HL Deb 18 June 1891 vol 354 cc755-62

, in rising to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether any cattle from England and Scotland were exhibited last March at the show of the Royal Dublin Society, which was held within or in close proximity to a district scheduled under a pleuro-pneumonia order; whether these cattle were allowed to return home from the show; and, if so, what steps were taken as in other districts to slaughter or isolate the cattle, said: My Lords, the question I have to ask the Lord Privy Seal is for the purpose of eliciting some information upon a matter which has created some considerable stir in the minds of persons connected with the agricultural interest. The facts are, I believe that from 30 to 35 cattle from England, Scotland, and the Channel Islands were exhibited at the Dublin Show at the end of last March, and were, therefore, in an area scheduled under a Pleuro-Pneumonia Order, or in close proximity to one of those districts, and it is believed that those cattle were allowed to return home to England and elsewhere without any precautions having been taken as have been taken in other districts under special orders, and given with regard to cattle when removed from a scheduled district. To such an extent has this feeling been excited that the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and the Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland have taken steps to protect other cattle by prohibiting all those animals from being exhibited at their shows, and the feeling which exists in other districts throughout the country, where most stringent regulations have been placed upon cattle being moved from farms in a scheduled district, ought, I think, to be allayed in the interests of agriculture itself. Since I put this Question on the Paper I regret to find that the matter has assumed an even more serious aspect than I thought. I hold in my hand an extract from a report to the secretary of the Highland Agricultural Society, from which it appears that, from information given to the Board of Agriculture by the Irish Government, a Jersey cow exhibited by Mr. Tucker of Southampton, at the Dublin Show, and purchased by a gentleman living near Dublin, died about a week afterwards from contagious pleuro-pneumonia. This is a very serious state of things, if it be really the fact that cattle which were exhibited at the Dublin Show have since died of pleuro. I would ask what is being done with the whole of this mass of cattle, which were not only disseminated through Ireland but all over England—spread without isolation throughout the country. I only hope the answer which the noble Lord will give me will clear up this very vexed matter, because I can assure him these recent occurrences have created a great deal of alarm among agriculturists, and especially among those who exhibit cattle.


I can understand the natural anxiety of the noble Marquess, and those whom he represents, in the circumstances to which he has referred, and I am obliged to admit the general truth of what he has stated. It is the case that cattle from England were exhibited at the show of the Royal Dublin Society, which was held on March 31st and following days; that the show was held within a scheduled district, and that some of the animals exhibited did return to this country. No steps appear to have been taken for their isolation or slaughter, for the reason that the Board have no jurisdiction in Ireland, and they had at the time no information as to the animals which it was intended to show there. The noble Marquess is probably aware that there is no power to prevent the landing of cattle from Ireland, unless the very extreme step were taken of scheduling the various ports at which those cattle might land on the shores of England. That is a step which the noble Marquess will see the great inconvenience of. The Board of Agriculture has since received from the Irish Government, on May 30th, a list of the animals, 15 in number, and belonging to five different owners, which went for exhibition from England, and which have returned to this country, and they are now engaged in the endeavour to trace the locality of each of these animals. One of them has been found in the neighbourhood of Southampton, and the further movement of all of them, as soon as they are traced, will be prohibited without the sanction of the Board. I may add that the Board of Agriculture are now in communication with the Irish Government with the view of securing that no animal shall be permitted to come to this country from a scheduled district excepting those which come from the port of Dublin and pass through the Dublin unions, which, as the noble Marquess no doubt knows, take care that cattle are dealt with under proper restrictions.


Before the noble Marquess replies, I should like to know, as the noble Earl, the Lord Privy Seal, has alluded to the steps taken after the show, whether the Government of Ireland were aware before the show took place that it was to be held in a scheduled district. I think it is just possible that they may have inquired into all the arrangements for the admission of the animals, and that they were satisfied the arrangements were such that the show could be held without danger, though I think that is extremely unlikely. Evidently in this case the only really safe course to follow was that which I have indicated, that unless the Government were persuaded that it was absolutely safe to allow the show to be held in Dublin within the scheduled district, they should not have sanctioned it.


As I am a member of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society, and also Chairman of the Board of the district on the borders of which the Society's show was held, I should like to say a word on this subject. Of course I am not aware of what steps the Government of Ireland may have taken in the matter, but what I understand, and probably the noble Earl will know whether I am right or not, is this, though the show was held in a scheduled district, the yard where it took place was specially exempted during the time of the show, and was taken under the special care of the Dublin Privy Council. That is what I am told, and I can only speak, of course, of what I know; but I do know that the show-yard was put under the management of the most skilled veterinary surgeons we could find, and the cattle exhibited were examined, not only on entering and leaving the yard, but also periodically during the show. There was certainly no case of outbreak during the show, nor did we hear of any case occurring after the show was over. As to the Rathdown Union—as the noble Earl the Lord Privy Seal has referred to the action of that union—of which I know something, the cattle regulations have been carried out for several years since I have been chairman with the greatest possible stringency. We have never neglected a case which has been reported to us by the inspector, and we have always ordered the slaughter, not only of every animal returned as infected, but of all animals which have been in contact with those found to be infected. Every suspected animal has been slaughtered, and, though there were many cases in the Dublin unions some years ago, for the last 15 or 18 months we have hardly had a case of pleuro-pneumonia. The only case of disease we had reported to us turned out to be a case of mad-staggers, and not pleuro at all. I can only say that all the precautions possible were taken in the show; but, of course, you can never guard against a case of pleuro, where it may be dormant in the animals, breaking out. Still, there was no outbreak of pleuro, or anything approaching to it, in the show.


