HL Deb 01 February 1938 vol 107 cc571-92

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The clauses of the Bill can be explained, I think, very briefly. The first contains a prohibition against the operations of docking and nicking of horses' tails. The second contains a saving, which will enable those operations to be performed in certain circumstances—in the words of the Bill, "because of disease of or injury to the tail" of the horse. The third clause provides an appropriate penalty, and the fourth clause prohibits the importation of docked horses. I should like to say, at this stage, that since this Bill was printed and read a first time representations have been made to me that this clause will operate unfairly, as it stands, as regards the importing interest from the Continent. I have considered the matter, and I am willing to undertake that should this Bill receive a Second Reading I will move an Amendment to this clause to provide that it shall not come into operation until a period of six years has elapsed after the coming into operation of the rest of the Act. I am satisfied that that Amendment will be fair not only to the importing interest but to those who breed horses in this country. Clause 5 contains certain necessary definitions.

I should now like to devote some minutes to putting before your Lordships some of the many arguments, as I conceive them to be, in favour of this Bill. Being aware that there is a certain amount of opposition to it, I hope your Lordships will be indulgent in that matter. I would begin by asking two questions. The first is this: Is docking cruel? The second question is: If so, is it necessary? and I should think, my Lords, that it is on the basis of those two questions that this matter should be approached. The general principle of law, as I understand it, with regard to cruelty to animals is this, that practices which are cruel and also necessary are legal. On the other hand, practices which are cruel and unnecessary are illegal. If your Lordships, having heard this debate, are satisfied that docking though cruel is necessary, or that clocking is not cruel, then I am content that this Bill should be defeated. If, on the other hand, you are satisfied, as I hope that the House will be satisfied, that this practice of docking is both cruel and unnecessary, then I shall ask your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading.

I have no quarrel whatever with that principle of law, if I have stated it correctly. I say that docking is cruel and unnecessary, and I recognise that it is necessary for me to demonstrate to your Lordships this afternoon that these statements are justified. I ought at this stage to mention that the present law is this. Under the Animals (Anæsthetics) Act, 1919, a horse may not be docked except under a general or local anæsthetic. I want to make it clear that this Bill is not being introduced now because it happens to be very difficult to administer the 1919 Act. I am not here this afternoon to say that because we cannot enforce one Act I want another. But that happens to be true nevertheless: it is for obvious reasons difficult to enforce that Act, and the Act is often ignored. And even if an anæsthetic is used it can hardly be denied that there is some pain resulting from the operation. But it is not because of that that I am presenting this Bill to your Lordships; it is because the cruelty in docking is not so much in the operation but is prevalent over the whole of the rest of the horse's life. The permanent absence of a tail causes, in my submission, lifelong suffering to a horse, and the reason for that is pertinent to seek this afternoon.

In several very interesting ways there has been provided by nature protection for horses against flies in summer time and against cold weather and exposure in winter time. A horse has its feet, its mouth, its forelock, its mane and its tail to protect it against these things—all as it were specially designed to perform some useful function. In addition to those it has a fly muscle, the proper name for which, I am instructed, is the panniculus carnosus. This very interesting fly muscle covers most of its body but not all. It is intended apparently to cover those parts of the body which are not protected by the other means—the mane, the tail and so forth; in particular it does not cover the hind quarters—the hips and the buttocks of the horse—for the reason that the tail is provided to perform that function and to get rid of flies without there being the necessity of a fly muscle in those parts of a horse's body. There is one exception to the general title that there is protection for every part of the body, and that is that at the base of the tail, where as a matter of fact the tail cannot reach, there has been provided a special thick pad or patch of skin which flies cannot penetrate. I mention that to illustrate the fact that the whole body is covered in some respects. If the tail, or a large part of the tail, is removed by docking it is clear that a substantial portion of the horse's body becomes entirely exposed and unprotected. The part of the body between the thighs is entirely naked of hair, and that becomes entirely exposed by the removal of the tail.

I ought at this stage to admit that I am not an expert in these matters, but I have taken great trouble to study the writings of experts. May I therefore on that account be excused if I make this quotation from a book called The Points of a Horse by the late Captain Holland Hayes, who, I understand, was an acknowledged expert on this subject: The suffering inflicted during the operation (docking) is trifling as compared to the misery which the decked horse has to endure in the open during hot weather. In this respect brood mares which have been docked are particularly to be pitied, and men who dock fillies, or get them docked, merit the contempt of all lovers of horses. That is the principal argument for this Bill and for the statement that docking is cruel. Docking is, we say, more or less a fashion. It is demanded by those who want to show horses, but perhaps some of those who show young horses do not give enough thought to what is going to happen to those horses in the later years of their lives, when they are turned out to grass and are entirely unprotected against flies in hot weather. Perhaps that is not often thought of in the show ring. Again, horses which have no tails are very apt to stamp and kick on hard roads and in stables, in order to try to remove flies, and it is clear that that does them no good. Horses out at grass in particular suffer very greatly from the absence of tails; they cannot get proper rest, and they cannot feed properly.

