HC Deb 12 February 1954 vol 523 cc1513-38

Order for Second Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)

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

I hope not to detain the House too long, but this is a rather technical Bill which I am anxious to make as clear as possible. It will be necessary for me to keep closely to my notes, because I am neither an expert nor a veterinary surgeon..

The main object of the Bill is to bring properly up to date the law relating to the use of anaesthetics in animal operations. There has been no legislation on this some what technical subject since the Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, 1919. That was the first Act to make anaesthetics compulsory for certain operations on animals. During the last 35 years, however, there have been many important advances in the field of anaesthesia and in the range and development of anaesthetic agents now suitable for application to animals. Again, there have been many developments in regard to new operations on animals, and the invention of new techniques for applying anaesthesia in such cases. In those circumstances, the veterinary profession has for some time been unhappy about the present inadequacy of the 1919 Act, which it considers to be far too rigid and limited in its scope.

The Schedule to that Act has, to a very considerable extent, become out of date, and I understand that some of the operations for which general anaesthesia is compulsory under the Schedule could be far more humanely performed with the use of a modern type of local anaesthesia. For instance, the removal of an ovary in a bovine must be done under general anaesthesia, but I am assured that in modern conditions such operations are far more efficiently performed with the animal standing, under a spinal anaesthetic.

The operation of stripping the sole or wall from the claw or hoof may be performed, without any anaesthetic, on any animal except the horse, where a general anaesthetic is scheduled despite the fact that the local anaesthetic known as nerve block anaesthesia is more easily, more frequently and more efficiently used on the horse than on any other animal. The 1919 Act makes anaesthesia compulsory for operations on extensive tumours in a horse, but not in the case of dog, the species in which such operations are most often performed.

Rare operations such as a quitter in the horse and enucleation of the eyeball are included in the 1919 Act, whereas many more common major operations are not included, even though in some cases they require very complicated anaesthesia. Such operations include the reducing of fractures and dislocations, the opening of joints, the pinning and screwing of bones, amputations, operations on chest, lungs, heart, brain, etc. Dental operations on horses are included in the 1919 Act, but there is no reference to tooth extraction for dogs, in which dental disease is most common.

Under this Bill the use of anaesthetics will be compulsory for all except minor operations upon all animals, but not upon birds, fish or reptiles. The latter group have been excluded because, up to the present time, no completely satisfactory methods of an aesthetising all types of birds, fish, or reptiles have been discovered. The placing of this Bill on the Statute Book, therefore, would be a considerable advance towards ensuring humane conditions in animal operations. It would also give the veterinary profession a better opportunity of taking advantage of all up-to-date scientific developments in the application of an aesthesia. I must make it clear again—and this I think will be apparent to the House—that I myself am in no way an expert in these matters, but I am satisfied from everything I have read that the Bill is a necessary and desirable Measure.

The original draft of this Bill was introduced in another place at a late stage last Session, and obtained an unopposed Second Reading there on 27th October, but it could not make any further progress before the Session ended a few days later. That Bill was prepared by the British Veterinary Association, which is the equivalent, in the veterinary field, of the British Medical Association. Not only had it the support of the veterinary profession, including that of the Scottish Branch of the British Veterinary Association, and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, but also the support, in principle, of the main agricultural interests concerned, that is to say, the National Farmers' Union, and the National Cattle Breeders' Association, and also the British Horse Society and the Kennel Club. The R.S.P.C.A. has also made it clear that, in principle, it is a supporter of the Bill, as is the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals.

When the Bill came up for Second Reading in another place, on 27th October, it was made clear by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture that the Government, too, were fully in support of the Bill in principle. Finally, I am informed that the British Veterinary Association— which, as I have already indicated, has been taking a leading part in this matter—has, so far, not been informed of any opposition from any quarter. After the Bill obtained its Second Reading in another place it was carefully scrutinised by the Ministry of Agriculture, in consultation with the Scottish Office and the Parliamentary draftsmen. As a result of that scrutiny, certain amendments were suggested by the Ministry, and these have been incorporated in this Bill.

I now come to the main points in the Bill. First, it repeals the Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, 1919, which I have already shown to be out of date. It then goes on to provide, in Clause 1, that, henceforward, any operation which is performed on any kind of animal, with the exception of birds, fish and reptiles, without the administration of an an aesthetic to prevent the animal feeling pain throughout the operation …shall be deemed…to be an operation which is performed without due care and humanity… within the meaning of the Protection of Animals Act, 1911.

In that Act it is made an offence of cruelty, subject to a minimum penalty of £25 or three months' imprisonment, to submit any animal to any operation which is performed without due care and humanity, so that if and when this Bill becomes law it will be an offence, subject to certain exceptions contained in the First Schedule, to perform any operations upon any animals without an anaesthetic.

