HC Deb 28 March 1923 vol 162 cc514-20

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Protection of Animals Act, 1912. This Measure, I feel sure, will appeal to Members of all parties, in view of the most extraordinary outbreak of wanton and callous acts of cruelty which are taking place throughout the country. The Bill would give a magistrate, sitting at a Court of Summary Jurisdiction, the power to award corporal punishment in the case of gross and persistent cruelty. The Measure is not advocated in any revengeful spirit. It is advocated because the backers of the Bill are convinced that, in point of fact, it will prove a preventive Measure, and that therefore these dreadful cases, which have been repeatedly brought to our notice through the medium of the Press, will have a tendency to decrease. I think the majority of Members will agree that a man who would perpetrate such a crime as to kick, starve or thrash his own dog to death is necessarily a coward. A coward would certainly consider his position if he thought that, as a result of his conduct, he would receive in a measure something of the treatment he had given to his dog. it is sometimes held that to inflict corporal punishment on an individual is to demoralise that individual. The whole of my ease is based on this, that it is absolutely impossible to demoralise a man whose present morals permit him to carry out such wanton acts. In my judgment, the only way is to put physical fear into the minds of these depraved people. That is the only fear they are capable of understanding.

The communications I have received from all classes of people throughout the country are very interesting and extraordinary, not only in their number but in their intensity of feeling, which is all directed in one way, and that is in favour of this Measure. I have received, amongst others, a letter from the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions in a Midland area. He says, as an officer of great experience, that In cases of cruelty to animals "— this applies to juveniles only— they can only fine or imprison. The latter they very naturally are disinclined to do, and the former is inadequate. I quite appreciate that point of view, and I submit that this Bill would overcome that. difficulty. It is impossible to pass a Bill—not only is it impossible, but I feel it would be undesirable—which would have any tendency whatsoever to interfere with the discretion of the magistrates concerned. At the same time, you must give them powers which they do not already possess. In other words, you must endeavour to make the punishment fit the crime. Let us consider, for a moment, what kind of punishment would appeal to a man who carries out the following acts of cruelty. Who kicks the eye out of a pony that has fallen; who strikes a pony on the head with a hatchet; who lashes a mare with a chain weighing over 4 lbs.; a. town councillor, if you please, a leading citizen of a certain city, who kicks a cat to death; and a man who stretches a cat apart, until its back breaks, and its kidneys are dislodged; not to mention the man who beats the ribs of a horse into pulp with a shoeing hammer. I can give chapter and verse to any hon. Member interested in the question, but I will not weary the House with such disgusting and revolting cases. Suffice it is to say that I could go on for the whole sitting giving chapter and verse for such cases.

Consider the pain these animals must experience before they die under such circumstances. Consider the agony of mind of a dog, which has been chained to a small, leaky, and damp kennel, without any bedding of any kind whatever, for over a year. Day after day, week after week, and month after month the master of the dog has witnessed the agony and distress of that poor wretched creature, and has done nothing that he possibly could do to help it. I submit that to fine a man 30s. and costs for such a diabolical deed is entirely out of proportion to English justice. The only way is to make him think whether it is worth his while to repeat such an act. Some people hold that to inflict corporal punishment is to interfere with the liberties of the people, that it is not democratic, and that we should be sinking again to the level of barbarians. In my judgment, that is the biggest bunkum and nonsense I have ever heard, because a man who is entitled to the sympathy of this House and the respect of his fellow men would not do such a thing.

I want to appeal most earnestly to the Home. Secretary—who, I am sorry to see, is not present at the moment—because he told us yesterday that he thought the only necessary thing to do had already been done by ventilating this question on the Floor of the House. If I may respectfully say so, I do not consider that theory holds any water whatsoever. Take, for instance, the Ilford murder, particulars of which were published all over the land. On that theory, another murder would not have taken place for a lifetime. What do we find 1 In point of fact, within a fortnight, another such case occurred. If the House gives me permission to bring in this Bill, I earnestly appeal to the Home Secretary, in the meantime, before the Measure becomes law, to write a letter to the magistrates, calling on them to use the powers which they already possess to the very utmost in all cases of gross and persistent cruelty. I assure the House, and my hon. Friends of the Labour party, that this is not a party question, and is not brought forward as a party issue. I trust, most sincerely, that should the House divide they will support me on this occasion. Especially do I appeal to my right hon. Friends who have the honour to occupy the front Government Bench, that they will give me all their support in bringing in this Measure.


