, and that a careful record should be kept of all examinations in the abattoirs, and of the diseases found there. Other proposals have been made, and I think some of the following are good. It ought to be made penal for anybody knowingly to breed from a tuberculous beast. Compulsory notice should be given to Local Authorities in case of discovery of the disease by every owner, and then inspection should be made by a skilled Veterinary Inspector, so as to provide against unnecessary slaughter, and also against the continuance of the sale of tuberculous milk. In some towns, notably in Liverpool, Birmingham, Bradford, and Leeds, a Butchers' Jury decide doubtful questions. I think that when beasts are slaughtered, especially when they are taken away and compulsorily slaughtered in the interest of the community, compensation should be paid in certain cases. I think Local Authorities should enforce more strictly than they do the "Dairies, Cowsheds, and Milk-Shops Order, 1885," and that they should supervise all byres and cow-houses having regard to structure, drainage, and ventilation, and they should also examine the water supply. Medical Officers of Health should look for bacilli in milk, and if unable to detect them themselves they might send samples to a Bacteriological Laboratory. Local Authorities might also be empowered to inspect tuberculous herds, say every three months, slaughter out the animals that are ill, and stop the sale of milk from others. There is, at the present time, a Dairy Company in Copenhagen which has an examination of all its animals made every week. Possibly, this would not be sufficient; possibly, nothing would be sufficient but to go to the root of the matter and order a whole- sale slaughter of tuberculous animals. "The Liverpool and District Butchers' Association" sent a memorial to the Agricultural Department last autumn on the subject of tuberculosis, and more recently a similar memorial was sent from Sheffield; but, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture does not see his way at the present time to deal with the prayer of the memorialists, and these memorials have been sent by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) to the Local Government Board. Now, I think I ought to state the position of the Local Government Board in regard to this matter. As the law now stands, the question of the fitness of any animal for human food is, in the first instance, one for the Medical Officer of Health or the Inspector of Nuisances who has examined it under Section 116 of the Public Health Act, 1875. The question of its condemnation is one for the Justice who deals, with the case under Section 117, and the Local Government Board are not empowered to interfere in any action that may be taken under the above-mentioned enactments. But not only have the Associations I have mentioned, and kindred Associations, memorialised the Board of Agriculture on this subject: the County Council of my own county, Lancashire, recently passed the following resolution:— That this Council is of opinion that the Board of Agriculture should institute a further inquiry with respect to tuberculosis, and to the losses incurred by farmers and cattle dealer on account of cattle being condemned as unfit for food. Now, it seems to me that it would certainly be possible to deal with the disease in the cases of particular herds. I think the disease might easily be slaughtered out of them. I know of one instance where, had the owner of a particular herd slaughtered the whole herd 10 years ago and started with a new herd, he would be better off than he is at the present time. I know my right hon. Friend will say, if you are going to reduce herds by wholesale slaughter, what are you going to do with the pedigree stock. It is known that some shorthorn herds are riddled with the disease. A shorthorn bull may be worth 2,000 guineas—he might impregnate a herd with tuberculosis, and spread the disease over the whole country—and my right hon. Friend may say it would be difficult to order the slaughter of such a beast as that. But I say such an animal ought not to be allowed to exist, and if it had pleuro-pneumonia it would be slaughtered, and compensation would be given; and tuberculosis is more dangerous than pleuro-pneumonia. I think when the health of the community is concerned, the question of the value of a shorthorn bull ought certainly not to be considered. Many of my constituents are butchers, and their position is particularly hard. Our cattle market is under the best veterinary inspection, and every care is taken that only animals in a healthy condition shall be exposed for sale; but a Cattle Inspector has no power to seize a beast sold in public market on account of tuberculosis. Now, a butcher buys a beast that has passed inspection as to fitness for food, and he takes it home and prepares it for sale: there is no guilty knowledge on his part. Then there is a further official inspection, and the beast is condemned if traces of tuberculosis are found. In one case the traces were 12 or 15 little specks, about the size of apple pippins.


Before or after death?