Under Clause 1 (2) an operation is defined, and provision is made for the exclusion of certain minor operations set out in the First Schedule. Under subsection (3) the Minister of Agriculture or the Secretary of State for Scotland is given the power to make alterations to an important paragraph—paragraph 6 of the First Schedule. I understand that this Schedule was drawn up with considerable care by the British Veterinary Association, in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. To some extent—and I know that the House will understand this—it is necessary to compromise if a Bill of this kind is to reach the Statute Book and be adequately enforced.

There are some points in the Schedule to which I want to draw particular attention. It exempts an operation involved in any experiment authorised under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, since conditions under which these experiments take place are already controlled by other means. It exempts, for obvious reasons, any operations which are tantamount to first-aid for the purpose of saving life or relieving pain. It exempts the docking of a puppy's tail and the amputation of the dew claws of a dog before its eyes are opened. It exempts any minor operations which would normally be performed by a layman and which, otherwise, would come within the definition of the Bill—artificial insemination, ear punching, etc.—and finally, it exempts the castration of certain male animals up to a certain maximum age.

Some people may think that some of those ages are too low or too high, but if there are any material differences of opinion, I suggest that they can be fully debated during the Committee stage. In arriving at these ages the British Veterinary Association was concerned to ensure, first, a reasonable degree of humanity and, secondly, a reasonable chance of enforceability.

I want to refer, briefly, to the great work which the veterinary profession has accomplished over recent years. This profession, which numbers no more than 5,500, has been largely responsible for eradicating the major killing diseases from our livestock in this country. It has enabled us to build up an immense prestige as the stud farm of the world, and it has played a most valuable part in enabling our dairy industry to increase milk production to its present high level.

Those of us who have anything to do with the country know that veterinary surgeons are always ready to come to our aid at any time of the night or day, and how well we know the relief from anxiety when, with a sick animal on our hands, and living far in the country, that veterinary surgeon arrives at any hour of the night or day. It is, therefore, a great pleasure to me to assist this profession by bringing forward this Bill to enable all concerned to take greater advantage of the advances which have been made in veterinary surgery, for which they themselves are mainly responsible.

In a very delightful book, which many hon. Members may have read—Lady Emily Lutyens's book, "A Blessed Girl"—there is a description of Lady Anne, the wife of Wilfred Blunt. She was the granddaughter of Lord Byron by his daughter, Ada, who married Lord Lovelace. She was a very kind and lovable person. She was very small, with a nut-brown face and bright, beady eyes, and she always reminded the authoress of a robin. She was an Arabic scholar, having learnt that language in order to make a study of everything to do with Arab horses. She was a passionate lover of horses, and went to bed fully equipped for riding—top boots and all—so that shemight be ready to ride in the early hours of next morning.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

Spurs, too?

Viscountess Davidson

I do not know whether she wore spurs. The chief point I want to make about her is that when she was ill she called in a "vet" and not a doctor. I feel that that is a great compliment to the veterinary profession.

I have mentioned the details of my Bill. So far as its principles are concerned, I would emphasise that it should go a long way to ensure that the advances which have been made, in recent years, in scientific knowledge about animal anaesthetics shall now be applied, in practice, in this country. The veterinary profession assures us that the time has now come when all painful surgical operations upon animals should be carried out under conditions which will reduce pain to the absolute minimum. It is most desirable that we should help the profession to obtain that object by bringing the relevant legislation up to date, and I hope that the House will be prepared to give this Measure a unanimous Second Reading.

11.19 a.m.

Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)

I beg to second the Motion. It has been most ably moved by the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (ViscountessDavidson). This is one of a series of Measures dealing with the welfare of creatures other than ourselves. I think it speaks very well for this House that so many such Measures have been introduced by Members on both sides of the House when they have had good luck in the Ballot and so had the opportunity to introduce legislation.

We interfere with the lives of domestic animals a great deal. Some of our interference is clearly to their advantage. We give them security by removing some of the risks to which normal animals are exposed. On the other hand, we relieve them of some of the pleasures and interests that normal animals expect throughout their lives.

When we submit them to surgery it may be for their good but it is mainly in our interest. The animals do not ask us for operations. They do not understand them, and they appear to resent them, although I must say that sick dogs and cats often make very nice patients and seem to enjoy themselves as invalids. Nevertheless, the main object of operations on domestic animals is our benefit, and that being so, it behoves us to carry out operative treatment as kindly and with as little discomfort as can possibly be managed, and that is really the object of this Bill.

Although I have carried out very many operations in my time and given not a few anaesthetics, my experience as regards creatures other than the kind to which I belong is very limited indeed. But I know that surgery in animals and surgery in man have very much in common, and I know also that they have changed very materially since the last Act dealing with this matter, the Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, 1919.

Great changes have taken place in the anaesthetics used both for animals and men. At that time we used mainly chloroform and ether for general anaesthesia and cocaine derivations for local anaesthesia. Now many different anaesthetics are used, and may be given by injection into the veins of animals or men—nerve blocks, spinal anaesthesia, and so on.

