§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Gower
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will give the Bill his blessing, and I think that I am justified in saying that, upon the principles, every hon. Member in the House will be agreed. There can be no doubt at all that throughout the country unanimity exists with regard to the principles of the Measure. The Bill has already received, 530 so I am informed by the secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the blessing of the film censor, Lord Tyrrell, and it is significant that practically the whole of the. Press of the cinematograph trade has said. not a word against the principles of the Bill. The Measure has been promoted and introduced by the Royal Society for. the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with the support of the National Canine Defence League, and other humanitarian societies of the country.
The reason why it has been introduced, and why I am moving the Second Reading to-day, is because we are advised by eminent counsel that it is necessary for a Bill of this nature to be passed to give effect to its principles. The object of the Bill is toProhibit the production or exhibition of films depicting suffering to animals or in the production of which suffering may have been caused to animals; and for purposes connected therewith.I would particularly refer to Clause I, which provides that:No person shall produce or make, or cause or knowingly permit to be produced or made, or take part in the producing or making of—any film, the producing or making of which involves suffering to animals; orany film depicting or purporting to depict combats with or between animals, or the suffering, terror or rage of animals,and no person"—and this is important—shall exhibit, or cause or knowingly permit to be exhibited, any such film, whether made in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.The Bill makes illegal the exhibition of certain films which for some time past have been exhibited in this country. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals naturally keep a very vigilant eye on all films in which animals are introduced, and I would refer the House to a film which was exhibited only last year. The incidents feature animals fighting as follow:Small monkey, large snake close by. Monkey appears terrified. Before snake strikes, hand takes monkey away.Hunters after gorilla. It is shot and killed and carcase held up. Wild dog shot at, carcase also seen. Leopard stalking hyena, fight ensues"—A terrible fight I am told—cries of the animals heard. Rhinoceros shot and killed. Animal seen kicking its last 531 Lion seen to attack hyena, and is seen devouring carcase. Lions after herd of zebras. Next seen tearing at carcase of one. Lion caught in covered pit trap, falling into net. Lion struggles and roars with rage. Number of crocodiles seen, shot at by hunters, one or two killed, seen struggling in water just before death. Fight between two snakes screened, victor swallowing vanquished. Slow process and objectionable to watch.That is the type of film which we desire not to see on the screens of this country. I would also call the attention of the House to a leading article which appeared in a publication known as "Film Weekly," in the issue of the 27th of last month. This is, I am informed, a leading organ of the film industry. It says:There is a short film being shown in a London cinema at the moment which depends entirely for its interest value on shots showing the trapping and shooting of wild animals … Several of the scenes in the film are so disturbing to filmgoers' feelings that they are bound to raise the larger question of the use of animals—and the torture or slaughtering of them—for the purposes of screen entertainment.There have been many instances in the past of animals being ill-treated and maimed to gratify a director's desire for a spectacular 'high-spot.' Alligators and crocodiles have been used in scenes where the excitement has depended on the hero swimming for his life among them. The animals' jaws have been bound with wire which cut cruelly when they tried to open them.Thin wires have been stretched across movie battlefields, so that charging horses might be brought down in spectacular falls. Many of those horses have been shot when the 'take' was over—because their necks were broken.The facts of such cases are whispered in the studios; but they do no get into the newspapers. Only when human beings are injured is there a burst of outraged human opinion. Yet the indignation would be more fitting were it roused by the senseless killing of animals than the killing of men.It is no facile sentimentality which considers the misuse of animals in films more distasteful than the misuse of men. The actor who is asked to endanger his life for a scene has the option of refusing and making the studio hire a stand-in or a double. The double decides for himself whether he will risk his life in return for the money offered. The stunt-pilot knows that he is endangering his life—and may refuse to take the chance if he wishes. But the animal has no choice.I emphasise the fact that this article, which appeared in this publication only a fortnight ago, so expresses itself in referring to a film which it states is now being exhibited in this country. I think that I am justified in saying that there is no hon. Member in this House who will not 532 agree with me that the exhibition of the nature of the films to which I have referred ought to be stopped. There has been rather a long controversy upon this question in the Press, and particularly in the "Times." It is only a little while ago that the eminent public servant and administrator Sir Hesketh Bell wrote a letter to the "Times" in which he deplored the cinema films showing animals which were or intended to be exhibited in this country. I will not read the whole of his letter, but the following part of it:Not for a moment would anyone in our country be allowed to make a public, or even a private, exhibition of wild animals in the flesh fighting each other to the death.' Bull fights, cock fights, and everything else of that nature have been prohibited by law. Why then should such things be permitted to be shown on a screen and in such a manner that no sensational detail can be missed? It is usually stated that such pictures have been procured 'in the jungle,' but there is grave reason to suspect that in many cases the unfortunate animals are more or less tame creatures that have been provided by the purveyors of such trade. It is a well-known fact that the majority of wild animals, in their native habitat, usually live in harmony with each other, and that they rarely kill save to provide themselves with their natural food. Beasts of different species hardly ever fight one another, and it is reasonable to suspect that the combats between a 'leopard and a python,' a 'monkey against three giant crabs at the same time,' are arranged by artificial means.Pictures of such a sort that are now being provided and shown, even to impressionable young children, are of an utterly debasing character. They can only appeal to bloodthirsty instincts. Is this sort of thing, which is being imposed upon us chiefly by foreign purveyors of sensationalism, to be allowed to continue, and probably to grow worse, or are those responsible for the censorship of films going to do what may be possible to protect in this direction the further degradation of public taste?I will also refer to a letter which appeared in the "Times" in 1935 from that well-known soldier, Colonel Sleeman, in which he states that he saw the following incidents in the production of these films:(1) Hippopotami driven over a high cliff. (2) A wretched wart-hog compelled to be seized by a presumably starving lion. (3) A tiger compelled, by means unknown, to be mauled by a crocodile and enveloped by a python. (4) Exhausted and rare wild game pursued by motor cars and aeroplanes. (5) Caged wild animals terrified by fire.It is unnecessary for me to pursue this part of the matter any further. I have no doubt that I have the sympathy of the House with me. It is clear that films 533 to which we object have been exhibited in this country and the powers-that-be have not been able to prohibit their exhibition or, at any rate, they have not prevented their exhibition. A few moments ago I mentioned one film and read at some length the details of what appeared in the film. When that film was being shown the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals consulted counsel with a view to ascertaining whether it was possible for steps to be taken against the exhibitors of the film, but we were advised that the law was such that we could not do so. I think my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he comes to deal with the legal aspect will agree with me that owing to certain technical difficulties associated with the existing law a prosecution could not have been brought against the exhibitors of this film.
