HL Deb 14 May 1934 vol 92 cc339-48

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, in moving that the House do resolve itself into Committee I would like to explain why it is that there are any Amendments. I told your Lordships on Second Reading that this was an agreed Bill, and indeed I do not think there ever has been such an agreed Bill as this; but in its passage through another place, and after it had passed another place, it became evident that some of the horse associations had some slight anxiety as to whether the Bill might not he going too far, and the Amendments which I have put down have been agreed by the National Horse Association as entirely meeting their view. I will explain to your Lordships in more detail the purpose of the Amendments when we come to them. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Prohibition of certain public contests, performances, and exhibitions with animals.

1.—(1) No person shall promote, or cause or permit to take place any public performance which includes any episode consisting of or involving—

  1. (a) throwing or casting, with ropes or other appliances, any unbroken horse or untrained bull; or
  2. (b) wrestling, fighting, or struggling with any untrained bull; or
  3. (c) riding, or attempting to ride, any horse or bull which by the use of any appliance or treatment involving cruelty is, or has been, stimulated with the intention of making it buck during the performance;
and no person shall in any public performance take part in any such episode as aforesaid.

(2) For the purposes of proceedings under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of the preceding subsection, if an animal appears or is represented to spectators to be unbroken or untrained it shall lie on the defendant to prove that the animal is in fact broken or trained.


Before the noble Lord moves his first Amendment I should like to say—


The Amendment has been called. I think the usual practice would be for the noble Lord to make his remarks when the Question that Clause 1 stand part is put.


moved, in subsection (1), before "permit," to insert "knowingly." The noble Lord said: I have not the smallest objection to the noble Lord asking any question, but I think it would probably be better to follow the usual course. The point of the Amendment is that the National Horse Association conceived that it might be possible that this clause would allow some innocent person to be involved in something which would be an offence, and they desired the insertion of this word "knowingly." I am advised that it does not weaken the Bill in any way, and the promoters are quite prepared to accept this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 6, after the second ("or") insert ("knowingly").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


Perhaps it will be convenient and save time if I ask the noble Lord now a question which I have been asked to put on behalf of the horse societies. This is a Bill dealing with rodeos, and my question is, why is it not called a Rodeo Bill? If your Lordships will look at Clause 1 (c), you will see that it says that any one riding, or attempting to ride, any horse or bull which by the use of any appliance or treatment involving cruelty is, or has been, stimulated with the intention of making it buck during the performance …. may be prosecuted. A man riding a horse at a military tournament may hit it with a whip or spur it inadvertently and the horse may buck and someone who dislikes the exhibition may prosecute. I think the matter should be made clear. Perhaps the noble Lord will explain why the word "rodeo" is not included in the Title. I have no wish in any way to oppose my noble friend. I have never seen a rodeo performance, nor do I wish to see one, but at the same time some of the horse societies have asked this question, and this may be a convenient time to put it.


I am wondering whether it would not be better if the Amendment were dealt with first and the noble Lord raised his point on the Question that Clause 1 stand part.


That was the suggestion I put before your Lordships originally, and after what the noble Marquess has said it has even more force, because we have already called the noble Lord's Amendment and the noble Lord has stated his reasons. I think the noble Marquess is quite correct when he suggests that the usual practice is, when a general question arises on a clause, that it should be discussed on the Question that the Clause stand part, and not on a separate Amendment. But I am entirely in the hands of your Lordships. Your Lordships' procedure is sufficiently elastic to permit of any procedure of which your Lordships may approve.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved to insert at the end of subsection (2): proceedings under paragraph (c) of the said subsection in respect of the use of any such appliance or treatment as is there in mentioned upon a horse before or during a performance, it shall be a defence for the defendant to prove that he did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to know, that the appliance or treatment was to be or was used.

The noble Lord said: The point here is that it might be possible for any malicious or evil-minded person to do something to make a horse restive or buck without the knowledge or consent of the rider or of any one connected with the management of the entertainment. So these words are inserted for the purpose of making the defence a good one that this was done without the knowledge of either the promoter or rider, who could not be expected to know. I think the Amendment is perfectly clear, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 25, at end insert the said new words.—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I am now very happy to answer the noble Lord, Lord Jessel. If the noble Lord had been in his place on the Second Reading he would have heard me say—I am quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT: It has not been found possible to introduce a Bill to prevent the holding of a rodeo because that is a term which is not capable of exact definition in the sense in which it is desired to prevent it. I have looked this word up in the Oxford Dictionary, and I find it means various things. It means, originally, the place in which a gathering of cattle takes place, and the actual gathering of the cattle, but one thing it does not mean is the thing which it is sought to prevent by this Bill. It was, therefore, necessary to define the purpose more clearly, and that has been done in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) of Clause 1.


