HC Deb 24 April 1953 vol 514 cc1663-85

Order read for Second Reading.

1.0 p.m.

Brigadier Ralph Rayner (Totnes)

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

This is a non-controversial Bill as far as the House is concerned and has the sympathetic support of hon. Members on both sides. Moreover, I have received a great deal of help with the Bill from the most efficient headquarters of the R.S.P.C.A., from the meat trade, and from friends of mine in the National Farmers' Union and, therefore, although points will have to be ironed out in Committee I hope that today the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

Many people for some time have been under the impression that pigs killed outside slaughterhouses come under the protection of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, but although something like 500,000 pigs, even before the ending of the rationing of feedingstuffs, have been slaughtered annually they do not receive that protection. All that the Minister of Food has been able to do has been to put in a slip of paper with the permit asking that the pig owner shall kill his pig in a humane way. What this Bill proposes to do is to give some legal backing to that slip of paper and give some legal protection to the pig.

I am not an urban Member of Parliament attempting to saddle the countryman with a new, irritating and unreasonable Measure. I represent a large agricultural constituency of which I am inordinately proud, and I am quite sure that the bulk of the pig breeders in my division feel that this Bill places upon them a perfectly reasonable obligation. What is that obligation? It is simply that the pig owner, having decided when he will kill his pig or pigs, must choose whether he will do it himself, or whether a member of his family or one of his employees will do it, or whether he will employ a jobbing butcher or some other expert.

He will probably decide to employ an expert, as the cutting up and treatment of a carcass is an expert job, and a pig carcass can easily go wrong in the process. If, however, he does not do that then he has to arrange to borrow from the most convenient source a humane killer, and if he does not possess a licence under Section 4 of the Firearms Act he has merely got to call at the police station to get it. In so far as both the humane killer and the certificate are concerned he is put to no cost at all.

I am satisfied that there is now an ample supply of humane killers, with local authorities, with sanitary inspectors, with every local representative of the R.S.P.C.A., and, of course, with most butchers. I am also told that there are adequate reserves of instruments and spare parts with all manufacturers. Surely it is fair and reasonable that the pig owner should be asked to take this small amount of trouble to spare his pig from the terror and agony of a painful and protracted death.

Inhumane slaughter does no good to anybody except to the occasional sadist, although I am bound to admit that I was something of a sadist myself up to the age of 10; but it may do a great deal of harm. There are authorities who consider that the eating of tortured and fevered meat leads to troubles and complaints in the human consumer of which now we know little. However, I will not pursue that argument today. There is one thing that is quite certain, and that is that the meat trade and the veterinary service have carried out exhaustive researches and intensive tests which have proved that the carcass of an animal killed by the humane killer is no whit inferior to the carcass of an animal killed in the old-fashioned way, as long as it is rested before slaughter in the proper way and bled immediately after slaughter.

At any rate, the old, cruel idea that a pig must struggle long and vigorously in its death agonies in order to bleed thoroughly and properly has now gone by the board, and should, I think, be relegated to those archives which contain the history and records of drawing and quartering, the ducking stool, and the burning of witches. Therefore, I ask that the House be kind enough to give the Bill a Second Reading.

1.6 p.m.

Mr. Hylton-Foster (York)

I beg to second the Motion.

I should like to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) on the speech he has just made. It was not surprising that the House gave him leave to bring in this Bill, because it is always sympathetic to humane provisions. When he was seeking leave to introduce the Measure, the other day, he made a delightful speech in which he became quite lyrical about the benefits which the pig has conferred on humanity, and I do want not to let this moment pass without bearing in mind the pleasant literary allusions for which the pig has been responsible.

Indeed, as I told my hon. and gallant Friend in one of the small hours of this morning, it was timely and comfortable to remember the words in Pickwick, "You will be finding yourself in bed in something less than a pig's whistle." As more humane methods are advanced we treat the sufferings of animals more and more as though the animals were human beings, yet the paradox is present in this instance: that it is the possibility of the pig being counted out that has the virtue of stunning.

The ordinary British person would be capable himself of wishing and desiring to secure that no animal he was slaughtering had to endure any unnecessary suffering. I feel some anxiety about enforcement in this matter, because the darkest and direst deeds are done by callous or ignorant persons in remote country places. I think we shall want something more than mere legal provisions to secure enforcement, and I hope that the widest possible publicity will be given to the mischief and the evils against which this Bill is directed so that we can have for enforcement purposes a vigilant and aroused public opinion.

