HL Deb 03 December 1962 vol 245 cc27-64

3.53 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, when this subject came before the House some years ago a decision was reached largely on the question of whether loss of consciousness was or was not practically instantaneous after the cut. Those supporting the existing law maintained that consciousness was lost almost immediately, but evidence was relied on from speakers who had perhaps unquestioned knowledge of the human physiology but were unfamiliar with the system of blood supply to the brain of oxen. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and the Society over which he presides have done such signal service by arranging fox a scientific test which has shown, I think, beyond reasonable doubt that consciousness does persist for an appreciable time. This finding cannot be set aside by those who in veterinary matters are mere laymen.

In fact, when slaughter is carried out by Jewish rites the period of consciousness is often appreciably longer than that determined by the experiment which my noble friend has described. The ox, besides the carotid arteries, has a short artery shielded by the neck vertebræ against the cut of the slaughterer. Also there is a sort of sponge or bag which holds a quantity of blood and continues to supply the brain, somewhat after the nature of the reserve tank of an aeroplane. There is an additional factor which obtains when the throat is tightly stretched before being cut. The great arteries and veins being to some extent elastic tend to restrict into their shields and so restrict to some extent the flow of blood. The stretching of the throat before cutting may therefore actually delay the onset of unconsciousness.

I have in my possession a letter from a retired Army officer who served for some time in Germany after the war. Jewish slaughter was prohibited in Germany during the war, but it was reintroduced by us in the area under our control under Jewish pressure. My informant was told by a veterinary officer responsible for the supervision of slaughterhouses that as soon as the throat of an animal had been cut by Jewish slaughtermen, he, the vet, ordered the ropes binding the animal's feet to be cut. The animal got to its feet and rushed out of the shed and remained on its feet for 50 seconds. The letter ended: The Germans say this is why the English fought the war. If we may accept it as a fact then that the oxen, at any rate, do not lose consciousness quickly after their throats are cut, the question then arises, why should Jews and Moslems be given special immunity from the operation of our laws on religious grounds? The leaders of some sections of the Islamic faith, notably the Imams of the Woking and East London mosques, have agreed that preliminary stunning does not invalidate the carcase as lawful food, but they have not issued, and are probably not in a position to issue, general instructions to their coreligionists that this practice must always be followed by Moslems. It is not a matter which should be left to the choice of individuals. We have a humane law that animals must be stunned before being killed, and this law should be applicable to all living in Britain, particularly as it has never been satisfactorily shown that preliminary stunning is contrary to the principles of any religion.

It is possible that financial considerations may have something to do with the stubbornness of the Jewish authorities in this matter. Jewish charities are helped to a large extent by the fees obtained from various aspects of kosher killing, but preliminary stunning need in no way affect the finances of the Shechita Board. Other countries, as we have heard, have been able to put a stop to this cruelty without any catastrophic consequences to their Jewish communities. Norway and Sweden have, for a good many years now, prohibited the practice absolutely, and other countries have followed, and are following, suit.

I should like to say a word on the subject of casting pens, because I played some part in the compulsory introduction of these appliances ten or twelve years ago. Before the introduction of the casting pen there was always a terrible struggle in casting the animal, which was often painfully injured on a concrete floor. The British slaughtermen hated this part of the proceedings, and I received several letters expressing their feeling. The casting pen obviated this struggle. But it is not an ideal operation, since, although it alleviates pain before killing, it does not do away with the terror which the animal feels on being turned over on to its back. Preliminary stunning would obviate the need for the casting pen and do away with both pain and terror.

Next, it is a fact that many more animals are killed by the Jewish method than are consumed toy the Jewish community. Jews do not eat the bind quarters of animals, though their own religion permits them so to do if certain large blood vessels are excised. This involves too much trouble or expense, so the hind quarters are passed on for Gentile consumption. There is also a certain demand for kosher meat among Gentiles on the, I am sure, false assumption that kosher meat inspection is more meticulous than that of our own official inspectors. If preliminary stunning were enforced it would not matter how many animals beyond Jewish needs were killed, because both pain and terror would have been removed.

Finally, a word on the esoteric aspect of animal slaughter. I believe that, sooner or later, the time will come when we shall regard the eating of animal flesh as we now regard cannibalism; but, as practical people, we have to realise that that time is not yet. All that we can hope to do to-day is to ensure that all pain and terror shall be eliminated from the process of slaughter, and gradually to bring the thinking public to an awareness of the facts, which are that animals survive physical death much as do humans, and if they are sent out of earthly life crazed with pain and terror, certain physical effects remain in their bodies which are detrimental to the health of those who eat them. Also, that in addition to pain and terror, they bring with them through the gates of death a terrible sense of betrayal, that men who have, on the whole, tended them with care and consideration should suddenly turn on them and do such dreadful things to them. It is true that man has been given dominion over the animals; but this dominion was never intended to include their treatment as insensate goods and chattels. Man must learn to consider himself as the elder brother of the animals and to help them up the ladder of evolution, instead of pushing them downwards by cruel and greedy exploitation.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and noble Lords who have followed him have explained the purpose of this Bill fully and well, and above all I want to avoid repetition. But from time to time measures come before your Lordships' House for the better protection of animals, and I think your Lordships have always received them with sympathy and understanding, particularly Bills in connection with wild animals which we have recently passed through your Lordships' House. To-day we are concerned with domesticated animals, and I am equally hopeful that your Lordships will give this Bill the sympathy which I think it observes. I believe that domestic animals should have our consideration just as much as do wild animals. Surely they deserve it.

When I was a schoolboy the path to the playing fields led quite close to a rather antiquated slaughterhouse. I have never forgotten the noises one heard and the sights one could not help seeing. I am afraid this is something that has rather haunted me all my life—and I do not think I am really more sensitive than the average person. Certainly it has given me an aversion to eating meat all my life. But, of course, things have improved since then. There must be slaughterhouses. We are a meat-eating nation. Animals have to be killed for food. Things have improved since my schooldays, but still, to me, there always seems to remain a terrible stigma, a terrible (may I call it?) indictment on our traditional life, that every year there should be slaughtered some 200,000 animals—that is the figure that has been stated to-day—by what I can only call a barbaric method, slashing with a knife without preliminary stunning.

This indictment the noble Lord, Lord Somers, seeks to remove by this Bill. I sincerely hope he will succeed. Who possibly can dare to calculate what kind of pain an animal feels when subjected to this kind of treatment and has to die by this means? It is no good quoting statistics. If there is any doubt about the matter, for Heaven's sake!, cannot we give the animal the benefit of that doubt? That is one point that I feel very strongly about. I can quote Mr. Bywater, who was a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, a deeply experienced man in all methods of slaughter for forty years. I could quote everything on his side, but it would only weary your Lordships and would only be repetitive of what my noble friend Lord Somers has said.

Leaving aside altogether the question of pain, I do know a little about what animals feel as regards fear. One thing they object to more than anything is being put out of their normal position. That is why the casting pen is so cruel. It is not only the killing by the knife, the slashing of the throat, which may give pain—it may or may not, and I say, give the animal the benefit of the doubt—but the casting pen must put the animal into a state of terror. If a human being is turned upside down, he knows what is happening to him, but an animal does not know and is in a state of terror all the time.

