HC Deb 10 December 1968 vol 775 cc214-21

Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe): I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Slaughter of Animals (Scotland) Act 1928, the Slaughter of Animals Act 1958 and the Slaughter of Poultry Act 1967 for the purposes of abolishing the exemptions in favour of ritual slaughter and for other purposes connected therewith.

This matter was before the House on 12th December, 1956, and was again moved by the then hon. Member for Dorset, North, Mr. Robert Crouch, and was defeated. What I am suggesting, first—and what I am hoping the House may agree with—is that, on this sort of occasion, these sort of Motions, which are undoubtedly very controversial, should be allowed to be brought in and the Bill then discussed on the Floor on Second Reading. We can then thrash the matter out and both sides can state their case in detail. I have no opportunity to do that in the very few minutes at my disposal and I am sure that the opposition are in the same situation.

But I believe and hope that the House will agree that I could be given leave to bring in this Bill. If we bring it in and have a Second Reading debate, I will, of course, as I am bound to do, abide by the will of the House.

I am making the simple suggestion that all animals should be slaughtered in the most humane possible way. This is, of course, a matter of opinion for experts. When I was practising the law we used to say that there were liars, damned liars and expert witnesses. This is perfectly true, because one can always find experts to say one thing on one side and other experts to say something else on the other side.

I contend that if one takes an animal from a hill, puts it in a box, turns it upside down, stretches its neck out and cuts its throat, that is cruel and inhumane. In its wisdom, Parliament has said, from as far back as 1933, that if animals are to be killed they must be slaughtered humanely. In other words, we have said that they must be stunned before their throats are cut. We agree that slaughter is an extremely unpleasant thing. That can be said of any form of slaughter. However, I earnestly ask on this occasion that hon. Members should allow me to introduce my Bill and so provide that all animals are stunned before their throats are cut.

I have had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the Muslim community. I have been told that there is no objection in the Koran or through any other aspect of their religious persuasion to the stunning of animals before cutting. I am, therefore, asking that every animal should be dealt with in the same way.

There are, of course, problems and I accept that in this situation there are bound to be problems. I make no bones about that. In the short time at my disposal I cannot go into every aspect of the matter, although I remind the House that during the last few weeks I have received more than 700 letters—I got 74 this morning—and 8,000 signatures on this subject. Only 15 of them were against my proposed Bill. I believe that the majority of people believe that every animal that is to be killed should be humanely stunned before having its throat cut.

As I said, there are bound to be difficulties and problems. I am sure that those who oppose me on this occasion will raise religious problems. I accept their beliefs. I do not believe for a moment that any hon. Member could accuse me of being intolerant. I hope that no such charge will be made. One can certainly speak of religious matters. We had the Spanish Inquisition, the rack, the thumb-screw and what was delightfully called the scavenger's daughter. Ridley and Latimer were burned, Cranmer was executed, Mary I put to death the Protestants and Elizabeth I put to death the Catholics. I could go on endlessly giving examples.

Now the time has come when all religions should bring themselves up to date and recognise that this is a matter of humanity. We no longer allow cats, dogs and other animals to be slaughtered by having their throats cut. They must be put to death humanely. If we are to continue slaughtering animals, then in this day and age they should be slaughtered in the most humane possible way.

I said that I accepted the views of certain people. I earnestly do. I had an argument on this subject on radio with my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) on Sunday. She does not agree with me. I accept the view of those who say that the present Jewish method of slaughter is humane. We had a pleasant discussion, but I am interested to note that in 1956 her mother, Baroness Summerskill, in the Upper House, voted in favour of my proposal—[Interruption.] I was about to say that while I entirely accept her views—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Chair is anxious to be fair. The custom is that an hon. Member should not be interrupted when asking leave to introduce a Bill under the Ten Minute Rule. By the same token, I suggest that he should not refer to another, a member of another place, who will not have a chance of intervening.

Mr. Ensor

While I entirely accept her views, which I am sure are honest in every possible way, I should, nevertheless, be allowed to bring in my Bill so that its provisions may be discussed in detail on the Floor of the House.