Also since the time of the former Act there has been another very striking difference in surgery. In 1919, there were practically no drugs which, introduced into the body of an animal or a man, would kill the germs before they killed the individual that harboured them. Now we have all sorts of drugs called antibiotics which kill germs without killing us or the animals concerned, such as penicillin, sulphanimides and aureomycin. By the use of these we are able to carry out in animals and men operations that would have been very difficult in 1919. So that the scope of surgery in both animals and men has changed very much indeed since that Animals (Anaesthetics) Act was passed.

I believe there is another change that has taken place since 1919 amongst both doctors and the veterinary surgeons. I believe that both are much more kind and sympathetic and much less ready to cause unnecessary pain.

As has already been said by the noble Lady, the Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, 1919, with its six Schedules, provides a list of animals, a list of operations, and saysthat in some of these there is a choice of anaesthetics, and in some cases only a general anaesthetic must be given. But things have changed a good deal and many of the operations scheduled in that Act are very rarely performed.

Moreover, there are scores of other operations that are performed almost every day by veterinary surgeons and are not even mentioned in that Act. So conditions have changed very much, and the object of this Bill is to give the veterinary surgeon much more freedom; but freedom, not licence, because this Bill is very careful to restrict as far as may be any cruelty to animals.

With the exception mentioned in the First Schedule, any operation carried out without a proper anaesthetic will, under the terms of the Bill, be deemed to be carried out without due care and humanity, and the principal Act, the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, says that if an operation is carried out without due care and humanity the person carrying it out will be guilty of cruelty. There are punishments for cruelty stated in that Act—fine or imprisonment or both.

The kernel of this very useful Bill is to be found in the First Schedule. One of the very vauable points about the Bill is that the ages given in this Schedule can be changed. In the Schedule are stated the ages below which castration can take place if given without an anaesthetic, and various animals are mentioned, but those times can be changed by Statutory Instrument, if agreed by this House.

There are two points in the First Schedule regarding excepted operations, as they are called, to which I should like to draw attention: Any experiment duly authorised under the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876 is excepted. I am quite sure that it would be the wish of hon. Members that all laboratory investigations, which are dealt with in that Act, should be fully exempted under this Bill. My only anxiety is this. I want other minor operations regularly employed in the preparation of life-saving drugs to be excepted as well. I am not quite sure that this Bill does except them. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us when he speaks.

For instance, many curative serums are prepared from animals; a valuable anti-diphtheria serum is prepared by injecting the toxin of diphtheria into horses and drawing off the blood from the veins; and this is used as anti-toxin. I do not think that can be called an experiment in the true sense of the word, and I am sure it is the wish of all hon. Members that such acts should not be considered contrary to the spirit of the Bill.

There is another and perhaps even more important point that I want to mention. The last paragraph in the First Schedule of exempted operations reads: Any minor operation which is normally performed by persons other than veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners. I think that is too vague. The noble Lady gave examples, such as artificial insemination and the punching of an animal's ear for identification purposes. Quite rightly, she suggested that these should not be included in the Bill.

I suggest that there are others, such, for example, as cutting off the sharp teeth of sucking pigs. That is often carried out and, of course, comes under the Bill because the Bill deals with bone structures as well as sensitive tissues, and teeth could be called bone structure. I wonder whether a change might be introduced during the Committee stage so that instead of this rather vague statement we might make a list of the procedures which are normally performed by persons other than veterinary surgeons, and allow the Minister responsible under the Bill to add to this list by a Statutory Instrument.

Those are minor points which can be dealt with on the Committee stage. I strongly commend this excellent Bill to the House, and I hope that it will be given a unanimous Second Reading.

11.33 a.m.

Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)

We must all compliment my noble Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) not only on introducing the Bill, but also on the lucid and persuasive way in which she has presented it to the House. She has not quite succeeded in persuading me to follow the example of the lady about whom she told us at the end of her speech, and I must confess that when my aching bones require treatment I do not intend to send for a veterinary surgeon, much as I share her admiration for that profession.

The noble Lady is doing a very good turn to animals by introducing the Bill, but she is also doing a very good turn to human beings. Many of us have long been concerned and perturbed about the methods by which, it is reported, experiments on animals are carried out. This Bill will relieve our minds to a very great extent. It is a kind of bridge or half-way house between the vivisectionists and the anti-vivisectionists. There are those who believe that vivisection is a necessity for the animals themselves, since its results have been the means of saving many animals a great deal of suffering and of avoiding future diseases. They feel, too, that it is also a necessity for human beings, because through those experiments, much as we dislike them, many of us have been saved to a ripe old age when otherwise we might have yielded to the onward march of time much earlier.

There are those, holding the contrary view, who is completely opposed to any form of vivisection for any purpose and at any time. I have never been able to convince myself, or been convinced by their arguments, that that attitude can be justified, much though I understand and sympathise with it.

We have all been concerned, in these experiments on animals—and I share the dislike of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) of the word "experiment"—as to whether, in conducting them in the past, there has been unnecessary pain or suffering or even acute discomfort. I must tell my hon. Friend that I believe we can make amendments in Committee which will improve the Bill, but even as drafted it should assuage most of our doubts for the future. I therefore warmly support my noble Friend in her efforts to obtain an unopposed Second Reading for the Bill, which, I believe, will have the warm support of vivisectionists and anti-vivisectionists alike.