My Lords, the question of the Exhibition of Cattle in scheduled districts has occupied the very anxious attention of the Royal Agricultural Society quite recently. Perhaps the House will allow me for a moment to state, as this is a question which seriously affects agriculturists, in view of the Royal Agricultural Society's Show, which will open on Monday next; and it may be interesting to your Lordships to know the steps which the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society of England have taken to prevent by every possible means the importation of cattle from scheduled districts, whether in England or Ireland. I dare say your Lordships are aware that pleuro-pneumonia is a very real danger at this moment. Many of your Lordships may know that within a few days the whole of the cattle depastured upon the Knaves mire at York have by a very proper order of the Agricultural Department been directed to be slaughtered. That order will apply to no less than 170 cattle. It is a very serious consideration to all of us that science has not yet acquired any such efficient knowledge of this most insidious and dangerous disorder as to suggest remedial treatment, and that whole hecatombs of cattle have to be condemned to be slaughtered in order to avoid spreading it. Some steps should be taken, if possible, to obtain further knowledge of this peculiar disease. It is not merely my own opinion, but I am speaking of the opinion of experts throughout the kingdom that there is no other preventive step which can be taken except the wholesale slaughter of all cattle which have been associated with infected beasts, and I think it maybe for the satisfaction of the House if I very shortly refer to the terms of a circular which has been issued by the Royal Agricultural Society within the last few days, in view of the show which will open on Monday next. The secretary says:— I am instructed to explain to you that it is the intention of the society not to allow any cattle to be exhibited at Doncaster which are at present within districts scheduled for pleuro-pneumonia, or have been exhibited at shows within such districts. The danger is from the spreading of the disorder from those shows. I have consulted eminent veterinary authorities on the subject, and they are themselves unable to say how long the disease may remain dormant. Therefore I think your Lordships will say we have taken the best precautions we can with regard to cattle being exhibited at our great show which come from any distance. Intending exhibitors are directed not to send animals from infected neighbourhoods, and the entrance fees will be at once returned for all cattle which are prohibited from being sent in. It may be to your Lordships' convenience and for the satisfaction of the public that I should state that the Royal Agricultural Society have done their best to prevent the danger of spreading the disease; but I must say, speaking on behalf of the agriculturists of this country, as I am bound to do, that it is incomprehensible how such laxity and want of care should have been shown by the Dublin Society and also by the Privy Council in Ireland as to allow cattle to be exhibited at their show on the recent occasion under the circumstances to which allusion has been made. I am afraid great want of care has been shown by those who were responsible.


My Lords, I only wish to add that we are very sensitive indeed in England as to the proceedings in Dublin. In the County of Norfolk, to which I belong, we have for a long time been under the impression that the pleuro-pneumonia of which we are so much afraid has been imported from Ireland. Owing to the measures which have been carried out by Her Majesty's Government, I have not the least doubt that the Irish Government has been brought to see the necessity of enforcing the law. On a former occasion, when I made some remarks on this subject, I pointed out that nothing could exceed the different mode in which the law was enforced in Ireland; and it is a very singular thing, it may be a mere coincidence, it may be a mere accident, but it certainly has struck us very forcibly in England that the first time for years that we have not had pleuro-pneumonia brought among us is since the Irish Government have found themselves obliged to enforce the law strictly. From the experience I had with regard to taking measures for dealing with cattle disease, I freely admit that it not so easy to enforce regulations there as it is in this country; but from the great importance of the Irish cattle trade to England, I do hope that Her Majesty's Government will see that the Irish Government most strictly enforce their rules. The illustration which the noble Earl has given of what can be done as regards safety is most instructive, and really this seems to me to be one of the most obvious instances of laxity I over heard of on the part of any Government.


As the noble Earl who has just spoken has thrown some doubt on the propriety of the action taken by the Irish Government in this matter, I can only say, as Chairman of the Board of Guardians, that in Ireland we are most vigilant in having reported to us any case of pleuro-pneumonia, and I am surprised to hear what the noble Lord has said with regard to outbreaks of the disease having been heard of since the Dublin Show. I have no doubt he is well informed on the matter, but I would point out that it is to our own interest to take every precaution, for these shows are of far greater consequence to Irish cattle-owners, who send larger numbers of cattle to them than anybody else. Certainly I was not aware until the noble Marquess stated the fact that there had been such a case since the Dublin Show.


It is a fact.


If I am to answer the statement which has been made by the noble Lord, I can only say that the show was not held within the limited district, and therefore there was no means of limiting the export of cattle.


I think the noble Lord will find he is in error in saying that only fifteen cattle from England were shown.


I beg my noble Lord's pardon. I did not say that fifteen were shown. There were thirty-five, I believe, exhibited, but only about fifteen were brought back to England.

House adjourned at five minutes before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.