HL Deb 16 February 1965 vol 263 cc405-84

3.8 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a very simple Bill and, therefore, I do not think there is any need for me to go through it clause by clause and explain it to your Lordships. Its object is quite obvious. What does however need a little explanation is, first of all, my reason for having introduced it and, secondly, whether I am justified in having done so. Of course, I know that there are many who will say that our Order Paper is already so overloaded that we have no time to introduce other matters, and that this should be left until later. I know that that is the case. We are going to get more and more crowded and we might, by the end of the Session, even achieve that almost unparalleled event, which we achieved last Session, of outsitting the Commons.

None the less, I think that I am justified in having introduced this Bill, because the last time there was any legislation on this subject was as long as 40 years ago. That was the Performing Animals (Regulations) Act, 1925. That was a useless Act to prevent what we are trying to prevent to-day. I would like to read from Section 3 of that Act: (1) Any officer of a local authority duly authorised in that behalf by the local authority and any constable may—

  1. (a) enter at all reasonable times and inspect any premises in which any performing animals are being trained or exhibited, or kept for training or exhibition, and any such animals found therein; and
  2. (b) require any person who he has reason to believe is a trainer or exhibitor of performing animals to produce his certificate.
(2) No constable or such officer as aforesaid shall be entitled under this section to go on or behind the stage during a public performance of performing animals. "Reasonable times" no doubt means reasonable in the eyes of both parties, and therefore the time of a visit has presumably been mutually arranged, either over the telephone or by means of correspondence. So the circus proprietor is forewarned as to when his visitor is going to arrive, and he will see to it that anything that could offend is carefully tidied up and put out of the way where it cannot be seen. This is frequent practice. This provision, therefore, is really completely useless.

Then the Act says that no persons other than local government officials or constables are allowed in. But while local government officials and constables are excellent men in their own right, and in their own job, they may not necessarily be men who know anything whatever about the training of animals or about the conditions under which they live. Therefore, presumably, they may not even look for what they are supposed not to see. This secrecy still exists to-day, and even R.S.P.C.A. inspectors are forbidden to go behind, except by special arrangement. So until recently, nobody has really known what goes on behind the circus scenes. When these inspectors have tried to go in without previous arrangement, there have been occasions, I believe, when they have been bodily thrown out. I am not such a blind optimist as to expect this Bill to go through without opposition; of course there will be opposition. That opposition, I expect, will come chiefly from two main camps: first, those who have financial interests in the circus; and secondly, those who consider any legislation for the protection of animals as being (to quote the words of one noble Lord who spoke in a recent animal debate) sentimental and sloppy.

To deal with the first of those two camps, I should like to quote from a letter which I imagine most of your Lordships have received. It is addressed to me, but I see that later on I am referred to in the third person, and no doubt it has gone out to most of your Lordships. It is a letter from the Chairman of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain. I will not quote the entire letter, but I want to refer to two small paragraphs. The first is about half-way down the page, and says: There has been no conviction of any animal trainer since the war, and for that reason alone this Bill would appear unnecessary. Of course there has not been any conviction. How could there be a conviction when nobody can possibly get behind to see what is going on? You cannot issue a summons to anybody until you see him doing something. Then, later on, the letter says: There is equally no reason why this dislike of performing animal acts by a small minority of persons in this country should justify complete prohibition being imposed. So far as the words "a small minority" are concerned, all I can say is that during the last week I have been absolutely snowed under with letters and telegrams from every conceivable source, including four from Australia and one from New Zealand, practically all from people I have never heard of before in my life, and all without exception wish the Bill well. This letter from which I have just read is the only one that I have received against the Bill.

One must also remember that this Bill is being supported not only by the two societies who are promoting it, the Captive Animals' Protection Society and the R.S.P.C.A., but also by five others—the World Federation for the Protection of Animals, the National Equine and Smaller Animals Defence League, the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, the Crusade against all Cruelty to Animals and the World League against Vivisection and for the Protection of Animals. I cannot think that the joint membership of all those societies is such a small minority. If it were possible to take a National Opinion Poll, I think one would find that the "small minority" was of those who wished to perpetuate the training of circus animals. We talk a great deal about the representation of the people as being a desirable feature in democratic government—and rightly so. But that applies to your Lordships' House as much as to the other place; because, after all, the public can approach us as much as they can honourable Members of another place. It is up to us to get something done.

I should like now to deal with the second camp, those who consider the desire to prevent cruelty sentimental. Is the desire to prevent cruelty, whether it be to animals, to children or grown-up people, really just sentimentality? I cannot feel that it is. I am just as much against cruelty to children and older people as I am against cruelty to animals. Anybody who is defenceless should be guarded by legislation. I admit that there are a lot of people who have caused a great deal of harm. There are many people who make an immense amount of noise about animals who do not seem to notice cruelty in other respects, and who write exaggerated letters to the papers and delight in marching under banners and so on. They do nothing but make our cause—that is, animal welfare—look ridiculous. I only hope that your Lordships will not associate me with them.

There are others, of course, who say: "What does it matter in any case? Animals have not got a soul." I am not prepared to argue along that line. For one thing, I am not prepared to define exactly what a soul is. One thing I do know is that animals are just as capable as we are of experiencing three sensations with which we as human beings are very familiar: first, hunger; secondly, pain, and thirdly, fear. It is no coincidence that a certain famous circus trainer has been quoted as saying that these three sensations are the chief weapons in the hands of the animal trainer.

Of course, there will be some who say that you cannot train animals by cruelty, and they perhaps will quote the case that you obviously could not train your own dog by rough methods or anything like that. Training your own dog and training a circus animal are two very different things. For one thing, your dog does his trick of his own free will. If he does not feel like it, if he does not want to, he will not do it; and if he makes a mistake or does not do it exactly as you want him to, he is perfectly confident that he is not going to get punished. But it is a very different thing with circus animals. For one thing, they have to do it absolutely on the split second. There must not be a half second's delay in the exact moment at which they appear in the ring, and they must do the same trick, and precisely the same, every single time, and there must not be a shadow of doubt. I regret to say that trainers have found that the only way to ensure that is by using some of the methods which I am going to describe to your Lordships later. So that is not a parallel case at all.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I think he is wrong there. If you are using a sheep dog, a cattle dog or a shooting dog, he has to do the thing on the split second. That is just the same—you may call it a trick—as a man teaching an animal to do something he wishes it to do.


My Lords, I certainly admit that. The dog has to do it pretty well on the split second, but the noble Lord must also admit that there are plenty of cases where dogs have been failures, and they have not been able to be trained.


I will answer the noble Lord on that. It is alleged that animals have been trained very largely because they have been trained by cruelty. You cannot train a dog by cruelty.


My Lords, I must merely ask the noble Earl to listen to some of the cases I am going to produce. There will also, no doubt, be some opposition from those who feel that children will be deprived of one of their greatest amusements. We do not allow, or should not allow, our children to go in for amusements which we feel are ethically wrong. With all the multifarious amusements there are open to the children in the world to-day, surely they could do without this one. After all, it is a pretty degrading amusement. We were discussing the education of the young only last week. Surely we could teach them to enjoy something better than this. Take them to the theatre, take them to the ballet or a concert, and teach them how to enjoy good music. Teach them how to sail a boat, the grandest sport in the world; teach them how to play cricket, the second grandest sport. All these things are more worth while than sitting watching an elephant dressed in baby clothes prancing round the ring on its hind legs.

The main object of the Bill, of course, is to stop this cruelty which is inevitably connected with circus training. The public are very gullible. In fact, one trainer has been quoted as saying, "God made fools for showmen to deceive." They see just precisely what they are meant to see. One only too often hears people coming back from the circus saying how happy the dogs looked as they ran into the ring wagging their tails, and how they jumped up to their trainer and received a friendly pat. My Lords, of course that was what they were supposed to see; that was staged for them. What they did not see was what went on before that. If I were a dog, and I had spent 47½ hours in a cage so small that I could hardly move, I should feel jolly happy when I was let out for the remaining half hour, and I should wag my tail like anything at the prospect of getting something to eat.

Of course, in making these accusations I have got to have proof—I realise that. That, of course, has been the great difficulty over so many years because of this intense secrecy. I may say that that same secrecy has done the circus proprietors no good either, because they are equally unable to prove that there is no cruelty just as we are unable to prove—or have been—that there is cruelty. But we have been very fortunate lately—when I say "we" I am referring to the two Societies who are promoting the Bill, and myself—in having obtained evidence of those who have actually been behind the scenes and have seen what goes on. In fact, three of them have actually worked as trainers, and two of them at least were so absolutely revolted by what they saw that they tendered their resignations; they could not stand it. They have given very full accounts of what happens, and I see no reason whatsoever to doubt them, because they gave them voluntarily and they have no reason to hold anything against their former employers since they were not dismissed.

I know that speeches which contain great lengths of quotation are not looked upon with great favour in your Lordships' House, but I think I shall have to make a few quotations. I shall make them as brief as possible, but I must prove what I have stated, and I therefore ask your Lordships for your usual indulgence.

The first statement I want to read is by a certain circus trainer. I think it better that I should not give in public the names of these persons or of the circuses for which they work, but I may say that all these circus trainers with whom we have been in touch are available; and if your Lordships feel any doubt about the subject, or feel that you would like to talk to them and find out really what did happen, it can perfectly easily be arranged for them to come up and see you at whatever time you like. This is the first account. I am not going to read the whole thing, but just bits of it. It is a communication dealing with the training of a baboon: After it had torn trainer's trousers during show, it was brought back of Big Top"— I presume that is the ring— held by three men while the fourth took steel cutters with blades 3 ins. long and handles 18 ins. and cut the fangs that had done the damage flush with other teeth. Done without any injection to ease pain or any vet's advice. This baboon was holding its jaw for approximately ten days.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us in each of these cases to whom the trainer reported the cruelty, which he is bound to do—to the local authority, the police or the Home Office? To whom did he report officially what the noble Lord has now read to us?


He did not report it to anybody except the Secretary of the Captive Animals' Protection Society.


Why did he not report it?


My Lords, why did they not decide to take any action with a view to prosecution? Surely if what the noble Lord says is true—and I have no reason to doubt it—why on earth was there not some prosecution in a case of that kind?


Because we have nothing except the man's word for it that it did go on. As I said before, I see no reason to doubt it. Naturally, he could not bring about a prosecution himself.


My Lords, could he not have resigned his job as a trainer?


I am sorry, I did not quite hear what the noble Viscount said.


My noble friend asked: Could the man not have resigned his job as a trainer?


He did.


Yes, my Lords, he did.

The man refers to lions. He says that they were kept in very tiny cages when not in the ring and they were very cramped. There was no room, as there is in zoos, to move about. He says: I witnessed the breaking of two lion cubs which had heavy stools thrown at them to keep them back, and bamboo canes rammed down their throats, blank cartridges fired at their noses and under their tails (the latter to make them move quicker). These left powder burn scars. The public never see these marks of violence, and their sympathies are with the man who presents these 'savage beasts'. He then goes on a little further: We had a three cage trailer for transporting the lions. At one end was a lioness who was on heat, in the middle a very young cub, and at the other end a fully grown lion. On opening them up in the morning, we found that the lion had ripped down the shutter separating the sections of cage and killed the cub. I told the trainer, and he came along and for approximately fifteen minutes fired blank cartridges at the lion, and then beat him with anything he could find handy—iron forks, rakes, et cetera ". His last text reads: I have seen dogs in small pens or boxes for days, let out only to do their act at night, this being the only exercise they have had for several days at a time. (Bitches usually used and they will not foul pen if possible. They cannot wait when pens are opened to relieve themselves after long, cramped confinement; it obviously caused them much discomfort.)


My Lords, after which event did this man resign? Or did he stay all the time?


He did not resign at once because he was particularly fond of the animals and felt that unless he stayed there they would not get the protection he was able to give them. But eventually he did resign.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House whether these events occurred in this country or in some foreign country?


In this country.


And they were never reported?


We now have the second man's story: I saw the electrical instrument used for training the elephants, the said instrument causing such distress I found it necessary to leave the building during my working hours. The electric instrument in question is a series of metal rings connected to each forepaw and joined by a cable to a mains. The elephants are first given a verbal command; when disobeyed it is then time for the trainer to call for the 'electrical treatment'—which consists of a lever being pulled when several hundred volts were circulated through the beasts causing them to raise their feet in anguish. Their screams then are more than a hardened criminal could stand. I would also like to comment on the treatment of the big cats with which I was closely associated, which in my opinion constitutes rank cruelty, their being kept in cages for travelling purposes completely inadequate to the size of the said beasts, solely for the purpose of cheap transport.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord where this is alleged to have taken place? And is he aware that, as I am told on sound advice by a veterinary surgeon, 200 volts and upwards is lethal to an elephant?


My Lords, may I also ask the noble Lord a question?


My Lords, is it not better that the noble Lord should make his speech?


That occurred in this country, and when the man says "several hundred volts" I cannot vouch for what the exact voltage was, but, in any case, it was obviously enough to produce the results he described.


My Lords, I think I can tell the noble Lord that it was about 10 volts.


I think it was probably a good deal more than that. Ten volts would hardly worry an elephant.

One of our societies has received a long letter, which I am not going to read out, from Miss Monica Hutchings, the pen-name of a well-known writer. She is actually a farmer's wife who managed to get behind the scenes because the proprietor thought that she was going on purely commercial business in order to sell animals and was perfectly open with her, not knowing that she would object at all. She describes some of the things she saw there. I have it here if any noble Lord would like to look at it.

My last quotation (and I thank noble Lords for their patience), is from a book by Alfred Court, who was a well-known circus trainer, called Wild Circus Animals, first published in 1954 by the Burke Publishing Company. I will quote just two paragraphs from the book. One says: If an animal attacks, he must be given a severe enough correction for him to realise from the first encounter that he is not the stronger. The second describes an encounter with a bear, and says: I clenched my hand round the club and struck at the head with all my strength…. The bear had been struck where I had aimed, above the nostrils and between the eyes. Blood flowed from its mouth, its paws stiffened in a last convulsion and it collapsed. This man was a retired trainer. He did not resign because of any feelings of conscience at all, and in writing the book he thought it was not exceptional but that it was something rather clever. That sort of thing is still going on all the time. If, in fact, animal training is all done by kindness, as is claimed by circus proprietors, how is it that we have had this constant series of attacks on trainers by animals? You would think there would be more a feeling of good will between the two if it were all done by kindness. But since 1947 we have never had less than one attack per year, and in many years we have had two or three. In 1954 we had five and in 1950 eight. Does that prove that there is any great sense of friendship and understanding between the trainers and the animals?

Now as to the Bill itself, I would just draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 3 (2). If your Lordships will be kind enough to give it a Second Reading this afternoon, as I hope you will, when we come to the Committee stage I shall move to alter the date "1966" to "1967", because as things are I do not think it is possible that the Bill could get through the other place before the end of the Session, but, having passed through your Lordships' House, of course it would have a quick passage in the other direction at the beginning of the next Session.

There is one other point about the Bill and that is that we shall have to make some stricter definition as to what constitutes a performing animal. Presumably, as the noble Lord has said, a sheep dog or something like that could be classed as a performing animal, but it would not be so for the purposes of this Bill. We shall have to discuss that and find some means of defining it when we come to the Committee stage.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the Bill—I seek for information—would he say why he has left out from the Schedule horses and seals?


That was not my desire. I must admit that I am sorry that they have been left out. It was done originally because it was thought that if a few loopholes were left there might be some better chance of getting the Bill through, but I do not think that has proved to be the case. So I think it is quite possible that if we ever get to Committee stage those may be included.

