§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I am delighted that the Bill for which I am now inviting a Second Reading in your Lordships' House should follow the Bill presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, because in some parts it answers a criticism which is often made against those organisations and those people who tend to take up the cause of animals and who are too often dismissed as "cranks". The fact is that the House to-day is demonstrating a concern for life, a concern for all living creatures. That, to me, is a fundamental principle which should guide the actions of any individual or nation with any pretension to be civilised. Children cannot speak for themselves, nor can animals; and it is good that their cause should be voiced to-day in your Lordships' House.
The Bill for which I now ask a Second Reading is no "Cranks' charter". It comes before your Lordships with impeccable references. Perhaps I may go back in history a little and say that it began with a letter bearing the signature of a distinguished Member of this House, the late Lord Silkin. This letter was sent out to people in all walks of life by a Miss Barrington, who has most selflessly devoted herself to the work of MACE—the Movement Against Cruel Experiments. The letter speaks for itself, and I hope that your Lordships will pardon me if I read it in full, because it will save time in the long run by explaining the purpose of the Bill.
The letter, which is about the Movement Against Cruel Experiments, is headed, "The Right Honourable Lord Silkin", and it says:Dear Sir,Nearly a century ago Frances Power Cobbe drew the attention of some prominent members of society to the painful and often pointless experiments that were then being carried out on some hundreds of animals every year. 966 Her memorandum calling for a halt drew support from the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, Cardinal Manning, Jowett, Ruskin, Tennyson, Browning and many other distinguished persons. This led to the enactment of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, regarded by Lord Shaftesbury as a first inadequate step. Today some five million animals, their 'welfare' supervised by thirteen inspectors"—the number is now fourteen—are used and disposed of annually like paper tissues, and there has been no second step.There are many people who feel that licensed researchers can be trusted to use their powers with discretion and humanity. After reading in The Times on 26 August, 1969, that animals at a government research station have been exposed for five hours at a time, for three months on end, to the distressing effects of CS gas in concentrations 1,000 times greater than that required to disperse a crowd, we cannot share their confidence.There are also those who assert that a ruthless exploitation of less intelligent creatures is justified in the interests of expediency and progress. What then is progress? The modern citizen recoils from the respectable Victorian who sent small boys up chimneys, but yesterday's expendable child is surely today's monkey flaunted in space (or more privately abused in laboratories) and it unhappily meets the same passive acceptance from a public that always accepts any form of cruelty commonly upheld by leaders of opinion as part of the current way of life.The letter then goes on to ask people to support a stand against this situation.
The response was overwhelming. The memorandum was signed by over 100 prominent people in the Arts, the Church, the Humanities, the Law, Medicine, Science and public life generally. I will not give the full list, but I will give your Lordships some of the names. They were as follows: Benjamin Britten, the late Poet Laureate, C. Day Lewis, Yehudi Menuhin, the late Sir Compton Mackenzie, J. B. Priestley, Peter Ustinov, Dame Sybil Thorndike, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and twelve other Bishops (I should say that the Right Reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has asked me to present his apologies to the House because he cannot be here to-night, and to indicate his full support for the Bill) Professor Sir Hugh Trevor Roper, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner—who also cannot attend to-day because he is at another conference in Paris, but who has sent me a note of his support for the 967 Bill; the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hodson, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, seventeen leading doctors and surgeons, Malcolm Muggeridge and over a dozen of our leading scientists. That is to say nothing of the support of thousands of ordinary people. That, I hope, is sufficient proof that this is no "Cranks' charter" but a serious and responsible measure.
I want to emphasise from the outset that this Bill does not seek to prohibit genuine experiments which can be proved to be of benefit to humanity. That is quite outside the scope of the Bill; but it does seek to provide—and surely nobody could argue with this—that all experiments should be carried out with a proper regard for the welfare of the animals used, and it seeks to prohibit the many thousands of experiments which have no real scientific or medical purpose. Finally, it sets out to encourage the use of suitable alternatives.
My Lords, it is a grave mistake to think that experiments on animals are mostly carried out for the purpose of medical advance. Let me give a few statistics. The proportion of medical experiments has declined steadily from 62 per cent. of the total in 1920 to 31 per cent. in 1971: in other words, by half. Over 100 million animals died as a result of experiments between 1919 and 1972—I repeat, my Lords, 100 million. The annual total of experiments has increased by over 1 million in the past nine years. Something like 6 million animals are used each year. That is about 14,000 a day, 600 an hour, or 10 for every minute of every day. In fact, something like 50 animals have died since I have been on my feet, not all in the cause of medical advance. Eighty-six per cent. of all experiments are carried out without the benefit of anaesthetics. I cannot believe that such slaughter and cruelty on such a scale is necessary.
I believe, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me, that the enormous increase justifies a new look at the situation and a revision of the 1876 Act. That Act has undoubtedly been better than nothing, but it is out of date. It was devised for a different time and a different situation. When that Act was passed, nearly a hundred years ago, it was designed to control a few hundred experiments a year and a handful of 968 experimenters. The Home Office has declared, times without number, that the Act is perfectly well suited to deal with the massive change in conditions that has taken place since its enactment. My Lords, that statement is about as convincing as if the Minister of Transport were to argue that a Road Traffic Act, passed a century ago and intended to control hansom cabs and penny-farthing bicycles, was suitable to the needs of the present day.
The sad truth seems to be that the Home Office either does not know, or does not want to know, the facts of the situation, or that it is the prisoner of a very powerful lobby. Its stonewalling attitude was indicated in a reply by the Minister of Science and Education, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, in 1971 to a similar Motion in the other place, and by a Home Office spokesman who, for my part, summed it up more clearly than any words that I can say. He said,All experiments, for whatever purposes, are subject to restrictions to ensure that no animal suffers severe pain that is likely to endure or avoidable pain of any kind.My Lords, that is rubbish. There is absolutely indubitable evidence to show that thousands of animals do, in fact, suffer severe pain and that it is prolonged; and, moreover, that much of it is avoidable.
The impetus for this Bill came originally from an experiment seen on television. I invite your Lordships to tell me how much such an experiment advanced the cause of human welfare. In this experiment monkeys were strapped into chairs before a board displaying various light bulbs. It was on television. Every second one of the bulbs lit up, and the animal had to place his or her paw over the light immediately. If he got there too late, he was punished with an electric shock and could be seen to be crying out. Of course they got there later and later because they were already dying of radiation sickness. My Lords, where was the 1876 Act during that experiment? Where was the Home Office during that experiment? Where was the anaesthetic? What was the human value of that experiment? The plain fact is that the benefit to human or animal welfare is not a factor that is required to be taken into account under the 1876 Act. An experiment may be authorised because it is thought useful for saving life or alleviating suffering. 969 This respectable motive is entirely overshadowed by the more comprehensive statement which says that it can be allowed if it is in the interests of the "advancement, by new discovery, of physiological knowledge".
§ LORD BROCK
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would tell us where that experiment was originally conducted? If it were conducted in this country it would be illegal to have exhibited it on televisison. Perhaps it was of American origin.
§ LORD WILLIS
I will come back to that later. I will make my speech, if you do not mind, in my own way. You might wonder, my Lords, what "the advancement, by new discovery, of physiological knowledge" can mean. A new discovery may cover any collection of data—
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, perhaps if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt. Since he does not want to make this point now, may I inform the House that that experiment did take place abroad.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
But the noble Lord will appreciate that in those circumstances it is irrelevant to say, "Where was the Home Office?" and "What was the effect of the 1876 Act?" It was done outside the jurisdiction of anything we do inside this country.
§ LORD WILLIS
Well, my Lords, I have quoted perhaps one experiment that took place abroad. I shall not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, did not in her speech, weary your Lordships with details and evidence that we have of endless experiments taking place in this country which do cause needless pain, and which do cause prolonged pain without anæsthetics. I will come to one or two in a moment. The fact that one of them took place abroad should be a warning and should not be something 970 about which we should smile with complacency.
My Lords, under the present Bill, the Bill that I am introducing, it is proposed that the only legitimate purpose for research on living animals should be the advancement of specific or fundamental knowledge that is directed towards saving of life or alleviating suffering. Fundamental research is not excluded as a legitimate object. I fully appreciate that it may not always be possible to predict which lines of research will, in fact, turn out to be useful for alleviating suffering. In the Bill, I have leaned over backwards to leave the way open to research that may lead to medical advancement.
Schedule 3 to the Bill sets out a catalogue of procedures deemed to be distressing. These were not drawn up at random. As I have said, they are based on evidence of what has been happening; examples, accurate examples, of painful experiments. In many cases, what is objectionable is the extravagance of the painful stimulus. Why hurt the animal a little when with no extra trouble you can hurt it a lot? In a report published last year, newly shorn sheep were subjected to freezing cold winds at temperatures of minus 20 degrees centigrade for up to eight hours at a time. What was the report?It was concluded that the induction of different forms of adaptation depended on the length, severity and frequency of cold exposures.Did bare-coated animals actually have to be frozen for hours on end for that startling conclusion to be reached? It is like pushing a horse over a cliff to find out whether it hurts itself when it gets to the other end.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, will the noble Lord excuse me for just a moment? He has quoted one cruel experiment abroad. Would he tell us whether this last one was done in Britain?
§ LORD WILLIS
Yes. This was done in Britain. It was done in Scotland, in fact, and the man who did it was a man called Slee.