I desire to oppose this Bill, because it is based on an entirely false conception of punishment and of justice. I cannot help being surprised that a Measure of this sort should come from the Liberal benches.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Not the Liberal benches.

Captain EVANS

The real Liberals.


I sincerely hope, when we get into the Division Lobby, that, anyhow. there will be no Liberal reunion. I entirely sympathise with the statement of the hon. and gallant Member who seeks leave to introduce this Bill that there is nothing that arouses our indignation more than a wanton act of cruelty against a dumb creature. The hideous instances he gave ought certainly to be very severely punished by fine and by imprisonment, but we should not allow the State to be guilty of the very thing we condemn in an individual. All organised, systematic and legalised brutal treatment, for those who are guilty of brutal treatment, is a perverted notion of justice, and is contrary to the most elementary dictates of reason, besides being inhuman. If you flog a brute, you do not make him less of a brute; you make him more of a brute. It brutalises on the one side and humiliates on the other; and, incidentally, it brutalises the particular individual that you pay to do this dirty work. The doctrine of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was all very well 2,000 years ago, but we have outgrown that sort of thing to-day, although I am sorry to find that there are people who seem to think otherwise. I had a letter this morning from the National Equine Defence League. They say: There are daily systematic commercial and industrial cruelties to animals which, in bulk, are far worse than the isolated, sporadic, inhuman perpetration of cruelty which sees the light of day. The repeatedly-convicted cruel person is a medical and psychological case, and should be prevented from having opportunities of expressing his Abnormality in this way, and not brutally and savagely punish after being given the opportunity, I fell that these abnormal cases brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member

are really cases of moral deterioration. They are interesting psychologically, but in whatever way we treat them I am perfectly certain that this method is the wrong one. We must be careful in treating a degradation of humanity not further to degrade it. Brutes do exist. Unfortunately, not only have we got a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, but we have also a society for the prevention of cruelty to children. These cases must be carefully dealt with not by a slap-clash method of this sort—

Captain EVANS

On a point of Order. Is this a slap-dash method?


There is rather more of the slap than the dash about it. This will be very partial in its application. There are many other instances of cruelty to animals which could be given, but we should be very careful not to pay out these brutes in their own coin. The Bill is a wrong step; it is putting back the hands of the clock and lowering out: sense of justice to the barbaric level. Even from the point of view of expediency it would defeat its own object, for the result aimed at would not be achieved.

Question put, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the Protection of Animals Act, 1911."

The House divided: Ayes, 192; Noes, 109.

