§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Radford
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I will deal with the details of the Bill at a later stage of my remarks. At the outset, I would like to draw hon. Members' attention to the Memorandum on the front of the Bill, which shortly sets forth its purpose:The object of this Bill is to stop the existing export of work-worn horses from this country for slaughter, or for further work prior to slaughter, abroad.The Bill involves no interference with the export or re-export of young and valuable horses.I am not going to enter into any historical survey of this question, but will content myself with starting with the position as it is to-day under the present law. It is laid down in the Diseases of Animals Act, 1910, and the Exportation of Horses Act, 1914, that horses which are being shipped abroad from this country must previously be examined by a veterinary officer of His Majesty's Government, and he must not allow the shipment unless a horse is, in his opinion, fit to travel without cruelty and fit to work without suffering. I want to make it clear that I do not make any charge against His Majesty's veterinary officers that they are not honourably and thoroughly discharging their duties. I am satisfied that they are. Since this Bill is to prohibit the export of horses for slaughter abroad or for further work prior to slaughter, it follows that we are seeking to stop the export of horses which at the present time are permitted by law to be exported. Our veterinary officers can only carry out the law as it stands for the time being. I and my friends are satisfied that they are honourably carrying it out, but there are still a certain number and type of horses going abroad whose going is a reproach to our country.
We seek by this Bill to stop these animals from being eligible to go. Under the two Acts which I have mentioned the word "horse" is taken as meaning horse, mule or ass. Those which we 692 seek to stop from going abroad are what we describe as work-worn, and we endeavour to enable them to be picked out as work-worn by two tests. One is if they are over eight years of age, and the other is that, irrespective of age, they are not, in the opinion of His Majesty's veterinary inspector, worth £25 in the case of horses of 14 hands and over, and £12 in the case of horses under 14 hands. There are undoubtedly people in this country who, when they know that their horses are beginning to fail in their powers, sell them for export abroad while they may still be passed as fit to work. The state of British public opinion is such that no lame or obviously unfit horse can walk a mile in our streets without attracting the attention of a policeman or of some kind-hearted civilian who will report the matter to the police. When these horses get to the other side of the Channel, however, neither the law nor public opinion protects them in that way. Therefore, a better price is frequently obtainable for the export of an old horse with sufficient work left in it to justify, and indeed compel, His Majesty's inspectors when examining it to pass it as still fit for work and to travel without suffering.
Many hon. Members may have read a few weeks ago that Mr. Fred Fox, the jockey, said that he recently picked up an old British warhorse in this country and paid £3 for it. He said that its condition was such that under the law as it exists to-day His Majesty's inspectors would have had no option but to have passed it if it had been taken to a port for export, because it was fit to travel without suffering and was still fit for work—but what kind of work and for how long? If these horses are kept here they are given such further work as their failing powers will enable them to perform, but, on the other side, the conditions are very different. When I was fortunate enough to win a place in the ballot I gave notice that I would introduce this Bill and on 6th November the Bill was read the First time. If I had been making my Second Reading speech that day I should have spoken very differently from the manner in which I am going to speak to-day. When I put down the Exportation of Horses Bill as the Measure which I wished to introduce, the object I had in mind was to stop the export of horses for 693 butchery. In view of certain things that have happened, information that has come to my knowledge, and things I have seen since, I have altered the object of the Bill to include horses exported for further work.
I will tell the House what it was that effected that change in this Measure. On 11th November a photograph appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" of an old roan gelding and an old mule—I have the original photograph with me now—and it was accompanied by an editorial which explained that a certain worthy organisation, Our Dumb Friends League, had ascertained that a number of old British Army war horses and mules which had been sold in France and Belgium after the War were still working there. The League had sent over one veterinary officer formerly in the Army, and a British Army Officer who was formerly in the 9th Lancers and had served in the War from Mons right up to the Armistice and had been resident for many years in Belgium, had offered his services in an honorary capacity to join him in the search for these old horses and mules sold as long as 18 years ago, and these were two of the first they had managed to find still working. I know that many hon. Members are horsemen and know a lot more about horses than I do, and I feel that it may be difficult for them to imagine that these old war animals, which must have been at least five years old in 1918, should still be working after a lapse of 18 years. They would not have been working had they been in this country, but they were working on the Continent.
I came to London and interviewed Mr. Keith Robinson, the Secretary of Our Dumb Friends League. I venture to believe that in the course of a chequered career of 40 years—since I left school—I have formed a certain capacity for judging character in people, and he satisfied me in all particulars in regard to those two animals whose photograph appeared in the "Manchester Guardian." But what is sufficient to satisfy a member of this House in his private capacity may not be sufficient to satisfy the House as a body, because here we have an official duty to perform as the representatives of the people of this country. Although we may accept something as gospel in a private capacity, as Members 694 of Parliament it is our duty to be absolutely satisfied that the evidence available is such as could be accepted by any reasonable person. So I got Mr. Keith Robinson to have these photographs supported by sworn affidavits from Mr. Eykyn, the old Lancer officer, and the other officer, Mr. Garle. I have them here, and any hon. Member can see them. Both animals were in the neighbourhood of 30 years of age and still working. I will read the affidavits which give short details of these two animals:Big black mule, aged 30 or more, debilitated and in very poor condition. He had obviously been ill treated and had several old scars, as well as two large old collar sores. When killed crupper galls and collar galls were found on the carcase. He had been sold for further work, although quite unfit. Photographed in Brussels, Saturday, 17th October, 1936.I understand that in nine cases out of ten when this organisation recovers these old creatures, having paid the small purchase price asked for them, it has them painlessly destroyed. A few of those which were in the best condition have been brought back to this country and have been given comfortable homes. The mule was on sale for further work at 30 years of age. The affidavit stated that the mule was photographed in Brussels on Saturday, 12th October, 1936, and it is signed by Mr. Garle before a Commissioner of Oaths. The photograph of the mule, a pathetic picture, is here for any hon. Member who wishes to see it, and I shall be delighted to hold a little reception later in the Debate.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Mervyn ManninghamBuller
Do I understand that any of these old horses or mules to which the hon. Member is now referring were exported from this country? I understand they were sold in France. If so, how would this Bill touch them?
§ Mr. Radford
I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for his question, because it enables me to explain something which I was going to explain later, but which it is perhaps more desirable should be made clear now. Under the law as it stands our veterinary officers have to pass for export any animals which are fit to travel without cruelty, and fit to work without suffering. When these revelations came to my notice showing how these old work-worn animals were still compelled to work abroad, it struck me 695 that it was a revealing indication of the fate which befalls work-worn animals sent from this country under the existing law, which fall into the hands of small buyers such as those who held these old war animals. Is that clear to my hon. and gallant Friend?
§ Sir M. Manningham-Buller
I understand that the animals to which the hon. Member has been referring were not actually exported from this country.
Mr. Radford: I entirely agree, but I think it is essential that we should take advantage of this revealing evidence which has come before us—accidentally come before us, as far as this Bill is concerned—shoWing the treatment meted out to work-worn animals on the Continent, and the manner in which they are worked although totally unfit to work. In this country such animals would not get along the road 200 yards without being stopped. Hon. Members who have visited Belgium know that if they walk through the streets of Brussels they will see well-fed, well-groomed horses draWing the vans of the principal business concerns there. Those are not the people into whose hands these old work-worn horses fall. They get into the hands of small buyers living in obscure villages, such as I visited a few days ago, and there they have no protection under the law. Nominally the law does protect them, but it is seldom enforced, and there is no public opinion to back it up. I hope the House is with me when I say that I do not think I am wasting time in showing the pitiable conditions to which these old war horses have been reduced, because we have no statistics as to the fate of the old work-worn horses which have gone from this country—gone abroad legally under the law as it stands—and which have not been immediately slaughtered. What has their fate been? We can take it that their fate has been the same as the fate those old war horses and mules are still suffering.
§ Mr. Fleming
Could the hon. Member give us any assistance on this point? How many horses have been exported from this country in the last year or two in such a condition that they would come within the terms of this Bill?
§ Mr. Radford
If my hon. Friend will give me a little time I will come to that 696 point. If there is any point on which any hon. Member would like to interrupt me I shall welcome his intervention, because it will enable me to give further information. Here is the photograph of the red roan gelding, aged 30 years or over. It is described as worn out and emaciated, lame near hind leg and suffering from debility and tooth trouble. It had been overworked and ill-treated, and both legs were badly strained. It was very weak in the back. This horse had been sold for further work. The photograph was taken in Brussels and is testified to by Mr. Garle, ex-officer attached to the 3rd Dragoon Guards. He is an official judge of the Hunters Improvement and National Light Horse Breeding Society, and an inspector of Courses Point-to-Points for the National Hunt Committee. He is, therefore, a man who knows a little about horses.
I will hot weary the House with any more of these photographs. The condition of these old veterans and the way in which they were being treated has had—I tell the House in all seriousness—a very material effect upon my mind. If I had been moving the Second Reading on 6th November, before I had learned about them I should have emphasised that although horses which were shipped to the Continent might be for immediate slaughter or for further work, it might well be that more were being taken for immediate slaughter than was stated to be the case by the consignors. The Ministry quite frankly say that they have no power to control what happens to horses after they had been landed on the other side, although they endeavour, as far as lies in their power, to secure a declaration from the consignors of the purpose for which the horses are going. This is what the Ministry say in one of their pamphlets:There is no statutory requirement that shippers must declare the purpose for which horses are being exported, but the Ministry's Port inspectors endeavour to ascertain how many of the horses shipped are likely to be slaughtered immediately on their arrival in Europe. In 1935 out of a total of 2,670 horses exported "—that is, to Europe—only 21 were stated to be intended for slaughter on arrival, and this year (1936), the number of horses exported for immediate slaughter was 16 out of a total of 3,134 exported.697 If I had been making my speech on the earlier occasion I should have recognised that the number for immediate slaughter, if it were reliable, was very small, but I should have said that, apart from the Ministry having no power to control the horses when they got to the other side, it was quite possible for any dealer exporting these horses, in perfect good faith, to make a statement at the port of departure as to the number that was intended to be slaughtered, which might turn out to be incorrect. After the horses had reached the other side, it might well be that, in the particular market on that day, there might be a glut of butchering horses. There might be a very few horses fit for further work, and a big circle of buyers. Obviously, any horse-dealer would proceed, in those circumstances, in view of the state of the market, to sell them to the people who wanted them for further work, and he would get a higher price. That is the line I was intending to follow. It is not the line upon which I shall go to-day. In the light of what I have learned and seen. I say to the House: Happy the horse who is sent over there which is immediately slaughtered and so escapes the infinitely worse fate which otherwise awaits it.
Honestly, I should feel less call for the Bill if the numbers had been reversed, and out of the 3,134, all but 16 were destined for immediate slaughter. That would be all to the good, because death is preferable to years of martyrdom. About three weeks ago, Mr. Keith Robinson, with whom I had not been in communication in the meantime, wrote asking me some questions about my Bill, and said "Any help I can give with regard to the Bill I shall be delighted to give." At that time, the Bill had not gone into print. I telephoned to his office, but the staff said that he was in Belgium but would be back on the following day. On the following day I telephoned, and I went across and saw him and explained why the Bill was not yet ready.
He said: "I got back last night and I feel ill yet, with what I have seen. I have prepared a memorandum about what I have seen in the last three days." I did the same with that memorandum as I did with the photographs, that is I had it sworn to by the two Army officers who 698 were with him out there, Mr. Eykyn, the old 9th Lancer, and Captain Abbott, who was in King Edward's Own Cavalry in the Indian Army. Here is their sworn statement, which I can read to the House so that hon. Members will understand what these people saw on the Continent during that particular week-end. I would point out that the animals of which they speak were not brought to them by an eager group of sellers; they had to root them out. They say that they heard of a mule which was in the possession of an old peasant woman and they went to see her to examine the animal to see whether it was possible to buy it. They say:This mule was owned by an old peasant woman. The scapulo-humeral joint on the off-side had been luxated and never been put back. The carpal bones of the same leg had become fused, and, although he was being made to work it would be obvious, even to an untrained eye, that there was no power in that leg. The woman when approached said that she knew it was lame, but that did not matter, as there was plenty of work still in him, and it was only with difficulty, and through the kindness of a Belgian friend, that she was finally induced to part. The real reason why she did not want to sell was that she obviously could not get very much money for her present animal, and to buy a new one would mean more than the purchase price of the mule.I should like hon. Members to see the photographs of that mule. Its off-side leg was curved in a semi-circle.
Mr. Robinson said that some of the reports he had received from his Army officer friends on the-other side seemed almost too bad to be true, but he felt it his duty to go over with the honorary treasurer of the organisation in order to see some of them with his own eyes. The statement continues:—Finally we came to what was the worst case of all in this particular trip. At the back of a stone building, fixed into a bend in the wall, was a three-sided leaky lean-to structure, providing a width of only about three feet, and with the whole of one side open. The weather has been bitterly cold in Belgium; in fact it was trying to snow at that moment. Without covering, in this open shed, had stood an ex-British war-horse, and hanging from the roof to within four feet of the ground, taking up the larger part of the interior, was an overhead iron pulley, which the owner admitted had been put there for the sole reason of getting the horse up, as it was too weak to raise itself. Also that the work this horse had to do was to pull a team cart, with two solid wheels banded by iron, used by the Germans during the War for carrying stone—a cart designed for two horses.699 The load under which it had collapsed two days previously was standing there, and they said that it weighed at least two tons. That was the final straw that brought it down. It could not get up again, and it was taken away to be slaughtered.
When I read these things, I felt that it was my duty to go there myself, so that, if the House cared to ask me, I could say what I had seen. When I got to Victoria Station to catch the boat train, I found, although I had no idea that they were coming, that two eminent veterinary surgeons, having heard that I was going over, had been kind enough to come with me and offer to help me. They were Sir Frederick Hobday, the head of the Royal Veterinary College, and Major Wall, a veterinary surgeon of wide experience, who was entrusted by His Majesty's Government during the Great War with the buying of nearly 200,000 horses and mules in various parts of the world, and we went over together. We went to the stables which they had rented in Brussels where these poor old wrecks were brought in vans. There were some dozen or 14 of them there at the time. I went to one stable, to which the worst cases were brought, and where they were kept for a few days until Mr. Eykyn and Captain Abbott had decided whether or not it was possible to save them. I saw horses and mules there. One, was an ex-polo pony, a beautiful little creature. He was so wrapped up when he was standing in his stall that I could not see how lame he was. I asked Mr. Eykyn whether he could not be saved, and he said, "No; he is too lame; every one in this stable will have to go." The condition of these animals was absolutely on a par with the cases I have already described to the House. I may mention that, when I entered the stable to look at these poor old creatures, I saw a tiny pen in the corner, like a child's playground, in which was a diminutive grey donkey, not much bigger than a dog. Mr. Eykyn told me that this was a little private purchase of himself and his wife; they had bought him in Charleroi market. They saw him enter the market at a trot, pulling a cart with five Belgians on it, one of them lashing him to keep him at a trot. When they stopped the cart in Charleroi Market, the donkey was 700 trembling in every limb. They bought him and his bit of harness for 17s. Hon. Members will appreciate their treatment of animals when five men had been riding behind him on a little lorry and making him trot.
§ Mr. Radford
That was the donkeys' capital value. If you capitalise 17s. a week, it represents a capital value of from £500 to £1,000. I have said more than I intended, but I wanted the House to realise the state of affairs over yonder, where in obscure villages these horses are worked when they are unfit. We have endeavoured in the Bill to define a work-worn horse as one that is over eight years of age or under £25 in value; and the Bill contains certain other provisions for tightening up the law. I am advised that the figure of X25 is rather too low. I am sure the House is aware of the public interest that is taken in this question. Hon. Members have been bombarded with letters, I have been bombarded with letters—
§ Mr. Fleming
Would my hon. Friend tell the House who it is that has organised this bombardment of Members with letters which are all in the same terms? I am not opposed to the Bill, but why is it done?
