HC Deb 03 April 1914 vol 60 cc1511-64

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

I offer no apology to the House for moving the Second Reading of this Bill, inasmuch as Members are fully aware that there is great indignation throughout the country at the continuation of the traffic in worn-out horses for slaughter. It is, therefore, evident to the House that legislation is needed with all haste, and that it is time we as a country should, by passing legislation, show that we hate this traffic, and that we wish to terminate the charge which has been brought against us by our foreign friends and neighbours, who describe the horrible traffic as a shame to England. As Englishmen we have hitherto set a noble example to the whole world in regard to our love and care for animals, and especially for horses. I, therefore, think that it is now time for us to put an end to this sordid traffic within our borders. If it is not wholly cruel, it is, at all events, altogether pitiful. I am not going to enter into harrowing details. The Press and others, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, have informed the public generally in regard to the horrid details which are involved in this traffic. I may say that I have personally visited ports on this side and on the other side, that I have seen the inspectors, that I have seen the horses passed by the inspectors, and that I have interviewed dealers and made myself fully acquainted with all the details of the subject. I can only say that I have seen quite enough to make me thoroughly ashamed of my country. I have seen this friend of man, this very willing slave, on its journey to its gruesome end, lame, sore, distressed, worn out, and starved. I have wondered what their old owners could have thought if they had seen them. What an abiding reflection! So well is the inspection at these ports carried out that if it were thought advisable to bring this charge of cruelty home to those responsible for selling these horses, every horse could be traced, where it came from and where it went to. Take one case that I saw. It was a very old pony which was quite fit to travel abroad and therefore not stopped by this Bill. It had been passing its last days in pulling a mowing machine on the family lawn. Previous to that it had educated one by one all the owner's family to ride. That pony was sent away. I saw it in the procession with a piece of tape round one of its fetlocks. I asked the reason, and was told that that indicated that the pony's hoof was to be returned to his owner as a memento of his usefulness. I saw all descriptions of horses, chargers, and even state-coach horses that had carried portly lord mayors. I have seen old favourites of all descriptions.

It is desirable that people who own horses and desire that they should be destroyed in a proper manner near their own homes should take the necessary steps to be sure that it is done. In the course of my inquiries I have found many cases of owners who thought that this had been done, whereas the horses had been sold by the groom or coachman. The other day there was a very bad case. Two horses were bought in the Isle of Man, one for 10s. and the other for 7s. 6d. They came from Douglas to Liverpool, where the inspector of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals detected them and reported them to the local inspector, and they were destroyed, and the man who took them across was fined £3 with £4 costs. To remove this evil it is necessary to revise the law. No private Member can possibly pass into law any Bill which is any way complicated. Therefore, we have been satisfied to go just as far as we do in order to bring to our help the aid of the Government. The Bill before the House, therefore, does not introduce anything in the way of extreme measures or anything to which the Government can take exception. It merely amends the Act already in force. The Act., which came into force in 1910, had a very good effect, but it has been admitted that recently there was a certain amount of slackness in regard to the inspection of these horses, whether owing to changes in administration or in the permanent officials at the Board of Agriculture, or some other cause, I cannot say. Up to the present this year 15,000 horses have been exported, a number which is equal for the same period, 1913. There were only 326 rejected last year, whereas now, when this Bill was known and the Government were warned of what was coming, they have rejected no fewer than 512.

That is evidence that there has been slackness. It also proves this, that by the slackness of the inspectors, the dealers—I will not say the best dealers; they are not all blackguards, but there are black sheep in every class—have been tempted by this slackness to allow horses to go through which they would not otherwise have done. I do not want to argue from private sources or from the society which does such good work. I depend entirely on official documents. I will refer first to the last Report of the Consul-General for Belgium, dated October, 1911:— It is possible that some attempt may be made to revive the agitation which so largely appealed to the better instincts of humanitarians regarding the condition of horses shipped from British ports to Antwerp. In 1909, such agitation was much needed and a timely propaganda in the Press was the means of introducing a much required reform. As I said in my last Report, the condition of the animals shipped to Belgium is vastly better than of old, and I can emphatically state upon the best authority that the horses now permitted to be embarked in the United Kingdom are without exception in a fit state to undergo the voyage to Antwerp without cruelty. Anyone reading that would imagine that this is a most favourable Report, and that there was nothing to complain about, but the House should be very careful as to what those words mean. He says "without exception in a fit state to undergo the voyage." That was the mistake made in the 1910 Act. We have only instructed our inspectors to prevent cruelty being caused to the horses during the voyage, but not when they are travelling from Antwerp to Brussels or going from Antwerp to Ghent or other long journeys, or travelling over miles of hard stone. It continues:— It is widely known that the powers of the Board of Agriculture were increased by legislation in 1910, and that veterinary inspectors were appointed at the various ports of the United Kingdom from which horses were shipped to the Continent. These inspectors have full power to refuse permission for the shipment of a horse provided that in their judgment the voyage to the Continent or unloading at the port of debarkation would cause any suffering or physical pain to the animal. They have power to order the destruction of any animals should such course be necessary on humanitarian grounds. The work of the inspectors is carried on in a thoroughly conscientious manner, and I am confident that no animal permitted to be shipped to the Continent from the United Kingdom is in such a condition that it will be subject to cruelty through being shipped to and landed at Antwerp and Ghent. Exceptions must, of course, occur as regards animals loch have met with an accident during particularly rough sea passages, but it can be stated authoritatively that all precautions humanly possible are taken to prevent old horses shipped to the Continent from the United Kingdom undergoing suffering in transit, or during disembarkation at Antwerp. I am perfectly satisfied that every care is taken on their part. I have no fault to find in any way as regards those horses which are shipped. They are fed well, and watered well, and proper precautions are taken to prevent them from suffering during transit. The Report goes on:— There have been accusations in the local Press to the effect that the good standard of the horses shipped from the United Kingdom since the passing of the Board of Agriculture Regulations has been allowed to decline through slackness on the part of the inspecting officers at British ports. This is not the case, and, though the accusations were doubtless made in good faith, there is a simple explanation of the matter. The accusation was that the inspectors had passed some horses to go across which it would have been cruel to put on board ship. The Report continues:— All old horses sent from the United Kingdom to the Continent have to be examined before shipment. The duty of the inspecting officers is to refuse shipment of such horses as cannot be conveyed and landed without cruelty. Beyond this they cannot go. That is the point laid down here, that "beyond this" it is not the affair of the British inspectors; the Report says— nor is it the affair of the British inspectors what becomes of the animals after they are lauded in Belgium. We want to introduce this Bill to give them that power. Again the Report says: The interests of humanity are adequately served by prohibiting the embarkation of horses which would suffer pain on the voyage and in being landed. That is as far as they can go, but we want to go further. The Report goes on:— Now the Belgian standard is different from the British, and in this difference lies the accusation that horses unfit to travel are permitted to be embarked in the United Kingdom. The Belgian authorities examine horses for three reasons, namely: (1) Suffering which causes physical pain to the animal; (2) unsightliness, which includes deformities, swellings, etc., which cause no pain to the animal; and (3) fitness for food. I do not think we should take any notice of the third provision in our Bill. We should not recognise horses as fit for food. We do not want to include those words in our Bill, and consider horses fit for food. The British examination is solely for humanitarian purposes, to prevent unnecessary suffering to dumb animals, i.e., Belgian category (1) the difference is at once apparent. Horses may—and do in sonic cases—now arrive at Antwerp which are unsightly, with swelled joints, grease, stringhalt, or other kindred ailments, which, though they render the animal unsightly, do not necessarily cause it pain. Horses also arrive suffering from mange, and are, therefore, unfit for food, but they can quite well be conveyed without cruelty. These horses are passed by the British inspectors as they can travel to Belgium without cruelty. They are criticised by the Belgian inspectors on the ground of unsightliness or unfitness for food. Again, other horses which arrive here may not be in a condition to make long journeys by road into the interior, but perfectly able to undergo the passage from the United Kingdom and debarkation without suffering. The duty of the British inspector is to permit all animals to be embarked which can be conveyed without suffering. It is not his duty, nor in his power, to prohibit the shipment of animals which, after debarkation at Antwerp, are unfit for human food in Belgium or unable to travel inland by road. The British inspection is thorough and adequate from the humane standpoint, the standpoint of the excellent societies which interests themselves in the prevention of cruelty to animals. It is the duty of the Belgian inspectors and societies to see that animals which have arrived and been landed in Belgium without cruelty do nut suffer pain after reaching this country. It is also their duty—and not that of the British inspectors—to determine whether an animal is unsightly or unfit for food. They have instituted in Belgium a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and not merely to prevent cruelty, but to take every precaution in regard to this traffic. Regulations have been laid down that sticks are not to be used in driving the horses through the streets, and they are building stables for this traffic, and really some good work has been performed. The Report states:— It may here he well to state—without any implied criticism, however—that the regulations passed in Belgium for the conveyance of old horses into the interior in sealed wagons have not yet been carried into effect, nor has the knackers' yard been constructed on the quay. I have just had an intimation from Belgium that they have already purchased land at a cost of £6,000, right opposite the quay where horses are landed, and when the work of building has been concluded, the unsightliness of all those English horses going through these four miles of streets will be eliminated, and that will be a great point gained if this traffic is to continue at all. I would like to point out that there has been some fear in Belgium that the traffic is going to be stopped altogether. I am not upon that at the present moment, and I will deal with that point later; I am only endeavouring now to eliminate the unsightly part. The Report goes on, after stating that the knacker's yard, which is not yet constructed, is— with a view to preventing a long procession of worn-out animals through the streets to the municipal abattoir. Those are the real facts of the case, stated by the Consul-General at Antwerp, and on which we found our argument. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us his assistance, because we know perfectly well without that assistance all this work and debate is lost. If he chooses to go further and adopt any measures that he considers wise subsequently to the passing of the Bill, then I am with him. To do away with the traffic altogether, I would here point out that the only way to do that is to prevent live horses from going to Belgium. You cannot send at the present time a carcass of a horse to Belgium. It is not permitted, and therefore you cannot send a dead horse. You can send, however, the meat of a horse dressed meat—but you have also to send with it the heart and liver in order that some examination may be made as to the health of the animal. I may point out that the duty is almost prohibitive. It amounts to £4 10s. for a carcass of about 8 cwt., which is about the weight of a dead cart horse, and at the present time a live horse can be shipped over to the Continent for 18s. Therefore, of course, representations would have to be made to the Belgian authorities to remove that duty. If we had Tariff Reform there would be no difficulty whatsoever about this matter. We at present have to go to Belgium with hat in hand and say, "Will you take off this duty," whereas if we had Tariff Reform all we would have to do would be to say, "If you do not take the duty off the meat we shall put the duty on the live horse." That would be a simple way to do it. I think I have explained pretty well the necessity for action. After all this is a very serious charge which is being brought against England, and I do not think we should be doing our duty if we did not defend ourselves. We all know that we have been at fault, but, at least, we can find some excuse, however lame it may be, for having been brought into this trouble. I therefore would remind the House, incidentally, of circumstances that have taken place. Motor traffic has driven off the streets of our towns something like 50,000 horses, and over 50,000 horses per year are shipped over for various purposes for amounts totalling something like from four hundred to five hundred thousand pounds per year. If we had not had this market for the disposal of these horses it would have been difficult to know what we would have done with all those horses. We could not have used them, and I doubt very much, seeing that we could not use them, whether they would have been fed, and if that occurred then there would have been much misery and cruelty. To have to deal with 50,000 carcasses per year would mean some difficulty to some local authorities, or even to the Government, and to bury 50,000 carcasses might possibly have created a plague. But at all events it is not a pleasant thing to imagine how we would have disposed of them.