Division No. 68.] AYES. [4.18 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Churchman, Sir Arthur Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.
Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent Clarry, Reginald George George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)
Agg Gardner, Sir James Tynts Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham
Ainsworth, Captain Charles Cobb, Sir Cyril Gilbert, James Daniel
Alexander. E. E. (Leyton, East) Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Goff, Sir R. Park
Apsley, Lord Cope, Major William Gray, Frank (Oxford)
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W. Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell Gray, Harold (Cambridge)
Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover) Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South) Guthrie, Thomas Maule
Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence Curzon, Captain Viscount Gwynne, Rupert S.
Banbury. Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G. Davidson, J.C. C. (Kernel Hempstead) Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood. Dawson, Sir Philip Halstead, Major D.
Barnett. Major Richard W. Doyle, N. Grattan Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)
Bellalrs, Commander Cariyon W. Dudgeon, Major C. R. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Berry, sir George Edmondson, Major A. J. Harmsworth, Hon. E C. (Kent)
Blades. Sir George Rowland Ednam, Viscount Harris, Percy A.
Blundell, F. N. England, Lieut.-Colonel A. Harvey, Major S. E.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth Hawke. John Anthony
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)
Brass, Captain W. Erskine Bolst, Captain C. Hennessy, Major J. R. G.
Briggs, Harold Evans, Ernest (Cardigan) Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)
Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham) Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M. Herbert, S. (Scarborough)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray Hiley. Sir Ernest
Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.) Fermor-Hesketh, Major T. Hogge, James Myles
Bruford, R. Flanagan, W. H. Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy
Buckingham, Sir H. Ford, Patrick Johnston Hood, Sir Joseph
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A. Foreman, Sir Henry Hopkins, John W. W.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot Houlton, John Plowright
Burgees, S. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)
Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Furness, G. J. Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.
Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. H. Gatbraith, J. F. W. Hudson, Capt. A.
Cautley- Henry Strother Ganzonl, Sir John Hughes, H. Collingwood
Chapple, W. A. Gates, Percy Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley
Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.) Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster) Simpson-Hinchcliffe, W. A.
Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Singleton, J. E.
Jarrett, G. W. S. Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)
Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Sparkes, H. W.
King, Captain Henry Douglas Parker, Owen (Kettering) Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.
Lamb. J. Q. Penny, Frederick George Stanley, Lord
Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R. Perkins, Colonel E. K. Steel, Major S. Strang
Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley) Philipson, H. H. Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)
Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Lorden, John William Privett, F. J. Sturrock, J. Leng
Lorimer, H. D. Raine, W. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Lougher, L. Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.
Lowe, Sir Francis William Rees, Sir Beddoe Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)
Lumley, L. R. Reiner, J. R. Titchfield, Marquess of
Manville, Edward Remnant, Sir James Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Margesson, H. D. R. Rentoul, G. S. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Martin, A. E. (Essex, Romford) Reynolds, W. G. W. Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey) Wells, S. R.
Millar, J. D. Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.) White, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden) Roserson, Capt. J. E. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Leslie O. (P'tsm'th.S.)
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Rose, Frank H. Winfrey, Sir Richard
Molloy, Major L. G. S. Roundell, Colonel R. F. Winterton, Earl
Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Wise, Frederick
Morden, Col. W. Grant Russell, William (Bolton) Wood, Rt. Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Moreing, Captain Algernon H. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Morrison-Bell, Major A. c. (Honiton) Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Murchison, C. K. Sandon, Lord Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D. Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Murray, John (Leeds, West) Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley) Sextan, James
Newson, Sir Percy Wilson Shepperson, E. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Shipwright, Captain D. Captain A. Evans and Mr. Shake speare.
Adams, D. Herriotts, J. Paling, W.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hill, A. Potts, John S.
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Pringle. W. M. R.
Attlee, C. R. Irving, Dan Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Barnes, A. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Riley, Ben
Batey, Joseph John, William (Rhondda, West) Ritson, J
Bowdler, W. A. Johnston, Thomas (Stirling) Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Broad, F. A. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)
Brotherton, J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Royce, William Stapleton
Burnle, Major J. (Bootle) Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East) Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney
Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.) Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham) Saklatvala, S.
Buxton, Charles (Accrington) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M. Salter, Dr. A.
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Lawson, John James Sanderson. Sir Frank B.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston) Leach, W. Shaw, Hon. Alex (Kilmarnock)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.) Lee, F. Shinwell. Emanuel
Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley) Short. Alfred (Wednesbury)
Charleton, H. C. Linfield, F. C. Simpson, J. Hope
Cohen, Major J. Brunel Lowth, T. Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Collison, Levi Lunn, William Snell, Harry
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon) Stephen, Campbell
Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) M. Entee, V. L. Sullivan, J.
Duffy, T. Gavan Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Trevelyan, C. P.
Dunnico. H. March, S. Wallhead, Richard C.
Ede, James Chuter Marks, Sir George Croydon Warne. G. H.
Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.) Marshall, Sir Arthur H. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Fildes, Henry Maxton. James Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Middleton, G. Weir, L. M.
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz Westwood J.
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coins) Morel, E. D. Williams. David (Swansea, E.)
Groves, T. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams. Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Mosley, Oswald Williams. T. (York, Don Valley)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Muir, John W. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Handle, George D. Newbold, J. T. W. Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Harney, E. A. Nichol, Robert Wright, W.
Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart) O'Connor, Thomas P.
Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill) Oliver, George Harold TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Lansbury.

Resolutions agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Captain Arthur Evans, Colonel Sir Charles Burn, Sir Leslie Scott, Major Despencer Robertson, Mr. Jarrett and Mr. Shakespeare.


" to amend The Protection of Animals Act, 1911," presented accordingly, and read the First time: to be read a Second time upon Monday 9th April, and to be printed, [Bill 79.]