After death. The case is particularly hard. The butcher is tried and fined, and may be treated as a criminal. He loses his beast and gets no compensation or redress, Imperial or Local. I could quote many cases at Bolton, Dublin, Glasgow, Hawick, Hyde, Irvine, Leeds, Manchester, Selkirk, and elsewhere; in fact, the Meat Trades' Journal is full of such cases. It may be said that the principle of caveat emptor should apply to the butcher who goes to market and buys a beast; it may be thought that there is an implied warranty that the beast is fit for food when a dealer sells to a butcher. However, in a case recently tried at Liverpool, "Hydes v. Cullen," it was held that when a defect or disease exists, of which the seller can have no knowledge, there is no implied warranty, and the purchaser has no claim. The doctrine of caveat emptor was held to apply; but in this Liverpool case, I suppose, the beast had been passed by the Veterinary Inspector. In dis- cussing this matter with a friend, he suggested that the ordinary conditions of trade should apply, and he said suppose a cargo of jute ordered, and that on arrival the jute was found to be unfit for use in trade, I should have to stand the loss. Yes, but in such a case there was no official inspection of the jute: but, in the case of the butcher there was an official inspection of the beast before buying, and another official inspection after it was bought, and not till then was it condemned: and the butcher suffered the whole of the loss. Now, I think such a loss, if compensation is not paid from Local or Imperial funds, ought rather to be borne by the breeder or dealer whose acquaintance with the beast would be much longer than that of the butcher, who bought it, perhaps, at an hour's notice. The whole subject is one that has been brought into prominence in recent years. In 1883, at a meeting of the National Veterinary Association held in London, a resolution was passed in favour of scheduling tuberculosis under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. In 1884 the Butchers' Associations of Yorkshire petitioned the Government to the same effect. The Society of Associated Medical Officers of Health were in favour of scheduling. The result was that the Departmental Committee was appointed, and reported upon the subject; the Report being considered by the people connected with the meat trades to be highly favourable to their views; and upon this, an Order was prepared that the disease might be scheduled under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, as will be seen on page 12 of the annual Report of the Agricultural Department for 1888. But I regret to say that, although this Order was drawn up it has never been acted upon. The effect of that Order would have been highly satisfactory to the meat trades throughout the country, for it provided for the slaughter of diseased animals found on the owner's premises, for compensation for such slaughter, for seizure and slaughter of diseased animals exposed in fairs, markets, &c, or in transit, and for seizure and slaughter of diseased foreign animals on importation; that is to say, if the Order had been carried out the disease would have been effectively dealt with under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts. In France tuberculosis is classified among contagious diseases, governed by sanitary police laws, as it ought to be treated here. How to deal with the disease is an Imperial question, and ought to be treated as such. Our meat trades are in a particularly unhappy position on this subject in regard to foreign competition. Tuberculous meat is condemned according to individual magisterial notions in this country, but there is no examination of Foreign meat imported, and it is not known whether it is taken from tuberculous beasts or not. If my right hon. Friend cannot see his way to adopt the suggestion to schedule the disease under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, I hope he will devise some means by which the subject may be dealt with in a practical way. I would ask him, with this object in view, to receive a deputation from those interested in the meat trade—breeders, farmers, dealers, and butchers—and perhaps from those he might accept some suggestions and find a solution of existing difficulties. I think the subject one of considerable importance, and that we ought to do our best to reduce, if not to stamp out, the amount of disease that now exists in the country. I am sorry to have detained the House so long, but I felt conscientiously obliged to bring the subject to the notice of the House, and I thank hon. Members for the attention which they have paid me.