Therefore this market which was created, deplorable as it is, was in some ways a benefit to this country. We have, however, one thing to be proud of, and that is that we have exported a thousand donkeys into Belgium. When I tell you that they are bought at from £3 to £5, and that they are taking the place of the dogs which are used for hauling purposes, I think we have very good reason to pride ourselves on the humanitarian result. Nobody, I am sure, appreciates the sight of a dog pulling a cart in a foreign country, and by the introduction of the donkey into Belgium we have at least in this country done something to remove it. I would offer the advice to the President of the Board of Agriculture that this traffic can be increased, and that they should take something like 3,000 donkeys at from £3 to £5 each, while at present they only get 1,000. If the right hon. Gentleman would push the breeding of donkeys on the waste land of Wales, or on the West Coast of Ireland, where there is plenty of room for the purpose, it would be an industry that might be of benefit to those districts as well as to the foreigners who would purchase the animals. I learned while in Belgium that President Kruger bought no less than 3,000 donkeys before the Boer war commenced. There is another phase of this question, and it is the danger to the community if this traffic continues. So appreciated is this horse meat in Belgium among the poorer classes that they will not do without it, and butchers there will go up to no less than £25 for a good horse. It does not matter to the butcher in the least whether the horse is sound or unsound, whether he is useful or not, as long as he makes good meat and as long as he can get the horse within his price. In the case of a cart horse, the highest price we know is £27.

If we continue this practice there will be removed from our market a lot of horses which are still useful and valuable to our small farmers and small holders, who otherwise will be deprived of horses, at prices at which they would be able to compete for them. They would not be able to give, for instance, £25 for a horse. In stopping the exportation of very bad horses we are only damaging the sausage trade. Very, very bad horses are used for making sausages. When these sausages are six months old they are sold at 10d. per pound, and are used in foreign restaurants in the East End. When they are two years old they are worth more money and are sold at 3s. 6d. per pound in first-class restaurants in London, and they are wrapped round with silver paper to give them a more dignified appearance, and then, when you have a very fine dinner you may have them as hors d'œuvres. While I was at Antwerp I saw a yearling colt that had been born with a deformed leg, and I was told that it was used for the purpose of making veal, and that £6 10s. had been paid for it, and no doubt it was a very excellent thing. It was not cruel, and there was no fault to find, and otherwise the poor farmer would probably have to knock it on the head instead of getting £6 10s. for it. A good many of the horses which have been exported have come from the Yeomanry. No fewer than 1,500 horses were sold after the Yeomanry training last year at prices ranging from £7 to £16 each. Many of these horses were only temporarily, not permanently, unfit. That shows that there is a certain amount of wastage of useful horses in this respect. The sale of horses in large blocks causes a low price in the market. At, the same time there are unfortunately other horses coining into the market from costers and hawkers who, when vegetables are dear, are not able to feed their horses and ponies, and, therefore, are obliged to sell them. Five hundred of this class were sent over in the course of last year. Costers are not an inhumane body, as is shown by the following story, which I have reason to believe is true. A coster was earning only is. 6d. a day, of which he spent 1s. upon his pony and the other 6d. upon himself and his old mother. That shows, at any rate, that the coster appreciates and loves the animal which does his work for him.

Then we come to the small holders. No fewer than 700 of this class of horse were sent over last year. Small holders have to live on a small margin of profit. They cannot afford to give big prices for horses, therefore they have to go to the towns and buy horses which are no longer capable of going long journeys or standing the stress of very hard work. These horses are available for the small farmer, and are suitable for his purpose without any possible charge of cruelty being brought against him. If this traffic is ended there will be a great increase in that class of horse available for farmers and small holders. In the Bill introduced last year it was proposed that no horse under £10 in value should be sent abroad. We have thought it necessary to replace those words by the provision in this Bill, because it would be difficult to determine the price. You would not be able to get the correct value from the owner, inasmuch as he might be deceitful. You would not be able to compare a small animal with a large animal, a pony with a horse, and you would be putting too much responsibility upon the inspector in requiring him to put a value upon an animal whose value can only be determined when it is sold by auction on arriving at its destination. Therefore we have substituted the words words—which we can all understand—"No horse shall be shipped across which is permanently unfit for work." I may be met with the assertion that if we go in for further inspection it will throw a charge upon the State. Let us put that aside at once. I have asked a question about the receipts from this traffic, and I find that the actual income of the Treasury in connection with horses exported amounted last year to £8,250, while the actual sum paid in salaries to inspectors in connection with that work was only £4,361. There is a certain amount to be added to that for the special engagement of veterinary surgeons not regularly employed. Even if we add £800 for that, there is left no less a sum than £3,000 which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is making out of this horrible traffic. Therefore, he is well able to spend another £3,000 in increasing the inspectors and their salaries, so as to have the most competent men to carry out this work in the most efficient manner. I ask the House to pass this Bill, and to put an end to this wrong which wrings out hearts.

1.0 P.M.

Captain MURRAY

It has been my privilege on many occasions during the last six years to address this House, but I can honestly say that in no instance have I bad a more pleasant task to perform than in joining the hon. Member opposite in asking the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill to-day. It must be a good Bill, because into its consideration there has entered a discussion of an Import Tax, and still we find a Tariff Reformer moving it and a Free Trader seconding it. The hon. Member opposite has very clearly explained the object of the Bill and the reason for its introduction. I think that the House and the country owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for having balloted for and introduced the Bill. What is the case for this measure? It is necessary to state it in order that the country, through the medium of this House, may be aware of the nature of this traffic. It has been proved that the vast majority of these horses that are shipped to Belgium are unfit for further work. What does that mean? It means that these horses are obviously intended to be slaughtered on the other side for human consumption. The Mover of the Bill has very clearly pointed out that the original Act of 1910 does not go far enough. Section 1 of that Act provides—

"It shall pot be lawful…to ship or attempt to ship any horse which is not capable of being conveyed to such port and disembarked without cruelty."

We are of opinion that that does not go far enough. We submit that a horse which is unfit for further work ought not to be subjected to the cruelty and suffering that may be entailed by the voyage across. From what does that suffering and cruelty arise? It arises from the possibility of a rough sea or cold weather, or from the possible delay of the ship owing to storm or fog. A case has been known in which a ship was held up at the Nore for three days. It is no exaggeration to say that for a horse which may be weak or ailing to stand in one position for nearly four days is a martyrdom in itself, which ought not to be permitted. It may be said—and it has been said—that under the Act of 1910 no weak or ailing horse is permitted to be shipped. I think the Report of the Consuls-General to which the hon. and gallant Member referred rather conveyed that too. What are the actual facts? I have some figures which show the number of horses dispatched from Great Britain to Antwerp from 30th October to 31st December, 1913. The number of horses which arrived at Antwerp from Great Britain was 5,046. Of these eight died during the voyage, four were slaughtered at the dock, whilst there were conveyed in floats from the dock, because unable to walk, seventy-one. Does not that prove that this Act of 1910 is quite inadequate to meet the case? All the horses that died, and so on, passed the inspector under that Act. What does that Act say?—

"No horse shall be put on board if it is not capable of being conveyed without suffering or cruelty."

The figures I have given prove indisputably that a vast number of the 5,000 horses that arrive at those ports undergo suffering and cruelty during the voyage. I leave that aspect of the case, and I come to the cruelty that exists on the other side. It is impossible to deny that such cruelty exists. Evidence has been given in the Report to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman drew attention. I do not think that we ought to leave out of account the evidence, from private sources, of people moved by feelings of sympathy towards these poor old horses who have spent days, and weeks and months, on the other side endeavouring to improve their condition. I make no apology to the House for quoting from a letter which I received a few days ago from Miss Cole, a lady who has done more in the interests of these horses, I believe, than any human being, and whose evidence no one in this House or outside would attempt to disprove. Writing only a few days ago, Miss Cole says:— Every Monday afternoon when our horses leave quarantine stables marked for death (and liable to wait ten days for that one possible boon) they are beyond all protection, and are considered simply as so much living meat. On the railway some are without food and water for forty-eight hours. Some fall and are trampled under foot. On the road they go twenty-eight miles or more, and arrive sweating, limping and exhausted. They fall. One fell in Antwerp in daylight, and the drover, who kicked it till an eye was smashed and the mouth bleeding, was not punished or even threatened. (This was not on a Monday—it was a horse leaving for Brussels on Wednesday, exhausted for want of food.) They suffer hunger and thirst before death, and are more often than not cruelly killed. Two people told me that they protested against cruelty to horses marked for death, and received the same answer that they were for killing. Nearly all our old horses are for killing.' They are marked for it, and that means that their suffering does not matter. Please remember that this is true of the greater number of our old horses sent here every week. From my own experience in regard to France, the cruelty to the horses there, I fear, is at least as bad. 1.0 P.M.

That quotation requires no comment from me. It has been suggested that we are not responsible for the suffering and cruelty that occurs on the other side of the Channel. That is true. Those on the other side are responsible, but at least we can be generous to our neighbours on the other side by removing the responsibility from their shoulders. That we can do in a very simple way. We can prevent the export of these live horses by ensuring that they shall be slaughtered on this side. What are some of the arguments quoted against this Bill? It has been said—I am not quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman in an interview which he gave to a newspaper some weeks ago did not suggest this—he will correct me if I am wrong—that if the traffic was stopped it would drive the cruelty into this country.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Runciman)

I never stated that. What I said was not in that form. I pointed out the dangers that might be incurred by taking too solid and severe a view of the traffic.

Captain MURRAY

I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I do not wish to misrepresent him, and I withdraw what I said. It has, however, been suggested as one of the arguments against this Bill, that if the traffic were stopped it would drive the cruelty to this country. My answer to that is this: If there is any risk of that, then we are quite prepared to take it. In this country cruelty to animals is a crime which can be punished with hard labour. The cruelty however, which takes place on the other side—in the outlying districts of Belgium for instance—is committed without any fear whatever of the consequences. In this country we are prepared to redouble our efforts to bring offenders to book. We cannot do so when the horses have passed beyond our control. There is another argument advanced against this Bill. It is said that the importers concerned will not import dead meat if they cannot get live horses. As the hon. Member has shown it is quite true that in the case of Belgium they will not import carcasses, but they will import dead meat. A short time ago a cargo of several hundred tons of dead meat were imported from the Argentine, a small tax being placed upon it.

So far as Holland is concerned, there arc continually sent there some thousands of carcasses of horses slaughtered on this side as being unfit to travel. I believe it to be the case, that if the traffic in live horses is stopped, that the trade will very soon settle down to the altered conditions, for as the hon. Member himself has said the Belgians will have their dead horse meat. Even if that were not so—if it could be proved that it would not do so—I say that it is absolutely no justification whatsoever for the continuance of the trade in live horses. This argument is on a par with the arguments that were used against the abolition of the slave trade. I took down from my shelves last night a volume of "Hansard" for 1791–92. I do not suppose that it has been moved from that shelf for a great number of years—and I looked through the Debates which took place in this House on the abolition of the slave trade. What were the arguments of hon. Members at that time who opposed the abolition of the slave trade? That it would ruin a great industry, and that it would bring about the decay of the West Indies. What did Mr. Wilberforce say:— He was aware that an opinion had gone forth that a measure of abolition would be attended with inevitable ruin in the West Indian islands, and he trusted he should be able to prove that the direct contrary was the truth, but this he must say was more than anyone had a right to require. For his own part he confessed that, considering the miseries this trade entailed on Africa, his liberty of choice was taken from him; he must at all events determine for the abolition. These arguments are, to my mind, equally capable of being applied to the Bill before this House. When this Bill gets into Committee I understand it is the intention of hon. Gentlemen to move certain Amendments from what they consider to be a strengthening point of view. So far as I am concerned I am most anxious that this Bill should go through in some shape or other. I am convinced the Bill, as it stands, if passed into law will introduce immensely improved conditions into the trade. I am of opinion we ought to get this Bill, somehow or other, during the course of the present Session. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture will, no doubt, in the course of the afternoon explain his attitude to the Bill. I personally should like to take this opportunity of thanking him for the interest he has shown in this traffic and for the improvements he has effected during his term of office. I make this further appeal to him: I would ask him to believe that more than any other Bill of this particular nature the one before the House of Commons to-day has stirred the country. Feeling and opinion in the country behind this Bill are such that anyone who has any knowledge of the subject is easily able to gauge. We do implore the right hon. Gentleman not to close the door to any strengthening Amendment put forward. I earnestly ask him to give his support to this Bill, and so far as he is able to allow Amendments to be introduced, and in doing so, he will not only be following public opinion upon this matter in this country, but he will be conferring inestimable benefits upon dumb creatures unable to speak for themselves.