§ Mr. Radford
The only knowledge that I have on this question is due to the fact that I am a small subscriber to two organisations, and I received a letter from each of them asking me to be in my place on the 5th March and vote for the Bill. That is my answer to my hon. and learned Friend. As far as I and my friends are concerned, we have taken no part in any such bombardment. Indeed, it was not necessary if hon. Members came to the House to-day to hear the facts. Whatever letters and demonstrations there have been, however, they are nothing more than the crest of the wave as compared with the depth of water down below. If the 31,000,000 electors in this country, irrespective of sex or party, could give their views on this question, you would have over 30,000,000 in favour of it. I have never yet met anyone, with the exception of one or two Members here, who expressed the least possible dissent.
701 The question is asked, of what use is the Bill if it will not interfere with the export of young and valuable animals? Young and valuable animals, however, will fall into good hands to begin with, and it may be that they will still be safe in good hands for, say, five years to come; and I hope that, if this Bill becomes law, we may, between now and five years hence, get the people and the governments of France and Belgium, which are the two principal offenders, to bring their countries more into line in this regard with the other countries of Europe. I appeal to the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, and to reject the Motion which three of my hon. Friends have put down to submit the Bill to a Select Committee. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), who is one of the three who have put down that Motion, wrote a letter to the "Times" on the 4th November, in which he said this:The whole subject was very fully investigated in 1925 by a strong Departmental Committee appointed by the Government, and their published report is available at the cost of is, from His Majesty's Stationery Office to anyone wishing to be informed upon the subject and upon the state and the administration of the law. No facts have ever been produced to controvert the findings. In short, the present efficient and well-administered law adequately deals with possible abuses.Why, then, does my hon. and gallant Friend want a Select Committee when he says that the whole matter has been examined? Finally, I would appeal to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, and through him to the Government. I know that, unless we have some governmental sympathy and support, the later stages of this Bill may be impossible of achievement, oWing to the exigencies of Parliamentary time. Therefore, I would appeal to my right hon. Friend, and through him to the Government, to give us the opportunity of passing this Measure into law, and so saving some of these old work-worn friends of ours from a fate worse than death, which otherwise awaits them across the Channel.
§ Mr. Radford
Earlier on I explained that in the definition in these Acts of 702 Parliament, which we are proposing slightly to amend, "horse" includes horse, mule and ass.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin
I beg to second the Motion.
Merely to state the purpose of the Bill is to get support for it from every quarter of the House. I think the House would desire to congratulate the hon. Member on his good fortune in bringing before it a Bill which is very much needed. Its object is to stop the existing export of work-worn horses from this country for slaughter, or for further work before slaughter abroad. There are two part of this industry, if one can give such a name to what is being done to these horses. First of all, there is the export of work-worn horses, and the second part of the industry deals with the export and reexport of valuable horses. The Bill does nothing to touch that part of the industry. The House has dealt previously with the problem. In 1898 there was an Exportation of Horses Order, and in 1910 the Diseases of Animals Act. In spite of those two measures, in 1913, 70,000 horses were exported. In 1914 there was a further Exportation of Horses Act, and in 1925 a Departmental Committee was appointed to inquire into the whole matter. In spite of those Acts and Orders, that is abundantly clear, from what the hon. Member has said, that it is possible to-day for many of these old work-worn horses to be shipped abroad, and, if further evidence is required, it is to be found in a letter to the "Times" on Wednesday of this week from Sir Frederick Hobday. That letter is a full and clear corroboration of what the hon. Member has said to-day.
I agree most heartily that there is no kind of attack or criticism of the veterinary services. They carry out their work most efficiently and very adequately, but, nevertheless, these horses get through. Even if no horses at all were exported, there would be a need for such a Bill as this. There is in the country such a tremendous body of humanitarian feeling that people of all political creeds desire to be assured that what has been written and spoken about the exportation of these horses ought to be made impossible. This country leads the world in this great humanitarian movement for the right treatment of 703 horses which have done a good life's work, and, even if it were only as an example to the rest of the world, it would be well worth while for this House to pass the Bill. Mention has been made of the enormous amount of work that has been done by a very large number of societies in this matter. An hon. Member below the Gangway had some complaint—
§ Mr. Fleming
I should like to make it clear that my complaint did not apply to this matter at all. It is the general growth of the bombardment of private Members. When any particular Measure is under discussion, a kind of blackmail is adopted to complel us to support it whether we want to or not. I am supporting the Bill, but I object to this system of bombardment by societies.
§ Mr. Hopkin
I think the hon. Member would not be justified in his complaint, because nothing has been done in connection with this Bill which has not been done many times previously in the case of other Bills. I think the House would desire to recognise the enormous amount of work that has been done in this matter by a previous Member of the House, Sir George Cockerill, and the International League. Sir George has worked assiduously for very many years, and to-day I hope he will see the fruits of his labour.
The question has been asked about numbers. It is most difficult to state precisely the number of horses exported last year that would be affected by the Bill. In 1936, 103 horses which would come within this category were exported, and only four were put down for slaughter. That cannot be right, because the Dutch statistics show that in 1936, 58 British horses were slaughtered in Holland. Of course, the smaller the number down for slaughter, the worse it is for the horses. In 1925, 13,477 horses were exported, but in 1935 only 2,670. That can be easily explained by the fact that fewer horses are bred now. There would be every justification for this Bill, even if only one old work-worn horse were exported.
There are two difficulties that will possibly be mentioned in the course of the Debate. One is the difficulty of stating precisely the age of a horse, I know very 704 little about it myself, but I am told that after a horse is eight years old the matter of telling its age is very simple indeed. The second difficulty, that of value, is a very minor one, because all that the officials at the ports are asked to do is to state in their opinion—a thing that they are doing regularly every day—that the horse should be of less value than£25 The way out is to prohibit the export of these horses and, at the same time, to develop the dead meat trade. I will read two very short excerpts from the Departmental Committee of 1925. Paragraph 123 says:It is obviously more humane to slaughter a partially worn-out horse than to work it until completely worn out.May I draw the attention of the Minister to something that Lord Long, a predecessor of his, said: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.It is for these reasons that I hope that the House will, as quickly as possible, give this Bill a Second Reading. It is a sensible and practical Bill, and one that answers for many thousands of people in this country a desire to know with certainty in the future, that the exportation of these horses from this country will be absolutely impossible.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel the Marquess of Titchfield
I am sure that we are all very grateful to those hon. Members who have presented and supported this Bill. For many years past there has been, I think, much misunderstanding in the country on the matter of the exportation of horses from this country to the Continent. I only wish to intervene for a short time in this Debate, as I happened to be one of the members of the Departmental Committee which was set up in 1925 by Lord Halifax, when he was Minister of Agriculture, to look into the whole matter. It is undoubtedly true to say that, before the Act of 191o, the export of horses from this country was carried on in a very unsatisfactory manner, but in 1910 an Act was passed by this House which decreed that no horse could leave this country for export abroad unless there was a written certificate from one of the veterinary officers of the Ministry at the port of disembarkation. That certificate had to say that the horse must be capable 705 of being conveyed to a port and disembarked without cruelty. Quite frankly, that Act was not good enough.
In the year 1914 another Act was brought in which added that a horse should not be exported unless it was capable of being worked without suffering, as well as being capable of disembarkation without cruelty. In 1921, the Government went a little further still, and the Minister made an Order called the Transit of Horses, Asses and Mules Order. The Order prescribes a definite standard of fittings with which all ships must comply. The Act of 1910, amended by the Act of 1914, and the Exportation of Horses, Asses and Mules Order are really the horses charter. It was my experience on the 1925 Committee—I see the chairman of it sitting here—and, I think, all of us who sat on that Committee, in that we signed a unanimous report, that the trade was being carried out in a humane manner, and that the veterinary officers at the different ports of disembrakation carried on their work both in the spirit and the letter of the Act of 1914 and the Order. I want to make it quite clear, and the House ought to make it clear, that the decrepit horse trade in the years before 1910 does not now exist at all. It has sometimes been said that when horses are disembarked, that the shipping arrangements for them are very bad indeed. I can assure the House that that is not the case. It was the experience of the Committee—and we took a lot of trouble to look into the matter—that the transhipment of the horses was extremely good. Every horse that went across was well fed, well looked after and well stabled.
What is the truth to-day? I do not know whether any hon. Members have the report of the 1925 Committee in their hands, but the proof of what I have just said can be found in the Appendices. Hon. Members should look at Appendix No. 1, which is a humble effort by myself, and describes a visit which I made to Harwich; at Appendix No. 2, which is a report made by Sir Merrick Burrell; and Appendix No. 3, which is a report made by Sir Frederick Hobday, who, as my lion. Friend the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) has said, is probably the most distinguished veterinary surgeon in the Kingdom. If hon. Members will read those Appendices they will see that the 706 horses are extremely well fed and looked after at the present time.
I want to say a few words on the matter of the Bill. Clause I says that no horse may be exported unless the veterinary inspector at the port values it at £25 or over. That all sounds very simple, but anybody who knows anything about horses will realise that it is not quite as simple as it sounds. The veterinary officers at the different ports of disembarkation do their work, as I have said, extremely well, but they are not trained valuers, and I do not think that those veterinary officers would claim that they were.
Marquess of Titchfield
No, they do not, but what I meant to say was that, to be able to value a horse at £20, £25 or £30, you have really to be in the trade. Unless you are in the trade, it is extremely difficult to value a horse between £20 and £30. I hope that I have made my point clear. Although the veterinary officers do their work admirably, they are not in the day-to-day and month-to-month trade, and unless you are, it is very difficult to tell what is the real value of a horse. I do not think that this will happen but it might. Unless you have the standard of valuation absolutely uniform at all ports of disembarkation, what may happen will be, that the people in the trade will be able to find out in a very short time whether the standard is high in some places or whether it is low. If you do not get a uniform standard of valuation all over the country, you will have many horses going to some ports and very few to other ports.
I shall be delighted to give my blessings to this Bill for what they are worth if, when the Bill comes to the Committee stage, my hon. Friend will insert £20 for £25, because I think that £25 is rather too high. A sum of £25 may prevent what I might call the legitimate horse being taken across the Channel, but £20 is a good, round figure. I should like to say to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture that I consider this a very useful Bill, and I hope the Government will give time for the hon. Member for Rusholme to see it put on the Statute Book.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie
In the main it is true that we treat our animals more kindly than they do on the Continent. On several occasions I have been to the Continent and have been struck with the way they treat their animals. We see dogs chained to vehicles and straining to drag heavy loads. The dog is an animal that likes freedom. When we go to the country districts on the Continent we find an absence of the song of birds, such as we have in our country districts. Time and again I have seen on the Continent old horses dragging loads that would never be allowed in this country, and one wonders whether there are such bodies as we have in this country for the protection of animals. There ought to be whole-hearted support to this Bill, and it ought not to be sent to a Select Committee.
We read that in nine months of last year 2,786 horses were exported and only four were for immediate slaughter. That is a danger, because undoubtedly many of these old horses are used for a time on the Continent dragging heavy loads, when they ought to be slaughtered. Committees have considered this subject before and there is plenty of evidence to enable the House to decide the matter. It is a wise and humane thing to slaughter horses in this country when they are too old for work, rather than risk sending them away, without any knowledge as to their fate. Let me quote what the Departmental Committee said on the subject:It is in the interest of the horse itself, of breeders, of horse owners, of the Army and of humanity that a horse should be painlessly slaughtered when its work or as soon as its work value becomes less than its food value. The export of work-worn horses should be stopped and a properly organised export trade in dressed carcases should be substituted.So far as the export of horses to Holland and Belgium is concerned, the Belgian and Dutch regulations lay it down that the horses must be slaughtered in their countries so as not to lose the byproducts—the hides, hoofs, blood, etc. As we are in trade and friendly relationship with Holland and Belgium, surely it is possible for our Government to open negotiations in order to overcome that obstacle. I hope the Bill will receive the unanimous support of the House.
§ 12.9 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander James
I have listened with the closest attention to the speeches of the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Bill, and before I make my general observations I should like to refer to one or two points in their speeches. We were all impressed with the sincerity, even the emotion, with which the hon. Member for Rusholme moved the Second Reading, but I would call attention to the fact that in that speech he did not produce one single scrap of evidence or any allusion which had any reference to the present trade in work-worn horses. We are not concerned now with what the Disposals Board did in 1918–19. What we are concerned with are the conditions under which horses are now and have been for the last two or three years exported from this country.
§ Mr. Radford
I had hoped that I had made it clear to every hon. Member that the examples I was giving were for the purpose of showing how horses going from here at the present time are likely to be treated when they get to the other side of the Channel.
§ Wing-Commander James
I entirely appreciate that point, but my submission is that that point would have been relevant if it could be shown that in fact there are horses now being exported which will ultimately reach such a condition as he described. My hon. Friend will concede that I have for weeks past warned him of the attitude that I was going to take on the Bill. I say that the case for the Bill has not been supported by any real evidence. He asked why had I put down the Motion "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee." The reason is that I could see no other way—it may be due to my lack of knowledge of the details of procedure—in which I could be sure of having an opportunity of bringing the House down to realities. I might have put down a Motion that the Bill be read six months hence, but that would have been tantamount to rejection, I did not want to do that, because I prefer that the Bill should go forward. I could not put down Amendments because the Bill only appeared in print last week. Therefore, I put down the Motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. That Motion has been put down in order that we may 709 ventilate the subject and try to dispel the mass of hysterical rubbish that has been spoken and written upon the subject.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
If this traffic does not exist, what reason can the hon. and gallant Member adduce against the Bill?
§ Wing-Commander James
I appreciate the point of that question and I will endeavour to deal with it. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) referred to the letter from Sir Frederick Hobday, as confirmation of these statements. He is a most distinguished veterinary surgeon, but his letter confirms nothing about the present trade; it specifically refers to animals over 23 years old. Again, I say it, that relates to the Disposal Board's practice during 1918 to 1920 and not to the present trade.
§ Mr. Hopkin
The hon. and gallant Member cannot have read the last sentence in the letter:In these circumstances we cannot contemplate without the deepest concern the export of work-worn horses from Great Britain with the prospect of finishing their days under the conditions which we saw, and which we have each seen on previous visits.
§ Wing-Commander James
That is a general statement and not evidence or confirmation. It is an expression of opinion. It is exactly what a veterinary surgeon is employed to give. It is an opinion, and a very good one. The hon. Member used one sentence with which I am in complete agreement, when he said that "What has been said and what has been written about these horses ought to be made impossible." I should like to give such evidence as I have, since I have exposed myself to some measure of odium by taking the line that I have. I have received many letters, some of them amusing. I might observe that I am a very keen animal lover. There are few people who are more bullied by their pet dogs than I am. I have, ever since I was of age, kept, in consequence of my fondness for owning horses, an overdraft that has been a constant source of anxiety to my banker, and even, at times, to myself. I have for a number of years been a subscriber to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and in 1924 I was in risk of losing my commission by interfering in the ill-treatment of a horse at Peshawar, as the records of the Peshawar Police 710 will show. So I am not going to have it suggested that I am not a keen animal lover.
Let me indicate my approach to this problem. Years ago when I first entered this House my friends who are fond of horses began to bombard me with statements to the effect that it was a monstrous thing that this traffic should continue, and they asked me why I did not introduce a Private Member's Bill to deal with it. So I made inquiries, quite objectively, believing that there could not be smoke without fire. I was wholly sympathetic. I started searching for truth and the facts. It soon became apparent that while there was an enormous amount of rumour and statement, facts were hard to come by. Let me describe briefly the steps I took to inform myself—steps which any other Member of this House could take. First of all I began to make inquiries around the district where I live as to horses that could be sent abroad. I visited the local knackers. Every small town in England has its knacker. I visited railway stations and inquired what horses were sent away. I inquired of the local animal transport companies and the local dealers in horses. Very much to my surprise I realised that, wherever the traffic might have originated, it certainly did not originate from anywhere in that part of the South Midlands, where I live. Any hon. Member can go and make similar inquiries near his own home and he will find that this terrible evil always derives from someone round the corner, and that it is impossible to put one's finger on the spot. In April, 1935, I went to see the R.S.P.C.A. I see the Chairman of the Society sitting opposite to me in the House. I shall not, therefore, elaborate this point, except to say that there did not appear to me to be the same degree of anxiety on the matter in Jermyn Street that existed in the country.