It will also comfort my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) in that it has not been promoted or inspired by any of the humane societies. I should like to digress for a moment to refer to a speech made by my hon. Friend a fortnight ago when the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Bill was being discussed in the House. I am referring to certain rather severe criticisms which my hon. Friend made and which, on second thoughts, he would probably like to withdraw.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)


Sir T. Moore

Unfortunately, I was not here to defend the societies which he criticised. I have been associated with most of the reputable societies for most of my life and I should therefore like to say a few words about the devoted and self-sacrificing efforts of busy men and women, in all walks of life, who voluntarily give their services to the cause in which they believe.

I hope my hon. Friend will believe me when I tell him that they are not all emotional sentimentalists or self-seekers. They are people who give their energy, their time, their thoughts and their care because they believe it is a good thing to do. In fact, far from being emotional or sentimental, we have had in this House fox hunters, masters of hounds, business men and farmers who have devoted much of their working lives, when time has been available to them, in helping this cause of the protection of animals.

My hon. Friend mentioned on that occasion that the Slaughter of Animals (Amendment) Bill, which, happily, secured a Second Reading, had not been promoted by any animal society or given any encouragement by them. I think it was rather unfair of him not to mention the International League for the Protection of Horses, because for as long as can be remembered the League has been conducting a noble campaign in defence of the horse, which culminated in the Bill a fortnight ago. Some of us will remember our old colleague, Sir George Cockerill, who is still guiding the destiny of the League. Although they were not exactly responsible for sponsoring the Bill, it might fairly be termed their godchild.

I am sure my hon. Friend will accept in good part the next point which I make. Speaking of the R.S.P.C.A., he said: I found that the members' love of animals was exceeded only by their hatred of mankind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January. 1954; Vol. 522, c. 2073.] There was laughter at that comment. We all know, of course, that my hon. Friend has a boyish and, at times, endearing habit of gross exaggeration. I will refrain from further comment on his speech, except to say that their hatred of mankind seems materially to have decreased since my hon. Friend left the Council.

This is an admirable Bill. Although it may not go as far as many people would like it to go, it is a step—not the first step but a further step—towards the aim which many of us have of making life more tolerable, more kindly and easier for those animals which are the victims of their own and our interests. There is, however, one criticism I would make, and that is that there is nothing, so far as I can find, in the Bill to show what happens to people who infringe the requirement of the Measure. There are no sanctions; there are no penalties.

Sir H. Williams

Yes, there are.

Sir T. Moore

Not in this Bill.

Sir H. Williams

If my hon. Friend will read Clause 2, he will find that it runs with certain other Acts mentioned in the Schedules.

Sir T. Moore

I quite appreciate my hon. Friend's point, but there is nothing exactly mentioned.

It is usual in a Bill of this nature to make clear to those who have to obey the provisions of the Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament what will happen to them if they refuse to obey or neglect to obey; and for that reason I think that it would have been perhaps better if the position had been made clear and decisive in the body of the Bill. However, these are Committee points which can be settled very easily, if they require settlement. I think that we all join in sending the Bill on its way with our general good wishes and congratulations to my hon. and noble Friend.

11.42 a.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene for a minute or two to express the view of the Government on this Bill. I listened with interest and sympathy to the exposition of the purposes and merits of the Bill given by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) and I should like to congratulate her on her sucess in bringing it forward and on doing something which, I think, will commend itself to everybody as being of great value in relieving pain and suffering of animals.

We are, after all, a nation of animal lovers pre-eminently of any nation in the world, and, therefore, I think it is consistent with the general feeling that we have for animals that we should enlarge the protection that the law gives to them. The fact is that this Bill will help to make, as was said by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), a comprehensive protection for all operations, by requiring an anaesthetic generally and defining only the exceptions. In other words, it does exactly the reverse of what the 1919 Act did, which was valuable in itself. This Bill goes that much further, and I feel sure that it will commend itself to everybody.

The hon. Member for Barking specifically asked me whether the First Schedule interfered with such matters as the making of serums for anti-toxins by drawing off blood from animals. I am advised that it will not. Paragraph 1 of the First Schedule refers to the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, which applies only to experiments, and this particular kind of action is not regarded as an experiment; it is a routine matter, and, therefore, it will not be touched by this particular paragraph.

I should say one word about this Schedule. As my hon. Friend has said in introducing the Bill, great care has been taken in consultation with the veterinary profession and the farming interests to secure a proper balance in this Schedule so that this very valuable humane Measure shall not interfere with the practical interests of farming life.

I believe that in the Schedule, particularly in paragraph 6, that proper balance has been reached. Apart from the economic aspect, it would be physically impossible to apply anaesthesia in all those cases involving millions of animals a year. Therefore, I feel sure that when this Bill comes to be discussed in Committee hon. Members will recognise the practical necessity of the situation, and that a proper and reasonable balance has been struck here.