I was particularly glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend say that provisions have been made to ensure that the right —1 almost said "offensive weapon," but here the phrase is "mechanically operated instrument"—is freely and easily available so that no one can have any excuse for being brutal on the ground that he could not get hold of the right weapon to ensure there was no suffering.

1.9 p.m.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

One of the joys of Friday is the versatility of the House of Commons. From looking at today's Order Paper and seeing set out there Orders for the Road Transport Lighting (Rear Lights) Bill, the Pharmacy Bill, this Bill, Her Majesty's Civil Service Appointments Board Bill, the Press Council Bill, the Game (Duck and Geese) Bill, the Death of the Speaker Bill, the Women's Disabilities Bill, the Abortion Bill, the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Bill, it does appear that the House of Commons really can get down to a variety of subjects. I think it is a very good thing that it should. Friday mornings, and particularly during the consideration of Private Members' Bills, provides an opportunity to discuss some of the things the Government perhaps have not time to introduce. I therefore wholeheartedly support the hon. and gallant Gentleman on this Bill.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman and I have something in common. I remember some of his previous speeches about the slaughter of animals, and because of that I am very interested that he should bring this Bill before us this morning. He has in the past, I understand, been a gallant hunter of the wild boar. In remote parts of India and other places he has pursued the wild boar in the chase, which he believes is a quite legitimate way of slaughtering pigs, whilst I, on the other hand, to use an expression that he will not use in the House, have indulged in the cold, calculated slaughter of domestic animals. He and I together are, therefore, to use a very short term, ex-pig stickers, and we have something in common this morning.

Because of my trade associations, this is obviously a matter in which I have always been interested, and my mind goes back to the time of the passage of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933. I was not a Member of the House then, but I was deeply interested in what was happening. At that time the meat trade, which by the Act was being compelled to slaughter all animals by mechanical instruments, mechanical stunning, before the actual bleeding, rose in their wrath and had some terrible tales to tell about that Act.

I plead guilty to having gone up and down the country speaking against it, but I am now completely converted. After the years that have passed since 1933 I am confident that the members of the meat trade at that time were very shortsighted; and I am also confident that no one in the trade of which I have been so long a member would today revert to the old-fashioned methods of slaughtering animals. We have made great advances with the introduction of these new methods. Because of that, I welcome this Bill as a further step towards the welfare of the animals we are compelled to slaughter for human food.

During the war and since we have had the system of self-suppliers. The cottager, the pig breeder or the farmer who has reared a pig for his own purposes, has been permitted by a benevolent Ministry of Food to kill a pig for his own use once every six months. In some places those pigs have been slaughtered by licensed and registered slaughtermen, and there has been no difficulty at all about it. Whilst I would not for a moment go into some of the horrible details of the things I have heard and actually witnessed in rural areas in the slaughter of pigs on smallholdings and the like, I do feel that it is time those people, because of the privilege they enjoy, should come into line with those who do this job professionally. Therefore, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has introduced something of great importance.

As I have said, we have a large amount of important business on the Order Paper this morning, so I do not want to keep the House any longer, except to say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has rendered a service to the country, and to everybody who is concerned about the well-being of domestic animals, in bringing this Bill before us, and I sincerely hope the House will accord it a very hearty Second Reading without any dissension.

1.15 p.m.

Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)

Time passes quicker and quicker, and I suppose that when one gets over 50 it just goes headlong, for it is very difficult for me to think that it is exactly 20 years since I brought in the Slaughter of Animals Act of 1933. That action of mine fulfilled an ambition I had cherished since I was 10 years old when I went into one of these village slaughterhouses and saw a pig being killed and heard its cries.

There were two unfortunate omissions in that Act of 1933. One was that it did not apply to the farmer or the little backyard slaughterhouse, unregistered and sometimes almost unknown. Nor did it apply to a certain kind of slaughter known as "ritual slaughter." This Bill rectifies the first omission, and I imagine that time, and possibly education and greater tolerance, will rectify the second, so that the law will then be as near perfect as possible.

There is one serious complaint that I have to make against my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), and that is his exclusion of Scotland and Northern Ireland from the beneficial results of this Bill. I have a connection with both, and I therefore take it rather more to heart than I otherwise would. I cannot see why Scotland and Northern Ireland should have been excluded. They are both equally humane, I assume. Or possibly it was thought they were so humane that it was not necessary to bring them within the scope of the Bill. I am giving my hon. and gallant Friend fair warning that one of the Amendments which will be moved in Committee will be to eliminate this gross insult to my two countries in Clause 4 (2).