Like my noble friend and other noble Lords, the last thing I want to do is to hurt people's feelings in this matter, but we must face facts. The problem seems to resolve itself in my mind to this: are the religious interests of a small section of the community to override questions of plain humanity? That seems to me to be the question. People talk about minorities, but I do not think that that is the point. Suppose a referendum were taken in the country to-day: "How shall we have our animals killed? Should they be killed by their being stunned by the humane killer so that the animal is unconscious before his throat is out or slashed, and he may well take half a minute to die?" There would be an overwhelming vote in favour of the humane killer. We all know that, my Lords.

I would ask the Government just one question. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, is going to say in his reply, but I would ask how the Government can possibly justify the Jewish method of cutting the throat of a fully conscious animal when they have condemned it since 1933 by making the use of the humane killer compulsory for killing meat consumed by Gentiles. I have the greatest respect for religious beliefs. The noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, impressed me very much with what he said, but there was not a word of compassion in his speech for the poor animal—not one word. If Shechita is claimed to be Divine, well, is there not something Divine in compassion, too?

I have the greatest admiration for the Jewish people, as have other noble Lords who have spoken. One of the greatest men who some eighty years ago guided the fortunes of this country in your Lordships' House was a Jew, and he wrote this: While Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, Judaism is incomplete without Christianity. These two great Faiths surely can reconcile their differences once and for all in this matter. It is a long business; it has long been a running sore. Surely it is time it should be healed. I think that if the Government chose to do so, they could stop this cruelty, now and for ever.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, my interest in this matter was aroused when I was a Minister in the Ministry of Food and received a deputation of some of the organisations which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has met. As a result of that, I went to the slaughterhouse the next day and witnessed the killing of animals by both methods. It has been suggested here that the Jews in this country—I think this was the expression used by the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling—would have their consciences violated if this Bill were passed. I propose to make certain remarks which I will, in imagination, address to the intelligent young Jews in this country, because I believe it is not a fact to-day that every Jew will be appalled and shocked if this Bill is passed. I would go so far as to say that a large number of young Jews in this country would not think of opposing it.


My Lords, might I interrupt the noble Lady for a moment? Might I suggest that when she says "young Jaws" she should confine herself to the Orthodox Jews; because it is only to Orthodox Jews that this applies.


I will take up the noble Lord's point, if he wild listen carefully to my remarks. I have studied the Bible more thoroughly in the last two months than I have ever studied it in my life; I have been into the part of Israel where the Orthodox Jews live and where there are a number of intelligent men. I will also say this. I would dare to say what I am going to say now to the Albert Hall full of Jews. I cannot say more than that, because I feel so convinced my argument is sound.

I envisage Moses as a paternal figure embodying the qualities of a statesman and the commonsense of a man of the people, who recognised that it was not necessary only to maintain law and order, but also to instruct a- primitive agricultural community living in a hot climate how to conduct their lives. The law of Moses embraced the common law, made provision for the most helpless, for widows and children, and propounded the elementary laws of hygiene. Mohammed was equally knowledgeable of the social problems of his day and the hazards to health in the climatic conditions of Arabia. No doubt both these wise men, Moses and Mohammed, observed that the death rate from gastrointestinal disturbances was related to the consumption of food which was no longer fresh, or which had been contaminated in some way. Warnings on these lines in the Bible are repeated again and again.

I would say here—and I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, on this—there is no description of any method of animal killing in the Bible, but there are warnings. In Exodus, Chapter 21, verse 28, it says: If an ox gore a man or a woman that they die, then the ox shall be surely stoned and his flesh shall not be eaten. Quite right: in a hot country with sand, dust, flies, that meat would be contaminated. In Exodus, Chapter 22, verse 31, we see: Neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field, ye shall cast it to the dogs. The warnings I want to emphasise in these two verses were against eating meat which had been contaminated.

Moses and Mohammed also observed that in the Middle East the flesh had better keeping qualities if the animal had been bled by cutting the blood vessels. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 12, verses 23 and 24, it says: Only be sure that they eat not the blood. … Then it goes on: Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. In Leviticus, Chapter 17, verses 10 and 17, it says: I will set my face against that soul that eateth blood and will cut him off from among his people. I dare say this. My interpretation of this is that dysentery was a common complaint; they had learned that it could be transmitted and that segregation of the patient should be enforced. Otherwise, how can one interpret these verses which deal with the feeding of the people? Moses warned them that if they ate meat which was not fresh because there was blood in it, they might get dysentery and therefore would be cut off from the rest of the people.

In Leviticus, again, instructions are given that only healthy animals are to be brought to be killed, and, again, that the blood is to be sprinkled. All this follows Lord Swaythling's interpretation of the Bible. This insistence on ensuring that the animal is quite healthy before it is killed, and that it has not been interfered with in any way, is illustrated again in Leviticus, where instructions are given that a fowl should have its neck wrung by the priest in front of the altar—and, of course, the altar was simply a table of earth—and burnt or, as I interpret it, cooked on a wood fire.

Many of your Lordships have been in the Middle East. I have visited every Middle Eastern country, and time after time I have said, "Why are we waiting such a long time for lunch?" My host has said, in the wonderfully hospitable way of the people of the Middle East, "Well, in this country the neck of the chicken is being wrung after you have arrived here, because it is hot and we want you to have the freshest possible food." And I must confess that as a doctor I was very grateful to hear it. I think it is clear that the chief religious objects in the provision of meat for the Jewish and Moslem faiths are concerned with the method of slaughter and the condition of the carcase. The act of slaughter in the time of Moses was as humane as the times allowed. They had to use the implements which they had at hand, and the method was designed, to quote the Islamic Law, to allow the blood to flow out", because as I have said, this improved the keeping qualities of the carcase. Now, my Lords, in terms of preventive medicine these laws of hygiene represented the very essence of wisdom, thousands of years ago, in a hot, dusty country, before the invention of refrigeration and the humane killer.

As it was laid down that there should be no contamination of the animal before its throat was cut, there are those who regard the humane killer as introducing an element of interference. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, will not feel that I am being disrespectful when I say this, but my reading of the wisdom of Mohammed and Moses on these subjects is such that I believe that, if it were possible for them to go into the Division Lobby to-day, they would vote for this Bill. The humane killer had nothing to do with the contamination of meat in a hot country by dust, flies and animals—infections of every kind. They knew nothing about bacteriology in those days. Pasteur was not born until the last century, when we learnt about bacteriology. But these wise men learnt that there was something which infected the meat, and in consequence it deteriorated. But do you think for one moment, my Lords, that these wise men would regard a humane killer in the same light? Far from it! The animals lived with the people; they were fond of their animals. And, if it could be said that the animal could be stunned before having its throat cut, I am sure they would approve.

Perhaps I may dare say this about stunning and bleeding: stunning the animal does not prevent the blood from flowing freely, any more than a boxer who has had his head stunned on the floor of the ring ceases to bleed; and nobody I have ever heard in the boxing ring, has ever said that the flow of the blood is impeded after he has been stunned on the floor. Furthermore, no animal, whatever the method of slaughter, is drained completely of its blood. I hope that I shall not put your Lordships off your dinner tonight, but one has only to have an underdone steak to understand that that is true.

I do not wish to elaborate on any of the side issues. It is enough for me to know that some of the most brilliant physiologists in this country (and I would remind noble Lords that so many people they have mentioned, including Lord Horder, are not physiologists; and this is a matter for the experts) advised the Government that these animals should be rendered unconscious before blood is drawn. I would remind noble Lords that the other countries where this is already observed are in the van of social reform. Holland, Norway, Sweden and, in some measure, Switzerland, are countries which have introduced social reforms which we have been only too delighted to follow, and these countries have made use of the humane killer. My Lords, developments are taking place all the time in every field of science, and we must not allow dogmas and taboos to obstruct progress.