I should like to join with my other hon. Members in paying my tribute to the veterinary profession. It has developed during the last few decades into a profession of very high standing and has done work of very high value not only from the humanitarian point of view, but from the economic point of view in strengthening the efficiency of livestock keeping generally, and this cannot be too highly praised. Their particular concern to extend the protection which this Bill gives to animals is only what we would expect in view of the very fine humanitarian feeling they have shown. I conclude by congratulating once again my hon. Friend in bringing forward this Measure, and express the hope that the House will in due course give it a Second Reading.

Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)

There is one question which should like to ask. I was not here when the hon. Lady introduced the Bill. Will this Bill require an anaesthetic to be given in bloodless castration?

Mr. Nugent

I think that the definition in the Bill with regard to castration generally is clearly set out in the Schedule, and the limitation is not the method of performance but the age of the animal.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

When the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) asked me to back the Bill, I readily agreed to do so, and I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating her, not only on seizing the opportunity which she got in the Ballot to introduce this very useful Measure, but on the very pleasing and lucid speech which she made in introducing it.

I should like to join with her in paying tribute to the veterinary profession. I have not had veterinary treatment myself, but I feel that there are occasional excursions made into matters by my political opponents which might entitle them to such treatment. I am sure that if it were necessary for them to have such treatment, they would get excellent treatment from this profession, which has done a considerable amount of good work for agriculture in this country. Veterinary surgeons have worked most unselfishly. I know that they work quite as efficiently and unselfishly as the medical profession. It is a very real tribute to them that from their own professional bodies they have assisted in promoting this Bill.

What the Bill will do, I believe, is this. It will make legal what is the general present practice of the veterinary profession. I have great pleasure, therefore, in supporting the. Bill, and I hope that if it is necessary—I know it is difficult because the Schedule does represent a compromise—we shall have a reasonable discussion in Committee and do our best to meet the wishes of the majority, even if we cannot meet the wishes of all.

11.49 a.m.

Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)

I join with my hon. Friends in the chorus of praise for my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) on introducing this Bill. There is one small point which, I think, is important and which I should like to raise. By Clause 2 the Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, 1919, is repealed, except in so far as it applies to Northern Ireland. I have looked up the Act of 1919, and I find that under the Act which is being repealed Section 3 (3) deals with the provision of Orders made under the Act.

Section 3 (3) of the 1919 Act says: The Order, when made, shall forthwith be laid before Parliament, and shall not take effect until it has so lain for thirty days before each House of Parliament, being days upon which that House has sat, and if a resolution is passed by either House before the expiration of such days declaring that the order be annulled, the order shall not take effect, but if no such resolution is passed the order shall take effect on such day after the expiration of the last day on which any such resolution might have been passed as the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries may appoint. This provision, which is important to us who wish to see the power of Parliament and its control over Statutory Instruments maintained, has been left out of the Bill.

Although Clause 1 (3) provides for the making of Orders by Statutory Instrument, there is no control by Parliament over the Statutory Instruments which the Minister may make. I urge my noble Friend to reconsider this matter before the Committee stage, and I hope that today she may think fit to give an assurance of accepting, and, indeed, sponsoring, an Amendment to the Bill which will give Parliament the control over the Statutory Instruments and Orders which the Minister may make.

With those few words, I repeat my support for the Bill in principle and say how glad we are that it has been introduced. Everybody throughout the country will be grateful to my noble Friend. I hope she will forgive my raising this one slightly controversial point and that she will be able to give the assurance for which I have asked.

Viscountess Davidson: I assure my hon. Friend that we appreciate the omission and have every intention of rectifying it during the Committee stage of the Bill.

11.53 a.m.

Sir Frederick Messer (Tottenham)

It seems overdoing it once again to congratulate the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), but because I have a very deep affection for animals I have changed my feelings of esteem and regard for her to feelings of affection, also. I feel, however, a little bewildered and can only hope that the Bill is one step along the road to a complete recovery of that deep humanitarian feeling that most of us claim to possess, even if some of us get a little bit muddled in the way that we exercise it.

It seems to me that, according to the Bill, if I take my grandson's pet rabbit, knowing what is wrong with it, and perform an operation, I may be breaking the law. If, however, I get a number of men and women together, with horses and dogs, I can chase a hare for miles and see it torn to pieces, without the betrayal of any of those humanitarian instincts which prompt me to support the Bill. I can have regard to the damage which is done by wild animals and I can put down diabolical gin traps, which cause torture to them— that is all right; but, somehow, I have to make it consistent with the Bill. I realise, however, that there are differences, and it is perhaps hardly appropriate when presenting a case to exaggerate too much.

There is one weakness which has already been referred to, and I should prefer to have something more specific than the wording of paragraph 7 of the First Schedule. Clause 1, it seems, is excepted in all the cases mentioned in the First Schedule including those referred to in paragraph 7, which states: Any minor operation which is normally performed by persons other than veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners.

Sir T. Moore

It means, on a farm.