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) said something which needed to be said, that when the main Act was first introduced it was greeted and opposed with violence by the meat trade, largely through ignorance. As we know, and as the hon. Gentleman himself admitted, butchers are by nature conservative.

Mr. Royle

I am the exception.

Sir T. Moore

Therefore, they rather resented this new style of killing being forced upon them by an Act of Parliament. But, as he says, and as I know from my own experience, the meat trade are now enthusiastic for either the method of electric stunning or the humane killer. It is their co-operation in the implementation of the main Act that has made it such a complete success, and I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the meat trade for their quick acceptance of the humane method and their support of it during the last 20 years. I thank and congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend, and I hope the House will give an unopposed Second Reading to the Bill.

1.19 p.m.

Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)

I welcome this Bill from the point of view of the pig keeper-pig producer. It is sometimes forgotten that the pig is a very sensitive animal. Indeed, it can be a very affectionate animal, very easily upset. Rough words to a pig will send it off its food. Pigs are sometimes upset by strangers.

I well remember the first pig my wife and I kept. When the time came to kill it—and it was killed on our own premises —we were in tears. We sent for the licensed slaughterman, and we had to go away for the day. The licensed slaughterman, I hope, did his job humanely, but, at any rate, it was a matter of great concern to us. I am sure that if thought were given to this matter it would be one of great concern to everyone who has ever tried to keep a pig—an animal which today, especially in this country, is doing so much to help the human race.

Perhaps I should declare that I have an interest to disclose, in that I once kept one pig. I then kept two pigs and now I am a sleeping partner in quite a substantial pig fattening scheme. Our pigs go away to a slaughterhouse and to bacon factories. What does worry me sometimes is that they make very long journeys, and we do not always know exactly what happens to them when they have gone away. I think that there is a case for the Parliamentary Secretary trying—and I have written to him about it —to reduce the suffering which pigs sustain in their long journeys, especially by rail.

I was terribly shocked to learn the other day that pigs moved from St. Ives slaughterhouse in my constituency to bacon factories as far north as Lancashire were without food for three or four days of a week. I have had an acknowledgment from my hon. Friend to say that he is looking into the matter. I am sure that this sort of thing causes him and many others great concern. I look forward to the time when that suffering of pigs will also be reduced.

As my hon. and gallant Friend, who has so wisely and gracefully moved this Bill will understand very well, because his local problems are similar to mine, in the rural areas—the rather scattered rural areas—we have not many large slaughterhouses. In my constituency, which, although it is in a small county, is a very large constituency, we have 80 or 90 villages. We have no large slaughterhouses at all. We have one or two small slaughterhouses, and a very great deal has to be done by the butchers and by other people who are licensed as slaughtermen.

I am inclined to think that in most cases the wishes of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) would be respected in that the provisions of his Bill, relating to licensed slaughterhouses, are, through the good offices of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, brought to their notice. I wonder whether it is generally known what wonderful work has been done by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by the Ministry of Food in ensuring that.

Whenever a licence to kill is received, without any provisions with regard to slaughter—that is in slaughterhouses, and so on—the licence contains a statement which is headed, "Humane Slaughter of Animals." It points out that to ensure that the animal is humanely slaughtered you should have it dealt with at a slaughterhouse and if this is not practicable employ a skilled slaughterman. Where a humane stunner is not available, the police will give the address of the nearest inspector of the R.S.P.C.A.. or in Scotland or Northern Ireland of the Scottish or Ulster S.P.C.A. from whom one may be obtained on loan. In spite of that useful administrative precaution, there must be many cases, nevertheless, in which pigs not killed in slaughterhouses suffer. This Bill if properly enforced, as I hope it will be when it becomes an Act, should reduce that suffering. But there is one exception which does not appear to be covered by the Bill. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend can help with an explanation. I will willingly give way to him, or he may prefer to consider it during the Committee stage, but this is the point: as we all know, the little pigs which are poor suckers—all sorts of rude names are given to them; they are called runts, squirts and one could go through the whole vocabulary of names given to them—are knocked on the head. They are sometimes drowned.

I presume that they will have to continue to be knocked on the head or drowned. But then there are the pigs which are a little older. They are not just the poor suckers. They have got beyond that stage. Yet they have not grown to great maturity and we at home call them "poor doers." They ought perhaps to have been knocked on the head at an earlier age, if anyone had noticed they were likely to be "poor doers." These animals are not so easily killed. I am thinking of the six months' old pigs. They are not so easily killed by knocking them on the head with a mallet or something like that, and drowning them would, I think, be very cruel.