One further point with regard to the exhibition of films. The film censor is not a Government official. He is, I think I am right in saying, appointed by the trade. He exercises certain powers but he is not in a position, nor is he entitled, to say finally what films shall or shall not be exhibited by the cinematograph theatres in this country. By law the last word rests with the local licensing authority. The censor may have refused to give his consent—I use that word for want of a better—to the exhibition of a particular film, but the prospective exhibitor can go to the local authority and obtain consent to its exhibition. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is advised that at the moment there is no law in this country which can effectively prohibit the exhibition of these films of which we complain, provided they are produced not within the British Isles. It is unnecessary for me to point out that the large majority, in fact the whole of them, have been produced outside this country. If power existed to-day whereby the exhibition of these films could be stopped there would be no necessity for this Bill. Having regard to what we have been advised we urge the House to give effect to the Bill.
May I call attention to Clause 1 (2), which says:In any proceedings brought under this Act in respect of any film the court may, until the contrary is proved, infer from the incidents depicted or purporting to be depicted 534 by the film that suffering to animals was involved in the producing or making thereof.If a film is exhibited in this country, although on the face of it the animals pourtrayed in the film may have suffered very considerably, if that film was produced abroad and we were not in a position to call the evidence of those who saw the film being produced, we could not frame a prosecution. There is this further point, on which we feel very strongly, and I think we shall have the sympathy of the House in regard to it, and that is that these films are produced abroad because the producers realise that they may be exhibited in this country, and therefore there is no deterrent to exclude from the film the objectionable features of which we complain. If the Bill becomes law and it is clearly provided that such films cannot be exhibited in this country a very great deterrent will be provided for those who are producing the films.
Several of my hon. Friends have raised points in regard to some of the implications of the Bill, and I should like to deal with those points briefly. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle)—whose accident yesterday we ail deplore, and we sincerely sympathise with him—has pointed out that if the Bill is passed in its present form it will, for example, prevent the exhibition of films showing experiments upon animals to students in our medical schools, and the result would be that more animals would have to be experimented upon, because actual experimentation before the students would have to take the place of the films. We do not desire that such should happen and, therefore, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill I have agreed with my hon. Friend that if the Bill obtains a Second Reading that point will be dealt with in Committee. We shall have no difficulty in agreeing an appropriate Amendment.
A point has also been raised by other of my hon. Friends that the Bill might make it illegal to exhibit films of accidents which occur, for example, at race meetings such as the Grand National. I would point out that by Clause 1 (3) it is provided that:Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the making or exhibition of a film of an event or scene, not being an event or scene organised or arranged for the purpose, by reason only that it depicts as an incident of that event or scene the occurrence of an accident involving an animal.535 The House will see, therefore, that the fears expressed by my hon. Friend are groundless. I have this morning received representations from a body representing the theatrical and other organisations, who fear that if the Bill be passed it might prevent representations on the screen of what happens to-day on the stage, etc., and they ask for an undertaking that this shall not be so. I am prepared to give that undertaking, because the only object we have in presenting the Bill, and the only desire we have in getting it passed, is that which is contained in the Title of the Measure.
I do not propose to address the House at any greater length. If this Bill is passed into law it will be established beyond all doubt that no animals may be subjected to ill-treatment in this country for the purpose of producing a cinematograph film. It may be suggested that the law already deals sufficiently with that point. It may do, but the Bill goes further and provides that no scene shall be shown on the film which pourtrays the sufferings of animals. As the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals it is our great object to prevent suffering of animals either in this country or abroad. There is another point which one has to take into consideration, and here, again, I think I shall have the sympathy of the House, and that is that it is demoralising and degrading for young children to visit cinema shows and there witness representations of the sufferings of animals. It cannot be for the good of children or of grown-up people to sit witnessing not only the sufferings of animals but to realise that those animals have in all probability been deliberately subjected to cruelty for their amusement. Many educational authorities of note in the country have expressed themselves at one time or another against the showing of such films.
