HL Deb 06 August 1919 vol 36 cc523-36

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee (on recommitment), read.


My Lords, in moving that the House resolve itself into Committee on this Bill, I understand that when a Bill has been before a Select Committee of your Lordships' House it is customary to make a brief explanation as to what the Committee have done. They sat for five days and examined fourteen witnesses, who represented agricultural interests in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and qualified and registered veterinary surgeons, and unregistered veterinary surgeons; and I think they saw witnesses front almost every part of the kingdom who had any direct interest in this Bill. As the result of that evidence your Committee have produced the Bill which is now before the House, and in this Bill your Lordships will find that the Committee have now no longer made it compulsory that an anæsthetic should be used for the purposes of castration of an animal, whether horse or bovine, and also allow a caustic clam to be used. The only other great change in the Bill is that unregistered veterinary surgeons are now permitted to administer the anæsthetic, instead of its being confined solely to those who belong to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. There are other minor Amendments in the Schedules which, on the whole, have been tightened up, but those are of no great importance.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Stanhope.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:


1.—(1) If any person shall subject or cause or procure, or being the owner permit to be subjected, an animal to an operation contrary to the regulations contained in this section, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act

(2).—(a) A horse, a dog, a cat, or a bovine shall not be subjected to any operation specified in the First, Second, or Third Schedules of this Act, respectively, unless the animal during the whole of the operation is under the influence of some general anæsthetic of sufficient power to prevent the animal feeling pain.

(b) A horse, a dog, a cat, or a bovine shall not be subjected to any operation specified in the Fourth, Fifth, or Sixth Schedules to this Act, respectively, unless during the whole of the operation it is under the influence of some general anæsthetic or some local anæsthetic being, in either case, of sufficient power to prevent it feeling pain.

The EARL OF CLANWILLIAM moved, in subsection (2) (a), to insert "provided that in respect to the dishorning of cattle this regulation shall not come into force for a period of two years from the passing of this Act." The noble Earl said: In moving this Amendment I do not wish it to be supposed that I am at all hostile to the principle of the Bill. On the contrary, I have hearty sympathy with any attempt made to prevent suffering to animals, but I feel that unless some such Amendment as I propose is included in this Bill very considerable hardship will be inflicted on the cattle trade and incidentally upon the consumers of meat. The cattle trade is one of the staple industries of Ireland, and anything that operates adversely to that trade cannot help reflecting on the meat supply of England. Your Lordships know the meat supply is in no too rosy condition, and if the meat supply is affected the price will be affected, and that must be the cause of serious anxiety to His Majesty's Government.

If this limit of two years is accepted, it will give time to those connected with the cattle trade and the farmers to make arrangements to comply with the aims and provisions of the Bill. This provision, as its stands without any time limit, is causing considerable alarm among the farmers and cattle dealers in Ireland. And, although I am speaking to-day without any particular brief from Ireland, I know from my connection with certain agricultural bodies in Ireland that it is viewed with anxiety, and doubtless, had they known that I was going to move this Amendment they might have asked me to say something on their behalf.

The reasons why cattle are dis-horned are various, and I should like to refer to one or two. The first is that cattle when dis-horned do much better when tamed out to grass; they do not gore or worry each other. Another reason is that when they are shipped from Ireland to Scotland and England they are very crowded on the boat, and once the boat has started, although the cattle may at first have been standing side by side with their heads in the same direction, they soon move about and get all over the place, with the result that if there is any sea running and the ship pitches and rolls the goring and cruelty and pain thereby inflicted is considerable, as is also, incidentally, the loss of condition to which the animals must be subjected while recovering from their wounds.

The chief aim of this Bill is to prevent cruelty to animals, but I should think it is open to argument whether the pain inflicted by (dis-horning is any greater—the operation does not last very long—than the pain inflicted by the cattle on each other when being shipped to Scotland or England, a voyage of over ten hours, when a heavy sea is running. Farmers and dealers in Scotland and England very much prefer cattle which have been dis-horned, and in many cases they refuse to buy those who have not been so treated. Those are briefly the reasons. I think, perhaps, the chief consideration to-day is the possible dislocation and hampering of the cattle trade which may ensue unless this Amendment is agreed to. If the trade is hampered in any way a rise in the price of meat must inevitably follow.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 14, at end insert ("Provided that in respect to the dishorning of cattle this regulation shall not come into force for a period of two years front the passing of this Act").—(The Earl of (Clanwilliam.)