I am wondering whether, in Clause 3, the definition of a pig, which includes any boar, hog or sow is intended to refer to a young pig of about six months which is a "poor doer" because that is very important. If I may make the suggestion, it would perhaps be worth considering in Committee putting in the age of each boar, hog or sow at which the provisions of this Bill have to apply. That, I think, would put the matter beyond doubt.

Brigadier Rayner

I am a pig-keeper myself, and I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend. I think that it is a very good one, but that it had better be left to the Committee stage.

Mr. Renton

I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. Those are the main points.

Now, if I may, I will make an appeal to those outside the House who would be affected by this Bill. I know that our constituents very often think that we waste a lot of time here doing unnecessary things; but I hope that nobody will consider that this Measure is unnecessary. For the most part, people have a great love and respect for animals and treat them kindly but, unfortunately, even in this country, there are some who are insensitive, and we have to impress upon those who are, perhaps not through any reasons of malice but simply because they have not been brought up to think of animals in a sensitive way, that this is not a waste of time; that this is a very necessary Measure to prevent suffering. I should like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to my hon. and gallant Friend.

1.29 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I must declare my interest at the outset because, like the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), I also breed pigs on a small scale. They are very good pigs, and they go to the bacon factories. That, I hope, will bring a little satisfaction to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food.

The point to which I should like to refer is that raised by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), who spoke of the desire on the part of all of us to ensure that as little suffering as possible is caused to pigs or to any other animals destined for slaughter. In that desire we all share. He said that unnecessary cruelty is imposed upon pigs in transit from the place where they are reared to the slaughterhouse. It came as a revelation to me to discover that some pigs had to travel such enormous distances. I always make sure that my pigs have to travel only a short distance. The form which is sent to one through the Ministry from the bacon factory, on which the name and address of the factory is disclosed, gives the grading that one's pigs have achieved, and the price that one gets for the pigs depends upon their grading.

In my part of the country the pigs have to travel only a few miles and it can easily be arranged that the pig is in the bacon factory before the end of the day on which it is delivered live to the Ministry of Food agent. I appreciate that the distribution of the bacon factories may not allow that to happen in all parts of the country, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give heed to what has been said. It strikes me as curious, that, as the hon. Member for Huntingdon has said, it should be necessary to send pigs all the way from Cornwall or Devon to the North of England.

Mr. Renton

If I might correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the St. Ives to which I referred was that in Huntingdonshire, which should not be confused with the St. Ives in Cornwall. Neverthe- less, it is a long way from the St. Ives in Huntingdonshire to Burnley and Blackpool in Lancashire, where pigs have recently been sent.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

In any event, it is a long distance. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food will do whatever he can to ensure that unnecessary cost in transport is avoided and that live pigs are not transported over unnecessary distances, which may entail suffering.

I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes upon the Bill, which will, I hope, help to raise the standard of private enterprise pig-killing in the backward areas of the country. The standard of the more or less public enterprise bacon factory is very high. One can go to such a factory and see exactly what is happening to one's own pig and find out how it is being graded; and I am not aware that anyone has ever had cause for complaint about the way reputable bacon factories conduct their operations on behalf of the Ministry of Food. It is, however, necessary for the private enterprise small scale pig-killers to be brought to higher and more humane standards, and if the Bill contributes to that, it is worthy of the utmost support.

1.34 p.m.

Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)

The final words of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brixton (Lieut-Colonel Lipton) constitute the greatest recommendation for the Bill. It is introduced to eliminate the difference between the humane and proper way in which the great majority of pigs are killed at the knacker's yard and the way in which a small minority are killed in backyards. Several times this week we have heard that the minority, as well as the majority, must be respected, and thus we are today saying a word on behalf of this minority of pigs.

No one knows the exact numbers concerned, but the reports about what happens in backyards where pigs are kept are bad. Statistics show that, in 1951, 372,000 pigs were killed, and that in the first six months of 1952, 215,000 were killed, a rate of nearly half a million pigs a year. Some of these pigs are sent to slaughterhouses and all is well; some are merely knifed, sometimes expertly and sometimes very inexpertly. The really important change is that there will be many more pigs killed in backyards since the announcement of the Government's policy to free feedingstuffs. I have always thought that pigs are the best agricultural product that we can produce in this country. We have no large open spaces to grow all the wheat we want but we have the room to produce pigs, and I am sure that more and more pigs will be kept on small farms and in backyards, and, thus, more will be slaughtered.

