§ COLONEL GUNTER (York, W.R., Barkstone Ash)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Agriculture if his attention has been called to the intended shipment to this country of hay from Russia, and that as cattle murrain is generally prevalent there, and as the outbreak of rinderpest in England in 1866 was traced to this source, if he intends to take steps to prevent any chance of a like calamity occurring again?
§ MR. EVERSHED (Staffordshire, Burton)
I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the fact that the probable importation of large quantities of hay from Russia and elsewhere during the coming autumn and winter may be the means of introducing cattle disease into this country, he will consider the precautious that might be taken to minimise any such risk?
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
I will at the same time ask whether his attention has been drawn to the largo imports of foreign hay and straw consequent upon our own deficient harvest; whether he is aware that rinderpest and other cattle diseases have been introduced by means of this foreign produce; whether the rinderpest of 1866 was introduced by means of foreign hay from Russia; and what steps he will 1476 take to prevent the introduction of disease with our flocks and herds, by means of these foreign importations?
§ SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
And I will ask whether, in view of the critical condition of the agricultural interest in this country, and the fearful loss that must follow upon the introduction of the rinderpest, he will place the importation of hay from infected countries under close restriction and supervision, so as to avoid, if possible, the threatened danger?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. H. GARDNER,) Essex, Saffron Walden
In reply to the various questions which have been placed on the Paper on this subject, I may state that on the occasion of each of the three outbreaks of rinderpest which have occurred in this country during the present century, the disease followed upon the arrival hero of cattle affected with the disorder, and we have no evidence whatever that it has at any time boon introduced by means of the importation of bay, straw, or other feeding-stuffs used for cattle. The possibility of infection in the manner suggested in the questions has been under consideration on several occasions in connection with the recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, but it has always been felt that the risk was not of such a character as to justify the imposition of restrictions seriously affecting a great variety of trades, and indeed, short of total prohibition, I do not see what steps could be taken which would be really effectual. I fully recognise, however, the importance of the subject, and I will keep it steadily in view.
§ COLONEL GUNTER
This question is of vital importance to agriculturists, and we should be glad to have some assurance on the subject from the right hon. Gentleman. The idea prevails in the country that hay brought this disease just as rags brought cholera, and I will ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that every precaution will be taken.
§ MR. H. GARDNER
I have told the hon. Gentleman that I fully recognise the importance of the subject, and will keep it in view. But it is contrary to the fact to assert that rinderpest has ever been brought to this country by imported 1477 hay. In every case it has been traced to animals.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
Would it be possible to make a distinction between hay coming from the Russian Steppes and hay coming from other parts of Europe?
§ MR. H. GARDNER
I think it would be very difficult. I can only repeat that I recognise the gravity of the situation, and will do my best to deal with it.
May I ask the President of the Board of Agriculture if there was any importation of hay at the time of the previous outbreaks of rinderpest?