HC Deb 12 December 1956 vol 562 cc439-46
Mr. Robert Crouch (Dorset, North)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act, 1928, and the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933; and for purposes connected therewith. I should like to make it clear that I am not anti-Semitic and that I have a number of friends of the Jewish faith. When I introduced this Bill in 1954, and it had a First Reading, it was original thought. I was unaware, until after I had announced my intention to introduce it, that animal welfare societies were interested in the introduction of such a Bill.

The Bill had been announced for only a matter of days when I heard from the late Dr. Salmon, of Cambridge University, a well-known Jew. I have his letters, which he said I could quote, in which he had several times written to the previous Chief Rabbi suggesting that with the introduction of modern electric stunning it might be wiser for Jews to introduce this reform of their own accord instead of waiting until they were forced to do so by the Gentiles.

There is some misunderstanding about this matter. Moses was, I believe, the first Minister of Health. Why did Moses say that animals should be bled before being eaten? Anthrax was prevalent in the Middle East in his day, as it is still. I have no doubt that communities must have been wiped out by anthrax in those days through eating animals that had died and that the only way to ensure that the people ate anthrax-free animals was to decree that the animals should be bled. Moses added that the people should not touch blood. I believe that this decree was made on medical grounds, but we have moved a long way since then.

A great deal of remarkable literature has been sent out by the Board of Schechita and other Jewish organisations, between 1893 and 1940, and it is remarkable literature. The views expressed in the literature are those of doctors and not of veterinary surgeons, and I humbly suggest that veterinary surgeons know more about animals than do doctors. But a great deal of progress has been made in medical and veterinary science. It was 150 years ago that anaesthetics were produced for mankind and today, however small the operation, people are given an anaesthetic and do not feel the pain. They recover and do not know what happened to them. We have two Acts which lay down that an animal cannot be slaughtered unless it has been electrically stunned or shot with a captive bolt, except where animals are slaughtered for members of the Jewish or Moslem races.

This method of electrical stunning has been adopted widely throughout Europe. I have seen it used in parts of Scandinavia. I have talked to a Chief Rabbi in Stockholm, who said that the method gives no offence. I have seen the method used in this country and in Europe, from Hamburg as far as Madrid, and I believe that I have visited more slaughterhouses than has any other hon. Member, and I know what I am talking about. I have evidence in my pocket, with which I will not worry the House at this stage, of reports from Holland that this method of electrical stunning has been used there for two-and-a-half years, and there is remarkable and strong evidence that animals that are bled whilst they are under an anaesthetic, or have been electrically stunned, bleed freer and cleaner than those which have not been so treated.

It is only large animals that are put in the Weinberg pens and are subjected to ritual slaughter. Small animals, sheep and calves, are dealt with in a different way. Is it not cruel to string up calves by one hind leg on a chain and then cut their throats? As many as five calves are put in the pen at a time and the last to be killed sees the throats of the other four cut. When a bullock is put in the casting pen it is turned on its back for the first time and then treated in this way. The neck of the bullock is pulled out as far as possible. Its throat is cut from ear to ear and gallons of blood gush out. Has anyone here been in a slaughterhouse?

Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)

My hon. Friend asks whether anybody here has visited a slaughterhouse. I have been to a slaughterhouse this morning and I have seen animals slaughtered by the Jewish method. I am absolutely convinced that there is no cruelty whatsoever attached to it.

Mr. Crouch

I have visited slaughterhouses in various parts of the United Kingdom. The worst of all is the one in Glasgow. There, the animals are put in a casting pen. A rope is put round the animal's neck, with a half-hitch round the lower jaw. The rope is then put through a ring on the floor. A chain pulley is then attached. The animal is then turned upside down and is pulled up towards the ceiling. The rope is normally drawn as hard as it can be pulled. The animal thrusts its tongue out and utters a great cry of distress. In effect, the animal is pulled out of the pen and then its throat is cut. I saw more than one case where it took three strokes of the knife to cut the throat.

It is not generally realised that the bulk of the meat killed in London is killed by the kosher method and that the Jews eat no more than 25 per cent. of that meat. The rest is sold to and eaten by Christians. I do not think that Gentiles realise that the meat has been slaughtered in the way that I have described. In raising this matter in the House, I feel that a large number of people will realise for the first time what goes on in these slaughterhouses.