I have no doubt that when bull fighting was abolished in this country there was a tremendous outcry from a lot of enthusiasts who said what a grand old sport it was, what magnificent bravery the toreadors showed, how were they going to earn their living now they were deprived of their profession, and so on. And I have no doubt there was a similar outcry when cock fighting was abolished. But we have to go forward with our humanitarian legislation. Sweden has already banished the training of circus animals. I have a copy here of the Swedish Bill together with a translation, if any noble Lord would like to look at it. Is there any logical reason why we should not follow suit?

If the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, insists on pressing his Amendment at the end of this debate, I am afraid I will have to ask your Lordships to divide. I must admit I am a little puzzled at his having put it down at all, because I see that in the debate of January 31, 1956, he was on the other side; he voted with the performing animal preventers. But since then he seems to have become converted—or, shall I say, perverted? My Lords, I thank you very much for your patience in having listened to a long list of quotations, and I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

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

3.55 p.m

LORD SILKIN moved as an Amendment, to leave out "now" and insert at end of Motion "this day six months". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is an Amendment which in practice means that I am inviting your Lordships to reject the Bill. The noble Lord has been looking at the debate of January 31, 1956, and has observed that on that occasion, not on a Bill, but on a Motion, I voted in favour of the Motion, which was one complaining about the way in which animals were treated, very much on the lines of the noble Lord's speech. I want to "come quite clean" about this. I voted in favour of the Motion, but it was, as the noble Lord will have seen, a purely Party Motion. It was virtually a Motion which members of my side of the House were asked to support; and, as the noble Lord may have read, even the Amendment which was put down by my noble friend Lord Listowel was an Amendment which was drafted by the members of my Party a few hours earlier. On that occasion, nine years ago, we all voted quite blindly, and I make no apology for it, just as noble Lords opposite often vote quite blindly in favour of Motions put down in the name of one of their friends.


My Lords, many of us kicked over our Party traces and voted in favour of the Motion on its merits.


The noble Lord is an exception.


I do not believe it was at all a Party debate; these Motions I think are regarded as non-political.


I do not want to dwell too much on that. The fact is that since then I have looked at this matter on its merits, and I have given a great deal more thought and time to it than I was able to do nine years ago, when I merely obeyed the Party Whip.


My Lords, the noble Lord refers to voting "blindly" nine years ago. He is not referring to the matter which is now a question of privilege in another place?


I make no allegations at all. To-day I have looked at this question on its merits and have come to the conclusion that it would be wrong for this House to pass the Bill at the present time, and I am going to give my reasons. The noble Lord referred to the debate in 1956. That was the last time on which we discussed this question, and I read the noble Lord's speech, just as he referred to my vote. One of the things that impressed me at that time was that he said he wished we had the French system of judicature in this country. In France a person is deemed to be guilty unless he is proved innocent. whereas here, of course, a person is deemed innocent until proved guilty. I could not help feeling right throughout his speech that when he was making these allegations about cruelty of training he was really assuming what he wanted to prove.

I admit that he brought forward a number of quotations, but how many of your Lordships would accept his quotations merely at their face value without cross-examination, without knowing the circumstances in which they were made, without knowing who made them? Are your Lordships going to pass legislation on the basis of vague statements of this kind, without any proof whatever as to whether or not they are justified? Moreover, if the noble Lord is basing his case for the Bill on cruelty in the course of training, then I am bound to say the question arises which one or two noble Lords opposite asked: why was not this reported to the police or to the local authority?

The noble Lord is as well aware as I am of the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act, 1925. Under that Act persons carrying out the training of animals have to be approved, they have to register, and the place of training has to be registered. The police and the local authority official have the right at any time, except when a performance is going on, to visit the place and to inspect the way in which the training is carried out. It is a fact that since 1925 not one single prosecution has taken place—I think I should just correct that and say that not one single successful prosecution has taken place. There was one prosecution, but it was not successful. So, in forty years not one single successful prosecution has taken place.

Is it suggested that cruelty can have taken place over the whole of that period without either the police or the local authorities becoming aware of it? A good deal of the training takes place in tents, where the public are able to see what is actually going on. Moreover, large numbers of people who are employed by the various circuses have no part in the training, but merely in administration. If they saw evidence of cruelty they could quite well inform the police or the local authority, if they felt strongly about it. But not one single prosecution has taken place, other than the unsuccessful one that I have referred to. The noble Lord explains that by the fact that the police and the local authorities have to give notice before they can visit a place. I am assured that that is not true; they can come along at any time, and they do come along. Representatives of local authorities frequently come along at unexpected times, to satisfy themselves as to whether or not cruelty is taking place in the training of animals.

The noble Lord then says that, in any case, neither the police nor the representatives of local authorities really know anything about cruelty; they are not capable of judging because, after all, they are only officials, and what do they know? How does the noble Lord know that? How does he know that they are not veterinary surgeons? Normally, they would be the people to be sent by the local authorities—people with some experience. Is it really the practice of local authorities who have to carry out inspectorial duties to send along people who know nothing about the subject? Is that a serious suggestion?

Nobody would condemn a person and fine him five shillings on the evidence that has been produced to-day. I am not suggesting—it would be foolish to suggest—that no cruelty has ever taken place, or does not take place, in the training of animals. It may be that the Act of 1925 or the consolidation Act of 1911, which makes it an offence to be cruel to any animal, are not in all respects completely satisfactory. If the noble Lord had come along with a Bill to amend either of those Acts so as to make them more effective, one could have looked at that on the merits. But to suggest, on the basis of the evidence that he has come along with to-day, the existence of cruelty is, I think, an insult to the intelligence of any Legislative Chamber.


My Lords, I must interrupt the noble Lord for one second. Necessarily I cut my quotations short. But if I had quoted all the evidence that we have we should be here until midnight. I can assure the noble Lord that we have the names and addresses and the photographs, and the names of the circuses all these people whom I have quoted work for.


Well, I think it would have been better to stay on until midnight in order to give the evidence in full, rather than ask the House to legislate on inadequate evidence, because on the facts as the noble Lord has given them to us there is no evidence which would justify this House in passing this Bill. After all, the Bill would go to the foundations of an industry which has been in existence for hundreds of years. It has given pleasure—it may be that it should not have done—to hundreds of thousands of young people. One does not suddenly, on January 1, 1966, or even 1967, bring this to an end and put tens of thousands of people out of business on the kind of case that the noble Lord has put forward. I do not say he could not have put forward a case; I do not know. But the fact is that he has not made a case which could possibly justify us in interfering with the existing state of affairs.

One of the complaints he made was that the R.S.P.C.A. were not allowed to carry out inspections. Actually, the R.S.P.C.A. was a party to the 1925 Act, and approved of it. Under that Act, they were not given authority to inspect. The reason is that it is not normal in legislation to give private authorities power to carry out inspections at private premises. The police and the local authority are both official bodies. If you are going to allow one private body to come in, then you must allow another. There are several of these bodies; the noble Lord read out the names of quite a number of bodies who set themselves up for the protection of animals. They could all claim an equal right to visit at any time, as he wishes, the premises of anyone carrying out the training of animals. I think that would be quite unreasonable. But, as a matter of courtesy, I am informed that if a representative of the R.S.P.C.A. wants to come along and inspect the training in many of these circuses no difficulty is put in his way. I am told that no one has ever refused to allow them to inspect.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt, and I apologise for doing so. I will not interrupt the noble Lord again during his speech, but I must say one thing. Does he not realise, when speaking of cruelty, that in the case of a sensitive animal like a dog, there may well be long years of mental cruelty involved in forcing him against all his inclinations and nature to do things which nature never intended him to do? I can assure your Lordships that I shall explain this more fully when I come to make my speech.


My Lords, I do realise that. I realise that cruelty can take many forms. I am not denying that there may be cases of cruelty. What I am trying to emphasise to this House is that before it passes legislation of this drastic character it really must act in a responsible way and be quite satisfied—not just believe that it is likely, or that it is possible—that this cruelty exists to such an extent that we are justified in eliminating altogether this industry. I say the answer to that must be that the case has not been made.

The noble Lord referred to two categories of people who oppose this Bill. The first was those who have a financial interest in circuses or in the training of animals. I should like to say at once, and unreservedly, that I have No 1nterest, direct or indirect, and never have had, in any circus anywhere in the world. That statement is as categorical as I can make it. Secondly, he referred to people who regard any action to protect animals as being sentimental and sloppy. I hope that I do not take that view, either. I hope that I am an animal lover and that I would do anything possible to protect animals from cruelty. I think a real case for this Bill, if there is one, is that many people of all classes and categories honestly believe that it is wrong and degrading that wild animals should be captured, taken from their natural surroundings, brought to a place of entertainment, and trained and exhibited for the entertainment of persons. They think that there is something wrong and degrading about it, and I respect that feeling.

The noble Lord referred to Denmark and Sweden, where legislation has recently been enacted. Presumably (I do not know the details) that is because the people of those countries, no doubt by a substantial majority, have come to the view that they think it is wrong for these performances to take place. It may well be that one day we in this country may take a like view. When that time comes, and a large majority of the population take the view that these exhibitions are disgusting, degrading, wrong, immoral—anything you like—then will be the time for legislation to put an end to the exhibition of such animals. When that time comes it will not be the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who introduces it. I hope that it will be a matter for Her Majesty's Government. They are the right people to do it then, after full consideration, after weighing up all the views of the general public, and after satisfying themselves that they are, in fact, representing the conscience of the large majority of the people of this country.

This is a matter on which it would be quite wrong for, say, a simple majority of the people even to decide to close down circuses and places of entertainment. There will have to be respect for a minority in this matter. After all, if people do not wish to see these so-called degrading spectacles, they have their remedy: they can stay away, and they need not allow their children to go. But the majority of people to-day in this country do not take that view. They take the view that these sights of animals are instructive, interesting, entertaining and that there is no cruelty inflicted on the animals. In those circumstances, it would be wrong for us at the present time to attempt to pass legislation which would prevent the exhibition of animals for entertainment purposes.

I would ask your Lordships to reject this Bill on the grounds that there is no satisfactory evidence of cruelty; that there is no justification for passing a measure of this kind at the present time; that it is against public sentiment; that it would be an unfair, unjust interference with an industry which has carried on, doing its best, and performed a useful service over centuries. In any case, if a measure of this kind is to be introduced, it should be as a Public Bill, after the fullest consideration and after the Government of the day have satisfied themselves that they are acting in harmony with the great majority of the people of this country. None of these things obtains to-day, and I hope that your Lordships will not give this Bill a Second Reading.

Amendment moved— Leave out ("now") and insert at end of Motion ("this day six months").—(Lord Silkin.)

4.15 p.m.


My Lords I want to say only a few words on this subject, partly because I have not a great deal to say and partly because there is a long list of speakers to follow me who, quite obviously, have something to say.

The first point I want to make is that I have been rather more impressed than the noble Lord who moved the Amend- ment with the allegations, or suggestions, that some sort of cruelty goes on in training some of the circus animals. Supposing that were not to be true, one of the best ways of showing that it was not true would be for the circus proprietors to make a gesture; not by Act of Parliament, not by any compulsion, and allow members of the R.S.P.C.A. to come along when they wanted to do so, at all times, to inspect what was going on. At present it is the fact that inspections occur at what are called "reasonable times", which is the difficulty. For one is told—and this is what it is difficult to get confirmation of—that some of the training occurs during the night, when it is difficult or unusual for inspectors of the local authority to be about carrying out their inspections. So one would feel far more reassured and comfortable if one thought that it was possible for some reputable body to go, in a friendly way, when they felt inclined to do so and not to have to give notice of the fact that they were proposing to go.

There is a second point in regard to the whole of the performing animals in circuses. I must say that I have nothing at all against a circus. I have been to some and have enjoyed them. But the ones I have enjoyed most are the ones that do not seem to me to have any performing animals taking part in them. I remember particularly the one that came over from the Soviet Union about five or six years ago, which was shown at the White City. So far as I recollect, there were no performing animals taking part. It was one of the most beautiful circuses I have seen for a very long time. So to say that if we were to stop the training it would mean that circuses would go out of business is just not true.

There was a time, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said, when we encouraged bear-baiting and cock-fighting. I believe that even at present cock-fighting still goes on in certain parts of the country. It was thought that these things were cruel and the law gradually came in to prohibit them. I wonder whether the time has not come when we should think about performing animals in rather the same kind of way. Is it a proper thing for people who belong to a grown-up, civilised country to take pleasure in seeing animals perform tricks which they do not do in their natural surroundings and which are quite unnatural to them?

It is on these points that I feel a good deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in the Bill he has brought forward. I think it would be a great advantage if it were to be given a Second Reading in your Lordships' House, and then it would be possible to amend it in various ways during the Committee stage.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great honour for me to address your Lordships for the first time, and I hope I shall prove worthy of the tolerance which your Lordships traditionally give to maiden speakers in this House. I realise that on this occasion strong and persuasive arguments are not expected of me, and, furthermore, that this is a Bill which has already aroused arguments of a strong kind, so I confess that I had to consider very carefully before I decided what I could say. But it occurs to me that all men of good will are agreed on certain fundamental points. We are all agreed, I am sure, whatever may be our opinion of this Bill, that the happiness and well-being of animals is not a matter of indifference. It has not always been thus and, whatever may be our opinions on human progress, we must agree that over the last two centuries there has been a great advance in the enlightenment of our attitude towards animals. No one nowadays would wish to add to the sufferings of the animal creation in any way whatever.

I have been a farmer for most of my adult life and of necessity have seen a great deal of animals. Certainly, the animals with which I have been mainly concerned—sheep and cattle—are not in the Schedule of this Bill, and at all events they are not very stimulating performers. None the less they have to be handled, and there is, I think, a similarity of approach which is necessary in the handling and training of all animals, be they bullocks or orangutans. Most animals, with the notable exception of dogs, are taught in their infancy to fear man. This fear does not appear to be instinctive, but is taught by the mother to her offspring. I say this because it does not arise in very young animals, as when you take a very young animal from its mother, if its mother leaves it or something like that, and you take it home, then you find that that fear will probably never arise in it.

In order to remove this natural fear, animals have to be soothed and handled and talked to—talking to them is very important I have found, anyway. No one can train or force an animal to do anything until this timidity, which often expresses itself very violently, has been removed. It can be removed only by removing the cause, which is the fear of man. Lose your temper once and the game may very well be up. All the fears which the animal has had implanted in it will be realised, and it will probably never trust you or any human being again. I spoke about bullocks, but I think if I had done to bullocks some of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said were done to elephants, they would have walked right over the top of me. I do not think that one would ever be able to go near them again.

This necessity of removing fear applies to nearly all animals, with, as I have said, the notable exception of dogs, who from living with man since time immemorial on terms of exceptional intimacy have lost all natural fear of man. I do not know whether animals such as lions enjoy being trained. I have heard it said that chimpanzees in captivity have to be kept active and have to be taught to do things; otherwise, they become bored and vicious. There I think the question should be whether one should keep chimpanzees in captivity, rather than whether they should be taught peculiar ways of finding oranges and things on the ends of sticks.

I have never trained chimpanzees but I have trained a sheep dog, if "trained" is the right word for it. In fact, a good sheep dog can only be trained to the word of command, as it will work and round up sheep with or without training. One of my collie pups used to disappear on to the hill, and was often found after several hours fixing some unfortunate ewe with a basilisk glare, which is usually known as "eye" among collies. She was a confounded nuisance and she certainly did not receive any encouragement in doing this from me, but I did not stop her because I knew that it showed she was a promising bitch. Untrained dogs are a menace in sheep country, and collies, in particular, must be trained. If they are not they will, in all probability, become sheep killers, and there is only one answer to that.