As I was a member of the committee to which reference has just been made, I think I can say that the noble Lord who has just sat down has accurately and fully represented the views of the Scottish farmers upon this question.




He has also represented the views of the Scottish farmers as well as those of the Irish, but not quite so accurately the views expressed by English farmers. The difference that struck me in the evidence upon this point was rather remarkable. I do not know the why or the wherefore, but apparently the Scottish animals—which are fed in what I think they call "courts"—behave much worse to each other than do the cattle in England. As a matter of fact, it is the commonest practice in all arable counties in England for the beasts to be turned into what are called yards, where they perform a double duty. One duty is to tread down the straw and make manure, and the other is to eat at the same time the oilcake—when it is available—to make manure for the crops. The Scottish animals behave so badly that the farmers have apparently taken the greatest umrbage at the idea that dis-horning should not be made compulsory. That is one side of the question. The other side is that there is no doubt that dis-horning inflicts great cruelty upon the animals. Some of the evidence we had with regard to cattle coming from Ireland was deplorable in the extreme.

This is a Bill to endeavour to cope with pain and suffering in animals, and to reduce cruelty as much as possible. I am sure that my colleagues on the Committee will bear me out when I say that if you want to dis-horn animals with the least possible cruelty the way to do it is to treat them when they are young calves. A method described by many farmers, and by one or more witnesses before the Committee, was this: When the horns begin to what is called "bud," they should be treated with some preparation of potash which kills the horns. If that be true—I believe it is absolutely true, and it is a treatment well-known to farmers—it seems to me that by its adoption we can accomplish the double purpose of diminishing the cruelty brought about by dis-horning and at the same time ensure a bountiful supply of cattle. There is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the noble Earl—who was the first to raise this question and to cause the appointment of this Committee—to one of the Schedules, where dis-horning is to be made obligatory before the calves have reached the age of three months. My own opinion is that it would be far better to make the age earlier and put it at, say, six weeks.


I trust that your Lordships will not accept this Amendment. All the evidence before our committee was strongly against its being accepted. I myself at one time was rather in favour of the Amendment for a reason which was not given by the noble Lord—that is to say, I was afraid that if this Act came into operation at once with regard to dishorning it might be disregarded and, therefore, become ineffective. I have, however, changed my view, and I think that it should come into operation at once. May I give your Lordships three very short extracts from the evidence? One gentleman—who is very well known to many of your Lordships as a veterinary surgeon—talking about seeing the cattle being driven along a road in Ireland (where he had been only the week before he gave his evidence) says this— The man himself who was driving the cattle along said it was brutal the way it had been done. Their horns were raw, bleeding, and putred, and pus was coming from them. They were being put on the ship at Belfast. Another gentleman, a big farmer in Scotland, said— The horns remain tender at the end for about six weeks and not more. A well-known veterinary surgeon from Ireland says— The after-effects, and not only the actual operation at the time, are painful. The animals evince intense pain especially when the saw is used; they roar and struggle; and there is a considerable amount of hæmorrhage Then he was asked whether there was suppuration afterwards as well as hæmorrhage, and his reply was, "Yes; frequently afterwards the wound becomes septic." It is not only that it is a painful operation to cut the horn, but there is a considerable amount of pain afterwards. There are nerves which run more than half way up the horn of the cattle, and when you cut through the horn of course you cut through the nerves. One of those who were in favour of this operation being allowed without an anæsthetic said it was exactly the same as having one's nail torn out. That does not sound a very pleasant thing to do. I therefore trust your Lordships will insist that the dis-horning of cattle—which by the way is illegal in England—should not be allowed to be done in Ireland and Scotland except under an anæsthetic.