There has been an attempt in the literature which has been issued to suggest that these slaughterhouses are owned and run by the Jews, but they are ordinary slaughterhouses and are managed by Gentiles. The only Jew there is the man who actually does the killing and who inspects the meat afterwards. It is nonsense to say that animals are slaughtered in these places more humanely than in other slaughterhouses, because the handling is done by Gentiles. I have known non-Jewish butchers to leave their work at these slaughterhouses because they could no longer put up with the cruelty that goes on in them.

Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)

In rising to oppose the introduction of this Bill I am conscious that there are many hon. Members far better qualified than myself to do so. If it is from these benches that the reply is made, it is in order to stress that the importance of the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Crouch) transcend any party considerations. I have great regard for my hon. Friend, and certainly no one could question the great sincerity of his views or the tenacity with which he sets them forth. One must also admire his devotion to the important cause of animal welfare.

It forms no part of my case in opposing the Bill to argue that Jewish people should have, by virtue of their religion, a prescriptive right to act with cruelty in any matter, least of all in one that touches so closely the dearest feelings of so many people in this country. We have all been shocked by stories of what I can only call barbarity in slaughterhouses, such as have been featured in much of the propaganda that has been sent to us on this subject.

I suggest to the House that where such abuses are authenticated they fall within the scope of the Slaughter of Animals (Prevention of Cruelty) Regulations, 1954, and might well be the subject of prosecution in the courts. I assure the House that Jewish religious authorities would not seek to palliate such offences. They are proud of the humane traditions of their religion and race and will be jealous to see that offenders against these cherished traditions are brought to justice.

They do this because they are satisfied that Schechita—the Jewish method of slaughter—is fundamentally one of the most humane methods of animal slaughter now practised in the civilised world. In this they are reinforced by the opinion of no fewer than 450 physiologists, pathologists, heads of veterinary colleges, and officers of health—coming from many European countries and all non-Jewish—who have at various times expressed their view that the Jewish method is absolutely humane. My hon. Friend said that all these opinions were out-of-date, but the late Lord Horder, as recently as February, 1955, reaffirmed an earlier judgment saying: It is fraught with less risk of pain than any other method at present practised. I could quote many other opinions.

I was very interested to note that four hon. Members, who, as recently as this morning, saw animals slaughtered by both Jewish and non-Jewish methods, agreed that the Jewish method is no more cruel than the other now practised. These four hon. Gentlemen are not all hon. Friends of mine, and not one of them is of the Jewish faith.

If I am right in claiming that the case against the Jewish method has not been made out, I ask the House to consider most seriously whether there is any justification at all for proceeding with a Measure so distressing in both its imputations and its consequences to Her Majesty's many Jewish subjects.

To the Jewish people, wherever they were in the world, Great Britain has always stood out as a guardian of civil liberty and a champion of religious toleration, and Jews born in other countries envied, and had good cause to envy, their brethren in this island. An ancestor of mine was the first Jew to be admitted as a Queen's Counsel, and I was brought up in the belief that there is no legislature in the world more scrupulous than this House in its respect for the rights of minorities.

I should like to conclude by reading a statement issued by the two chief Jewish ecclesiastical authorities of the British Commonwealth, namely, the Chief Rabbi and the Head of the Sephardic Congregations, which puts the position most clearly. It reads: Schechita, the Jewish method of slaying animals for food, is prescribed by the Divine Law. It has been universally observed by the Jews throughout the ages; and is to this day religiously observed by the overwhelming majority of the Jews of the world. The rules and rites governing this sacred ordinance have

come down to us from time immemorial and, amongst other purposes, they ensure a swift and painless death to the animal. Any other method than the prescribed Schechita (such as stunning previous to the act of slaughter) renders the meat ritually unfit for Jewish consumption."

Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)

Do not eat meat.

Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

I take that interruption at its face value.

The statement goes on: Civil regulations that would interfere with this hallowed practice would, therefore, inflict severe hardship upon law-abiding citizens, who would be prevented from partaking of meat except under conditions which would violate their religious conscience. These words express the deep feelings of the great majority of Jews in the country who look to this House now, as in the past, as the protector of minorities and the guarantor of religious toleration. I therefore beg the House to reject the Motion.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 132, Noes 178.