Arising from this mention of sheep dogs, I would draw your Lordships' attention to one point about sheep dog trials, which I think has been partly dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, but I still feel we have not quite cleared it up. No doubt a shepherd will be allowed to train his sheep dogs, but if this Bill is passed will a shepherd be allowed to train his dogs for sheep dog trials. Sheep dog trials are a very useful way of establishing blood lines among sheep dogs, as to which are the best working dogs, and we should like to know the answer to this question of whether or not sheep dog trials will be legal.

This Bill is, as I see it, principally concerned with circuses. I do not wish to say very much about circuses, because my experience of animals has been in other quarters, and my experience of circuses has been merely in watching them. But it seems to me, if I may put an argument without overstepping the bounds of your Lordships' tolerance to a maiden speaker, that great patience, bravery and skill are needed to train a circus animal, and in my experience patient men are not very often cruel. I dare say there are exceptions, but that would be my opinion.

The second point which has struck me in circuses is the wonderful condition of the animals. I do not think that can be forged. I do not think you can produce a horse in beautiful condition if it has been brutally ill-treated. I know that by going around my neighbours' farms I can see very quickly who treats his animals right and who treats them wrong, and I have always thought, on going to a circus, that it looked as if they treated them right.

The last point I wish to make is that one thing which has always impressed me about animals is that they themselves love to watch a show. Last summer I had ditches for water mains and drains dug across my farm, and my animals had a perfectly marvellous time standing watching those holes being dug. I would say that there runs through all the animal creation, so far as higher animals are concerned, a love of the drama. I do not know what animals feel, but I know that human beings enjoy perform- ing as much as they enjoy watching performances. I have a sneaking suspicion—I will not go further than that, since this is my maiden speech—that the same may be true of animals.

I am grateful to your Lordships for the tolerance you have shown me. I have tried, without I hope being too contentious, to put before your Lordships a few facts and opinions relevant to this Bill, and I hope I have been successful.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, and I should like to thank him for his persuasive and informative speech. He spoke to us as a farmer, and his firsthand knowledge of animals has added weight to his words. I hope that we shall often have the pleasure on future occasions of hearing him making his contribution in your Lordships' House. I want to take up only a very small amount of your Lordships' time, and first I should like to say that I hope the Bill presented by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will be given its Second Reading. As the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, said, there will then be an opportunity for certain revisions in the Committee stage. I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving the Second Reading with such sincerity and conviction.

Surely the time for some action has come. I appreciate that there are trainers who are understanding, careful and wise in their dealings with animals: otherwise, they would not get the number of good results they do get. I recognise, too, that some of those who support certain societies—and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has reminded us of those—are wild in certain statements they make and foolish in some of the letters they write. On the other hand, from the evidence that has come my way I believe that there is an element of cruelty in the training of animals for circuses and shows, in this country and overseas. Therefore I welcome this debate, because it calls attention once again to our responsibilities for protecting certain categories of performing animals, and it does so at a time when some of our standards of care for animals are in danger of slipping—and when I say this I have in mind the treatment of young calves and pigs in certain factory farms, be there, perhaps, only a few such farms.

The relative freedom of animals in a National Park or in a well-kept zoo is one thing. Here, animals can be seen and enjoyed—and let us hope that they enjoy seeing some of us, as I believe they do. But confining these animals in small cages in travelling circuses is an altogether different matter. Here, I support those who believe that some animals are degraded; and animals are degraded in direct proportion to their skill in human accomplishments. There was a report in The Times some years ago which referred to performing bears. It said: Their trainer had created a well-drilled act, but he was not able to conceal the evident relief his team displayed as they left the ring and slumped back to normal. I expect that not a few in the audience are at times also relieved when some turns come to an end: the degradation is infectious.

I wrote some time ago in my diocesan leaflet about visits made to circuses by certain parish parties. Acts by clowns, acrobats and others can be fully enjoyed, and I thoroughly enjoy them. I accept, too, that it is possible that some animals might like to perform—but not, I believe, those listed in this Bill. I think of them as God's creation, and therefore I must thank God for them. It is intolerable that certain animals should be made to act unnaturally and be kept in captivity to this end. So, my Lords, I hope that we shall support the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and that this Bill will be given a Second Reading this afternoon. But, even if that Motion is lost and the Amendment is carried, I trust that to-day's debate will make many more people think again before they visit circuses where such animals as are on this list perform. My Lords, I speak as a matter of conscience; and conscience must be obeyed.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that a civilised society can be judged by the manner in which it cares for the most helpless in the community; and among the most helpless in the community I include the animal population. Therefore I approach this Bill as a Bill which has tremendous social value. I regard it, of course, as a milestone in the comparatively short history of legis- lation concerned with the welfare of animals. If this Bill had come before some of the primitive Parliaments that we read about these days, it would, of course, have been laughed out of court. We must approach this Bill, I think, as a people who are evolving; as a people who recognise that, despite the fact that they have no pressure group of any kind, the most helpless must be cared for by those who have the power and the authority to give them protection.

I am quite surprised to find what heat has been generated. Indeed, when, on coming here to-day, I saw about 19 names on the Order Paper, I said to myself, perhaps in my innocence, "It is a wonderful thing, in this progressive Parliament of ours, that so many people are going to support such a Bill". I confess it was only when I came in that my noble friend Lord Silkin—who throughout a long political life (and I have been at Westminster for 26 years) has never made a speech to which I have not said, "Hear, hear!"—utterly surprised me. I understand, however, that on Thursday he is going to remedy it, and that I shall be able again to say, "Hear, hear!"

We have heard about the Select Committee, and I think we should give more attention to their recommendations. Before I come to them, however, may I mention those noble Lords who have interrupted? When they contemplate how, in the last century, men walked round this country with bears in chains, or when they think of the horrible sights of spurred cocks fighting each other in a pit, they denounce it; but that is only because in those cases one could see and understand the cruelty. The plea to-day is for those animals which are subject to cruelty although, unfortunately, very few people see the cruelty inflicted. I think the division between us to-day—and I am listening very carefully—is that those who oppose the Bill do not believe the statements of the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading, or the statements of the R.S.P.C.A. and the other animal welfare organisations.

I think we must remember that in 1921 a Select Committee were appointed, and sat for a long time investigating the whole situation—and this was over 40 years ago, before a great deal of our social legislation was introduced. Nevertheless, they made certain humane recommendations. These were embodied in a Bill which was introduced in this House. I do not think it is denied that the vested interests opposed that Bill quite violently—so violently, in fact, that the measure which emerged, of course, has been of very little use. To those who question this and ask, "Where is the truth?", may I say that the Select Committee's Report was very long and very detailed, and that the Select Committee certainly were not manned (I will not say "womaned", because there was no woman there) by the Labour Party. After all, how big was the Labour Party in 1921, when it came to a question of forming a Select Committee? I suppose that most of the men on that Select Committee were Conservatives.

That Select Committee made a very careful investigation and produced a Report. May I quote The Times of 1922? I know that it is quite common these days, when The Times is quoted, for Conservative Members to smile. What did The Times of December 4, 1922, say about the Report?—and, surely, they must have examined it very carefully. They said: The Report contains more than sufficient grounds for immediate legislation. We accept, although with reluctance, the decision that the time has not yet come for total prohibition of this particular form of exploitation of animals for the pleasure of men". Now The Times was a very Conservative paper in those days. It had brilliant journalists, brilliant correspondents. They had examined the Select Committee Report; they had examined evidence such as we have heard quoted to-day by the noble Lord; they had decided that there was a case, that it was valid, and they deplored the fact that 40 years ago legislation was not introduced to prohibit this particular business.

On this occasion the circus proprietors are making an attempt to obstruct this Bill. They have circularised us with the letter, which has been referred to; and I thought they rather gave their own case away when they quoted that paragraph which says that their training quarters are open to be inspected by the officials of the local authorities at any "reasonable" time. I understand that when the 1925 Act went through the circus proprietors, being perhaps more wily than the promoters of the Bill, insisted on the inclusion of the word "reasonable". Having been advised by good lawyers, and perhaps by politicians, they were told that the one word "reasonable" would protect them. If the R.S.P.C.A. telephones and asks these proprietors, "Can we come round this afternoon?", they can say: "No, not just now; come along two hours later." My Lords, how can one expect to get evidence when a circus proprietor can say that the proposed visit "does not suit me just now." Those worthy people, representing the animal welfare organisations, cannot go and batter down the doors. They must accept it. And the fact is that the inspectors of the R.S.P.C.A. have no access to training establishments. Nor have the police the right of entry unless information has been laid that certain malpractices take place. We have heard that these individual men who have resigned from these circuses must get another job; their word must be believed against that of the circus proprietor in a certain small locality.

There has been mention by the noble Lord of animals travelling, not only in one country but sometimes travelling throughout the world; and mention has been made of the conditions of stage travelling and accommodation which make it inevitable that they should be enclosed in boxes, packing cases and cages sometimes no bigger than their own lair. Noble Lords may say that they have not heard of any cases of cruelty. But an honourable Member in another place described only last month a case in which three big elephants and two smaller ones were packed in a single circus van. One of the five elephants was being crushed; it became violent and had to be released on to the road. It refused to return and it required circus attendants and two A.A. men to get it back. This happened outside London on the way to the North. Who was supervising those five elephants being crushed into a small van? Who would have known of the incident had not one of them (although no doubt it had been subdued by training) decided he would not tolerate the circumstances any longer and got out on to the road? I wonder whether one of these unfortunate animals was the African elephant which arrived at a farm in Sussex last year after a six weeks' journey from Cape Town lashed to the deck of a cargo boat. The owners stated, according to the Daily Express, that "Mary" the elephant would rest on the farm for a week before going to a circus.

I have often wondered how it is possible for a trainer to compel an elephant, weighing a quarter of a ton to stand on his head. I do not wish to harrow your Lordships' feelings by describing some of the cruelties inflicted on animals; but we have heard from the noble Lord to-day that an electric shock is used. And the interesting thing is that the only intervention from the Liberal Benches, from a noble Lord who was obviously opposing the Bill, was about the number of volts that were used. He did not deny it; it was the degree of the electric shock that he was concerned about; he was very anxious for us to be accurate as to bow much electricity was discharged into the elephant.


My Lords, may I interrupt? I happen to have details, which I will give later, of the actual incident in question; and I will deny completely that it ever took place.


Well, my Lords, the noble Earl has every opportunity of speaking later so I wonder if he would kindly allow me to continue. I can only say here that the noble Lord I was referring to—who is obviously going to oppose the Bill; presumably because he has a great deal of information—did not, whatever the noble Earl says, deny that an electric shock was used.

I am informed that the only way trainers can compel colossal elephants to stand on their heads is to apply an electric shock. I cannot tell you how many volts are involved; but the shock is applied on to the elephant's hind legs and it is combined with goads to its tail and to its most sensitive parts. I have thought about this, and it seems to me the only way one could get that colossal animal to assume such an unnatural position. My Lords, do we find it easy and desirable to stand on our heads all the time? And do we long to have a bit of fun by so doing? No; because it is an unnatural position! Nor do we want to crawl along on our hands and legs; we still have the vestigial structure of a tail. Our thumbs and forefingers are apart, in the manner I am now demonstrating, because only a little while ago, in terms of history, we used to hang on boughs.

A NOBLE LORD: Hear, hear!


I am glad the noble Lord agrees. Nevertheless we are evolving; we have assumed the upright stature; we can argue like this without fighting each other, I hope. Therefore, if an animal like an elephant is to be compelled to stand on its head, or to dance around, it must be as a result of some stimulus; and it seems to me that the only way to get that animal to stand on its head is to apply some form of cruelty by means of an electric shock—though we are not quite certain how many volts one should use!

My Lords, one is surprised that these miserable beasts do not turn and rend their persecutors—until one realises that the explanation lies, of course, in broken spirit. It is the daily and persistent domineering of the mind of the animal which causes the final submission. Human ingenuity cannot, of course, devise means of guaranteeing that a wild animal will remain permanently cowed. We have heard that there are frequent attacks on trainers by the animals they train. If there are frequent attacks on trainers, then this hardly bears out the contention that the animals enjoy doing their tricks.

It seems to me that people in this country, and in other countries, are becoming increasingly aware of the sufferings inflicted on animals. The noble Lord has mentioned that certain European countries have taken legislative action similar to that we are asking your Lordships to take to-day. The interesting thing is that Sweden and Denmark are in the van of this progressive legislation. Is it coincidence that the Scandinavian countries also have been in the van of all the social legislation, similar to our own, concerning children and the health conditions of the poor? That, too, has been reflected in the Scandinavian countries.

Some noble Lords may say that conditions are different, but our own local authorities are taking strong action in this matter. There are noble Lords here who are perhaps familiar with Brighton. Brighton is a gay place. Yet, last month, Brighton Town Council prohibited all circuses with wild animals and so joined others—Croydon, Oxford, Harpenden, Reigate, Christchurch, Bath, Hornsey and Ealing—which have all within recent years taken some action which has shown their strong disapproval of the training and exhibition of animals for entertainment purposes.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the public are showing a greater reluctance to support the circus. The shares of Bertram Mills Circus have dropped in a spectacular fashion, and last summer Chipperfields announced that they would leave England permanently. It is significant that fewer animal turns are shown on television. There seems to be a growing distaste for animal performances. And in your Lordships House to-day we are asking Parliament to endorse what the public are feeling by supporting this Bill and thereby making such exhibitions things of the past.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, before I answer the noble Baroness who has just spoken, I should like to say that I appreciate the motive of kindness which my noble friend Lord Somers has in presenting this Bill, but I think that he has overlooked several factors, on which I will enlarge after I have answered the noble Baroness. I understood the noble Baroness to say that an African elephant has been brought to this country to perform in a circus. Sor far as I am aware, the only elephants that ever perform in circuses are Indian elephants, because the Indian elephant, like the horse and dog, has been domesticated for thousands of years. An African elephant cannot be trained. The noble Baroness also said that animals were packed very tightly while travelling. But if, for example, one is taking horses to a racecourse, to a hunt or to a show, one has to pack them extremely tightly. A horse in a horse-box cannot move at all, because if you give him plenty of space and the box is going round a corner he is liable to fall down and hurt himself.

What else did the noble Baroness say? She said that attendances at circuses were falling and that that was a sign that the public do not want to see performing animals. The reason why attendance is falling slightly is television. There is no evidence that the public do not like circuses. Is there anything else the noble Baroness said? I cannot remember it.

I have spent my whole life among animals—domestic animals; I have no experience of training wild ones. I have trained sheep dogs and sporting dogs, and I have schooled horses. To say that cruelty is used in training domestic animals is completely untrue. You have to have constant repetition, you have to be firm, but you cannot be cruel. If you use cruelty on an animal, you will either make it cowed or make it savage. If I may take the horse—perhaps I am out of order here because the Bill does not refer to horses, but it is a good example—anyone who has ever ridden a race in a point to point or steeplechase knows that if you beat a horse you will lose the race. He will curl up, stop and lose his action. I hardly ever own a horse that wins a race, unfortunately, but I remember a two-year-old I had a long time ago. The first time out she was beaten a short head. The boy on her touched her with the whip, which was an extremely bad thing to do on a two-year-old. That horse would never face a racecourse again. That is an example of where the least cruelty can completely spoil an animal for training purposes.