At the risk of repeating myself let me say that we are advised that unless the law is altered in the way the Bill suggests, there is no certain or effective means of preventing these films from being exhibited in this country. I appeal to hon. Members, and particularly to the Under-Secretary of State, to support the Motion for the Second Reading. I understand that by some it is believed that the law is at present sufficient to prohibit these 536 exhibitions. All I can do is to repeat that we are advised that that is not the case, and we feel that the exhibition of these films is so undesirable that there should be no doubt left as to whether they can or cannot be prohibited by law.
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore
I beg to second the Motion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) has been associated so long with every sane and useful effort to protect animals that I am sure the House will readily agree to give a Second Reading to the Bill he has introduced. He has put me in a little difficulty. I had prepared, as I thought, a rather convincing speech on this question, but my hon. Friend has practically taken every argument I had proposed to offer, and has done it so much better than I could hope to do that I feel somewhat under a grievance. I have also another little trouble. A friend of mine on whose judgment I had formerly put every confidence has called me a sentimentalist. That came as a shock to me, because I prided myself on behind a hard-boiled realist, who looks at things as they are, and not as I should like them to be. I want to prove to myself that my own conception of my character is correct, and also to prove that this is not a sentimental Bill, but a Measure which can be supported by every realist in the House.
Before coming to the details of the Measure I would suggest to the House that there are three general principles which should be borne in mind in judging the Bill and its effects. One of them is that animals are mainly carnivorous. They rely for their sustenance mainly on animal meat, and as they do not use humane killers there is bound to be considerable cruelty in normal animal life. No animal will willingly allow itself to be chewed up by a larger animal, although we sometimes see a cat playing with a mouse and gulls being cruel to pigeons. Cruelty is inevitable in the ordinary animal world. My second principle is that the normal individual likes to see a good fight, a good contest, although it must be quite clean, straight and above board, with no cruelty connected with it. The average Englishman does not like cruelty practised upon himself or to see cruelty inflicted upon others. If we are watching a boxing contest in which one of the con- 537 testants is obviously inferior and is being punished beyond the normal degree of punishment, we cry "Enough" and call upon the referee to stop it. Our nature reacts against unfairness and cruelty.
That brings me to my third consideration. We are becoming increasingly cinema-conscious. The cinema is probably the most popular entertainment at the present time and has, therefore, the most vital and powerful effect on public opinion. The cinema has made our girls, working and non-working girls, beauty-conscious and clothes-conscious—and a very good thing, too. The cinema has exposed the crime rackets and we in this country have made up our minds that we will never allow the crime rackets of America to penetrate here. They have shown us its dangers, and warned us against any such thing. The cinema has introduced us to new countries and old customs. It has shown us beauties of scenery which no education or travel has been able to show. Hence the popularity of cruises. Therefore in judging this Bill we must take into consideration these three factors. The Bill seeks to carry out two or three definite achievements. It wants to ensure that in the production of films of animal life only the natural activities of animals shall be represented, not the artificial activities and passions which may be provoked. We do not want to see emotions and passions of animals provoked in order to force them into unnatural and unwanted contests. The Bill also seeks to satisfy the humane demand that no unnatural or sadist tendencies on the part of people shall be gratified by deliberately showing them films which make cruelty an essential feature. We want films which will develop and educate and guide the humane instincts of mankind. We want to develop a public conscience against any tendency to cruelty. Those are the desires we seek to achieve.
I should like to make a reference to one particular film which, I confess, I greatly enjoyed. It was shown last year in London and was called "The Charge of the Light Brigade." I suppose there is hardly any Member of this House or of the general public who was not thrilled by the history, the gallantry and the courage, surrounding it, and of course it always pleases the British mind to see how well the British came out of the fight. 538 Nevertheless, we saw there some things which, on consideration afterwards, must have given all of us food for a great deal of thought. We saw horses galloping up hill and then for some unknown reason falling, and the chances were ten to one, seeing the way they fell, that they shattered their legs and had to be shot afterwards. It appears that wires were put up at frequent intervals, about a foot and a half above the ground, so that the horses tripped up, and some of them fell. The men who take part in these film contests are, like jockeys, taught to fall easily, but the horses have not that instruction. By the passage of this Bill, I believe cinematograph producers will be forced to find out by research other methods of getting the same successful cinema effects without inflicting on animals pain and suffering which is unnecessary and unmerited, and which the public should not be encouraged to enjoy.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
This is a Private Member's Bill and every hon. Member is entitled to his own opinion on its provisions, but I trust I shall have the agreement of my hon. Friends on this side of the House when I say that this Bill ought to have a Second Reading and be passed into law. I hope the hon. Gentleman representing the Home Office will be able to say "Amen" to what I have said. There are one or two observations I would like to make, as one of those who does not know much about the subject, although I notice that we can all speak very eloquently when we know nothing about a subject. I think that the provisions of this Bill make a very strong appeal to the best that is in us. It is an astonishing thing that the House of Commons is always more kindly disposed on Fridays than on any other day of the week, and that leads me almost to suggest that Parliament should in future meet on Fridays only. I think all hon. Members, to whatever party they belong, will support this Bill, because it carries us a stage further in the process of removing all cruelty from the life of our people.