Sir F. Messer

I am coming to that.

Does this include a poultry farm on which a layman, not a veterinary surgeon, normally performs caponising? I notice that caponising is not mentioned in the list of exceptions in the First Schedule. Are we to take it that somebody, without any knowledge whatever of anaesthetics, can take a fowl—it sometimes happens—and hold it down with heavy weights, pull some feathers from it, cut between the ribs, perform the operation and sew up the wound, which is a normal operation? It is done by laymen, and not always by veterinary surgeons. It may be said that that exception will speedily be remedied, and in the Bill there is, of course, the opportunity to rectify such things.

Instead of the present loose wording of paragraph 7, I should prefer the actual type of minor operation which can be performed to be specified. Nobody would object to a dog, when its claws are getting too long, having them trimmed; that can easily be done. One calls to mind a large number of these quite minor operations which are not painful and which do not call for long training.

Obviously, we want to exempt things of that sort, but does the qualification "normally performed by" mean an operation that is performed in a normal way on the animal by anybody or one that is normally performed by one particular individual? I realise that this may be considered a Committee point, but if it is mentioned on Second Reading those who want the Bill to succeed will become familiar with the idea, so that acceptance of Amendments on these lines will be readily given.

I hope that when other hon. Members are successful in the Ballot, they will follow up the good example set by the noble Lady and that soon we shall have a Bill before the House which will make impossible for us to enjoy the sight of a cat jumping through a flaming hoop for the edification of an audience; that we shall have a Bill which makes it impossible for money to be made out of dogs which are trained in the most unnatural way of walking on their front legs, and that we shall get our enjoyment in a more healthy and humane way than by the spectacle of animals performing, with dignity and with consciousness of the fact that they are spectacles. When we get that Bill, we shall go another step along the road of saving the consciences of our people.

12 noon.

Mr. Graeme Finlay (Epping)

I should like to re-echo the chorus of congratulation which has been extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) for so effectively assuming the spirit of Lady Emily Lutyens whose robin-like appearance and curious night habits were so unorthodox that I was not surprised that she adopted such unusual methods of securing attention in her sicknesses.

I will not follow the hon. Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer) in the fascinating subject of discussing anti-blood sports and the apparent inconsistency between our solicitude for animals today and perhaps what we do to them when we hunt them in various forms of field sports. I would say this, however, that there is a great distinction to be drawn between dealing with a domestic animal and dealing with one in the state of nature. I do not pretend to be an authority on caponising, but, normally, caponising on a farm is exempt from the anaesthetic provisions of the Schedule.

This Bill has received such uniform support from associations and authorities who know about these things that nobody would dare to challenge it without the utmost circumspection, but I feel there is one aspect of it which I must mention. The Bill is proposing to amend the 1919 Act, and in Section 3 of that Act power is given to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to alter the types of operations and experiments which should be subject to the protection of anaesthetics.

We have heard from the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) that not only human medical treatment but veterinary science has made great advances, and it seems to be a strange thing—I looked this up to see—that between 1919 and the present time the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has not made any Order to ameliorate the condition of animals which are being dealt with by various operations when there were improved techniques so to do.

That seems to me to be a point of substance, because here we have quite clearly accepted that medical and veterinary science have made improvements, but there seems to be a lack of liaison between the doctors and veterinary surgeons on the one hand and the Ministry on the other. Why that should be it is hard to understand, because the gap between 1919 and the present day is a long period.

That leads me to think that in recent times there have been advances in regard to these Bills. There has been a certain amount of criticism because it is the annual habit of this House to promote a number of Bills about animals; but the fact of the matter is that it has left the Statute Book in the most awful mess. When one looks at the position as it was in 1948, one finds, including statutes which protect birds that about 30 Acts of Parliament were passed between 1870 and 1948. I am very glad that myhon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) is busily settling the question of the consolidation of Acts about wild birds, but the law should be in the position that people looking at it can have a reasonable chance of seeing what is there. This piecemeal legislation has extended over a long time, and it is a difficult thing for people to know what the law is.

I do not know whether the Statute Law Revision Committee will give attention to this matter. No doubt it has not the high priority that more important subjects have, but there is a lawyer's case for tidying up statute law in this connection. I should like to say this to my hon. Friend— who opened her case so admirably—about the shape which the Bill is going to take. There has been a general improvement in the methods of anaesthetism, and there has been a shift from the few operations which the anaesthetist had to do to the number which is specified in the Schedule. It may be that there will be a dispute in the course of the Committee stage as to the correct place in which a horse should be gelded.

It seems to me that there should be an elastic provision in the Bill whereby the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, after appropriate consultation with the veterinary professional bodies concerned, could alter the Schedule if need be. I cannot forecast what alterations will be necessary because I have not the expert knowledge of these matters, but we do not want to have the Statute Book cluttered up with small amending Acts passed from time to time. Therefore, I think that my hon. Friend should keep that in mind when she is considering the future of the Bill.

With those words, I resume my seat, and re-echo the general chorus of approval for this admirable Measure.

