HC Deb 23 July 1912 vol 41 cc1009-11

I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to make further provision for the protection of animals from cruelty."

I hope that hon. Members when they realise its object may allow this Bill to become law this Session without opposition. The Bill seeks to impose penalties on anyone performing or causing to be performed certain operations on horses and dogs without anaesthetics. The Bill only deals with horses and dogs on the face of it, because all those who have experience know that horses and dogs undoubtedly feel far more pain than other domestic animals. The Bill seeks to give power to ths Board of Agriculture to make Regulations extending and altering the Schedules if necessary, after, of course, they have been laid on the Table of the House. Under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, no operation for the purposes of vivisection is allowed without anæsthetics if it is more serious than the cutting of a vein just under the skin. It has always struck me as a great anomaly that Parliament when it dealt most rightly with this question of cruelty involved in vivisection left quite untouched the very much greater amount of cruelty which undoubtedly at the present time exists owing to the unchecked veterinary operations which are performed without anæsthetics. The advance of medical science has not brought the same alleviation of suffering to animals as to human beings, and, in fact, it has in many cases led to more, because surgical operations are now performed on animals which were not thought of before, and they have not yet had the benefit of anæsthetics in those more complicated operations which every human being naturally demands. Veterinary surgeons have told me that they are positively ashamed of the kind of operations which they are sometimes expected to do without anæsthetics. They are placed in a very difficult position. They cannot refuse to operate without anæsthetics because if they do very often the owner goes to a horse doctor, who is less squeamish, and inflicts very much more suffering. No doubt many owners see that the horses get anæsthetics, but I believe many more would take this course if this Bill came into operation. I showed this Bill a few days ago to a Member of this House who for many years was a very successful Master of a well-known pack of hounds. He told me he quite agreed with everything in the Bill except the inclusion of the operation of castration. He told me that in the castration of a horse very little pain was involved, because the horse was cast and the legs tied in such a position that it could not move, and that the whole thing was over in a moment. That may have been the case a few years ago, but the position is now changed owing to the fact that owners object to having their horses cast, and it is now usual to perform the operation while the horse is. standing.

Under the best of conditions this operation must be painful, but I would ask the House to imagine what it must be now, when, as a veterinary surgeon expressed it to me it is no longer a question of surgery, but of gymnastics, owing, to the fact that the horse is moving about, and to the necessity of the operator of avoiding kicks. The operation is either done with a hot iron, a clamp cautery, or an ecraseur or crusher. Everybody knows that in the case of a human being if a limb is lacerated or torn by a machine, owing to the fact that the blood vessels are crushed and mangled the bleeding ceases quicker than in the case of a clean cut by a sharp instrument. This operation is performed with this ecraseur or moving chain which mangles and crushes the blood vessels, so that very little flow of blood takes place. I have not described the ojjeration to cause a feeling of horror to the House, but simply to enable Members to realise the changed practice in this respect, and because I fully recognise that if there is any opposition to this measure it will be on the ground of the inclusion of castration. I am sure if hon. Members agree to the inhumanity of castration without anæsthetics they will far more agree to the other provisions of the Bill. I believe enlightened public opinion will now support a Bill on those lines, because I have taken the trouble to consult a good many horse owners on this matter. The House will see that the Bill has got the support of a large number of Members with a practical knowledge of horses, including the hon. Member for New market (Sir Charles Rose), who in a very special way, represents those who are interested in horse breeding and horse owning. It has long been recognised if a horse is unfit for work that no financial considerations shall absolve an owner from liability to a charge of cruelty if he chooses to work it. I say that it is therefore not too much to ask that where owners for their own convenience and profit subject animals to surgical operations that they should pay the necessary five shillings for the use of an anæsthetic. For those reasons I earnestly ask the House to allow this Bill to pass and thus put a stop to what I believe results in a vast amount of unnecessary cruelty to animals which is a standing reproach to our humanity.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Walter Guinness; supported by Dr. Addison, Mr. Baird, Sir Frederick Banbury, Lord Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, Mr. Butcher, Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, Mr. Greene, Colonel Lockwood, Mr. Mills, and Sir Charles Rose. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Tuesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 286.]