I should also like to ask a question about Clause 1. I understand this Bill is to prevent cruelty to animals, but Clause 1 (a), (b), and possibly (c) seem to me to be drafted with a very wide wording. The Clause does not say anything about cruelty to animals, and it seems to me to want some words in line 8. As the Bill is worded at present it would appear to cover anything like they have in Australia, where at an agricultural show wild animals come in and are shown off as part of the whole business. There is not necessarily any cruelty involved at all. That is a thing that occurs in Australia, and yet under the wording of this Bill a matter like that, though it is not so likely to occur here, would be a public performance. It seems to me you are opening the door rather wide. Further, the Bill does not say whether it includes an accident to participants other than animals.


I think the answer to the noble Lord is that these two items (a) and (b) which it is intended to prevent were items that took place in these performances at Wembley ten years ago, which were undoubtedly offensive to public opinion. At the time public opinion declared itself in no uncertain manner, in the Press and otherwise, that it did not want these things to happen, and paragraphs (a) and (b) are specifically prohibitive for the purpose of seeing that they do not happen again on any occasion in this country.


Whether there is cruelty or not?


That is so.


I cannot see that by inserting the words suggested by Lord Ask with, "involving cruelty to animals," you will affect the purpose of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. In paragraph (b) it says: wrestling, fighting, or struggling with any untrained bull. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that that might include a sale-ring of race horses or prize cattle in which the animals got excited or frightened and started to wrestle with the attendants. I cannot see any objection to adding the words "involving cruelty to animals" in line 8.


I should take the very strongest objection to that. The noble Earl has overlooked the fact that the clause starts by saying: No person shall promote, or cause or permit to take place any public performance…. It is perfectly clear that the contingency which the noble Earl suggests of a restive animal in a sale-ring or elsewhere could not possibly come under the description "public performance."


Reference has been made to Australia, and Canada might also be mentioned, but I think a caveat might be entered with regard to those particular gatherings. It is obvious that no one is going to question the propriety of making any provision against unreasonable cruelty, and, therefore, the objects of the Bill are those of which everyone in your Lordships' House would be strongly in favour. I do not want to insinuate that there is any disinclination to agree with that, but when one looks at the manner in which this Bill was introduced, at the ægis under which it was introduced, and the speed with which it was rushed through another place, one feels that the Bill has been read by only a very small proportion of those who are responsible for its having passed through another place. It would be very unfortunate were a measure, hurried through as this one has been, to be passed introducing loopholes and difficulties of interpretation which may cause unreasonable inconvenience or interference at a subsequent date.

I want to make my motives clear to your Lordships. It is only with a view to avoiding hasty legislation of this character that I address your Lordships at all. There will be others in this House who, like myself, have worked on cattle ranches in distant parts of the world. No body of persons is more familiar than your Lordships' House with the proper ray of treating a horse. Many of your Lordships, like myself, have ridden since we can remember, and are the first to resist any suggestions of cruelty. But let us realise what the rodeo is aimed to do. It is to give free play to the exercise of that skill which is essential in the handling of cattle which are necessary for the food supply of the people. It is perhaps unnecessary to remind your Lordships that this kind of rodeo or competition is to exercise the skill that is necessary to handle cattle in our own Dominion of Canada, and it is there considered a very proper form of the measurement of the capacity of individuals effectively and cheaply to handle cattle.

It will be known to your Lordships that cattle were not indigenous to the North American Continent, and that when they were introduced there in the early days of migration it was necessary to have great skill in handling them. If they were not handled rightly there was a big shrinkage of weight which meant a severe loss to the owners. When one reads the Bill through carefully, and, in conjunction with that, reads the remarks of the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place, who said that there is a remedy available to deal with any cruelty that may occur—


Will the noble Lord give me the reference to that?


It is in the OFFICIAL REPORT, column 681. With the aim of this Bill we shall all be agreed, but the manner in which this stage has been arrived at, and the precedent which is here involved of hasty legislation, of a Bill being rushed through without full analysis of what it is aimed to do and what interpretation may be put upon it, and what may be its effect on the public in our Dominions—those are matters upon which there is no doubt a difference of opinion.


The noble Lord who has just spoken has referred to the case of Canada and Australia. Of course, in breaking wild horses in Canada methods have to be used which may not be at all necessary here. We do not propose to interfere with anything that is done in Canada or any of the Dominions. We are dealing with public performances in this country of which we have already experienced the cruelty. I am sure that neither the noble Lord nor any of his supporters would suggest that the performance of a rodeo in this country would help the breaking of horses in Canada or Australia. They train their men in Canada and Australia for that purpose, and to have people coming over here in order to stir up what I think is a rather degraded public taste by exhibiting these things is certainly not necessary for training horses in Canada and has nothing whatever to do with it.

The noble Lord talks about rushing the Bill through the House of Commons. The reason the Bill went through the House of Commons quickly was twofold. In the first place the House of Commons were agreed that this is a right Bill. There was no opposition to it from any side of the House or from any individual in the House. In those circumstances it is only natural and proper the Bill should get through without undue delay. Another reason why there should not be delay is that. the rodeo is coming over here, and the intention had been announced of having the performances which are very distasteful to the public and to the House of Commons itself. Therefore, it was very important to get the Bill through quickly.