I ought now to say a word about the operation of nicking, because it is sought to prohibit nicking as well as docking in this Bill. Nicking, it is admitted, is very rarely carried on in this country to-day. It is in some other countries, and was in this country. Again I hope I shall be forgiven for reading this description, because I do not want to mislead the House in any way whatever. The operation of nicking is a surgical one, cutting the strong flexor muscles on each side of the base of the tail. The tail is then bent up at nearly a right angle, tightly bandaged, and held in this position by mechanical devices until the wounds heal in perhaps two or three weeks. The purpose is to paralyse the muscles which depress the tail so as to keep it in a permanently erect position. I have not heard of any arguments for nicking, and it seems plain that that operation is cruel. I propose therefore to pass on to docking, but: in passing to say that if nicking is very little practised in this country, then no harm will be clone by prohibiting it in the future. I am unable to think of any arguments in its favour whatever. It is pure fashion so far as I know.

I hope that I have succeeded, at any rate in part, in showing that these practices are cruel. But I must also show, if I am to succeed in presenting my case, that they are not necessary. I must deal with some of the objections to this Bill which will no doubt be put forward, and the principal objection of which I have been able to think is the old story that in driving a horse there is a danger of the reins getting under the tail. I must say at once that that argument simply will not do, and for this reason, that people are driving horses with undocked tails in every country of the world every day of the year. Of course, I know that care is required to drive a horse, and it has been said—and I think there is a good deal in it—that if a rein does get under a docked tail it is more difficult to dislodge, because a docked horse will clutch his tail much more than an undocked one. In this connection it is interesting to know what people in other countries are doing. In Russia, I am told, horses are never docked, and we all know that there is a great deal of driving of horses in Russia. In Canada and the United States four-in-hands and even six-in-hands are constantly driven with horses with undocked tails. I am afraid I am quoting a lot of figures, but I desire to substantiate my case with facts. In New York City there are 5,000 milk delivery horses undocked, and in the United States there are over 15,000,000 undocked farm horses.

I emphasise the fact that they are farm horses, because I believe one of the arguments against this Bill is that particularly in ploughing and in other farm operations a docked tail is desirable. Is there any truth in this statement that you cannot plough without docking the horse's tail? We have tried to find that out, and we have found that many people use undocked horses for ploughing. Another detail, is that in the Essex ploughing match last summer the prize was won by an undocked horse. Again, docked horses are never used in hearses, and if there is any case in which I should have thought it imperative to ensure that no accident arose it would be the use of horses for hearses. That again goes to show that this is a pure fashion. So much is it a fashion to have undocked horses in a hearse that people who cannot get anything else but docked horses actually put false tails on them when they put the horses into a hearse. That is contrary to the statement that it is entirely a fashion to clock horses for other purposes and on other occasions. If it is said that it is impossible to drive horses with undocked tails, bearing in mind that they are doing it so much abroad, is it really suggested that English drivers are less skilful than foreign drivers? I cannot believe that is so. Even if there was a danger, it can be avoided. It can be avoided by cutting the hair to the end of the dock. There will be nothing illegal about doing that even if this Bill is passed. It can be avoided by plaiting and binding together and braiding the hair of the tail. It can be avoided by binding the dock with webbing if necessary.

It is said that undocked horses are dirty or liable to cause disease. The fact—if it is a fact, which I deny—that they are likely to be more dirty than other horses can be avoided by tying up or shortening the hair. I submit that there is no evidence that an undocked horse is more liable to get disease than a docked horse, and I would remind your Lordships that there is a clause in this Bill empowering this operation to take place if there is any disease or injury to the tail. Then it is said that the appearance of a horse is improved by docking and its quarters better shown off. That is purely a matter of opinion. I will not labour the point except to say that opinions differ and that a great body of opinion says, on the contrary, that the appearance of a horse is ruined by docking. In any case the same remedies apply, and if people want to see the hind quarters of a horse better they can apply the same remedy, by doing up and bandaging the tail. Surely mutilation cannot be an aid to beauty. I am fortified in that statement by the results of inquiries which have been made from well-known painters and sculptors. The support which we have received from them is very encouraging. I am not going to weary your Lordships with figures or names, but I can assure you—and I can prove it if necessary—that a very large number of well-known painters and sculptors support this Bill.