I think that many of us are inclined to put ourselves in the place of animals. We endow animals with the human emotions and think that they have the same thoughts, ideals and imagination. Of course, that is complete nonsense. With due respect to the noble Baroness, if she were incarcerated in a cage—which I hope will never happen to her—apart from the physical discomfort, she would endure shame and mortification and all sorts of other complications, but the first thing she would feel would be her loss of freedom. What is this freedom to a wild animal? It is an incessant battle with the elements, an incessant search for food. It is a precarious existence which is liable to end in sudden terrifying death or a slow prolonged death from starvation. I have seen wild animals dying of starvation.

Take the lion as he stalks out on the Serengetti Plain for his evening prowl. Does he stop to admire the sunset and say to himself, "How wonderful it is to be free"? Of course, he does not. He has a gnawing pain in his belly and he is worried. He eats every two or three days, if he is fortunate, and perhaps not for five or six days at a time. If he misses his spring he gets extremely worried. And as he grows older he finds that there are always lurking in the shadows those ghoulish monsters, the hyenas, waiting for the time when he is so feeble that they can pull him down and tear him to pieces. I maintain that if that lion had the power to reason and could choose, he would far prefer the well fed security of the circus.

Lions in circuses live to a far greater age than lions in the wild. The height of an animal's ambition is food, security and shelter, and if an animal has these, he is happy. I agree that if wild animals are captured and put in cages, of course they are frightened and bewildered, but after a comparatively short time, if they have regular feeding and kind handling they completely forget the wild. We also have to remember that in circuses a great number of the animals are born in captivity and have never known the wild. We hear from romantic writers about the "call of the wild". But the call of the wild is only the mating instinct. If you keep a tame stag, he has the call of the wild only in the autumn.

The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, complained about elephants standing on their heads. But if the noble Lady has ever seen a wild elephant push down a tree, she will know that he very nearly stands on his head to do that. I have seen an elephant almost turn a somersault while pushing down a tree. I agree it is perhaps undignified, but I do not think it is any great trial for an elephant to stand on its head. It is probably easier for an elephant to stand on its head than it is for the noble Lady.

There are isolated instances of cruelty in circuses; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has pointed out, this is already legislated for by the 1925 Act. My noble friend Lord Somers made a number of quotations. I have been bombarded with the same so-called evidence. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, it is not evidence at all. This is from only a handful of people, and some of them, for all we know, may have fallen foul of their employers. As I say, it is no evidence at all.

The other point we have to remember is that these trained animals are extremely valuable and worth thousands of pounds. You will not get a trainer, even if he is a brute, who will treat these valuable animals cruelly and neglect them. I agree that I have seen acts in circuses of which I do not approve, and I hope that circus proprietors in future will be a little more careful about the acts they put on. For instance, I have seen a bear riding a motor cycle. I think it is absolutely absurd for a bear to ride a motor cycle—in fact, I think it is almost as absurd to see a human being riding a motor cycle. The bear obviously does not enjoy it. This ought not to be allowed. If you take the tigers and lions which jump from stools or jump through a hoop, this is a natural and easy thing for them to do. Or, if they roll over and over, there is nothing cruel about that.

We have in this country—and we often read about it in the Press—a great number of cases of appalling cruelty to domestic animals, but nobody has produced a Bill to ban the public from keeping domestic pets. From that point of view, I think this Bill is illogical. I do not want to quote, but Superintendent James Cunningham of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported in the Scottish Daily Express on January 22 of this year that never in their records, which go back to 1840, has there been a charge of cruelty made against a circus proprietor. He says that from his experience the animals get plenty of exercise in the ring; they get the best of feeding, because otherwise they would not be fit; and their quarters are frequently inspected and have always been found satisfactory.

I would also point out—I do not want to appear supercilious, because I am sure I should have made a worse job of it—that the drafting of the Bill is not particularly apt: I think my noble friend referred to this. There is no definition of a performing animal. I do not know whether we have them still, but there were for many years sheep dog trials in Hyde Park, for the amusement of the public. As this Bill is drafted, presumably they could not take place. Then there is the question of elephant rides for children; presumably you could not have these. The camel is not mentioned in the Schedule of this Bill as a banned animal. Can you, therefore, give children a ride on a camel, but not give them a ride on an elephant? This is inconsistent.

It is said that circus animals occasionally kill their trainer; but this is a very rare occurrence. If you take the case where the trainer puts his head in the lion's mouth, do you really mean to tell me that if he had been cruel to the lion he could do that? I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who asked why sea lions and horses are not in the Bill. Surely if a trainer is said to be cruel to a dog, a cat or a chimpanzee, he will also be cruel to a sea lion or a horse. I cannot understand this, and I call it bad law.

I detest cruelty, and particularly cruelty to animals. But if we pass this Bill, and if we are going to be logical, we shall, on the basis of this Bill, outlaw almost every human activity in relation to animals, for fear of having a case of cruelty brought. There will always be the black sheep; but we have laws to deal with the black sheep. It is absurd to penalise the whole of society for the bad behaviour of a few black sheep. Therefore, if this matter goes to a Division, I will vote for the Amendment.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I support the Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Somers. Like my noble friend Lady Summerskill, I cannot say how deeply I deplore the speech of my noble friend Lord Silkin in regard to this Bill. More I will not say at the moment, because my noble friend is not in his place. The Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, of which I happen to be President, has some experience in connection with cruelty to animals in performing turns. Some time ago a circus turn—I agree it was in Vienna—consisting of a monkey, a cat, and four dogs, was purchased by the Centre. The monkey was flown to England, and the dogs and cat found satisfactory homes elsewhere to save them from the discomforts of six months in quarantine. The owner of the act was ill, and it was found when the animals were purchased that the monkey, along with the cat, had been kept for nine months in a cage, the measurements of which were 24 inches by 16 inches by 18 inches. The cage is still at Raystede. The monkey's height span was 26 inches. Just imagine the conditions under which those poor things lived for nine months. The cat was stone deaf and had to perform with the monkey in three acts a day over a very long period, and when the act was bought up the animals were in an extremely poor state of nerves and condition.

On another occasion partially trained circus animals, which proved to be blind, were purchased by the Centre. On a third occasion, when the organiser went to a sale of so-called partially trained performing animals, it was learnt quite clearly that they were taught their tricks by the withholding of food and water. There are other ways of cruelty than hitting with sticks, and the withholding of food and water seems to be a favourite method utilised by the promoters of circuses in the course of training. I could give other instances, but I will not do so at the moment.

Now may I for a moment say a word or two about performing dogs? Dogs have figured a good deal in the discussion on this Bill this afternoon, but I submit to your Lordships that there is a great difference between the pet dog taught to do simple tricks, and the dog which is made to perform before the public in the circus ring or in the theatres. First of all, the pet dog does not have to perform to a timetable, nor is it forced to perform extremely difficult feats, such as backward somersaults, jumping from high diving boards, or balancing on its front paws. Secondly, many of these performing dog acts come from abroad. It is not generally recognised that these unfortunate dogs which are brought over here to perform are actually in quarantine for the first six months of their stay; or, if they are here for a shorter period, then they are in quarantine for the whole time they remain in this country.

The following short extract from a report of an R.S.P.C.A. inspector sums up the position regarding these performing dogs very effectively. He says: … where performing animal turns are a feature from time to time, the performing dogs and cats are stored backstage in between the performances. Care is taken to see that they do not leave the premises when undergoing quarantine and do not mix with the public … ". Referring to two dogs who came over to this country from France to perform in Bradford, a Guardian article said: The … theatre will be their home for the next three months—a home they must never leave…. They must not mix with English dogs. They get their daily exercise on the theatre roof. Quarantine laws are the trouble; only if the dogs are kept away from other dogs will the Ministry of Agriculture waive the six months' quarantine rule … The position is that these circus dogs are virtually prisoners in the theatre or circus where they have to perform, and are never allowed out of the premises. If the act is billed to appear somewhere else in the country, then the dogs have to be transported to the other place of entertainment direct by road or rail in proper containers. For them there is no question of their coming into contact with any other dog, or having a run in a local park or public gardens.

Really, my Lords, there is no excuse for humans taking pleasure in watching animals perform tricks, when, if they have not learnt them by cruelty—and I am not suggesting that all those who train are inhuman monsters—at least they have been subjected to the misery of captivity, unnatural conditions, and, as I have already suggested, the withholding of the needs of life. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to give two short quotations. The first is: No civilisation is complete which does not include the dumb and defenceless creatures within the sphere of charity and mercy. Those are the words of Queen Victoria. The second quotation is some lines by Ralph Hodgson: 'Twould ring the bells of Heaven The wildest peal for years, If Parson lost his senses And people came to their, And he and they together Knelt down with angry prayers For tamed and shabby tigers And dancing dogs and bears, And wretched, blind pit ponies And little hunted hares. Despite the imperfections in this Bill to which attention has been called, I hope, in the name of humanity and kindness, that we shall give it a Second Reading in the hope that in Committee it may be further and critically examined on the lines which have already been suggested.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I just point out, regarding the feeding of circus animals—and, in fact, all animals—that if you feed an animal before its act it only goes to sleep. If you are working dogs, such as sheep dogs, you always have to feed them after their work. That is the reason animals are not fed before their act. It is the same with horses: they are not fed before a race.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, I do not feel at all specially qualified to judge between the relative merits of the cases put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked—very understandably I thought, this being a most drastic measure—where is the evidence to support it? The reply of the noble Lord, Lord Somers, was that if he gave your Lordships all the evidence at his disposal we should be here at midnight. Yet when the noble Lord, Lord Somers, did begin to produce some of the evidence it seemed to me that he ran into very troubled waters. The hounds were after him—I suppose they were otter hounds if he was in troubled waters. Noble Lords wanted to know who was this man who witnessed the baboon's teeth being cut with shears? Did it happen in England? Why did the witness himself not prosecute? Why did the trainer remain in the circus? If he resigned from the circus, at what stage did he do so? Then Lord Somers was asked how many volts were applied to the elephant's feet?

This, I submit to your Lordships, is a profoundly unsatisfactory way to conduct a debate upon the Second Reading of the Bill. I should have thought that this case cried out for Select Committee procedure. As I understand it, it would be open to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, if he saw fit, upon making his closing speech in this debate, to undertake either this evening or, I would imagine, preferably on a subsequent occasion, to move to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. If that were done the procedure that would then be adopted would be as is explained on page 138 of the Companion to the Standing Orders: When a public Bill is referred to a Select Committee … The Committee consider memoranda submitted to them and hear such evidence as they consider necessary. When the Committee consider that a Bill should be proceeded with, they examine the Bill in detail with a view to making such amendments as are necessary. A formal Report is then made to the House reporting the Bill with, or without, amendments made to the Bill.


Did the noble Lord say, "Public Bill"?


Yes, my Lords. I did say, "Public Bill". When a public Bill is referred to a Select Committee the only terms of reference are the Order referring the Bill to a Select Committee. There are then three lines, which I left out, followed by the passage that I quoted.


Is the noble Lord sure that this is a Public Bill?


This is a Private Member's Public Bill. The Companion to the Standing Orders continues: If, however, the Select Committee consider that a Public Bill should not be proceeded with, it is the practice to report the Bill without amendment to the House and separately to make a Report giving reasons for the Committee's decision and making such recommendations as they think fit. If that procedure were adopted, noble Lords would no longer be able to say that there was no evidence. There would be an abundance of evidence.

Time does not seem to be essential in this case. We have already been told by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that the Bill is not going through Parliament in this Session. I should have thought that the Select Committee procedure was the obvious answer in this case. Indeed, I should not think that any noble Lord would feel contrained to refuse to give this Bill a Second Reading if Lord Somers would undertake, as a condition of the Second Reading being given, to refer the matter to a Select Committee.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am not one of the little hunted hares to which my noble friend Lord Burden referred. Nevertheless, I am on his side, and on the side of the Bill. I support the Bill because it seems to me to be based on the sound and, indeed, unexceptionable principle (and here, on Second Reading, we are dealing with a matter of principle) that we should not inflict unnecessary or avoidable pain on any animal. This principle is generally accepted by most people in this country and by humane people everywhere. I am quite certain that there is not a single Member of your Lordships' House, however strongly he may have objected to this or that provision in the Bill, who would not agree with the principle I have stated. If that is the case, I hope that your Lordships will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading, in order that consideration may be given to what may happen subsequently. Then, of course the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, as well as many other suggestions, would no doubt be considered by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, who has introduced this Bill.

The difficulty about the Bill is, of course, that legislative enforcement of a principle, however good it may be, is difficult unless you can be sure that the legislation proposed has the support of public opinion and does not interfere unnecessarily with the liberties of the subject. I think that this difficulty has been felt by speakers on both sides of the House, and it is, I believe, the explanation of the very considerable differences of opinion that have been expressed in the course of this debate. Nevertheless, I think that few people would deny the simple fact that there is an element of cruelty in the training of animals to do circus turns, or that many of these animal turns are also cruel. This simple fact has been denied by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and by some noble Lords who agreed with him; but I cannot help thinking that the majority of informed opinion would agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, that there is an element of cruelty both in the training and in the performance.

That, after all, was the conclusion of the Select Committee of another place, to which many references have been made, when the Committee reported in 1922, over forty years ago. May I remind the House that that was also the conclusion of your Lordships when this House passed Lord Danesfort's Bill in 1925? That is a long time ago and perhaps I may be permitted to remind your Lordships that that Bill prohibited the training and showing of most of the animals included in the list in the Schedule to the Bill now before us. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to consider very carefully before reversing a decision which this House took just over forty years ago. Since then, of course, much fresh evidence has been produced, by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and, by other noble Lords, and several references have been made to specific allegations.

Surely the problem is how to stop this element of cruelty without interfering with innocent pleasure or causing avoidable hardship. Several references have been made to the Performing Animals Act, 1925, which tried to do just this thing, but this Act has completely failed (I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Somers, about that) and the reason for its failure is really very simple.

The Act fell very short of the recommendations of the Select Committee that reported from another place and it ignored the most vital of these recommendations, which was that a representative of the local authority or the R.S.P.C.A. should have access, without previous notice, to places where animals are being trained. The words "without previous notice" were included in the recommendations of the Report. But in the Act, of course, the local authority inspector has access only "at reasonable times". That means, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, pointed out, that circus managers have to be consulted about what they consider to be a reasonable time and are therefore always forewarned about the visit of any inspector.


The Act says "at all reasonable times" and no prior consultation is necessary.


No prior consultation is specified in the Act—that is perfectly true. But I do not think the noble Lord will doubt that the normal practice would be to consult with the circus manager about what is a reasonable time; otherwise, clearly, the inspector could be stopped by the circus manager when he comes to the circus and be told that it was not a reasonable time.


So far as my Department is aware, there is no question of prior consultation at that time. Certainly there is no restriction on the police in this matter. Circus proprietors do not like visits while an actual performance is taking place, for fairly obvious reasons.


I fully accept what my noble friend has said, but I would point out to your Lordships that an Act which deals only with supervision and inspection could not possibly prevent this element of cruelty, because it is inherent in the methods that must be used to tame large and powerful animals and to make them amenable in the ring. That, indeed, is why the Select Committee proposed that the training and showing of certain animals—and the animals named in the Report of the Committee were chimpanzees and anthropoid apes—should be prohibited. That was in 1922; and all these years nothing has been done by Parliament to act on this recommendation.

In the last forty years public opinion has moved much further in the direction of more humane treatment for performing animals. I am thinking not only of opinion in this country, where, as my noble friend Lady Summerskill said, several local authorities (and the noble Lady mentioned several local authorities specifically) have forbidden circus performances in their area. I think we also must take note of opinion among our Scandinavian neighbours who feel much as we do about animals. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, mentioned an Act prohibiting the training and showing of wild animals in Sweden. There is a similar Act in Denmark, to which I think he did not refer; that was passed in 1962. I dare say that your Lordships noticed, as I did, another sign of the times, rather nearer home. Looking at circus performances televised this Christmas I was very struck by the prominence of horses, acrobats and clowns, and the relative absence of wild animals. This certainly was an enormous change since my own childhood when I was taken to see circuses, when wild animals were very prominent indeed. I cannot help thinking that this is a sign of the times and shows that in fact the public are becoming very restive about the public exhibition of these wild animals.