§ Sir Robert Gower
At the time my hon. and gallant Friend approached the Society a campaign was being conducted in this country based on allegations that old and decrepit horses, blind, halt and lame horses, horses which were almost unable to walk, and horses in a diseased condition, were being exported. The information that was given to my hon. and gallant Friend was that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was satisfied that there was no foundation 711 for these allegations, and that the veterinary inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture were most meticulously careful in carrying out their duties, that in doubtful cases the benefit of the doubt was given to the horse, that we were satisfied that some of the horses which were permitted to work on the roads of this country were refused a licence to be exported, but that at the same time we were strongly in favour of additional legislation because we believed that horses which were approaching old age but were fit to work were being exported and that when they reached the other side they were subject to such treatment that they rapidly became decrepit, and that we desired to see the export of such horses ended.
§ Wing-Commander James
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for that statement. I will put the result of my visit this way: A searcher after facts in support of the rumours prevailing did not find confirmation of the rumours in the office of the Society. The next thing I did was to go to the Port of Leith. I went there because the Society which has promoted this interest had named the Port of Leith as a centre of the traffic. I was received there with perfect frankness; everyone was out to help me. I interviewed the shippers and the port authorities. I need not specify too closely. I even interviewed some of the Dutch dealers. I spent nearly two days there and I interviewed everyone who was likely to be able to throw light on the matter. I found, first, that the extent of the trade was infinitely smaller than I had expected, and, secondly, that the whole of this agitation was regarded there not only among vested interests but among disinterested people on the spot as being ridiculous and overdone.
Then I came back and promptly put down three questions to the then Minister of Agriculture. They were asked on 19th December, 1935. The first related to the number of carcases exported. I learned that during the three previous years we had exported from this country to the Continent a yearly average of 24,138 carcases. That showed that there was a big dead meat trade. The second question related to the conditions of slaughter in Holland, Belgium and France. The answer was that the humane killer was 712 compulsory in Holland, at Boulogne, Calais, and Vaugirard, of general use in Belgium, and that during the whole of 1934 and up to 30th June, 1935, no horses at all were shipped for slaughter to Belgium and France. Lastly I asked as to the general conditions of export and the number and classes of horses exported. I was surprised to receive a most interesting and important statistical table. The table shows in a most elaborate form the extent of the traffic in horses to the Continent, during the years 1933–1934 and up to 30th November, 1935. It showed the categories of animals exported and the countries to which they were sent. There are 16 categories.
The first point is that of the 16 categories there are only four within which can be included animals that can be exported for possible slaughter. These four categories are Clydesdales, Fanners, carriage and light draught; Nags and cobs, cart horses and Heavy draught horses. All the rest are special categories, such as remounts, pit-ponies, circus horses, but this fact emerges, that during the II months of 1935, 59 horses only were exported from this country in all these four categories, of which 57 went to Holland, and one each to France and to Belgium. If you assume that in the last month the export was in the same proportion you get an absolute maximum in 1935 of about 70 horses exported within the field of possible slaughter. The reason why I refer to this table and not to that mentioned by the hon. Member is that the figures lately supplied by the Ministry relate to horses exported everywhere, and therefore include the British Empire and oversea Dominions.
§ Mr. Radford indicated dissent.
The hon. and gallant Member has given us the small number of horses which are exported for slaughter—
What really concerns the House is not the number of horses which are exported for slaughter and killed when they arrive there, but the number of horses which are worked on the other side.
§ Wing-Commander James
If the hon. and gallant Member would have a little patience, that is exactly the point to which I am coming. Let me now refer to the report of the Departmental Committee, to which reference has already been made. From the various inquiries I have made, certain facts emerge quite clearly. The first is the very large decline in the total number of horses in this country which has been reflected in the export trade, and, secondly, that we are now importing a large number of working horses owing to the scarcity of horses in this country. The whole trend, therefore, of the trade to-day is that we are importing horses for work from the continent and exporting only what may be called fancy horses. Horses of all kinds for work are cheaper on the continent than they are here. Indeed the Heavy Horse Breeders Association have applied to the Import Duties Advisory Committee for a tariff to protect them on this very matter. I have also discovered that there are in existence in Holland, France and Belgium Government regulations, both tariff and quota, to ensure that any horses imported into those countries for slaughter are in fact slaughtered, because there is a higher rate of duty on working horses than there is on horses imported for slaughter.
Since the case for the Bill has been built up in the main on statements made by certain organisations, I hope the House will permit me very briefly to refer to some of the statements made in these pamphlets. I turn to the fourth annual report of the International League against the Exportation of Horses for Butchery issued in December, 1932. This organisation exists for propaganda and for humanitarian purposes, and I observe that it is not cramped by lack of funds. For the year 1932 they received from the general public an income of £4,087, which seems a reasonably handsome sum to assist in remedying abuses and to discover facts. In their report for 1935 their income is shown as £3,752 45. 3d., and, according to their balance sheet, they spent £702 7s. 6d. in investigations and travelling expenses which must surely have been efficiently directed since their office expenses were £1,406 6s. 'id. In that year the total number of horses of all kinds which could by any stretch of imagination be exported to the continent 714 for slaughter was 70, so that this society for the purpose of investigating these particular cases spent the handsome amount of £53 3s. per horse. At the same time I would call attention to this fact, that they have not produced any direct evidence at all in support of the contention that these horses are exported nominally for slaughter and are then worked.
Now I come to the pamphlet written by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I observe that he was accompanied by a skilled investigator. He made what is described by the society as "a succinct and convincing statement of the facts," and he is said to be" This authoritative source of information." Therefore, I turned with confidence to the pamphlet of the hon. Member in order to be informed about the trade. At the beginning of the booklet are a number of statements with which I am in perfect agreement. On page 8, the hon. Member records the fact that these horses with which the present agitation is concerned, that is to say, those which it is desired to protect from suffering in the butchery trade, are limited generally to the heavier grades, clydesdales, cart horses, and other heavy draught horses and light vanners.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart indicated assent.
§ Wing-Commander James
So far we are in agreement. At the bottom of page 9 the hon. Member reminds us that in Table 2 there is a statement showing the age and value and classification of all horses exported in 1934, from which it is seen that out of 165 horses some five per cent. were over 10 years of age and under L'25 in value. I gather that the table includes Shetland ponies, which would of course slightly reduce the weight of that particular argument.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The whole point there is that the numbers are not colossal, as some of these bad people have suggested. The whole argument is that the numbers are very small.
§ Wing-Commander James
I am trying to assist the hon. Member, and I am glad that we are still in complete agreement.
But I feel sure that the later pages of the booklet were written by the skilled investigator who accompanied him, 715 because from page 15 onwards that concise, convincing and succinct statement of facts wanders on into a description of Charleroi market and a description of specific cases which are all very distressing and which cannot conceivably have any relevance to the present Bill, since they are not related to horses of British origin. I will say in a few minutes why that is so. Two days ago I received from the Secretary of the International League against the Export of Horses for Butchery a pamphlet entitled "Merciless Butchery on a Spanish Sunday." That pamphlet contains many exaggerated statements about Spanish bullrings, and the whole suggestion, although it is not specifically stated, is that British horses go to Spanish bullrings. [An HON. MEMBER: "So they do!"] That has been studied before, and not the slightest evidence has been adduced in support of that statement, and there is every reason to believe that no British horse has gone into the Spanish bullrings during the last 20 years at least. I have given this as an example of the prejudice that is deliberately disseminated. I will observe that the final paragraph of the pamphlet says that this particular outrage on horses in bullrings throws a great dark shadow over Spain every Sunday afternoon, blighting a country which is otherwise a terrestrial paradise.
I now come to a pamphlet concerning work-worn horses published only a few weeks ago by the honorary director of the International League, a former Member of this House, and in view of the fact that he and I had been engaged in a friendly discussion, although we were somewhat at cross-purposes, for several years, I imagined that I would get some facts and figures, but frankly I was disappointed. I will quote a statement from page 7 of that pamphlet:It must a fortiori be more humane to slaughter such work-worn horses in their own country than to export them to be worked abroad by callous owners until they reach a condition often unspeakably pitiful. This, in a nutshell, is the case for the Bill.And that, in a nutshell, is the case why this particular Bill is nonsense, for there is not the slightest scrap of evidence that work-worn horses are exported except for prompt slaughter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you object to the Bill?"]
I will now refer to Mr. Fox, the distinguished jockey, to whom reference has 716 been made from this side of the House. Mr. Fox wrote to the "Field" saying that he had bought a horse for 3 which, had he not bought it, he had reason to believe would have been exported to the Continent. Mr. Fox is well-known to most hon. Members, and on reading that letter I wrote asking him to take tea with me at the House and to discuss the matter. I was warned by a common friend that Mr. Fox could give three stone and a beating at any distance to any Member of this House in a political argument, and he went a long way to establish that fact. Mr. Fox, with typical fairness and generosity, has permitted me to say to the House that when he said the horse would have been exported, all he really meant was that in the existing state of the law it could have been exported. There again, the hon. Member for East Fife and I are in agreement. [Interruption.] I am not trying to be unfair, but am trying to put the facts of the case before the House.
The next thing I will attempt to demonstrate to the House is that, in fact, all the horses that are exported from this country for slaughter are slaughtered abroad and are not worked prior to slaughter. Some time ago, on 3ist January, 1936, when I first became, shall I say, a little shaken in my beliefs on this matter, I thought the best thing to do would be to try to get those people who maintained that this traffic took place to tell me where to get proof. I wrote a letter to an excellent little journal, of which I am very fond, called "Horse and Hound". In that letter I said that it would be a very good thing if somebody could give some facts, and I went on to say:Whatever the Continental conditions of horse-marketing and slaughtering may be, and bad as they used to be or as investigators may still allege them to be, they are only relevant to this issue in so far as they can be identified with British animals or animals of British origin.That brought a reply, in the same journal on 7th February, from the honorary director of the League, in which he said:In your issue of 31st January, Wing-Commander James asks me for facts and figures regarding the export of horses abroad. He would like to know how many are being or have been recently exported, where they have been exported from and to what destination. The difficulty is that without further legislation accurate and reliable information on these points cannot be obtained through 717 official sources and still less by private investigation.In other words at that time the attitude of the League was that they must have legislation to enable them to ascertain the facts. After an exchange of letters, I wrote again, at the end of February, saying that I was not satisfied and that it appeared to me that an organisation with those large funds was in a position to ascertain the facts if it wanted to find them and if they existed. I wrote further published letters asking for facts, but none were given. Then our correspondence was transferred to the "Times" newspaper. On 4th November, 1936, the honorary director of the League wrote to the "Times," under the heading "A Plea for Further Legislation," a letter in which he said:With a view to ascertaining the present state of affairs in the export trade of horses for butchery, the International League against the Export of Horses for Butchery has recently completed thorough investigations in Holland, Belgium and France. While these are satisfactory in that they show the present traffic to be at a low ebb, they are unsatisfactory in that they prove conclusively that it still exists.Thus, thorough investigations arrived at last at definite conclusions, and I became very hopeful. I wrote a letter saying that I believed that existing legislation was adequate unless fresh evidence came to light and then at last the honorary director apparently annihilated me with facts because in a letter published in the "Times" in reply to my letter of 5th November he said:Just one fact may here be stated since it refutes Wing Commander James' contention that existing legislation is adequate. He refers to the trade in heavy horses from Leith to Holland. During the month of October eight aged horses were exported from Leith to Rotterdam. Of these only one was slaughtered on arrival. Five were sold privately for further work, and two were exposed for sale in the open market and there sold for further work.That was the end of me, I thought so far as that controversy was concerned. But in view of the fact that previous statements had not proved to be wholly accurate I felt obliged to make further inquiries and so I wrote off to Leith and had all those horses traced and I am going to tell the House what was the answer to my inquiries. This is the letter from Rotterdam to Mr. George J. Gow of the Shipping and Coal Company, Limited: 718Your letter of the 14th instant duly came to hand and returning papers herewith we beg to say that during October eight horses for slaughter arrived by steamship "Westland" at Rotterdam although nine horses were shipped that month from Leith, but the one horse shipped on 3rst October arrived here in November. All the horses arriving here by steamship "Westland" are slaughtered and are never sold for work which is forbidden by the Government. As a matter of tact the importation of working horses is not allowed unless with a special permission of the Dutch Government and as far as we know this permission is only given for riding horses of a special breed and for stud horses. For the importation of horses for slaughtering the Dutch Government have put up a quota and same are only imported under a licence.We enclose an official declaration, with translation, of the Inspector of Duty and Excise, and also of the Inspector of the Veterinary Service at Rotterdam from which you will notice that it has been officially ascertained that of the eight horses imported in October from Leith, six were slaughtered immediately at the Rotterdam abattoir. The remaining two horses were sold, one to Mr. Philip Veen at Amsterdam and one to Mr. L. Knip at Alkmaar, both slaughterers, and the horses have been slaughtered by them at Amsterdam and Alkmaar respectively. Before the horses can be removed from the Rotterdam abattoir they have to pass the malleine-test and are then outside jurisdiction of the Rotterdam authority.The statement made in the letter to the Editor of the "Times" is absolutely incorrect as will be seen from the enclosed official documents proving that out of the eight horses six were immediately slaughtered at the Rotterdam abattoir and if desired we might also obtain a letter from Mr. Philip Veen and from L. Knip to the effect that they bought the two remaining horses of the October importation and slaughtered them on arrival at destination.There are attached the certificates of the Inspector of Duty and Excise and the veterinary inspector.
§ Captain Heilgers
Has my hon. and gallant Friend any evidence to show that the same thing applies in the case of France and Belgium?
§ Wing-Commander James
I am coming to that point. I was dealing with a specific case. The British figures which I have quoted show that the export of horses for slaughter to Belgium and France is negligible to-day, whatever it may have been 10 years ago, but in order to be able to consider the matter from both angles I have made inquiries and from Belgium Government figures I learned this. I have already observed that there is a higher rate of duty against horses for working, than against horses 719 for slaughter in both countries.—[AN HON. MEMBER: "How are they distinguished?".]—A horse which is imported for slaughter at the lower rate of duty is, on landing, marked by an inspector whose duty it is to see that it is not sold for work. It is an ordinary Customs operation. I have inquired, as I say, from official Belgian sources and I find the rather interesting fact that in 1936 according to Belgian official figures, one horse was imported into Belgium from this country for slaughter. Hon. Members may well ask as I did why should one horse have been imported, because obviously the transaction could not have been a paying one? I have not yet had time to ascertain the facts because I only got these figures yesterday but I imagine the one horse was exported from this country for another purpose and probably met with an accident on board ship and was thereupon passed for slaughter on arrival. That sounds the simple explanation but as I say I do not know definitely, but I would observe that the Belgian figures show a large import of horses for slaughter from the Irish Free State in regard to which we have no jurisdiction, from Lithuania, Denmark and Poland. The fact that we are exporting practically none now is not because the trade in horses in Belgium has decreased but because of the fact that horses here are scarce and that those we are exporting are nearly all exported as carcases and that we are importing working horses here and there. I have the actual figures if any hon. Member wishes to see them, but they do not appear to be strictly relevant to my present argument.
I submit certain considerations to the House. The first is that no objection can legitimately be taken to the export of horses to Holland for immediate slaughter. Ten years ago the Departmental Committee found that the conditions for slaughter there were better than the conditions here. I have visited Holland several times and have stayed at the cavalry school in Holland and I know that the Dutch are very good horse-masters and I submit that it is in the interests of heavy horses which are past their work that, rather than continue to work in the streets of Leith and Edinburgh they should be sent across to Holland to be humanely slaughtered 720 there. Horses are today being rejected by the veterinary inspectors at Leith and subsequently taken back and worked in the streets of Edinburgh. It so happens that unlike Belgium, in Holland there is a demand for some particular kind of fresh horse product. I have not a sample here and I suppose I ought to apologise to the House, but I am told that fresh horse flesh is necessary for some particular kind of delicatessen. If by the taking of these work-worn horses that demand can be satisfied, I submit that the horses are none the worse.