§ LORD WILLIS
I cannot at the moment, but it is a quotation from a 971 medical journal, and I will find it for your Lordships before I reply. In outline, the difference between the Act of 1876 and the Bill is as follows. Under the Act, a certificate is required only for a defined range of experiments and is not required for an experiment that is to be carried out under anaesthetic at every stage. Under the Bill, every experiment would require the issue of a certificate and a special form of certificate would be needed for any experiments that might cause pain or distress. These matters are dealt with in Clause 3. The licensing of experiments is dealt with in Clause 4, under which the Home Secretary would have to be satisfied on several important matters before issuing a licence.
Clause 5 makes the registration of premises mandatory instead of the permissiveness of the present situation and sets up machinery for inspection of registered premises under conditions a great deal more effective than is now the case. Clause 2 differs from the equivalent provision in the Act by the up-dating of the financial penalty, and also by providing that any person convicted under the clause shall be disqualified from holding a licence at any future time. The clause also disqualifies any person who performs abroad experiments that would be prohibited under the Bill in this country. If an experiment has been refused a certificate in this country it would clearly be intolerable for an experimenter to arrange for it to be carried out abroad, and it is therefore provided that this too would lead to disqualification. The sanction is a severe one, but the offence is extremely difficult to pin down. So far as my information goes, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the Act of 1876.
Subsection (1) states that a certificate may be granted for an experiment directed to saving life or alleviating suffering, these two expressions being taken from the Act of 1876. The Bill differs from the Act in that the acquisition of physiological knowledge, divorced from this principal purpose, is not an authorised purpose. I would add only the following comments: It is open to the applicant for a certificate to state in what way the knowledge he seeks might save life or alleviate suffering. If he fails in this object, it is still open to him to seek his knowledge without the use of a 972 living animal. There are many satisfactory alternative methods of research, and there have been notable medical advances that owe nothing to experimentation with animals. Medicine will not in fact be prejudiced at all by this limitation. Physiologists and others intent on imposing endurance tests on animals would however have to think again.
There is a proviso to subsection (1) which would make two types of experimentation illegal and they are rather important. These are experiments concerned with the testing of cosmetics. A "cosmetic preparation" is defined as,a product intended to enhance physical attractiveness, but does not include any product the purpose of which is to remedy a disfigurement or other abnormality.I have never yet met any human being who thinks that rabbits and guinea-pigs should have shampoos and hair sprays squirted in their eyes so that a manufacturer can announce the production of a gaily coloured packaged liquid described as having a magic ingredient. The plain fact is that completely satisfactory shampoos, sprays, creams, lipsticks, powders and astringents are available that are composed entirely of vegetable and other harmless constituents. There is no need to torture animals in the interests of beauty, or even hygiene.
The other class of experiments the Bill seeks to prohibit are those in which animals are forced to ingest nicotine, or alcohol, or other drugs that are taken by humans, voluntarily, for their own pleasure or satisfaction. Perhaps I have a restricted circle of acquaintances, but I do not know of anyone who wants animals to be tortured so that he can be helped to make up his mind to stop smoking or drinking. If animals have to suffer for our diseases that is one thing, and let us minimise their sufferings. But do they really have to suffer for our vanity and our vices?
My Lords, I turn now to the subject of anæsthetics. Certificates are at present issued by the Home Office only in the case of experiments not to be performed under anæsthetic; under the Bill all experiments would have to be certificated. To this day one of the few statistics published annually by the Home Office puts experiments into two classes, 973 those performed with and those performed without anæsthetic. This distinction is not a very useful one. Very painful experiments may be carried out without anæsthetic, sometimes because the whole point of the experiment is to hurt the animal and see how it behaves. Guinea-pigs which in 1967 were subjected to feeding experiments developed scurvy, suffered bleeding from the mucous membranes of the nose, eyes and extensive ulceration. They did not receive anæsthetic over the six weeks or more when they received the experimental diet; but they suffered very much. In other experiments anæsthetic may be applied during the surgical part of the operation, but not afterwards. There are two researchers at Cambridge who in 1967 specialised in cutting out parts of monkeys' brains, and watching the results. They observed that the animals,stumbled around their cages, bumping into the walls and hitting their heads on protruding objects. If they had to steady themselves by catching hold of the wire, they reached too short, too far, or in the wrong direction, missed their target and fell.As your Lordships will notice, the interesting part of the proceedings took place after the anæsthetic had worn off.
I think it will be seen that the use or non-use of anæsthetic is no guide at all as to whether or not an experiment is painful, and therefore requires additional scrutiny. Subsection (2) of the clause therefore makes it clear that nothing turns on the use of anæsthetic.
A very much more detailed system is proposed for the control of experiments that will or might cause pain at any stage. Again, the experiment would have to be authorised by a certificate issued by the Home Secretary, but he would not issue a certificate unless a recommendation for its issue had been made to him by a committee to be known as the Committee of Moral Reference. The setting up of a committee was one of the suggestions made by the Littlewood Committee. I am happy to say that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has agreed, in the event of this Bill's passing into law, to become the first President of the Committee of Moral Reference, and he would be responsible for appointing the members.
What is proposed therefore is that while the granting of certificates for 974 painless experiments would be done by the civil servants in the Home Secretary's Department, a committee of laymen and citizens would stand between the researcher and his animals, to decide whether the claims of research should be allowed to override the rights of captive animals to humane treatment. If a two-thirds majority recommended the issue of a certificate, then the experiment could proceed.
Noble Lords will probably be aware that in recent years two attempts have been made in another place to secure legislation prohibiting experiments on animals in cases where alternative methods might be used. These appear to have had the objection raised against them that a researcher could not be expected to comb the four quarters of the globe inquiring about alternative methods. Under this Bill he is not required to do so. Those who specialise in this field would put their evidence before the Committee, and the Committee would determine whether or not the alternative techniques proposed would or would not serve the purpose. If not, then it would be open to the Committee to recommend the experiment for a certificate. There is a great deal of optimism in some quarters about the many fields, and especially the field of toxicity testing, in which alternative techniques not involving live animals are considered to be effective. I do not have the time to develop the theme of alternatives, but I can assure your Lordships that they exist. Tissue culture systems, the use of mathematical models to simulate living systems, are being developed. Indeed, it is of some urgency that such developments be speeded up because many experts agree that there are many areas in which tests on animals are irrelevant to man.
Clause 3(4)(a) prohibits the causing of severe pain or distress. "Severe" is unfortunately an elastic word, but I should imagine that there must be some experiments in which it would be generally agreed that the point had been reached. In 1954, two experimenters injected various chemicals into the brains of cats. The injections of tubocuranine caused a cat to jumpfrom the table to the floor and then straight into its cage, where it started calling more and more noisily whilst moving about restlessly 975 and jerkily … during the next four minutes the movements became wilder … finally the cat fell with legs and neck flexed, jerking in rapid clonic movements, the condition being that of a major (epileptic) convulsion … within a few seconds the cat got up, ran for a few yards at high speed and fell in another fit. The whole process was repeated several times within the next minute.My Lords, this animal took 35 minutes to die. Let us hope that from this act of cruelty the experimenters learned something to the advantage of the human race.
There are other tests, known as writhing tests, in which the purpose is simply to count the number of times an animal writhes in pain before it dies. These are some of the reasons why the Bill stipulates that in all cases where pain or distress can be relieved by anæsthesia, or other measures, this must be done. Human beings are given the greatest care after an operation, but I have yet to see any mention in a report of an animal experiment describing methods taken to relieve post-operative discomfort of an animal.
Unfortunately, many researchers who deal habitually with laboratory animals come to regard them as more or less inert matter, and few of them take steps to nurse animals suffering from the effects of surgery. I am sorry to say that some eyewitnesses have reported that animals are frequently disposed of after an experiment by having their heads smashed against the bench. We know from recent history—and we cannot afford to forget it—that people, quite good people, can and do become insensitive to the suffering of others; and I am afraid that this happens far too often with researchers. The Bill also insists that no animal is to be subjected to suffering for an unreasonable period. Perhaps I may quote your Lordships an example which will illustrate the point.
In March, 1972, in the New Scientist, Dr. Nicholas Humphrey described how, six years before, a monkey known "affectionately" (I use the word "affectionately" in quotes) as Helen had her visual cortex destroyed by surgery. For the first year or two she appeared not to be able to see at all, though later she recovered her vision to some extent. At that stage her behaviour is described as follows: 976Helen bumped into any and every obstacle; she collided with my legs and she several times fell into the pond.In the earlier stages she merely groped around in her cage, and after about a year of this the researcher found that he had other things to do—a thesis to finish, and, in his own words, "Helen was left to her own devices for about 10 months"—that is to say, such devices as she could manage in a small cage in her condition. That was for 10 months, while her researcher was busy elsewhere. After hearing this, perhaps your Lordships will understand why the Bill also ensures that no animal shall be the subject of more than one pain certificate.
I have been reluctant to write into this Bill any privileged treatment for dogs and cats. Favouring a dog or cat implies disfavouring an unpopular animal such as a rat, which is in fact also highly intelligent, very sensitive to pain and, if allowed to be, affectionate to humans. However, we have to recognise that, whereas a rodent may pass a tolerable life in a cage, a dog or cat kept in a cage is in a state of misery before the researcher gets to work at all. The Bill therefore has something to say on this, and on the subject of other larger animals.
I am drawing to the end of my speech, my Lords. Clause 6 might be regarded as the clause with the most teeth because it requires a certain amount of publicity to be given to experiments on animals. At the present time the veil of secrecy is thick and impenetrable. I have never quite been able to understand why. If nothing is going wrong, why is there such secrecy? There is no possible way under the 1876 Act or anything else by which an interested person can intervene to prevent an experiment from taking place, either because it is excessively cruel or for any other reason. There is no way in which information about these experiments can be funnelled out, except through well-wishers. Under the Bill, any Member of Parliament could request copies of all applications made. It would then be possible for experiments that ought not to be permitted to be intercepted.