Hon. Members have shown great concern about this subject of slaughter for many years. Questions have been asked in the House and letters have been written to the Press. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) has rendered the House a service by introducing the Bill and giving us a chance to make the system what we think it should be.

Reference has been made to the fact that the Government send with the licence to kill a notice about the proper way to deal with pigs. But there is a great difference between advising people what they should do and compelling them to do it in the proper way. Two hon. Members said that they had witnessed the scene of a pig being bled to death. I did that when I was very young, and I can remember to this day the screams I heard on that occasion. This sort of killing is still going on, but I do not want to tell gruesome stories of what happens.

The practice can be prevented. My hon. and gallant Friend said that it is no longer necessary to bleed pigs. He may be right, but I know that an opposite point of view is held by some people. If it is necessary to bleed pigs, one can stun them with a mechanical device and then carry out the bleeding, and I am certain that it is right and proper that this should be done. It may be said that there are no facilities for stunning pigs properly before cutting their throats. If that is so, the pigs can be sent to a slaughterhouse, as many are, and I believe that people should be forced and bound to send the pigs to slaughterhouses if they have not the facilities. There are also alternatives. People can easily borrow mechanical instruments. The R.S.P.C.A. provides them and will deliver them at one's house in order to avoid cruelty. Failing all else, one can hire an expert to kill the pig in the proper manner.

Brigadier Rayner

My hon. Friend said that I suggested that it was not necessary to bleed pigs. It is as necessary to bleed them now as it has ever been. My point was that they can be bled just as properly, fully and efficiently after the use of the humane killer as they can be in the old manner. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says. I merely wanted to make that point clear.

Mr. Williams

My hon. and gallant Friend is right. If a mechanical killer is used, the pig can be properly stunned and then bled while it is still alive, if that is supposed to be necessary. Some people may argue that there may be no electricity supply into which one can plug the mechanical stunner. If electricity is not available, surely the pig owners should be bound to send the animals to a slaughterhouse, bring in an expert or seek the help of the R.S.P.C.A. That is not asking too much.

The Slaughter of Animals Act, mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has worked successfully for 20 years. I have heard no complaints by butchers, bacon manufacturers, trade interests or anyone else, and I join in asking now for its extension to what I choose to call the backyard pig. It is only right and proper that this anomaly should be put right, and my hon. and gallant Friend has given us that chance. I feel sure that the House will agree with him that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.

1.40 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

I, too, welcome the Bill of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner). The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) referred to the rights of minorities and was going off into general political theories. We were reminded by some hon. Members of how like the human being the pig is. Some may recall "Animal Farm" and the remarkable similarities between the pigs and men. Some of the good features are reflected in the animals and some of the bad features, too. It will be remembered how, in "Animal Farm", the rights of minorities were respected when it began with all animals being equal. But before we knew where we were some of them "were more equal than others."

I think we can all agree that pigs themselves amuse us, especially the young pigs, and that that is one of the problems of "the little pig with the curly tail, soft as satin, and pinky and pale," which is "a much more fascinating thing by far than the lumps of iniquity the big pigs are." That, of course, is true.

But the pig does more than amuse us. In the United States especially, medical science is using pigs because of the similarity of their internal organs and those of man. So it is being used more and more by surgeons there. It has been pointed out by those who have spent a lifetime among pigs and mixed with their fellow men, too, that they are externally alike in many ways. I have heard pig breeders describe their fellow men as Large Whites, Saddle Backs, Hampshire Hogs or even Lincolnshire Curly Coats in the case of a particularly fancifully dressed type.

I must deal with two points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore). He seemed, first, to be worried about ritual slaughter. I am not an authority on this subject, but it occurs to me that one thing that is impossible is a kosher pig. Therefore, I do not think he need be unduly worried about it. Perhaps I am wrong, but it strikes me as though he were worried unnecessarily.

Secondly, he made a reference to Northern Ireland. He mentioned that during the Committee stage he proposed to put down an Amendment to include Northern Ireland. Before he does that I hope he will consult the Home Office so that a Minister in Committee upstairs can tell us whether the Northern Ireland Government will agree to any such Amendment, because if anything is within the domestic jurisdiction of Northern Ireland surely it is the way they kill their pigs. They have excellent pig factories there, as I have seen for myself, and probably there is as much need for his legislation as there is in England and Wales.