In the last century, doctors began to give women anæsthetics at their confinements. Pressure was brought to bear by representatives of the Church—not necessarily the Jewish faith—to stop Simpson and his followers from giving anæsthetics, because in Genesis, Chapter III, verse 16, it is said: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children … So there were poor women in the last century who were afraid to have anæsthetics for fear of offending the Church. Now the wise and humanitarian approach has prevailed, and it is the exception rather than the rule that a woman should be confined without an anæsthetic. I would say to those who have spoken against this Bill that in these days, when the Churches of all denominations are seeking to close their ranks, it would be regrettable if customs which emphasised their differences were perpetuated.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, despite the theological wanderings of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, I do not propose to follow her at this stage, but simply to impress on your Lordships that, whatever might have been said in this House, this Bill would have profound import for the orthodox Jew. History records many instances of suffering, self-sacrifice and martyrdom willingly endured for the sake of these laws, in the face of torture and death. My Lords, the case of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, as supported by the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, and the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, is that all this is consistent with Jewish teaching. The noble Lady, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Somers, quoted a verse from Deuteronomy. Let me quote it in full: Thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee … My Lords, Jewish Law is based not only on the Bible but also on what is called the Mischna. Jewish Law is both written and oral, and tradition holds that Moses was given the whole Law both written and oral, although the oral Law was put down in writing only in about 70 B.C. or thereabouts. The Law says quite categorically that it is the whole animal which must be free from injury and free from disease, and the animal must be examined after death to ensure that it is free from injury and from disease. But any method of stunning, whether by the captive bolt which shatters the brain and part of the skull, or by electric stunning, which produces irreversible brain changes, as is well known, even in human beings, and also causes severe congestion of muscles and, not infrequently, hæmorrhages and tears, has been known, as the noble Lord will know, to cause fractures in human beings. That is wholly contrary to Jewish Law, because the animal, when it comes to the Shechita, is not, in Jewish Law, whole.

Moreover—and let me say this—electric stunning is not always humane. In many of the publications of the R.S.P.C.A., the recent book by Thornton, in its fourth edition, is quoted. Let me quote you what he says on electric stunning: It must be agreed that if certain requisites are not complied with the method may be inhumane, for the electric current may produce a condition known as 'missed' shock in which the animal, though paralysed, is fully conscious". And, my Lords, if I needed more authority I would turn to the Council of which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, is President, because this is what it says of stunning by electricity in its Report for 1954–55: Your Committee has still to be convinced that the electric method of stunning sheep and pigs is humane, and strongly advocates its rejection in favour of the captive bolt pistol, which has proved itself beyond doubt". My Lords, the interpretation of Jewish law is not in the hands of Lord Somers, of Lord Dowding or of Lady Summerskill. The interpretation of Jewish law, whether it is accepted by noble Lords or not, is in the hands of Rabbinic authority; and the Rabbinic authority makes is abundantly clear that any method other than the prescribed Shechita, such as stunning previous to the act of slaughter, renders the meat ritually unfit for Jewish consumption.

I think it inappropriate, although some of your Lordships may think otherwise, that we in this House should indulge in discussing theological doctrines. It does not appear to me to be appropriate; but, at any rate, Jet the facts be known—and the fact is that Rabbinic authority will not support pre-Shechita stunning. But the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has said that he does not wish to trespass on the rights of conscientious Jews in any degree, and he went as far as to say, in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle a week or two ago: My Bill is not going to offend against the Jewish religion. If it did, I certainly would not be sponsoring it. The letter of the Jewish law remains perfectly intact under my proposal". My Lords, if that be so, I suggest that the noble Lord should withdraw this Bill, since it is completely contrary to Jewish law and wild offend many Jewish consciences.

On the other hand, I think I should say this: that your Lordships should be justly concerned with whether, in the act of Shechita, there is involved any unnecessary cruelty. This is a matter for your Lordships. If this were to be permitted under the law, even though it be countenanced by religious teaching, I believe many people in this country who are not Jews and many who are Jews would seriously doubt whether Shechita should be carried out. They would prefer not to eat meat if it was obtained by any cruel method. I confess that I was a little surprised at the irrelevancies of the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, who told us of Indian customs and Mormon customs which appeared to me to have no relationship whatsoever to the Jewish customs, or indeed to the Jewish law which at the moment I am attempting to explain. He said also that if we cannot support this Bill, at least do not let us oppose it. But, my Lords, we either support this Bill or we do not, and if we do not we must oppose it.

He made two statements which I hope your Lordships will reject and resent. The first is that minorities in this country who have religious practices which are not accepted by the majority might look out because it might react upon them adversely. If he said that not directly, he implied it quite directly.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting him for a moment, may I say that I certainly did not mean it in the sense suggested by the noble Lord. I want to clear myself of any possible anti-Semitism, or any possible threatening use of any words. It certainly was not my intention.


I accept the noble Earl's explanation at this later stage; but the noble Earl went on to say that minorities must keep the laws of this country. My Lords, the Jewish people of this country are law-abiding citizens. Many of them, I would claim, are as law-abiding as, if not more law-abiding than, many other citizens of this country. But Shechita is the law of this country. Shechita is the law of this country by the Slaughter of Animals (Consolidation) Act, 1958. What the noble Earl I think means is that if this Bill becomes law then Jews should observe it. Jews will observe it if it becomes law, but it is not the law of this country.

Now, My Lords, I come to the crucial question: is Shechita cruel? You have heard that Jewish teaching denies this, and the orthodox Jew's answer on this question is quite clear. He says, "God is an all-loving and all-merciful Father; therefore, he would not have commanded us to carry out any act which is cruel". "Our God," he says, "said in the Ten Commandments that the Sabbath Day was not to be for man alone but for cattle as well". "Our God," he says, "says in Proverbs that the righteous man regardeth the life of his beast". But orthodox Jews go further. In the Talmud, which is the citadel of Jewish teaching and Jewish law, it is specifically laid down that cruelty to animals is forbidden. "Thus," they say, "Shechita cannot be cruel as it is Divine law." My Lords, I do not expect you to accept that argument, but it is an argument which is accepted by Orthodox Jews. It will not satisfy your Lordships who, if they are to be satisfied, must be satisfied on other grounds.

In the paper which has been circulated to some of your Lordships, if not to all except the Jewish Members of this House, by the Council of Justice to Animals, it is there stated that doctors, veterinary surgeons and slaughtermen have condemned Shechita as an act of cruelty. But, my Lords, there is not a word about the hundreds of doctors, veterinary surgeons and others who have said that Shechita is not an act of cruelty. I should have thought that it was perhaps in the interests of justice that the Council of Justice to Animals should show justice to man and should put both sides of the question to those whom it is approaching.