This debate has shown, and I have no doubt will continue to show, that opinion in this House is deeply divided. And there are many people outside this House, as well as noble Lords here, who regard this Bill very sincerely as a deathblow to the circus business and as likely to impose unwarrantable hardship on those who earn their living in this way. Also it has been very sincerely said this interferes with innocent pleasure. I cannot help thinking these considerations all lead to the conclusion that there are certain matters which should be very carefully examined at Committee stage, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will undertake to examine them if and when that stage is reached. I cannot help thinking that the Bill would attract a larger measure of public support if it were to exclude domestic animals from the prohibited list; that is to say, if it were very much on the lines of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, passed by your Lordships in 1925.

I am also very much of the opinion that consideration should be given to the possibility of compensating for financial loss any managers or personnel of circuses who lose their livelihood or their employment as the result of the passing of a Bill of this kind. These are surely matters that should be considered at a later stage of the Bill. Since they do not in any way impinge on the principle to which I alluded at the outset of my remarks, I hope very much, with other speakers, that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading in order that it may be closely scrutinised by a Committee of your Lordships.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I come down wholeheartedly in favour of my noble friend's Bill. I want to congratulate him on introducing what I think is a really necessary measure. He has had the courage to grasp the nettle and in his Bill put a complete ban on performing of all the animals mentioned in the Schedule. As some noble Lords have mentioned this afternoon in a most interesting debate, we have to be quite clear as to what constitutes the exhibition of a performing animal, because, of course, we see dogs on television films all the time. We see ponies and horses and I have even seen elephants on the stage of a theatre. I have seen elephants in spectacles such as opera. We shall have to decide exactly what constitutes a performing animal, but that will not be difficult; surely we can give the legal interpretation of that.

Without wishing to bore your Lordships, may I say that when I was a boy the London Hippodrome had a circular waterproof arena which could be flooded. The audience sat round and it was flooded with water like a great big tank. There was a long slide with a wooden frame from the back of the stage and elephants were made to go sliding down; they were pushed down and came sliding down with a great splash into the water. That was the grand spectacle of this particular act. I have never forgotten as they came down the trumpetings of those terror-stricken animals, made to do something they detested. Ever since then I have been deeply opposed to making animals perform in public. That is a show that I suppose would never be tolerated to-day. I think we have come to realise our greater responsibility to our fellow creatures of the animal world. But there is no doubt to my mind that in the training of performing animals some kind of cruelty is still unavoidable.


My Lords, is the noble Earl quite sure the elephants were not trumpeting with pleasure and joy?


They did not look as if they were pleased at all, from what I remember, but I was not very old at the time.

I should like to explain to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, what I mean by cruelty. I do not mean actual cruelty, visible cruelty, by perhaps applying a stick or by starving the animal. I think there is quite a different kind of cruelty that goes on in the training of these animals: that is a kind of mental cruelty, the mental strain of making an animal, particularly a wild animal—and it takes a long time, as we have plenty of evidence to show—perform a feat which nature did not intend it to perform. Human beings are the natural enemies of wild animals. This is something instinctive; it is the law of nature. Therefore it stands to reason that fear must be one of the chief motives that bend animals to the trainer's will. Half the trouble is that, to satisfy the public, more difficult, sensational and amazing tricks must constantly be invented, and the more difficult the trick the more unnatural it will be to the animal and the more pain is involved in the teaching of it.

May I give one or two examples of the kind of tricks to which animals are often subjected? Lions are made to walk on tightropes; lions and tigers are made to jump through hoops of flame. Bears are made to ride on one-wheeled cycles six feet high, and to ride motor cycles and scooters. I have some most unpleasant photographs here. If any noble Lord would like to see them I should be delighted to show them outside. I did not take them; they were given to me by the R.S.P.C.A. The Secretary of the R.S.P.C.A. cannot speak in your Lordships' House. I have some photographs here of lions walking tightropes and of bears riding tricycles, and all the rest of it; and I can assure your Lordships that all the animals look most unhappy while they are carrying out their tricks.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl this question? He has these photographs. Do they show any cruelty in training; or does he infer that, because the animal is walking on a tightrope, there must be cruelty?


No, my Lords; they are photographs of animals performing their tricks in the auditorium, not being trained.


That does not prove cruelty.


No, but the animals look most miserable while they are carrying out their tricks. I have heard criticism of dogs being included in the Schedule, but, on the whole, I think this is right. I think they should be included, for I believe the arguments for prohibiting dogs as performers are equally as strong as those in relation to wild animals. A dog has much more to do in a circus than sit up and beg. Nobody is going to pay money to see that. They have to jump through hoops; they have to climb up ladders. Surely no dog was every intended by nature to climb up a ladder and then jump off a platform at the top into a blanket. Good heavens! it reminds me rather of a man making his first parachute jump. I have never done it, and I should not like to. It must be most alarming, but the parachutist knows that if he pulls the rip cord he will come safely to the ground. A dog can have no such idea of that. There is no analogy whatsoever between police dogs trained to use their natural gifts of intelligence, scent and sight, and a dog performing in a circus, having to go through exactly the opposite of what nature intended him to do.

Whatever one thinks about the cruelty aspect—let us leave that for a moment; noble Lords may be divided about it— there is one thing about performing animals about which I think everybody must agree, namely, that to dress animals up and make them do these tricks and for human beings to sit there and laugh at them is a most degrading spectacle. Surely, if humanity is never going to rise higher than that it is a very poor outlook for the world.


My Lords, is the noble Earl suggesting that when members of the Royal Family attend the circus, as they do every year, they are being degrading?


My Lords, that seems to me an irrelevant question. I think it is degrading that animals should have to make buffoons of themselves. My other chief prejudice against performing animals is that they must be kept in far too narrow and confined conditions. Many noble Lords have already pointed this out. How can a small circus proprietor, or even the owner of a large circus, afford to give them enough room, either when they are in their cages waiting to perform or when they are travelling from place to place? The noble Lord has not included horses in his Schedule. I am rather glad that he has not. I have had a good deal of experience with horses and have always come to the conclusion that one can do nothing with them without infinite patience.

One matter that has not been mentioned so far is the danger of escaping animals. We have had two recent escapes—that of a timber wolf from Whipsnade the other day, and a week ago, I think, a lion escaped from somewhere in the West Country. If large zoos do not seem able to do it, it seems obvious that small circus proprietors are not likely to be able to keep the necessary watch on their animals to prevent them from escaping, so causing alarm and panic among the populace.

Finally, I would say a word more about cruelty. It is a difficult word to define. It can be argued perfectly well that there is far more cruelty in the homes of neglected dogs and cats which stray about the streets of London and have to be collected and sent to the Battersea Home to be destroyed. That is cruelty and neglect. But where cruelty exists, there is no excuse for condoning it; and I believe that to a certain extent in the exhibition of performing animals some cruelty is unavoidable. I believe that there is a growing consciousness of our duty towards animals. But are we quite conscious enough? We allow hundreds of seal pups to be massacred—several hundreds were massacred last year—because we think there are too many and we have no use for them. Yet we are only too ready to exploit their intelligence in the circus when we want to make a little money out of them. I think we should do better than that.

As for the suggestion about the circus being no longer viable if performing animals are not allowed to perform in them, I do not for a moment believe that either. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has given us an example of a circus that he saw which had no performing animals. Surely there are plenty of brave men on trapezes, jumping from the high top, and clowns, and that sort of thing, to amuse thousands of children. We can have this without the degradation of performing animals. I firmly believe that if this matter were put to a plebiscite in the country there would emerge an overwhelming vote against the performance of animals in circuses. I am confident of that. I have no more to say. I thank your Lordships for bearing with me for so long. I sincerely hope that this Bill will have a Second Reading.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to ask your Lordships to consider what we mean by "performing animals". Is a trained gun dog or a police dog a performing animal?—because it is trained by man to do a certain job for him. In my opinion this Bill, for that reason alone, is a dangerous Bill, because gradually you can completely and utterly abolish the normal use of animals for the good of man. The same thing applies to a riding horse, a heavy draught horse and other such animals which are used by man.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl for a second? There is No 1ntention at all in the Bill of including animals for the purposes which he has quoted.


I did not say that there was. But I am asking what is the definition of "performing animals". Perhaps I did not make myself quite clear to the noble Lord.

Is a budgerigar or a parrot which one keeps in a cage and teaches to talk a performing animal? All these points must be carefully looked at.

I have had a lot to do with animals, both what are called wild animals and domestic animals, all my life. When one talks about cruelty, all I would say—and I am sure I shall not be contradicted—is that you cannot effectivelytrain any animal by cruelty; you cannot make it efficient in what you want it to do, in the same way as you cannot bring up a child by cruelty; you cannot train soldiers and sailors by cruelty. It is wrong to say that certain methods of indication to an animal or a bird are necessarily cruel. It is a means which has been found by those who have the knack, or the genius, of a natural liaison, or power of interpretation, between the human and the animal.

I do not know whether any of your Lordships has ever read a very interesting book called King Solomon's Ring, written by an Austrian. He discovered that if he put mallard ducks' eggs under a white Aylesbury duck, when she hatched them out the baby mallards would run away screeching. She would quack away, but the mallard ducks apparently have a different language from the Aylesbury ducks. The Austrian was interested in this, and as a result was nearly put into a lunatic asylum. There he was near a church one Sunday, this huge man with a beard, crawling around on all fours, imitating the mallard, with ducks running behind him. He was thought to be quite mad, and was thought to be a possible candidate for a gaol or a lunatic asylum.

I do not by any means denigrate those who wish to promote the welfare of animals, for nobody is fonder of animals than I am. But I do criticise those who have not a full knowledge of the subject and who rather turn the matter from what should be a sensible problem to a sentimental one. Therefore, I cannot find myself able to support this Bill and, if the Second Reading goes to a Division, I shall vote against it. On the other hand, I would support any sensible arrangements for the promotion of the welfare of animals, whether they be wild, domestic or anything else; and this applies also to children.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I heartily support this Bill. The only thing that puzzles me is that there is not already an Act on the Statute Book to deal with this problem. The English have the reputation abroad of being almost excessively sensitive to cruelty against animals. They are supposed to be one of the nations most concerned to see that animals are properly, kindly and reasonably treated. It seems to me that one of the few blind spots or loopholes which have remained in our laws is the absence of any legislation adequately to protect performing animals and circus animals. I am surprised, but I suppose there must be reasons for this state of affairs.

I have asked myself, what are the motives that draw people in crowds to circuses to watch performing animals? I think there are several. One reason is the skill on the part of the circus people themselves, which they possess to a high degree—particularly of the acrobats, in the timing and execution of their trapeze performances. Another element involved is the love of the public of watching danger and to a certain extent there is in this an element of sadistic cruelty. It seems an extreme thing to say, but among crowds this does exist. If one doubts it, one has only to look at the history of the crowds which attended public executions. I am afraid that if there were to be a public execution to-morrow, there would still be a crowd to watch it. Undoubtedly an excitement that attracts the crowds in the circus is the danger which the animal trainer faces. He is face to face with lions or tigers, whatever it may be. If he misses his cue or makes a mistake, or gets careless for one minute, the animal may jump at him; and could kill him in a matter of seconds.

But as people get more civilised, that joy in watching danger and cruelty is gradually killed by the growth of imagination and by what the psychologists call identification. If you go among African tribes you find an extraordinary lack of imagination. If a man becomes blind and falls over a log, all the natives roar with laughter: they think it is the funniest thing they have ever seen. But as people become civilised their imaginations conjure up what must be the emotions of the blind man, and from being a figure of fun he becomes a figure for sympathy and of sadness, and as people get more civilised they identify and use their imaginations in relation to animals.

The only reason the general public have not revolted against circus training is that they are ignorant about the actual training of the animals. The training, the "breaking" of the animal, is always done out of the way, usually in remote places where it is very difficult for people to get in to see them. I know that one noble Lord has said that local authority inspectors can inspect the conditions under which training takes place. But circus people are alive to these possibilities: they have their scouts out, and are an extraordinarily enclosed, loyal group. They are frightened of other circuses stealing their acts, and if an ordinary person came near he would be thrown out as a trespasser long before he got anywhere near to the place where the animals were being trained. As Lord Somers has said, occasionally an assistant becomes disgusted with it all, or some person manages to get in and tells us a bit of what goes on; and it is not at all pleasant reading.

The big principle behind the promotion of this Bill is a principle that I would stress to your Lordships: that it is quite impossible to train a wild animal to do extraordinary tricks without using fear, pain and cruelty. It is all very well for the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and others to believe that it is possible to get a wild tiger to behave, just by showing it kindness and by offering it meat. But I submit to your Lordships that that is absolute folly.


The noble Lord talks about fear, but the very fact that a trainer gets the animal's confidence surely abolishes its fear of the human being.


If you watch lions which have to get up on stools, or to jump through a hoop, you will see that the animals are both hostile and frightened of the trainer; they hate him. Anybody who has seen an animal act will admit it. It is surely self-evident that it is impossible to get wild lions and tigers to eat out of your hand—apart from such exceptional cases as one of which I recently read, where a cub was brought up by a couple and became tame. That is possible. But to capture a wild animal and tame it you must use hunger and fear.

I submit there is no other way of doing it. I am not dealing with horses. I quite agree that is another matter.


My Lords, does the noble Earl know of any case where a wild animal has been taken from the forest and trained in a circus? I was under the impression that the animals were taken as cubs and trained when young, rather than taken as wild animals.


My Lords, I dare say that many of your Lordships will have read this book about the extraordinary case of a lion cub in Africa which was brought up by a couple. It did not become tame and it did not do tricks, but it did not attack human beings. But where I am in dispute with the noble Lord is that this is not just a question of keeping a cub tamed so that it will not attack people; it is a question of making him do things which are absolutely unnatural and frightening to the animal.

No one can really suppose that a lion or a tiger likes jumping through a burning hoop. Every animal in the wild is terrified of fire, and one has only to have a camp fire to be perfectly safe; no animal will come near it. To think that this wild animal, which instinctively loathes, hates and fears it, is going to jump through a hoop just because you offer him a bit of meat, is folly. In taming wild animals it is impossible not to use fear, pain and hunger. If that is the case, it seems to me that there is a very strong argument for passing this Bill, which will stop this inevitable cruelty. You have got to have your animal not only doing your act and learning your trick, but doing it repeatedly every night at a certain hour. You have got to be confident that these wild animals will behave in the way you want them to behave before an audience, and I submit that that is impossible unless you keep them in this state of absolute fear and distress. As I have said, I think that the reason why the public still go to circuses is that they do not realise what goes on behind the scenes.

I hope that your Lordships will at least give this Bill a Second Reading, so that if necessary we can amend it in Committee. There are shortcomings in the Bill which could be amended, and one of the shortcomings is this question of compensation. I should like to see com- pensation given to the animal trainers. After all, it is their livelihood, however they have done the job, and I do not see why some scheme should not be worked out to give them a certain amount of compensation. If that cannot be done, I should like to suggest to the noble Lord who introduced the Bill that it might come into operation at a later date, to give, say, two years for the animal trainers in circuses to make new contracts, and it would at least stop a certain amount of hardship which would come to them if in 1966 the showing of animals was suddenly stopped in this country.