§ Mr. Davies
I wish sometimes that a great deal of the sentiment of hon. Members towards animals could be transferred on occasions to children, but that is not the subject before us to-day. I think it is reasonable to prohibit the exhibition in this country of pictures of incidents that would not be legal here. I very soldom go to the pictures, and perhaps I may be pardoned when I say that the only pictures I like are the comic ones, and if there were a picture taken of the House of Commons it would give me additional pleasure in that respect. The film has become part of the education of our people, and there ought to be eradicated from films all those scenes that indicate pain and torture to animals. One or two of my hon. Friends have been saying to me, "Why not prohibit films showing heavy-weight boxing contests, because they are bloodthirsty?" I suppose the answer is simply that when men fight they are able to defend and speak for themselves, and in any case they may throw in the towel when they know they are defeated. That is not so when men are dealing with animals. An animal cannot speak, it is not on an equal footing, it has not the same power, and it has not the same brain. A man is always capable of inflicting any pain he likes upon a dumb animal. For that reason, there is a distinction between pictures showing heavyweight boxing bouts and those depicting cruelty to animals.
I trust that the Home Office will look kindly upon this Bill, though I am never sure of the Home Office under this Government. It is an astonishing fact that Members of Parliament individually seem to me to be very much more kindly disposed than when they are together in a party, although I do not know why that should be so. Hon. Members opposite support this Government, which is the embodiment of cruelty. Individual Members of the Tory party, such as the two hon. Members who moved and seconded this Bill, exhibit all the kindly dispositions that people expect of human beings, but when we put forward a proposal on any human issue, the two hon. Members feel the tribal instinct, and join with this cruel Government. I support the Bill, and I trust that hon. Members on this side of the House will do the same.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Denville
I will not detain the House very long—[An HON. MEMBER: 540 "Why not?"] For the simple reason that there are other hon. Members who wish to speak—Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,I will be brief.I hope hon. Members will forgive me for quoting Shakespeare at this time of the day, but in listening to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) one feels tempted to do many things that one would not do normally. One cannot fail to have been impressed by the fact that the two hon. Members who moved and seconded the Bill admitted that on certain subjects they are experts. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) spoke as an expert on the art of boxing. What that has to do with this Bill, I am not sure; but if he is an expert on the art of boxing, he failed to realise that the example he gave does not always work out as he would like to have us believe. He said that very often the weaker fighter receives such punishment that the people surrounding him call out to the referee to stop the fight. If he were behind the scenes and knew anything about boxing, he would know that it is rather strange that there should be cases where one fighter is much weaker than the other, and that the individual who gets a jolly good hiding is getting what he deserves, and should receive a great deal more.
The hon. Member who promoted the Bill gave us some illuminating evidence of how these animals are trained and of some of the cruelty that appertains to the making of these films. All that one sees of savagery in the film world—and indeed in the entertainment world generally—is not as it appears on the surface. I will give as an illustration the case of a lion which, in a certain film, had to spring upon a beautiful and virtuous maiden who was lying asleep on the other side of a rock. As a matter of fact, when the lion sprang, it was a fortnight after the lady had left the district. Another case was that of a scene in which a tiger was seen to spring from a tree on to a beautiful horse and immediately after was seen making a hearty meal, apparently off the horse. The producer told me, however, that it was nearly three weeks after the time when the tiger actually sprang from the tree before it was possible to purchase 541 a dead horse to lay before him for the scene which followed. All is not as it appears on the surface. At the same time I am expressing the views of the entertainment industry in this country, including the film side and the theatrical side, as well as the Circus Proprietors' Guild of Great Britain when I say that I heartily support the Bill. We believe that if anything cruel or offensive is shown, it creates aversion and bad feeling among our patrons. We believe that it is much better in the entertainment industry to cultivate all our patrons, and we do not desire to have even one dissatisfied patron, because:He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare,And he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.I hope that the Bill will go through rapidly, and I can assure its promoters of the full support of those connected with the entertainment industry in this country.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Campbell
If this Bill is going to do what it is intended by the promoters to do, it will have my hearty support. I intervene only because I think I am one of the few Members of this House to have figured in a scene of the kind which, in these days, would have made a very good film picture. If I may be allowed to relate a personal experience I was once in the jungle when an ape of the kind called the orang-outang or "man of the woods" suddenly appeared and bit one of the natives who were of the party in such a way that he had to eat his meals off the mantelpiece for about a month afterwards. The orang-outang then climbed to a very high tree, and I had to run and get a rifle and try to shoot him. I was considered a very good shot and I fired six or seven times, and was very much surprised that the animal did not come down. After the eighth shot he came down and it was found that he had seven bullets through his head and the natives at once grabbed him and proceeded to pull him to pieces. A picture on a subject of that sort I presume, would be prohibited under this Bill, though I have no doubt that my colleagues in the House would be very pleased if they could see to-day a representation of that incident 37 years after its occurrence. Even the President of 542 the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would, I think, be willing to pay half-a-crown to see such a film.
However, the intentions of the Bill are good. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) struck the right note when he said that some films in which there appears to be cruelty do not, in fact, involve any cruelty. It would be a pity, for example, to interfere with films showing wild life, in which we are all deeply interested—even those who like myself have been fortunate enough to see it at first-hand in the jungle and have sometimes perhaps seen too much of it. Provided that the promoters of the Bill make sure in Committee that its provisions are not too rigid, I shall be pleased to support the Measure.
§ 1.21 p.m.