The R.S.P.C.A., in the letter which it sent to the Members of this House accompanied by a statement by Mr. Bywaters, a veterinary surgeon, says that the only veterinary support is that of a professor who has not had experience in a slaughter-house for some thirty years. My Lords, that is untrue. I could give my noble friend as many instances as he would wish to read of veterinary surgeons who have expressed quite clearly that Shechita is as humane a method as any. I do not propose to discuss what Mr. Burrow said in 1960 in favour of Shechita or what the physiologists like Krogh, a Nobel Prize-man, said in favour of Shechita, or what Sir Charles Lovatt Evans or Lord Horder said, and so forth. After all, I would concede immediately that there have been expressed many contrary opinions. I think that some of them are not perhaps quite so weighty on the opposing side as they are on the side of Shechita, but this is a matter which noble Lords will judge for themselves. It is, if I may say so with the greatest respect, nonsense to assert that some of this is not inspired by anti-Semitism. We know that in the countries of Europe in which Nazi domination appeared before the war and which before the Nazis came had Shechita, immediately the Nazis came it was stopped and prohibited. This is the first time I have learned that the Nazis are the paragons of human virtue.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, purely as a matter of interest, supposing the noble Lord had to be put to sleep permanently—which God forbid!—would he prefer Shechita or the captive bolt method?


I will answer that question when I come to it in a moment.


My Lords, the noble Lord has made a serious statement in maintaining that there may be anti-Semitism behind this. Could he give us proof? It is a matter of grave concern.


With pleasure. I do not believe your Lordships will wish me to give a great deal of proof. One example will suffice. One noble Lord—I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Somers—mentioned the 1904 Admiralty Investigation, and it was said that the Report then was, in fact, never published. This was what a veterinary surgeon, who is one of the protagonists of anti-Shechita, says—


My Lords, I must interrupt the noble Lord. I did not say the 1904 Report was never published. In fact I read from that Report.


I thought the noble Lord said it was never published. I was going to say he could see it if he wishes to. This was a comment by a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons—a great protagonist of anti-Shechita. He says: The First Lord of the Admiralty at that time was the Earl of Selborne who had been Private Secretary to the Jewish H. C. Childers and was later co-director with the Jews, S. B. Joel and Sir S. Neuman, in the African Banking Corporation and with the Ronds Jews in the Natal Ammonium Company Limited. If the Report had ever got past him it would have been stopped by the Right Honourable Arthur J. Balfour, who was Prime Minister and who promised Palestine to the Jews later on. The Report did get past the Prime Minister, as I was going to say when the noble Lord, Lord Somers, interrupted, but this is a specimen (and if the noble Lords wish I would furnish many more) of how anti-Semitism has played a part in this anti-Shechita agitation. I do not say it motivates or inspires the noble Lord, Lord Somers, whom I know from past experience to be concerned about the avoidance of cruelty to animals; or Lord Dowding, with whom I had a pleasant altercation when I gave my maiden speech in this House in 1957. But if noble Lords wish, I will gladly provide them with information which shows the anti-Semitic content of some of this agitation, but clearly I do not need to do so now.

It has been said that laws provide, in certain countries, for the slaughter of animals but not for Shechita. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, suggested that these were the sources of many social reforms. I would remind the House that there is no State or Federal law in the United States which prohibits Shechita. And in Canada, Shechita is regarded (after their having taken scientific evidence) as equal to any other method of slaughter, and it is so stated in a law enacted in 1960. But, my Lords, this House will not be persuaded either by the mass of expert opinion or appeals to revered authorities, because some know that when they learnt a little logic one of the fallacies they learnt to avoid was the argumentum ad verecundiam, and I do not propose myself to appeal to revered authorities, nor indeed to the laws of other countries, but to try to apply myself (and I am obviously open to the accusation of bias) as a doctor and scientist, who has done extensive physiological work over many years, to the scientific problem of Shechita.

Although the noble Lady has wandered into the fields of hygiene, these reasons are not accepted by Jewish rabbis any more than is the reason I would myself prefer to accept, that in ancient philosophy the blood was regarded as the life substance—indeed until the 18th century that was so. If the noble Lady has read John Hunter, father of scientific surgery, she would know that was so. It might well have been that the Jews were not permitted to eat meat because of the blood being the life substance. In order to remove the last traces of blood from the meat, which they know the meat contains after Shechita, there is this process of salting meat and so forth, so that every single trace of free blood may be removed from the meat if it is there. I would also stress what the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, said (and which is quite different from the way some of Lord Huntingdon's sheep were killed in the hills of Australia) that the Shochet is a man who must be a God-fearing man. He is trained in the moral law, trained and educated in the teaching of children, and so forth, and many of them are in fact Ministers of small local communities. And the knife must have the properties which Lord Swaythling mentioned, and the cut must be one swift, uninterrupted cut. If it is interrupted, then the Shechita fails and the meat is no longer what is called Kosher but it is nevelah.

What are the scientific data? When you cut the throat of an animal (and here I am referring to the cattle and larger animals) the blood pressure falls off very rapidly. Within four seconds the blood pressure drops in the femoral artery to half what it was before the cut, and that rate of fall means unconsciousness must have occurred earlier. Anyone familiar with this in human pathology knows exactly what the situation is. I will turn to the vertebral artery in a moment. For twelve or fifteen seconds after the cut there is a twitching. That twitching is wholly involuntary or automatic. It is what is known as reflex movement and is not concerned with consciousness at all.

I should like to ask your Lordships, particularly in view of what the noble Earl, Lord Haddington, has said, to remember the difference between what is apparent cruelty and what is actual cruelty. If any of your Lordships were to see a boy or girl in an epileptic fit, suddenly crying out with piercing screams, falling down in convulsions and the like, you would think that this was extreme pain. But let the boy or girl recover, and ask what he or she has felt, and the answer is, nothing. They know nothing of what occurred in these automatic convulsions.

As I have said, any method which produces a flow of blood must be repugnant and repellant to many if not most, but there are points which I think that your Lordships should bear in mind. The cut, as made by the Shochet (and your Lordships may have experienced something similar to this, if you have been cut by a razor blade and know of it only when the blood flows), is almost certainly painless: I would say that it is certainly painless. The argument is about how long consciousness lasts. May I ask your Lordships to reject the dramatic episode of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in counting 25 seconds in your Lordships' House, because it bears no relation whatsoever to the problem which confronts us. What he said was that for 25 seconds after the Shechita cut there can be seen on the electro-encephalograph electrical activity in the brain. Although I hesitate to do so in your Lordships' House, if I would claim expert knowledge it is of the electro-encephalograph. I first used one 30 years ago, and have since continued to use the one I have and others which have much improved. The encephalograph reveals no information but electrical activity in the brain; and electrical activity in the brain persists in profound anaesthesia and in profound unconsciousness, when an injury to the patient is not felt. It persists even for up to a minute in a decapitated animal and has been shown in human hanging to persist for a considerable period of time, just as the heart continues to beat in the Shechita ox for several minutes. The suggestion that the electro-encephalograph is any criterion of consciousness in quite untenable; and I say that with expert authority.

The second point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dowding—and your Lordships must forgive me if I prolong this debate unduly, because I feel that all points should be replied to; it is only proper that that should be done, in view of the vehemence With which some of them have been made, and perhaps I may be permitted a little vehemance myself—is about the vertebral artery. Under normal conditions, the vertebral artery is a small artery about one-twentieth of all the total area of the carotid artery, but in Shechita the neck out severs not only the carotid artery but also the jugular vein. By careful measurements of the blood pressure in the vertebral artery, Henry Dukes, who is a leader in the veterinary physiological field in America and the head veterinary physiologist in the Veterinary College of Cornell, showed, in results published in 1958, that the blood pressure in the vertebral artery is less than one-third of normal under the most favourable conditions, and that this is insufficient to maintain consciousness.