The supporters of the Bill have not produced a tittle of evidence to show that the present law is not sufficient. I think, myself, that legislation is desirable, and I am prepared to refrain from moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee if, at a later stage, the Minister tells us that the Bill can be made workable. In its present form the Bill is almost unintelligible, and I shall point out one or two major difficulties which arise in connection with it. In Clause 2 there is an exemption for horses which are used as remounts or for breeding, racing, showing, hunting, or polo. Remounts are all right. Then there is "breeding". Any mare can be bred from. "Racing". That is all right. "Showing." What are you going to show? There must be several hon. Members who, like myself, are subscribers to fat stock shows, where the best beast for killing gets the prize, and I submit that it would require all the skill of a skilled investigator to distinguish an animal described as a show horse.
§ Mr. Radford
The hon. and gallant Member has omitted to mention that Clause 2 provides that the Act shall not apply to any horsecertified in writing, if a thoroughbred horse, by a steward or the secretary of the Jockey Club, or, if a horse other than a thoroughbred horse, by the secretary of such society or societies for the encouragement of horse breeding as may from time to time be approved for that purpose by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.The hon. and gallant Member did not mention that. He entirely deceived the House by omitting that part of the Clause.
§ Wing-Commander James
On the contrary. I have just said that racing is distinguishable. But what breed society deals with show horses? Then there is 721 "hunting." Is the inspection of hunters designed to prove that they are quiet with hounds? Finally, there is "I am not a lawyer but the Minister of Agriculture is. There was, however, a legal definition of a polo horse established in the courts some years ago. Roughly, it is onecapable of being ridden on to a ground when a game is in progress.I suggest that the Clause should be amended so as to read that the inspector should be furnished with a ball and a stick so that he could play a round on the key to discover whether or not an animal was a polo pony. I think that legislation is desirable. If at a later stage the Minister says the Bill could be made workable, I shall be only too glad to support it. I have every desire to see the key turned in the lock of the door, even though the door be now closed. I think we want a Bill, not to protect horses, but to protect people from being exploited on behalf of horses. It so happens that last night I picked up Macaulay's Essays in order to get something fresh into my mind before I went to sleep, and I read in Macaulay's Essay on Southey's Poems this:Mr. Southey brings to the task two faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed M a measure so copious to any human being—the faculty of believing without a cause and the faculty of hating without provocation.
§ 12.59 p.m.
I want to deal with the report of the Departmental Committee of 1925, of which I had the honour to be Chairman. My noble Friend the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) has not given himself the credit in that connection which he deserves. All the members of that Committee did their duty, and I do not think that a more hard-working, impartial, and competent Committee has even been assembled, though, of course, I say nothing of myself. Among its members were my noble Friend the Member for Newark, Sir Frederick Hobday, who has already been mentioned, the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), whom I see opposite, and Lord Haddington. We had to investigate and report on one question, and one question only, namely, the export of horses, and to advisewhether further restrictions should be unposed on the trade, having regard to the necessity of ensuring that no avoidable suffering is inflicted on such horses.722 Some members of that Committee visited every single port of embarkation in this country and every single port of debarkation on the Continent. Six members, of whom my noble Friend was one and the hon. Member for West Nottingham was another, travelled on the ships with the horses. They visited abattoirs in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, and Ghent, and they inspected horses on the way and examined them. Altogether we took our business very seriously and instructed ourselves in all the facts of the export trade. We also examined 48 witnesses, some of them more than once, and we had before us representatives of seven different societies interested in the export of horses. I shall say a word about some of these societies before I sit down. We reported that the particular Section of the Act with which we were concerned was carried out very strictly by the inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture. We found also that the power to slaughter rejected horses, the power given to these inspectors, if a horse could not be worked without cruelty, to have it slaughtered, was not exercised as often as we thought it should be.
The standard on which the inspectors work is that a horse must be fit to travel and work, and that standard was rigorously enforced. The rejections were something like one horse in five. We all of us visited the ports of embarkation here, incognito, saw the horses inspected, and saw the rejections. No argument was allowed. The inspector said, "Take away that horse," and the thing was done. The horses were very carefully examined; they were walked and trotted and looked all over, and any horse that, in the opinion of the inspector, was not fit to travel and to work was immediately and without question rejected.
So far as the export trade is concerned, and so far as conditions on the boats are concerned, we were quite satisfied—with one important exception, with regard to the fitting of the boats which has since been put right—that the horses were kindly treated and properly fed and looked after. When they got to the other side a good many went to slaughterhouses, and the Committee came to the conclusion that the Dutch slaughterhouses were better than those over here. The small 723 criticisms which we had to make dealt with matters which have all been put right now. I understand that all rejected horses which are considered unfit for work are ordered now for immediate slaughter, and I do not think you can improve on the inspection and on the care generally with which horses are treated. It is as good a piece of administration as you can find.
Before I deal with questions raised by the brilliant speech of my hon. and Gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), I want to say some serious words about propaganda. The Committee about which I have been speaking was appointed exactly 12 years ago to a day on 5th March, 1925. The state of feeling then was exactly the same as it is now. The country was flooded with propaganda from seven different societies all with their inspectors, all with their incomes, all with their offices, all with their appeals to the public purse and public sympathy. They flooded the country with the same sort of literature that is being distributed now. We had to speak pretty plainly about some of them. We found that charges were made that the inspectors were not only incompetent but that they let through unfit horses, and one lady went so far as to say that the Ministry of Agriculture itself was anxious to facilitate the export of unfit horses. We had to say of one witness that the whole of his evidence was unreliable. Of the lady in question, since she was a lady, we reported in more delicate terms.
We still get pamphlets sent out by the same societies, declaring that decrepit and worn-out and broken-down horses are still being sent abroad. That is absolutely untrue. It is an intentional untruth. Since 1914 probably, since 1921 certainly, no unfit, decrepit, or worn-out horse has left our shores. So strict is the inspection that horses rejected for shipment abroad can be sold on the quay at Hull, or Goole, or Folkestone, or Leith for work in this country, and they can be worked without prosecution for cruelty. Captain Fairholme came before us, representing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He, by the way, was anxious to belittle the efforts of the Ministry. But this is what he said: 724The present standard of shipment is so high that a horse rejected as not being fit to work on the other side would be considered perfectly fit in this country.Several witnesses confirmed that. Therefore the position is that we have laid down a higher standard for the export of horses than the standard we have in force for horses which can be worked here. The Committee reported that that is in the interest neither of horse breeding, nor of our reputation for humanity. It is a serious gap in our law that a horse which we say is not fit to work if sent abroad can work about our streets here. I venture to hope that some of these societies, instead of wasting money in trying to mislead the public by saying that decrepit, unfit horses are being exported, will devote their ample funds to remedying that very real evil.
Now I come to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend. Where I differ from him is in this respect: Granted that you make the supervision of the export trade as good as human ingenuity can make it, there still remains the question of what happens to horses that are not killed and that are worked in foreign countries. I confess that I was deeply affected by the letter of Sir Frederick Hobday that appeared in "The Times" of last Wednesday. Sir Frederick was a member of my Committee. A more admirable man or a greater lover of animals or a better instructed man in regard to horses I do not think can be found in any country. He was invaluable to the Committee. When he reports the terrible conditions in which he found some horses in Belgium I confess that he gave me reason to think. But the point I wish to put is that all horses become worn out. The horses that get through under this Bill will one day become worn out. Time moves on, and we all of us get worn out. Those horses of which Sir Frederick wrote were worn out, and this Bill will not prevent some horses going abroad. They may be vigorous and gallant hunters or hacks or polo ponies when they are sent out, but the time will come when their race is run and then they may be subject to some cruelty. That is my difficulty. Still, I feel obliged to vote for this Bill, although if I am a member of the Committee to which it is sent I shall suggest certain Amendments.
I am moved to vote for the Bill by several reasons. I have received many 725 letters from my constituents, and I have read Sir Frederick Hobday's letter, and I realise how very few are the horses affected and how very great is the object to be gained in preserving those that go abroad from cruelty. Especially I am moved by the question on which the Departmental Committee laid great stress. If horses are to be eaten, why not kill them over here? There are some difficulties, and I do not know whether they have been overcome. First of all Holland does not want to accept the import of dead horses, and the second difficulty is that you cannot chill horse flesh with the same success as you can chill beef or mutton. It turns black and looks unpleasant, and is not so saleable. There would be every advantage in killing the horses over here, because we should get the skin and the bones and some other parts of the animal which would be useful. There would then be no question about cruelty, because the horse would leave these shores as a dead horse and could not be worked to death in a foreign country. For these reasons I hope that the Bill will pass, and I would repeat that I have been largely influenced by Sir Frederick Hobday's letter and by the hope I have that the prohibition of the export of live horses to Holland will induce Holland to take the horses dead.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
Does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman apply his arguments to the case of race horses and breeding stock? Are they to be prevented from being sold abroad?
Well, a race horse gets worn out, a Member of Parliament gets worn out, we all get worn out. Nothing can save us from the march of time. But I think the matter would need a good deal of consideration before we restricted the export of higher-priced horses, because generally speaking they are bought by people who pay a big price for them and value them. I repeat that I hope the Bill will pass and that it will not be sent to a Select Committee. The export trade has been the subject of an inquiry and I do not think there is any need for further inquiry by a Select Committee. Is it suggested that we should send a deputation to Belgium or France or Holland to inspect the horses? A difficult international situation might arise if a deputation of Members of Parliament went to Belgium and told people there that 726 they were so cruel that our Parliament wanted to investigate the treatment horses received in their country.
§ 1.19 p.m.
§ Sir R. Gower
I support the Second Reading of this Bill, and hope that the House will not send it to a Select Committee, but that the Government will afford facilities for it to be passed into law during the present Session. I entirely agree with what my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has said upon the subject of misrepresentation. Undoubtedly there has been a great deal of misrepresentation in this country with regard to this matter. It may be within the knowledge of the House that for some years past I have occupied the position I hold to-day of Chairman of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and my society has taken a very keen interest in this particular subject. It has its own inspectors stationed at the ports of embarkation, and the reports which we have received from them go to show what I stated in the remark which I interjected a few moments ago, that the veterinary inspectors of the Government are meticulously careful in carrying out their duties, and I can say that for some years past no old and decrepit horse or horse which is not in every respect fit to work and to travel has left these shores. I would also repeat what I said a few moments ago that we as a society are satisfied that the veterinary inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture are careful to give the benefit of the doubt to the horse itself. As my right hon. and gallant Friend said, it has very frequently happened that horses which have not been permitted to leave these shores on account of the action taken by the Ministry's inspectors have been allowed to work on the roads of this country.
Speaking as Chairman of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I deprecate the campaign of misrepresentation with regard to this matter which has been waged in this country, because it seems to me that a good cause—and we have a good cause—and a good case in favour of this Bill has been spoiled to a great extent by that misrepresentation. During the last few days I have received, as I have no doubt a number of my colleagues have received, a number of letters from different people throughout 727 the country stating that the conditions under which horses are exported are deplorable, and also making the assertion that the blind, the halt and the maimed are sent from this country. That is not so. But, and I speak after very careful consideration, after having examined the matter very carefully indeed, there can be no doubt at all that a case has been made out in favour of this Bill. According to the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in the House on 25th January last 261 horses under the value of £25 each were exported from this country. I am unable to say how many of them were exported for butchery purposes; my information is that very few of them were, and that the majority were exported for working purposes. I agree that a number of them were Shetland ponies, but there can be no doubt, and I think that the Minister of Pensions, who is on the Treasury bench now representing the Minister of Agriculture will agree with me that an appreciable number of the horses on reaching the other side were sold for working purposes.
There can be no doubt that a horse which is worth only £25 or under is not what one might term a first-class horse, and there can be no question at all, particularly having regard to the letter from Sir Frederick Hobday which appeared in the "Times" a few days ago, that the conditions under which horses are worked on the other side of the Channel are deplorable. I do not want to exaggerate, but from what Sir Frederick Hobday stated, and also from what my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill has said, there can be no doubt that the standard of kindness to animals on the other side of the Channel is not the same as in this country. I would appeal to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to take into consideration the point that horses sent out of this country which are perfectly fit to travel and perfectly fit to work will, on account of the particular category within which they come, and consequent upon the treatment which they will receive on the other side of the Channel, be reduced speedily to decrepitude. That is the case for this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) put a question 728 to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon about what he termed valuable horses. I should like to give this information to the House, that owing to the activities and the propaganda work being carried on in foreign countries by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals the standard of kindness to animals is, perhaps slowly, but surely, increasing, and I hope that the time is not far distant when the same conditions will exist in those countries as exist in our own country to-day. If by the passage of this Bill we limit the export of horses to those which are included in the exceptions to this Bill I believe that a great deal of good will be effected. I have no doubt that every Member of the House, including, I am sure, my hon. and gallant Friend who moved that this Bill should be referred to a Select Committee—
§ Sir R. Gower
The hon. and gallant Member had given notice of his intention to move it. I hope that all Members will be at one with me in deploring the conditions which exist on the other side of the Channel, and will also be at one with me in desiring that some form of legislation shall be passed by this country which will prevent any British horses being subjected to that treatment in the future. At the risk of repetition I would appeal again to the Minister of Agriculture to give facilities for this Bill. It may be necessary to amend it in Committee, and I feel sure that my hon. Friend who is representing the Minister of Agriculture here to-day will agree with me that the statement which I have made, and which I make on behalf of my society, has been free from exaggeration, and that we have made an overwhelming case for passing legislation to deal with this matter.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Wright
After listening to the very amusing speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) I was left rather puzzled as to what it is that he really does want. One gathered that he was going to oppose the Bill, but he finished up by saying that he thought legislation was necessary. One wondered at times whether he was really antagonistic to the objects of the 729 Bill or was more concerned with attacking some society which he considers is spending a great deal of money without achieving very much result. If such a state of affairs exists surely it would be a wise thing to remove this source of their income; and if, as was also suggested, the trade is almost non-existent, why object to the passing of this Bill? This Debate has brought out the fact that a considerable number of horses are being exported to the Continent and that the only condition which they have to satisfy before they are allowed to go abroad is that they are fit to travel and fit to work; but, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon said, How long will they be fit for work? I suggest that if it was wrong, and I think most animal lovers in this country will agree that it was wrong, to sell a large number of our more or less worn-out horses on the Continent in 1919, surely it is equally wrong to, sell horses in the same state to-day, knowing that they are going to the Continent to finish their lives in exactly the same manner.
My hon. and gallant Friend made a point that we import more horses than we export. I do not think that particularly helps the case. If he had gone a little further in his journeyings and made his way as far as Birmingham, I should have been glad to give him a good deal of information, because in that city there is one of the biggest collecting centres for this trade in this country, and those of us who have tried to get some information know that horses can be worked on the Continent in a condition which would not be allowed in this country. For that very reason a horse which has reached a certain stage in its life will fetch a higher price on the Continent than it will fetch in this country. So I think his point about importation being greater than exportation misses the point or does not help his case.
I want to support the Bill, and I think all of us in this country who are animal lovers, and that is the very great majority of the British people, will be thankful to the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) for having introduced this Bill once more. Whatever be its fate it has achieved two very useful purposes. It has again brought clearly to light that this traffic does still exist to-day; and, what is more important, it has clearly demonstrated the really solid support which 730 exists among Members of all parties, not only in this House but in this country, for stopping this disgusting trade. We have heard a great deal about the cruelty of the foreigner, but I sometimes wonder whether we are not putting ourselves in a rather ridiculous position by the attitude we adopt. A friend of mine who has just returned from Germany tells me that Germans over there openly laugh at us and say that we are hypocrites in this matter. They say that we talk a great deal about the cruelties which go on and yet time after time refuse to take action when it is in our power, and our power alone, to take to stop this traffic, which is to-day a definite blot on our record as sportsmen. It cannot even be urged that by preventing it, unemployment or distress would be brought to a large number of human beings. That would not happen at all. It is a revolting trade made possible by two things, first, the thoughtlessness and ignorance of a large number of people who own horses and keep them in this country, but do not understand them; the other, which contributes to it to an even greater extent, is the callousness of a very small number of people who are prepared to commercialise for their own gain the sufferings of these poor old worn out brutes.