On this question of whether one should add to the Schedule animals like sea lions and so forth, I confess that I do not know much about sea lions and whether they are very difficult to tame, but it is a moot point. It is also a moot point whether horses should be added. But I think that the noble Lord is perhaps wise not to have added horses, because I quite agree that you can train them by kindness, although cruelty sometimes exists.

Another point is about the conditions in which the animals live, which are often very hard. After all, they spend all their lives kept in small cages and when they travel they have got to be very tightly packed, so as not to be knocked about and damaged too much. It seems to me that the fact that wild animals or even dogs are kept in these compressed conditions for months and months is alone enough to warrant some measure to stop it. I think that is very important. I do not have much else to say as the hour is getting late. But I should like to urge your Lordships to think very carefully before rejecting this Bill, and to consider that it can be altered in Committee, possibly also bringing in a definition of "a performing animal". Your Lordships will have noticed that in the Schedule there is no mention of horses, so although people may say that this Bill will stop draught and working horses from being used, that is not so. But I think that the Bill might be helped by the inclusion of a definition of "performing animal". I would beg your Lordships to give it a Second Reading.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I rise strongly to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, and trust that your Lordships will not give it a Second Reading. This Bill, with all due respect to my noble friend, is what we call in modern language "a nonsense of a Bill". I can understand why horses are not included in the Schedule, because that, as the Bill is drafted, would entail the illegality of horse racing, of horse shows and of everything that a horse does in public. If there is cruelty in the circus, is there any evidence that performing horses are immune to cruelty while dogs are prone to cruelty? Of course there is not. It seems to me that by this Bill the following will become illegal: dog racing, R.A.F. police dogs at the Royal Tournament, obedience tests of dogs at fêtes, field trials and sheep dog trials. It is no good the noble Lord saying that it is not intended that these should be put out of business; it is a fact that under the Bill they will be.

In my youth in the Army I used to train polo ponies and also, to a minor degree, gun dogs; and I am fully convinced by experience that although, naturally, the trainer must be the master of whatever animal he is training, cruelty in any form produces a cowed animal. I know that that is so with horses and dogs, and I know that a cowed horse is a poor horse. A cowed horse will never train on. It is not for any special reason of sentimentality that trainers of racing horses—two year olds especially—do not allow a young rider to carry a whip. It is well known that if a two year old horse has a really hard race and is whipped hard, he never will become a really fine winner in the future.

I feel sure that any of us who have been to Bertram Mills's or Billy Smart's circuses must have noticed the obvious well being of the animals, and I am sure that this would not be so had they been ill-treated. The first thing that happens with an ill-treated animal is that it loses condition and its coat goes wrong. So far as chimpanzees are concerned, there appears to be a real enjoyment in the act; and here, again, I believe that that would not be evident if they were trained by cruel methods. They are perfect mimics and I have a shrewd suspicion that they get the greatest pleasure in mimicking us human beings in their act. There can be no doubt that some people have feelings about seeing any lions and tigers in captivity, even if it is in the Zoo, but one cannot help being impressed by the obvious well being of those performing in the circuses of this country. I must confess here that the lion tamer, by virtue of his dangerous life, must be master, but I do not believe that cruel methods would help him in the performance or would prolong his life span.

Naturally, there are black sheep in every family, but I am quite certain that the people of England would spot it if animals were cruelly treated or looked cowed, and would immediately boycott that show. The great majority of training is highly skilled and humane, and a full understanding has to be come to between the animal and the master. If we passed this Bill in this House, I think we should be the laughing stock of the world. As my noble friend Lord Mancroft said to me when he asked me to speak in this debate, "It would seem that about the only animals that could appear in circuses would be crocodiles and politicians". Perhaps I could add fleas, although I am not sure whether one would be cruel to a flea.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, the Bill does not cover invertebrates, so the flea would be all right.


AS I have said, in my opinion this Bill is a nonsense, and will completely ruin an industry which gives pleasure to many adults and children and a livelihood to so many all over the world. I am perfectly certain that any cruelty which appeared would be noticed in the animal, and for that reason I oppose this Second Reading. I do not think that we can alter this Bill in the Committee stage. With due respect, it is not very well drafted. It says a lot of things which it does not mean, and I believe that we should undoubtedly refuse to give it a Second Reading.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will be glad to know that I do not intend to make the speech which I had prepared for this afternoon. But I should like to urge upon the noble Lord, Lord Somers, to consider very seriously the suggestion which was made to him by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale: to undertake that, if the Bill is given a Second Reading, at the Committee stage he will move for its reference to a Select Committee. I will simply say that I think the Bill is much too widely drawn. In fact, I think it goes beyond the intentions of its sponsors. But if it could be referred to a Select Committee, and if we could have that assurance, I would be prepared to reconsider my attitude to the Bill.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, I shall be short. I hate physical pain myself, and I am the first one to hate seeing cruelty take place. If at any time cruelty is proved, then I will be all for strengthening the existing legislation, which I am sure can deal with the situation adequately without the need for this sweeping Bill which, as we have heard, has so many disadvantages.

I will confine myself, if I may, to the four examples of cruelty that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, gave in his opening speech. I have made inquiries myself, and can reply to all four of them. First, the noble Lord cited the case of a baboon. I am told by the circus authorities that no British circus is known to have had a performing baboon at any time whatsoever. Then, as to lions being kept in tiny cages, when they are travelling they are put in small cages, as are all animals, to prevent them from bruising themselves in transit. If they have too large a space, they fall down and break their legs. If they are kept in too small cages, the inspectors, as we have already heard, will certainly bring a charge of cruelty against the circus proprietors—and only one such case, which was not proven, has ever been brought. Then the noble Lord spoke of dogs in small pens—in small pens, my Lords; and pens are not cages. After their act, dogs are put into the menageries, where the general public can go and look at them in their pens. If there is any cruelty here, it would be spotted straight away.

Finally, there is the case of the elephant. In fact, the man who brought the allegation said that he was a beast man at the Blackpool Tower circus from 1949 to 1951. The general manager of the Blackpool Tower company has searched his company records and states that there is no trace of this man having been employed in any capacity during the years 1949 to 1951. Furthermore, the foreman electrician, who has since been promoted to works engineer of the company, has denied categorically that any electrical mains supply was ever connected to any equipment for any animals at the Tower circus. He and Mr. Foster, who was the works engineer between 1949 and 1951, are both prepared to swear on oath that this is so.

My Lords, as I said at the beginning, I am all against cruelty, but the examples that we have been given of so-called cruelty are either disproved or so "waffly" as not to warrant consideration. I feel that in the case of this Bill a sledgehammer is being used to kill a gnat, if there is even a gnat here to kill. I should be the first to vote for the strengthening of the existing legislation if it were found or proved to be necessary, but I feel that the existing legislation can do the job. Personally, I would vote against this Bill.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill has already had a very considerable volume of discussion, and I have No 1ntention at this late hour of repeating any of the arguments that have already been advanced. The only point of agreement between all the speakers has been the universal condemnation of cruelty. Those for the Bill and those against it share in that condemnation. I, too, condemn cruelty in any form in which it may be expressed. But it becomes exceedingly difficult of definition because, when we are considering the question of animals in relation to cruelty, we might with justification contend that there is a high degree of cruelty in taking any animal outside of its normal and natural habitat; and, if that is accepted as a definition of cruelty, one could effect a condemnation of all zoos and of any case where animals were brought together for public demonstration.

However, I would accept the point of view that animal trainers and circus proprietors are no different from most other people. They have their black sheep, I suppose, the same as any other trade, craft or profession; and I would agree that there must be some people who train animals and who at times apply cruelty. In the same way, there are parents who are known to be cruel, but no one has yet suggested banning parenthood because of the fact that there are cruel parents; and, in the case of cruel parents, a multiplicity of prosecutions has been brought over the years. Indeed, almost every day of the week there is an action against a cruel parent, and at least we have this to go by. But, as has been mentioned by noble Lords, there has not been one successful prosecution against an animal trainer in this country over the past twenty years.

The supporters of the Bill have been exceptionally well briefed. Photographs and statements from a variety of people have been referred to. It is a pity there has not been as much time devoted to the drafting of this Bill as to the briefing of the supporters, because this Bill is as woolly and as wild as some of the animals that have been brought into discussion to-day. We are asked to support so woolly a Bill merely because there is the statement that some cruelty exists—an unsupported statement. This is what the Bill asks us to do: to accept the point of view that no one shall train a performing animal—not merely that no one shall have it in a circus; but that no one shall train it.

I can remember, going back to my boyhood days, having a boy friend who had a little black-and-tan terrier which he trained. I should have deserved a clip on the ear from my friend if I had dared to suggest that he used cruelty in doing so. He had a performing animal, it is true. He taught it tricks, and I must say the terrier seemed to enjoy it. He could jump over a stick, he could walk on his hind legs, and he seemed as anxious to do the tricks as my friend was anxious to demonstrate them. And on no occasion was cruelty used in the training of that animal. I can only speak of what I know. That is the limit of my personal experience of the training of animals, but I venture to suggest that the extent of my witnessing of training is far greater than the amount of training that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, has witnessed over the years. I am sure I have seen more of the training of animals than the noble Lord, Lord Somers, although he is presenting this Bill.

My objection to this Bill lies in the fact that the case presented for it is based upon unsupported statements. Quite frankly—and I say this in all seriousness—I think it positively outrageous that here, in this Chamber, statements should be made of a character condemning circus proprietors, trainers and the like, without a vestige of evidence being presented against them. That is what I object to. I think it is appalling that we should listen to statements of that kind although, against this, there is the fact that there has been no successful prosecution. Furthermore, we have my noble friend making the statement that, apparently, if an inspector from a local authority goes into a circus he is physically thrown out. What a ridiculous suggestion to make! The inspector ought to have his head examined if he allowed himself to be subjected to that sort of treatment; he ought to find a new council to work for if his council permits him to be subjected to treatment of that description. It is absolute nonsense to say that you can have an inspector from a local authority visiting a circus and the proprietor throws him out on his ear. Surely the various societies who are interested in this Bill should have taken up those cases so as to present us to-day with some tangible evidence.

I join with all others in their bitter condemnation of any form of cruelty; but I object to the way this Bill is being presented. I object also to the comments made by the noble Lord opposite in the course of which he tells us that it is degrading to watch performing animals. In the case of some performances, yes, I agree it is degrading to watch. But is it degrading to watch horse racing or dog racing? I think that comments of that description are both intolerant and impudent.


My Lords, may I point out that I have had a good deal to do with horses and horse racing, and I can say that horses enjoy racing.


My Lords, I find nothing degrading in watching horse racing. I find some contests on television far more degrading, where the public are invited to watch humiliating performances on "Beat the Clock" and like programmes. I find some of these human performances far more humiliating and far more degrading. But this is not a point on which to get excited, and I have No 1ntention of getting excited. However, I do want to emphasise this. I like going to a circus, and I take a strong exception to individuals who come along and tell me and others like me (and I have no financial interest in circuses, nor am I ever likely to have) that from now on I can see no performing animals, while, at the same time, they have not done the job that they were supposed to do in the societies and have not brought here cases where they have been able to prove that cruety exists. Where there is cruelty—and I have no doubt there are cases—I think those organisations would be better employed in using the facilities of the Act which are already at their disposal in order to bring them to light. Therefore, on the basis of the evidence presented to your Lordships' House to-day, I believe that there is not the slightest justification for giving any support to this Bill.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, we have just listened to a very forcible and cogent speech by the noble Lord opposite. I must say that as I listened I agreed with every word he said. I will not repeat what he has said or what other noble Lords have said in the objections that have been made to giving this Bill a Second Reading. There is, however, one point on which I think a further statement ought to be made. It has been suggested in a number of speeches that proper opportunity is not really given either to the local authorities or to the police or, indeed, to representatives of the R.S.P.C.A., to see what goes on in circuses when training is being done. A good deal of play was made with the word "reasonable" in the Act—inspection is to be at reasonable times. I understand the position to be that a reasonable time could be 3 a.m. if training were going on at 3 a.m., and an unreasonable time would be that time when the circus was shut down and when both men and animals were asleep and nothing was taking place. But any time when training is going on or when animals are being prepared is a reasonable time to have a look at what is happening.

I understand no notice is ever given by a local authority or by the police of when an inspection is to be made. I understand that nobody has ever been refused permission. They do not ask: they just walk in to see what is taking place behind the scenes. I suggest to your Lordships that any idea that training is done secretly and in some isolated place out of the public gaze—and that, therefore, something improper is taking place—is a misrepresentation of the facts.

This Bill seems to me to be a very strange Bill indeed. Why is it that horses are left out? We have been told that it would not be expedient to include them. But I cannot see why, if it is all right to train horses, it should be wrong to train dogs or any other animal. It just does not make sense to me. Surely the same practices that go towards training horses—kindness, firmness, guidance, call it what you like—must go into training other animals as well. And I cannot conceive that there are any wild animals taken from the jungle and put into the circus. The circus people could not possibly train such animals. They have to be taken for training when either born in captivity or so young that they have forgotten what their wild life was. Otherwise, they cannot be trained. And what about dolphins, which are very intelligent animals, if that is the right word? And what about the high degree of skill of the sea lion? Why are they excluded? And if it is right to train these creatures, why should it be wrong to train other creatures?

It is getting rather late and I do not want to detain your Lordships. Noble Lords have said that sheep dog trials would not be allowed under this Bill. But sheep dogs trained to be skilful at their work are doing the kind of things which they clearly enjoy doing. Why should not the same kind of training be devoted to other animals who clearly enjoy performing before people? You cannot tell me that an animal in a circus, when it gets applause for doing its trick, is not sensible of the appreciation of the public of what it has done, just as a human being is. I cannot believe that. In view of what noble Lords have said, and for the further reasons I have given, I propose to give my support to the Amendment.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, not unnaturally, a great deal of what I had intended to say this evening has already been said, but there is one important point which seems to have been missed. It seems to have run through the whole evening and to have caused nothing but confusion. I and my friends say that there is cruelty in training and displaying animals in circuses, especially in the training.

Here, I suppose, a technical word has crept in. The Association of Circus Proprietors say that there is no cruelty in the performance, or in the preparation for performance, and that the public can stray about in the precincts of the circus and see what is going on behind the scenes. The point here, I think, is that the word "training" has a special significance. It applies to the treatment of the animal before it has been brought up to the stage where it can appear in public. The operations which the Association of Circus Proprietors say are so open to the public are not training at all, in that sense of the word. They are more a rehearsal for the acts in which the animals have already been trained.

Perhaps, from this point of view, the circus proprietors have already given away half their case, because the training, and the most brutal and cruel parts of the training, do not occur in this country at all. The training of Asiatic elephants in the Far East is indescribably cruel to read about. The animal has to be kept under continuous torture and pressure until its spirit is broken. And that is the key-point of training, as understood in this sense. There are other smaller animals which are trained on the Continent and which are subjected to great cruelties.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tell me—and I believe them—that their inspectors and representatives are not allowed to visit the training quarters of any circus in this country. It is a convenient misunderstanding, because, of course, the circus proprietors would not like to say that there are aspects of their training which are completely barred to the R.S.P.C.A., to local authorities and to any other bodies one cares to mention. I think that if that point could be cleared up, it would illuminate the question somewhat. We have been told that in 1921 a Select Committee of the House of Commons were appointed to investigate this very question—because the same question had arisen then: was there or was there not cruelty in the training of animals for circuses? The Association of Circus Proprietors then, as now, maintained that there was no cruelty. But sufficient members of the public had succeeded in collecting sufficient items of information to justify the setting up of a Select Committee. That Committee sat for about two years and at the end of that time made certain recommendations.