There is the other point of the retraction of the carotid within the sheaths. This was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, who told us that his informant was someone who had been told by a veterinary officer in post-war Germany.


Not at all: I did not say that.


Well, we shall look at the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow and see what the noble Lord said, because I have it down that it was a military person who was told by a veterinary officer in post-war Germany.


My Lords, that referred to the incident in which an animal, after having had its throat out, got up and rushed out of the shed and was on its feat for 50 seconds. That was a letter from a military officer in Germany. I think the noble Lord was mixing up two statements which I made.


My Lords, I am quite happy to accept the noble Lord's explanation that it was not what I myself noted. The fact is that the noble Lord was describing experiments which took place in Germany before the war. They were made by Dr. Klein, director of the abattoir at Lennep, who himself apparently carried out the cutting of the throat. It was not done by the Shochet at all. If the noble Lord wishes to have the reference, I will give it to him.

I was dealing with the retraction of the carotid, in which it was said that pressure in the vertebral artery may be sustained for a longer period. There are three arguments which I think must be considered in this respect. The first is that no Shochet whom I have asked—and I have also asked others to seek this information—has ever observed what the noble Lord has described. Secondly, the pressure in the aorta is considerable and if the left ventricle contracts and it is still contracting, it is almost invariably able to displace any retraction of that kind. Thirdly, the jugulars are cut at the same time, and these veins drain the brain of blood. The fourth point, which is of great importance to anyone who knows anything of pathology, is that when you cut the jugulars, in which there is a negative, venous pressure, the patient dies within seconds from air embolism; and the same is true of cattle. My Lords, I do not propose to adduce more scientific evidence, but I would say, despite the fact that your Lordships will clearly say that I am biased, that the available scientific evidence supports Mr.Dukes's conclusion, which is the most recent of those who have gone into the matter with great care, that the method is humane and will almost immediately render the animal unconscious.

In summary, there are two points that I would make. The first is the religious. And, as I have emphasised, the interpretation of the Jewish law is not a matter for the noble Lord, Lord Somers; for the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, or for the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, or, indeed, for your Lordships' House. The second is: is the method humane? I have told your Lordships that the answer to that is quite clear to the religious Jew, but for others the answer can be determined only by scientific evidence. I suggest that such evidence as exists does not suggest inhumanity of Shechita. But, if there is any doubt upon this matter, why not let the Government invite the President of the Royal Society to appoint a panel of experts who could report to the Government on the purely scientific aspects of this matter? I believe that that would be welcomed. I have myself presided over a panel, dealing with another problem, appointed by the President of the Royal Society at an earlier time, and I know that this is a useful method if the Government are in any doubt. Let me say this, finally. The passing of this Bill would plunge into deep sorrow tens of thousands of loyal Jews in this country who for over 3,000 years have ordered their lives in the uninterrupted tradition of what they regard as Divine truth.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be very brief. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Somers on the very careful way in which he has moved this Second Reading. Having listened to the opposing arguments which have been so ably deployed by the various speakers, I find the evidence so conflicting that on reflection I am not prepared to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I do not find the evidence in favour of altering existing legislation sufficiently convincing to warrant the change proposed, observing the very grave injury that such a change would undoubtedly bring to the susceptibilities and the religious beliefs of the Jewish community, although I must say in passing that I have always been rather puzzled by the Jewish people's insistence on retaining this particular item of Mosaic law when they have allowed so many other Divine commands to pass into desuetude—in other words, to be discarded. "He that blasphemeth shall be put to death. Adulterers are to be stoned." Above all, in Numbers we read of a man who gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day being stoned until he died, as the Lord commanded Moses. It is all very puzzling.

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that the cruelty at slaughterhouses whether Jewish or Gentile, is occasioned not by the actual process or method of killing but by the preliminaries: the approach, the smell, the blood, the slippery floor, the atmosphere of impending doom, utterly terrifying to the wretched animals concerned. I have seen all this. Some years ago I used to visit many of these slaughterhouses, and I do know what I am talking about—admittedly some few years ago. So long as humans insist on eating the flesh of animals instead of living upon the fruits of the earth, so long will cruelty continue, whatever form of slaughter is employed. With great respect to my noble friend Lord Somers, for whom I have the greatest regard, I do not think a case has been made out for this alteration.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a very anxious debate. I do not recall an occasion when one could have looked round the House and seen so many anxious expressions on the faces of Members. We have had the undoubted sincerity of the noble Lords, Lord Swaythling and Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. On the other side, we have had the sincerity of the Promoters of this Bill, and I think it is fair to say that the views which have been expressed in this House are views which are held extremely strongly in all quarters of the country pro and con this Bill.

Like the noble Lord who has just sat down, I approach this Bill with considerable hesitation. I have not seen the Jewish slaughter method. I have seen the Moslem method, and I may say that I am indeed pleased that the Imam has not raised objection to the provisions of this Bill. I am pleased that a more humane method is to be brought into being in this country for the Moslem slaughter. I was very disturbed at the way in which this debate developed, particularity to hear the words "anti-Semitism" used, because I do not believe that that really exists in any quarter of this House. The real issue and, I (think, the only issue the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has placed before us to-day is whether there is any degree of cruelty in certain methods of killing in this country. I do not doubt that in this country it is the will of the people to reduce any degree, if there is a degree, of cruelty in the killing of animals. Therefore, I (think that is the first thing about which this House must make up its mind.

I would suggest, on the debate which has taken place, that the statistics which have been quoted on one side or the other would leave us, as the noble Lord has said, in a sense of doubt. If that doubt is there in our minds, does it mean that we should not proceed to give this Bill a Second Reading? I think we must face the fact that there is considerable evidence on both sides. We must also take into account that, if we find that there is an element of cruelty, and it is an element which can be reduced by a different method of killing, there is a small but important minority that has to be taken into consideration. I think therefore that as a House we shall find ourselves in this difficulty. First of all, we should assess whether there is a degree of cruelty and, if we are to take any action in it, whether we are doing anything (to infringe the religious freedom of the orthodox Jew. I think this is a point which it is vary difficult for any of us in this House to decide this afternoon.

I gave notice to the Government and to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that if the balance of the debate was such that there was an element of doubt as to how I or other noble Lords would wish to vote, I proposed to raise the point of whether, the House being satisfied that there has been a case made for consideration and possibly for action, we could not give this Bill its Second Reading on the understanding that we as a House would send it to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. I had some consultation in this matter, and I was advised that on a previous Private Bill—the Boxing Bill of my noble friend Baroness Summerskill—the same suggestion was raised. I looked up Hansard, and I noted that the noble Viscount who leads the House felt that it was perhaps not right that we should use a Select Committee to inquire into the rights and wrongs of professional boxing. I think he was perhaps right—I do not think in fact there is any doubt that he was right. But I would suggest that his objection at that time is not relevant to the suggestion that I should like to put to the House this afternoon.

My Lords, as I understand it, it is possible to send a Private Bill or a Public Bill to a Select Committee and this procedure is adopted in cases where a Bill requires a more minute investigation than it would receive on the Floor of the House and where, before coming to a decision upon it, it is considered advisable to hear the evidence of witnesses. The noble Viscount did use those words on the previous occasion. However, in the light of the debate that has taken place this afternoon, I feel that within these words we have a case for sending this Bill to a Select Committee. But my advice goes even further in support of my view, for the procedure for sending Bills to a Select Committee can be adopted because they are of complexity and detail. Certainly this Bill does not come within that province, but there is a second category: Bills which are introduced by Private Members dealing with subjects on which it is often essential to hear evidence from the persons affected by the provisions of the Bill.