I intervene in this Debate at this early stage because I am sorry to say that I have an engagement of some importance which I must keep this afternoon, and therefore it is not possible for me to take part in the Debate later. When the proceedings have been developed, and if there should be any evidence of opposition in any quarter of the House, I shall endeavour to get back and give my vote for the Bill. I intervene, not because I believe any speech of mine can do any service in this cause, but because, to a degree I have never known equalled before, I have received letters in the last fortnight or three weeks not only asking me to give my support to this Bill, but begging me to take part in the Debate to-day. That is the reason I ask the House to let me say a few words at this early stage. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Second Reading surveyed the situation in a wholly admirable and comprehensive speech. He made a remark to which I should like to make a passing reference—he appealed to the Government on the ground that without their active co-operation it was impossible for a private Member's Bill to be passed into an Act of Parliament. I am not quite sure that he is wholly accurate in that statement. I am one of those who realise that in recent years a very great change has come over our proceedings in this House, and it is a change that I personally greatly deplore.

Anybody who is familiar with the great Statutes under which the Public Health is administered, under which our Poor Law system is administered, and the greater part of our local government is administered, knows that these Statutes are almost all of them due to Acts passed on the initiative of private Members—some of them for limited localities, some of general application—which have proved themselves so beneficial that they have formed the foundation of public Acts of Parliament under which the country is now governed. Personally, I regret very much that, for whatever reason, the power of private Members over legislation is not so great to-day as in the more spacious times to which I refer. I am not prepared to admit, as a private Member, that all our rights have gone, and that we are so completely in the hands of the Government of the day, whatever that Government may be, as my hon. and gallant Friend seemed to indicate. If a case is one which arouses public sympathy and has behind it fact and truth, and if the case is well put in this House, I believe private Members, by co-operation, in whatever quarter of the House they may sit, can, if necessary, compel the Government of the day to deal with that question and to place it as a measure upon the Statute Book. To-day we have one of the strongest and one of the most pitiable cases ever presented to Parliament. It has lost nothnig in the presentation it has received at the hands of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just made so forcible and interesting a speech, and the House now is in possession of the main facts of the case. I said, 'so far as I understood, there would be no opposition to this Bill. I should be curious if opposition were to make itself felt to ascertain what is the cause of that opposition. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has spoken has indicated, as is the practice of Movers and Seconders of Bills to do, some of the possible arguments that might be used against them. There is not one of them that is worth attention for two minutes in this House. What is the position?

The great fact is admitted that this trade is going on under conditions wholly disgraceful to this country; that enormous suffering is inflicted upon the noblest and best of the lower animals, and under conditions that make that suffering absolutely revolting. These are the facts, and they cannot be gainsaid. I, unlike my two hon. Friends, have the disadvantage of age, and I have served in more than one of our great Departments, and I am the last ever to undervalue the importance of the evidence of our public officials, and still less am I ever likely to suggest to this House unless indeed there be some case. I have never come across yet, that our great public officials do not do their duty with all their heart and power and with every desire to serve the State faithfully. That is my experience after a long official connection, and I am confident it is not too much to say in regard to our great Civil Service. But the mistake that this House too often makes is it indulges in many admirable expressions and many pious opinions; it demands that there shall be effective steps taken, and it proceeds to pass a wholly ineffectual measure; and if the results are unsatisfactory cast the blame, not, as I think, it should, upon the authors of the measure, but upon those called upon to discharge duties that cannot be discharged with the weapons placed in their hands by this House. That is the case with the subject we are now discussing. I would remind the House of my own experience nearly twenty years ago when I held the office which is now held by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. At that time we were dealing with the cattle trade and the importation of live cattle was the general rule. Owing to the wise administration of my predecessors the country was free from disease—in fact, we had almost a clean bill of health at that time. Under those conditions the importation of cattle had grown very considerably, and not only had the trade between England and Ireland grown immensely, but the ocean trade in cattle had also grown. Therefore at that time we had to deal with this question not only from the point of view of humanity, but from the possibility of disease, and it fell to my lot to pass through this House a little Act of Parliament which altered the law and rendered the importation of these animals impossible except for slaughter.

What was the argument then used? I remember the late Mr. Mundella, who was then a very distinguished Member of this House, asking what would be the result of this legislation? Mr. Mundella said that it might be desirable in the interests of the health of our flocks and herds, but before that question comes the more important one is the food of the people. He said that we were going to impose such regulations and restrictions as would drive up the price of food, and beef would be 2s. 6d. per pound. That is the kind of argument which is used when it is said that these animals are required for food, and they say, if you compel them to take these animals as dead meat, you will run up the price of food. I do not think that argument ought to be listened to, but, even if it were sound, all our experience points in a wholly different direction, and shows that if you legislate on sound lines trade accommodates itself to your legislation, and if this article is required it will be supplied whatever restrictions are imposed. When we were pursuing our investigations in connection with the cattle trade, we found what I confess was a revelation to myself, namely, that, unknown to the great mass of the people, there was an immense deal of preventable and horrible cruelty in connection with the transit of cattle. We were able to vastly improve by our regulations that condition of things, and put an end to the great cruelty inflicted upon the lower animals, as the facts now prove to-day, without in any way interfering with the food supply of the people. There is no doubt that similar results will follow if you now impose similar restrictions upon the horse trade.

My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Walker) and the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Murray) have given us very remarkable descriptions of how these horses are conveyed. For the moment I would ask the House to forget the particular kind of traffic we are now considering, and consider what is their experience of the oversea traffic of horses or horned stock under the very best possible conditions. I suppose there is no conveyance of horses where so much care is taken and so much trouble exercised as on board a troop ship, and yet, if any man asks what is the condition of the horses between decks and what are their sufferings over a long voyage, he will be surprised. Let anyone go on board a cattle ship, as I have done, in the old days, and travel from Scotland to Ireland in one of those small vessels which used to convey the cattle. It is a short voyage, only lasting some three or four hours, over a. comparatively smooth sea as a rule, and even in these circumstances the animals suffer considerably, although everything is done that skill can do to surround the animals with comfortable accommodation. Above and beyond all this, those animals are strong, sound and healthy, and able to look after themselves to a large extent. Therefore, if these results follow in such instances, what must be the result when you put on board these ships animals so weak and decrepit that we know they can hardly stand up in their stalls on land, and the least rolling of the ship or disturbance of their equilibrium necessitates that many of them fall, never to rise again, because they are trampled upon by their unfortunate neighbours.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me in this Debate supports this Bill because he regards it as a step in the right direction. I support it for the same reason. I say without hesitation that, in my judgment, this Bill does not go far enough. My hon. and gallant Friend told us that we had been obliged to abandon the provision of the £10 price, but perhaps he will forgive me if I say that his reasons do not weigh with me. It is perfectly true there may be, and probably would be, attempts at evasion- and some difficulty, but it would be a more effective and practical provision than the one now contained in the Bill. I am prepared to go much further than this Bill. If these unfortunate horses are necessary for the food supply on the Continent, then they ought to go as dead meat and not as live animals, and if I am to be told that this would interfere with trade, and the interests of traders and shippers who are developing this great trade, then this House must be reduced to a low level if it is going to allow every motive of humanity to be overridden by arguments of that kind. My hon. and gallant Friend says that a trade has been developed which has been useful to this country, and that for some of these horses a better price can be obtained. I happen to be a supporter of an ancient sport which is not so popular amongst hon. Members is it was twenty-five years ago, namely, fox-hunting, and we need dead horses. In every kennel in this country horses are destroyed by the most humane and modern methods, and anybody sending their horses there may rest assured of securing their immediate, humane destruction, and at the same time they will be contributing to the support of one of the most ancient pastimes, to which, I am glad to say, the head of our Assembly has been a devotee for many years. If this Bill were passed some of our own people would have to pay a good deal less than they do now for the horses which they require for their hounds.

The suggestion that this cannot be done is merely one which does not operate. Let me refer again to past legislation with regard to cattle. In the old days, when all these cattle were brought in alive, we were told if you compel slaughter you will destroy the whole trade. What happened? Exactly what will happen in this case. The meat was required and the shippers had to bring it, and the result was that they had ships built to convey dead meat instead of live animals. The only difference was that over here arrangements were made for storing the frozen meat and for preparing it for market and for distributing it. That has proved to our working classes a very great boon, because at this moment, as the result of that trade, in all our great industrial centres frozen meat is sold at half the price of home-grown meat. As it has to be sold within a certain time of being taken out of the freezing chambers, it follows that it must be sold, and anyone can see real good meat sold at half the price it was before these regulations were introduced. If that has been the case with cattle, why should not the same result ensue if you make this change with regard to horses?

I am the last person to ask this House to act on sentimental grounds, or because their emotions have been stirred by some harrowing story. I know, we all know, how comparatively easy it is to tell a harrowing tale which arouses the emotions of men and for the moment throws them a little off their balance, and I am the last to want the House to be moved by any feeling of that kind. If it were not for the hard facts, I would not ask the House to be moved, but what are the bard facts? We know that as regards 90 per cent. of these horses they are wholly unfit for work when they are sent abroad. Let the House remember the tale of the hon. and gallant Gentleman of that extraordinary person who, having had an old servant endeared to him and his family by his tradition, sells him, and as a proof of his affection and gratitude puts a bit of red tape round his pastern so that the hoof may be returned to him. Anything more unlike human affection it is difficult to imagine. We know these horses are wholly unfit for work. There is no pretence of their being taken to the Continent as draught animals—they are beyond all that—but, owing to the fact that there is a demand for horseflesh and that many of these horses are in good condition as regards flesh when they go, there is a market for them. Apparently there is a market for even the most decrepid and half-starved. My hon. Friend showed that there is a profit, but that profit cannot be a very large one when you have regard to the fact that the man has to buy his horse here, get it to the port of embarkation here and to pay a fee, take it across the sea, and disembark it and sell it to the people there. All this involves a good deal of outlay, and therefore the profit that these men get is not very large. Is it likely, therefore, that he is going to decrease this profit by spending the money he ought to spend on the care of these animals from the time they leave their stables to the time they go to slaughter? Once they pass from their home the only possible boon for them is to be put to death and what a ten days or a fortnight they have to pass through before this last boon is obtained!

We know these facts. It is not because sentiment moves us, but because we are face to face with these hard facts that I believe we are determined to-day that no longer shall this blot remain upon our credit. We can act if we like. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said something about the cruelty on the other side. I do not propose to refer to that for two reasons. In the first place, it is very difficult for us to criticise the action of people of other countries over whom we have no control and as to whose procedure we only have a limited knowledge. Therefore it is difficult, and I think in this case it is unnecessary, to dwell upon it. I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman's statement is absolutely true, and I am glad that he mentioned it, but it is not on that ground that I ask this House to legislate to-day. It is on the ground that we are guilty here of cruelty ourselves. We are responsible. It is quite true, I have no doubt, that on the other side insufficient measures are taken to provide for the proper destruction of these animals, and it may be that there is insufficient care taken with regard to feeding and watering, but it is not on that I rest our case. All this could not happen if we were not guilty of sending the animals to subject them to this horrible treatment. The origin of the matter is with us. We can stamp it out if we like.