Mr. Graham Kerr
I should like to speak on this subject first as a professional biologist—because this is really a biological question—and, secondly, as a lover of animals. I wish to do everything possible to diminish cruelty and suffering. At the same time, I confess that I do not regard penal legislation as the proper way to achieve that end. Education is what is wanted, and if the children of the country were educated properly they would grow up with an abhorrence of cruelty. The fact that we have to have great societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and cruelty to children is, to my mind, one of the most dreadful blots upon our so-called civilisation. In spite of my sentimental feelings, I cannot support this Bill. The use of the cinema has become a great factor in biological teaching and investigation. My own department in Glasgow was one of the first biological institutes in the world in which a full-sized moving picture apparatus was installed as part of its equipment. That apparatus is extensively used. Its uses in teaching are various. In the first place, it gives access to the study of living creatures which would not otherwise be accessible, such as creatures which live in the deep sea or in the tropics or in some "un-getatable" part of the world. Only yesterday I saw Captain Knight's marvellously interesting and instructive film of living creatures in Africa. That film enabled one to see living creatures in their natural state which one otherwise would not be able to see.
543 The film has also become extraordinarily useful by reason of the power which it gives to interfere with the time factor. Among living creatures many things happen with such rapidity that the eye cannot follow them, while other things happen so slowly that it is impossible to detect any movement at all. Take, for example, the living cells of the human body. If you examine, say, diseased cells like cancer-cells with a microscope, although they are alive you can see no movement whatever. They might as well be dead. But it is possible to arrange to take moving pictures at intervals, and afterwards to run the films through the projection apparatus in such a way as to show those apparently unmoving cells in a state of activity. In that way you can study them, and that is the way that will lead us eventually to the full understanding of many of these diseases. There are other movements that take place so rapidly that you cannot follow them with the eye, and you tackle those by means of the cinema in a different way. You take pictures separated by exceedingly short intervals of time on very sensitive films, with tremendous rapidity, and you run them through the apparatus at the ordinary speed, with the result that everything is slowed down and you get what is called the "slow-motion" picture. In that way you can study such movements, for example, as the flight of birds.
There is one further point that I would like to mention, and it has to do with that very disputable and very unpleasant subject of experiments upon living animals. Many of us hate the whole idea of these experiments, and others of us think they are justifiable, but although we may differ, in these two schools of thought, on the subject, there is one thing that every one of us is agreed upon, and that is that the more we can reduce the numbers of experiments on living animals the better. The cinema film gives us a wonderful method by which we can reduce these experiments, because a particular experiment on a living creature which is recorded by this method can be run through the machine over and over again, and it can be studied intensively as many times as you like. In that way you can arrive at an understanding of the process that is going on, which, without this aid, would only be got by re- 544 peating the experiment on the living animal.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore
I ought to point out to the hon. Member that the promoters gave a guarantee that such experiments would not be interfered with by the Bill.
I am obliged, hut, so far as I took it, what was said was that it had to do with abolishing the necessity of showing such experiments to students.
§ Sir R. Gower
I endeavoured to make it clear that a representation was received by me from my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), representing the medical profession, who asked that a particular Amendment should be agreed to by me which meets every point which my hon. Friend opposite has raised, and I have agreed to the insertion of that Amendment.
Then I understand that I apprehended wrongly what was said before, when I assumed that it had only to do with teaching. I now understand that it actually covers the very important question of research experiments. Those are two points which I thought I had better say a word or two about, and there is the final point, which in itself makes it seem to be desirable not to accept this Bill, and that is the vagueness of many of the words in the Bill. There are words in it which it would be extraordinarily difficult to define, which could be interpreted in different ways, and which might be made use of to stop a great number of films which I think the promoters have no intention of stopping. For example, I remember, in the old days of the rodeo in South America, watching animals being lassoed and seeing them later on a film, and it was an extraordinarily interesting film, but nobody would say that those animals, when they were being lassoed, did not suffer. I have also seen interesting films of tarpon fishing, and nobody would say that those unfortunate tarpons did not suffer. Again I might refer to films of whale fishing. Such types of film might be prohibited by the wording of the present Bill, and on those grounds I feel that I cannot support it.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The hon. Member who has just spoken will, I am sure, forgive me if I do not follow him in the very 545 interesting scientific arguments which he has adduced, except to say that I do not see how any of them could be affected by this Bill. I think it is high time that some such legislation as this was brought in, though I think it would be very desirable to have some sort of inquiry. I do not know that there has ever been one, and it is difficult to know how much cruelty is perpetrated in the making of these films, but remembering two or three films in the past, such, for instance, as "Ben Hur," a film which drew an immense public and was one of the most popular films of its kind, undoubtedly the chariot race in that film caused great cruelty to the horses in it. Another type of film that I think of would be the Tarzan films. They seem to be in a totally different category from those films of wild life, and natural wild life, it may be naturally involving cruelty in some of them. Then there are films like that mentioned by one hon. Member, namely, "Moby Dick," a whaling film, and, because that involves some cruelty, to prevent showing that film with its great sense of adventure and wild scenery, to audiences in this country, would appear to me to be carrying it too far.
§ Sir R. Gower
It was our intention to deal with representations of actual and normal scenes by Clause 1 (3) of the Bill, which states:(3) Nothing in this Section shall be construed as prohibiting the making or exhibition of a film of an event or scene, not being an event or scene organised or arranged for the purpose, by reason only that it depicts as an incident of that event or scene the occurrence of an accident involving an animal
§ Mr. Crossley
Clearly, "Moby Dick," for example, does depict the terror of an animal, a whale being, I believe, in biological realms an animal.