I should have thought, taking into account the debate and the weight of evidence there has been for proceeding with the Bill, and taking into account that a certain section of our public would be very much affected if this Bill were passed, that if we were to send this Bill to a Select Committee the noble Lords taking part could then hear the full weight of evidence produced by barristers and men who know and understand all the problems, that that Committee could then consider and make its own recommendations to your Lordships' House. I understand that then the House, if it decided to proceed or reject the Bill on the weight of advice of that Select Committee, would be quite free to do so. My understanding of that is based on a precedent. I have not been able to do a great deal of homework on it, but I understand this method was adopted in 1939 with the Bastardy Bill, which received a Second Reading in your Lordships' House, and when one reads the Report of that Select Committee it is quite obvious that the Select Committee went into all the aspects and all the problems that would arise if that Bill became law and they produced a very full Report on which the House was able finally to make its opinions.

I do hope that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading. I hope it will do so for two reasons: to satisfy those who feel that there is cruelty involved in two types of killing, and, I believe, in the interests of the orthodox Jew. The orthodox Jews believe fervently in this method of killing; they say that there is no cruelty. I would not in any way dispute the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, or the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, but if we give this Bill a Second Reading and if we send it to a Select Committee I am quite sure that this House will rely upon the judgment of our own Peers, having listened to the evidence produced toy those who are promoting this Bill and by those who may foe orthodox Jews or others who are in fact opposing. I believe that this would be the best way, and I believe it would mean that we could have a Second Reading and that we could proceed, yet the House would not find that it had committed itself to supporting or opposing this Bill.


My Lords, before my noble friend replies may I just say a word?


My Lords, I was going to say something.


Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to say something first, and then he certainly shall. There are two things I should like to say. The first is that I would propose to reply to the suggestion about the Select Committee myself, and separately from the reply to the debate, if that meets with the approval of the House. The second thing is, I think, having regard to what toe has just said, that the noble Lord owes it to his own noble friends to say whether he was speaking on behalf of his Party or simply as an individual


My Lords, this is a Private Member's Bill and, so far as my side is concerned, we are speaking here as individuals; we speak on our conscience.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I had not thought of speaking in this debate, but in view of a number of things that have been said I feed that perhaps a word from me might be of some use. First, I hope that I may give the House an assurance that I am looking at this matter entirely objectively and have no prejudice either in favour of or against the Jewish method of slaughtering. I do not insist on eating meat which has been slaughtered in the Jewish way; I have no feelings of that kind whatsoever. Secondly, may I say that I should deplore any suggestion that anti-Semitism enters into this question at all; certainly not, so far as this House is concerned.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord would like me to say that I did not for a moment suggest that it entered into this question in this House. I said that we had to recognise, in view of What the noble Lord, Lord Dowding had said, that anti-Semitism does inspire and motivate some of the a anti-Shechita arguments. I was challenged to give an example, and I did.


I know that the noble Lord said that there was no anti-Semitism in this House. I was going on to say, further, that there is no anti-Semitism, so far as I have been able to discover it, in the consideration of this question. I think the people who are supporting this Bill are doing so quite honestly and sincerely because they believe that there is some cruelty in the Jewish method of slaughter. I accept all that, and I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and those who feed disposed to agree with him, axe absolutely sincere in putting forward this Bill.

Nevertheless, having listened to the whole of the debate quite dispassionately, I am bound to say, with my noble friend Lord Shepherd, that the case has not been established; the evidence is quite conflicting. We have had evidence from well-known veterinary surgeons, from well-known physicians, from eminent scientists. But they have not been all one way; some of them have been entirely conflicting. The case that has been put has been highly scientific, depending upon seconds and what happens after the throat has been cut, and so on, and it really is quite impossible for the average person to form a judgment on this matter.

My own feelings in the matter are with the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn: I believe that the greatest cruelty takes place before the animal is slaughtered. For a number of years I kept pigs and on two occasions I went to see them slaughtered. I can assure the House that it is a most distressing sight to see these poor animal fighting against getting into the pl[...] where they are going to be executed; and it is a thing I cannot bear to see again. But that is inherent in the slaughter itself; it does not depend upon the method.

The fact is that the evidence that we have had to-day is by no means conclusive one way or the other, and it would be most unfair to ask your Lord-ships to come to a decision on this matter. You have to realise that if you do give the Bill a Second Reading it is going to injure the feelings very deeply of people who feel very seriously about this matter. It is of profound importance for the Orthodox Jew, and while the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and others put their own interpretation upon Leviticus and Deuteronomy and so on, that is not the interpretation the Orthodox Jew puts on it, and those are the people you have to think about.

What I want to suggest to the House is this. Let us assume that the evidence is conflicting. My noble friend assumes from that that the right course is to give the Bill a Second Reading. I should have thought just the contrary. In order that you should give the Bill a Second Reading you have to be satisfied that the case has been made for it, that the principle is right; and if you are left in any doubt I would submit that the right course is not to give the Bill a Second Reading. My noble friend suggests that having given it a Second Reading somehow we are not committed; we can have a Select Committee who can then weigh up the evidence. It reminds me very much of the procedure of convicting a person first and then giving him his trial. You cannot say, "We approve the principle of this and then we are going to decide whether we should go on with it and make up our minds."

I feel that the British public as a whole, certainly I myself, would not wish that there should be unnecessary cruelty in the carrying out of slaughter. I would suggest that this is a matter which should be investigated, that the people concerned should have the fullest opportunity of stating their case, and so far they have not had it. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, who is a very just man and is the President of a just organisation, is suggesting that we should accept the principle of this Bill without having given those deeply concerned the opportunity of stating their case. I would suggest that we should investigate this in such a way as to give the people so deeply concerned the opportunity of stating their case, and by a body which would hear all sides of the case. I would imagine that the kind of body suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead—that is, a committee of scientists presided over by a person nominated by the President of the Royal Society—would be a very good tribunal; but that is a matter for the person setting up the committee to decide.

But I also think that this kind of legislation does not come appropriately from a Private Member. If there is to be legislation on the subject—and I am by no means saying there should not be—I think it should come from Her Majesty's Government themselves. They should take the responsibility, as I say, after having heard all the evidence, and the House should be given the opportunity of making up its mind on the evidence which the Government had obtained. My noble friend Lord Shepherd also suggested a Select Committee. I wonder whether a Select Committee, which would consist of a certain number of Members of this House, is really the appropriate body, apart from the technical question, which I gather the noble Viscount is going to deal with. This is a matter which is so much the concern of every Member of the House that I think every Member ought to have an opportunity of hearing all the evidence and making up his mind. It is a matter for the House and not for a Select Committee, and it would be, in my view, very unfortunate if we had to decide this merely on a Report of a Select Committee.