I hope you will not allow this Amendment to pass. I have seen cattle in Ireland in a most disgraceful state in consequence of this dis-horning. You cannot imagine anything so cruel. They stand together with their heads down, bleeding and suffering dreadful pain. I hope that such things will not be allowed to go on for another two years. As Lord Chaplain said, it is quite easy to do it. I do it myself to my own calves. If you use caustic potash or caustic and put it on these buds, as they are called—the growing horns—the whole matter is done away with. They do not grow horns and they are hornless cattle, and thus the difficulty is overcome. As to allowing this to go on for two years more, I am very strongly against it and I am sure there are many other people who will agree with me.


If this Amendment is not adopted, then I fear the cattle trade may be somewhat dislocated, in which case you will certainly force up the price of meat. There is nobody here who would put up the price of meat, but possibly there may be in another place, and the evidence may not be impartial in opposition withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Powers of Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.

3.—(1) The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries may, by order made subject to the provisions of this section, add any other operation to the operations specified in any schedule to this Act, and any operation so added shall be deemed to be an operation specified in that schedule, and the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries may also by order made as aforesaid, extend any provision of this Act to any domestic animal to which it does not at the time apply, with such modifications or additions as may appear to that Board to be necessary. The Board may, by order made subject to the provisions of this section, declare any substance to be a suitable general anæsthetic or a suitable local anæsthetic for the purposes of this Act, and any substance so declared shall be deemed to be a general anæsthetie or local anæsthetic, as the case may be, of sufficient power to prevent the animal feeling pain if properly applied.

EARL STANHOPE moved, in subsection (1), after "operation specified in that schedule," to insert "and may transfer an operation from one schedule to another." The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is that the Board of Agriculture shall have the power to transfer an operation from, say, Schedule 1 to Schedule 4. Take, for instance, the operation of laparotomy. We had a certain amount of evidence that laparotomy is better done under a local anæsthetic than under a general anæsthetic. That may eventually become the general view of the veterinary profession, in which case it may be necessary to transfer that operation from Schedule 1 to Schedule 4. Under the Bill as it stands that is impossible, and it would be necessary to pass a new Act of Parliament. It is an Amendment with which the rest of the Committee on which I served did not entirely agree, but the representative from the Board of Agriculture was in favour of it.

Amendment moved— Clause 3, page 2, line 8, after ("Schedule") insert ("and may transfer an operation from one Schedule to another").—(Earl Stanhope.)


I understand that the Board of Agriculture takes no objection to the noble Earl's suggestion.


I am afraid I do not agree with my noble friend, and I think I can give some reasons with regard to the Bill itself which will show that it will upset the whole work of the Committee on the Bill if this were carried. The noble Earl opposite, who said that the Board of Agriculture had agreed, will observe that sub-section (2) (a) of Clause 1 reads as follows— A horse, a dog, a cat, or a bovine shall not be subjected to any operation specified in the First, Second, or Third Schedules of this Act, respectively, unless the animal during the whole of the operation is under the influence of some general anæsthetic of sufficient power to prevent the animal feeling pain. That means, of course, chloroform, or something that would make the animal insensible, and involves the casting of the animal.

I must ask you now to turn for a moment to the Fourth Schedule which deals with horses. Docking of the tail of a horse is one of the operations referred to there. I do not quite know how far this would affect the word "respectively." This has been done since the Committee met, the last time, and I was not aware of it. I apprehend, however, and I have been advised this afternoon by a very competent draftsman, that the word "respectively" refers to the different schedules. I will give the heading of all the schedules. The first refers to horses, the second to dogs and cats, the third to bovines, the fourth to horses, the fifth to dogs and cats, and the sixth to bovines. If I take the Fourth Schedule, and take one of the operations referred to—namely, docking of the tail—that would necessitate casting the horse on every occasion. He would always have to be subjected to a general anæsthetic, which is chloroform. I think this would cause enormous inconvenience. Unless I misread the effect of the Amendment, you would certainly have all the Hackney Associations in the kingdom up in arms. You would have the people who hunt in wet countries, where it is undesirable to have horses with long tails because of the mud and dirt and the filth and discomfort to themselves owing to carrying a ton weight some days, complaining, and generally speaking I think it would be a mistake if this Amendment was accepted. I am also somewhat apprehensive that it would upset the working of the whole of the Bill as it is at present framed. It would entirely do away with the effect of the word "repectively" which is used in the two clauses, and I think we should get into great trouble there in connection with the Bill.