One of the pleasant features of this debate has been the way in which country Members and urban Members have come together in supporting this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner), who introduced it, spoke from the point of view of pigsticking in India, as reported in the "Field," and my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) spoke from the point of view of pigsticking in Lancashire, as reported in the "Butcher." They have completely different approaches, but both came to the same point: support for the Bill. It is difficult to understand and explain the feelings of a person who will kill an animal in the chase, but will not kill it in cold blood. I myself would shoot a rabbit in a field, but if the rabbit comes into my garden and I have had an opportunity to get to know it I do not shoot it. I think that that generally applies.

Enforcement of the Bill is, of course, the important matter. We can pass the Bill, but its enforcement depends on public opinion. Once it is realised that the instruments are easily available, there will be less difficulty, but a lot depends on education in the more remote areas. The National Farmers' Union and the trade unions can do a great deal. I hope that as the years pass when we come to read Charles Lamb's Essay or, better still, to eat the roast pork we shall do so with a clear conscience. I join in asking the House to agree to give a Second Reading to this Bill.

1.46 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

In a debate where one hon. Member after another takes the same side one is tempted by an imp of mischief to take an opposite view. But in considering this Bill anybody who was against it could be described, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton), as a poor sucker. The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) described himself and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) as a pair of pigstickers. He was a professional pigsticker and my hon. and gallant Friend an amateur pigsticker. I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend is different from another soldier referred to by Mr. Noel Coward in one of his more amusing songs. This soldier got into some trouble not only because his mess bills exceeded his pay, but because he took to pigsticking in quite the wrong way.

It is on that basis of pigsticking in the wrong way that I want to say a word or two, and I want to follow the theme of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon. It is absolutely vital that this Bill should be passed, because we should not be complacent, and think that throughout the length and breadth of the country the present method of slaughtering is as good as it might be. I think we must always look at that, and I was very glad to hear mentioned the question of long distances, because I represent a rural, agricultural constituency, and it is undoubtedly the case that there is suffering there which sometimes, though by no means always, is due to carelessness and it can be eradicated.

I want to talk for a moment or two about what goes on in the slaughterhouse itself. A modern up-to-date one is a very remarkable place. Mr. Pig disappears through the front door. I do not think we can say that we can see his elegant stern disappearing in through the door as the stern of Robert Burns' Cutty Sark disappears through the front door, but the pig enters the factory and in an incredibly short time Mr. Pig is changed into an enormous quantity of commodities ranging from sausages to pigskin wallets.

It is the moment at which it enters that door to which I want to refer. Many hon. Members have mentioned that the pig is a sensitive and highly intelligent animal. Every human being has a definite sense of fear of death, and the more intelligent animals have that fear as well. In some slaughterhouses the method adopted when a pig is brought in could be better. More mercy could be shown to the pig.

As I understand, in some of these places a terrible looking instrument, rather like an enormous sugar-tong, is poked at the pig, among a whole lot of other squealing animals. Once the pig is firmly grasped, he is mercifully despatched. I suggest that it might be easy, in many of these slaughterhouses, to have a kind of corridor—some method which might be described by the way in which hon. Members leave the Division Lobbies, coming out one by one— whereby the pig could be taken to his death without having any anticipation of it, even for a matter of seconds.

My other point concerns the climate of opinion. When my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) introduced his Bill, 20 years ago, I was impressed by the kind of remarks made by the hon. Member for Salford, West. In those days there was a tremendous outcry from butchers, because something new was being done. There is still a feeling among smallholders and farmers that this Measure is not necessary. Only time will prove to them that it is necessary and will convert them, just as the butchers have been universally converted. The Bill has my full support, and I know that it has the full support of every thinking agriculturist.

1.52 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I do not know what success the Parliamentary Secretary has had, but when I occupied his position at the Ministry of Food there was always strong and consistent pressure to induce me to go into the bacon factories. I was fortunate enough, however, always to be able to plead other more important matters of State, so I never had that experience.

I do not want my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) to prejudice the pig by quoting "Napoleon" and his totalitarian tendencies which upset "Animal Farm." My hon. Friend did not mention the help which the Home Office gave us at the Ministry of Food when we discussed this question with the R.S.P.C.A. We had long discussions with them and were most anxious to go as far as we could to meet them. What we did was to arrange that before any slaughter notice should be given of where the humane killer could be obtained. We tried to make it as convenient as possible to the farmer so that he would make a practice of obtaining a humane killer. We would have gone further had we felt that we were able to do so.