§ Sir R. Gower
If a scene was constructed for the purpose only of causing representation on the screen, then, of course, it would come within the scope of the Bill. If, however, the filming was of an actual occurrence which was not being staged for the purpose of the film, it would not.
§ Mr. Crossley
If the intention of a film producer was to follow the whaling process in order to produce a film, that intention on the part of the producer would render him liable under the Bill.
§ Sir R. Gower
No. If a producer photographed something which took place 546 irrespective of whether it was filmed or not, the taker of the film would not be liable under the Bill.
§ Mr. Crossley
I think that meets my first point, which was that there should be all the difference in the world between cruelty deliberately perpetrated in the making of films for the purpose of public showing and cruelty incidental unfortunately to natural life, and which gets depicted in scenes of natural life.
§ Sir R. Gower
The words in Subsection (3)not being an event or scene organised Or arranged for the purposecover that particular case.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
This conversation is very interesting, but I must remind hon. Members that we are dealing with the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Crossley
I apologise for provoking the interruptions. My other point is that it appears to me, on a summary reading of the Bill, that it is restrospective, and applies to films which have already been made. Retrospective legislation is almost always undesirable, and I should be glad to receive an assurance that the promoters of the Bill will take that point into consideration in Committee.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Groves
I have for years held in great respect the activitiy of the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Bill with regard to the prevention of suffering to animals, and I hope they will not be amazed at what I shall say about the Bill. I appreciate that hon. Members who introduce private Members' Bills do not have the advantage of the Parliamentary draftsmen, but I should like an explanation of Sub-section (3), which says:Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting the making or exhibition of a film of an event or scene, not being an event or scene organised or arranged for the purpose, by reason only that it depicts as an incident of that event or scene the occurrence of an accident involving an animal.547 My desire is to extract from my hon. Friends who have brought forward this Measure a promise that this well-intentioned attempt at legislation shall not be used to impose further restrictions upon the legitimate entertainment industry and the exhibition of animals in circuses. I hope they will be able to assure me that an Amendment will be made in Committee to avoid any such apprehensions. I want to ask my hon. Friends and the Home Office whether we are arriving at a position in this country where we object to the presentation of a film that involves cruelty but do not object to the cruelty itself. There are many people in this country whose personal activity shows that they appear to love animals more than they love mankind, and I do not like that psychology. I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower), who is a very respected worker in the cause of animals in his capacity as President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, whether it is the presentation of cruelty that is objected to or the cruelty itself. I have always taken the stand that we should object to the act of cruelty, but we do not do so either in this Bill or in the House at any time.
I put some questions to the Home Secretary two or three years ago because I read in a paper called the "People" that they were looking for some Member of Parliament who would raise the question of cruelty in the Grand National. When I raised the question in the House, Members ridiculed me. I am old enough to know that all the best causes in the world were laughed at at first; they were "pooh-poohed" at the second stage, and "Hear-heared" at the third. If my hon. Friends are serious in their attitude towards cruelty, I would like to ask them whether they would object to a film of the Grand National. They dare not say they would, because they would find that the cinemas in this country would exhibit the picture a few hours after the race itself. There is more cruelty involved to both animal and man in the Grand National than in the average film objected to by my hon. Friends. Then there are fox-hunting and stag-hunting, and all those cruel sports which give pleasure to some people. It is not a class question, because many of our people are amused by whippet racing and coursing. Then there has been a recent discussion on cock-fight- 548 ing. The time has come when we should try to put the very laudable attempts to prevent cruelty to animals on a proper, straightforward basis. Let us make up our minds whether we are overloaded with sentiment or whether we are working and trying to convert our colleagues to an understanding of what is actually happening.
This Bill is not concerned with films of cruelty to germs, to which reference was made by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Graham Kerr), because we would like to be cruel to many of them; nor has it anything to do with biology or zoology in the scientific sense, because this country, through the power given by this House, is responsible for the development of cruelty, legally and, in my opinion, immorally. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) gave us an interesting illustration of the shooting of animals in circumstances which were justifiable, and that leads me to relate an experience I had in witnessing official cruelty to animals under the aegis of the Home Office. In 1929, with many other Members, I went Hendon. I do not suppose that the Under-Secretary has much time to know what is going on there, because he is involved in preparations for dealing with gas attacks. If you visit the Government factory or laboratory at Hendon—my scientific friend the Member for the Scottish Universities will be glad to hear this—you will see little calves strapped to a table, and muzzled so that they cannot make a noise. Each leg is strapped. After the belly of the calf has been shaved the surgeon comes along and makes an incision, and he is followed by a student who rubs in some pus. The animal is then sent back to its stable in order that this scientific cruelty shall be allowed to develop, and after a day or so it is brought back to the table and strapped down again, and the surgeon comes along with his knife and scrapes off this deadly, but scientific, poison, which is then put into a phial and sent to the laboratory and is eventually used as calf lymph to perpetrate the practice of vaccination.
I am not arguing at the moment whether vaccination is efficient or inefficient, but certainly it has been proved that less than 50 per cent. of the people of this country desire their children to be vaccinated. There is much cruelty involved in the process of producing lymph from these 549 calves at the Hendon laboratory under the authority of the Government. I have seen it and it goes on daily. If we want to employ the influence of this House to prevent the continuance of cruelty, let us have a fair, frank and open statement and tell the world that cruelty can be practised officially in this country under the authority of Parliament as long as it gets the backing of the medical committee of this House, and as long as it is under the heading of scientific research. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has reminded us, these animals cannot speak for themselves, and at Hendon they take good care that they do not even make a noise.