One of the most important recommendations they made was that inspectors of the R.S.P.C.A. and of local authorities should have unrestricted access to all the operations of training of animals for circuses. The Association of Proprietors had, as they have to-day, strong behind-the-scenes influence, and that recommendation was omitted from the Act of 1925 which followed the Committee, and the whole process was rendered nugatory: the circus people could retire behind the smokescreen of their secret training places, and we were back where we were before. To-day, forty years later, we are being asked to appoint another Select Committee to go through the whole business again, and, as likely as not, have it nullified at the end by backstairs influence. That is the most important thing I have to say. I had other things that I would have mentioned, but it is getting late, and I will not delay your Lordships beyond saying that I personally propose to support the Motion.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, it is getting late and most of my points have already been made by the right reverend Prelate and by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. I think it has been definitely established, by general agreement, that we feel that something in the terms of the Motion is required; but it has been easy to pick holes in the present Bill. So, if only we give the Bill a Second Reading with a view to improving it in Committee, I think we shall have done the animal world a magnificent service.

There has been a great deal of talk this afternoon about inspection. It is apparent that only a "mug" circus proprietor would get caught out by the present system of inspection. Their premises, for the protection of the animals, themselves and everybody else, must have a ringed fence around them, and admission must be by the door, and any circus proprietor who had anything going on which he did not want to be seen would have no difficulty in stopping it before the inspector got around. Another point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Dowding, is that most of what goes on which the inspectors would see is not training, but merely rehearsal. The training in many cases has been done abroad, where the standards of inspection are not even as good as ours, and probably the standards of what is "cruelty" in those countries are very different. A large proportion of the trainers are foreigners. Their turns are international turns, and they are here to-day, gone to the Continent to-morrow and to Africa the day after. So the argument which was put forward that we should put a whole industry out of action and they would need compensation was, I think, grossly overstated.

There is a further point on that matter. Recruitment of turns from overseas happens to have been done by a friend of mine who, in his old age, had the job of sort of camp commandant for one of the travelling circuses in this country. He told me a great deal about it. Recently, when I talked to him, I made up my mind that I would never go to a zoo or a circus again, and he confirmed my view by the following anecdote. When he was in charge of a travelling circus down in the West the lion escaped. I said to him: "Well, you didn't have to catch it." He said: "No; but I had to organise the party. Finally we got the lion in a kind of cul-de-sac and brought up the cage, and I said to the trainer, 'You go and do your stuff'. The trainer was yellow, and would not go near it. However, the next man in was the safety man, whom the lion had been accustomed to seeing with a long red-hot poker, and as soon as that man appeared with a long stick, which the lion may or may not have mistaken for a red-hot poker, he went straight into his cage, and that was that." That was a foreign turn, and the lion had not been trained in this country. But if that does not imply cruelty in training, I do not know what does. I strongly support this Bill and will vote for its Second Reading.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him the approximate year when this incident happened?


I have been trying to remember but I have been unsuccessful. It was round about 1933 or 1935. I can give the noble Earl the name of my friend if he wants it.


I thank the noble Earl. It was a long time ago.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will bear with me for exactly two minutes to make a few quite unprepared remarks. I support this Bill because it is a gesture in the right direction. I think it is a bad Bill, but it could be considerably amended, and I hope my noble friend Lord Somers will adopt the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee.

To me, the whole idea of uprooting wild animals from their proper milieu is repulsive. I know that noble Lords around me have said that no fully-grown wild animals are ever taken from their milieu and sent to train. All I can say is that some years ago in Malaya I saw a sight that I shall never forget. I then saw two half-grown tigers incarcerated in iron-bound cases, in the terrific heat one gets out there, on their way to America. I never have seen anything quite so horrible. They could scarcely turn round, because there was no height, no depth and no width to the cases. I made it my business to discover what happened to these two tigers. One of them died two months later, three-quarters of the way out to America, and the other one survived. These animals are taken to a zoo or a circus. From the zoo point of view, we are told that we should be depriving children of education by not having animals at the zoo. My retort is that with the enormous progress that has been made in photography, children can get all the education they want from photographs and the television. So far as the circus is concerned, I agree entirely with the words of my noble friend behind me, that it is degrading to make these animals do the tricks they have to do and turn them into buffoons.

I had half-an-hour's conversation with a private trainer who is now running a private zoo in the country. He assured me that in all his years of training—and I am quite sure he was an absolutely honest man—it was quite impossible to get animals to do the tricks they do by cruelty. He said that no animals will respond to cruelty, and I take his word for it. There is one final word I would say. I think that all foreign trained animals—and I should like to see this put in the Bill—should be excluded from importation into this country.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that some ill-informed people have been known to refer to the Members of your Lordships' House as a sort of performing animal. If that be so, I know that it will be a relief to everyone that, although dinner is not "on" to-night, we shall be able to get sandwiches, so that there is no cruelty to our particular type of performing animal.

I think I am the twenty-second speaker, which means we have had a somewhat long debate, and I have a considerable number of points to reply to. Therefore, my speech will be a little longer than some of the recent speeches, but I think your Lordships would like me to make the viewpoint of the Government on this Bill quite clear.

It has been a very interesting debate. At times, I think it engendered somewhat more heat and less light than the normal debates we have in this House. We had the pleasure of an outstanding maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, who spoke with obvious knowledge and a love of animals, as one who had spent a great deal of his life with animals and knew a great deal about them. He has also, if I may say so with respect, the great advantage of an excellent voice and a good delivery, and I know that we shall all look forward to a great many more contributions from him in the future.

It seems to me that the debate has made two things perfectly clear: we all love animals, and we all hate cruelty to animals. Neither of those two sentiments is really at issue in our consideration of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, and those noble Lords who have supported him have based their case for the Bill on the assertion that the training and exhibition of performing animals involves gross and continuing cruelty. That is the view. If your Lordships think that they have proved their case you will, I am sure, support the principle of the Bill, that the exhibiting of performing animals should be prohibited. But if you are not satisfied that the case of cruelty is established, you will presumably support my noble friend's Amendment.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Surely this is not the only issue. Even if there were no cruelty involved at all—some noble Lords have suggested that there may be none—it is still true that it is degrading for human beings to watch animals doing tricks.


I have not read that into the Bill. If the noble Lord will allow me, I want to deal with the Bill and the principles. I want to examine the principles of the Bill first, because I shall have something to say about the scope of the Bill later. But I would not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, one of its supporters, did, and describe it as "a jolly bad Bill". I would make it clear that mine is a neutral rôle. I am not here to defend those who train and exhibit performing animals, nor am I here to attack them. I regard it as my task, first, to examine the basic allegation of gross cruelty; secondly, to explain the existing legislation and how it works; and, thirdly, to give an account of my personal experience and research. I hope your Lordships will not mind if I introduce an alien note into the debate, because, so far as I could gather from listening to all the 21 speeches, I shall be the first contributor to this debate who has actually gone behind the scenes in a circus and seen the animals trained. Finally, I shall leave it to your Lordships to decide whether this Bill should proceed any further.

I hope there will be general agreement if I exclude from consideration the view that it is wrong and cruel to capture wild animals and deprive them of their liberty, however commodious the cages we keep them in. I say this, not because I do not share a fairly common sympathy with this point of view, but because it would bring into our purview the abolition of zoos, large and small, public and private; and that is not at issue in the Bill. I want to deal with the allegations which have been put before us of cruelty during training, and the threat of cruelty during performances.

I have had the opportunity of considering, before the debate, most of the evidence that has been deployed by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and others.

The Captive Animals' Protection Society were good enough to send me copies of a number of personal statements, all of which, incidentally, had on them the names of the contributors of those statements. All these statements, if we are to regard them as evidence, suffer from certain defects.

First, as has been pointed out, none of them is recent. The most recent is nine years old, and the others are anything up to thirty years old, so they cannot be held necessarily to give an accurate portrayal of conditions as they are now. Secondly, they are not specific. None of them names the proprietors or trainers responsible for the cruelty; nor, except in one case, do they say where it happened. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, effectively disposed of the Blackpool case by, as I understand it, completely refuting the allegations that have been made. The third defect of these statements is that they do not explain why this alleged cruelty was not brought to the notice either of the police or of the local authority in the area in which it occurred.

Some of these statements are repeated in whole or in part in a number of documents which the R.S.P.C.A. have been kind enough to send to me. But again, apart from a statement by the trainer Alfred Court, whom, I am informed, no reputable exhibitor in this country would employ, there is nothing specific, nothing which could be regarded as evidence. Indeed, the R.S.P.C.A. frankly admit that it is extremely difficult to obtain evidence of cruelty during the course of training animals to perform. One R.S.P.C.A. leaflet includes a declaration to the effect that the only proper investigation into cruelty to performing animals was that made by a Select Committee of the House of Commons in the early 'twenties which reported that it had no definite evidence of cruelty. But, my Lords, the Select Committee of 1922 (and this point has not been made clear during the debate), after the fullest and most careful investigation, recommended that the exhibition of performing animals should not be prohibited. The Committee said that the best results were obtained by kind and patient treatment, and that cruelty was unnecessary. It is rather a pity, in my view, that the R.S.P.C.A., whose essential and invaluable work we all admire so much, did not quote the outcome of the Select Committee's investigations.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, suggested—and his suggestion has been supported by others—that the noble Lord, Lord Somers, might say, if his Bill receives a Second Reading, that on going into Committee he would move that the whole matter should be referred to a Select Committee. I cannot, of course, give any kind of undertaking on the Government's attitude to such a proposal, but I must remind your Lordships that 1922 was not the last investigation. We had a Departmental Committee in 1951, which produced a Report that was reprinted in 1958.

The members of that Committee would, I am sure, command the confidence of all animal lovers in this House. Its chairman was Mr. John Scott Henderson and the members included Miss Frances Pitt and others. A member of the Performing Animals' Defence League appeared before the Committee and told them that the League strongly objected to the use of seals for any purpose (they are excluded from the Schedule to the noble Lord's Bill), on the ground that the training is cruel. But the witness who appeared on their behalf was unable to produce any evidence as to the type of seal used. The Committee's Report goes on: We have been given no evidence of cruelty caused in the training of any other British wild mammal for circus or such performances, and we think that they are rarely used for this purpose. We are satisfied that the existing law on the subject, which is contained in the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act, 1925, and the regulations made under that Act, are quite adequate to deal with any cases of cruelty that may arise, and we do not wish to make any recommendations about performing animals.


My Lords, the noble Lord would agree, would he not, that lions and tigers are not British wild animals?


I would most certainly agree, and if I had not been aware of this earlier the Committee were kind enough to remind me in paragraph 401. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will get my point: that there was this investigation as recently as 1951, and they came to very much the same conclusion as the previous one.

This 1951 Report is as recent as some, and more recent than most, of the evidence and statements we have heard to-day. Indeed, your Lordships may come to the conclusion that we have in fact had no evidence which would justify us in disagreeing with the Committees of 1922 and 1951, or in taking what many people would regard as an arbitrary and drastic step of prohibiting the exhibition of performing animals. Because, arising from the 1922 Committee's Report, we have the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act, 1925. This Act which, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will agree, his own Bill proposes to amend, although the provisions would largely continue, added significantly to the general protection which was given to performing animals and still continues under the Protection of Animals Act, 1911 (which I do not mink has been mentioned during the debate), which makes it an offence to beat or terrify any animal, or to cause it any suffering.

The 1925 Act requires all trainees and exhibitors of performing animals to be registered with a local authority. Under Section 3 of the Act, as has been pointed out, an officer authorised by the local authority, frequently a veterinary surgeon or a police officer, is empowered to enter premises where performing animals are being trained or exhibited, and he can enter at any reasonable time and without notice.

The noble Lord, Lord Somers, made a great point about this provision in the Statute being virtually useless because the trainers and proprietors always knew when the police officer or local authority officer was coming, and he and my noble friend Lady Summerskill made considerable play with the words "any reasonable time". I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, and, indeed, to my noble friend, that this expression "any reasonable time" is not a concession to vested interests and is not highly suspect. This provision is usual in its present terms. For example, the Factories Act, 1961, and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963, both contain this restriction to reasonable times, and neither the police nor the local authorities have represented that in relation to circuses the restriction raises any difficulty.

The 1925 Act empowers a court, on proof that the training or exhibiting of any animal is accompanied by cruelty, to prohibit the training or exhibition, or to impose conditions, and conviction of a registered person of any offence under the Act may result in the cancellation of his registration. Registrations have to be reported to the Home Office, and since the Act came into force 40 years ago 1,395 persons have been registered, and we get about a dozen fresh applications every year. The courts are required to report to my Department any orders which they make under these powers, but in the 40 years since the Act was passed our records show that only one report of this kind has been made. Considering the hundreds of cases of cruelty to animals (not performing animals) which come to our notice every year, I think that this 40-year record of virtual immunity of the trainers of performing animals from successful prosecution is impressive evidence.

But I have not been satisfied to leave it at that. We have made inquiries of the L.C.C., who get information from press advertisements for circuses and such shows and then arrange for an inspector to investigate. The L.C.C. say that it is over 20 years since they last brought a prosecution. They are not unused to making investigations and inquiries into abuses and they are not slow to prosecute when they find them. The Metropolitan Police inspect premises in which performing animals are trained or exhibited whenever allegations of cruelty are brought to their notice. In recent years the police say that there have been few such allegations, and all, on investigation, have proved to be groundless.

Indeed, no specific evidence of cruelty to performing animals, either in training or exhibition, has reached my Department in recent years. We have received general allegations, including the leaflet to which I have already referred, from the R.S.P.C.A., which reached the Home Office in January of last year, but we can find no record that the Society has made specific representations on the subject in recent years. Your Lordships may perhaps feel that it is significant evidence against the allegations of cruelty that the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals do not appear to have brought any successful prosecutions for cruelty to performing animals, although the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, gives them sufficient basis for such action.

I would stress that it is open to the R.S.P.C.A. or any private person to initiate proceedings if they have reason to believe cruelty has been inflicted. So far, however, as I am aware, few if any actions have been brought against circus proprietors or managers on the basis of any evidence of suffering observed during performance or while animals have been exhibited in the circus menageries—as the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, mentioned—or during transport from one area to another. Your Lordships will be accustomed to the somewhat different line we take in this House on views from Scotland, and will not fail to have noticed the quotation of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, which was made only last month by Superintendent James Cunningham of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Then there was the case of the five elephants which was referred to in the Commons only last month.

As a further check, my Department has also made inquiries during the last few days of a number of chief constables regarding the position in their areas. They have told me that inspections are made as a matter of normal police duty. Only one chief constable has a record of any complaint being made in the last five years, and no proceedings have been instituted. It seems reasonable to suppose that, with all of us such devoted animal lovers, with this overwhelming detestation which exists among British people of cruelty to animals, at least someone would have complained to some chief constable if he had had evidence of cruelty or reason to suspect it.

I have also considered the point about foreign-trained animals brought to this country, but their numbers are very small. I will not bore your Lordships with the actual numbers which are brought here, but this I will say: that every animal act which has performed in a tented circus in this country since the war was trained here. We cannot, of course, legislate for what happens in the Sahara or in India. Moreover, when circuses are under canvas, and when they travel under canvas, the training takes place in the circus tent. It is quite impossible to have locked doors there, and officials and members of the public can, and do, see what goes on.