My Lords, that is the substance of the Bill. I have, of course, put the dark side of the case. I am ready to admit that many experiments are not cruel, and that many experimenters take every step to ensure that their animals do not suffer 977 and are well cared for. No humane researcher, therefore, need fear this Bill if it becomes law. But it is also abundantly clear that a very large number of experiments slip through the very inadequate net of the Act of 1876 and the situation needs to be changed. I have heard, not directly, that the Government intend to oppose the Bill in its entirety. If that be so, I shall listen with great interest to their reasons, and I should like to pose the following questions.
Do the Minister and the Government really believe, in face of all the evidence, that no cruel experiments ever take place? If that is the case, why has this issue been raised a dozen times in the last 10 years in the other place and here and elsewhere; and why is the stonewalling going on? Does he support painful experiments of animals which have no other purpose than to devise a new beauty treatment? Does he really believe that an Act drafted a hundred years ago—and even then claimed to be inadequate—can cope with the immensely changed situation of to-day? Does he think that 14 inspectors can cope with experiments on millions of animals in hundreds of laboratories? Does he think that 14 people can ensure that the rules about anæsthetics are complied with? Does he believe that there is no scope for improvement, and that everybody who has spoken in this House and in the other place on this issue over the last 10 years is blind, or wrong, or simply out of his mind? Why do successive Governments continually stonewall on this issue and refuse to admit that anything is wrong, and contend, in face of formidable evidence, that the present Act is working well?
My Lords, I should like to repeat that I am no "crank". I am not an antivivisectionist. I came to this Bill only a few months ago, to take it up from where the late Lord Silkin had left it off, because I was convinced by the evidence. I am well aware that this country faces graver issues, but it is the mark of a civilised people that, even when faced with grave difficulties, it can still spare time for the helpless and the voiceless. Almost a hundred years ago Ralph Hodgson wrote a poem which I commend to your Lordships. It does not 978 perhaps have an immediate bearing on this Bill, but its sentiments are right:'Twould ring the bells of HeavenThe wildest peal for years,If Parson lost his sensesAnd people came to theirs,And he and they togetherKnelt down with angry prayersFor tamed and shabby tigersAnd dancing dogs and bearsAnd wretched, blind pit poniesAnd little hunted hares.My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Lord Willis.)
§ 7.57 p.m.
THE MINISTER or STATE, HOME OFFICE (VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS)
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not answer the questions in exactly the terms in which he has asked them. He did not tell me beforehand that he wanted them dealt with in quite that way. I hope that he will be able to spell out from the course of my speech the implicit answers to everything he put to me. Indeed. I am sure that all your Lordships and all right-thinking people are glad that we can set aside some of the grave issues to which the noble Lord has referred and look at this subject to-night.
Certainly we all share the noble Lord's sentiment that animals should be properly and humanely treated, and that we have a solemn duty to ensure that everything is done to protect them from being subjected to cruel treatment or unnecessary suffering of any kind; and, quite frankly, the noble Lord cannot state this principle too strongly for me. I entirely respect the motives that have led him to pick up this Bill from the late Lord Silkin. One also has to be very careful (I say this with great respect to the noble Lord) that the examples that are taken are from practice in this country; because the difference between standards of protection for animals in this country and those in some others is in truth quite remarkable. So one has to be stringently and scrupulously accurate about this.
The Long Title of the Bill is:An Act to restrict and regulate the performance of experiments on living animals.One notes. "restrict"; and the noble Lord means it. He has made it clear that this is the basis of what he is saying. I think that he and certainly some others 979 who agree with him make certain assumptions, some of which, I am afraid, are ill-founded. For instance, some people say that the present scale of animal experimentation is grossly excessive. That was a topic which the noble Lord at any rate touched on. Some people say that the existing controls over experiments are inadequate and ineffective, and the noble Lord challenged me directly on this. Without doubt, all of us want to do our utmost to minimise suffering by animals. But let us take care that, in our enthusiasm to achieve this objective, we are not so zealous that we produce a result that actually impedes essential medical and scientific research of great value to the welfare of men, and also of animals themselves.
Let us just bear in mind that the experiments on animals are not all pointless; and when it is suggested that alternatives should be developed and used I doubt whether any scientist would disagree with that proposition, because alternatives are usually cheaper; they are almost always, if they are successful, more certain and more sure. Therefore the noble Lord is preaching to the converted in saying that the experiments should have a point and that where alternatives are available it is highly desirable, and indeed sensible, to use them. But I have to tell the House that after a very careful and close examination of the Bill the Government have concluded that it would do a positive disservice to the proper development of medical, veterinary and scientific research in this country. I shall have a little more to say about this when I turn to the Bill itself, but perhaps it would be helpful if I say a few words about the much maligned existing law and the much maligned present administration of it.
The controls and safeguards over animal experimentation in this country of course are embodied in the 1876 Act. That is an Act which this Bill wishes to repeal. It is true that it was passed nearly a hundred years ago, but its basic principles are certainly not outdated. In fact even to-day the controls imposed on the use of living animals for experimental purposes in this country under that Act are probably more stringent than those imposed in any other part of the world. It is also worth remembering what the 980 Departmental Committee on Experiments on Animals, the Littlewood Committee, had to say about this Act. After all, they carried out a pretty thorough examination and heard evidence from all shades of opinion. They were of the opinion that the aim of legislation should be to prevent objectionable activities and to encourage humane practices, and they concluded that by these standards the 1876 Act was generally effective. They went on to say—and I quote from paragraph 239 of their Report:no licensees appeared to regard it as a piece of useless bureaucracy, many left us in no doubt of their high respect for it. The Act has been effective partly because it has commanded the ready support of those subject to it, partly because the Home Office has adopted a wide interpretation, insisted on humane standards, and administered the law conscientiously".There is an answer to a number of the noble Lord's questions in the form of an impartial Committee's findings.
The basic object of that old Act is to regulate and restrict experiments calculated to cause pain to living vertebrate animals. This is not dissimilar to the object of the Bill, but, as I shall explain, the existing Act achieves its purpose in a rather different way. That Act contains no definition of "experiment" or "pain"; in practice any procedure upon an animal designed to find the answer to a problem—other than in the normal course of veterinary diagnosis—is regarded by us as an experiment and it is considered to be subject to the Act if it presents any risk of pain, discomfort or interference with the animal's ordinary state of health or wellbeing. I would ask your Lordships to bear in mind that in the administration of the present Act "experiment" is interpreted in that very wide sense, and therefore control is exerted in that very wide way.
The Act prohibits absolutely any experiment performed for the purpose of obtaining manual skill or for any purpose other than the advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or of knowledge which will be useful in saving or prolonging life or alleviating suffering. Experiments are also permitted, under special restrictions, to enable persons such as medical students attending lectures at hospitals, medical schools and elsewhere to acquire such knowledge. No experiment permitted by the Act may 981 be performed without a licence from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and itself contains restrictions on the infliction of pain to any animal under experiment. My right honourable friend uses his powers of licensing to impose other conditions to ensure that no animal under experiment suffers severe pain that is likely to endure or avoidable pain of any kind—a phrase held up to ridicule by the noble Lord. I deny his allegation and I can assure the House that this is the attitude of my right honourable friend.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I accept the attitude of the noble Viscount's right honourable friend, but can the noble Viscount explain how the experiment which I quoted about Helen can slip by? Is there not needless pain there? Was that not certificated? Was that passed? And what about all the other evidence quoted in all the debates that have taken place in the last ten years in both Houses? Is that to be ignored? Is that not evidence that the Act is not working, that something is wrong?
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
No, my Lords, it is nothing of the kind, because one has to look not at the inevitably abbreviated version of these incidents which noble Lords and right honourable and honourable Members can put into their speeches—it is impossible to give full details—but at the whole of the case, and I would again remind the noble Lord that one has to see whether these occurred in this country or abroad. I do not know about Helen; I do not know about the other cases that he mentioned, except that we know about the sheep. I therefore cannot comment on these specific ones without notice. Nevertheless that is the attitude, and to my own knowledge this is very strictly adhered to.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I do not accept that they slipped through the net. Perhaps my definition of "net" and the noble Lord's is different. I should like to know more about the details of this matter than the noble Lord could possibly give in the course of a short speech. I cannot comment without notice on these matters.
982 There are, however, some matters that I can comment on, and one of them was touched upon by the noble Lord and relates to the number of animals involved and the statement that the majority of experiments performed under the Act are carried out without anaesthetics. I have the numbers. While these have risen considerably in the years since the last war there is now some evidence that the rate of increase is slackening or even stopping altogether. In 1972 the total number of experiments performed was 5.3 million, which was more than a quarter of a million less than in the previous year. In fact experiments in that year were fewer than those in 1969 and only marginally more than those in 1968. As your Lordships will probably know, the Littlewood Committee looked into the reasons for what was at that time a steady increase in the number of experiments and concluded that:the increase in the numbers of animals used in research is largely to be explained by the expansion of biological science and the mandatory testing of biological substances".The noble Lord might like to look with some care at Sections 31 and 32 of the Medicines Act, 1968, because he will find that there are many mandatory requirements in that Act.
It would, I think, be premature to attach any particular significance to the levelling off in the annual number of experiments in recent years, but it may to some extent reflect the changing pattern of medicine whereby the use of sera and the use of living animals for diagnostic procedures is becoming less common. It may also be in part attributable to an increased use of alternative non-animal tests which I mentioned a short while ago. The noble Lord really must get the present law right. I think he said twice that experiments carried out under anaesthetics required no licence. The noble Lord is wrong. If the animal is anaesthetised throughout and subsequently killed before it recovers consciousness a licence is required under the same stringent conditions. There are yet more stringent conditions in all other circumstances, and therefore the noble Lord's description of the present law was seriously inaccurate in this respect.