As the Bill stands now, a general anæsthetic is not necessary. What the noble Viscount is suggesting to your Lordships is that the Board of Agriculture will take it into their heads suddenly to forbid docking except under a general anæsthetic. I do not know that I am very often accused of having too great respect for Government Departments, but I think that to accuse the Board of Agriculture, or any other Government Department, of taking a line of that kind is really rather absurd. No Government Department would do a thing of that kind. The uproar in the country, to start with, would prevent their doing it. Beyond that, it is contrary to all common sense, and I do not think for one moment the Board of Agriculture would consider doing such a thing. I really do not see why the noble Viscount is so keen about the docking of horses' tails. I cannot believe that he can do it himself, because I am told it is against the law of the land.


I do not wish to say anything against the Board of Agriculture, except that I confess, in regard to all matters connected with horses, I have the very smallest opinion of their judgment and knowledge. I will give you a very good reason for that. When the present National Stud was offered to the Government for their acceptance as a gift to the nation, the then Board of Agriculture took two whole months before they could make up their minds and decide as to whether the offer ought to be accepted or not. It was only accepted by a Cabinet Committee at eight o'clock on the night before the sale was published at Newmarket. Nearly all the stud would have gone either to the Argentine or the United States of America and would have been an immense loss to this country. That was done under the Board of Agriculture. I will not say anything more upon that point. The first clause insists on a general anæsthetic for any operation, and I do not know that, under pressure, the Board of Agriculture would not very likely give, way to this and put "docking" into the first Schedule instead of the one which it is in now. At all events, I do not approve of giving the wide powers suggested this afternoon.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3:


1. Ovariotomy.

2. Operations for actinomycosis.

3. Laparotomy.

4. Amputation of penis, mamma, uterus.

5. Dishorning cattle over three months old.


With regard to Schedule 3, might I ask one question of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill? Is it a fact that a pig or a lamb is a bovine, or is it a fact that both are not included in the beneficent provisions of the Bill?


I understand that neither pigs nor sheep come under the operation of the Bill at all.

Schedules 3 and 4 agreed to.

Schedule 5:


1. Enucleation of the eyeball.

2. Operation for umbilical hernia.

3. Urethrotomy.

4. Docking of the tail.

LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE moved, after "tail" to insert "and clipping or rounding of ears." The noble Lord said: I put forward this Amendment because I think it is a necessary corollary of the provision in the Bill which requires a local anæsthetic to be administered in the case of docking the tail of a dog. If it is right, as we think it is, that a local anæsthetic should be administered when docking the tail of a dog, then your Lordships will agree with me that it is quite as desirable or necessary, if you are going to clip or round a dog's ears, that a local anæsthetic should be used. It is even more necessary, because what I particularly refer to is the rounding of a foxhound's ears, of which I have had some experience, though not so much as the noble Viscount on the front bench.

If you want shorten the tail of a fox terrier which, in my humble opinion, is unnecessary and undesirable, for several reasons—it can be done at a very early age, but the practice of rounding a hound's ears is not carried out until the puppy is nine months or a year old. At that age it is more painful than if it is carried out in extreme youth. I am not now going into a discussion on the merits of rounding a hound's ears, except to say that, having rounded the ears of the Warwickshire hounds for a good many years, I gave it up about five years ago because I thought it was unnecessarily cruel. I know there are two opinions about that. It is said that if you round the hound's ears you save them, in some countries, from tearing themselves in the brambles. I believe the noble Viscount. Lord Chaplin, holds that view.

All I can say is that in our country, where the brambles are perhaps not so thick as they are in the country to which he may refer, we have not had that experience and I have come to the conclusion, for what it is worth, that the practice is unnecessary. But that is really by the way. This Amendment, which I hope your Lordships will accept, will not prevent anybody from rounding a hound's ears or clipping the ears of a dog, if it is thought necessary to do so, though I think it is barbarous. It will only compel the use of a local anæsthetic for the purpose, so that the main object of the Bill—that of saving pain to dumb animals—will be carried out. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Fifth Schedule, page 5, line 15, after ("tail") insert ("and clipping or rounding of ears").—(Lord Willoughby de Broke.)