Throughout the world today there is a great deal of man's inhumanity to man. There is a vast amount of cruelty. Cruelty to animals does not mean the sight of blood, but the smell of it. Animals do not see. They smell. In view of all the cruelty in the world today, I am asking the House, by the light of one small candle, to allow man to be a little less inhumane to man by slaughtering in the most humane possible way the animals which must be slaughtered.

3.49 p.m.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

Whatever our differences on this matter, I am sure that the House will want to recognise the deep sincerity of the motives which have led my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) to take this course. By the same token, I am sure that, with his usual fairness, he will acquit me and other hon. Members who may differ from him of being indifferent to animal suffering. He will also agree that the Jewish and Muslim communities have never been lacking in humanitarianism.

I have had the opportunity of witnessing the slaughter of animals by both methods. I do not believe that my observations can add much to the testimony of the 450 eminent scientists, none of them Jewish, who have pronounced on this matter, although I hold a slightly higher view of their integrity than ob viously does my hon. Friend. If I had witnessed anything which indicated pain, distress or fear among the animals, I assure my hon. Friend that I would have joined him in the Aye Lobby today.

The view of these scientists is that a clean cut with a sharp instrument does not result in pain. This has been verified by those who, like me, have had the experience of looking down at one's hand to see blood streaming from a cut which had been imposed several seconds earlier without noticing. For this reason it has been considered, from Roman times and perhaps earlier, that the most painless method of committing suicide is the cutting of the throat or wrists.

It is difficult in the time available to read the testimonies of some of the surgeons who have questioned their patients about this. All of them have assured us that no one who has suffered a cut throat has reported pain. This is the evidence of many who have lost consciousness through loss of blood and been able afterwards to report their experience. We have their experience as evidence. The truth is that one blow imposed by an official whose expertise has been acquired through a very long and detailed training, severs both the carotid arteries and the jugular vein and stops the blood supply to the brain.

I have had the opportunity of discussing this matter with some of these men and have seen them at work. I am quite satisfied that they would not lend themselves to any form of cruelty. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is not a pleasant sight. Of course, no one pretends that slaughter by any method adds to the visual beauty in the world, but the question to which the House will want to address its mind is not the effect on the spectators, but the effect on the animals. Here we have the testimony of the experts and of many hon. Members who have had an opportunity of witnessing it.

Division No 30.] AYES [3.54 p.m.
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw) Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Costain, A. P.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Body, Richard Crouch, David
Bell, Ronald Booth, Albert Currie, G. B. H.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Carlisle, Mark Elliot, Cant. Walter (Carshalton)
Biffen, John Chapman, Donald Emery, Peter

Like my hon. Friend I would wish for more time to discuss this matter in detail. I found it a little difficult to follow his reference to a Second Reading debate, because I understand that that is a most unlikely event. Unfortunately, the decision of the House as it will appear to the community is the decision of the House this afternoon.

Only one further thing remains to be said. The House may wonder what is my concern in this question. I am not Jewish, I do not eat kosher food, and I have no interest to declare. My interest is that I regard it as a very serious matter for any legislature to prohibit the practices of any minority—[HON. MEMBERS: "Whatever they are?"] No, not whatever they are, of course. There must be practices which are so repulsive to the House that we would feel bound to prohibit them. I think that we would do that with a heavy heart and reluctantly, and not on the evidence given this afternoon, nor from the fund of evidence of expert witnesses who have reported on it.

It does not carry the matter further to say that some Muslims take a different view. The House would not wish to arbitrate in a theological dispute within the Muslim community. Many Muslims, and at least 200,000 Jews, believe that their consciences enjoin upon them this practice. To say that others take a different view is merely to emphasise the need for tolerance. I believe that it would be a tragedy if, on 10th December, 1968, Human Rights Day and the culmination of International Human Rights Year, this House, with its tradition of fairness and tolerance, were, from the most humanitarian of motives, to take a decision which would be widely interpreted, and would be, in fact, as being both intolerant and unfair.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 {Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Busi ness):—