As regards experiments without anaesthetics, I would like to make it clear that in every case where the experimenter 983 proposes to carry out such an experiment wholly or partly without anaesthetic he must submit to the Home Office—and this is why I say it is more strict still—a certificate signed by the President of a learned Society and a professor of a branch of medical science that the administration of an anaesthetic would necessarily frustrate the object of the experiment. Most of the procedures used in experiments without anaesthetic involve no significant risk of pain and consist of innoculations, external applications of stimuli, modifications in diet or environment or the administration of some pharmaceutical or biological product followed in each case by observations of any effects. In the majority of such cases, the administration of an anaesthetic would be likely to cause more disturbance to the animal's wellbeing than that involved in the procedures themselves; as well as frustrating the object of the experiment.
I must make it clear that authority to dispense with an anaesthetic is never granted where an "operation" more severe than simple innoculation or the taking of a blood sample is proposed. Experiments in which anaesthetics are used for the operative part of the experiment, but where the animal is allowed to recover and to survive after the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off, are permitted only where survival forms an essential part of the experiment; and that needs yet a different sort of certificate in addition to the licence. An example is where one is developing or assessing new methods of surgical treatment of human or animal diseases or new types of post-operative treatment. The noble Lord suggested that no research was taking place into post-operative treatment. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Brock, may wish to say something about this in due course. Strict conditions are imposed, as I have said, to ensure that any pain or discomfort is kept to an absolute minimum and that the animal receives adequate nursing or other care—certainly of no less standard, in many cases better and in some cases much better, than that given to any animal undergoing veterinary surgery.
Before anyone is granted a licence to experiment on living animals, a Home Office inspector satisfies himself, by personal interview if necessary, that the 984 applicant is a suitable person to hold a licence, and therefore inspectors keep in touch with licensees by regularly visiting all laboratories registered for the performance of such experiments. There is a substantial number of licensees (about 16,000 at present) but generally in any one year about a third of them do not perform any experiments; so that the active number of licensees is always appreciably fewer than the overall total. The inspectors visit at irregular intervals, and without prior notice, all laboratories registered for the performance of experiments to ensure that proper standards of care, accommodation and handling facilities for the animals are maintained; to see that licensees working in the laboratories understand and fulfil their responsibilities under the Act and that the requirements of the Act are strictly observed. Last year over 4,000 such visits were made to the 592 laboratories then on the register. From my personal experience at the Home Office—and I have been on irregular and unheralded checks with the Inspectorate—I can assure your Lordships that the law is faithfully administered by the Home Office, properly complied with and well respected by the research workers.
My Lords, that is the background; that is the present law and the present practice built up under the 1876 Act. If that is thought to be anything less than stringent and severe, I should be surprised if many noble Lords were to agree with that view. I turn now to the Bill itself. It would repeal the old Act and set aside the structure of control over animal experimentation that has been built up over the best part of this century. In it place it would introduce the new system of control that the noble Lord described,—designed severely to restrict the use of animals for medical and scientific research and the use of animals for the purpose of producing sera, vaccine or any other biological product. Let me make it quite clear that, so far as I can see, the Bill does not seek in any way, except possibly on the Committee of Moral Reference, to implement the Littlewood Committee recommendations. Indeed, in many respects its proposals run completely counter to those endorsed by the Littlewood Committee. For example, under the terms of the Bill experiments will be permissible only if they are undertaken specifically to acquire 985 knowledge directed towards saving life or alleviating suffering.
Moreover, Clause 3(3) limits this to human life and suffering; and therefore there will be no further experimentation to help the cure and relief of animals' distress and pain and disease. That would in future be prohibited. That is the interpretation that we put on it. I would remind your Lordships that the 1876 Act permits experiments for the acquisition of fundamental physiological knowledge or for the acquisition of knowledge which will be useful for saving or prolonging life or alleviating suffering, and that old Act applies to animals as well as to human life and suffering—and we would say rightly so.
The Littlewood Committee gave very careful consideration to evidence presented to them about allegedly unnecessary experiments and to representations made to them by the R.S.P.C.A. that restrictions should be imposed to ensure that experiments were allowed only if they were essential to solve some specific problem of human or animal suffering. That again is of the essence of the Bill. The Committee specifically rejected such suggestions and I think it is worth quoting what they had to say on this matter. They said:From our study of the evidence about unnecessary experiments and the complexity of biological science we conclude that it is impossible to say what practical application any new discovery in biological knowledge may have later for the benefit of man or animal. Accordingly we recommend that there should be no general barrier to the use of animal experimentation in seeking new biological knowledge even if it cannot be shown to be of immediate or foreseeable value.This was their recommendation No. 16.
Since this Bill was published the Government have received representations from medical, veterinary and scientific bodies, including the Medical Research Council, the Medicines Commission, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and the Agricultural Research Council—and the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, in The Times to-day, as one-time chairman of the British Medical Research Council was very critical indeed—stressing that if experiments were restricted as proposed in the Bill it would effectively prevent a considerable volume of valuable medical and scientific research from being carried out in this country. These people just do 986 not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I am sorry to say, that medical research would not be inhibited by this Bill.
It is worth noting, incidentally, that the terms of the Bill appear to us to prevent almost completely all the research work that is going on into the development of fisheries and into the cure of fish diseases and the development of fish farming. I should have thought that a very valuable and useful form of food for the human race; but it is prohibited as a sidewind by the noble Lord's Bill. The arbitrary prohibition on experiments involving certain substances was another matter on which the noble Lord touched. It is in the proviso to Clause 3(1). That also is completely at variance with the thinking of the Littlewood Committee on this issue. After considering and rejecting suggestions that restrictions should be imposed on the use of animals for consumer safety tests on cosmetics, the Committee said, in paragraph 266 of their Report:From the wider point of view, we think that it is in any case undesirable as a general principle arbitrarily to determine that particular kinds of purpose should never be served by animal experiments whether or not they involve stress or pain.I do not agree that this is "torture", to use the noble Lord's word. If, in any event, the noble Lord were to succeed in this, what would happen? It would be done abroad, the product would be imported and the prohibition or penalties in Clause 2(2) would do nothing to prevent this. If it is done abroad, there would not be even the safeguards under the 1876 Act. Secondly, the other important difficulty, as we understand, about this prohibition is that supposing you found a certain cosmetic produced severe disease, or a skin complaint, the Bill would then prevent any research in this country to discover how to put the matter right. The noble Lord cannot intend this, I think. But, unfortunately, if he will insist upon having these arbitrary divisions, that is the sort of thing that happens. Then again, the Medical Research Council have commented that the prohibition on experiments involving the administration of nicotine, or any other "social" drug (in passing, my Lords, what is "any other social drug"?), would halt important studies on the physiology and pharmacology of alcohol and other drug dependence, which I would have thought was a very great problem in this 987 country, not only of medical but also of social importance.
A person proposing to perform an experiment permissible, or which he believes to be permissible, under the Bill would have to get a licence from my right honourable friend, in much the same way as he does now. But there the similarity ends. Before he could undertake an experiment he would have in addition to obtain a special certificate for each experiment carried out for a different purpose. The vast majority of the certificates that would be sought could be issued only on the recommendation of a special Committee—about which I shall have something to say in a moment. Before recommending the issue of a certificate the Committee would have to satisfy themselves, first, that no alternative method was available and, secondly, that the benefit to human welfare expected to result from the experiment justified the pain likely to be involved.
This may sound superficially something which is relatively simple and straightforward, but a close look at this provision, which is really the nub of the Bill, reveals problems that are so numerous and so complex as in our opinion to make the Bill quite unworkable. Let us look at a few of them. Except for the very few experiments which would not be liable to cause any pain or distress whatsoever, each application would have to be referred to the Committee on Moral Reference. Under the terms of the Bill an "experiment" may cover a series of related acts on the same animal, and may include more than one animal on which substantially identical procedures are performed; but this would appear to apply only when the purpose of the experiment is the same. For example, a certificate given for producing or testing one drug would not seem to be valid for performing similar procedures on animals in connection with testing another drug, since the Committee would be required to consider the justification of, and the availability of alternative methods for, producing or testing the second drug. So it would have to go back to them.
It therefore seems inevitable that the number of references to the Committee would be substantial, particularly in the early years of the operation of such a scheme. A modest estimate of the num 988 ber of references in a year would seem to us to be something in the region of 100,000. Simple arithmetic shows that even if the Committee remained in permanent session they would not be capable of dealing with this number of applications. If the Committee sat for five days a week, eight hours a day and for 46 weeks in a year, so that they would have six weeks' holiday, there would be about one minute available for each application if the Committee had to deal with 100,000 applications a year. During that time they would have to see into all the points about alternative methods and the benefit to human welfare. It just is not possible. Inevitably this would create a serious bottleneck and, in turn, serious and unacceptable delays in the issue of certificates, holding up vital work and jeopardising the continuation of drug production and medical research in this country. Veterinary research and research on fish, for instance, would stop altogether under the Bill, as this would not even come within the terms of reference of the Committee.
In considering whether to recommend the issue of a pain certificate the Committee on Moral Reference would have to exercise some sort of value judgment —all in one minute—on the experiment and satisfy themselves that no viable alternative method, not involving an animal experiment, exists. Questions such as these involve matters of the finest judgment; and more often than not the decision, particularly about the availability or effectiveness of an alternative technique, would be a matter of opinion rather than of fact. Scientific opinion is often divided about the acceptability and effectiveness (so I am told) of some suggested alternatives to animal tests, yet the Committee may possibly have no scientific expertise in their membership at all, and certainly no scientific majority. Only if one or more of the three Fellows of the Royal Society happened to be scientifically qualified would there be any scientists on the Committee at all.