The only other word I wish to say is this. We had experience some years ago of what rodeo meant. We had experience of public performances of "throwing or casting, with ropes or other appliances, any unbroken horse or untrained bull." We had experience of "wrestling, fighting, or struggling with any untrained bull." We knew what these public performances were. The public, I think, speaking largely, and certainly the Press, with almost absolute unanimity, condemned the public performances such as are aimed at in this Bill, and it was because the public and the Press almost unanimously condemned these performances that the Bill was brought in. I hope your Lordships will—I will not say merely follow the House of Commons, but, acting on your own initiative and judging on the merits of the case, will accept this Bill and pass it.


I would like to say a word with regard to the remarks made this afternoon. Most of what I intended to say has already been said by my noble friend who has just addressed the House. At the same time I think I might. perhaps repeat in another form a few of the words which I spoke on another occasion in your Lordships' House, not so very long ago, when I had the privilege of raising this matter and bringing it before your Lordships' House. As one of those who had the experience of watching the rodeo when it was performed in England on the last occasion, I would only say that even after the removal of some of the things which are mentioned in this Bill, had taken place, the programme at Wembley was not a performance which would inspire the real sportsman with any pleasure.

I wish to make it clear that in speaking against such artificially-produced performances in this country there is no reflection on those who are actually taking part in them, that is to say, with regard to those who risk life and limb with the courage and ability which must have commended themselves to those who watched them. But it was the other side of the picture that appealed, I think, to the bulk of those who saw the performance and made us determined, when an opportunity offered, to do whatever we could to see that it did not occur again. I would also like to remind your Lordships that it was not merely the performance that took place at Wembley that gave rise to such public opposition. It was that whereas at Wembley performances of the rodeo took place under some of the best conditions that could be obtained here, there were other performances in other parts of the country where the cruelty exhibited was disgusting beyond description.


May I say a word or two of explanation? I would like to remind your Lordships that the remarks which I made before were with reference to legislation and not with reference to the holding of a rodeo. I purposely refrained from any remarks as to the propriety or the reverse of that. I cannot, however, allow to pass unchallenged the suggestion that no member of the House of Commons or the public in general wished to see an exhibition of that class of manliness which has hitherto been included in rodeos in other parts of the world and particularly in our Dominions. With full respect to the noble Lord who has just spoken, I venture to disagree with him in the suggestion that there is any lack of curiosity to see such an exhibition of courage as has been displayed at these gatherings in our Dominions, where a man going full gallop throws himself off a horse and seizes a steer by the horns. I challenge any member of your Lordships' House or of the House of Commons to deny that it requires great personal courage to do that.

Like many other members of your Lordships' House I have ridden all my life and I have been thrown off animals frequently. I do not regret it and I do not suppose that the animals did either. But the statement has been made in another place that the game was for a cowboy to seize a bullock by the horns and twist its neck until the agony compelled the creature to lie down. Your Lordships will be aware that the kind of steer used to-day is mostly short-horned. In the early days, however, long horns came from Texas and your Lordships can visualise the courage it would take to place oneself in the way of a bunch of perhaps 3,000 long-horned cattle and throw oneself off a horse. It rather introduces an element of ridicule to suggest that a man who pits himself against an animal such as a steer capable of pulling 3,000 or 4,000 pounds is dealing with a weak animal capable of being tortured by a man. Those who have seen these animals either in circumstances of domestic docility or of wildness on the plains of North America or the Argentine will know that that is not the case. It was because that sort of reference was made to rodeos that I raised this point —not on the question of holding a rodeo, but on the question whether it is desirable that legislation of this character should be rushed through, when it may be taken as a precedent.


I think it is unfortunate that the noble Lord was not in his place for the Second Reading of this Bill. The speech to winch we have listened was really a very eloquent Second Reading speech. It does not arise on the Amendments. The noble Lord is better qualified than anybody to tell us what takes place at similar events in Canada and Australia, but what takes place in Canada and Australia is not what would be proposed to take place in this country. The whole point made by the noble Lord is that it requires great personal courage to jump off a horse and tackle an untamed steer. The animals brought over here on the last occasion were widely advertised as being untamed, but in point of fact they were not untamed. When they were taken down to Kent to graze they were tamer than any other cattle there. I think the noble Lord really is warning your Lordships against a danger which does not exist. Those animals such as he has dealt with and struggled with in Canada are not the sort of animals which came to Wembley in 1924.

As to haste, the reason for haste is that the desire of Parliament, as I interpret it, is to stop this thing happening. Therefore the Bill has to be passed before the Recess. In order to avoid any complaint of excessive haste, I allowed ten days to elapse in your Lordships' House between Second Reading and the Committee stage. I do not think, therefore, that anyone can accuse the promoters of the Bill of rushing it. The Bill got speedily through the House of Commons because there was no opposition. There has been ample time for discussion in your Lordships' House.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Penalties]:


There is a drafting Amendment to this clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 17, leave out ("alternately") and insert ("alternatively").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.