I have said that I shall vote for this Bill if its acceptance be challenged by this House, because I regard it as a step in the right direction, but I will add my appeal to that which the hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded his speech. I hope the President of the Board of Agriculture will not fall back upon any of the old arguments of the Department that every care has been taken, and that the inspectors can be relied upon to do their duty. I hope he will say, as we say, that the facts are proved, that there is no doubt that this is a horrible and a cruel trade, that the people of this country realise it and are determined that it shall be stopped, and that we, the Government, will do our best to help, not only in passing this Bill, but in making it even more effective and powerful than it is. So far as I am concerned, I shall devote my energies, if I have the honour to be on the Committee, to largely strengthening the powers of the Bill, whatever the consequences may be I care not. I am determined, if I can do it, that the law shall be so altered that it shall in future be impossible for anybody in this country to continue to impose upon the noblest of our lower animals these horrible sufferings, which the House can to-day, if it will, save them, and so save the country from what I believe is an awful disgrace.


The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, can only spare a very short time for this Debate to-day, and perhaps it would be courteous to him that I should at once offer what remarks I have to make on this Bill before he leaves the House. Let me assure him, in the first place, that so far as I am concerned, I am actuated by only one desire, and I believe it to be the desire of the whole of the Members now assembled in this Chamber. It is that so far as this, or any other traffic is concerned with regard to horses, that we should look at it in the first place from the point of view of the horse. I have no connection, let me assure the right hon. Gentleman, with any portion of the trade. I know it has been suggested by mischievous people outside that I might have a rather tender feeling for the shipping companies concerned in this traffic.


I have never said it.


I know the right hon. Gentleman has not, but it has been suggested outside, and I would, therefore, quite publicly, in order that there may be no suspicion about my feeling, like to say that not only have I no connection with any of these companies, but I have not even a share in any of the railway companies which are connected with the trade, so that my personal interests do not in the least embarrass me. I do not say it for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman, but because it has been suggested outside.


I did not know that it had been suggested.


In the second place, I would like to say that so far as I am concerned I do not view this Bill from the point of view of the prestige of my own staff. I know that the right hon. Gentleman who has had a long official experience is quite well aware of the fact that every Minister does naturally—indeed, it is his bounden duty to do so—defend his staff from attack and accept full responsibility for any laches of which they may have been guilty, or any omissions on their part in the performance of their duty. So far as the inspectoral staff of the Board is concerned, I believe that no charge has been made against it which can be sub, stantiated, and I say that because I have taken some trouble personally to inquire into this traffic. I have not been merely content with asking for a report from the distinguished veterinary surgeon who is the head of our horse traffic staff; but last year in the middle of the summer, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not think it discourteous if I say before his Bill was drafted, I myself took the trouble to travel over to the Continent in some of these vessels. I am very glad—and I am sure this House believes me—to state that I was agreeably surprised to find that the accommodation had enormously improved during the last ten years. Ten years ago large numbers of these animals were taken across in ricketty wooden fittings, and sometimes, in rough passages, the fittings and the horses were mingled together on the upper deck, and a vast amount of avoidable cruelty was the result. Now, on the vessel on which I travelled, I found that the animals going out for the purpose of being turned into butcher's meat were travelling in stalls side by side with hunters, and I was assured by the people on board the ship that it was impossible for them, in carrying on the traffic, to discriminate between horse and horse. They put them into the stalls prepared for them, and they were carried across as safely and as comfortably as might be in making a voyage across the North Sea. The returns of losses on voyages across the North Sea have gone down year by year, until last year the percentage worked out at actually less than the loss on the carriage of horses from Ireland to England. It is only fair to the shipping companies who have been carrying on this traffic, to state that the losses were quite as heavy in horses carried from Ireland to England as they were among the older horses carried from England to the Continent.

But when all is said and done, no doubt a large amount of this traffic is in horses which are unfit to undergo any hardships on the other side. In 1898, the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division was connected with this Department, the local authorities were responsible for the inspection and for keeping up the standard. There is no doubt that that order was not as effective as some people hoped it would be, but we have no figures to show what the loss was at that time, and it is most difficult, therefore, to say how far it helped the traffic. But by the time the 1910 Act was passed, it had become a matter of public conscience that something should be done towards improving this traffic, and the Order that was issued in that year has enabled us to use our inspectors at the greater ports, and at some of the lesser ports, and, on the whole, their inspection has not been bady done. Indeed, I think, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Beading of the Bill stated that our inspectors had done their work well. I find that last year, when I was taking a more close personal interest in this matter—


I think this point should be cleared up. I understood my hon. and gallant Friend to say that, since this Bill had been talked about and introduced, the number of horses stopped had increased very largely. That would seem to show that the inspectors have been a little more active lately than previously.


I was coming to that point. I was about to say that last autumn, when I took a more close personal interest in this matter—and, of course, it was not possible for one to take a personal interest in every branch of the Department's work—I suggested to our inspectors, after full consultation, that there were ways of screwing up the standard to a point even higher than that adopted in the last two or three years. After full consultation and consideration, I came to the conclusion that, although, under the 1910 Act, the inspectors of the Board had been acting fully up to the powers given to them, clearly in the interest of the humane treatment of these animals, we might go beyond; and I must confess to the House that, since last August or September, when I instructed them to adopt a higher standard, we have been going outside the powers given to us under the Act of 1910. There has been no action taken against us from outside, and I think the figures that were quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman fully bear out the fact that by raising the standard we have kept back from the ordeal of the voyage a number of animals which we thought would have suffered from it. That will explain the difference in the figures for the first three months of last year and those for the first three months of this year. It is entirely due to the higher standard which we ourselves imposed under our administrative powers, I am afraid, without statutory sanction, in order that the cruelty might, as far as possible, be diminished. This Bill would give us powers which we have not at the present time. Let me explain quite clearly the difference between the Act of 1910 and the proposals contained in this Bill. The 1910 Act only gave us power to prevent animals being put on board ship when it was certified they were unfit to make the voyage. It is quite clear that that does not cover the whole case. Indeed, a great deal of harm may be done after. This Bill would give us power to put a stop altogether to the shipment of any animals which might suffer, not only by making the voyage, but on reaching the other side. That really would be an improvement in the law, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall be very glad to see it placed on the Statute Book. The present inspection has, as I say, been screwed up, but I am not in any way agreed that the inspectors, before it was screwed up, had failed in their duty. They went as far as the law permitted. The difficulty we have to face is that after the animals have been landed on the other side they pass out of our jurisdiction. But we have not left it at that, because our inspectors have travelled all over Belgium and have been in close touch with the authorities, and if the right hen. Gentleman would take the trouble to investigate the conditions on the other side I think he will see many evidences of conferences between our inspectors and the Belgian authorities.

I should like to refer to some of the films which have been published of this traffic. They have not been altogether fair to the inspection which is now carried on, with great devotion, by many servants of the Board. I am referring to films and pictures which have been exhibited during the last few months. I know the impression is that, as a whole, the pictures describe the present state of this traffic. I have taken the trouble to find out the real facts, and I have discovered that a large number of the films are not films in the ordinary sense, but are photographs representing the condition of the trade, and they were taken previous to 1910. It is quite unfair, therefore, to use them as descriptive of the traffic at the present time.

Captain MURRAY

Is it not the fact that it is stated previously to the presentation of these particular films that they were taken before 1910, and that the object of them is to show actually that improvements have taken place in the traffic?


I think the general impression is that they profess to give a complete description of the traffic as it is at present conducted, whereas the description is nothing like complete or fair. One picture, indeed, is not a photograph at all, but a sketch, and is, therefore, rather doubtful evidence of the state of the traffic just now. As for the other films, I offer no criticism on them at all beyond saying that they do not present a true picture of the traffic as it is now carried on. It is desirable that our legislation should be based, not on sentiments, but on the real facts as they can be ascertained. I should like, again, in fairness to the inspectors who work under me, to say how totally Unfounded are the charges brought against them with regard to the passing of horses suffering from glanders. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has recently sent round to every Member of this House a statement with regard to the number of animals cast for glanders on the other side. I think their statement is that it is about 2 per cent. of the animals sent out. I am not sure, indeed, that it does not amount to more.


No; it is 2 per cent.


When this charge was made, I felt that if it were true some of our inspectors must have been neglecting their duty. I made the fullest inquiries and found out from the Belgian veterinary inspector, M. Vanderheyden, that, so far from there being 2 per cent., the total number out of 25,950 landed was only five—that is to say, not 2 per cent. but.002 per cent. I think that anybody who knows anything about the question will know perfectly well that that is an infinitesimal number, which even the best inspection may easily allow to slip through. It is only fair to our inspectors to point out that the official Belgium information does not produce the figure which has been circulated so largely to Members of this House, but something one thousand times less.


The actual number of horses was 25,950, and of these 2,355 were put through the Maline test for glanders, and only twenty reacted, of which fourteen after death were found to be doubtful cases, five really glandered, and one was perfectly right.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman has quoted the exact figures, but those are not the figures which have been circulated to Members of this House. I am only pressing the point because I think it is unfair that our inspectors should be accused of carelessness when they are exercising, not only their ordinary duty to the Department, but the feelings of humanity which actuate them. One of the points made by the Mover of this Bill was that we might be deterred from taking further action because of the cost of inspection. I need hardly tell him that that will have no effect whatever on us. The truth is that we now make more out of the fees than we actually pay in salaries to the inspectors. I see no reason whatever to think that there is going to be any difficulty so long as the fees keep up to the present standard. The action the hon. and gallant Member suggests will tend to increase them. There is no reason in the world why we should not spend a larger amount of those fees on inspection. We now conduct inspection, not only at the big ports, but often at the lesser ports. It has been suggested that at the lesser ports we should have whole-time inspectors. I hardly think that is necessary, because only a few shipments go from them in the course of a year, and we might use the officers who do other duties in those places. In the large ports we ought to have, and have now, inspectors who devote their whole time to this trade and nothing else.

One of the suggestions which was made—I do not know whether it was made in this House or outside—was that we should do well altogether to stop the whole of the traffic in these horses. I think it is as well to point out that as we are dealing with this question purely from the point of view of the horse, that we should go somewhat cautiously in dealing with anything like a wholesale remedy, such as the total stoppage of the whole of the old horse trade with the Continent. What my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Murray) referred to as being important in my speech was briefly this: I pointed out, when asked my opinion about these proposals, that to totally stop the trade would not of necessity cause the total disappearance of all cruelty, and that I was afraid there were many parts of the country, and especially the remoter parts, where inspection is somewhat difficult, where a man might be tempted to keep on an old horse for all sorts of odds and ends, especially on smaller premises, for six months or a year longer rather than sell it for the purposes of meat. That would not prevent my taking action in support of this Bill. I shall certainly support this Bill, even though I have in mind the fact that we may, by taking more drastic action, do harm where we only hope to do nothing but good. That is the only proviso I have mentioned in public or private in regard to these reforms. I therefore suggest to my hon. Friends and to hon. Gentlemen opposite who are interested in this measure that if they wish to strengthen this Bill, as they appear to do, they should keep in mind the tact that we may easily, in attempting to do nothing but good, do sonic harm. All I suggest is that when we take the Bill up to Grand Committee we should view it from the point of view of the horse and nothing but the horse. We should realise that the horse has a history before it comes down to the ports and falls into the hands of dealers abroad, and that we must look backwards as well as forwards.