Then how would the Committee decide this sort of issue? I think one only has to look at the composition of the Committee to see that it would be very difficult for them. I hear that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has agreed to be Chairman: I wonder if he knows what he has let himself in 989 for? One then looks at the very distinguished people who would be sitting with him: serving or retired judges, bishops, principals of universities, Fellows of the Royal Society—and that is where the scientists would come in, if at all—and persons who have distinguished themselves in the creative arts, in politics or in other fields of service to the community. Without there being necessarily even one scientist on this Committee how could they determine matters such as the availability of alternative tests and the likely benefits to result to human medicine? These would pose problems calling for detailed medical and biological knowledge which I am afraid simply would not be available to them.
There are many other aspects of the Bill about which we have serious reservations. For instance, an all-veterinary inspectorate, appointments to and dismissals from it being subject to the approval of a Committee of the R.S.P.C.A., and the question of giving wide-ranging powers of entry to laboratories (which are of course private property) to Members of both Houses of Parliament. I will not go through all these objections; they are more detailed but equally severely held. Broadly speaking, I am afraid that our criticism is that the underlying principle of the Bill is quite unacceptable and that the detail of the Bill is unworkable. We cannot support it, and I am afraid that it is not amendable because the only words that the Government can support are the first three words of the Long Title. Therefore we have to say that in principle this Bill is something to which we cannot even suggest that the House should give a Second Reading because we say it is quite unamendable so as to make any form of sense at all.
That does not mean—and I go back to this simply in order to express it again because I have been somewhat forthright in my remarks—that the Government are unconcerned about animal welfare. We are very much concerned, my Lords. But we are equally concerned to see that nothing is done that may have serious and undesirable repercussions on medical research and the constant search by dedicated scientists for new treatments for diseases in man and animals. We feel—and I hope that I have shown this in what I have been able to say—that 990 we already have under the existing law very strict control over animal experiments. We say that the effect of the Bill would be to impair and impede research without bringing any tangible benefit to the animals used for experimental purposes. We are not challenging the motives or the underlying thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in bringing forward this measure: we are simply saying that, with great regret, we have to inform the House that it is objectionable in principle and quite unworkable in practice. Accordingly I hope that in due course the House will refrain from giving it a Second Reading.
§ 8.29 p.m.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House this evening, I have three interests to declare. First, I am a member of the Medical Research Council whose work would be irreversibly dis-disrupted if this Bill became law; secondly, I am Chairman of the Institute of Cancer Research, which is a postgraduate teaching school of London University, where upwards of 100,000 animals are sacrificed every year. I suppose "the buck stops here" and I must take the ultimate responsibility for that sacrifice. Thirdly, I am the President of the Research Defence Society which has recently lobbied some of your Lordships with a written document over my signature, giving a written analysis of the objectionable features of this Bill.
It is usual in debates on this subject to compliment the reformists on their good and worthy motives while coupling these compliments to an expression of regret that the reforms proposed are impracticable or unacceptable. As I study this matter in ever greater depth as the years go by, I become more and more dubious as to the justification for these compliments. This Bill comes from a very bad stable. These are strong words, but I propose to justify them with illustrations from what the noble Lord the sponsor of the Bill has said.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was asked a straight question: "Was this experiment done in England". Instead of saying "Yes" or "No", he said he would deal with this matter in due course and make his own speech in his own way. The noble Viscount who replied for the Government informed the House that 991 it was not done in England. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, had nothing to say. I hope he will clarify this when he winds up. Did he not know, or did he not take the trouble to find out? He referred to dropping a horse over a cliff to see whether it was damaged when it reached the other end. I would ask him to clarify in his reply: Did he know that an experiment on a horse, ass or mule requires Certificate F from the Home Office? I asked him whether he could give us the date of this incident, because I wanted to know.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I mentioned this in a speech. I used the example of the horse not because it was an actual experiment, but as an illustration of the stupidity of some of the experiments that take place. So far as the other experiment is concerned, I did not know at the time I was speaking that it had been performed in America. I was informed by a note just prior to the Minister rising to reply, and I apologise to the House for that.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I am glad to extract that apology from the noble Lord. Then we come to cosmetic experiments. There is a very difficult interface between cosmetics and dermatology. Does the noble Lord know that "cosmetics" is a technical medical term used in the medical profession? I wonder whether he has any view on how the courts will construe his embargo on cosmetic experiments if something should happen to be "cosmetic" in the medical sense. May I ask him to clarify whether, when drafting the Bill or taking sponsorship for it, he knew that "cosmetic" is a medical term? There is a very simple way to prevent the type of cosmetic experiment which involves no more than beautifying people who would really look better without it; that is, to bring public pressure to bear on the Home Office and the Government not to issue licences and certificates for this type of unnecessary experiment. I would agree with the noble Lord in this and have no particular approval to voice whatsoever, but it is very important to phrase this matter correctly. To use the word "cosmetic", without defining in what sense it is meant, in an Act of Parliament intended to be taken seriously, is completely irresponsible.
992 There is the embargo on nicotine. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in his reply, to tell up whether he knows that nicotine has a large number of uses as a pharmacological tool among others which are used to study nerve transmission? It is an extremely important pharmacological substance from the research point of view. How does he think the courts will construe the use of nicotine in its physiological aspect as opposed to its aspect as a social habit? This is a very badly drafted Bill. I feel less and less interested by the wide list of distinguished ignoramuses presented by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, who have never conducted an experiment under licence, who have probably never seen an animal operation, and who cannot give a list of the advantages and the good to the human race accruing as a result of animal experiments. I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, is not in his place. I understand that he may be here later; he is held up by other public business. I am sorry he is not here, because he at least is a Member of your Lordships' House who actually holds a licence. I expect the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, does, and also the noble Lord, Lord Brock. But there are few Members of your Lordships' House who do. I think your Lordships ought to listen seriously to what noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, have to say. I refuse to be blinded by the statistics as to the totality of the animals sacrificed without regard to the circumstances or without comparison with the total number of animals sacrified for food; again, in what circumstances?
My Lords, the author of the Book of Job was overwhelmed by insight into what I have called elsewhere the ultimate cosmic horror; namely, that a righteous God could have created agents and patients capable of inflicting and suffering pain either deliberately and consciously as men do, or unconsciously and by reflex action, as animals do. The Book of Job ends with a voice from the whirlwind stating that these problems are beyond us. Notwithstanding the passage of time since the Book of Job was written, I believe that these problems are still beyond us. But I also believe that we have a moral duty not to be overwhelmed by their insolubility. I believe the anti-vivisectionist spectrum, from the extreme 993 to the compromise anti-vivisectionist, consists of those who have failed in their discharge of this duty. They have allowed themselves to be so overwhelmed by the unacceptable horror of unrelieved human suffering that they turn their backs on it in order to salve their reconciliation to a cosmos in which it can occur; so alleviating some of the manifestations of that cosmos by alleviating animal suffering: namely, that proportion of animal suffering inflicted on some animals by men as opposed to that inflicted on them by other animals. It may well be, from the standpoint of moral philosophy, that we have a positive duty to exploit a regulated amount of animal suffering in order to alleviate both human and animal suffering in the long term. If we have this duty, then the anti-vivisectionist is not a moral hero; he is a moral coward! He ignores the fact that, owing to animal experimentation, the deaths of children from diphtheria have been reduced since immunisation was introduced in schools from an annual total of 2,600 to an annual total of 1.3.
The point is that the assessment of what is our objective moral duty is an act of subjective moral judgment carried out by a faculty whose origins are obscure and mysterious, and which leads many of us to differ in our conclusions, one from another. Moral philosophy does not produce an algebraic formula which answers "Yes" or "No" to any particular situation. We have no criterion in terms of which we can say that we certainly have this duty to experiment on animals, or that we have a duty to refrain from it. In a situation where we cannot agree whether we have this duty or the reverse, we must therefore compromise. The current compromise is the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, which originated mostly from the activities of men of science who were also men of conscience, though they enlisted many other people in their campaign for support.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, has stated, as if it were a failing of the 1876 Act, that no prosecution has been brought under it. Again, I would ask the noble Lord, does he think that Acts which provoke the subject into disobedience of the law and into breach of the law of the land are for that reason good? The virtue of this Act is that it produced co-operation between the animal experimenter 994 and the licensing authority. No prosecution has taken place because no prosecution has been necessary. The animal experimenters have invariably co-operated with the Home Office. The Act makes the Home Office, or its Inspectorate, the keeper of our conscience with respect to what is and what is not legitimate to inflict on an animal in relation to those other purposes to which we put animals; for example, killing them in order to eat them, just as many of the animals kill one another for food.
There are ways in which, I agree, the Act of 1876 could be improved. The Littlewood Commission has suggested a number of them; I could suggest some more. The classification of animals currently employed for the purposes of certification is based on the sentimentality that regards them as cuddlesome pets, the chosen of animal lovers who, notwithstanding their love of animals, through ignorance, will breed Alsatians to a specification which ensures an unacceptably high level of dislocation of the hip, and Pekinese to an unacceptable specification which ensures an unacceptably high level of extravasation of their eyeballs.