Another objection which I want to anticipate is that in tip-carts which are used on farms and elsewhere it is awkward or dangerous to have an undocked tail. I say there is nothing in that argument. If there is any difficulty it is simply because of bad harnessing, simply because the traces are too short. In any case, which is the right thing to do—to cut the horse to fit the cart, or to make the cart to fit the horse? Pursuing this question of whether it is necessary, I have some other interesting facts. One of them is that I understand that in the Coronation procession there were no docked horses. I am open to correction on that point, but I believe it to be true. I know it is true that in the Army docking is forbidden by King's Regulations. I understand that there are no, or very few, docked horses in the Metropolitan Police, and I know there is a very large body of opinion amongst owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys, and riding schools in favour of this Bill. It is also supported by the Council of the National Veterinary Medical Association of Great Britain and Ireland. We have been particularly anxious to know how large users of driven horses fare with undocked horses and what their opinion is. I can say that three out of four railway companies—I do not think we had any reply from the fourth—have no objection at all to buying undocked horses. These companies are employing very many thousands of horses, in London and elsewhere, to-day.

We made some inquiries overseas, because I was particularly anxious to know how other countries looked at this problem, and we had some very interesting results. I found to my surprise that it is regarded as an English fashion, and it is generally said that if it is stopped in England it will be stopped almost everywhere. It is unheard of in some parts of the world. It is illegal in some parts of the world. It is illegal in seven States of the United States, and it is interesting to note that in one of these States it has been against the law for some years. It is illegal in Germany, and it is illegal in Norway. I made inquiries to find out what has happened in Norway since it was made illegal three years ago, and the answer is there has been no complaint at all as the result. In Australia they say there is no need to prohibit docking because it is not practised, and they cannot understand why it should be clone in England. In India it is not now practised. In South Africa it is practically unknown except amongst horses imported from England, and they make the rather subtle remark that "cruelties of the utilitarian rather than of the fashionable type" are prevalent in South Africa.

Docking is purely a fashion. I make that statement, and I hope to be able to substantiate it. I have inquired into the history of this particular fashion. It has been known since the earliest times. It burst into prevalence in England apparently, in the reign of Charles II. It waxed and waned throughout the decades and centuries, and from 1840 to 1880 it was practically unknown; it had almost died out. In 1880 it began to come back again, and in 1900 it was almost universal. Since then, happily, it has been again on the wane, although it is still extremely common in England. What happened in hose days when docking was not practised if all those dangers which we hear about are really true? From 1840 to 1880 was the age of driving horses, when motor cars were unheard of, and if there is really anything in the argument that it is dangerous to drive undocked horses, what happened in those days? Why did they not dock their horses? This is a cruel fashion which, unhappily, other countries practise simply because the English practise it.

Human fashions are also prevalent in this country. Some of them some people think equally silly, but human beings can answer and speak for themselves. They are not bound, although I must say sometimes they almost appear to be, to conform to those fashions unless they wish to do so. Horses, however, are not asked whether they wish to conform or whether they do not. This is a stigma upon this country. The Arabs, I am told, cannot understand why English people dock horses. It is cruel and unnecessary, and when the old arguments are brought out, as I fear some of them may be this afternoon, I ask your Lordships to say that it cannot be said that not docking horses is a dangerous practice when the driving and riding of undocked horses is being carried on all over the world every day of the year. I will conclude by quoting a statement by the late Duke of Devonshire which, I think, sums up the case for this Bill in a much better way than I could myself. He said: The body of a horse is endowed by nature with a head at one end and a tail at the other, both having obvious uses. Remove one, and you produce a monstrosity and inflict chronic cruelty. Docking in itself is a small thing, but its effect in removing protection from flies in summer, in deference to an absurd and hideous fashion, is simple torture to the animal so treated. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Merthyr.)

THE EARL OF RADNOR, who had given Notice that he would move that the Bill be read 2athis day six months, said: My Lords, in moving the rejection of the Bill may I first of all pay tribute to the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading for the very fair way in which he has done so, and may I continue by saying that so far as nicking is concerned my first introduction to it was in the title of this Bill. On investigation and inquiry I have come to the conclusion that had the Bill been confined to the practice of nicking I think there would have been no opposition from either myself or anybody else to the Bill, because there can be no defence of this practice, although I might suggest to the noble Lord that there are degrees of nicking, and I am informed that the operation can be done so as to leave very little trace. Therefore, if Clause 4 of this Bill becomes law, it may put a rather difficult decision upon Custom House officers who have to decide whether an imported horse has been nicked or not. May I further also say that so far as my arguments are concerned I am not referring in any way to riding horses. Horses used for riding are not, as a matter of fact, in these days generally docked, and I think there is no defence of the practice for horses that are used for that purpose and for that purpose only.