This Bill gives private Members an opportunity to voice the opinion that at this time of day science should not engage in cruelty to animals, and then put forward the view that it is something which is inevitable and not preventible. I feel that I must take advantage of the opportunity which this Bill gives to cry aloud against the cruelty involved to animals in sports—cruel blood sports. As I was coming to the House a few weeks ago I saw a placard stating the number of horses which fell in the Grand National, and if hon. Members look up the record of questions which I have put in this House to the Home Secretary, they will see from his answers the number of jockeys who have been injured. One jockey broke his thigh and will never walk again. This sport not only involves cruelty to animals, but cruelty to men, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham must realise that it is just as bad in its effects, either psychological, physical or moral, upon the thousands of people who witness it.
§ Mr. Groves
That is a point of view. Sport is something which must be described and defined. I should imagine that some hon. Members here have read the story of the religions of Mexico. Here is a story which shows how times change and men must change with them. At the Easter festival in connection with the religions of Mexico the chieftains gathered at supper in the evening and the chieftain who was proclaimed the most valiant was he who had plucked out the greatest number of human hearts. In those days the more bloody the sport, 550 the more beautiful it was. Now the hon. Member says that the Grand National is a grand sport. It is not a grand sport to the animals injured, and it is not a grand sport to the jockeys, except those who win.
§ Mr. Crossley
Then how is it that the one ambition of so many amateur jockeys is to ride in the Grand National?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must ask hon. Members to try to relate their speeches to the Bill, and I cannot see what Mexican religious celebrations have to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Groves
My reference to Mexican religions was purely illustrative, but the Grand National and other blood sports are depicted by means of films. I ask the promoter whether he is going to make an effort to rope in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Anti-Vivisection League and the Anti-Vivisection Society, so that we can show a united front for humanity instead of cruelty. Then we shall be standing solidly together and saying to all Members, "Here is an opportunity to proclaim to the world that British Members of Parliament will not shelter themselves by saying that some amateur jockey would like to win the Grand National." I went last Saturday afternoon to see a football match. It may be thought that this has nothing to do with the Bill, only the cirema people were there. In that match an amateur team tried to win a cup. It is the ambition of all amateurs to reach the top of the profession, and to exhibit both valour and interest in the game, just as Members of Parliament always strive to get to the top; but in no sense would that justify cruelty. I could not possibly vote against this Bill because, in my opinion, it is another contribution towards the development of the broad human feeling against cruelty to dumb creatures. We in this country ought to be frank and free about it, because if people hate blood sports in themselves they must hate to look at representations of them on the screen.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
We have had to-day a discussion which has ranged very far, from Mexican religions to the jungle, and included the re- 551 flections of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on the effects produced on the temperaments of Members of this House by their party affiliation; and, tempting though it would be for me to follow hon. Members in some of their speeches, I must resist that impulse, because I have a definite duty to perform and will do it as briefly as possible. The House is, of course, well aware of the great interest which the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower) has always taken in questions relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals as chairman of the great society occupied with that subject. He has rendered a service in bringing this subject before the House. Hon. Members will agree, whatever their views may be in matters of detail, or on the question whether the existing law is adequate to deal with the matter, that it is a subject on which we ought always to be on the alert, because it is possible for abuses to creep in. An active public opinion, made manifest by the discussions which take place in this House, is, in any case, of very great value and importance.
Every hon. Member will agree that the object which the promoters of the Bill have in mind is most desirable. No one would desire that suffering should be caused to animals in the production of films, or that films intended for exhibition to the public should contain scenes depicting suffering of animals. We are a nation of animal lovers, and I am sure that I am voicing a universal opinion when I say that Parliament could not, and would not, tolerate the exploitation of animals for the production of films which, for the most part, are intended for the entertainment of the public. In view of what has been said about film production in other countries, it is as well that film producers in all parts of the world, who are thinking of this country as a market for their films, should realise that that is the attitude of Parliament in this country. I hope to be able to show later on that even under the existing law, and in any case if the Bill be passed, film producers who put scenes depicting cruelty into their films are, in so far as they do so, wasting their money, where the United Kingdom is concerned.
The Home Office are substantially in agreement with the objects of the Bill, but it would be to the advantage of the 552 House if I stated what we conceive to be the present position in the matter. We cannot follow the hon. Member for Gillingham when he says that there is no law which can effectively prevent the showing of objectionable films here, if the films are produced abroad. The position at present is that cinemas in this country cannot be opened for the public exhibition of films until they have received a licence from the local cinematograph licensing authority. Those authorities are the county and county borough councils, which are able to delegate their powers to district councils or to justices. The licences issued under the Cinematograph Act, 1909, normally contain two conditions which are relevant to the matter now before the House. The first condition provides that no film shall be shown which is likely to be injurious to morality or to be offensive to public feeling. If the council serve a notice on the licensee that they object to the exhibition of any film on the grounds aforesaid, that film shall not be shown. The second condition provides that no film, other than photographs of current events—commonly called the news reel—which has not been passed by the British Board of Film Censors, shall be exhibited without the express consent of the council.