I am much more concerned with protection for a phylum which the noble Lord's Bill entirely neglects, the higher mollusca. Seen when skin-diving, the octupus is an object of transcendant beauty: its deep enormous impenetrable eyes perceiving what? I do not know what it perceives, but it can discriminate the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. Out of water the octupus is not a cuddlesom pet but just a nasty, slimy mess. Doubtless that is why the present Bill makes no more provision for it, although I think it deserves it, than any other Act. As to being cuddlesome, the youngest and most athletic Member of your Lordships' House, let alone myself, subject to it endemically, would suffer a slipped intervertebral disc if he tried to pick up a performing dolphin. Yet dolphins have a high intelligence second only to our own, and for all we know spiritual insight comparable to our own. The noble Lord's Bill does not do much for performing dolphins. How many anti-vivisectionists in your Lordships' House are aware that the lifespan of a performing dolphin is reduced from 25 995 years in nature to 5 years in a dolphinarium? How indignant does this make them feel? This is a context where one needs more than good will; one needs knowledge.
All this, my Lords, is but a preliminary to an attack on the totally irresponsible Bill now before your Lordships' House. It abolishes the Act of 1876 to set up a Committee of Moral Reference under the Bishop of London or his nominee. It gives them such power that an anti-vivisectionist Bishop could pack the Committee of Moral Reference with fellow anti-vivisectionists in such a way as to place an embargo on all experiments on animals. The Bill does not require the appointment to the Committee of even one person qualified in medical or veterinary work or the techniques of animal welfare. The noble Viscount is not here at the moment but he asked a question, I think of the noble Lord, Lord Brock, as to who is it who is concerned with operational aftercare of an animal. I can tell him that that most admirable body The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare is concerned. This is a body which is concerned with animal experimentation, and is also concerned with animals as animals.
The Bill, of course, refers to Fellows of the Royal Society, but they could be distinguished lay Fellows, like the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It does not follow that they would necessarily be biologists or physiologists who are accustomed to this kind of experimentation. They are required to decide whether alternative experiments are available, or alternative techniques. This is a profoundly technical point which the Committee would be totally unqualified to pronounce upon, quite apart from the fact that in order to evolve and validate alternative techniques animals have to be sacrificed in animal experiments. It is a most complicated situation. They are entitled to consider the effects of these experiments on human health, but no reference whatsoever to animal health is made. The sponsors appear never to have heard of Veterinary Science. Nor have they referred to the need to do experiments on animals to educate students in the medical sciences.
At this point I would appeal to whatever residue of common sense remains 996 (at this current nadir of our fortunes) among those capable of providing the nation with that almost evanescent quality, political insight into the laws of cause and effect. Your Lordships are aware of tax havens. Your Lordships are aware of passport havens. Your Lordships have heard of flags of convenience. And every one of them is due to over-legislation of one kind or another. Do your Lordships want to set up a vivisectionist haven?—a straight question. It will probably be in Japan. Dogs are scavengers in Japan and their natural increase has to be kept down, so every year so many tens or hundreds of thousands of dogs have to be put down. It is cheaper for the City Fathers of Tokyo to give them away. And recipients do pretty beastly things to dogs in Japan by way of experiment. There is no Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 there. There is no Home Office Inspecorate there.
Is this because the Japanese are beastly? No, my Lords, not at all. They are not beastly; they are probably just Buddhists. I wonder if anyone opposed to animal experimentation has ever tried to argue the pros and cons with a Buddhist. I am hoping somebody is going to interrupt me and say that he has. But since not, well, let me tell those opposed to animal experimentaiton that they have not even begun their education into the nature of counter-productive activities. The suffering animal in Buddhist philosophy may, for all one knows, be purging its Karma of some sin of cruelty in an earlier and higher incarnation, while the animal experimenter may be purging his Karma of failure to exercise moral responsibility in incarnations likewise gone by. How on earth does a Committee of Moral Reference propose to resolve basic differences such as that? What if somebody comes along with an experiment and says, "Your criteria are invalid. I am a Buddhist"? You cannot make something morally right or morally wrong by voting on it. No representative Committee of Moral Reference could ever agree on anything. It could do so only if it was unrepresentative.
We in Britain have probably got the most highly developed system of ethical control over experiments on animals of any country in the world. It is up to others to follow us, not up to us to scrap 997 what we have and institute something new and untried but which foreseeably sins against common sense and will make the overall situation worse and not better. There is a current trend to believe that something new, however untried, must inevitably be better than something traditional, however well proven. So we come to the Bill's attempts to stop the setting up of vivisectionist havens; we come to Clause 2(2). Anyone procuring or participating in the performance abroad of an experiment that would be refused a certificate under this Bill forfeits his licence in this country indefinitely. My Lords, since when have British subjects been convicted for acts locally legal and done outside the jurisdicition of British courts? What is "to participate"? What is "to procure" in these circumstances? Where does a right of appeal lie, since there is nothing under the Bill which permits any lesser sentence to be imposed? It is life forfeiture of one's qualification for one's professional career.
In terms of these criteria, I would appeal to every Member of your Lordships' House to cast this Bill into outer darkness by such a majority that the subject is removed for a long time to come from the sphere of moral eccentricity, thereby providing time to deal with matters wherewith your Lordships are more genuinely interested and concerned, namely, consideration of the Royal Commission Report on the Act of 1876 and matters arising therefrom. It seems to me monstrous that on this subject we have Private Members' Bills galore to the utter waste of your Lordships' time, while the Royal Commission Report on the same subject goes unattended to. It was debated in the other place in 1971, and I seem to remember that the late Lord Silkin put down an Unstarred Question on it in January, 1970, four years ago, but nothing came of it. This subject is too complex to be left to Private Members' Bills, and the present one bungles the job. I shall vote against it accordingly.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, you will be glad to know, as I am, that practically every point that I had planned to deal with has been covered by the speeches made by the noble Earl and my noble friend Lord Colville. I was chairman of 998 a pharmaceutical group of companies, but I was pensioned off in 1965, since when I have had nothing to do with it. I was extremely interested in the work of the research department, and I feel that it is proper to say, and to urge upon the noble Lord, Lord Willis, to remember, that certainly in my experience researchers are as sentimental and silly over animals as I am—and that is very silly. They are very tender, and it should be borne in mind by people who promote figures such as the noble Lord gave us, of millions of experiments, that to impute any measure of cruelty to the professional people employed in these tasks, some of which are unpleasant but have to be done, is wrong.
There are two points that have not been touched upon by noble Lords who have spoken to which I should like to refer. First, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Willis, whether he can say in his reply whether Clause 3(4)(b) of the Bill will preclude the toxicology tests which are necessary in passing insulin for medicinal use. Under the Bill too, a very large increase in the number of veterinary officers will be necessary. My mind goes to the Unstarred Question which my noble friend Lord Balerno has down for the day after tomorrow suggesting that we are already very short of veterinary officers. It will be interesting to hear how that shortage is to be overcome if the Bill passes through Parliament. Another point to which I should like to draw attention is the clause which provides for Members of Parliament, and others, to have free access and to bear away copies of possibly confidential and valuable reports. What price patent protection there? How could patent protection, which is so valuable in providing the resources for pharmaceutical research, be protected if anybody could come and pick up reports and take them away? There was one other figure that worried me, and that was the noble Lord's statement that 82 per cent. of the experiments carried out were done without anæthetic. Of course they do not always need an anesthetic. Does the noble Lord realise that every time you put a rabbit on a diet it is an experiment? The prick of an ear for drawing a drop of blood is another experiment.
I would conclude by recalling as a matter of interest that when the 1876 Act was only some 30 or 40 years old 999 I was involved in animal experimentation. I was brought up by a professor of physiology, and in the country we were sent half litters of puppies. I was only nine or ten at this time. We used to measure and record the diet and the hours of sunshine to which these puppies were exposed, and they were then sent back to the laboratory and examined. The result of these researches was that the causative factors of rickets came to be discovered, and it was not long before vitamins became a common word, though they had not been heard of previously. I shall not take up any more of your Lordships' time because there are names on the list after mine of men highly experienced and far more knowledgeable than I am. I look forward to hearing, or certainly reading (because I do really want a bite of supper) what they say.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ LORD PORRITT
My Lords, it already seems obvious that we have only to cross the t's and dot the i's. It is obvious that the motivation of this Bill is to limit, so far as is humanly possible, infliction of pain on animals in medical research. Who would quarrel with that objective? It is the method of implementing that objective that seems to be causing all the trouble. I would entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that this Bill does not begin to achieve that objective. It is not helped at all by a series of horror stories. I speak as one who has seen much in the way of animal experimentation and have admired it greatly, and all of it has been done under this excellent Act of 1876, the Cruelty to Animals Act. In the dim and distant past I myself held a number of the licences and certificates issued under that Act. It may seem therefore that I am automatically biased, but I can assure your Lordships' that this is not so. I should like to mention one point that has not been raised yet, and I do so having seen a great many research laboratories and worked in some many years ago. Although we have this national trait of being animal lovers, I suggest that one would find more animal lovers in a research laboratory than in any similar sample outside. They may occasionally be casual, but cruel—never.
My Lords, this old Act—the 1876 Act —has worked for nearly 100 years and 1000 it is working well to-day, yet we are asked to repeal it, and, it is stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, to replace it with a modern code—redefining conditions for research. To my mind there is one thing that this Bill does not do, and that is to define anything. Terms such as "discomforting experiments" and "pain certificates" are surely as airy-fairy as any terminology could be. The definition of "distress" in Schedule 3 is so broad as to necessitate almost every experiment likely to be performed requiring a "pain certificate".