At that time we knew of certain large local authorities which, quite without authority, insisted upon the requirement of the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner). I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to accept the proposals which have been put forward, or, if not, that he will explain to the House the difficulties which prevent him from doing so. I think, however, that I can anticipate that, at any rate, the Ministry of Food will be still anxious to go as far as they can in meeting the very understandable point of view of the hon. and gallant Member.

1.55 p.m.

Mr. Robert Crouch (Dorset, North)

I quite understand the feelings that have prompted my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) to introduce the Bill and the reason so many hon. Members have given him their support. Unfortunately, I do not feel able to give my wholehearted support, because certain difficulties would be created by the present form of the Bill for people in the very rural areas.

In the more rural parts of these islands it would impose a great hardship upon people if they had to bring their pig for slaughter to a place where electricity was available. It has been my experience, and I know from knowledge that I have sought, that when pigs are slaughtered with a humane killer—that is, the animal is actually dead before it is bled—the meat is not of the same quality as when the life slips out whilst the pig is being stunned by an electric stunner.

Brigadier Rayner

My hon. Friend cannot have been present during the whole of the debate. Electrical stunning has never been referred to. The question of proper bleeding has been dealt with in great detail.

Mr. Crouch

I heard the two opening speeches and then dashed away for a little luncheon. In Clause 1, however, paragraph (a) says that the pig shall be instantaneously slaughtered or shall by stunning … Surely my hon. and gallant Friend is not suggesting that the animal should be stunned by someone running around with a mallet. Today all pigs in the bacon factories are electrically stunned.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hor-sham (Mr. Gough) was concerned about pigs being stunned in the catching pens of the bacon factories. He will be relieved to know that in Dorset we have modern bacon factories. The pigs walk into a little pen on their own and are there out of sight of their neighbours. They walk in one by one. As each one is stunned, it falls forward, out of sight of other pigs, to the butcher with the knife. The platform is balanced so that it is up and after the animal passes the centre it tips forward.

Mr. Gough

I am delighted to hear that. It is a model for every slaughterhouse throughout the country and is a triumph of a little commonsense and foresight. Surely, however, my hon. Friend is wrong to read only paragraph (a) of Clause 1. Paragraph (b) says that the slaughter or stunning shall be effected by means of a mechanically-operated instrument in proper repair. Does not that answer my hon. Friend?

Mr. Crouch

My point is that the stunning today is all done by electricity. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, my experience and information is that the bacon factories do not use any other form of stunning than electricity. The old method of using a mallet went out a long time ago.

If the Bill goes through without Amendment, a great deal of difficulty will be caused to the people in the more rural areas. Unless the pig bleeds itself out before death, the pork or bacon, into whichever it is converted, will not be of such good keeping quality as when the animal has been properly bled. The use of the humane killer would mean that a great deal of first-class live meat would deteriorate considerably after the animal had been killed.

In view of the fact that the Government have been so successful in removing restrictions and regulations with regard to the keeping of pigs, I think that the Bill in its present form would do much to undo the good work that the Ministry of Food have already done. I hope that if the Bill receives its Second Reading, as doubtless it will, there will be an opportunity in Committee to find the means of giving to people in the rural areas that latitude which would enable them to slaughter their pigs at home if they are a considerable distance from an electric or other stunner, and to enable them to store the valuable pig meat which they will have produced as the result of a great deal of care and attention. I am not going to vote against this Bill, but I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will see whether he can make this a better Bill when it goes to Committee upstairs.

2.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

May I first join in the chorus of congratulation to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) for having taken the opportunity presented to him and seeking to do a precise, well defined but an important piece of work still further to minimise the suffering which animals undergo? I doubt whether he could have expected that this subject would have aroused so much poetry, history and, I think, democracy, too, today. I am certain he will get his Second Reading and all I wish to do now is briefly to mention one or two points of difficulty which have to be met if my hon. and gallant Friend is to secure his purpose in a way that can be made really effective.

When the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) was developing his references to the relationship between pigs and men, I was glad, for reasons I need not elaborate, that he did not proceed with the comparison. But when he slipped into the egalitarian theme I was reminded of Arthur Street's little couplet: Dogs look up to us, Cats look down on us, But pigs is equal. There are one or two difficulties. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) described this Bill as an extension of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, to the backyard. Broadly speaking, that is true, but there is a not unimportant point to bear in mind. The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, particularly excludes pigs where there is no supply of electricity in the slaughterhouse or knacker's yard. What is here proposed is a higher level of security for the backyard pig than applies to pigs slaughtered in the premises covered by the Act of 1933.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) said that electricity is the method of stunning and spoke as if electricity were the only method. If that be true—if I may so put it in order not to get into that controversy myself—the question would be exceedingly difficult. But I am informed that the captive bolt method is a method commonly employed, and usefully employed where the job is skilfully done, for the purpose of stunning. Therefore, the sweeping argument used by my hon. Friend based on the assumption that the method of electricity is the only method seems to fall to the ground.