I have recently had an example of the former class of offender. I should like to read a letter, although I shall give no names, which is an answer to a letter sent to a wealthy firm of very considerable standing, making inquiries about a horse which was known to have worked for them. The letter came back signed by a director of this firm and it reads as follows:We have your letter of the 31st ultimo, and very much appreciate the interest and kindliness you have shown in our old horse, who served us faithfully with good service for about 16 years. Captain was taken in part exchange by Messrs — and no doubt they would give you any information of its present owners, etc.To those of us who have lived among horses all our lives, it is almost unbelievable that anyone could write such a letter. It brings home to us clearly that we are living in a mechanical age. A large number of people do not understand horses. That letter would have been excellent had it been written about a worn-out motor lorry. If you substitute for "horse" the words "motor lorry," the 731 letter would have been entirely understandable. That horse must be 21 or 22 years old, and yet that wealthy firm traded it in part exchange for a younger horse. It it almost unbelievable. Probably the gentleman who signed this letter would be one of the first to be furiously indignant if, on his way home after writing it, he had seen someone ill-treating a dog or a horse in the street. As I have said, the other class of persons are those who are prepared to commercialise and make gain out of the sufferings of these wretched horses, and send them to a fate which, as my hon. Friend has said, is far worse than death. Nothing bad enough can be said about those people. I know a little about them, and those of us who know about horses know the great cruelties which are often perpetrated in "coping" and disguising age and infirmities.
Publicity such as this matter is receiving to-day from the present Bill will go a long way towards curing the first class of cases, but nothing but legislation and severe penalties will ever stop those who are prepared to commercialise this disgusting state of affairs. Therefore, in supporting the Bill, I appeal to the Government to give it, if they possibly can, their blessing. We all know that without their blessing it will not go through. I do not know whether the Clauses of the Bill are such that it would be possible to carry them out, or whether, if they were carried out, they would achieve the object we have in view, but, if they do not, I appeal to the Government themselves to bring in a Bill to deal with this matter. It would pass through the House in a few hours, almost without opposition, and would give the very greatest satisfaction to a tremendous number of people in this country.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
I think the House heard with great attention and pleasure the courageous speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James). We in this House all know that there are certain occasions when we receive a large number of communications from outside. That does not always mean that the case in support of which they are sent is one which ought to be voted for by the House, but, at the same time, 732 the pressure on these occasions undoubtedly makes it difficult for any hon. Member to make a speech which shows courage and a determination that the facts shall be known. Those of us who are keen about this Bill will rejoice that my hon. and gallant Friend did not move his Motion to commit the Bill to a Select Committee. Those who have been in the House for some years and have heard previous debates on this matter feel fairly confident that there is ample evidence, and that there is no need for the matter to be thrashed out again in Committee. I hope the House—and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend wishes this too—will give a unanimous vote, without a Division, in favour of the Bill.
The Government, I believe, would be well advised to state that, if the Second Reading is agreed to, there are certain features in the Bill as printed which would make it quite impossible to accept it, but that they will do their best to amend it in certain particulars. Unhappily, it is too often forgotten in legislation in this House that since the Statute of Westminster, for instance, we have to be very guarded in our language, and to use the term "United Kingdom" rather than the old-fashioned term that we have known so well for so long. None of us wants to see horses exported from any part of the Empire like the Irish Free State or the Channel Islands, and, therefore, having to endure a longer sea journey before they reach their goal and ultimately, one hopes, are slaughtered, but the purpose of the Bill is, quite properly, to prevent the export of horses for which we in this Parliament are responsible, because we are talking about export from this country, and we ought to realise that in this matter, at a time when human affairs are in such chaos and there is so much suffering and misery in the world, we at any rate can do something for the dumb animals who serve us so well and so faithfully.
I believe that, if we will only concentrate for a few moments on the purpose we have in mind, everyone will be willing to support the Bill, subject to the Government moving such Amendments as will make it workable and satisfactory. I feel that we must be very careful not to offend the susceptibilities of those honest and upright men in the Dutch and Belgian 733 administrations who during the last few years have spared no effort to get rid of such abuses and in many cases to inaugurate a system of which they have reason to be proud, and which we ourselves ought to have in some cases in our own country. There is no doubt that, as long as aged horses can be exported as fit to travel and work, there is the danger that they may be used, or rather misused, before eventually finding their way to the slaughterhouse. I cannot conceive why, as the trade has reached its present low ebb, we cannot seize the occasion to stifle it at once, because the only people who are making this small amount of money out of it are people whose attention could very well be turned to other avocations. Some of us have taken the trouble, in districts that we know, to meet the men who are acting as agents for the shippers of some of these horses. Every man has a right, in a free country, to make his living as he thinks best, but it is the business of Parliament to see that no one makes his living in a way that shocks the conscience of the country. Surely, it is high time for those of us who feel strongly on this matter to join forces with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough and say, like him, that we dislike the over-statement and the sentimental nonsense that is talked, because it spoils an already good case. The evidence is amply strong, and I feel that, if we may hope to receive from the Minister of Agriculture a promise that the Government will give time for the Bill and take it up, this will be one of the best Parliamentary days of the present or any other Session.
There is one direction in which every one of us who is concerned with industry might assist. I happen to be a director of a company which uses, I suppose, more horses than any other organisation in the country. We have in our stables every day over 9,500 horses; we are, I think, the largest horse-owner employing working horses. In the year 1931 the matter was brought up, and it was decided that we should not permit any horses that belonged to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company to go abroad if we had any doubt at all as to their treatment when they reached the other side. I do not mind saying that the decision to which we came has been at the sacrifice of the shareholders, and I am sure that not a single shareholder would 734 wish us to change that policy. What we have done is this. The superintendent makes a personal inspection of all horses that are to be cast off and, if a horse is put up at auction and does not fetch more than £12, it is immediately withdrawn and humanely slaughtered. Even at that figure of £12, that, with the average horse of cartage type round about 14 cwt., it does not pay the shipper or the foreign butcher to give more than that sum, and you may assume also that, if you pay more, the horse, although fit for work, would not be discharged by us, because we ourselves should sell it under certain conditions, not to go on working in the streets in an unfit condition, but we follow up the horses that we sell and, if they are fit for anyone else to work they are fit for us to work. If they are not fit for them or for us they are slaughtered.
The trade that is done in horse flesh by exporting it as chilled or fresh meat has been increased lately and the butchers, instead of paying £12 or something of that sort for a live horse, are able to get the meat at about £5 in this country. That means that the offal, skin, and other things are useful for the trade of this country. All horse owners, should look into these things and realise the responsibility towards their animals. The help that the Government can give is definitely needed to shut down what has been reduced to a trickle, I admit. I am convinced that this is the right thing to do, and I hope that the Bill will have the unanimous support of every Member of the House and that the Government will give it facilities.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayday
I should like to make a few observations on the Bill, as I was a member of the Departmental Committee to which reference has been made. There have been many flamboyant exaggerations over a period of years, and many allegations have been proved wholly untrue, but the fact that there has been cruelty leads those who abhor any form of cruelty to exaggerate slightly the conditions that bring it about. In our endeavour to follow up some of the statements that have been made, we travelled on the boat and saw the horses in their quarters. We were certainly dissatisfied with the general conditions of things that we found, but I believe that every horse 735 that was exported for slaughter really was slaughtered, and we could find no great measure of fault with the traffic. That was 12 years ago and if since then, despite the improvements that have been brought about and the increased supervision and improved conditions of travel, and the diminution of the traffic, there is still just a scintilla of suspicion that cruelty can still exist, we should seriously consider whether the traffic should not be entirely abolished. I should prefer that, because it would wipe out doubts and fears that animal lovers and humanitarians and right-thinking people feel.
I think £25 is rather too high a figure I hope the Bill will be so modified that there shall be no exportation, whether for work or for slaughter of horses below the value of £20. With this modification I should hope that the Bill will get its Second Reading.
§ 1.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Graham White
Those of us who sit upon these Benches are cordially in support of this Measure, and I join with the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) in expressing the hope that the Bill may receive a Second Reading without a Division. I think that that clearly would represent the feeling and opinion of the House. I have listened to nearly the whole of this Debate, and would like to express my admiration for the statement which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), who addressed the House with sincerity and courage as the result of research and labour which he clearly had devoted to the endeavour to arrive at the truth. His speech, at all events, excited my admiration. I think that it served a very useful purpose. As the Debate has developed to-day it has reduced this problem and evil which we are anxious to eradicate to a proper sense of proportion, and the superfluities and exaggerations have been swept away. Yet I think that in the mind of every hon. Member who has heard the Debate there remains a suspicion that there is a possibility, reduced, as we have been told, to a trickle, that what has been reduced to a trickle in some circumstances may grow to a stream in others. It remains in the minds of all hon. Members that there is here a possibility of something 736 continuing, or growing again, which is repugnant to the feelings of all decent people.
In the earlier stages of the Debate reference was made to the communications which had reached hon. Members from different parts of the country and from their constituents. In these circumstances, I make no complaint. Many people for a very long time have been deeply interested in this matter, and, frankly, many of the people who have been following this movement and have been concerned about it have been unable to understand why the House of Commons has tolerated this thing for so long, and why a Bill of this kind had not already been placed upon the Statute Book. If people in that frame of mind wish to write to me, I am pleased to receive their communications. As has been said, the House of Commons will do a good piece of work if it gives a Second Reading to this Bill to-day. I hope that the Government will indicate the lines along which they think that it will be necessary for it to be amended in order to make it a workable and practical Measure. I also hope that it may not be leaving the Floor of the House at too late a stage for time to be found for it to go before the Committee and to pass through its remaining stages.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I believe that probably there may be some commercial motive behind this Bill, and if there is, it has my entire support. Why should these horses, if they are going to be eaten abroad, as some of them are, not be slaughtered in this country? Killing old servants is just as bad, whether they die in one country or the other. But I believe that it is a fact that the horses which are sent over the Channel are not "good seamen," and suffer very severely from sea sickness, and that they are unable to vomit and so clear themselves of the agony from which they suffer. Anyone who has been seasick knows what that suffering is. Why should the poor animal be subjected to this suffering when it could easily be slaughtered over here? It is suggested that owners here sell horses too worn out to work here, and that foreigners buy very nearly worn out horses to work, and thereafter to eat them abroad. The standard of fitness for a working horse abroad, as 737 compared with that in this country, is much lower. This is what I would propose: I would not allow foreigners to buy old horses or old ships likely to compete with our own. They should painlessly slaughter the one at home and break the others up for scrap. I have a far higher standard for man's faithful old servant, the horse, than slaying him. It is a habit of the Scot to find his religious consolations in the Bible, and his humanity in Robert Burns. I will give you a few lines of his New Year morning salutation to his old mare Maggie, when he gives her her morning's corn.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I will give it in Scots.Monie a lair daurg we twa hae wrought,An' wi' the weary wart' fought!An' monie an anxious day, I thoughtWe wad be beat!Yet here to crazy age we're brought,Wi' something yet.And think na, my auld, trusty servan',That now perhaps thou's less deservin,An' thy auld days may end in starvin,For my last fou,A heapit stimpart, I'll reserve ane,Laid by for you.We've worn to crazy years thegither;We'll toyte about wi' ane anither;Wi'tentie care I'll flit thy tetherTo some hain'd rig,Whare ye may nobly rax your leather,Wi' sma' fatigue.That is the treatment that Burns says ought to be meted out to old animals. You should give him a grassy 'paddock and corn to comfort him, because, he said, the two had worked so many years together. That is the human feature. If you cannot keep him, give him euthanasia, or easy death, as soon as you possibly can. Very few of us would shoot our old dogs so long as they could wag their tails, and why should that treatment be meted out to old horses? We should prevent this exporting business, and not to say: "We have had the best out of you, and now we are going to send you abroad for a few pounds, where you may have a miserable time. It is monstrous, and I do not know why this traffic was not stopped many years ago. I commend the words of Burns to all, as being the way to treat your old animals, your faithful old servants.
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Sir John Haslam
I support the Bill and ask the Minister of Agriculture to give it every facility in order that it may 738 be placed on the Statute Book. We have just heard a quotation from the remarkable poet Burns, but I should like to take the House to even a higher authority, to the noblest, wisest and greatest book that has ever been written in the history of the world. There I read:A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.I am sure that we all desire to be good men and want to take care that the lives of our beasts are made as comfortable and happy as possible when they are no longer able to bear the burdens that they have borne in the past. On reading the literature with which I have been provided, I have asked myself many a time what has happened to the horses I owned which were taken at the outbreak of war and sent out to France or Belgium. I have felt very uncomfortable when I have read of what has happened to certain horses that were disposed of. But that is past history; we can look to the future and avoid a repetition of that sort of thing. Much has been made of the argument that this is a very small business. That is all the more reason why it should be abolished, and it makes it all the easier to abolish it. It will hurt very few people indeed, and will accomplish a great deal of good. Remarks have been made that this is a matter of sentiment among many people, but, after all, sentiment rules the world. If these people are mistaken or their ideas are exaggerated as to the enormity of the cruelty to these horses, is it not better to allay it once and for all by forbidding the business altogether? Prevention is better than cure. It is opportunity that makes the criminal, and we want to remove the opportunity.
Like other hon. Members, I have had a good deal of correspondence on this subject, but I never resent correspondence, because I believe that when people correspond with me, it is because they feel very keenly about a certain subject. Who am I to resent correspondence? Am I not here to represent the people of my constituency? It is their duty to write to me. They are neglecting their duties if they do not correspond with me when they feel very strongly on any particular subject. Then it is for me to listen to the evidence on both sides and to act as my conscience dictates. From all that I have heard outside and inside the House, it seems to 739 me that there is only one point of view, and I hope the Minister of Agriculture will realise it and remove what may be not so much a blot but a patch of some description on our civilisation. I hope that he will remove once for all this trade about which many people feel so strongly. Some people say that it is grossly exaggerated, but we have an old saying that "There is no smoke without fire," and there must be some reason why this trade should be removed, otherwise there would not be the agitation that is going on. Therefore, I would ask the Minister of Agriculture in this, his first year of office, to let it go down to history that he is prepared to sacrifice time to see that this anomaly is removed, thereby satisfying the wishes of people outside and I think the unanimous wishes of people inside this House.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
At the beginning of this Debate one hon. Member complained about the bombardment by propaganda and literature to which hon. Members have been subjected in this matter. I agree with the last speaker that we ought not to resent such bombardment. After all, we are not mandarins, living in glass cases. We are here to try to reflect and represent public opinion. If some of this propaganda and literature contains exaggerated statements, it is our duty to find that out, and it serves a useful purpose if we do, because it enables us to write the societies concerned off our books when we are forming opinions on this and similar matters. I have been far more impressed by the letters which I have received from my constituents than by the propaganda. I have the honour to represent a Warwickshire constituency, and the people of Warwickshire are great lovers of horses and great sportsmen, although it may be the case that the majority of my constituents are more occupied in hunting the wolf from the door than in the hunting the fox. Many of my constituents are miners and miners have a fine record of humanity where pit ponies and horses are concerned.
I should like to deal with a few points made by previous speakers. The Noble Lord, the Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield) while 740 supporting the Bill raised a point about the difficulty of valuing horses at the ports. Surely, that is a difficulty which could be very easily overcome. In the neighbourhood of the ports of embarkation there must be people well qualified to value horses. Why should they not be employed on behalf of the Government? But the speech with which I should more particularly like to deal is that of the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James). May I associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to him for the great courage and ability with which he performed what must in some respects have been an ungrateful task. I am sure there is no need for the hon. and gallant Member to defend himself from any charge that he is not most actively interested and concerned in kindness to animals. If any of us thought that possibly in some of his arguments he was a little wrong-headed, not one of us would say that he is wrong-hearted. Moreover the House must be grateful to a Member who has devoted so much of his time to establishing the facts about a matter to be brought before the House.