I think that the Bill, in comparison with the old Act, is notable for its glaring omissions. It contains some most astonishing suggestions that it would seem highly impracticable to implement; and then, at the end of it all, it gives far less protection to animals and—a point that has not been mentioned—to those poor unfortunate two-legged animals, the licensees, who are now left wide open to malicious and irresponsible prosecution. This is covered in the old Act. At the same time, as we have heard, the Bill imposes so many limitations and restrictions on research work that one can only envisage a sad and frustrating brake being put on many of the experiments which have led to the medical advances of the last 50 years or more; work which has brought incalculable good to the people of this country. Many of your Lordships have been circulated with an example of this, and one has been quoted already, in which both poliomyelitis and diphtheria have been virtually wiped out in this country, entirely as a result of animal experimentation. This new Bill would virtually preclude all toxological studies required by the 1961 Medicines Act—the testing of the safety and efficiency of all medicinal compounds. This is surely a most impossible thing to suggest. To all intents and purposes, pharmaceutical research would by this Bill be brought to a standstill.
Perhaps I may say one or two words about some things, most of which have already been mentioned. I must say I feel exactly the same as other noble Lords about the proposed Committee of Moral Reference (I cannot imagine what this means) which is to be responsible for the issue of every certificate and pleasure to know the right reverend 1001 Prelate the Bishop of London for a considerable number of years, but I imagine that if he has read this Bill he must quail at the thought of chairing a Committee constituted as this one would be, virtually without any help from the scientific, medical, veterinary or animal husbandry professions. There is another point about that Committee which I think is worth mentioning. The chosen members of that Committee, before accepting membership, must have pledged themselves to consider only experiments of "significant benefit to human welfare". How on earth can any Committee, least of all that one, make decisions of that sort? The members are not qualified so to do. Note, too, that in stressing human welfare no mention is made in the Bill of animal welfare—a point which I think has been mentioned already. Again, this unfortunate Committee is to be asked, before agreeing to any particular experiment, to consider theefficiency and availability of alternative techniques".No wonder it has been suggested that this committee should be chaired by a right reverend Prelate! Supernatural powers would certainly be required for this Committee to arrive at the necessary decisions.
In saying this, my Lords—and more seriously—I am well aware that methods alternative to animal experimentation do exist and have in recent years been increasingly developed. Such methods involve, chiefly, the use of cell, tissue and organ cultures in vitro. But to ask this Committee to make decisions of this sort is quite impossible; it is just nonsense. It is a very highly scientific and currently very controversial matter. I would, however, mention the suggestion of the National Anti-Vivisection Society to set up an institute in this country, under the aegis of the Medical Research Council, to investigate the value and the feasibility of such alternative methods. This is a practical and constructive idea, and is not prohibitive, as is the Bill we are considering.
Returning to the Bill itself, my Lords, its provisions seem to limit everything, so far as I can see. No provision is made, as in the 1876 Act, for experimentation in the field of prolonging life; and, as has already been stressed—and very importantly stressed—the basic biological and 1002 physiological investigation from which so much of value comes directly and indirectly is excluded from this Bill although it exists in the Act. Turn, too, to those niggling restrictions, as we have already heard, to be placed on experiments dealing with cosmetics, nicotine, alcohol and—this glorious term—"social drugs". I do not know what horrors are covered by that term, but I presume it is meant to cover the all too prevalent drugs of addiction. Why are these specially included? As we have already heard, the study of cosmetics is very important from a medical point of view, not only in the question of skin cancers but in that of a mass of allergies—things which make experimentation with cosmetics essential. I would suggest that anything which can throw any light on the problems of smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction is not to be thrown away lightly.
Nobody has yet mentioned the poor, unfortunate Secretary of State, but he comes into this Bill as well. Not only has he to produce an annual report, which I suppose is fair enough with his statisticians, but he would also have to give an evaluation of the benefits accruing from such experiments during the year. How can a Secretary of State, with the best will in the world, or even the best staff in the world, possibly deal with a problem of that size or of that importance? The licences now might take up to six weeks to produce; they used to take a week. Again, the applications for licences would, under the Bill, need to be countersigned by a university professor (description unspecified) and by a colleague (academic status, nature of work and experience unstated), in place of the previous signatures of the President of the Royal College and that of a medical professor. Comparisons are very often odious, my Lords; and that is, I think, obvious.
When we come to the question of the inspection of registered premises, we learn in Clause 5 that they are to be carried out at irregular intervals and without notice four times a month—that is to say, weekly —and by inspectors (veterinarians only; no medical men to be allowed, as under the 1876 Act) appointed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—not the Department, as was previously the case. I bow to no one in my respect and admiration for the R.S.P.C.A., but if this is not a biased 1003 decision I do not know what is. And what a vastly increased flock of inspectors would be needed! If my mathematics are right, the number will be eightfold. In the earlier part of our activities to-day we heard of the lamentable shortage of veterinary surgeons throughout the country. Finally, my Lords, there are those astonishing clauses which are to give permission to any Member of either House of Parliament, first, to see any application for animal experimentation and, second, to enter, inspect and obtain the the records of any registered experimental centre. One's mind boggles at the thought of a posse of your Lordships breaking into a laboratory to observe the exposed "innards" of an unfortunate rabbit.
The need for the control of experimentation on living animals is assuredly not in question, but I would suggest that we already have a very comprehensive and practical protection in the old Act. I should suggest that we stick to that, and that we do not accept this Bill. Change is certainly the universal law of to-day, but change for the sake of change is surely both expensive and futile.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ LORD WELLS-PESTELL
My Lords, I am in some difficulty—in fact I am in two difficulties. I understand that it is desirable that your Lordships' House should rise to-night somewhere in the region of 10 p.m. My other difficulty is that having listened to the Minister, I am not sure whether he recommended the rejection of the Bill on the ground that there is no evidence of cruelty, whether he is of the opinion that the 1876 Act is quite effective or whether, in his view, the Bill is badly drafted. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, is not in the Chamber. I wanted to say that it is seldom that I have heard a speech in your Lordships' House given with so much vehemence touched with a certain amount of impatience. I would ask noble Lords to believe that those of us who support the Bill do so because we believe that there is to-day sufficient evidence available of unnecessary cruelty practised on certain animals. It may well be that we are victims of inaccurate propaganda; nevertheless we hold our views just as sincerely as do other Members 1004 of your Lordships' House who feel that this Bill is quite unnecessary.
If there is no evidence at all of unnecessary cruelty and unnecessary suffering, I am wondering why the propaganda which has come from, if your Lordships like, anti-vivisectionist organisations, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and from some scientists and people engaged in research has gone on so consistently over the years. I am surprised that nothing has been said about it in your Lordships' House to-night. Certainly the Minister did not say that there was no cruelty, and I gathered from the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that at no stage was he saying that there was no cruelty. Therefore, some of us are of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, that unnecessary cruelty is caused to animals in a large number of experiments which take place.
I will make my point shortly in view of the time factor. I believe that valid distinctions are to be made between human and non-human animals, just as there are between adults and children. No one asks a child to cast a vote in an election for Members of Parliament because the opinion of a child does not count, even though he may have a definite opinion on several issues which he considers important. In this sense children matter less than adults. But that is not to say, my Lords, that children have no rights. The very weakness that makes the unfit to pass as equal citizens gives them the right to care and protection, and they have the right to expect it. If we consider for a moment the status of a mongol child, that child is not only unequal as a citizen but also unequal compared with other children. No one argues that because of his severely limited intelligence a mongol child is not entitled to have his feelings considered. No one treats mongol children as if they are incapable of mental or physical suffering. No one takes this view of a human being, even if his brain is so damaged as to make him have less intelligence than a normal person; because as long as he is clearly recognisable as one of the human race people can identify with him and acknowledge how atrocious it would be to take advantage of his simple mentality and to inflict pain upon him. 1005 Because he is a human we do not consider that because he cannot use words to protect himself he is not entitled to consideration.
Many of us take the view that animals, like grossly defective humans, lack intelligence and cannot use words. When that has been said there is little to distinguish them from humans. They are capable of intense happiness and of intense unhappiness. The animals most commonly used in research, rodents, primates, dogs and cats, are all capable of great affection and devotion to mankind and, to a limited degree, they even show that to their fellow creatures. Animals can suffer anxiety, fear and disappointment as we can. Animals can suffer frustration as can an imprisoned man; except that the imprisoned man may console himself by reading a book or even by speculating on the meaning of his wretched existence. Beyond all shadow of doubt, animals fear pain, and there is no reason to suppose that they apprehend it any differently from the way in which we humans do.
Perhaps all this is sentimental nonsense, but a distinguished zoologist and a Fellow of the Royal Society, G. J. Romains certainly did not agree. In his book Animal Intelligence he described how a baboon comforted another companion when it was in pain and did not know what to do. It was my intention to quote exactly what he said but perhaps your Lordships will take it from me that he made it absolutely clear that there was what he would call a human reaction on the part of the baboon to its unfortunate companion. I think the claim of animals to be treated as creatures having the power of perception has always been recognised, not only by human scientists like Romains, but by a good number of ordinary people: and I hope that we shall continue to do this.
As animal experimentation is practised to-day, some men treat animals as if they were mechanisms, and think no more of inflicting appalling injuries on animals than they would think twice about opening the bonnet of a car and tinkering with the engine. I am not saying that animals matter more than people; but I do say that they matter, and certainly matter more than some of the things we do. Though their rights 1006 are not identical with human rights, they nevertheless have some rights in a moral society. I suggest that an animal has the right not to be tortured, and, so far, nothing has been said in this debate that some animals are not tortured.
The Bill before the House does not prevent the use of animals or the killing of animals. I am not going to contend that in our society the animal has the absolute right to life, but I do contend that it has the right not to be made to suffer extreme pain and distress. I would remind your Lordships that Clause 3 of the Bill states quite definitely the conditions subject to which certificates may be granted, limiting their issue to experiments having a legitimate medical purpose. The Bill does not do away with animal experimentation altogether, but it limits it to experiments which have a definite medical significance.