For my own part I agree that the Bill is an improvement on the law as it stands at present. The traffic itself is not a pretty traffic; indeed, the slaughter of animals anywhere is by no means a part of their life history upon which we can look with admiration. I heartily agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken when he says that over the slaughtering that is done on this side of the North Sea we have control, and that we see that that control is conducted humanely. I have owned horses now for about twenty years, and I can honestly say to the House that never, when any of my own horses have grown old, have I allowed them to pass into the hands of anyone. I have always seen to it that the destruction of my horses is under my own control. I cannot understand any man being so brutally and cold-heartedly cruel as the owner referred to by the hon. and gallant Member who actually wanted to get a few shillings out of the carcass of his old pony, and then had his sentiment well fed by having the hoofs sent back mounted for his writing table. Such a thing must be repugnant to anyone who has ever owned horses for riding or other purposes. The improvement we could make in this traffic, I believe, is great. We can do it without laying down any standard as to the diet or the æsthetic feeling or morality of our Continental neighbours. A good deal of loose talk is indulged in about our own superior virtues, but I am quite sure that the conscience of Belgium can be aroused just as easily as the conscience of England. All I hope is that the conscience of England and the conscience of Belgium, acting together side by side, will see to it that the cruelties that have been shown to exist in the past will never again recur in either country.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government are prepared to give facilities for this Bill?


I am afraid I am not the person to answer that question. All we do is to give it support here and in Grand Committee upstairs.


As my name is on the back of this Bill, I wish briefly to support it at the instance of a large number of my Constituents, who desire me to make an appeal in favour of its principle. The Bill is simple both in principle and in its details. I do not think this Bill can stop the traffic in old horses, but so far as it may check and prevent its development, then for the honour of this country, which is regarded as taking the foremost place-in the march of civilisation, we should see to it that the Bill receives the willing and unanimous approval of the Members of this House. I have not myself seen the revolting horrors of this traffic on the other side of the North Sea, but I have seen in this country cruelties inflicted on old and low-priced horses even before they are passed over to those greater cruelties which, we are told, are inflicted upon them during the last weeks or days of their lives. I have been also a breeder of horses both for heavy sporting and driving purposes, but so impressed am I with the tragedy of the life of the horse that I hope I may never breed another. My home in the country is surrounded, at reasonable distances, by the graves of old horses who, when life became a continual pain, met their death quickly and painlessly. I hope, therefore, that I am a practical supporter of the principle of the Bill, and may be excused for taking a deep interest in it. I believe this country has taken the lead, with the aid of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and of other societies, in mitigating the cruelties inflicted on dumb animals all over the world—cruelties which largely spoil the pleasures of foreign travel. I believe it is Naples which is called the "Paradise of men and the hell of horses," but I do not think we are in a position yet to rebut the accusation that the horses' hell is to be found in this country while the traffic in old horses still exists. I agree completely with the letter written recently in the "Times" by Mr. Galsworthy, in which he reproaches public men for giving attention to subjects which are likely to enhance political reputations while ignoring measures designed to relieve the suffering of animals, and even of some human beings. It is certainly the case, and it is, perhaps, human nature, when the sufferings of animals are concerned or of human beings which are not articulate, to turn away the head and to pass by on the other side. I hope that will not be the attitude of hon. Members towards this Bill to-day.

2.0 P.M.

I wish to make one point in connection with this subject, that we should trace this traffic to its source. In my view responsibility rests upon the owners of horses whether they are earning money for their employers or used for the purpose of pleasure. I can never forget an incident in my own experience, which, believe, is an instance among thousands of others. I was once, many years ago, in a horse repository for the purpose of purchase, when there arrived in the ring a horse, perfect in make, shape and colour, but admittedly twenty-six years old. Until that day that horse had been in the service of a, master of fox hounds for twenty years, but was discarded from active service at last, very properly, as unsafe. The auctioneer described in glowing colours the character of that animal, how it had carried not only the master, but the huntsmen and whips for the whole of that time, two days a week without being sick or sorry. Those who have ridden horses and know the ailments and accidents to which they are subject will appreciate the valuable services rendered to that stable by that excellent animal. The auctioneer, struggling to obtain an extra sovereign for his wealthy client, further extolled the services of that horse, saying, I believe, truly, that no pace was too fast and no day too long for the animal which he was offering, but the result of his efforts was a poor one, and it was knocked down for the sum of £5. I tried to trace that horse. It was somewhat; difficult, but I had reason to believe that it went from that repository into the hard labour of a carrier's cart for a few years, until slipping in frost or overloading caused straining beyond repair, and sent it maimed and crippled on its Continental journey. I think the sufferings of the last years of that horse must lie upon the conscience of that owner who had the best years of its service. What pleasure can it be to endeavour to produce the perfect animal, to watch the gambolling foal and nourish it to years of maturity and strength, if only a forecast is made of its probable fate at the hands of its last owner? Horses and other animals suffer in what stands for their mind as well as their body. We know that they appreciate kindness and feel acutely brutality. I hope the poem which has been printed and circulated lately, "The Moan of the Old Horse," may become classical, and I think to that moan might well be added the cry which is so often uttered by the human heart "Forsake me not when my strength faileth." I believe every word of the reports of the cruelties which are practised on these old animals. The sources from which they come are authentic. The hon. Member who introduced the Bill told us that some 50,000 old horses and donkeys are exported annually, either to have the little vitality they have left flogged out of them or else to be slaughtered under cruel circumstances, and perhaps reimported into this country as cheap and nasty food for our poor, Dr for the rich man, too, I think he said, if he feeds in public places, disguised as delicatessen. When we are told all this, I, at any rate, shall conclude—and I have seen the death of many old horses in bull-rings in Spain—that the Spanish owner who sends his old horse to the bull ring is a more humane man than the British owner who sends it to a horse repository. We need not be afraid of the taunt that we favour grandmotherly legislation in this matter. I am sure all who think this matter out will conclude that these patient beasts who contribute to our pleasures, or earn money for their employers throughout their lifetime, thereby contributing to the wealth and commerce of this country, are claimants on our sympathy, and are entitled at least to the pension of a bullet, or other means of quick dispatch, rather than that upon these faithful servants should be placed in their last days the extremity of torture, in order that the last few pence of profit may be squeezed out of their wretched, suffering bodies. I do not think that this Bill, if passed, can stop this disgraceful traffic, but so far as it may check it in any way or prevent its development, I hope it may become an Act not only in name but a law which will he strictly and rigidly enforced.


My only excuse for intervening in the Debate is the fact that for some time past I have paid as much attention to the subject as I have been able to do. In the course of my investigations I have visited some of the ports of embarkation in this country, and have also visited the Continent, and I am in a position to say that this is a trade which can never be made acceptable to the people of this country. I have found it impossible to survey the processions of derelict British horses on the quays at Antwerp and Rotterdam without feeling some emotion. I think myself there has been perhaps some little exaggeration in the presentation of the case as it has been agitated recently. But, however that may be, nothing can reconcile a person of our race to these exhibitions on the quays of foreign countries, especially when, as so often happens, and certainly occurs in Belgium, our export draught horses compare so unfavourably with those which are in use in the Belgium Towns. I very warmly welcome this Bill, and should very warmly welcome any Pill which would strengthen the hands of my right hon. Friend who is responsible for the administration of the trade. I should like, however, to offer one word of warning in respect of this or any other legislation of the kind. There can be no question that the former agitation had an admirable effect. Everyone I met connected with the trade told me that the conditions at present were vastly superior to those that existed when the former agitation lead to reform. The result of that agitation, as we know, was the Act of 1910. There are two patent defects in that Act. For instance, the Act refers only to the embarkation of the horses, and the branding of them as fit for transhipment. I can conceive that a great number of horses are carried across which, although they may be fit to travel the journey in a smooth passage, are certainly not fit to make any journey on the other side. I welcome this Bill, because it will stop a large number of horses going over that are at present embarked, not in consequence of any remissness on the part of the inspectors in this country, but because legislation is not strong enough for the purpose of preventing embarkation. I think it is eminently doubtful whether an inspector of the Board, or a local authority, has any right, legally speaking, to reject a horse which does not come within this exact definition. And yet there are a large number of horses which, whether from neglect, infirmity, emaciation, or unsightliness, should not be sent from this country to any foreign country.

There is another great defect of the present Act. I think inspectors in this country can order the destruction of horses under certain circumstances, but only very limited circumstances. If an inspector of the Board, as I understand, finds that a horse is in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep it alive, he can order it to be destroyed on the spot. But that definition is not nearly strong enough. I think the second Clause of this Bill empowers an inspector to order the slaughter of any horse which, for any one of the reasons I have mentioned, he thinks ought not to be allowed to live any longer. We are told that in 1913, 69,754 horses were examined by the officers of the Board, and that 1,391 were rejected by them. I would like to ask what becomes. of these horses. They are horses which are not ordered to be slaughtered because the powers of the officers do not enable them to do that. The horses are sent away from Hull, Goole, or King's Lynn, and nobody quite understands what becomes of them. That certainly is a defect in existing legislation which ought to be remedied, and which this Bill, as I read it, will remedy. But. I suggest that a note of warning ought to be made in connection with any of these Bills. I put it forward, not by way of criticism, but as the result of my own experience. Whatever we do, we must be careful that we do not drive this disease inwards. How is it possible, having regard to our reputation for humanity, especially in regard to horses, that over 1,300 horses were brought to the ports of embarkation last year which our inspectors, even adopting the comparatively modest powers they have, were forced to reject. I think we ought to recognise that there is more cruelty in connection with this trade on our side than on the other side of the North Sea. It is an unpalatable thing to say, but my investigation of the trade has led me to that conclusion, and I ask again, how is it possible that so large a number of horses in such a condition that the inspectors will not pass them for this purpose can be brought down to the ports of embarkation, I would like to suggest that when this Bill is passed, with or without stronger powers, all interested in the trade should bend themselves to tuning up our policing and our system of inspection in this country. Otherwise., I think it ought to be recognised that we, may possibly do, I will not say more harm than good, but, much less good than we intend. Only a few weeks ago I saw on the front at Brighton, drawing a cab, a horse that would have figured exceedingly badly in any consignment of decrepit horses. I think it must be the experience of most of us that we have seen horses that ought not to be at work, and ought to be condemned under such a Bill as this. I support the Bill with the utmost heartiness. I think it will give to the Department which has control of this trade powers they ought to have, and I think if, conjointly with the provisions of this Bill, we do our best to tune up the policing and the inspection arrangements up and clown our country, we shall do immense good for the unhappy victims of the trade.


There is one point which I desire to make very clear to the House, and I am speaking now more as a member of the council of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals than as a Member of the House. We have taken the greatest care—and in this I think I shall have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London—in preparing the pamphlets we have sent out not to allow any exaggeration to creep into them. No one is more aware than myself of the harm done to thoroughly good causes by exaggeration, and we felt that our case was so strong that there was no necessity for any exaggeration at all. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, referring to the films used to rouse public opinion, remarked that we had not taken sufficient care to say to the public that these films applied to a period some time previous to the passing of the present Act. I wish to state that notice was given before any film was exhibited that it was taken prior to the passing of the Act. I can inform the right hon. Gentleman that we were extremely cautious to reject anything that could possibly be distorted as being an unfair representation of what actually took place. I would wish this Bill to go further than it actually does; because I believe that if this traffic were totally prohibited no harm would be done to anybody. I hope that the Government will be friendly to the Bill, whatever Amendments may be made, and that they will persist in passing a measure to which they have already stated they are friendly, even when it is strengthened by Amendments in Committee.