But in spite of the great ability with which he presented his case, I cannot see that any of the arguments he brought forward were arguments against this Bill We are not concerned in this Bill with how these horses are exported but with their fate when they land in a foreign country, and there is abundant evidence to show that the conditions under which they may be worked in those countries are such as to make it imperative that we should remove the possible chance of their being exposed to such conditions. The hon. and gallant Member was wrong in saying that Sir Frederick Hobday made a general statement on this point. On the contrary, I think his letter to the "Times" went into very precise detail of circumstances, and certainly cannot be described as a general statement. I also noticed that the hon. and gallant Member seemed to be under the impression that the export of these horses was rather a furtive business, and that he had difficulty in arriving at any facts about it.
If that is so, then I can only say that what is a furtive business is usually a very bad business. I think the point was made that it is rather a small trade; but it is a trade which fluctuates, and 741 it may grow. In any case, if only one horse were exposed to the conditions which we have heard about, this House would be doing credit to itself to pass this Bill and so save that one horse.
One point which particularly aroused my attention, and I hope that the Minister will refer to it in his remarks, was that if horses are rejected by our veterinary inspectors as not fit to be sent abroad for work in a foreign country they may be retained for work here. Such horses should be slaughtered and not allowed to be worked in this country after such rejection.
Marquess of Titchfield
I think it is the law that if a horse is proved to be suffering and unfit the veterinary surgeon can shoot the horse immediately, without reference to the owner.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am obliged to the Noble Lord, but the point that I am making is a rather different one. My point is that if the veterinary inspector says that it cannot be exported because it is not fit for work abroad, that horse should not be allowed to work in this country but should be slaughtered. There is no law abroad to prevent a horse being worked, whatever its state may be, and it is quite wrong that a horse which has practically worked itself out here should be exported abroad for work, when it is at least entitled to a painless death in this country, where it has done its life's work.
We in this country, no doubt, do all that we can to eliminate suffering by our methods of embarkation and shipping, but the trouble arises when the horse arrives on the other side, because the conditions abroad and the public outlook as to how animals should be worked are quite different from those that operate in this country. We have to reckon with that fact.
There is one point I want to mention about the horses that are exported for food. I am told it is -the case that horses used for sausage making are frequently kept without water for several days before slaughter in order to reduce the moisture content. Surely a thing like that must give us very great reason to feel grave concern. I feel certain that if any member of this House was travelling abroad and he was asked by some foreigner "Are you people in Great 742 Britain humane to animals, are you a nation of animal lovers?", the hon. Member would say at once, that the British are a nation of animal lovers and are peculiarly humane in their treatment of all animals.
Lieut.-Colonel C. Kerr
The statement of the hon. and gallant Member with regard to the sausages has disturbed my mind considerably. Surely if such a thing is possible—it sounds perfectly diabolical—it applies also to cattle from which sausages are made? If there is anything in that argument it must apply to all animals. I hope there is nothing of the sort taking place.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I say at once that I am not able to go further into the point that the hon. and gallant Member raises, but I am given to understand that that is the case in regard to the horses used for sausage meat abroad. I quoted that case as an instance of the different view prevailing abroad regarding the treatment of animals. I shall now mention two other points to illustrate the difference in outlook regarding the treatment in animals. In doing so may I say that I know the unwisdom of attempting to draw an indictment against a whole nation and I do not wish to do anything so foolish or insular as to brand all foreigners as inhumane to animals. Here is another case which I have received from a credible observer in Belgium.One of the first horses I saw was au old cavalry charger that had been brought in the night before. The left ear was one solid mass of cancerous growth, and on the cheek was another growth that had been rubbed raw from a halter. The post-mortem examination of this horse revealed that the liver was almost completely eaten away by tuberculosis. That horse had been worked up to the day it was bought. Another case had 48 open wounds, a third had a raw place on its cheek where it had been continually hit with a sharp instrument in order to make it work, the same place being used each time. Awful as these things sound, they are only typical and not necessarily the worst.One other case I will mention.Then the method of selling. Obviously the best price has to be got; so the animal must be willing. In order to make one horse go I saw a man who was riding on its back kick it in the jaw three times with a heavy hobnailed boot, and this within two feet of a Belgian policeman who took not the slightest notice.There is no doubt that uncertainty exists in the minds of hon. Members as to 743 whether horses are not being exported to be worked abroad by people who do not scruple to use them in such a way as I have described. That being so, I feel sure that the House will rise above all narrow considerations and will without a division give a Second Reading to this Bill, and by doing so improve the good name that we already have abroad for humanity in our treatment of animals.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Captain Heilgers
We have had a most satisfactory Debate from the point of view of supporters of the Bill. I would like to add my testimony to the appreciation that has been shown of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James). But I would like to add that I think he is always rather contrary. I have known him for 30 years, since we went to school together. I warned him that I should attack him to-day. His speech was certainly destructive, and I do not think that he mentioned several points that ought to have been mentioned. He made a great point that he was only concerned with the conditions under which horses were shipped when exported, and not with their subsequent fate, as they were slaughtered on arrival. I think that letters like that of Sir Frederick Hobday answer that point. My hon. and gallant Friend really did not make out his case about all horses that went abroad going to slaughter. He undoubtedly proved it as regards Holland, for there is very little doubt that most of the horses that go to Holland are slaughtered. But my hon. and gallant Friend did not give a satisfactory answer as regards Belgium. I have figures for 1936 which show that in that year 40 horses under £25 in value were exported to Belgium and 36 were exported to France. They may not be many, but we have had no evidence that those horses were slaughtered.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)
Will my hon. and gallant Friend say whether those horses were actually intended for slaughter or were so designated?
§ Captain Heilgers
They were not designated for slaughter and I would like to know their eventual fate. The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough did not answer the question as to the fate of animals that go there to-day. If they do 744 not go for slaughter they are presumably sold. The letter of Sir Frederick Hobday does show the conditions there to-day. Sir Frederick refers to the Charleroi Market.
We are sure that from the condition of the majority of the animals which we saw exposed for sale that they would not be allowed to appear in a public place in England. We saw considerable evidence of the unnecessary use of the whip, notwithstanding the presence of two policemen.I submit that my hon. and gallant Friend has not proved that every horse that goes to France and Belgium goes for slaughter. It is quite possible that the unfortunate animals which go there are submitted for sale at Charleroi Market or any other market, and that they run the risk of suffering from severe conditions both when sold in the market and after.
§ Wing-Commander James
I entirely agree, but unless you are going to prohibit the export of all horses there is no guarantee that in the end they will not be employed; but animals exported for slaughter are never worked and are slaughtered.
§ Captain Heilgers
I agree. We do not know what is going to happen eventually to the younger horses that are exported, but I submit that while we may not meet that point in the Bill we are, at any rate, lessening the risk. Hon. Members who know me will not say that I am a crank generally, nor do I think there is any reason for the accusation of crankiness on the part of those who support the Bill. It has the support of nearly all the leaders of the Turf, and no one will accuse the members of the Jockey Club of being cranks. Among those who signed the manifesto are the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Lonsdale. Lord Rosebery, Lord Crewe, Mr. George Lambton, Mr. Frank Butters, Mr. Fred Fox and Mr. Gordon Richards. My hon. and gallant Friend said that he had induced Mr. Fred Fox to change his mind. I can quite believe that his hypnotic powers of argument temporarily won the day. All the same Newmarket and the racing industry are supporting the Bill. I would like to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to the veterinary officers of the Ministry. They are extremely well deserved. The veterinary officers have done their job very well, and sometimes. I think, they have not had as much credit as they 745 should have had in the past, and it may be that this agitation would suggest that there is something against them. I have had opportunities recently of investigating their work fairly closely, and I am certain that we owe a debt of gratitude to the veterinary officers of the Minister.
There is one question I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman. The conditions, I think, are very satisfactory, they are carefully investigated, but there is one point on which they may not be quite so satisfactory. Under the Order of 1921 ships' masters were asked not to sail in rough weather. This provision, I believe, is observed, but it is not very easy. The route between Leith and Rotterdam is a 36 hours' passage, and you cannot tell whether the weather is going to be rough or not when you start, but at the same time I think a little more care ought to be taken in this matter. There has been only one definite case of misfortune which could be proved, in May, 1932, when two horses became casualties as a result of a voyage in rough weather, one died on the voyage and the other had to be shot as a consequence of the rough voyage. I should like an assurance that the prohibition as regards rough weather is still being enforced. I hope the Minister will look on the Bill with a favourable eye. It has always been a puzzle to me why the Ministry of Agriculture has not been able to give it a more favourable reception in the past. Since I have been in the House no Bill has had an enormous amount of public support behind it, and if the right hon. Gentleman decides to give it his support to-day, he will earn the lasting thanks of all horse-lovers in this country.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
This has been a very interesting Debate on what is, after all, a private Member's Bill. While hon. Members will be entitled to vote as they think fit I will venture the view that every Member of the Parliamentary Labour party is in favour of its provisions. I am not competent to speak on the subject with any authority, but the first thing that occurs to me is, that I have never found greater unanimity in favour of a Measure than has been displayed to-day, although I thought that some hon. Members rather spoilt their case by a little over-statement. I am in 746 favour of the Bill for two or three simple reasons. Let me in the first place draw a distinction between young horses and old ones. We are asked, Why should we trouble so much about the fate of our old horses abroad when we do not know the fate of the young horses? The difference is obvious. May I use the illustration of a young man who goes to reside in one of our Dominions? It is a different thing altogether to an old age pensioner going to end his days in the same Dominion. In the end we come back to sentiment. Unless I am mistaken, it is entirely a matter of sentiment, but sentiment counts in these days, otherwise the Bill would not have been introduced.
I came in contact with horses in my youth when I worked underground, and I can remember how fond we got of those working near the coal face. One of them worked there for 10 or 12 years; and when I remember that old horse we called "Champion," something arises within me which protests against the idea of that horse being exported at the end of his days, when he has finished his job underground in this country to start work again in Belgium or France. I cannot explain it, but I have it in my heart, and I suppose it is the same motive which moves all other hon. Members to-day. I think it is a sound argument that if we do not import old horses of that kind from France or Belgium in order to work them in this country, we should not allow similar old horses to be exported from here to France and Belgium to be worked there. Nobody will import a worn-out horse from France and Belgium to be employed here, and I do not think we should export an old worn-out horse to France and Belgium to be worked there. The hon. and learned Member for Withington (Mr. Fleming) who has the honour to represent me in this House, complained bitterly about the bombardment of letters he has received. If he is in the House for many years longer he will find that the letters received on this subject are infinitesimal by comparison with the number we get on other issues. I think that every Member of Parliament has learnt long ago that there is one institution here that is always very useful, the waste-paper basket. I would commend that to the hon. Member. Without reading any communications from 747 anybody and simply by listening to the arguments stated to-day on this subject, I think that all hon. Members are convinced that this doubtful traffic ought to be stopped for good. I shall be a little surprised, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture does not come down wholeheartedly in favour of the Bill.
There is one further thing I wish to say regarding this Measure. It seems to me that to all intents and purposes the traffic has stopped already. This is a case where Parliament is not asked to lead, but to crystallise in a legal enactment what people in this country have very nearly universally decided upon already. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough gave the whole of his case away when he said that the traffic hardly existed. That seems to me to be the best argument of all in favour of the Measure.
I hope the House will pardon me if, in conclusion, I introduce what might appear to be a little discordant note. I like music, but sometimes I feel that too much harmony is not good. When I hear hon. Members speaking about worn-out, decrepit old horses that have done their day's work, I agree entirely; but next Monday and Tuesday we shall be speaking in this House about human beings who have worked until they are 70 years of age, who are worn-out and who are still not receiving decent treatment from society. I hope that some of this well-deserved sentiment, poured out to-day on horses in foreign countries, will be transferred on that occasion to men and women who are suffering in our own land.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Campbell
I have listened to the Debate with great interest. We have heard the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford), which was a most sincere and accurate statement of the facts. We have heard what I might call the almost wonderful speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), a speech that was well thought out and very brave. But, of course, it always needs a small fellow to be really brave; in my family the bravest member is the smallest. I thought the hon. and gallant Member's speech was an extraordinarily good one, but it created in my mind certain diffi- 748 culties which always arise in connection with Private Members' Bills. I have been in the House for a number of years, and I have always found that the most difficult days on which to take a decision are private Members' days. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are no Whips."] As a rule, we have Whips whose duty it is to tell us how to think, and very often we think accordingly. On Private Members' days, however, either we have to think for ourselves or listen to two hon. Members who argue with each other across the floor of the House and usually end by agreeing with each other. Therefore, it is very difficult to come to a conclusion as to what we should do.
On this occasion, I think the obvious thing to do is to vote for the Bill, because even if, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough has said, only a little cruelty goes on, why should there be any cruelty when it can be stopped? I think it would be very useful if my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture could tell us one or two-things which ought to decide any of us who are not quite sure in our mind as to what we ought to do. As has already been said, we have been almost snowed under with letters and petitions; in fact, I have not seen as much snow during the whole of the remainder of the year as my post every morning. If I were still at the Post Office, I should appreciate the number of postage stamps that have been used in connection with propaganda about this Bill. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell us what is the law at present and what it does. Will this Bill, if it is passed, be workable? Many Bills are passed and it is found, when the time comes to put them into practice, that they might just as well never have been passed. Will this Bill, if it is passed, prevent the genuine trade in healthy horses? After all, if we are going to stop the traffic in horses entirely, we shall equally have to stop the traffic in cattle that go to the Argentine for purposes of breeding—an excellent trade which no one in his senses would wish to stop. Will the Bill, if it is passed, prevent worn-out horses shipped to the Continent from being used for purposes for which we would not allow them to be used, or will they be slaughtered on arrival at their destination? What we are really aiming at is to do all we humanly can to prevent cruelty. If this Bill would serve that purpose, while maintaining the genuine 749 trade, I am wholeheartedly in favour of it. If the Minister can enlighten us on those few points, I think there is very little likelihood that any hon. Member will wish to divide on the Bill.
I sincerely hope the Bill will be passed without a Division, and that the Minister will do his best to get facilities for it to be carried through the Committee rapidly so that it may become an Act of Parliament as soon as possible. There is always a danger with Private Members' Bills. A Bill passes its Second Reading in this House and enthusiasts outside, who do not know the procedure of the House, imagine that because it receives its Second Reading, whether by a small majority or without a Division, it is as good as through the House. They do not realise that the Bill has to go to the Committee upstairs, and my experience is that it is more than likely that it will never become an Act of Parliament. Consequently, I hope the Minister will use his influence with the Whips, or whoever has authority in connection with these matters, to see that the Bill is given every facility in Committee and become an Act of Parliament as soon as possible.
§ 2.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Harold Mitchell
I, also, support the Bill. I believe that there is an exceptionally large body of opinion throughout the country in favour of a Measure of this kind. This Debate has served a valuable purpose by bringing into the right perspective the question of the export trade in horses. It has been most helpful to have had speeches from different parts of the House showing exactly what is the extent of this trade, because I think there was a certain amount of misconception concerning it in some quarters. The belief existed that the trade carried on was very much larger than it is. But I agree that even if only one horse is exported under unfavourable conditions and is badly treated on its arrival abroad, that, in itself, is a sufficient reason for voting for the Bill.
The fact has emerged from this Debate that the existing provision at the ports, as far as it goes, for dealing with this matter is efficiently carried out, and I think we may feel satisfied on that point. At the same time, this Measure will give larger powers than those which exist at present and to that extent will lessen the risk of horses being sold abroad under 750 conditions of which we would not approve. It is obvious that the Bill may require amendment and improvement in some respects, but that can easily be done in Committee. For instance reference has been made to the difficulty of fixing the value of horses upon export. It is expecting too much of the veterinary officers to ask them to say how much a horse is worth, but it may be possible in Committee to devise some means of fixing the value without destroying or altering the principle of the Bill.