*(6.50.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I think I must first congratulate my hon. Friend on the complete manner in which he has put this subject before us in a very interesting statement. I have myself directed some attention to the subject in its details, and I can assure the House that it could not have been put forward in a more clear manner, in a more lucid and thoroughly dependable way. I must also congratulate my hon. Friend upon an acquaintance with that most wonderful and mysterious creature, the bacillus, very creditable to a layman. It is a subject of very grave, pressing, and I might almost say national importance, and I think we do well when we step aside from the clash and turmoil of ordinary political life to consider these questions of a sanitary nature seriously affecting the health of the community. When we remember that 150,000 persons annually die in this country from consumption, and that the disease is increasing, I think it is high time for us to look into the causes and endeavour to check them if we can. I am very glad my hon. Friend has brought this matter forward, for nobody can now say it is merely a doctor's "fad." It might have been thought that this is a mere scientific and pathological speculation which has not reached a point where legislation is necessary, but when my hon. Friend, in the, interest of many in his large constituency, brings it forward, we may consider that there is that amount of interest taken in it outside the medical profession which is required before we can press our views into legislation. How does the matter actually stand? First we must prove that consumption is a communicable disease. For many years Italian doctors hold that, and we scouted the idea, until by experiment and investigation of the mysterious bacillus it was proved that the creature had the power of being transferred from one person to another, carrying the germs of the disease. The next point that has puzzled our doctors is, are the microbes in man and in cows the same creatures? In other words, is it actually proved that tuberculosis can be communicated directly? Well, I think delicate experiments have undoubtedly proved that the bacillus is the same in both, and that the communication of the disease from the lower animals to man is only too well made out. My hon. Friend has told us how men and animals have suffered from the disease at the same time—how the disease prevails among high-bred pedigree stock, and he has told us clearly the ways in which animals may transmit the bacilli to man. Take the first way, by consumption of the flesh. I do not believe this is a very frequent case. It is an open question whether the muscular fibre is contaminated with bacilli, but I think it is perfectly evident that cooking takes away some of the infected property. But, as my hon. Friend has told us, merely roasting a joint may not entirely kill all the bacilli in it, for a joint, if large, is often under-cooked, and the heat reaching the interior part is not sufficient. It must be over 100 degrees. Even if the creatures are killed, there are the spores or eggs left, which will develop into full grown bacilli and propagate disease. The destruction of these requires a much greater heat; and it is quite possible, and, indeed, only too probable, that an ordinary amount of heat is not sufficient to destroy these spores. Then apart from the flesh—as to which, as I have s*id, there is some doubt—we have the milk. We have evidence that communication from the lower animals to man by milk is made out in the most conclusive way by experiment. It is generally supposed that in cows tainted with tuberculosis, symptoms of the disease appear in the udders, but there is evidence of a scientific nature to prove that the disease may be present in the udder and yet be unrecognisable by the human eye during life, bat the post-mortem examination discloses it, and this makes the matter more serious, for the milk may be affected although no signs appear in the udder, and thus the disease may be propagated. Under sanitary improvements and sanitary regulations we have stamped out some diseases, and others are less prevalent, but consumption is increasing considerably, and more especially among children; and, putting things together, it is not extravagant to suppose that the cause of the increase of this tubercular disease is due to the fact that it is communicated in the milk from tuberculous animals. We know that every disease of this kind must have some kind of proper soil in which to spring up, and that it is not everybody who is exposed to the infection that catches it; but, unfortunately, the conditions under which many of our poor people have to live render them only too much disposed to catch tubercular disease. We know that amongst the most prominent of pre-disposing causes is starvation, while bad ventilation, and the wretched housing of the working classes, also make them liable to disease; indeed the causes may fairly be grouped under the broad term of deficient hygienic conditions. We have here, then, a disease amongst cattle which is to be communicable from cattle to man, and is held by competent authorities to be caused in man by drinking infected milk from cattle suffering from tuberculosis. The case which has been brought forward by the hon. Member is a very grave one, and I think that it is the duty of the Agricultural Department to try and find some remedy. Lust year I brought the matter before the House, but at that time there was no particular Department to which I could address myself, so that my efforts received but very scant notice. Now, however, we have an Agricultural Department, presided over by a Minister who takes a sincere interest in everything which affects the agricultural community, and I think we may not unnaturally appeal to him to try and find some remedy for a condition of things which is very threatening to the health of the general community. My hon. Friend has suggested that this disease should be scheduled, and I agree with him that if that were done, cattle breeders, realising the loss which they would incur from keeping tubercular stock, would pay greater attention to hygienic conditions, and that thus in time this terrible and catching disease would be stamped out among the lower animals. But, if the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to take this step, I think he might accede to the very reasonable request of my hon. Friend, and receive a deputation of those who are well acquainted with this subject. I hope he will give us some assurance that he will try and find a remedy for this growing mischief.