Incidentally, I may say that one member of your Lordships' House asked to be enlightened as to what the operation of docking was. He suggested that "perhaps you would enlighten some of us Cockneys because we do not know what docking is." In case there are any others who have no knowledge, may I say that it consists in the removal of part of the bony formation at the end of a horse's tail thereby shortening the tail and removing the part on which the longer hairs of the horse's tail grow. The issue in this Bill is one of cruelty to the horse, and it is in fact a very narrow issue. The noble Lord has pointed out that the operation of docking can only be carried out by law under an anæthetic, either local or general, and the mere fact that the law is not always enforced is no reason, as he quite rightly pointed out, for making another law. That issue is still further narrowed to a very small portion of the horse's body.

In common no doubt with many other of your Lordships I have had a pamphlet from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in which they tell me about this special muscle which a horse has for removing flies from its body, and they point out a very small area stretching from the stifle joint to the top of the rump where that muscle does not exist. This makes a very small issue for your Lordships to debate. But, incidentally, I may say that in the case of the ordinary commercial horse which has been docked the tail is long enough to reach the area concerned. I may also add that a muscle does not exist on a horse's face which he can reach with his tail, nor does one exist below the knee on the front leg which equally he can reach even with an undocked tail, so that it might be called almost a form of special pleading. But be that as it may, I do not base my arguments against the Bill on questions of that nature. My arguments are based on purely practical considerations, and I hope to show your Lordships that the operation of docking is, in a great many cases, a necessary operation and that prohibition would be a hardship to those to whom it is necessary. In moving the rejection of this Bill I find that I have the support of the National Horse Association, which is a body that has, I think, something like 1,200 individual subscribers and some 160 associations or organisations as well, all of whom are interested in horses and none of whom can be said to be hostile to the best interests of the horses.


Have they consulted the subscribers?


That I do not know. I might also say that the National Farmers 'Union, which numbers amongst its members a very large body of people who use horses for agricultural purposes, is very much opposed to this Bill. There is also the Central Landowners' Association, and in fact, so far as my knowledge goes, generally speaking the big users of draft horses are opposed to this Bill. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading mentioned the railway companies, and said that three out of the four of the main railway lines of this country were in favour of the Bill. I happen to be a director of a railway company and I made some inquiry as to the attitude of the railway companies on this matter. I was informed that they were all opposed to the Bill, and, in fact, the only point at issue was whether it was expedient to try to reject it on Second Reading in your Lordships' House or allow it to die a natural death in the course of events. I think there is, amongst those who are interested in the use of the horse as a practical proposition and as a commercial proposition, a very large body of opinion which is opposed to this Bill to prevent the docking of horses.

The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading said it was entirely fashion. That applies of course to riding horses. I quite agree. I have told your Lordships that I do not approve of the docking of riding horses. It did apply in the days when the horse was the usual mode of locomotion before the advent of motor cars. Now motor cars have come in, and as very few people take out a smart carriage and pair nowadays there can be no question of fashion as far as that aspect is concerned. Users of draft horses are not concerned with fashion. They are concerned entirely with practical considerations. They are not inhumane as a body, and they would not countenance the practice of docking were it not desirable from their point of view as users of horses. There are various arguments. There is the question of danger, which was passed over, I would say lightly, by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. But it is a very real danger. An undocked horse may easily get its tail entangled in the harness or over the reins. It may run away in consequence, and be a serious source of danger in our crowded streets to-day.

If your Lordships have ever seen a plough team at work you will realise that it is not difficult for the long tail of a horse to get over the long loose plough reins. In those circumstances a horse may easily run away and not only do damage to himself but to anybody who gets in the way. There is another source of danger. Horses are used, and to my mind quite rightly, for the delivery of parcels and the like in towns. Horses have the great advantage over motor cars in that they can move without the aid of human beings, that they have a pair of eyes and a certain amount of intelligence. The usual practice is for a carman to take two or three parcels, drop one at the first house and call to the horse which follows him up the street without anybody in attendance. Suppose such a horse gets his tail over the reins on the side opposite the pavement. He may be a quiet horse, not going to run away, but as he moves forward the pull on the reins will direct him steadily towards the middle of the road where any motor car coming along may easily run into him. There is no warning to the driver of the car that the horse is going to do such a thing and the horse is only obeying what he has been taught to obey. I do not want to labour too much the question of danger.