Division No. 23.] AYES [3.52 p.m.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Cunningham, Knox Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Anderson, Frank Currie, G. B. H. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Arbuthnot, John Davis, Harold (Leek) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Atkins, H. E. Deedes, W. F. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Awbery, S. S. Deer, G. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)
Baldwin, A. E. Digby, Simon Wingfield Kershaw, J. A.
Balniel, Lord du Cann, E. D. L. Kimball, M.
Barber, Anthony Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) King, Dr. H. M.
Barter, John Duthie, W. S. Lambert, Hon. G.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lambton, Viscount
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Finch, H. J. Leavey, J. A.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Fletcher-Cooke, C. Longden, Gilbert
Benson, G. Forman, J. C. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Beswick, F. Freeth, D. K. McCallum, Major Sir Duncan
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gibson, C. W. McGhee, H. G.
Blackburn, F. Glover, D. McKibbin, A. J.
Blyton, W. R. Godber, J. B. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Body, R. F. Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Mann, Mrs. Jean
Bossom, Sir Alfred Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mathew, R.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Gough, C. F. H. Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Bowles, F. G. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Moore, Sir Thomas
Boyd, T. C. Gresham Cooke, R. Mort, D. L.
Boyle, Sir Edward Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moss, R.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Gurden, Harold Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Burden, F. F. A. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Burke, W. A. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oliver, G. H.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hayman, F. H. Oram, A. E.
Champion, A. J. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Peart, T. F.
Chapman, W. D. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Coldrick, W. Hobson, C. R. Rankin, John
Cooper-Key, E. M. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Reid, William
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Remnant, Hon. P.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Rippon, A. G. F.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Williams, David (Neath)
Shurmer, P. L. E. Taylor, John (West Lothian) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Turner, H. F. L. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Steele, T. Vosper, D. F. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Stevens, Geoffrey Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. c. Woof, R. E.
Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich) Watkins, T. E.
Stones, W. (Consett) Wells, Percy (Faversham) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Storey, S. Wheeldon, W. E. Mr. Crouch and Captain Kerby.
Ainsley, J. W. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Nairn, D. L. S.
Albu, A. H. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nicholls, Harmar
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Holland-Martin, C. J. Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Barlow, Sir John Holman, P. Nugent, G. R. H.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Holt, A. F. Oakshott, H. D.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.) Hope, Lord John Orbach, M.
Boardman, H. Hornby, R, P. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Owen, W. J.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paget, R. T.
Brockway, A. F. Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hunter, A. E. Parkin, B. T.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hyde, Montgomery Partridge, E.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Irving, S. (Dartford) Paton, John
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Isaacs, Rt, Hon. G. A. Pentland, N.
Callaghan, L. J. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Campbell, Sir David Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Pitman, I. J.
Carr, Robert Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Cary, Sir Robert Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Pott, H. P.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Joseph, Sir Keith Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Chetwynd, G. R. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Probert, A. R.
Clunie, J. Leburn, W. G. Ramsden, J. E.
Cove, W. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Redhead, E. C.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Redmayne, M.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery) Lewis, Arthur Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield E.). Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Short, E. W.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Dodds, N. N. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Llewellyn, D. T. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Donnelly, D. L. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Drayson, G. B. Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Edelman, M. Logan, D. G. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McAdden, S. J. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Fell, A. MacColl, J. E. Teeling, W.
Fernyhough, E, McInnes, J. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Fienburgh, W. McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Fisher, Nigel Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Fort, R. McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Timmons, J.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Turner-Samuels, M.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Maddan, Martin Viant, S. P.
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Mahon, Simon Vickers, Miss J. H.
George, J. C. (Pollok) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Wade, D. W.
Gower, H. R. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wall, Major Patrick
Graham, Sir Fergus Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Weitzman, D.
Green, A. Maudling, Rt. Hon, R. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Greenwood, Anthony Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. c. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mayhew, C. P. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Grimond, J. Mellish, R. J. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hale, Leslie Messer, Sir F. Wood, Hon. R.
Hamilton, W. W. Mikardo, Ian Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hannon, W. Mitchison, G. R.
Hastings, S. Monslow, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Healey, Denis Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Miss Bacon and
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Mulley, F. W. Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Nabarro, G. D. N.