12.7 p.m.

Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)

I regret that I was not present when the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) moved the Second Reading of this Bill, but I am quite sure that she is worthy of all the congratulations which have been offered to her today. Only those who are interested in the work of the veterinary profession know the tremendous progress which has been made in operations on animals over the last few years. I feel sure that we shall make further progress until pain is almost eliminated from what are necessary operations.

The surgical operation of caponising poultry, referred to by the hon. Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer), is now undergoing a further experiment. Chemical caponising is being tried, and if it is successful it will avoid the physical pain mentioned in this debate. Simply a little slit is made in the skin of the bird and a small tabloid is put in. That is absorbed into the body and the bird is caponised. Whether it will have the effect that the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) fears we still have to find out, but we are assured that when a bird is cooked, if any of the chemical remains in the body, it is efficiently and thoroughly destroyed.

In the castration of animals tremendous progress has been made. Years ago it was a most revolting and brutal operation, but today the operation of bloodless castration is over in a moment with the less pain than the drawing of a tooth.

Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)

How does my hon. Friend know?

Mr. Kenyon

I have seen the operation performed on so many that I am quite capable of judging the reaction.

There is one operation here that is left out of the Bill and it is performed every year by shepherds all over the country. I am wondering what effect this Bill will have on it. I am referring to the docking of lambs. In certain parts of the country lambs have to be docked at the proper time. It is a painful, though not very painful, operation, but how we should administer an anaesthetic to 3,000 or 4,000 lambs and then dock them I just do not know. All that is done is to slit off the lamb's tail, the lamb runs away and all is finished. So far as I can see, this Bill would make that difficult.

Sir H. Williams

A minor operation.

Mr. Kenyon

I am glad that the hon. Baronet considers it a minor operation, but the lamb does not, and we should be careful not to reach a position where the farmer cannot get on with his work quickly.

The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) referred to the cutting of pigs' teeth. The teeth are merely broken off and, although it is painful, the pain saved to the sow is far greater than that caused to the little pigs, especially where there is a litter of savage pigs. The farmer only breaks off the teeth of the small suckler when he recognises that the mother is being caused pain. He nips off the teeth, and the pain is only felt for a moment. I do not know that we could apply an anaesthetic in that case. Certainly, there would be more screaming involved in giving the anaesthetic than in breaking off the teeth. However, these are points which we shall watch in Committee.

I am glad to be able to support the Bill and recognise the great progress which the veterinary world is making in relieving the suffering of animals.

Mr. Hastings

Is it not correct that only the tops of the teeth are cut off and that they are not broken off lower than the gum?

Mr. Kenyon

Yes, only the sharp point at the end.

12.12 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

This has been an interesting debate but I am a little perturbed because I am afraid that my noble Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), who made such a good speech for the Bill, will have a busier time in Committee than she anticipated as everyone has said that it is a good Bill but they want to alter parts of it.

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), who based himself on having read half the speech I made a fortnight ago and practically none of this Bill. I was delighted when my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) urged the necessity of a comprehensive and a consolidating Bill. That was one of the things I said a fortnight ago which my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr ignored.

I wanted it for two reasons. One was that we should have the law in one document and that we should discourage the money-collecting societies who exploit this House by bringing in two or three Bills every year instead of bringing in one to end cruelty because they would lose their income if cruelty came to an end. Since then I have had a variety of letters, some abusive. If the hon. Baronet would like to see the congratulatory ones, I will send them to him, but I am a little nervous because some of them are libellous about one of the institutions to which he belongs.

This is a sensible Bill because it is obvious that the general anaesthetic is dangerous in certain cases. It may be very dangerous to the animal and, if it is a localised matter and not a general one, a local anaesthetic is much better and much less cruel. As everyone knows, there have been great developments in anaesthetics.

The last time I was rendered unconscious, about six years ago, for a minor operation but one which could not be done without an anaesthetic, the doctor said to me, "You will go off shortly." I said, "When am I going off?" He replied, "You have been off, you have come back. "So there is instantaneous unconsciousness and instantaneous restoration to full consciousness with some anaesthetics. Of course there are other cases in which the local anaesthetic lasts a considerable time. There is also the general anaesthetic consisting of certain speeches which I have heard in this House—but I will not go into that.

Certain of the societies will not like the Bill, especially certain parts of it such as the first paragraph of the Second Schedule. Some of them have existed now for nearly 100 years for the purpose of getting rid of that Act; that is why they waste such a lot of money in deceiving a lot of people. When I think of the thousands of people in this country living normal, healthy lives because they are able to inoculate themselves with insulin, and realise that this would have been quite impossible if certain people had had their way, I feel quite angry.

Hon. Members will recall that it was Sir Frederick Banting who in Toronto in 1923 tested out his theory that diabetes was due to the failure of the pancreas to regulate the sugar in the blood stream. He established that fact by experimenting with six dogs. Thereafter he used sweetbread obtained from sheep from the slaughterhouse and, by elaborate biochemical experiments, was ultimately able to insulate the particular pancreas juice in order to help people whose pancreas no longer works properly. There are tens of thousands of those people, and if insulin were to be withdrawn from them they would be dead in a few months. These evil societies are trying to destroy such people.