(7.5.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

I think we are very much indebted to the hon. Member for having brought this subject forward, for undoubtedly it is one of great interest to agriculturists and to consumers of meat generally, as well as to consumers of milk, especially in the present unfortunate condition of agriculture, which compels farmers to give up growing corn, and to turn their attention to the breeding and fattening of stock. At the same time I think it would be almost impossible to schedule this disease in the manner in which pleuro-pneumonia and foot and mouth disease are scheduled. The very characteristics of the disease show that it would be impossible for any Department to deal with it in that way, and we could not go in for legislation to stamp it out by wholesale slaughter, without calling upon the taxpayers for a large sum of money in order to compensate the owners of the slaughtered cattle.


I did not suggest that the disease could be so stamped out, but I urged that it might be greatly reduced.


My point is, that it is of no use asking the taxpayers for money merely to reduce the disease by killing a hundred or so animals, when tens of thousands are suffering from its ravages. This is a question on which the Agricultural Department might be asked to get further information. The Department is presided over by a Minister who certainly knows the importance of this subject, and I trust that Professor Brown will devote his attention and scientific knowledge to the subject. Then, if it is found it would be reasonable to ask the taxpayers for money in order to stamp it out, we may expect the Minister for Agriculture to take that step.

(7.10.) MR. MARK J. STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

Everybody who has had anything to do with cattle-breeding must realise the importance of this subject, and must be aware that the disease is of so insidious a nature that even the most skilful veterinarians are often unable to detect its existence. But the suggestion that inspectors should be appointed to go round to farm-houses, in order to see if cattle are suffering from it, is not one likely to meet with favour, because it would be an act of intrusion which would not be tolerated by any class. The persons best able to ascertain the state of health of milking cattle are those who attend to them; they can generally see when the disease develops itself in the animal's system. As to scheduling the disease, I very much question if any Government could induce the country to pay compensation for the slaughter of animals suffering from it. I do hope, however, that the Board of Agriculture will do all in its power to get further information as to the disease, and to ascertain the proper remedy to apply to it. In the district in which I live, we have about 12,000 milking cows, many of which are suffering from the disease. I believe that animals bred for milking purposes are more subject to tuberculosis than any other breeds, except, perhaps, the highest pedigree shorthorns, and the amount of compensation which would be required if you slaughtered all animals affected would be enormous. I think the proper plan of trying to repress the disease would be to adopt more stringent measures and methods of watching at the abattoirs where cattle are slaughtered, and preventing the sale of such cattle in public market. Much good might thus be done, for the farmers would cease to exhibit for sale infected cattle. The Board of Agriculture ought from an Imperial point of view, to take up this question; but they would not I think be justified in attempting to deal with it on the scientific information which we at present possess. Many farmers do not know the signs of the diseases, and it is only quite recently that the public knew anything about its existence.