With the object of this Bill I am quite sure that everyone sympathises deeply. Its object is to lessen the suffering of one of the most useful, as well as the most noble, of our domestic animals, but we have to be careful that in passing such a measure we are not increasing the sum of suffering of these animals. I was a fellow passenger with a considerable number of horses going across the North Sea. I went down among them in their stalls. I was brought up among horses, and am familiar with their virtues and their diseases and have never been without a riding horse from the time when I was a boy, until I became a Member of this House. I am still interested in them. I examined these horses individually. I went over thirty horses, examining their teeth to see their age, and their limbs, and investigating their diseases to ascertain why they were there. Then I followed them to the slaughter yards, and took photographs, which I have here, of horses during slaughter, and I wish to say that, if you were to stop that traffic to-morrow, you would be doing a great in-justice to these suffering animals. No horse should be robbed of the fruit of its labour. What is the fruit of a horse's labour? The fruit when he is well is rest and food, and when he is not fit to enjoy these it is prompt and painless death. If you stop this traffic in horses, you prevent an enormous number of those horses getting the fruit of their labour. They become sufferers, and are not destroyed. Many of these horses which I examined were suffering—some of them were suffering from spavin and ring-bone and other diseases, and others from old age. The greatest wrong which you can inflict on a horse is to keep it alive and at work when it ought to be dead. If you can get £10 or £15 for a horse when he shows signs of degeneracy or defects, is it not better to sell that horse for painless slaughter than to keep and work it any longer? If a German or Belgian buyer offers a farmer £15 for that horse he will sell it to him, when otherwise he might sell it to a poorer neighbouring farmer for a smaller sum for use. This traffic, therefore, takes the horse out of work and relieves his sufferings perhaps two years sooner than otherwise would be the case, and in that way does the horse a service. There have been, I think, 1,300 horses rejected. Those horses were doomed to live, and therefore doomed to suffer longer.


Under the present Bill they would be killed painlessly.


I am not opposing the present Bill. I am simply uttering a warning, lest the House should be carried away by false sympathy. I know something of the traffic but have no interest in it. I am simply speaking on behalf of the horse. I think it is possible that you may be increasing its suffering by putting restrictions on the traffic. Several of those in favour of this Bill say quite frankly that they hope that the traffic will be killed, but if you do this you increase the sum of suffering of horses because they will be continued at work.


They cannot. They would be all destroyed.


Not at all. These horses are sold for slaughter long before they reach that point. If these forty horses which were crossing the North Sea had not been going to Germany to be converted into sausages they would have been working. They were not horses condemned here. They were not absolutely unfit for work, but-they were unfit to work without a certain amount of suffering. Horses are continued at work while they are suffering in this country; I have seen them. You see them everywhere. Take the life history of a horse. You have him at first a magnificent carriage swell. After a short time you find the same horse in a van, then in a country spring-cart, then doing roundabout work on a farm, and then perhaps he is sold, before he gets to the outcast stage. I am told that some of these horses have been sold for £25 or £27. If a horse shows a defect, shows very bad splints, or breaks down in some way, and you can dispose of him for £25 you will do so, but if you cannot do so you will sell him for a smaller price to someone else who has less work or cheaper work.


Twenty-five pounds was the outside price that was given in Antwerp or some foreign city. It was not given to the man here, who probably only got £4 or £5.


In any case the owner sells him at an earlier stage of his degeneracy, when he gets his £4 or £5, and there is less suffering caused if he is disposed of under this traffic. There is nothing very serious in conveying a horse across the water to the Continent. There is no great injury or suffering in most cases. The horses which I saw were well provided with water and food, and they were all in individual stalls.


Was this in summer or winter?


It was in summer. I have no doubt that there are instances in which there is suffering, but, as we have been told, that suffering can be lessened by greater care, and what I fear is that you may be increasing the sum of suffering for the horses by attempting to diminish it. In so far as we are able to bring these horses to a painless death at an earlier stage in their disease or unfitness for work, then we are doing them a service. The horses which I saw were slaughtered in the most humane way. They saw nothing, knew nothing, and felt nothing. I have here the photographs if anyone is interested in them. If a horse with an incipient disease is going to be killed in this manner, then you are doing that horse a service by destroying him in a painless manner as soon as he begins to show grave defects. You are doing an inhuman thing if you leave the horse at work when it ought to be dead. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill said the freight on a live horse was 18s. and the duty on a dead horse £4 10s. The meaning of that is that a great many horses, though unfit, might be kept at work because of the difference between 18s. and £4 10s., when otherwise they might be slaughtered. I am not opposing the Bill—I am supporting it—but I sometimes deplore the misplaced sympathy expressed for these animals. An hon. Member who has spoken in this Debate compared the tragedy of these horses with what occurs in a Continental bull fight. That is a gross exaggeration. These horses, which we are discussing to-day, when slaughtered suffer no pain at all. They are led out as though they might be going to work, their eyes covered with blinkers, an appliance is placed on the forehead, and the pin which it contains is driven into the animal's brain with a mallet, so that it is stunned and falls, feeling no pain at all. It is a method which inflicts absolutely painless death. Yet the hon. Member actually compares that with what takes place in a bull fight, in which horses receive most cruel and brutal treatment, being gored and mutilated to death by the infuriated bull. As I said, I am not endeavouring to obstruct the Bill, still I hope it will not have the effect of killing this traffic, and that it will confine its purpose to the removal and mitigation of pain to horses. If it kills the traffic it will actually increase the pain and suffering of horses, because they will be kept at work for years longer, and I can conceive nothing more cruel to a horse than to keep it at work for which it is unfit, going over hard roads, traversing heavy gradients, unable to eat or unable to digest its food, and passing to a lingering death in suffering which might have been avoided years before by painless and prompt dispatch.


I am sure that the House will rejoice to hear the statement on the part of the President of the Board of Agriculture that he warmly welcomes this Bill, and that he will do what he can to ensure its passage into law. This traffic is probably England's greatest present-day disgrace, and the fact that it is carried on in the eyes of Europe does not enhance the reputation of our country—for its civilisation, its humanitarianism, or, indeed, its consistency. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House utterly fails to carry conviction to my mind. He has damned this Bill with faint praise, and when he suggests that by the continuation of this traffic the horses themselves may possibly benefit, I entirely join issue with him. If I had any doubt before he rose in his place as to the desirability of the discontinuance of this traffic, I have none whatever now. In the first place, he says that these horses do not suffer when crossing the North Sea. I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman that although his experience was in summer, the bulk of these horses are carried during the winter months, and that there is no animal in existence so far as we know, man included, that suffers to such an extent, as the result of stormy weather at sea, as the horse. It cannot be contradicted; it is an admitted fact amongst all those who are entitled to give an opinion.

The hon. Gentleman tells us that, if these animals were not sent to the ports in the course of the conduct of this traffic, their treatment would be worse than it is. That does not say very much for the activity of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other like bodies, who have been doing admirable work during the last twenty years in searching out these cases of inhumanity and, with great skill and judgment, conducting prosecutions which have resulted in increasing the proportion of convictions every year for many years past. Those horses whose sufferings have not been obvious in the past have been those mainly which have been employed below ground. The Mines Act that was passed two years ago had the effect of tightening up administration as regards these horses and ponies, and the very fact that blind and unfit horses, as the result of this tightening-up process, have no longer found employment beneath the ground, has intensified the traffic in that class of horse from our ports to the countries where they make use of them for human food and otherwise. The hon. Gentleman is not right in suggesting that by putting a stop to this traffic you would increase the misery that those horses suffer. The reason why those horses are sold to go abroad is because the knackers' prices in this country are not sufficiently attractive; but, immediately you put a stop to this traffic, the first result will be that the owners of these miserable animals will take the knackers' prices, because they would be unable to get any better prices.


You keep the horses longer at work and increase their suffering.


As I have already pointed out, these horses will not be allowed to work any longer because they will be prevented IV prosecutions from working above ground, and will be subject to the administration of the Home Office if they continue to be worked below ground. I should like to differentiate between the conditions of this traffic in Holland and the conditions in Belgium. I am sure that the conditions in Holland have greatly improved during the last few years, and that is largely the result of the passage of the-Act of 1910. As regards the slaughter of these animals in Holland, in my opinion, it is carried out with greater skill and with greater humanitarianism than a great deal of the slaughter that goes on in this country. What is called the "Humane Killer" is invariably used, and why you cannot in this so-called civilised country adopt the humane killer instead of this terrible system of the pole-axe, the knife, and the hammer, which goes on not merely in Belgium but in this country, I cannot conceive. But the ports on this side of the North Sea are not all equally reputable in this matter. I believe that the traffic is well controlled at the port of London and at the port of Hull. Similar favourable conditions do not prevail in the port of Glasgow or in the port of Grimsby, or in some of the smaller ports which are so inadequately provided with veterinary inspectors by the Board of Agriculture at the present time. It is common knowledge that a considerable number of these animals which are shipped from some of the smaller ports have to be killed on board ship during the night because they are unable to stand upright. As regards Belgium, a large number of those pit ponies are being now sent there and are being used there in laboratories for veterinary experiment and research. They are not now tolerated in the coal mines of this country, but they are allowed to pass to other countries for the so-called advancement of veterinary science. Last year fifty-seven of those animals went to one veterinary college alone in Belgium for this purpose. Those animals are largely animals that commenced their life in the salubrious atmosphere and pleasant surroundings of Dartmoor, Exmoor, and the New Forest, and passed into the coal mines where their lot was none too bright, and after ten or fifteen years' use they arc now being sent out to Belgium to be subjected to this horrible treatment before they reach the laboratories, where they are being used in the interests of so-called veterinary research. The traffic in Antwerp alone during three months commencing in November last was 7,241 animals of all kinds; 137 actually died on the voyage (and surely those could have been stopped by the veterinary inspectors of the Board as unfit to take the passage), while 110 on arrival had to be carried in floats to their destination because they were unable to walk. The basis of this traffic is the prospect of financial gain to the owners of those miserable animals. May I remind the House when we hear reflections on the inactivity, or supposed inactivity, of the Royal Society and similar bodies, that during the last twelve years 1,000 convictions Lave been obtained on their initiative in the case of animals passing to the docks from the railways in order to be shipped to foreign countries. Fifty-nine of them were in the year 1912, and sixty-six in 1913.

Referring to the origin of this traffic it is to my mind one of the unfortunate results of the ultra-commercialism from which this country is now suffering, and which is, to my mind, undermining the character, the prestige, and I venture to say, Christianity as well as the humanitarian standard of the nation. This is only one of the many evidences of the way in which this ultra commercial spirit is operating to reduce the standard of public conduct in this country. I desire to remind the House, and I would like to have reminded the President of the Board of Agriculture if he had been here, that the Board has not been over active in the past in the matter of the control of this traffic. I can remember, when the Bill of 1910 was passing through this House, that the representative of the Board, when the Bill was in Committee, opposed an Amendment, which was moved by myself, with a view to making the action of the Board not permissive in these cases, but mandatory; but I am thankful to say that the Committee carried the Amendment against the Government on that occasion. It shows that the tendency on the part of the Board's servants at that time was not in the direction of tightening up the administration in this respect. I am sure we are all very glad to hear from the present President of the Board that he, at any rate, is sympathetic with this movement. If so, I hope he will assist us to make this Bill even more effective than it is likely to be if worded as it is at present. There are not enough inspectors to carry out this work. What is the fact?

There are 70,000 horses which are being exported annually. We are told without contradiction that a profit of £3,000 per year is being made by the Board out of the traffic. I gained the knowledge of these facts by means of questions which during the past week I directed to the President of the Board. There are seventeen ports from which these animals are usually shipped. There are seventeen veterinary inspectors now employed upon this work. Some of them receive as low a salary as from £150 to £200, and how can you expect this huge traffic, for it is that, to be controlled by this miserably small number of veterinary inspectors, many of them, when you consider the salary they are receiving, to some, extent unfitted to gauge whether those animals are fit or are not fit to take the passage and the journey at the other side of the North Sea. There is no reason why the veterinary staff should not be considerably strengthened. There is plenty of money to do so, and even if money were not forthcoming, and if this profit were not being made by a Government Department, it is a matter upon which I am sure the House would favour an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide the necessary funds. I do not wish further to occupy the time of the House, except to read the fol- lowing letter which was handed to me by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Second Reading, and which he has received during the last half hour. It conies from the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, and it is dated yesterday:— Sir,—At a meeting of the Council of this Chamber held yesterday a resolution was passed to express sympathy with the Bill which you are about to introduce in the House of Commons in favour of suppressing the traffic in worn-out horses to the Continent, and the Council of this Chamber of Commerce sincerely hope you may be able to carry the measure to a successful issue. There are no two opinions among Englishmen with anti-slavery and civilisation traditions behind them on either side of the Channel on this question, and, that being so, I hope we may co-operate in passing legislation to stamp out this horrible traffic, which is the greatest disgrace to this country and to Christianity.