So I want to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Somers—I hope that he will give serious thought to this—that he should withdraw the Bill. I do not know in the least what the noble Lord is going to say—perhaps it is as well—but I hope the Government can give some assurance that they will consider carrying out some form of inquiry into the whole subject. I cannot speak for anybody but myself, but I hope that the Jewish community would welcome such an inquiry and would wish to clear themselves of any suggestion of inhumanity or cruelty in the form of slaughter. At any rate, they could not seriously complain. I believe they would welcome it and it would be a very good thing for removing any apprehensions about the subject. If Her Majesty's Government were able to give some sort of assurance that there would be an inquiry and that action would follow if the result of that inquiry indicated that there was cruelty in the method of slaughter, then I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, would be prepared to withdraw this Bill and not force the House into a most uncomfortable and unhappy Division on a matter which might lead to considerable misunderstanding.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I feel sure the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will forgive me if I begin by correcting something he said which I think it is rather important to correct. He suggested that a new change in the method of slaughter generally used by the Moslems in this country would shortly come about as a result of a statement by the Imam of Woking.


My Lords, I said it would come about if this Bill were passed.


I apologise to the noble Lord. I understood him to say it was about to take place as the result of a statement by the Imam of Woking.

My Lords, this is an immensely difficult issue for intervention by a Government speaker or any other speaker not bringing either preconceived convictions or technical knowledge to bear upon the subject. The arguments on either side are rooted in the conscience of those taking part, and rooted, of course, far deeper, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has said, than anything which can be described as sentiment. So important is the issue, however, that the Government must give a view, and it seemed to me, and I hope it will be considered right at the end of what I have to say, that no purely textbook view from me would satisfy your Lord-ships on this occasion. I felt that the views expressed from this Box should be informed to some extent by personal observation.

Last week I arranged to see this form of slaughter, bath Jewish and Moslem, in three abattoirs in Yorkshire and London, and I have also spoken to some of the leaders of the Jewish community in this country. I have read relevant passages both from the Pentateuch and from elsewhere in the Bible. From the conversations and readings, I am completely persuaded that the Jews in this country, and I understand in the rest of the world as well, insist upon their form of slaughter for two reasons, both utterly convincing to them: first, because it is laid down in the law as recorded, and already quoted, in the 12th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 17th chapter of Leviticus; secondly, because they are also convinced, as the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, has said, that this is the most humane method of slaughter—and the duty to slaughter with the maximum of humanity is also laid upon them by their Scriptures. Clearly, to me the Shochetim and the Rabbinical authorities, who know more than anybody else about this method of slaughter, are devoutly and intelligently convinced that this is so.

The gentleness of the Orthodox Jew is real as well as proverbial, and I have no doubt that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, could perfectly safely address the entire Albert Hall full of Orthodox Jews on the subject on which she has spoken today. Doctors and scientists of great eminence have disagreed occasionally as to whether this painless element is in fact achieved in Shechita as required by the Jewish law. Lord Horder and other eminent men of medicine who have been mentioned to-day have given it, in fact, a thoughtful, considered preference over other forms of slaughter. The suggestion made during his speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, will be referred to in the words that my noble and learned Leader says after I have spoken.

It was in the hope of obtaining some sort of visual impression that last week I visited the slaughterhouses I have mentioned. It may be that such visits and such impressions are even more con-fusing than otherwise. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that most of the repugnance expressed with regard to impressions of slaughter is relative either to the preliminaries or to the aftermath of the act of slaughter. Whatever the form of slaughter, Gentile or Jewish, the observer sees the dead carcase of the animal kicking violently and convulsively for either a minute or perhaps several minutes after the dispatch of the animal. This I was informed by officials of the slaughterhouse was the effect of the oxygen leaving the blood, and was of course continuing long after any life had departed. What was even more grotesque was to see the interior of the brain ticking and twitching visibly 30 minutes after the skull had been severed and skinned. I was told that this might continue for some hours.

I mention these rather gruesome facts by way of illustrating how difficult it is for any layman visiting a slaughterhouse really to know whether or not life has ceased. From the manner of despatch by the Shechita I was myself indelibly impressed by the degree of skill on the part of the Shochet. These men are, as we have been told, qualified and tested before being permitted to carry out the act of slaughter, and there is meticulous and rigid insistence upon the manner and perfection with which it is done. If the faintest scratch or nick is apparent on the blade of the knife after it has been cleaned the whole carcase is rejected, and I understand that this almost never, or never, occurs. The cut is therefore clean, and almost quicker than the eye can follow, since there is no jarring of the blade against bone or against any other obstacle.

It would, I am sure, be dangerous for me to go anywhere beyond the point which is plain to the observer. But, unlike some noble Lords, I saw virtually no sign of panic among the animals before execution. I think the phrase that the noble Lord, Lord Dowding, used of an animal "crazed with terror" was something that did not happen in front of my eyes in any of the three places that I visited. In fact, it surprised me to notice the placidity of the animals peering out of the stunning pen or of the casting pen at four freshly slain carcases within a matter of feet or yards of them. From the description beforehand, I had imagined some element of cruelty in the method of the casting pen; but this also is designed to carry out the intentions of kindness contained in the Jewish law, and it is padded within to inflict the minimum of discomfort on the animal. So far as it is possible to judge of an animal's mood, what I discerned was bewilderment, rather than panic, as it was turned on its back inside the casting pen.

I come to a rather difficult passage, which I introduce only reluctantly. My noble friend Lord Haddington and others asked how one could possibly judge or measure the element of pain inflicted on the animal by the cut. I think that Lord Somers referred to "agonising pain for 25 seconds". It is right to remember, however, that what the animal has suffered is a clean cut by an extremely sharp knife—and a cut which is over in a matter of, I thought, less than a second. As this has become a most important point in the dispute, I think one has the right to ask how much pain, as pain, does that cut itself inflict. As has been pointed out, one cannot ask an animal afterwards, first of all because it does not recover and, secondly, because even if it did recover, it would not be able to speak.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but may I ask him just one question? When he visited these abattoirs was his visit advertised beforehand, or did he make a surprise visit? It seems to me quite possible that if they knew that a member of the Government was coming for this purpose, they would put on their best slaughterer for the purpose.


My Lords, I do not think that they could possibly have explained to the animals that I was coming. As I have said, it is impossible to discover from animals what sort of pain, or lack of pain, this method may inflict in the action. It is possible with human beings, because some human beings have nearly died from loss of blood and have lived to tell the tale. It so happens that two close relatives of mine have suffered that experience, and I therefore dared to speak to them about it. They were both wounded grievously on the battlefield. One, wounded in the stomach, felt no pain at all. He fell to the ground unconscious from a wound in the stomach and nearly died through being undiscovered and un-tended, but had to be given blood transfusions afterwards. He remembers no pain. The other one was wounded badly in the shoulder and lay conscious for 20 minutes. All he was conscious of was a pins and needles feeling in the back of his shoulder, where the bullet had in fact left an enormous hole, until he became unconscious from loss of blood. I mention that, I hope without abusing the time or the good taste of the House, because I think it bears reference to the fact that any form of violence to the animal dispatched by Shechita would in fact render it illegal for consumption, and so would any form of internal injury revealed in the postmortem examination afterwards by the Shochet.