There is another question—that of hygiene. The long tail of a horse needs to be cleaned. Cleaning a long tail means a considerable amount of labour, and the experience of those who have to do with heavy draught horses is that not infrequently the cleaning of a long tail is neglected or partially neglected. The result is irritation to the tail of the horse and some form of disease in a horse's tail, which I may say causes the horse a very considerable amount of pain and discomfort, far more than any flies can cause. You cannot prevent human beings behaving as they do, and you cannot prevent some of them being rather lazy. There is another argument against the Bill. Hackney horses are, I think, invariably docked. I know that many of your Lordships have no use for the hackney horse, but whether or not you are hostile to the hackney horse you must agree that hackney horses provide employment and contribute not inconsiderably to our export trade. That fact, I think, deserves some recognition by us. If they are not allowed to be docked that will destroy much of the export trade in hackney horses. You may say that is a good thing. But not all the trade will be destroyed, and those hackney horses which are exported undocked, when they reach foreign countries will be docked in those foreign countries, and they will be docked without the aid of an anæsthetic. It would be cruel, therefore, to export undocked horses to a country where they are required to be docked.

But, my Lords, there is to my mind an even more important argument against the Bill. Horses are not the only animals to have their tails cut. Dogs have their tails cut, sometimes even bitten off, and without the aid of an anæsthetic. If it is made unlawful for horses to be docked, is there any reasonable argument why it should not be made unlawful for dogs to have their tails cut, or for hounds' ears to be rounded? Is there any reasonable argument against the prohibition of any form of so-called mutilation which is practised on animals to-day? Even lambs have their tails cut. If this Bill passes your Lordships' House and becomes law it seems to me that there will be no end to legislation of a similar nature. To my mind this is a form of grandmotherly legislation. It is perhaps almost an insult to our grandmothers to use that particular adjective, because they were sensible and would have had no nonsense of this sort. But still it is grandmotherly legislation, and I cannot help feeling that, quite apart from the practical considerations which I have put before your Lordships, it is a matter which should not be dealt with by Statute but can be dealt with much better by public opinion. The time of Parliament should not be occupied in passing legislation of this nature. I hope that with the arguments I have put before your Lordships you will consider not only that the practical considerations preclude the desirability of this Bill being passed in your Lordships' House, but that you will also realise that it is almost bringing Parliament into contempt to ask it to pass legislation on a matter which should be dealt with by public opinion and not by legislation. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships, when I take this matter to a Division later, will support me.

Amendment moved— Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(The Earl of Radnor.)


My Lords, I hope I may be allowed to support my noble friend who has just spoken. The noble Lord who so ably introduced the Bill said he had two things to prove. One thing was that the practice was cruel, and the other was that it was unnecessary. I do not think he has proved either. He began by giving away half his case by admitting that the actual operation of docking as regulated by law was not cruel at all; so that is a matter which I need not argue. The question really is whether the discomfort which a docked horse suffers from flies is so great that it is necessary to have a special Act of Parliament to relieve him of it. I have seen a great many horses turned out, docked and undocked. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill admitted, very rightly, that the tail operates over only a very small part of the horse's body. Where it does operate it is a very inefficient instrument, because what really troubles a horse more than the ordinary common fly is the horse-fly. You get these horse-flies sticking on to a horse, and he may hammer away at them with his tail but he cannot get them out. It is really an exaggeration to say that a horse cannot rest and cannot feed in summer on account of the ordinary common fly. Surely any one who goes on a hot day and sees horses that are turned out to grass, whether they have long tails or short tails, will see that they do feed and do rest. I have never been able to see that it made much difference to their rest or their feeding whether they had long tails or short. I admit that there is just a little bit of the body which can be reached by a long tail but not by a short one. It is, however, quite small, and the tail only operates on the common house- fly; it will not get a horse-fly off the horse at all.

Then I come to the other side of the question: what we gain by allowing docking. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill undertook to show that docking was unnecessary. I grant him that; you cannot say that it is really necessary. It does, however, provide a safeguard against a considerable danger. It is quite true that people do not drive horses nowadays anything like so much as they did in the days of our youth; but they do drive them still, and in the West Country, where I come from, you see a good many horses being driven to and from market. It is those horses which are more likely than any others to get their tails over the reins. The trouble, sometimes fatal, that may ensue is much greater than any inconvenience that a horse may suffer by not being able to brush the ordinary common fly off a very small portion of its body. That is the case in a nutshell. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill so ably has failed absolutely to prove either that docking is cruel or that the Bill is necessary. That being so, I think we ought to protest against adding another crime to our criminal law. Fancy putting a man in prison for doing what a body like the Farmers' Union and various other bodies of great standing in the country look upon not as a crime at all but as a very necessary proceeding!It would be reducing legislation to a farce to take up such a trifling matter as this and add another quite unnecessary crime to the crime book. Therefore I shall vote against the Second Reading.