(7.15.) MR. CHAPLIN

There can be no doubt in the minds of those who have listened to this debate as to the importance of the question raised by my hon. Friend, and, so far as I am concerned, I can assure him that upon this, as upon other questions, I shall be only too glad to lend him and the House whatever assistance may be in my power, as President of the Board of Agriculture, in order to arrive at some solution of this problem. But I am bound to say that I find myself confronted with a great difficulty in connection with this subject. I understand perfectly well that my hon. Friend desires—as indeed we all wish—to get rid of this disease altogether, once and for all, but I do not understand so clearly what are the means which in his opinion we ought to adopt in order to accomplish this purpose. The second difficulty in which I find myself placed is this: that even if I did understand the means which he thinks we should adopt in order to get rid of the disease, I doubt the power of the Board of Agriculture to carry them out. The hon. Gentleman himself pointed out—and the House will do well to bear this in mind—that this disease is not by any means limited to cattle alone. He referred to the Report of the Departmental Committee which sat upon this question last year, and it will of course be my duty to consider that Report. The first thing I find in that Report is that tuberculosis does not attack domesticated animals equally, and those liable to it are given in order of proportion in the Report. The first animal, and the one most liable to the disease, is man. Then come milch cows, goats, sheep, and horses, &c. The House will consequently see that the matter is not one the supervision of which should be limited to the Board of Agriculture alone. If I may trouble the House with details, I would ask them to follow me in reading Section 56 of the Report before referred to—the section which deals with the frequency and proportionate occurrence of the diseases among men and animals. The section points out that 14 per cent of the deaths among human beings are attributed to the disease, and that in some places the rate is as high as 17 5 per cent. The Report goes on to point out that cows are much more liable to the disease than any other animals, and I find that in Dublin, where there is an enormous number of dairy cows among which the disease is specially prevalent, the percentage of infected animals slaughtered was 4.9, as compared with a rate of 14 or 15 per cent, of fatal cases among human beings. In Great Britain the percentage varies considerably, for it ranges from 3.5 per cent, to 37.5 per cent.; and in Germany it ranges from 1.5 per cent, to 20 per cent, according to the districts in which it prevails. I am therefore bound to say, with every desire to arrive at a solution of the question, and fully recognising as I do its importance, that, in view of the greater mortality among men than among animals, and in view of the great difference of opinion which to my knowledge prevails among scientists and experts, I regard the question as one rather for further consideration on the part of scientists than for immediate action on the part of the President of the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Member gave us an account—and, as far as I know, an accurate account—of the causes which lead up to this disease, and of the manner in which it is communicated from animal to animal; and he said that experiments, which had been made had driven him to the conclusion that the meat of animals which had suffered from tuberculosis is dangerous for human consumption.


I said that, unless it was thoroughly well cooked, it would be dangerous.


And that is precisely one of the points on which I do not feel bound to pass an opinion, as it does not come within the special province of the Minister for Agriculture to undertake researches of that kind. No doubt, when that point has been authoritatively settled, it will be proper for me to take the matter into my consideration. Then the hon. Member went on to describe the remedies which he desired us to adopt. I understood him to say we might hope to secure the ultimate disappearance of this disease if the Board of Agriculture would only fulfil what he regards as a duty incumbent on it, and schedule it among the contagious diseases under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. But I should hesitate to put such an Order in force. In the first place, I am afraid I should be raising hopes which would be doomed to disappointment; and, in the second place, I do not believe it would improve the position of those in whose interests we are speaking—the constituencies which are largely interested in the cattle trade. I am exceedingly doubtful as to what would be the effect of such an Order, and I feel confident it is absolutely hopeless to attempt to get rid of the disease altogether. In the case of pleuro-pneumonia, and foot and mouth disease, we have passed certain Orders having that object m view, and in the course of the next few days I hope to ask the House to sanction legislation with regard to pleuro-pneumonia, by which I hope we may eventually extirpate the disease in this country. But it is not possible to do that in the case of this disease, which differs from others in that it can be communicated from men to animals. Under these circumstances, how can we possibly hope to extirpate tnburculosis by adopting measures of universal slaughter such as the hon. Gentleman describes, unless we are animated by such blood-thirsty intentions as I rather gather must have been in the minds of the Departmental Committee when they made their recommendation. I, for one, could not dream for a moment of attempting to undertake the extirpation of the disease, which could only be accomplished by a universal slaughter of human beings as well as of animals. The hon. Member has pressed upon me reasons why I should receive a deputation on this question. I have already had various Communications upon this subject, and not very long ago a letter was forwarded to me by the hon. Member for Sheffield, to the effect that the Sheffield Butchers' Association were exceedingly anxious that I should receive a deputation from their body, in order that they might submit to me the main objects they have in view. First, they wanted a definition as to whether tuberculous meat was wholly or partially unfit for food; and, if partially so, at what stage of the disease did it become unfit. But that is a question of public health, and does not come within the province of my Department. Then they wanted to have such meat condemned by being scheduled under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act; and thirdly, they wanted a uniform system of inspection of meat. I replied, pointing out that the first and final points were not matters upon which it was the province of my Department to pronounce an opinion; and I further added that when these points had been decided nothing would give me greater pleasure than to receive a deputation, and to do everything in my power, and in the power of my Department, to arrive at a solution of the difficulty. Of course, it would be possible for me to pass an Order such as is desired by the hon. Member, but I am afraid it would do very little to assist the people in whose interest the hon. Gentleman has brought this matter forward. I am very sorry to be unable to reply to the hon. Member in a more hopeful manner, and that I have not been able to meet his views more fully, but I hope I have said enough to explain to the House that the question is at the present time full of difficulty, and that it has not arrived at a stage at which it is possible for me, as President of the Board of Agriculture, to take action. We want fuller scientific knowledge in regard to it, and I can assure the House that I will not lose any opportunity of endeavouring to obtain that further information. No effort shall be wanting on my part, or on the part of my Department, to arrive at a satisfactory and, I hope, permanent solution of the question.