It will, therefore, be apparent to the House that those two conditions, which are in common use in England and Wales, give the local licensing authority complete control over the films exhibited in the cinemas. I should observe, in connection with the second condition which I have read out, that although films have to be passed by the British Board of Film Censors, their decision is not final and that the local authorities have the power to authorise the exhibition of a film not passed by the Board, and conversely; but the cases where this power is exercised are extremely few. I would like to describe for a moment the attitude of the British Board of Film Censors to the question of cruelty depicted on the screen. Hon. Members will appreciate from what I have said that that is a matter of crucial practical importance to which the Board have given a great deal of thought. They are alive to the dangers contemplated by the Bill, and it is their practice to refuse to pass any incident in a film which could reasonably be supposed to have been produced by means which have necessitated cruelty to animals or means 553 of restraint amounting to cruelty. They have gone further than that. They do not pass, as a general rule, films in which cruelty has been pourtrayed or suggested, notwithstanding that no live animal Ms been used in the production of the film. The hon. Member for Gillingham has already given an example, and I am betraying no secret in saying that the ingenuity of film producers is such that they make use, on occasion, of dummy animals without the public being any the wiser. I understand, for instance, that a film was recently shown depicting a number of elephants which were constructed entirely on mechanical and not on biological principles, and that, in spite of that fact, they succeeded in deceiving an eminent circus proprietor when he saw it on the screen.
I think hon. Members will agree that the board's practice in this matter is a sound one, and that even where a dummy animal is used and no actual pain is suffered, no impression should be created that suffering is caused to animals. I think that is the general rule, although there may be border-line cases. Three or four years ago there was a wave of animal films and great numbers of them were produced. The films censors at that time gave the matter particular attention, and they took action which, I think, hon. Members will agree was sound. They set up a panel of experts, nominated by various societies, to advise them. The panel included representatives of the Royal Veterinary College, the Natural History Museum, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire, the Zoological Society and the London University Animal Welfare Society. I understand that that panel has done a considerable amount of work in advising the British Board of Film Censors.
§ Sir R. Gower
May I point out that great dissatisfaction exists to-day on the part of many members of the panel, particularly of the representative of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am very sorry to hear that. I was not previously aware of it, but the setting up of the panel was obviously a move in the right direction. I hope that the House in general will be reassured, after the statement that I have been able to make, as to the control at present exer- 554 cised over films in which animals are pourtrayed. I can go further and say that we have no evidence at the Home Office to show that the control is insufficient. A certain number of examples have been given to-day which would tend to show the reverse. The hon. Member for Gillingham quoted a letter by Sir Hesketh Bell in the "Times" which, I am bound to say, sounded a very formidable indictment. There is a very simple answer to the complaint, and one which, I think, hon. Members will agree is conclusive. It illustrates also that one has to be careful before accepting completely complaints made in particular cases. Two months before Sir Hesketh Bell wrote that letter to the "Times," the British Board of Film Censors had completely prohibited the showing of the film in the United Kingdom. Hon. Members will naturally ask how such a mistake came to be made. I believe it arose from the advance publicity of a film which takes place in the normal course of film activity, before the film comes before the British Board of Film Censors. I believe the writer of the letter was influenced by the advance publicity and was completely unaware that the British Board of Film Censors quite agreed with his view; they not only agreed with it, but they had acted upon it some two months before.
The only concrete example that has been given to-day was that mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore), namely, "The Charge of the Light Brigade." I have not seen that film, so that my personal views are of no interest, but I was rather disturbed by what my hon. and gallant Friend said, and particularly by the suggestion that the fall of a horse had been, secured by means of a wire which was stretched across the horse's path while it was proceeding at full gallop. I think the House will agree that, if that were the case, it would be a most dastardly form of cruelty, which ought never to be permitted, and certainly ought not to be shown on the screen for profit. I immediately had a telephone message sent to the British Board of Film Censors to ask them whether they could give me any precise information on the matter from their point of view, and I have since had a message from them which I think the House will be interested to hear.
555 It appears that an article appeared in a Californian paper alleging cruelty against the producers of this film. The producers maintained that it was a trumped-up charge, and they successfully proceeded against a journal in this country which reproduced the article. The British Board of Film Censors accepted the position which the producers took up, being satisfied that it was correct. It appears that in some cases india-rubber horses were used to produce some of the effects. The film was in fact seen by the consultative panel that I have mentioned, representing various societies interested in the welfare of animals, and, as a result, the board prohibited all the falls of horses except, I understand, perhaps one, and in that case I am informed that the falls were produced by trick horses and trick riders. Even then, however, it was decided to leave out all these falls except in one case, which no doubt was necessary to give continuity to the story for fear of misleading the public. I think the House will be glad to have that information, because without it the information given by my hon. and gallant Friend would undoubtedly have been very disturbing to our minds.
I ought to point out that, apart from the powers I have described, there is the additional guarantee, so far as films produced in this country are concerned, that the ordinary law relating to cruelty to animals can be invoked. There is, of course, no power in this country to control the action of film producers in other countries, but foreign films relating to animals are subject, when shown in this country, to the same control by the British Board of Film Censors and by local authorities as are films produced in this country; there is no distinction between the two. I have summed up the position as shortly as I can from the Home Office point of view. We feel that the existing powers are sufficient and adequate, but, of course, they are based upon the Cinematograph Act of 1909, and the organisation of the British Board of Film Censors, which has grown up since. It will be for the House to decide whether or not it is satisfied with the powers I have described, or whether it wishes to make assurance doubly sure by passing a Measure on the lines of this Bill.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.