Mr. Crouch

I do remember when that method was introduced, but it was not so very successful immediately we got this other form of stunning. I am unaware of any slaughterhouse which is using any other means of stunning than electricity. It is so much more simple.

Dr. Hill

Perhaps my hon. Friend will take it from me that, after having made inquiries on that point, I find that the captive bolt method is still used and, in certain circumstances, is the method preferred, even in the slaughterhouse.

In the Committee stage of this Bill it will be necessary for my hon. and gallant Friend to define with a little more precision what is meant by a "mechanically-operated instrument." No doubt he will consider the definition in the Act of 1933 which contains words to make clear that the electrical method is included within that definition, but not, of course, to convey that electricity is the only method which would satisfy the words in the Clause here. It must also be made clear that this electrical method and the captive bolt method reduce the amount of suffering only if they are in skilled hands. Let us face the fact that the captive bolt method, the pistol method, can aggravate suffering if it is used without skill.

I am not now seeking to press the point that the slaughter should be conducted only by a licensed slaughterman, although I can see an argument for making that requirement where such services are available. I think we should remind ourselves that it is not enough to require that the mechanically-operated method should be used, nor is it enough to secure that such instruments are available. It is also necessary, if we are to achieve the purpose that all join in praising, to secure that skill is used by the operator.

There is no reference to the authority which is to administer the Act when it so becomes. As matters stand, I imagine it would be the police in the absence of any specific reference. The Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, is administered by local authorities and there is something to be said for considering whether local authorities should be mentioned in this connection, particularly when we bear in mind the other responsibilities of local authorities in the field of hygiene and the functions which they exercise at approximately the time of slaughter.

While joining in the chorus of praise given to my hon. and gallant Friend from both sides of the House, I am sure he will not misunderstand me when I say that doing good is not a particularly easy thing and that in the Committee stage—which I am sure will follow—it is desirable that certain practical problems and difficulties shall be faced, including those I have mentioned, and no doubt others which will be in the minds of hon. Members. I think he has performed a most useful service. I know that he will agree that the next stage of making certain by facing the practical difficulties involved that this really works and really does reduce the amount of suffering is no less important than the approval of the general objective. I have no doubt the House will give this approval by granting a Second Reading to this Bill.

2.10 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I hope that the speech which we have just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food does not mean that when this Bill goes upstairs to a Committee it will receive other than constructive support from the Ministry and any other Department of State that may be interested in it. It would be a pity, on a Bill that starts off with so much good will behind it. if technical difficulties should be piled up to prevent the realisation of the objective which the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Brigadier Rayner) has in mind.

I am glad to know that the Parliamentary Secretary is at last discovering that any efforts to do good are confronted with considerable difficulties. I can only imagine that he is now, as a novice, trying to do good after spending so long a time at his Ministry, and has just had this borne in on his mind in a flash. I can only hope that he will persevere in well doing if he can find any good to do there, and not be deterred. We have had a very encouraging debate from both sides of the House, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will be able to overcome the difficulties that have been suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I think that it is better that the operation of the Bill should be generally under the supervision of the sanitary inspector of the local authority rather than the police because the police have a great many jobs to do, and a policeman snooping round the backyards might give undesirable notoriety to perfectly respectable people who are perhaps finding some difficulty in complying with all the requirements of the law.

A visit of the sanitary inspector, on the other hand, does not bring the same kind of opprobrium on the man who is keeping a pig in what is described as a backyard. I imagine that neighbours would more likely think that the occupier of that house had at last managed to persuade the sanitary inspector to take some interest in the shortcomings of the landlord rather than that he was taking any interest in any iniquities on the part of the tenant, who might easily be regarded as a person to be honoured rather than despised.

In view of all that has been said today about this Bill, I sincerely hope that the hon. and gallant Member will get the Measure through Committee in sufficient time for it to complete the Report and Third Reading stages in this House and go to another place for consideration and, I hope, acceptance before the Session ends.

Question put, and agreed to.

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