*(7.30.) SIR LYON PLAY FAIR (Leeds, South)

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the time has scarcely arrived when animals afflicted with tuberculosis should be scheduled in the same way as other diseased animals are, but I am not satisfied with the manner in which the President of the Agricultural Department has spoken on the question, because he will recollect that, when the proposal was made last year to create a Minister having charge of agricultural affairs, I pointed out that the appointment of an ordinary administrative Department would have little or no effect on the country. I showed that in other countries, and especially in America, scientific men and experts were working in the agricultural Department, and I did hope that my right hon. Friend would have to-day promised to ask the Government to grant a scientific inquiry which would go thoroughly into this question. My right hon. Friend asked how he could cope with the disease when it was possible for a man to communicate it to the lower animals? That is perfectly true, so far as experiments show that the injection of tuberculous poison from a man into animals gives them the disease, but he must forgive me if I remind him that herbivora do not feed on man, whereas man does live upon herbivora. Milk from animals, suffering from tuberculosis may be supplied to children, and it is a startling; fact that, when tuberculosis prevails, largely among animals, consumption is prevalent among children to an increasing extent. While this question is exceedingly important in regard to cattle, it is infinitely more important in regard to mankind. The matter is one which ought to receive the attention of the Government, and the newly-appointed Agricultural Department should investigate all the details. I think there can be no doubt that the disease is, through meat, and milk, communicable to the human race, and I think there is every reason to believe that tuberculosis milk is largely responsible for the spread of consumption among children. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will represent to the Government the importance of having a thorough inquiry with regard to the spread of tuberculosis, and as to the desirability of preventing the consumption of milk obtained from animals suffering from the disease.

*(7.35.) MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)

I should like to impress upon the House that this evil affects the public at large and not merely one class, and I do appeal to the Government not to neglect this subject simply because there may be a dispute between two Departments as to whose duty it is to take it in hand. I think one of the best means of checking the spread of the disease would be the prevention of the exhibition for sale of pining or wasting animals, for you would thus put a stop to the sale of tuberculosis meat, and thus charge the loss on the right persons and not on the butchers, who in a seaport see foreign meat imported, which is liable to no criticism at the hands of an Inspector; and by some change of system you might also prevent the distribution of affected animals, when useless for milking, over the country for breeding purposes. It seems to me to be a matter of public policy for us to take steps to repress the disease in its early stages; and although we may not be able to find an entire panacea or efficacious remedy for the disease, yet it is possible to take a step in the right direction, and by consenting to receive a deputation from the great trade interests involved Ministers might place themselves in a position to gain useful information.

(7.39.) MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)

In addition to the general public two classes are interested in this question—the breeders and the butchers. My right hon. Friend has already dealt with the case of the breeders, and I agree with him that when live cattle are converted into dead meat the matter passes into the jurisdiction of the Local Government Board. I believe the Minister of Agriculture has already expressed his readiness to receive a deputation on this subject; and I will, therefore, make an appeal to my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board to receive a deputation from the butchers, who are not less interested in the matter than the breeders. Is there any reason why the two right hon. Gentlemen should not jointly receive the deputation?


That suggestion will, I am sure, be carefully considered by my rig-lit hon. Friend and myself, and if it is possible to enable those who are interested in the matter to lay their views before the Government it may be desirable that we should jointly receive the deputations. I do not like here to discuss the question whether the duty of dealing with this subject belongs to one Department or to another; but on a question of such public importance I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree with me that it is the duty of every Department of the State to render all the assistance it possibly can in arriving at a solution of the difficulty. Hon. Members maybe assured that the matter shall receive our full consideration.