I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) say that the Dutch and Belgian authorities are trying to improve the conditions at their end. It would be most unfair for us to make anything like a general attack or even what appeared to be a general attack upon the conditions in countries like Holland. There may be isolated cases of cruelty. Situations may occur of which we in this country would not approve. At the same time I do not think we ought to make any general attack upon other countries in this respect because it is always easy to quote isolated examples of cruelty. It is possible that even with our own stringent regulations in regard to animals, a foreign observer would be able to find some isolated cases of cruelty in this country. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will do all he can to assist the passage of the Measure and that the House will unanimously give it Second Reading.
§ 2.49 P.m.
§ Mr. Salt
I join with other hon. Members who have spoken in supporting the Measure which has been so ably explained by the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford). I agree with the points raised by the last two speakers, and my only fear is that the fact which has emerged in the Debate, that the actual number of horses exported is small, may tend to influence the Ministry in their decision as to providing time for the passage of the Bill. But the fact that the number of horses is small is not a sound argument against the Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington (Wing-Commander Wright) mentioned the case of a wealthy firm which had sold a horse, which they had had for 16 years, and they had no knowledge of where that horse had been sent to after sale. It is, of course, possible that the horse did not leave these shores at all 751 but those of us who have owned horses and have had to dispose of them, do not like to feel that there is even the possibility that they will be sent abroad. When I joined the Army, I had to get rid of my horses and it would make me very sad to think that any of those horses for which I had a great affection had eventually found their way to France or Belgium where, according to my experience, the treatment of horses is very different from that which prevails in this country.
I think we ought to take this opportunity of showing some appreciation of the work which has been done for many years by those who have sponsored this cause. On several occasions they must have felt that their efforts were hopeless. Men and women devoted to this work, including many in humble positions, have gone steadily forward supporting this or that society, with this object in view, and it must be a gratification to them to-day to feel that their work has been successful as I think it will prove to be. Some hon. Members apparently felt that the amount of literature sent out to us on this subject had been excessive but I see no reason why that objection should be made. If we agree with those who sent us those letters we can heartily support their case, and if we do not agree with them we can put their letters and resolutions into the waste-paper basket. I remember receiving no fewer than 12,000 signatures to a resolution on one occasion and I had no difficulty whatever in deciding to vote against the purpose of that resolution and the comparatively small number of letters received in connection with this Bill cannot be looked upon as being, in the words of one hon. Member, "a species of blackmail." Personally I wish to pay a tribute to the work which those people have done. I think it is a work which will be appreciated and which is for the good of the country.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) has to-day made one of the most brilliant debating speeches to which we have listened for a considerable time. He has exposed a certain amount of nonsense that has been talked in several quarters on this subject. I am a supporter of the Bill, but I agree that 752 there has been gross exaggeration in regard to the number of horses affected by it. The hon. and gallant Member, by tackling that point and by making it clear that there has been exaggeration, has not only shown courage, but has done something worthy of the traditions of the House. Having said that, I am bound to add that this is not a question of whether the traffic is small or large. If there is any traffic at all, it is an evil traffic, and ought to be stamped out. The hon. and gallant Member quoted Mr. Fox, the jockey, as saying that he had bought a horse for £3 because it might have been exported if he had not bought it. I submit that that is a very fair illustration of the present position. There are horses which may be exported—very few, perhaps, but a certain number—and as long as there is the possibility that horses which have worked their best years in this country and have been good friends to man in this country may be exported, the country cannot have a clear conscience of the question.
Many alterations will have to be made in the text of the Bill. I think the Minister of Agriculture will bear me out when I say that, in its present form, the Bill would exclude altogether from export the Shetland pony. That would be absurd, because the Shetland pony is generally exported as a domestic pet and it is a trade in which there is no cruelty. Although there are heaps of details on which this Bill may be amended, that is a matter for the Committee; it is not a matter for Second Reading. If we were to-day to pass this Bill and then refer it to a Joint Select Committee instead of to an ordinary Standing Committee, I believe we should be doing a certain amount of harm, not in this country, but abroad. We should, I believe, be giving the impression that were were whittling down the usual British regard in the matter of protecting horses and that we were setting up an inquiry in order to hold up this Bill from becoming law. I am not suggesting that that is the view of those who support that suggestion—it is not—but we have to consider the question of feeling abroad, and nothing, to my mind, could do more good from the point of view of Continental feeling than for this House of Commons to lay it down in no uncertain terms that it is going to kill that traffic once and for ever, be it big or small.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Haslam
I desire to support the Bill and to express the hope that it will be carried unanimously. The House has shown absolute unanimity in its desire that this unsavoury trade in, and any cruelty to, old horses should be brought to an end. I would desire to touch very briefly on another point which has emerged from this Debate. It is fairly well established that our standards of treatment in this country in regard to horses, and indeed to other animals as well, are perhaps rather higher than in other countries. I had better put it that there is a larger number of decent, humane-minded people in this country than perhaps in some other countries. That really is the main reason for stopping this trade and preventing this export.
I would like very briefly to suggest that the work of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and of its Chairman, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir R. Gower), has played a very large part in bringing about this state of feeling. I believe it is for more than 40 years that this Society has, by education, by bringing forward Bills in Parliament, and in every possible way, done its part in educating the people of this country to a better frame of mind in regard to their treatment of dumb animals, and I think this Debate ought not to close without some recognition of that great work.
That brings me to a further point, which was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford), who put it forward as a desirable thing that we should endeavour to get some international agreement on this question, and I would venture to join him very strongly in expressing that hope. That, of course, is a very difficult undertaking, but, after all, we still have Geneva, and we still have means of bringing our views before other nations, I believe that this Debate, if it shows the unanimous opinion of this House on this important matter, may in itself do something to waken opinion in other countries and indeed all over the world.
§ 3 P.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
Perhaps it might be convenient if I were to intervene at this stage, and, as I understand that there are other hon. Members who would 754 like an opportunity of contributing to the Debate, I shall make my remarks as short as I can, in order to be of service to the House. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) asked what happened to horses which were unfit when presented at the port of export. The answer is to be found in Sub-section (2) of Section i of the Exportation of Horses Act, 1914. The law is that if a horse examined under that Act is found by the veterinary inspector to be in such a physical condition that it is cruel to keep it alive, or to be permanently incapable of being worked without suffering, the inspector may, whether the owner consents or not, slaughter it or cause it to be slaughtered in such manner as to inflict as little suffering as possible. Horses falling into that category are treated in that way by the invariable practice of my inspectors.
The second point to which I would refer was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Captain Heilgers), who asked about sailing in rough weather and whether the provision with regard to masters of vessels sailing in weather likely to cause suffering still obtained. It does still obtain, and I think it is remarkable that in 1932, out of over 3,000 horses sent, there were only four casualties, in 1933 one casualty, in 1934 again one casualty, in 1935 two casualties and last year none. That shows better than any assurance of mine could that, in fact, the horses are being carried, both as regards the fittings of the vessels themselves and the weather in which they sail, with every possible regard to their humane transhipment.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) has selected this subject to bring before us on a Friday, and I think the whole House ought to be grateful to him for the use that he has made of his fortune in the ballot. I am also grateful to him, because, quite apart from the merits of this Bill, I think that the discussion which we have had to-day, a most valuable discussion, has cleared away a great deal of the fog which has hitherto encircled this subject. We have had speeches, on both sides of the question, of a very moderate and considerate tone, and I think the whole country will be relieved to find that there have not been such villains in the past as some propagandist societies would have us to believe. I am 755 grateful to the hon. Member for Rusholme, not only for having introduced the Bill, but also for the manner in which he has put forward his case, which was free from that distortion and exaggeration which so frequently mar representations on this subject.
I propose to ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. I need not say that the Government are anxious to stop any cruelty or any opportunity for cruelty in so far as they humanly can, and if there is, in the opinion of the House, anything that can be done to render more humane the dealing with horses in this country, why, then I shall be delighted to assist in any way that I can. The best help that I can give to the House to-day is, I think, to give them the information at my disposal, so that their judgment on this matter may be based on the facts as they actually are, but first I would like to say a word of general caution. The hon. Member for Rushholme introduced to us certain very sad cases which he had observed, I think, in Belgium. I am not in any position, of course, to controvert the accuracy of his information. He went to that country, I understand, under circumstances peculiarly favourable for the gathering together of information of this character, and, as I say, I accept it from him that his facts are true. I have been in Belgium only once in my life and that was not under the auspices of a humane society. However, I give my testimony for what it is worth.
Being billeted repeatedly upon peasants in Belgium and Northern France, and having been always interested in farms and horses, I observed their practices closely. I am bound to say that I saw horses treated on the farms there with the utmost consideration and affection. Cruelty there may be, but my experience was that the French and Belgian peasant was legitimately proud of the magnificent Percheron breed of horse in that part of the world and I have seen horses treated with the utmost consideration, kindness and intelligence and worked humanely by people who do not spare their own bodies when working in the fields. I mention that for what it is worth, and not by any means as setting forward a general argument that there is no cruelty on the Continent, but I would not like the House 756 to pass judgment on this important matter by taking refuge in facile and fallacious generalisations such as that all foreigners are cruel to animals.
It is true that practically every horse used on the continent for agricultural or other purposes finds its way sooner or later to the slaughter-house and is consumed for human food. Practically every hunter in England suffers in the end the fate of Jezebel. I do not know which is the more ignoble. It depends on how you rank human beings and dogs. I do not suppose the old horse cares very much which particular end it achieves after slaughter. Our business is to see that in life it is free from cruelty and oppression. The actual facts of the situation are as follow: The Diseases of Animals Act, 19ro, as amended by the Exportation of Horses Act, 1914, prohibits the shipment of horses to the Continent unless immediately before shipment they have been examined by a veterinary inspector of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and certified as fit to be conveyed and disembarked without cruelty, and also as fit to work without suffering. Without suffering—that is a high standard. Secondly, there are powers under Section 22 of the Diseases of Animals Act 1894, which empower the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to make orders for the protection of horses from unnecessary suffering during transit by land or sea, and for ensuring that animals are provided with a proper supply of food and water and proper ventilation.
Those are the powers and the question is how are they exercised. I may say, to condense the matter, that the exportation of horses, like many another trade, ceased during the War. It was not resumed until 1920 or 1921. In 1921 the Ministry itself conducted an inquiry into allegations that unfit horses were being passed through for shipment. The House will appreciate that the 1914 Act was passed immediately prior to the War, and that the trade lapsed during the period of the War. The inquiry in 1921 revealed that, although the majority of the horses complied with the provisions of the Act, a number had been passed at some Northern ports of England which were not up to the required standard of fitness. I want the House to notice what was done by the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture who have come in for so 757 much ill-founded and unjust criticism from irresponsible people who do not know what they are talking about.
When this matter was discovered in 1921, the Ministry dispensed with the services of the inspectors who had been responsible for passing unfit animals. They were part-time officers of the Ministry and were not wholly under the Ministry's control. They were replaced by whole-time inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture. The inspectors revised the standard of fitness required at all the ports so as to prevent the shipment of doubtful animals and they ensured that the requirements of the Acts were strictly- complied with. They overhauled all the fittings of all the vessels, and made sure that proper equipment was aboard those vessels for the transport of the animals. This had to be done at considerable expense by the shipping companies concerned. The result of it was that the poorest, cheapest horse is carries to the Continent in as much comfort and safety as the most valuable hunter.
Another thing that was accomplished was the conversion, very largely, of the exportation of horses for slaughter from a live-horse trade to a dead-horse trade. I will not weary the House with details, but it might be interesting to hon. Members to realise that in 1921, that is, before those measures were taken, 45,120 horses were passed for export, and that the number of carcases of dead horses shipped was 24,918. As one gets closer to modern times, one finds that, under the operation of the stringent provisions to which I have referred, the proportion of horses shipped as carcases to the Continent increases over the live-horse exportation. Taking, for example, 1935, there were 2,670 horses exported from this country of which 21 were stated to be for slaughter. In the same year, no fewer than 22,571 carcases of horses went over. Those figures should make it abundantly plain that the result of the Ministry's efforts in this matter was to change the traffic for slaughter from a live-horse trade to a dead-horse trade. We had the advantage in 1925 of the Departmental Committee, presided over by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills). Anyone who reads the Committee's report must be convinced that the Committee went into their duty with extreme thoroughness and a conscientious desire to discharge their duty to 758 the House. The hon. Member for Newark (Marquess of Titchfield), the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday) and Sir Frederick Hobday, who has been mentioned, signed the unanimous report. It is plain that in 1925 the condition of affairs had improved, because of the reorganisation carried out by the Ministry in 1921, to such an extent that the Committee were able to give a very good character to the administration of this important trade.
I would ask any hon. Member who feels, as we all must, the keenest desire to make every effort to prevent cruelty to horses, to turn to the report as a record of work well done, as is supported by the most unmistakable evidence. The conclusion of the Committee was final:We are satisfied from the evidence that we have received that no horse which could be described as decrepit has been passed for export by the port inspectors since the reorganisation of the Ministry's arrangements in 1921 and that the provisions of the Acts of 1910 and 1914 are being efficiently carried out.The standard imposed by the Ministry at the ports is so high that horses are often refused permission to be exported because they do not reach the Ministry's standard. Such horses can work in the streets of our cities and in our fields without attracting unfavourable comment, far less prosecution, as has been referred to.
I have said enough on this aspect of the matter. The House has been practically unanimous on this point. Great efforts have been made by the Ministry to check abuses and I would not now recommend the House to adopt the Select Committee procedure. I have dealt with many of the charges that have been made, and it is due to those public servants of the Ministry that they should have an opportunity, that they do not otherwise get, of stating their case, but I am convinced that every body of opinion in this House, and every hon. Member, believes that those officers have discharged their duty. I have therefore taken the course of advising the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and to send it to a Standing Committee, and to let those allegations pass with the contempt that they deserve. I will not leave the subject without saying one word on this matter, because it appears to be of some 759 public importance. In spite of the facts that I have mentioned and the conclusions of the Departmental Committee, and the further fact that those conclusions in so far as they related to the inspections of horses have been supported by humane societies such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who have been satisfied in the matter, and the International League for the Prevention of the Export of Horses for Butchery, who have taken the view that everything possible is done, there are other bodies who are not so fair or generous. There is another body, known, I understand, as the National Equine Defence League. They sent a resolution to me in January last which read as follows:This Assembly feels that England is disgraced by the cruel export of diseased, work-worn, strained and naturally defective horses, and the inevitable suffering thereby entailed, and urges the immediate and total prohibition of this traffic.They say that, in spite of the fact that, by general consent, none of this traffic has been possible for a long time. One would have thought that a body which was specially trained, and which exists for the study of this question, would have had plenty of opportunity of acquainting itself with the facts and would have refrained from such unwarranted allegations. This same body, at the same time, inquired of us who was responsible for preventing the illegal shipment of decrepit horses from illegal ports. That is a very grave charge, but when they were asked for details of any such cases in order that appropriate action might be taken, they replied that it was impossible for them to prowl round the docks and see what horses were shipped. That is an example of the sort of thing that takes place. Then the Dumb Friends' League, in a recent publication, stated that the examination of horses at the ports by the Ministry's inspectors was cursory, but they failed to produce one scrap of evidence in justification of that statement.
My reasons for saying that the matter is of public interest is that I feel that bodies which appeal to the public for subscriptions should impose upon themselves, where the law does not impose it upon them, a certain standard of common veracity. I feel that it is very regrettable that subscriptions should be taken from people who, with the best intentions in the world, flock to subscribe to what they 760 believe to be measures to deal with a crying shame which in fact does not exist at all. People's charity should be directed to more useful measures. As I have already indicated, the figures show that in reality the butchery trade is becoming a dead meat trade, but, in order to bring the House down to the present Bill, I would ask hon. Members to follow me while I describe what would have been the effect of this Bill upon the trade had it been enacted during the currency of the previous year.
In 1936, the total export of horses was 3,134, and, if this Bill had been in operation last year, it would have stopped 695 of those horses, or 22 per cent. of the total. But that is not the end of the story. Of those 695 horses, 210 would have been allowed to be shipped with certificates from the Jockey Club or from breed societies as suggested in the Bill. The remaining 485 included 154 circus animals, 169 Shetland ponies, 5 Welsh ponies, 32 other ponies, 12 Arabs, trotter, 5 riding horses and hacks, 1 carriage horse, and 56 mules. That is a total of 435 animals which did not come within the category of the Bill at all, so that the total prohibitions of the class important to the promoters of the Bill would have amounted to only 50. These comprised 46 Clydesdales and 4 vanners, all over eight years of age, and it is upon that class of horses that I suggest the promoters of the Bill ought to concentrate.