Hon. Members in all quarters of the House, I think, feel grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Walker) who introduced this Bill, not merely for having brought it before the House of Commons, but also for having made the very well-informed and instructive speech in which he moved. For myself, may I be allowed to express my gratitude and my pleasure that he has brought in this Bill, inasmuch as he has had such large experience and such a considerable reputation both in the breeding of horses and in the training of horses, and in connection with racing. Everyone who has ordinary humane instincts must rejoice that this tragedy of the exportation of worn-out horses is likely to come to an end, and that this reproach upon our good name is going to be removed. That this result will follow is due very largely to the strong and well-organised public opinion which has been aroused in this matter. I remember that some eighteen years ago I asked questions in this House drawing attention to this traffic, but at that time the facts were not so well known; public opinion was insufficiently aroused; I was able to effect very little, and very little was done. But to-day public attention has been drawn to this matter. The public have been informed, and there is a strong, well-instructed and really earnest public opinion, both in this House and out of it, which will lead to the passage of this Bill. This result is largely due to the action, to which I desire to add my tribute, of societies throughout the country for enforcing the better treatment of and preventing cruelty to animals. Everyone who has studied the subject will gladly pay his tribute to the women of the country who have taken so splendid a part in calling attention to these evils, and rendered such valuable service in creating a sound public opinion.

I do not want to enter into the atrocious details of this traffic. They have been hinted at, and I think they are sufficiently known for the purpose of carrying this Bill. I would only say that to owners and lovers of horses this traffic is peculiarly revolting. It is a horrifying thought that an old servant, who has served you faithfully, patiently, and indefatigably, should, in his old age, when his strength has gone, and he is no longer able to work, be sent out of the country to suffer, it may be starvation, and in some cases cruelty. That is a condition of things which it is impossible to contemplate without horror and disgust. I am glad to hear that the President of the Board of Agriculture is going to support this Bill. I trust, and I am confident, that it will be passed into law in this Session. I have heard no word in defence of this traffic, or, indeed, in opposition to this Bill. It is true that the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Dr. Chapple) entered a caveat, and I think there was something in what he put forward when he said that the effect of the Bill might he that certain horses, if they could not be exported abroad, would be worked longer in this country than they otherwise would have been. But I cannot believe that that affords us any justification for rejecting this Bill, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not suggest it. What I think it does point to is that we should support more and more the efforts of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and similar societies in the way of inspecting the animals in this country, and reducing these cases of cruelty to a minimum. I have no doubt the hon. Member will agree that if that were done it would remove all possible objection to this Bill. I hope that in the Committee stage the Bill may be strengthened. If that is done, I am certain that we shall have done what is not merely a credit to this House but an act which will be received gratefully by a very large class throughout the country.


The hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Dr. Chapple) referred to possible cruelty in the event of this Bill being passed. I think the hon. Gen- tleman was rather frightened at something which is not likely to take place, because, as my hon. friend has said, the inspectors of societies for preventing cruelty are numerous in this country—though, perhaps, not numerous enough—and they certainly do their duty efficiently and effectively. Further than that, I have read to-day that so great is the strength of public opinion behind what has been expressed in this House to-day that there has been formed, or is in course of formation, a company, with a capital of £50,000, for the purpose of establishing a depot for aged and decrepit horses, to prevent their having to be exported for purposes of trade and profit. Therefore that, to some extent, is an answer to the fears of the hon. Gentleman. I am one of those who would like to see this Bill very much strengthened. I hope that in Committee it will be. For instance, I should like to see in this Bill what I think my hon. and gallant Friend would most willingly insert, namely, a provision preventing the export of blind horses, which do not come within the words of the Bill as it stands. So far am I from being in favour of the abolition of the £10 value limit, that I wish the value had been put at a higher figure, bearing in mind the prices at which these horses sell in Belgium. One is glad to hear from the letter which has been read that the Chamber of Commerce in Belgium strongly supports our cause. While we are discussing this question in a spirit not in any way fanatic or exaggerated, the traffic is, unfortunately, so bad and the circumstances surrounding it so cruel that, even if we desired it, there is no need or possibility of exaggeration.

The House and the country owe a debt of gratitude to the devoted men and women—Miss Cole, Mr. Essex, and others—who have given up their time to making full inquiries into this question, who have paid repeated visits to Antwerp, and done so much to enlighten the public upon the cruelty of this traffic. Now that the public have been enlightened, there is very little doubt that they will see that the House of Commons does its duty. I should like to see put into this Bill, though I am afraid it is impossible, some provision that this traffic should take place only from certain ports, because there are not sufficient inspectors at present, and the trade cannot be as carefully watched as it ought to be. In the winter months this traffic must involve a tremendous amount of cruelty to the horses; whether they are old and decrepit or not, they must suffer terribly on a voyage in stormy weather. Apart from the cruelty of the traffic, it is, to my mind, very bad economically for this country that so many horses that would be valuable here should be exported to a foreign country for the purposes of food. I only hope and trust, from what we have heard this afternoon from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, that he is giving his support to this Bill, and that he will use his influence to assist it to be passed into law during this Session. Whatever party differences we may have upon other questions, we can be united in one solid opinion upon matters of this sort, and can have it to the credit of the House of Commons that we have done something to save appalling suffering to the most honest friend that mankind has got.


I desire to give an earnest and sympathetic support to this Bill, first of all because I recognise, as we all must recognise, that this question has very greatly stirred the whole of the country. I suppose that I, in common with other hon. Members, have received a large number of letters from constituents asking us to support this Bill. I also support it, if I may say so, as a lover of horses. As one who has been associated with horses all his life, I frankly say that I am in favour of doing all that can be done to stop this trade altogether. I believe that suffering must inevitably occur, quite apart from anything else, in sending these decrepit horses across the sea. I was very glad to find that one or two speakers on both sides of the House alluded to the fact that in many cases there was possibly more cruelty on this side of the Channel than on the other. The disgraceful features of this trade are really a reflection upon us in England, and a charge against us that we should, as soon as possible, do away with. It is not to the same extent, though no doubt it is to some extent, a reflection and charge upon those engaged in the trade on the other side. I hope that we shall not adopt an ultra self-righteous attitude on this question, and imply that the Belgian people are not earnest supporters of humaneness in regard to these horses and animals as we are on this side. In this particular case I have evidence that there is a good deal of resentment on the other side in respect of some of the statements that have been made, and some of the illustrations which have been circulated in this country with regard to this traffic. No such statements have been made in this House, I am glad to say. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Epping Division (Colonel Lockwood) was careful to state, no exaggeration is necessary. But exaggerations have been made outside, particularly in some of the photographs which have been taken, and these are very much resented by the Belgian people.

3.0 P.M.

I have with me letters as lately written as the 23rd March from men in Antwerp, and Belgium generally, protesting against the methods by which some of these photographs have been obtained—methods not creditable to the movement against this traffic, and which certainly do not suggest the truth in regard to the traffic as a whole. I want to say, with regard to that, that some of the methods are questionable and are justly resented by the Belgian people. I do not say more because it would bore the House, but in this connection, I might add, that I find that a petition or address to the Minister of Public Works and Agriculture in Belgium has been presented by some of those engaged in the trade. These made one or two suggestions. First of all, they suggest that as soon as possible stables shall be established on the quay on which the horses are disembarked. They also suggest that strict regulations should be established with regard to transport of horses into the interior of the country. I will read a few sentences in translation. The petitioners say:— We hope that the Minister of Agriculture in Belgium will take all suitable measures to efficiently protect horses imported from England from all suffering and privations. I do not deny, and nobody can deny, that on this side, and on the other side, brutality and cruelty have occurred. But do not let us for one moment impute to the Belgian people a less degree of humanity than we ourselves possess. As in this country, there are good men and bad men, blackguards and humane people. I do feel that the cruelty on the other side has, at any rate, not been on the scale that has been so often represented. If I may, with all humility and respect say so, I would utter some slight protest—while supporting the Bill—against the imputations that have Incurred outside against the general humanity of the people of Belgium, Cruelty and brutality are condemned by that people. I wish myself to support this Bill for reasons that have been given by other speakers. I thoroughly endorse all that has been said. To my mind this is a traffic which I should not only like to see reduced, but absolutely stopped.

Colonel GREIG

I do not wish to prolong the discussion, but only in a few moments to testify as to the Northern part of this island in the attitude which the people there adopt in regard to this Bill. I am glad to be able to do so, and to support the speakers on both sides of the House. I represent a large agricultural constituency, many of my Constituents being small holders, or men who have farms that could be called practically small holdings. From nowhere have I received any petition or objection to this Bill. Not only from that part of Scotland, but from all over the country, and from persons who would not otherwise communicate with me—owing to my political opinions—I have received requests to assist this Bill, and I can only say that I do so with the very greatest pleasure. One objection might have occurred to some of us, and we are relieved to see that in this respect at least our conscience can be at rest. The addition at officials is not an objection to this Bill. On the back is the name of the hon. Baronet for the City of London. His well-known objection to the creation of officials must have been overcome by the merits of the Bill. The hon. Member for York has played a leading part in this campaign. May I just read a communication which I received—curiously enough from Ireland—from a lady. It seems to me that this is exactly the point as regards this Bill:— This traffic may well be called England's shame. It rests with English Members of Parliament to say whether it shall be continued or not. I, therefore, have very much pleasure in supporting this Bill, which I hope may pass.


I rise to support this Bill, because, so far, no one representing the Labour party has spoken, but I Think it will be taken for granted by anyone who knows our position, that a Bill such as this cannot fail to have our sympathy and support. We do not claim to be lovers of horses, except in a general sort of way. We generally believe that dumb animals ought to be well treated, and we further believe that no nation which, as a whole, does not treat its dumb animals well has a very high idea of civilisation. There is one criticism that I will make upon this Bill, and that is that it does not abolish the trade altogether. In this, as in other matters, we proceed slowly, a step at a time. I am quite prepared, and I think that the party with which I am associated will be heartily prepared to support this Bill, although it only goes part of the way. There is one feature of it that I have been very much struck with. During the past two weeks Members of this House have been inundated with petitions to support this Bill. That is all to the good, but when I contrast that with the position we were in last week I cannot help wondering what is the matter with this country. We were last week considering not the claims of worn-out horses, great though the claim they have to our sympathy and support be, but we were considering the advisability of feeding certain children of our own race, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman used very brutally callous words in connection with that very question.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Maclean)

I quite fail to see the relation of the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the Bill before the House.


I was going to say that I did not take up the attitude on this occasion which the hon. Member took up on that occasion, and I am going to support this Bill because of the appeal it makes to the humanitarian principles of every right-minded man. I hope the House will give it its whole-hearted support. In fact we have been talking too much about it. The very fact that the Bill was introduced and got such a reception, proves this—that none of us need to be converted to it, and that we were one and all heartily in accord with those behind the Bill, and that it did not need a long discussion in order to get it passed. I hope there will be no hitch in the Committee stage, and that we shall have the satisfaction of seeing, he the Session long or short, this Bill put upon the Statute Book.