I hope the noble Lord will not persevere in the Amendment, which I look upon as entirely unnecessary. When the Bill was before the Committee on which I had the honour to serve, this subject was never brought up nor was any witness asked any question upon it. Your Lordships will observe that the Amendment refers to two operations—one, clipping; the other, rounding of ears. I take "clipping" to refer to a very old-fashioned practice of clipping a terrier's ears. For many years that has been illegal and it is illegal at this moment, so I do not think it matters very much about that. It seems to be quite unnecessary. As to the rounding of foxhounds' ears I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that it is quite unnecessary that that should be done under an anæsthetic. I yield to nobody in my horror of unnecessary cruelty, but this operation is performed in a moment.

The noble Lord says that his object is to prevent an animal suffering pain. The animals suffers, if he does suffer pain at all in the operation, only momentarily. No doubt it suffers afterwards when going about with sore ears, but that is not obviated by any anæsthetic. The operation is not like the old operation of clipping a terrier's ears, which was done with a pair of scissors and was no doubt painful. Rounding of ears is done with a rounding iron, which is half-circular and is put round the end of the ear to cut off part of it and make the ear actually round. That is done with a sharp instrument placed on the hound's ear and pressure is put upon the instrument by a blow with a wooden hammer, and the piece of the ear which is not required, disappears altogether. The dog goes away with his ears very sore, no doubt, but the pain of the operation is momentary. Anybody who knows anything about it will allow that. The object of the Amendment is supposed to be to save pain, but the dog must suffer pain after the operation is performed. The pain will last for a day or two and it will be very disagreeable indeed, but the operation itself is so quickly done that I think it is almost painless. If such an Amendment is carried I think logically you should have fresh legislation to prevent babies being vaccinated without anæsthetics or ladies having their ears pierced without anæstheties.


I venture to ask one question of the noble Lord for purposes of information. I have no desire to enter into the controversy about rounding a hound's ears, although I was interested to hear the view put forward by Lord Willoughby de Broke, who has so much experience. My impression was that the ears of hounds were always rounded. The question I wanted to ask was this, whether in the case of these particular operations there exists any local anæsthetic which can be profitably applied. Cocaine has been mentioned, but it is useless to apply cocaine on muscular tissue, and I greatly question whether for operations of this kind there exists a local anæsthetic of any kind which may be regarded as really preventive of pain.


The noble Marquess asks whether there is any local anæsthetic which can be effectively applied when rounding a hound's ears. I imagine there is, because the information obtained from the veterinary experts who were called was that there was an anæsthetic, I have forgotten the name, which could be successfully applied to docking horses' tails, and I do not see why the same anæsthetic could not be applied when rounding a hound's ears. The chief pain when cutting an animal is when the outer skin is penetrated. That was the whole drift of the evidence, and we also know it is the case from our own personal experience. The noble Marquess also asks whether the ears of fox-hounds are all rounded now. All I can say is that there is an increasing number of Masters of Fox Hounds who are not rounding the ears of their packs.


Nearly all.


I could name several celebrated packs of hounds—the Duke of Rutland's, the War-wicks and others—but I have no objection to making full inquiries on the matter. The noble Viscount, Lord Valentia, said that we obtained no expert witnesses with regard to this. Of course not. I was the chairman of this Committee and I know more about these things than anybody else, with the exception of the noble Viscount beside me and Viscount Valentia, both of whom have packs of hounds and have rounded their ears as my father and grandfather did. But that does not necessarily prove they are in the right. All I am asking is that when this operation is performed we shall conform to the general principle of the Bill by causing a local anæsthetic to be used.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

EARL STANHOPE moved, in Schedule 5, after "Docking of the tail,' to insert "of animals over six months old." The noble Earl said: I move this Amendment because the evidence which was given by expert witnesses was that it would be less painful to perform this operation on animals under six months than on animals over six months old. Animals under six months feel pain less than an animal which is more than six months old.

Amendment moved— Fifth Schedule, page 5, line 15, after ("tail") insert ("of animals over six months old").—(Earl Stanhope.)

On Question Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining schedule agreed to.

Amendments made by the Select Committee agreed to.