HL Deb 01 March 1866 vol 181 cc1272-5

said, he had to present a Petition signed by cattle salesmen of Edinburgh, and by several other persons interested in the importation of cattle, praying for the Amendment of the Cattle Plague Bill. The petitioners referring to the Cattle Diseases Act passed the other day, which stated that no animals imported by sea to any port of Great Britain should be removed from that place alive except -by sea, said that in a clause in the Bill now before their Lordships' House there was power reserved that animals imported into London, Leith, Bristol, and Liverpool might be removed to certain slaughterhouses under licence of the local authority. In reference to the port of Granton, however, there was no provision, and the petitioners prayed Granton, to which nearly all the trade of Edinburgh in foreign cattle came, might be included in that clause. He wished also to draw their Lordships' attention to the enormous loss which had been inflicted upon a number of persons in consequence of the operation of the Act which had been passed with such extraordinary haste—with almost as much haste as the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. The result had been that in the northern part of the island the provisions of the Act were not known before it had come into operation. In consequence of this, numbers of animals which had been sent by sea and also by railway had been intercepted at different points of their journey. In one instance seventy animals were landed at Granton from Orkney, and uninfected districts; and yet they could not be taken to Edinburgh for slaughter, because, having come by sea, the railways were forbidden to carry them, and they could not be driven along the highway. Some of them were conveyed by steam tugs from Granton to Leith, whilst others remained at Granton unhoused, with the greatest difficulty to feed them and with no proper means of slaughter. Their Lordships would recollect that the mere slaughter of animals was not sufficient, because the carcasses must be dressed before they could be legally removed from the place of slaughter. He had received a letter complaining that thirteen loaded cattle trucks had also been stopped on the railway at Carstairs, a station which was in the middle of a moor, where there were no means either of housing or feeding the cattle. If the owners had received timely notice of what was about to be enacted, they might have sent the cattle away and so avoided the heavy loss to which they had been subjected, and no less than 5,000 cattle had been stopped at different places; and all this had happened in consequence of the want of proper notice of the Act coming into operation. The loss consequent upon this state of things was a heavy fine to impose upon the unfortunate owners of the cattle because of the excessive haste with which the measure had been forced through Parliament. In conclusion, he moved that the petition which he had presented should be referred to the Select Committee to which the Cattle Plague Bill had been referred.

Motion agreed to.


rose to call attention to a communication which he had received that afternoon on the subject of the cattle plague. The writer said he regretted to learn that cows were still imported into London from Holland and smuggled into sheds, and that in many instances they came either from infected districts or passed through infected provinces. He trusted that an immediate inquiry into the subject would be instituted. When it was taken into consideration that already no fewer than a million and a half of cattle had been sacrificed, every one must allow that the strictest measures ought to be taken in order to prevent animals from being brought into the country in the manner he had referred to.


said, he understood that the Select Committee which had been appointed to consider the Cattle Plague Bill would meet to-morrow, and he therefore wished to know whether the Government intended to insert any provision in that Bill for the proper treatment of cattle conveyed by railroad and in steamboats. In the despatch of Her Majesty's Consul General at Odessa, dated the 8th of January, there was this passage— It is to be observed that the disease rages more violently in the south of Russia than in the north; that it generally breaks out in autumn, and not during the great frosts. Therefore it seems clear that cold is not only far from being the first cause of it, but has not even any influence over it. It is well remembered that before the year 1816 (when free trade in corn began with England), and when Odessa exported much less grain to foreign countries than now, this disease was very rare, but it appeared always after every campaign in the wars with Turkey. Now, these wars occasioned a great deal of cartage for the commissariat of the army. The waggons used by the commissariat were drawn by bullocks, who were thus forced to make long journeys during the great heats of summer across arid steppes where no pasture or wholesome water could be found, the plague soon seized them, and they rotted and died in great numbers. Again, the Consul General observed— This seems to be really the sole cause of this terrible disease, and the waggons returning to their several homes spread it throughout the country. The manner in which cattle were treated in steamboats and railway trucks was of itself sufficient to account for the outbreak of disease among the animals. Certainly, it must be well known that when those animals arrived at their destination they were in a conditon which rendered it impossible that they could resist any conta- gion or disease. He bad received from a gentleman a letter containing this statement— A truck containing nine horses was forwarded from Manchester to Stoke yesterday, the horses intended for the knacker's yard at Hanley. On arriving at Stoke four of the animals were dead from suffocation, and the remainder in such a state that Mr. Campbell, the magistrate, ordered them to be killed on the spot. The trucks containing nine horses measured 12ft. 3in. by 9ft. Animals in the charge of dealers and others frequently had to travel very long distances in steamers and railway trucks; and he feared that in very many instances the poor beasts were without water or food during the entire journey. He hoped that in the Bill now before their Lordships' House the Government would insert a clause for the proper treatment of the animals on railways and on steamboats. The present system was disgraceful.


hoped his noble Friend would excuse him, but as three or four Questions were now asked each evening without notice, it was time to revert to the regular practice of requiring a notice.


observed, that he had not concluded with a Question, but with a suggestion.


asked the President of the Council when it was likely the Select Committee on the Cattle Plague Bill would report, and when the third reading would be taken?


said, that though the noble Lord had given him ample notice of his Question, he was quite unable to answer it.