My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will allow me at this stage of the debate to intervene to indicate in the briefest possible manner the Government's attitude to this Bill. All I wish to say is that the Government do not desire at present to offer any observations on the Bill; they do not, in fact, propose to ask your Lordships to vote one way or the other on the Bill, but to leave the question of the Second Reading to the free vote of the House.


My Lords, I feel that we are much indebted to the noble Lord for introducing this Bill. Docking, as we all know, is going out in this country, and even the noble Earl who moved the rejection of the Bill seemed to be content if public opinion drove it out. He would shed no tears if docking came to an end without the aid of the law. Well, let it go quickly if it is a bad thing. The law has very often, and properly, assisted public opinion to get its way with due expedition. The opposition to the Bill is, I really believe, an example of prejudice. Prejudice, when it has to defend itself, is often obliged to think of grounds based on reason. Therefore we hear reasons given which we are to understand are the real ground for preserving docking or preventing the abolition of docking, on the four sides of the question: utility, economics, humanity and good taste. In regard to utility, the danger arising from reins getting under the tail is, of course, genuine, and the noble Lord, Lord Bayford, gave us an entertaining picture of the farmer returning from market and the predicament he might be in. But perhaps I might suggest that if the rein got under the tail of a docked horse his predicament would be far greater. One can well conceive the predicament of a driver who would perhaps find it possible to extricate the rein from under an ordinary tail, but would have to be extremely sober to get it out from under a clocked tail.

I see that the opponents of the Bill quote one or two authorities who have been Ministers of Agriculture and are not in favour of prohibition. Perhaps, having been twice Minister of Agriculture, I might make a counter-statement. It is that I could find any number of good farmers who are strong opponents of docking. The real utility of the Bill is, of course, as Lord Merthyr said, the protection of horses from flies and cold; and I venture to think that a powerful motive in the opposition to the Bill is that many of us are addicted to the worship of show-ring standards. Everybody knows that in regard to shire horses and hackneys the standards of the show ring are very strong and would die very hard. But these standards have very often been proved extremely futile. I wonder if the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, with his very great knowledge of the pig industry, remembers an illustration of that truth which I think he and I had occasion to notice at one time. There was a demonstration by the Ministry of Agriculture of the right kind of bacon pig to grow, and at this particular exhibition there were shown two sides of bacon which represented what you should not try to grow. It transpired that those two sides were the sides of pigs which respectively had won the first and second prizes in the show ring. So much for the show-ring standards.

With regard to the export question, let us remember that there was similar opposition to legislation concerning the export of horses for slaughter as well as to legislation dealing with the compulsory slaughter of animals. In both cases the grounds for opposition have been widely disproved, and I think that none of your Lordships would wish to advocate the removal of such legislation. It was said just now that if we drive hackney horses abroad undocked they may be docked there without an anesthetic. Have we any grounds for saying that these animals are in greater danger abroad than they are here? Some countries are ahead of us in such matters—Germany is particularly very much ahead of us—and therefore I think that that argument is hardly one to be used.

On the humanity side of the question there is no reason to labour the point about the discomfort that horses have to put up with from flies if they are docked, and nobody can deny that there may be docking without anæsthetics at all. It seems to me to be one of the most extraordinary phenomena of our country that people who are often very fond of animals should be quite blind to the feelings of animals when some strong fashion or habit prevails in their minds. I notice that the opponents of this Bill say, in their papers, that a docked tail is a most efficient weapon for removing flies from the quarters of a horse. I think that if you reduce the argument to that kind of absurdity it is a very strong argument against their case.

The real motive in the minds of those who are opposed to this Bill is the look of the thing. It is a question of taste. It is the aesthetic question in the end. Some people would rather die than turn up at a meet on a horse with a long tail; I mean unclipped. I remember that in the days when I hunted myself I should have felt it quite intolerable to do so, because it would be markedly against the fashion, and there were many people in those days who would not have liked to go to a meet on a horse which was not docked. I do not say that it is so now, but in the past such a person would have incurred the charge of being something in the nature of an amateur or sentimentalist.