Knowing that tens of millions of people watch performing animal acts on television, I sought the views of Mr. Derek Burrell-Davis, the senior producer in B.B.C. Television Outside Broadcasts, who for the last ten years has been responsible for the majority of circus shows televised by the B.B.C. Your Lordships will be aware that a television production of this kind involves lengthy preparation, and the whole production team and crew virtually live with the show for days. Thirty or forty technicians are involved every time, and inevitably they see what goes on behind the scenes in every department. This, of course, is also the case on the Continent, and Mr. Burrell-Davis has televised circuses in many countries, including Russia.

He assured me—and I have his authority to quote him in the actual words he used—that his difficulty has not been in seeing what he wished to see but in resisting invitations from trainers to share their complete intimacy with their charges. He has witnessed the 4 a.m. start of a trainer with a new batch of raw tigers; but he has never witnessed any cruelty or tendency or disposition towards cruelty to animals on the part of any trainer or exhibitor. He assured me that if he thought there was the slightest truth in the allegations of cruelty during training or performance he would not be a party to the exhibition of performing animals on television. That is his professional attitude on behalf of the B.B.C. But in his personal capacity he has also told me that he has been so pleased with the general regime that he has taken his three children on holiday with the travelling circus; for weeks on end they have lived with it, and have been an integral part of the life of the circus.

May I now say something of my own personal investigations?—because I have been to see for myself. Two years ago I had an experience which it was impossible to fake. As chairman of Youth Venture, a youth charity, I was offered the proceeds from the Christmas Gala Performance of a great circus and invited to attend personally. It was suggested that the charity might benefit more if five Members of your Lordships' House would take the place of the five girls who at every performance were walked over by a 3½ ton elephant. My efforts at persuasion met with limited success, and in the event I was the only representative of your Lordships' House. I was, however, fortified by the support of the Lord Mayor and Chief Constable of Leeds, and by the Lord Lieutenant of The Ridings and Sir William Butlin.

Before the performance, alone and with the fullest opportunity to make whatever investigations I liked, I made the acquaintance of the elephant. She quite literally answered to soft-spoken commands in a mixture of English and Hindustani. Her trainer had nothing in his hands except a loaf of bread. He did not touch her, and she did things quite unconnected with her performance, even things I asked her to do. When the walking took place, suddenly, at the very last second, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, not to be outdone by Leeds, decided to make the number of victims up to six. The trainer was at the far end of the line, 25 yards away, and it was impossible for him to communicate with the elephant because of the terrific din which was being made by an audience of some 3,000 people. They seemed to be finding things more amusing than I was. I was No. 4 and Billy Butlin was No. 5. The elephant got to me, paused momentarily, then stepped over both of us together. I have the pictures here to prove it. I asked afterwards whether she had ever gone over six people before, and they told me she had not; but they said there was no danger because her own intelligence was enough to tell her what to do. If your Lordships look at the photograph you will see that she was completely at liberty, unharnessed and with no one near her.

One incident, of course, proves nothing, and because I am as unwilling to be deceived, as anxious to detect, and as ready to condemn cruelty as any Member of this House, I paid a visit a few days ago to the winter quarters of the largest circus in the country, the only one which operates throughout the year and trains all its own animal acts. I would recommend all your Lordships to go. It has been said that the training places are tucked away in the country; that they are secret; that we do not know where they are. But these quarters are two miles outside Windsor. You will be most cordially welcomed and you can see, as I did, precisely what you want to see.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the Government decided to adopt a neutral attitude to this Bill? Does he think that his speech is reflecting the attitude of the Government?


Yes, I do think so, and I will make that quite clear before I end my speech. I have only been giving the facts as I see them. If they do not accord with what my noble friend thinks, it is unfortunate.


I am only asking my noble friend to reflect the decision of the Government, not my speech.


Most certainly I will, and I have taken the necessary steps to ensure that I am doing so. I trust that a personal experience of the kind which I am now about to describe merely reflects my own experience; I do not know if members of the Government have shared in that. For what I am now about to say about my personal experience I accept personal responsibility.

There were fifteen elephants, ranging from babies to four-tonners, all females, and all still young—which means all under about twenty. The trainer spots an elephant doing something unusual but natural for the elephant, and then, by associating a word with a reward, trains the animal to do that act at any given moment. One elephant made a noise which could loosely be described as musical. All I had to do was to stand in front of her and say, "Christine, sing", and she did. To another one, "Birma, lift", and she did. And all along the line the questing, gentle trunks came nuzzling. But the most startling thing to me was to see a tiny five-year old boy running in and out between their legs and finally take Birma by the trunk and lead her out, free and unharnessed, with the whole parade of fifteen following, in orderly single file. I just could not believe, in those circumstances, that these elephants had been treated cruelly.

I watched the polar bears rehearsed in their act, eleven of them, nine feet tall when they stand erect. Their trainer, alone in the ring and unarmed, was five feet four inches. They could have killed him with a single blow of the paw. He had been with them eleven years, since they were two years old and the size of sheep dogs. Afterwards I talked to him and asked all the questions arising out of the R.S.P.C.A. literature. He told me, "I was born in Hagenback's Zoo, at Hamburg. My grandfather and my father were animal trainers. I started at thirteen. I do not know how anyone can be cruel to an animal. What do you mean? If you hurt an animal you frighten him and he does not know what you want him to do. You have seen—no whips, no sticks. I can chase them with my Taschentuch"—his handkerchief—"I am the same with my bears as you are with your dog. You have seen. They all have their names and their characters. The only trouble I ever have is to stop them quarrelling, if they think I show more favour to one than another."

He also told me: "I am a slow trainer. First, you have to make contact. You cannot chase him, or he will get you. He takes his food on a long pole. Week by week the pole gets shorter, until there is no barrier between you. If an animal will not feed out of your hand in six weeks he is no good for training and you send him to the zoo. In California, if dolphins will not take food from the hand in six weeks they are returned to the open sea. Out of twelve animals, you may get only six suitable for training, and even then they are different. Once he eats out of your hand he trusts you and you can bring him up just as a mother brings up her baby. Some of my bears will take a step up a ladder within two or three days. With others it is two or three weeks. You cannot push him and you cannot touch him."


Remember, the decision of the Government, please!


This same man also told me: "I don't know the name of the man who offered £1,000 to anyone who could prove that animals can be trained without cruelty. I don't want his money, but I want him to come here and give me the chance to show how I train any raw animal not more than two years old—lion, tiger, bear; he can choose, and I will prove you can train a wild animal by kindness and only by kindness."

There were many other questions that I asked, and much more that I saw; and answers were given, which the noble Lords and my noble friends can get for themselves if they are interested in this subject and wish to decide for themselves. But I can say in all honesty that when I left it was with the feeling that if animals everywhere were as well cared for as they were, there would be no need for a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Indeed, I felt myself hoping that all children everywhere were as well cared for and loved.

I want to conclude with a few observations on the scope of the Bill, or rather the exclusions from the Schedule. The Bill proposes to prohibit the training and exhibition as performing animals of seven varieties of domestic and wild cat, apes and monkeys, lions, dogs, elephants and bears. Are we to assume from this, if cruelty is involved in training and exhibiting, that it is only these animals which are affected, and that all other performing animals are trained by kindness and no cruelty is involved in their exhibition? I think it would be difficult to establish the truth of this. Also from my Department I have a photostat copy of an actual registration under the 1925 Act. It lists twenty different kinds of performing animal and bird, and it licences the holder to train and exhibit them. Under this Bill nine would be prohibited from training or exhibition, but the trainer would still be left with his camels, horses, llamas, giraffes, sea lions, hippopotami, ducks, geese, pigeons, kangaroos and pigs. And he would be free to add to them mules, donkeys, zebras, oxen and a number of others which have been amenable to training.

Horses, donkeys, mules and seals are among the most popular for training as performing animals. Does the noble Lord contend that they can be trained without cruelty, but that dogs and cats cannot? He mentioned among the organisations supporting the Bill the Equine Society. But horses are outside the Schedule to the Bill as it stands. I should be glad if he could explain why they have been excluded, because this might prove a major obstacle. As I have pointed out, if the Bill makes further progress the anomalies may be considerable, but they will have to be considered and, in the event, your Lordships may well feel that it would be invidious to discriminate in this way.

I have tried to give the facts fairly as I see them; but the decision as to whether this Bill should make further progress is a matter for your Lordships. I am, however, bound to repeat that the Home Office has no evidence of the cruelty that has been alleged, no evidence that the present law is not fully capable of protecting the greatly reduced number of performing animals; and, therefore, whatever your decision to-night, I must make it clear on behalf of the Government that, while we shall not impede the Bill, we cannot hold out any hope of Government facilities to assist its further progress.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a long debate, and I expect most of your Lordships are rather tired, so I shall be as brief as possible. I must say that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, struck me rather as that of a man who sees what he wants to see. He made rather a play of the fact that there had been no accusation of cruelty for a good many years. But as I said in my opening speech, that is quite explainable by the fact that nobody sees it, and you cannot issue a summons about something you do not see. So I do not think that is a convincing argument.

The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, in speaking about tight confinement, said that you have to put your cattle or horses close together in your van when you are taking them from one place to another so that they will not fall down. That is true. But that journey lasts at the most for only a few hours, probably less, whereas these poor creatures are in cages which often prevent them from lying down for days at a time.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, he is incorrect. I send cattle down to the South from Scotland, and the journey takes 36 hours. They are tightly packed in the trucks, standing up the whole time. It does not take just a few hours.


Are they not turned out at all during that time?


They are fed, yes.


That is rather different. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, quoted King Solomon's Ring. I may say for the noble Earl's interest that I have read that book with great interest. It is a most fascinating book. But he may note in it that the author never made any animal do any act which was unnatural to it—not once. It is, of course, unnatural acts that we are complaining about.

Many noble Lords have spoken about the question of the Bill's banning the training of sheep dogs, horse racing and other such things. That is not what we are out for at all. We are against performing animals. It is not the ordinary working animal that we are concerned with. That is quite a different thing. But it will have to be more closely defined—I admitted that in my opening speech. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, also said that this Bill was promoted by those who know nothing about the subject. I suggest to the noble Earl that they probably know a very great deal more about the subject than he does, since they have been going in for research on this question for many years.

The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, absolutely denied the validity of one of the statements which I quoted. He said that he had been to the proprietor of the circus, who had said that he could not remember having had this man during the years that he had stated. Well, I can only say that the noble Lord seems very ready to believe the circus proprietor, but not so ready to believe the trainer. The circus proprietor had an interest in concealing this matter. The trainer had none.


And the two engineers who were willing to give an affidavit on oath that no such thing took place?


Well, I cannot say what their motives were behind that. The noble Lord, Lord Peddie, said that he had seen a great deal more of animal training than I had ever seen. I do not know how he knows that I have seen so little. He must have studied my former life very closely.


I merely studied the speech the noble Lord made, and I deduced it from that.


I can only inform the noble Lord that I was brought up on a farm in Canada where there were plenty of animals around, and that I have kept dogs for many years. I do not keep one now because I live in a built-up area and do not want to offend the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch. Now I keep a cat, which is a little more particular. I do not think there is anything more I need say about the speeches against the Bill, except perhaps this. I do not find any of the arguments very convincing. All the noble Lords who have spoken against this Bill said at the same time that they are very much against cruelty of any kind, and that if it could be proved that would be the first thing they would be against. We have so much proof that it is impossible—


Why does not the noble Lord give it to us?


It is impossible to give it in a debate in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, seems to doubt that.


My Lords, the only evidence I have heard here, and indeed the evidence sent by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was just their own affidavit in that Memorandum. The evidence the noble Lord gave, which is presumably the best evidence he can give, has been refuted. So where is this evidence, which we have just not heard to-night?


It was refuted by the circus proprietor. The noble Lord presumably believes that to be absolutely infallible. If the noble Lord is interested in preventing cruelty, I have only one suggestion to make and it is this. If your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading, I will within a day or two move that it be referred to a Select Committee, which, according to our Rules in Standing Orders, may be done in cases where a more minute investigation or the hearing of evidence is required before coming to a decision. So, if your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading, I am perfectly willing that it should go before a Select Committee.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, after 23 speeches there is very little left for me to add. I think that what this debate has made clear is that the issue is a very simple one. The issue is: Is there cruelty in the training of animals to such an extent as to justify this Bill? I submit that not one shred of evidence of it has been produced. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, himself, in winding up, said that of course there is no evidence; nobody could have seen it because, he says, inspectors are not allowed to gain access. But whether that be so or not, there is no evidence of cruelty before us. One of the noble Lord's most fervent supporters, Lord Listowel, said, "Of course there is cruelty. It is inherent in the training." I do not understand that. Why is it inherent in the training? If there is actual cruelty it ought to be shown.

My noble friend Lady Summerskill said, "Of course there is cruelty. Why, nine local authorities have refused permission to have circuses in their areas!" She did not tell us why. I can tell her why in many cases they have refused. In some cases they have refused because they regarded the particular site that was asked for as unsuitable, but they have offered other sites. In other cases the circus has been associated with the holding of a fair, and they were very much opposed to the holding of a fair. It does not follow that because the circuses have been refused by local authorities, they have been refused because the local authority is convinced of cruelty.

My Lords, to-night you are sitting really as a jury. You are being asked to decide whether or not cruelty has been proved. Even the noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, who does not like circuses, says that there is no case for saying there is cruelty. You are asked to say whether there is cruelty proved as a whole. Supposing you were sitting as a jury and the circus proprietors were the defendants and you had to decide whether they were guilty or not guilty of cruelty, what in fairness would you decide? Would you really decide that they had been found guilty on the evidence that has been produced in the course of this debate? Nobody would, not even the noble Lady if she listened to this debate and decided on what had been produced in evidence. Therefore, I want to ask the House not to approve this Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who is always the peacemaker and wants to try to get the best of both worlds, said, "Let us give the Bill a Second Reading, and send it to a Select Committee". Is he not really saying, "Let us accept the basis on which this Bill is being produced, and then let us have an inquiry through a Select Committee to see whether it is really true. They may find that no cruelty has been established"? In that event you will give the Bill a Second Reading without the evidence, and you will put the defendants, the circus proprietors, to expense

Resolved in the affirmative. Amend ment agreed to, and ordered accordingly.

and trouble, apart from considerations as to the convenience of the House, in order to achieve a negative result. I submit that we have to make up our minds to-night whether the case for this Bill has been made out or whether it has not. I suggest that not one single word of justification for this Bill has been said in the course of this debate.

7.41 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45; Not-Contents, 31.

Arwyn, L. Dundee, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Attlee, E. Exeter, M. Morrison, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Falkland, V. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Birkenhead, E. Ferrers, E. Newton, L.
Blyton, L. Geddes of Epsom, L. Onslow, E.
Bridgeman, V. Goschen, V. Peddie, L. [Teller.]
Chesham, L. Gosford, E. Rusholme, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Grenfell, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Cowdray, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sherfield, L.
Crathorne, L. Henderson, L. Silkin, L.
Darwen, L. [Teller.] Iddesleigh, E. Suffield, L.
Daventry, V. Long, V. Teynham, L.
Denham, L. MacAndrew, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Devonshire, D. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Waleran, L.
Dilhorne, V. Margadale, L. Williamson, L.
Addison, V. Haddington, E. [Teller.] McGowan, L.
Ailwyn, L. Hampton, L. Merthyr, L.
Airedale, L. Henley, L. Mountevans, L.
Balfour of Burleigh, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Moyne, L.
Burden, L. Huntingdon, E. Phillips, Bs.
Cholmondeley, M. Inglewood, L. St. Albans, L. Bp.
Croft, L. Killearn, L. Segal, L.
Crook, L. Kirkwood, L. Somers, L.
Dowding, L. Lilford, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Forster of Harraby, L. Listowel, E. Summerskill, Bs.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.]