It has been asked why the Jews should be—I forget the exact term—freed, I think it was, from observance of the law of this land. The noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, in fact drew attention to the fact that they do observe the law of the land and would continue to obey the law of the land even if it were altered; but, of course, they do observe the law of the land at very considerable monetary expense because they are prepared, in order to meet the requirements of humanity, to undertake an extremely expensive and uneconomic form of slaughter. It is a very costly form of slaughter, far more expensive than the captive bolt which we use ourselves. As has been said to-day, any alteration to the present law as proposed in this Bill would make it impossible for the practising Jews in this country—and they number, I am told, more than 200,000—to eat meat of any kind except poultry, and would impose upon them a form of hardship not voluntarily shared by any of their countrymen.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said—and everybody in the House accepts it—that there is not a hint or thought of anti-Semitism in this Motion, I believe that it will be extremely difficult for that to be believed far beyond this country. I think some form of lamentable anti-Semitism would be read into it by other countries who know us less well. It is the Government's view that, unless much more convincing evidence becomes available on the relative cruelty or lack of humanity, if it exists, as between Shechita and the more normal methods of slaughter, than has been proved by experiments up to date, it would be wrong to impose such hardships on a racial group which we have so much reason to respect, who have been persecuted or imposed upon in so many countries, but never in this. I therefore cannot advise the House to vote for a Second Reading of this Bill.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I promised to intervene in this matter, and I hope that I shall not trepass too long upon your Lordships if I do so. I do so principally because of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the subsequent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in which various suggestions and arguments were put forward, not so much directed to the intrinsic merits of this case, with which my noble friend has dealt from the Government's point of view, as from the point of view of the procedure of the House. I think the House would wish to know what I feel about these matters if it would support me intervening at this point.

I am bound to say at once that I think this is an exact analogy with the situation which arose on the Boxing Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred. It is, of course, true that there are a number of precedents, though not many, for referring a Public Bill (and this is a public Bill, although proposed by a private Member) to a Select Committee. I dealt with them mostly during the Second Reading of the Boxing Bill, which took place on May 10 this year, and they will be fresh in your Lordships' memories. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, with his customary fairness, quoted a short passage from my speech, in relation to that Bill, which followed a course not altogether dissimilar to this. That was a Bill introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. There was a conflict of evidence as to whether damage was done intrinsically by the practice of professional boxing, and I ventured to say in relation to that Bill—and I repeat in relation to this—that the House should pass the Second Reading of the Bill only if it is prepared to say, in advance of an inquiry, that it endorses the principle, however it will be examined by whatever Committee follows. If the House feels that the case has not been made out, and that it would like some sort of an inquiry, it ought not to give the Bill a Second Reading.

My Lords, I am absolutely certain that that is the true doctrine relating to this matter. This is not a Private Bill which goes to a Select Committee in order to ascertain, as is the cant phrase, whether the Preamble is proved—that is to say whether the necessity for the Bill is established. It is a public Bill; it is an alteration in the public law, and I do not think it is the custom of either House of Parliament to grant a Bill a Second Reading, unless it is prepared to endorse the principle of it in advance of inquiry. The House may feel, of course, having decided that the principle is a sound one, that it would like a further inquiry; and in that case it may send the Bill to a Select Committee. But it should not, I think, endorse a public Bill unless it is prepared to endorse it in that sense.

The second point which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, raised was this—in fact there were two points in his speech to which I will refer. One was that he thought a Select Committee was not a very suitable type of inquiry to hold on a matter of this kind. The second was that he thought that this was not a very suitable Bill to be proposed by means of Private Members' legislation. I am bound to say that I agree with him on both those procedural points. As I say, I do not want to embark very deeply into matters which have already been so thoroughly discussed, but I do, oddly enough, know a little about this particular subject. Although a Gentile and a Christian, I do know something about the Jewish law. It would be very difficult to compose a Select Committee which would persuade the Jews that their law was invalid. I doubt whether such a Select Committee could be found in your Lordships' House.

One must face the facts about this. The facts are as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. The Jews believe that the Torah was given them by God, and they believe that the authoritative interpretation of what that means is laid down by the Rabbinat. Obviously, being a Gentile and a Christian myself, I do not believe the second, at any rate, of the two propositions. But this is what they believe about it. Quite frankly, it is no good the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, making her researches into Deuteronomy. I remember my beloved mother giving me this exact interpretation of the Jewish law about 50 years ago, when I was a little boy, and I am far from saying that there is nothing in it. I am only saying that this is not the Jewish religion. The Jews believe that they are bound to do it in this way; and, quite frankly, a Select Committee of this House is not going to persuade them to the contrary after thousands of years.

I would say that if Parliament tries to legislate about this matter, against the Orthodox Jewish community, it will find itself in much the same position as Nebuchadnezzar and all the other people who have tried this game for many centuries since. They may well be right, but the Jews win this in the end, unless you can persuade them not to be Jews at all. So I think that by sending the Bill to a Select Committee of this House the House would be committing a great error of judgment, even if my first argument were not valid; and I am quite sure myself that it is, and that this should not be done unless the principle of the Bill were accepted. I do believe that it would be a great error of judgment if this House thought that a Select Committee would really persuade the Jews to give up what they regard as an inescapable part of their religion.

The third point is that I feel, if this change were to be made, it ought to be done by a Public Bill, after careful consideration by the Government, and not by a Private Member's Bill—because this is very deep water indeed. It is, of course, perfectly true, as every noble Lord, who has supported the Bill has said, that those who support this change are not in the least animated by anything approaching anti-Semitism. But, believe me! the orthodox Jewish community throughout the world would not view it in this light. That is the fact of the matter. If this House gave this Bill a Second Reading, the orthodox Jewish community would believe—and would sincerely believe—that it was an attack on Judaism as such. I should not be doing my duty to the House if I did not make that absolutely plain.

It is not simply that, as the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, pointed out, there is a rather ugly history behind this particular controversy, which some noble Lords who have supported the Bill are far too nice to know anything about. I can assure them that that really is the case; that it is one of the ways that anti-Semites have traditionally used to get at the Jews, and this is known very widely on the Continent of Europe. Of course this does not arise here, but this is how it would be treated. Therefore, I could only say that, if we were going to undertake this rather serious step in the interests of justice to animals, or of not doing something which offends against our compassionate feeling towards animals, I really think the Government ought to take the responsibility of doing it, if it is to be done, and for my part I should be sorry to do it, for the reasons which I have indicated.

That leaves us with only the remaining suggestion, that there should be an inquiry of some other kind. I am quite sure that a Select Committee is unsuitable, and I am quite sure that to do it after a Second Reading would be disastrous. Obviously, I would pay the greatest attention to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, but I think that an inquiry, to have any value at all except for the purpose of founding legislation, would have to be co-operated in by the Jewish community. From my knowledge of them, I personally doubt whether they will co-operate because, after all, this thing is, from their point of view, unalterable. If you want to persuade Jews out of this you must persuade them out of being Orthodox Jews, and this is what all Christians have been trying to do for the last 2,000 years, with only limited success.

But the fact is that this is not only a scientific question. If the Government were to receive a request for an inquiry which they were satisfied would meet with the requirements of the supporters of the Bill and of the Orthodox Jewish community, I am sure we should view that with very great sympathy, at any rate. But I do not think that an inquiry undertaken by one side, in which the other did not co-operate or in which they felt that they were in the dock, would be very helpful. I do not think, therefore, that I could accept it on behalf of the Government this afternoon, until I have seen some more reactions to the various suggestions which have been made. My Lords, I am afraid I have taken longer than I intended, but I felt that my duty to the House demanded that I should give some sort of lead in these matters.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I should like to thank very much all those noble Lords who have supported this Bill. I must say that I am not in the slightest degree convinced by the arguments in favour of this form of slaughter. But in the light of the statement by my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House, that if we were to pass the Second Reading of this Bill it might throw a light of anti-Semitism upon this House—a thing which at all costs I want to avoid—there remains only one course open to me, and that is to beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Second Reading, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill, by leave, withdrawn.

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