Therefore I think the opposition to the Bill is perfectly natural; but who will deny that to admire a docked horse represents a taste which is absolutely distorted? You may get to admire a clipped poodle, or a bull terrier with its ears cut, but you must admit that your mind is in a septic condition if you do so. I do not think my expression is too strong. You might equally admire those grotesque horses depicted in that admirable book Horse Nonsense; you might get to feel that those things are essential. Lord Radnor mentioned dogs. We are inconsistent about dogs. It is difficult to admire a spaniel with a natural tail, but nobody can deny that the comparison between the case of a horse and a dog is too far fetched. Nobody can deny, whether a spaniel's natural tail is worth looking at or not, that a horse's tail is certainly well worth looking at. We in this country are behind other countries in this matter, and it is just a case where we ought to be not behind them but in front, leading other countries. On every ground—on the grounds of humanity, utility and taste—I think the Bill would be in harmony with the mass of public opinion, and ought to become law, and I hope that if it passes this House the Government will give time to it.


My Lords, it must be gratifying to Ministers to see so generous an attendance on the first day of the reassembling. Looking round one sees noble Lords who are better known for their attraction to horses in many forms than as regular attendants in this House. Anyhow this seems to be a subject which, the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, having given the House the privilege of a free vote, might be extended to cover a very considerable field, but I am sure we feel gratitude to the noble Lord who is the sponsor of this Bill for two things. First of all, for the very fair and fluent way in which he has advocated the principle of the Bill, and secondly, for his thoughtfulness in giving to your Lordships, on the first day after the Recess, a subject which requires no general knowledge but which secures this generous attendance, because it is generally admitted that questions of greater interest to the Empire receive much less attention.

The noble Lord in charge of the Bill said that this is largely a question of fashion. On the other hand the noble Lord who has just spoken says it is a matter of prejudice, and evidently that is true. On this subject many noble Lords have strong feelings. Otherwise they would not come here. After all, the horse population in this country is regrettably falling rapidly, and the degree of pain involved in this operation is perhaps not very considerable, but we all think very strongly about these things. The noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill did so on very solid grounds. He said that it would cause regret in the country that the time of Parliament should be taken up with so relatively small a matter, and that it would be far better to leave it to public opinion. We all know that in these things fashion oscillates. We have oscillation of public opinion in the matter of ladies' skirts. At one time they are long, and at another time they are short. We have seen a similar oscillation in the matter of horses' tails. I am sure that the bloods of Melton would not like to turn out on horses which have not long tails, and that seems to show that public opinion is changing and that this is a matter which can be left to public opinion. After all, in the last thirty years the fashion has changed. I have not any statistics, but the proportion of docked to undocked horses has fallen very much; I think it has fallen by about 40 per cent. in the last five or six years. Therefore this evil, if it is an evil, is remedying itself.

But I do not wish to weary the House, and when so eminent an authority and one so familiar with the sporting life of this country as the former Minister for Agriculture who has just spoken has already given his views, it would be almost impertinent for anybody else to add to them. At the same time one would like to suggest that if the prohibition of docking is advocated because of its cruelty, one can easily visualize how dangerous this Bill might be in suggesting forms of interference with the ordinary practices in the country. Pain has to be imposed in the unsexing of animals, male and female, in all countries, and what about the de-horning of cattle in Australia and New Zealand? It may be said that these matters are irrelevant, but they are practical facts. Let us deal with practical facts. To pass legislation like this would cause great regret in the agricultural community. Why risk interfering with the ordinary practice when the pain involved does not really amount to anything substantial? Two years ago a Bill was introduced which would have interfered with the holding of rodeos because of the alleged cruelty to the animals, but those of your Lordships who have seen a rodeo will agree that the danger is really to the men and not to the animal, and, as these men take the risk for their livelihood they are entitled to consideration. On this matter I would like to support the noble Earl who moved the rejection of the Bill on the ground that it is undesirable to pass legislation to deal with a matter which is best left to the evolution of custom and the general feeling of the country.


My Lords, the discussion has taken a very practical form on the part of every speaker who has engaged in it, and in the absence of any direct opinion from His Majesty's Government—I think it possible that all the members of His Majesty's Government may not take an identical view on this subject—we have, I think, to consider what the practical arguments are. The noble Earl, Lord 'Radnor, in his very moderately expressed advice to reject the Bill, indicated that riding horses are not in fact greatly affected by the Bill, and ought not to be. That, I take it, is quite true, because I imagine that the old practice of docking hunters has almost entirely died out. I think that even most of the horses fat hunting which come from Ireland have long tails. It appears to me that there are really two practical considerations, one in favour of the Bill and the other opposed to it, on which the decision of the House ought to turn. One, which was advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, is the possible danger and inconvenience to agricultural horses. That, I agree, is a powerful argument, and if it could be fully sustained, I think it ought to carry the day. But I confess that it is not quite clear to my mind that the safeguards and the various means of keeping long tails away from mischief might not in practically all cases meet the objections which are raised.

Of the arguments used on the other side the one which, I confess, appeals to me personally is what happens to docked horses when they are turned out. I think that anybody who has watched mares on a summer's day, with all the flies that persecute them, will feel that if those animals were summarily docket they would be in an infinitely worse case than they are. It is quite true of course that muscular effort disposes of flies to a certain extent, and it is also true up to a point, as was stated, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Bayford, that the most pernicious type of horse-fly can barely be removed even by the long and strong tail of a mare. But in spite of that it is impossible not to feel, when one has lived in that atmosphere for years, that a very great part of the comfort which animals are able to enjoy in the paddock is due to the fact of their being able to use their long tails. That, I confess, is the argument that has the most weight with myself, and to my mind it outweighs the other one which I mentioned, and to which I do not deny a certain validity. But, feeling as I do on the point I have mentioned, from a long personal experience of it, I shall be prepared to give my vote in favour of the Bill.


My Lords, I believe I am correct in saying that as the mover of the rejection of this Bill I have the right to reply. I shall do so very briefly indeed. Many of the arguments used in favour of the Bill have been to the effect that the docking of horses is done purely because it is fashionable, purely because of a prejudice. Were that the only reason in favour of docking I should not be opposing this Bill. My argument is that it is for practical reasons; and no other, that docking is carried out to-day. So far as turning out horses to grass is concerned, the draught horses that are used in our great cities, the majority of which I believe are to-day docked, are hardly ever turned out to grass and therefore can suffer no pain from flies. Finally, may I say that should this Bill become law it will be one further blow at the horse industry in this country, and one which that industry can ill afford.


My Lords, I shall also reply in a very few words: The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, spoke of the danger of undocked horses in crowded streets. There are undocked horses in crowded streets all over the world, and I do not think it would be any worse in our streets. He then gave us an example of a horse in a delivery cart which had to be left whilst the driver went into the house to deliver goods. I only say in passing that that practice, although I know it is common, happens to be illegal and has been so, I think, since the Highway Act of 1835. Then he described the difficulty of people who could not afford the time or summon the energy to clean properly the tail of the horse. The answer to that is that these people can cut off the hair of the horse's tail which is beyond the dock. As long as they do not cut the dock, they can cut as much hair off as they like without infringing this Bill.


That would leave no protection against flies.


It leaves less protection against flies, but more protection than a docked tail would provide. It is a question of degree. The noble Earl said that this Bill had not the support of the Central Landowners' Association. I have no doubt he would not say that if it

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

were not true, but I am a member of that Association and I have not heard a single word about being asked to support it or otherwise. The noble Lord, Lord Bayford, gave us a very amusing argument against this Bill, but it is hardly a forcible one and other means must surely be found to keep under control those horses coming back from market. Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, said we ought not to pass this Bill because there are other and greater cruelties. That is the old story of the red herring. It is an extraordinary fact that in no place and at no time can one propose a measure to stop cruelty to animals without meeting with that argument. Somebody always says, "But some other cruelty is much greater, and therefore you must not pass this." I have only these observations to make, and I do ask your Lordships most sincerely to give a Second Reading to this Bill in order that public opinion may further be tested.

On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 20.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.] Gainford, L
Colville of Culross, V. Greville, L.
Halifax, V. (L. President) FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Harris, L.
Mersey, V. Hawke, L
Ailesbury, M. Plumer, V. Holden, L
Crewe, M. Howard of Glossop, L.
Reading, M. Addington, L. Lawrence, L.
Addison, L. Marks, L.
Bradford, E. Ailwyn, L. Merthyr, L. [Teller.]
Carnwath, E. Allen of Hurtwood, L. Middleton, L.
Clarendon, E. Berwick, L. Mottistone, L.
Denbigh, E. Braye, L. Noel-Buxton, L.
Fortescue, E. Cawley, L. Poltimore, L.
Granville, E. Charnwood, L. Redesdale, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.) Rushcliffe, L.
Lucan, E St. Levan, L.
Munster, E. Clwyd, L. Stanmore, L.
Poulett, E Daryngton, L. Stonehaven, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Elton, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)
Stradbroke, E. Erskine, L. Wolverton, L.
Feversham, E. Bayford, L. [Teller.] Illingworth, L.
Powis, E Bingley, L. Jessel, L.
Radnor, E. [Teller.] Cautley, L. Palmer, L.
Chesham, L. Rockley, L
Elibank, V. Darcy (de Knayth), L. Strabolgi, L.
Digby, L. Templemore, L.
Barnby, L. Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.) Teynham, L.
Wardington, L.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.