In regard to distemper in dogs, I remember asking a question in this House of Mr. Stanley Baldwin when he was Lord President of the Council. Those responsible for medical research had made experiments which resulted in the discovery of an inoculation to prevent distemper, and those experiments involved a few dogs. As a result millions of dogs now avoid distemper and I am also told that it helps in regard to hard pad. I have never seen a case of that, but I have heard about it. That is the kind of cruelty which is prevented.

Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)

Is it not possible to support such useful experiments and, at the same time, to protest against any cruelty involved? Can we not have experiments without cruelty?

Sir H. Williams

Anybody who has read the 1876 Act and the annual reports will know that before any experiment is performed the premises must be licensed, the person must be licensed. Sometimes it is a restricted licence, sometimes a wider one. Every year there is available to us an account of all experiments per- formed. The Act lays it down that if on recovery to consciousness the animal is likely to be in pain, it must be destroyed painlessly.

Most people do not know what vivisection means. They read these dreadful, wicked pamphlets, which completely mislead the community, whereas if they read the annual report presented to the Home Secretary they would find that a vast number involve no more than the pain I suffer when I am pricked whilst gathering a rose or the pain resulting from a local anaesthetic. Indeed, some are merely feeding experiments.

Would anybody suggest that we should prevent blood tests being taken so that the blood may be injected into a guinea pig or some other animal in order to establish the condition of the patient? Such experiments involve the almost painless use of animals. Yet these evil societies, as I call them, if they had their way would inflict immense pain and suffering on human beings and animals. I am glad to have this opportunity of saying, with a little more vigour, what I said a fortnight ago.

I am glad also that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) raised the point about delegated legislation. As hon. Members know, I have taken a great interest in that subject for a long time and it is advisable that this House should retain ultimate control. It does not mean that there will be a lot of Prayers, but the mere knowledge which the Minister and his Department have that the last word can lie with this House means that they will be more careful in preparing their regulations. It is not enough to consult the interested parties. They must consult the general public, and we are the representatives of the general public. The amazing thing is that the Ministry of Agriculture are to be blamed for this, because the noble Lady has told us that they gave her great help with regard to the drafting of the Bill.

In the 1919 Act, there is a lovely long Section about Parliamentary control, but now only a few words will be needed, because the Statutory Instruments Act renders such long phrasing unnecessary. I am delighted to hear from my noble Friend that she is proposing, in Committee, to insert the necessary words to retain democratic control, so that any change may be made by regulations. It gives me great pleasure to support the Second Reading of the Bill, and I was pleased when the noble Lady asked me to be one of its sponsors.

12.21 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I should like to join in the general congratulations which have been offered to the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) both on this Bill and on her presentation of it. I rather sympathise with the view expressed by the granddaughter of Lord Byron, which the noble Lady quoted, because I have always believed that veterinary surgeons are more skilful people than doctors, because a doctor, at any rate, asks a patient what is the matter with him, whereas the veterinary surgeon has to find out, and if he is not too skilful the result may be very painful for the veterinary surgeon.

I merely rise to support the plea made by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr.Finlay), reinforced by the hon. Baronet the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), that some effort should be made to put the mass of legislation relating to animals into more compendious form and thoroughly overhaul it. Of course, one of the difficulties in dealing with this matter is that this is just the type of Bill which private Members can bring in without very much trouble. The hon. Member for Croydon, East referred to certain societies, but I think that he rather lost his sense of proportion in his allusion to them. Some of the strictures he made are justified in part, but should be expressed with rather more moderation than he showed.

These societies exist to supply these Bills to hon. Members, and they have the very great advantage that they make no charge on the Treasury, and, therefore, no Money Resolution is required. I was astonished, when Private Bill legislation was reintroduced in the 1945–50 Parliament, when I was Home Secretary, to learn of the amount of time which my Under-Secretaries had to give to these Measures, because they could be so conveniently introduced without any trouble with regard to finance. We had a variety of Measures dealing with limited classes of animals, like the Pet Shops Bill and similar Measures. The result was that these Measures went through with fairly general approval in the House, so that there is now a mass of legislation—I hesitate to give the number of Acts reported to me—existing on this matter, which must make the life of people who are concerned, in their ordinary livelihood, with matters that may arise under these Acts rather more difficult.

I would urge, therefore, that the Home Office, the Ministry of Agriculture and any other Department that may be concerned, should see whether it is not possible to have a Departmental overhaul of all these Measures, and make a suggestion whereby the whole matter can be put into a consolidating Bill. That would enable people, who may, quite inadvertently, commit offences at the present time over this very wide range, to have some opportunity of knowing exactly where they stand.

As far as this Bill is concerned, I support it, but I do so with the reservation that, in the very near future, an effort should be made to get all this legislation into one Act.

Question put, and agreed to.

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