In the case of horses of the type used, either as light or as heavy draught horses, say by a railway company, or a brewers' company, or some big distributing concern, as van horses in our cities, it is found that their feet will not, after three or four years of city life, although they are still big and strong horses, stand up to city work. Such horses are, however, still good horses for agriculture, and they are bought in large numbers by our farmers. It is upon that type of horse that I would advise the promoters to concentrate. So far as anything can be done to remove actual cruelty, it should be done, though I am convinced that no substantial case can be put forward to show that cruelty exists to-day.
There are one or two objections to the present Measure which I should like to point out, in the spirit of a friendly critic and not with a desire to describe the imperfections of the Bill, but with a desire 761 to suggest points which I think would improve it as a workable Measure. After all, this House is not in the habit, I hope, of placing a Bill on the Statute Book as a mere declaration or advertisement of its feelings. It is the duty of the House, when it passes a Measure, to place upon the Statute Book legislation which can work and will be effective. First of all, with the best will in the world, I do not like the proposal to require certificates from the secretary of an approved horse-breeding society for the shipment of horses over eight years of age, even though they are valued at £25 or more. First or all, I do not know whether the societies have undertaken to perform this onerous duty for the hon. Member. Even if they did, they would have to take the word of the man who presents the animal as to its ultimate purpose and destination. They have no proper facilities for checking cases of fraud. It would be easy for a man who wished to carry through an illegal transaction to present to the certifying authority a horse, and get it certified and, on arrival at the port, substitute another animal altogether, and no one at the port would be able at the moment to check it. In so far as the House recognises, as it does, the necessity for exceptions and exemptions, I would say in all modesty that they would do far better to entrust the exemption of horses to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which has carried out this duty in the past, which has power and information adequate to the task and whose officials are beyond suspicion of partisanship on one side or the other. I feel that that is the way to set about this difficult business and not to charge amateurs, no doubt worthy bodies, with a duty for which they are not properly fitted.
It is difficult to justify interference with the free passage of circus animals simply because they have reached a certain age. I am informed that a circus horse is never at its best, and is never much good, until it is of a certain age. Of all horses in the world these receive the best treatment and the most careful supervision. They are horses whose face is not only their fortune but their masters, fortune, consequently they are able to command a degree of careful attention which no other horses can. I think there is a case to be considered very carefully in Committee about Shetland ponies. The trade in them 762 may be a small trade but it is important to certain parts. I am quite satisfied that the animals that go over have kind treatment in the main, and I am not at all disposed to agree to a provision which would confuse this little animal, quite unsuitable for slaughter for consumption for human food, with the real heavy vanner and the heavy draughthorse. Then you have to have provision for foals who follow their mothers. If a mother, otherwise eligible, goes over with her foal following her, it would be a great mistake to part mother and son, or mother and daughter. Curiously, carriage horses and hacks are sometimes brought over from the Continent by a military attaché accredited to an Embassy here, and it is surely proper that that sort of thing should be provided for.
I do not like my hon. Friend's idea of extending the operation of the Bill to preventing animals going to Ireland or the Channel Islands. I do, not think there are any people in the world who have a better character for looking after horses than the Irish. Every horse that goes to the Irish Free State has to be accompanied by a permit from the Irish Free State. The trade between this country and Ireland is almost entirely in high class, expensive horses, which would in any case be exempted from the Bill. At present we are able to control this traffic as well as we do because there are only seven authorised ports from which horses are allowed to be exported at all to the Continent of Europe and this idea of controlling the export to the Irish Free State would mean an increase in the number of authorised ports, an increase in the number of inspectors and would involve a public charge.
I would like the House to give this Bill a Second Reading and let it go to Committee. I would like hon. Members to approach the question in this way in their own minds. It is not the case—and I hope that the House is quite satisfied now—that the regulations in force have not been rigidly enforced and have not been responsible for bringing about a very great improvement in the trade which previously was not possible. But in case there should be any possible doubt still, I am prepared to work with hon. Members to make the Bill a Measure which will secure the purposes which they have in mind.
§ 3.31 p.m.
I am sure that the whole House is satisfied and grateful because of what the Minister has said. It is evident that in the future, whatever loopholes there may have been, it will be quite impossible for them to be opened again. When I received certain letters some time ago in regard to this matter, I took the trouble to try, as did my hon. and gallant - Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), to find out the truth of the matter, and I obtained the Report of the Departmental Committee which sat in 1925. In every case in which I answered the letters I had received, I referred my correspondents to that Report, and they seemed to be perfectly satisfied. The reason why my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough and I put down the Amendment that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee was not that we were against the Bill—to my mind, anyhow, it was because I felt that the Bill did not go far enough—but that we wanted a very exhaustive examination into the matter which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Minister just now. I am quite aware that certain horses must be exported, but with regard to horses which may get into the country districts abroad and be treated badly, I hope that in Committee there will be some way of totally abolishing anything of the sort.
I am particularly interested to-day because I was one of the sales officers in Belgium and France at the end of the War and had to conduct some of the immense sales that took place in those days. The letter which was sent a day or two ago by Professor Hobday to "The Times" saddened me because he said some of the horses that are being badly treated and are in a terrible condition today are some of the horses which I, under orders, had to sell. I am delighted, and I am sure the whole House is delighted to know that the War Office have stopped for the future any War horses being sold. That is something to the good.
There are two Amendments that I should like to bring before the House. Why cannot we pass legislation in this country to eliminate the destruction of any animal except by means of the humane killer? In Scotland the humane killer has to be used and in certain counties in England I understand it has 764 to be used. I am told on the very best authority that it is really no argument against the humane killer that makes the meat any different from the meat of the animal that is not destroyed by a humane killer. The humane killer undoubtedly is very efficient, and it gives a 100 per cent. elimination of risk of suffering. There is another reason why I am very keen on this question, and that is that, while I am anxious to protect horses, I am equally keen on protecting those most charming, most delightful and most kindly disposed ladies in the country, and other people, who really need protection in this matter. When one reads the harrowing details that have been put about the country in the last few months on this subject, one realises that a very large sum of money must have been put into the coffers of certain organisations, which are referred to on page 27 of the Committee's report. The opinion of the Committee shows that there has been no justification for the collection of this money and that it has not been used for the purposes for which these most charming people have subscribed it. I will read a few words of the Report, which are given on page 27, paragraph 112:During the course of our enquiries we have had our attention directed to certain pamphlets which have been issued by the National Equine Defence League regarding the trade in the export of horses … Instead of horses too painfully diseased to be seen in England being shipped to the Continent, the facts are that horses can be seen at work in England that would not pass the export test.Any hon. Member in this House knows quite well that if he motors to certain parts of this country he will see in gipsy camps, for instance, horses in a deplorable condition. I have been much distressed in London—not so much of late, because the matter has been taken up—to see horses that look to me worn-out horses, running in Post Office vans. They are not a high class of horse in these vans, I hope the Post Office will look into the matter and see whether the horses that we see in some of the vans every day are absolutely sound and not worn-out. In regard to the evidence that came before the Committee, I find on page 26, paragraph 110, the following:The above are examples of evidence given by"—I will not mention the name of the witness— 765which are obviously untrue, and we are of opinion that no part of his evidence can be relied upon.Surely, hon. Members must realise that there has been an awful lot of humbug about this propaganda. I agree with the hon. Member who spoke from the front Opposition bench that if money in these amounts is to be expended, those delightful and charming people who want to help, who have charitable ideas and are willing to sacrifice their purses to this end, can find many occasions for helping worthy charities designed to alleviate the sufferings of children, old men, and old women in this country. I am absolutely certain that this Bill when it is knocked into shape will completely eliminate any loophole that may exist to-day. I hope that all the people who have been subscribing to these organisations will turn their attention to our own people and divert to the children and old women of our own country the money that they are subscribing.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I understand that it is for the general convenience that we conclude our Debates on this subject rather than attempt to reach the second Bill on the Order Paper. In any case I would like, as one of the promoters of the Bill, to express my gratitude to the Minister and the Government for the statement which the Minister has made. Some of us have been striving for a good many years to get a Second Reading for this Measure. It was the first Bill in which I became interested on becoming a Member of the House, and for over four years I and one or two others have been working and hoping that such a day as this might arrive. It is a great satisfaction to us to have won this victory and we appreciate immensely the generosity and the readiness of mind which has inspired the Minister of Agriculture this afternoon. The friendly criticisms that he offered on the Bill we most readily accept. We shall consider them with the greatest of care, and I am sure that I can speak on behalf of my hon. Friends whose names are on the Bill when I say that we shall endeavour without any unnecessary obstruction to meet the Minister on every reasonable point.
Again on behalf of the promoters of the Bill I am sure I can say that we entirely associate ourselves with the Minister in the sharp rebuke which he made upon certain 766 people and organisations who exaggerate this case and impute unfair motives to the Ministry and others, and who issue statements which are wholly untrue. The organisation which is directly responsible for this Bill, the International League for Horses, has never been guilty of an exaggeration of that kind, and I am glad that the Minister to-day was able to pay the pretty compliment that he did pay to that particular body. As one who has been watching this matter with very great care and has examined conditions at the ports and at the horse markets abroad, I want to say that from my own personal experience every claim made by the Minister to-day for his Department is justified to the hilt. In the first place, as to the inspection at British ports, the work of the Ministry of Agriculture inspectors there is wholly admirable; it is efficient and conscientious and in complete accord with the letter and the spirit of the regulations issued by the Ministry of Agriculture; and it is true that no such thing as a decrepit horse can possibly be exported from this country to-day. I have made that clear in numerous speeches in the country and in articles and booklets on this subject.
Nor have I any criticism to make of the conditions provided by the shipping companies. I have seen these conditions. Every horse is given a stall, and there is every reasonable care exercised for the comfort of these animals. Nor do I complain about the public abattoirs on the Continent. I have seen them, and in some respects they are an example to many abattoirs in our own country. Of course no abattoir is a thing of beauty, but as far as a slaughterhouse can be efficiently operated these abattoirs meet that condition. They are well managed, and as far as I could see humanely administered. I repeat, neither at the port of embarkation nor during the sea voyage, nor in the public abattoirs abroad, are there any reasonable grounds for complaint on the score of the suffering to our horses. I make that statement without any hesitation, and I pay my tribute to the officials of the Department.
What then is the case for the Bill? It is simply this, that despite the regulations which are in force a number of British horses are getting through our ports, horses which, though technically 767 "fit for work," are old and worn out, which have really done their service and ought to have a better fate than that which awaits them on the other side. The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) in the course of his delightful and amusing speech had a number of things to say about the Bill and about those who are associated with it. He began by assuring us that he was a great lover of animals, particularly of horses, and he illustrated the depths of his devotion by explaining that his account at the Bank was frequently overdrawn, much to the consternation of the bank manager but apparently with no anxiety to the hon. and gallant Member himself. No doubt his indifference on a matter which to a Scotsman seems of vital importance is the reason why the hon. and gallant Member has rather misunderstood the real meaning and purpose of the Bill.
He gave us an account of the extensive inquiries which he had made himself in different parts of the country, in search of the evidence upon which the Bill is based. He looked at the South Midlands; and could find nothing. Then he went to Leith, and after many interviews again found little or nothing. And he asked "Where is this evidence; why cannot I discover it?". Why did not the hon. and gallant Member make an inquiry in two directions which would have given him all the information he desired. Why did he not consult the returns of the Ministry of Agriculture? He would have found that a considerable number of horses, of the very type he himself described, are still going out, clydesdales, vanners and other heavy types, and if he was very anxious to make a thorough investigation why did he not go abroad as my hon. Friend and I did to see what in fact is happening? It is odd that he should have failed to look in these two directions.
Surely the Bill does not extend to vanners over the value of £25 and not eight years of age. They will not be prevented from going abroad.
The hon. and gallant Member is quite right. Of course I am referring to animals under that age and value. The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough scored a bull when he presented the case concerning horses which 768 have gone abroad from Leith. He showed that in fact every one of them had found its way to the official abattoir, and he sought to show, for that reason, that horses consigned for slaughter in fact are slaughtered. As the hon. and gallant Member did not give us any notice that he was going to produce those figures, I am consequently not able to controvert them, but knowing that there are many consignments of horses going abroad from Leith, it appears to me possible that there is some misunderstanding between the hon. and gallant Member and the organisation to which he was referring, as the particular consignment in question.
But even if I accepted the hon. and gallant Member's figures, and if I were to admit—which I do not—that every horse consigned abroad for slaughter in fact finds its way into the official abattoir, the hon. and gallant Member would still be missing the point. Such animals account for only a minute fraction of the horses which go abroad at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member was good enough to agree with me over the figures which I produced in the book to which he referred, and therefore, even though he is not present at the moment, I may be permitted to remind the House of those figures. Last year there were no less than 3,000 horses exported from this country, and when I went into this matter two years ago. I found that something like 10 per cent. of that number came within the category with which this Bill is concerned. The Minister has to-day told us that the figure is now down to about 50, but I found these in the neighbourhood of 300. The majority of those animals are old and worn out. If the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough still has an itch for inquiry, I invite him to go abroad and see things for himself. I went, I saw, and I was somewhat shocked. I found that British horses are now going abroad, perfectly legitimately in accordance with the regulations; they are old horses which, although quite fit and able to meet the conditions of the port inspection, are of a kind which generous-hearted men in this country would not allow to do further work. They are horses which, if they are to be slaughtered, ought to be slaughtered at home.
It is not fair and it is not in accordance with the sentiment of the English people 769 that horses which have served their country well in the past should have to end their days thus. The numbers are small, because the trade is small. When last I was in Holland I found that they were subsidising the consumption of cow meat. They had produced too many cows, and had had to slaughter them. There was a vast increase in cow meat which was sold in tins at 4d. a pound, and that lowered the price of horse meat and reduced the market for horse flesh. The numbers are so small to-day that I can well understand anybody who says "Why bother?" The fear behind our minds, however, is that when international trade revives, the horse trade will also revive, and we shall return to a situation in which large numbers of our animals go to meet that unfortunate fate abroad.
The Minister has accepted the principle of the Bill. In terms of wealth, of population and other considerations of that kind, it may be a very minor Measure, but in terms of sentiment and of our own feeling of what is right and just, it is, I believe, one of the best Measures which the Government has ever undertaken, and may be regarded in the future by him as one of the biggest efforts the Minister has made in this House. On behalf of the promoters of the Bill I wish to thank hon. Members on all sides for the understanding which they have shown in the consideration of the Bill, and I would congratulate especially, a man outside this House, but once a Member of it, Sir George Cockerill, who after years of persistent effort has lived to see this Measure receive what, I hope, will be a unanimous Second Reading, and I trust that it will, eventually, reach the Statute Book.
§ 3.57 P.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Moore
Speaking not on behalf of prevention of cruelty to animals societies, but on behalf of the horse-loving public, I wish to thank the Minister for his acceptance of the Bill, subject to the minor Amendments which he has suggested. I also wish to thank him and his predecessor, the present Secretary of State for Scotland, for the work they have done to implement the existing regulations, so that this revolting trade has sunk to such a low degree. I also wish to thank the humane and sympathetic in- 770 spectors of the Ministry at the ports who have interpreted their instructions with such meticulous care—and I think that certain references which have been made to those inspectors ought to be withdrawn. But while we have to-day a humane Minister and a sympathetic and careful inspectorate, the time may come when the present Minister will be promoted and the present inspectors will pass away, and when this trade will revive again and we shall be faced with a situation in which this Measure will be necessary. Therefore, in the interest of the animals in the future, we ought to make these proposals the law of the land—with the few exceptions which the Minister has suggested, and which will be accepted by us—and make it impossible at any time for the horse, man's closest friend, to be subjected to the indignities and cruelties of which we have heard.
§ 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.