The hon. Member who spoke last but one from the benches opposite said he hoped I should not oppose this even though an additional number of inspectors would be required to put it into operation. May I point out that this particular Bill does not add to the number of inspectors at all. The inspectors were created under the other Bill, and although I personally in this instance desire to see the inspectors increased, still as a matter of fact, this particular Bill does not increase the number of inspectors. I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend has been able to introduce this Bill, and that he was fortunate to secure a place for it in the ballot. I think my hon. and gallant. Friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Colonel Lockwood), asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government would star this Bill or give it facilities in its future stages, and the answer of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was diplomatic, but of course correct. He said that that should be addressed to the Prime Minister. I venture to say that the force of public opinion upon this Bill is so strong that no Government would dare to refuse it, and that future facilities must be given when the Bill comes out of Committee. I do not for a moment suggest that the Government have any desire of any kind to hinder further proceedings on this Bill. I have been connected with this movement for a number of years. So long ago as 1898 there was a deputation to the Board of Agriculture asking that something should be done to minimise the cruelties which had gone on in this traffic, and the result of the deputation was that an Order was made by the Board of Agriculture, which said:— That it shall not be lawful to bring in any vessel neat Britain any horse which owing to age, illness, or any other reason cannot so conveyed without cruelty during the entire passage and on landing. The ordinary observer would have thought that Order, drawn in such wide terms, would have been absolutely sufficient to have stopped the traffic. Unfortunately, that was not so. My hon. Friend the Member for the Wilton Division gave an instance of what took place to show that there had been some difficulty in getting an Order, and afterwards getting it efficiently carried out. My hon. Friend put a question to the President of the Board of Agriculture as to the number of horses exported from British ports that had been refused by the local authorities or the Board on the ground of cruelty or physical incapacity during each of the three years before the Act of 1910 came into operation, and during each of the three years since that, and the President of the Board of Agriculture said:— I am advised that neither the Board nor the local authorities had the power to prevent the exportation of horses on the ground of cruelty or physical incapacity prior to June, 1910. Then he gave the numbers in the several years. I have shown, having read the Order, that the President of the Board of Agriculture was mistaken when he said that, neither the Board nor the local authorities had power to prevent the exportation of horses until after 1910, because ever since 1898 they have had that power. I mentioned that in order to show that the energies of the Board of Agriculture were not very strongly directed to getting over this difficulty. I was very glad to hear the very explicit manner in which the right hon. Gentleman expressed his own detestation of this particular trade, and his desire to do everything he could to stop it. I do not want to bring any charge against anybody, or east any criticism on the officials of the Board of Agriculture, but my own experience of that Board since 1898 is that, at any rate up to a year or so ago, they were very lukewarm about the suppression of this traffic. I have a case, which I believe is authentic, which will illustrate what I mean. In November, 1913, a man was convicted at a Northern port for travelling a horse unfit. The animal was so lame that the police had to convey it to the stable on an ambulance, and yet it was entrained the same day for Hull and was passed by the Government inspector for shipment abroad. I believe that is a correct statement. I have given the date and the year and the place, and this case was given to me by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That in itself is sufficient proof either that the inspectors are not as efficient as they ought to be or else that there is not a sufficient number of them.

I have a further case, which was given to me by the secretary of the same society, which is not in their pamphlet, and it is to the effect that the inspector knew of a ease where a horse was stopped and rejected by an inspector at one port and was sent to another port and was passed by the inspector. I think those two instances show that some strengthening is needed to effectually carry out the desire, not only of this House, but of the whole country. The hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Dr. Chapple) said he was not opposed to the Bill, but, nevertheless, he seemed to devote the whole of his speech to showing that the horses would be very much better off if this Bill was not passed, and in reality he seemed to me to be opposing the Bill. The grounds which he advanced were mainly that such horses would be very much better sent abroad, where they would be certain to be killed instead of being kept in England in an unfit condition. How does the hon. Member know that when a horse is sent abroad it is going to be killed? The hon. Member based his argument upon what I suppose was his idea that these horses were killed at once, but they are not. I have not got the figures to show how many are killed at once, how many are used for other purposes, and how many are used for work for a short time and then killed afterwards. All these three cases do occur, and it is a mistake to suppose that the horses directly they are sent abroad are immediately killed. I do not want to enter into a discussion as to whether or not foreign countries treat their horses more humanely than we do. I do not think that that is really germane to the Bill before us, and I do not think it is our duty to set ourselves up as judges of other people. We permit plenty of evil things in this country, and I do not think we should set ourselves up as judges of other people. An hon. Member belonging to the Labour party said that his party have always shown a very feeling attitude upon this question, although he said that personally he did not very much care about horses. The majority of Englishmen are perhaps more humane than other people. I do not want to go into the question of what happens to the horses on the other side, or to inquire whether they are humanely killed or otherwise, but it must not be forgotten that the horses are not always taken over to be killed.


Perhaps the hon. Member will permit me to interrupt him. I was speaking of the forty horses which were fellow passengers of mine, and I am certain that not one of those horses would have been worked on the other side, because, where horses are used for food, they are killed in an earlier stage of their degeneracy. They would not have been condemned to slaughter on this side.


The hon. Member must not found his case on one voyage and forty-four horses and say that his argument applies to the whole trade, which consists of 40,000 or 50,000 horses in the course of a year. Now I come to the other point of the hon. Member, that these horses if kept in England would have been worse treated than if they had been killed. What proof is there of that? There are, first of all, the laws of England which are very good upon this matter, and which prevent horses being worked when they are in an unfit condition, and they also prevent them being cruelly treated. We have also the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and its inspectors to enforce the law. I should like also to pay a tribute to the police, who in a great many cases exercise very great supervision over these cases, and who prevent a great amount of suffering and misery which I am afraid if they were not so active might ensue. What is the class of horse which my hon. and gallant Friend and hon. Members opposite are desirous of stopping? It is not the horse which can be worked, but which cannot be worked, and which has got to such a state that nobody can work them in this country without running the risk of being prosecuted before a bench of magistrates for cruelty to animals. These horses are sold to the knackers, possibly for a sovereign or something of that sort, and then they are sent abroad, and it is the knackers and the dealers who make the profit, and not the original owners. In country districts, possibly you might not get more than a sovereign for a horse, and if you do not have it killed it is possible the knacker will say, "You do not mind what I do with it; I will take it away and give you 30s." Certainly he does not give more than £2, and then these horses are taken away, and, for the sake of getting another 10s. or a sovereign, the owner, knowing he can do no more good with the animal, allows it to be taken away, and it is sent abroad in this way. That is the traffic we want to stop. I do not for a moment suppose that there are not a certain number of horses sent abroad without cruelty, and they may be treated just as well abroad as they are here. That is not what we are aiming at. We are aiming at stopping the traffic in horses not fit to be worked any longer in this country, which are sent abroad merely because a few extra shillings are put into the pockets of their owners.


They are sent away before they reach that stage.


There, I am afraid, we disagree, and, if the hon. Member will look at the number of convictions which the society has obtained for horses which are sent abroad in a very unfit state, I think he will admit that his argument cannot hold water. I will only read one or two I have got here, all lately. In No- vember, 1913, a horse dealer was sentenced to two months' hard labour for causing a grey gelding pony to be travelled unfit. It was very lame on both hind legs from ringbone. Both limbs had been blistered from the hock downwards, and the pony was in intense pain. In January, 1914, a horse dealer was sentenced to one month's hard labour for travelling a horse unfit. It was dragging the near hind leg along, the muscles of the hips being atrophied, and there was a canker on the heel, and a discharge of pus from the near fore foot. The evidence showed that it was suffering agony. I could give a great many similar cases. These are convictions of the Court. These are not mere hearsay statements which have been made by sentimental people or anything of that sort. These are convictions of the Court this year and last year, and I claim that on these convictions the hon. Member is wrong in thinking that the traffic consists of horses in a fairly good condition which could be worked for a few months longer, but which are sent abroad because of the larger prices obtained there. On the contrary, it shows that a considerable portion of the traffic consists of horses which cannot be worked here or abroad. I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend on bringing in a Bill which is a further step in the right direction; but I venture to say, in accordance with the opinions of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), that this Bill does not go far enough.

We have, so to speak, had three shots at this traffic. We made an attempt in 1898, we made another attempt in 1910, and we are now in 1914 making a third attempt. I hope that on this attempt the House will so draft or amend the Bill that it will be efficient, that it will carry out what we want, and that we shall not need to discuss any further Bills on this subject. I am afraid that the Bill, as it is, will not do that. In the first place, I really do not know how anyone is going to say that a horse is permanently unfit. Opinions differ very much as to whether a horse recovers or not from certain ailments. Hon. Members have been giving their experience, and I will give only one experience of my own in this direction. In the winter of 1912 one of my hunters—a very good one—went very lame, and the veterinary surgeon told me that it would be absolutely impossible to use him again. I did what I could to cure the horse, and at the beginning of last year I very nearly had it shot, in fact, I think I sent for my keeper to come and shoot it, but then I determined that I would turn him into a soft field and see if by chance he would come right. I have hunted that horse every week during the whole of this season one day a week, and it is as sound now as four or five years ago, though he has given me, I must say, two falls. That shows that you cannot tell whether a horse is permanently unfit or not, and we really ought to put into the Bill a provision to the effect that if a horse is unfit for work at the moment he should not be allowed to go abroad. I do not think that anybody could be injured in that way, because if one is honestly desirous of sending a horse out of the country, and by some accident or disease the horse is not fit at the moment to go, he can always be taken back again, and if he can be cured he will be cured, and if he cannot be cured, then he has no business to be sent out of the country. Therefore, on the Committee stage I hope that we shall have the assistance of the Board of Agriculture in this matter.

The President of the Board of Agriculture, I think, was out of the House when my hon. Friend the Member for t he Wilton Division of Wiltshire (Mr. C. Bathurst) was speaking. He alluded to the fact that in the 1910 Bill one Amendment, I think he said it was his own, was opposed by the then Board of Agriculture, and was only carried in the Committee against the Government. I hope we shall not have that now. I should like to ask whether it would not be possible to confine the shipment to certain ports. As long as the shipments may be from a large number of ports or from any port in the country, it will be extremely difficult to control the traffic, however anxious the Board of Agriculture may be, as I hope they will be, to control it. If a horse can be sent from any port all over the Kingdom, it will be very difficult and very expensive to control the traffic. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has thought of this, but, if he has not, I would ask him, before this Bill goes into Committee, to consider whether it would not be possible to schedule certain ports from which horses might be exported and from those ports only. I cannot myself see that that would do any harm to people desirous of sending horses away, and I think it would lighten the burdens of the Board of Agriculture and at the same time minimise the expense. I do not think that there would be any difficulty in arranging the matter. I am not a seafaring man, but I do not see that there should be any difficulty in making regulations. I do not know whether it would necessary to put a provision in the Bill that horses should not be exported except from certain port3, but, if there is any difficulty, the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, will tell us when we get his statement.

I am very glad that we have got so far, and I do hope that, having got so far, we shall all of us see that nothing is left undone to make this Bill really effective, We may not be so fortunate another time as to obtain a place in the ballot. There should not be too many Bills, or too many Acts of Parliament, and when you do have a Bill which you hope will become an Act, you should take care that it is made as efficient as possible, and that. it is in such a form that it will carry out the object which you desire, so that you need not come clown again later with an amending Bill, and take up the time of the House, in order to do what should have been in the Bill from the very beginning. The House has been so pleased with this Bill that I do not think there can be any doubt it will become law, although I hope in all amended form. I should like to make one appeal to hon. Members who may be appointed on the Grand Committee, and that is that they will attend its sittings, because sometimes the attendance on Grand Committees is very small, especially when there is nobody particularly opposed to the measure. Everyone thinks it is no use going because everybody is in favour of the Bill, and in the result scarcely anybody attends. I hope that will not be the case in this instance. I am very glad this Bill has gone so far.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.