The House divided: Ayes 69, Noes

Eyre Reginald Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Price, William (Rugby)
Finch, Harold Kershaw, Anthony Sheldon, Robert
Glyn Sir Richard King, Evelyn (Dorset. S.) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Goodhew, Victor Lane, David Speed, Keith
Gregory, Arnold Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Spriggs, Leslie
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Lomas, Kenneth Symonds, J. B.
Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield) Loveys, W. H. Thornton, Ernest
Heffer, Eric S. Mapp, Charles Tinn, James
Heseltine, Michael Mills, Peter (Torrington) Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Hooley, Frank Montgomery, Fergus Watkins, David (Consett)
Hooson, Emlyn Murton, Oscar Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Neave, Airey Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Oakes, Gordon Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Owen, Will (Morpeth) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Woof, Robert
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Park, Trevor
Kenyon, Clifford Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Kerby, Capt. Henry Pounder, Rafton Mr. John Ellis and
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Price, David (Eastleigh) Miss J. M. Quennell.
Abse, Leo Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Freeson, Reginald McAdden, Sir Stephen
Alldritt, Walter Galpern, Sir Myer McBride, Neil
Allen, Scholefield Gardner, Tony MacColl, James
Ashley, Jack Garrett, W. E. Macdonald, A. H.
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Barnett, Joel Ginsburg, David Mackie, John
Batsford, Brian Goodhart, Philip Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Bence, Cyril Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gower, Raymond McMaster, Stanley
Bessell, Peter Grant, Anthony McNamara, J. Kevin
Bidwell, Sydney Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Maddan, Martin
Bishop, E. S. Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Black, Sir Cyril Gresham-Cooke, R. Manuel, Archie
Blaker, Peter Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Marks, Kenneth
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hall, John (Wycombe) Maude, Angus
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Braddock, Mrs. E, M. Hamling, William Mendelson, John
Braine, Bernard Hannan, William Mikardo, Ian
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Harper, Joseph Miller, Dr. M. S.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mills, Stratum (Belfast, N.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Harrison Brian (Maldon) Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Harvie Anderson, Miss Miscampbell, Norman
Buchan, Norman Haseldine, Norman Molloy, William
Bullus, Sir Eric Hastings, Stephen Moonman, Eric
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hattersley, Roy Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Hazell, Bert Multey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Coe, Denis Henig, Stanley Murray, Albert
Cooke, Robert Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Higgins, Terence L. Norwood, Christopher
Cronin, John Hiley, Joseph Ogden, Eric
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Hilton, W. S. Onslow, Cranley
Dalyell, Tam Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Orbach, Maurice
Dance, James Hordern, Peter Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Horner, John Osborn, John (Hallam)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hoy, James Oswald, Thomas
Davies, S. 0. (Merthyr) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'ton)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Dean, Paul Hunter, Adam Pardoe, John
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Iremonger, T. L. Parker, John (Dagenham)
Delargy, Hugh Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pavitt, Laurence
Dell, Edmund Janner, Sir Barnett Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Dempsey, James Jeger,Mrs.Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dewar, Donald Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Dobson, Ray Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Perry, George H. (Battersea, S.)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pink, R. Bonner
Doig, Peter Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Drayson, G. B. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Dunn, James A. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Dunnett, Jack Kelley, Richard Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Pym, Francis
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Knight, Mrs. Jill Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Edelman, Maurice Lawson, George Randall, Harry
Eden, sir John Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Rees, Merlyn
English Michael Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Richard, Ivor
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Lipton, Marcus Roebuck, Roy
Ewing, Mrs. Winifred Lubbock, Eric Rose, Paul
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Ford, Ben
Rowlands, E. Taylor,Edward M. (G'gow.Cathcart) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Teeling, Sir William Wiliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Short, Mrs. rené e (W'hampton,N.E.) Thorpe Rt. Hn. Jeremy Woodnutt, Mark
Silkin, Rt. Hn. John Deptford) Tilney, John Worsley, Marcus
Silverman Julius Tomney, Frank Wright, Esmond
Silvester, Frederick Tuck, Raphael Wyatt, Woodrow
Small, William Vickers, Dame Joan Younger, Hn. George
Snow, Julian Wall, Patrick
Stodart, Anthony Weitzman, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Wellbeloved James Mr. Charles Pannell and
Summers, Sir Spencer Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Mr. Peter Archer.
Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley