HL Deb 12 July 1951 vol 172 cc823-5

2.27 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, your Lordships will remember that a Departmental Committee was set up and reported in March, 1950, on the export and slaughter of horses. Two members of your Lordships' House were on that Committee—the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, in the Chair, and the noble Lord, Lord Digby, as one of its members. Two of the recommendations made by that Committee are dealt with in the Bill of which I have the honour to move the Second Reading this afternoon. They are contained in paragraphs 18 and 20 of the Committee's Report. Paragraph 18 reads: We have not had any evidence to show that in licensed slaughter houses the actual killing is carried out in a cruel fashion. We think that humane methods are used. It is clear, however, that some of the provisions of the Second Schedule to the Slaughter of Animals Act are not properly observed. Section 2 of the Second Scheduleruns as follows: 'Every occupier of a slaughter house or knacker's yard shall cause every animal brought to such slaughter house or knacker's yard for the purpose of being slaughtered to be provided with a sufficient quantity of wholesome water and when it is necessary to confine any such animal for a period exceeding twenty-four hours with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food.' There are a number of places where this rule is not carried out and licensing authorities should exercise stricter supervision. Supervision is rendered more difficult by the fact that in many cases the lairage is at some distance from the slaughter house. In these cases the occupier only brings the horse to the slaughter house just before it is to be killed, so that even if he starves the horses while in lairage, he achieves a technical compliance with Section 2. The earlier provisions of this Bill are designed to alter that definition, so that if animals to be slaughtered are in the care and under the supervision of the slaughterhouse managers, the provisions of the Act of 1933 must be applied to them wherever they are. I think that is a matter with which all your Lordships will be in agreement.

The second recommendation in paragraph 20 of the Report is as follows: Section 3 of the Second Schedule to the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, requires the head of the horse to be securely fastened before slaughter. This seems to mean that it should be fastened to a ring fixed to the wall. The National Veterinary Medical Association and the R.S.P.C.A. have said that this is unnecessary in the case of a horse and that it is better if they are held by a man holding a rope attached to the halter. Those of us who have experience with horses agree with this view. Your Lordships will realise that both the noble Chairman and the noble Lord, Lord Digby, are not unacquainted with the management of horses. This measure, as introduced in another place. needed no Amendment. Although it was a Private Member's Bill, the Government allowed the Parliamentary draftsmen to take part. The Ministry of Food, I am glad to think, co-operated, and the Bill left another place a completely agreed measure. I hope it may receive a Second Reading from your Lordships this afternoon. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

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

2.31 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy to say—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, will be glad to hear it—that on behalf of the Government I am able to extend a hearty welcome to this Bill, and to wish it God-speed. The Ministry of Food do not necessarily accept any suggestion that there is cruelty to animals in slaughterhouses, or indifference to their general welfare. Notwithstanding that, however, I am sure we all agree that it is the duty of the Ministry to seethat no unnecessary suffering is caused to animals when they are in slaughterhouses. On behalf of the Ministry, I should like to tender thanks and appreciation not only to the Members responsible for introducing this Bill in another place, but also to the officers of the R.S.P.C.A. and the sanitary inspectors of local authorities, who are constantly on the watch in regard to slaughterhouses and do so much to bring about a right attitude towards the suffering of animals. In view of the more pleasant business we have in other directions this afternoon, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, will be quite satisfied if, on behalf of the Ministry, I offer a blessing to this Bill.

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