There are many things which I should have liked to say in support of this Bill, but bearing in mind that there are a number of other speakers and, as I say, there seems to be a time limit on our debate to-night, I would ask those of your Lordships who are exercised in your minds with regard to this Bill to look at it carefully. We have been told that there have been no prosecutions under the 1876 Act. Can we honestly and sincerely say to ourselves that there has been no cause for proceedings? Is not the truth that no proceedings have been brought for the simple reason that there have not been enough people to see that the Act is enforced? In view of all the propaganda that has gone on in this country for so many years by organisations and individuals who are concerned to see that animals are not treated cruelly, I cannot believe that there has not been any cruelty. I would ask the Minister whether he is asking this House to believe that there have been no prosecutions under that Act for the simple reason that there has been no cruelty. I hope your Lordships will look at the Bill carefully and come to the conclusion that it should have a Second Reading, so that we can take steps to see that the cruelty which is administered, sometimes needlessly, ceases in the future.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HANWORTH
My Lords. I think I can keep my speech to under five minutes. I should like at the outset 1007 to make my attitude clear before discussing the Bill. I believe that, on balance, we are justified in using animals for testing drugs and for essential research, but within strict limits and to the minimum reasonable extent. In my view, it is only in extreme cases that some actions can be classed as black or white, and that in fact many of them are grey. I rather ascribe that colour to experiments with animals. It therefore follows that, whereas experiments with animals must continue, in my view we should make efforts to reduce them to what is essential, and not to tolerate painful experiments to satisfy scientific curiosity where that sometimes masquerades as justified research.
There are obvious areas where one might cut down the need for this vast amount of animal experimentation, and I consider quantity and quality are of some importance, if viewed from my own philosophical standpoint. It is highly questionable whether it is necessary for the drug firms to-day to produce as many similar types of drug as they do. This is a constant criticism, and one which I am perfectly certain is valid: we have nad debates on this subject before. Therefore, I would consider it unjustified, unless there is some opportunity of producing a worthwhile new drug, to produce one that is just marginally different. Again, where possible, we might make greater use of cells. Also, I am not entirely happy about what may go on masquerading under pure research, or about how efficient the periodic inspection may be. I simply cannot accept the view that anybody making an Act nearly 100 years ago can have had such prescience that the Act continues to work perfectly to-day. My Lords, that is a quite unacceptable proposition.
What I believe we should do is to grasp the nettle to see whether we can make some improvements where they seem to be necessary. I do not believe that this Report, which was made in 1965 and contained a large number of recommendations, can have been wholly wrong. In fact, it was considered to be a very well-balanced Report. The plain facts are, of course, that this is a subject which no Government, of whatever colour, really like to grasp, and if they can possibly avoid doing anything about it, they will. But I feel it is time that we made some limited improvements in the old Act. 1008 What really worries me—and I think it is a terrible pity—is that we should have before us tonight a Bill which is so extreme that many, if not most, of us cannot possibly accept it. We have lost an opportunity to strike a blow for the animals, and perhaps also for making improvements which would be possible, by putting forward a Bill which is so extreme that it has no hope of getting substantial support. If I possibly could, I would vote for a Second Reading of this Bill; but I really cannot. I must say once again to those who are really keen on this, that it is an area where a more moderate approach is likely to produce something far more beneficial. There are areas where extremists do succeed in getting something useful done by their extremism. I am quite sure this is not an area where that applies, and I feel that this is a lost and wasted opportunity.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, 9.25 on a Monday evening hardly seems the right moment to make a speech except one of considerable brevity—and that is what I shall try to do. The Bill we are discussing has no doubt been motivated by the sincerest of reasons. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, I feel that there are many of us who would like to see some improvements in an Act which is 97 years old. I rise to speak only because my family and I have had an interest in the medical profession—not a financial one, I may say—for many years.
I have in fact been round and visited a number of pharmaceutical companies both here and on the Continent, and have seen for myself some of these experiments which are performed on animals. My Lords, we are all animal lovers. I have lived, as many of your Lordships have done, with dogs for a good deal of my life, and to me there is nothing more distressing than to see a dog being used for an experiment. The same goes for any other animal. Where deliberate suffering is caused, of course those responsible should be brought to book. But there are, too, human beings who suffer—from brain cancer, from cancer of the stomach, and from other malignant diseases. Some of these diseases, alas! are still incurable. But if we did not have experiments of this kind, properly conducted, the curative 1009 methods available in respect of these diseases would certainly not be on the scale they are to-day.
I have seen, in a number of pharmaceutical companies in this country, places where the animals are kept, as well as the experiments concerned. I believe that the Home Office inspectorate do a very good job in the close watch which they keep on this work. Of course, they can inspect at any time and without notice. So far as I know, it is open to any Member of either House of Parliament, by arrangement, to visit one of these establishments, and there is nothing to hide. In fact, I believe that it is the duty of Members of another place who have pharmaceutical companies and other such places in their constituencies to visit these places. And if, in the course of such visits, they see or hear about malpractices, by all means let these come to light. The present Bill does not really legislate for this. The present Bill merely puts a damper on research in this country and on those devoted people who carry out this research, and thus cut down, and we hope will in time cut out, the number of malignant diseases that still occur. For those reasons, and with some reluctance, I feel that this Bill should proceed no further.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ LORD STAMP
My Lords, in intervening in this debate to-day as an ex-professor of bacteriology and licence holder for nearly forty years, there are two feelings uppermost in my mind. On the one hand, I fully understand the motives behind the sponsors of this Bill who are deeply concerned to limit the infliction of pain and distress in animals used for experimental work, but who, I believe, are equally and, one would hope, even more concerned to alleviate human suffering from disease in all its manifold forms, and also suffering in the long term in animals.
On the other hand, I completely fail to comprehend, as other noble Lords have said, how anyone could really believe how these objectives could be furthered by the provisions of this Bill. Indeed, in seeking to abolish the 1876 Act, and to establish an entirely new organisation for the supervision and control of all animal experiments, its supporters would, it 1010 would seem to me, be passing a vote of no confidence in the Home Office, its inspectors, and all concerned in the implementation of that Act who have, over many years, on the whole maintained a balance between all the complex issues involved. Of course there is always room for improvement, as I am sure they would be the first to admit. There would have to be overwhelming reasons for so doing before your Lordships supported such a drastic step as the Bill envisages. In what I have to say, while I hope I can make one or two additional points—and it is rather doubtful in view of the number of points that noble Lords who have already spoken have raised—I should like to emphasise some of those that have already been made, particularly by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. Some points merit repetition and may gain in effect if they are put in a slightly different way. I hope that I shall not detain your Lordships too long at this late stage of the proceedings.
The basic problem is the complete, or almost complete, inability of the layman, without any medical, veterinary or biological knowledge, to understand the purpose behind many medical animal experiments, and how essential they are if there is to be any progress in a particular field. This would apply with particular force to the Committee of Moral Reference which, as has been said repeatedly, need not contain a single member with any medical or biological knowledge and, if it did, these would be a small minority. Much would doubtless be said before that Committee advocating methods not involving the use of animals, such as cell, organ or tissue-culture techniques, to which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has already referred. It is essential that one should go into that subject for a few moments in this debate.
While much progress has been made in such fields, and they are undoubtedly a valuable adjunct to research for certain purposes, few, if any, with any basic scientific training in the fields we are discussing could possibly believe that they could be anything more than that, at least in the foreseeable future, though I should be the last to suggest that they should not be investigated as fully as possible. Can anyone, for example, really maintain that tissue-culture methods 1011 could reproduce the conditions necessary to demonstrate the toxic effects of thalidomide on the fœtus which have been demonstrated in only two animal species, apart from man; namely, the monkey and the rabbit, and then only at a certain limited stage of pregnancy. The fact of the matter is that had more, rather than less, animal experimentation been carried out, that tragedy—which shook the conscience of the world—might have been avoided. If even the scientists were caught out, how could any unqualified person presume to pass judgment on what was a justifiable or unjustifiable series of toxicity tests?
Tissue-culture techniques may be of some value in studying the cause of various forms of cancer, but can anyone with any knowledge of the subject seriously believe that they can be made to reproduce all the complex factors that contribute to producing this most baffling of diseases? Nor is large-scale animal experimentation work essential only in investigating the cause of disease and in testing therapeutic agents for toxicity; it is equally vital for the development of methods for prevention and cure. All your Lordships will be familiar with the near miracle vaccination against poliomyelitis that has almost entirely removed from our midst a dreaded scourge, particularly of the young; one that might have afflicted our own children. This was only made possible through experiments involving large numbers of monkeys, many of which I suspect would never have received the approval of the proposed new Morality Committee. How many sufferers from diabetes owe their lives to the work of Banting and Best, carried out on dogs?
Animals are also used to a large scale for the diagnosis of certain diseases and, in the public health field, for the control of infection. Even these aspects represent only a part of animal experimentation carried out in this country that would be adversely affected by the Bill. Physiological and other biological experiments designed to extend knowledge in these fields which may, even though indirectly, be of profound importance in advancing knowledge of human disease are excluded from the Bill. For example, neurophysiology may well be of the greatest importance in the investigation 1012 of that tragic and dread disease multiple sclerosis, though the direct connection may not be fully evident.
If this Bill were to become law, what a sad thing it would be for a great British scientific tradition in physiology, established by such famous Nobel Prizewinners as Sherrington, Dale and Adrian, the last named of whom we are so pleased to have with us here this evening, who have brought great honour to our country! Are we voluntarily to relegate our country to the "has been" in this vitally important field of human progress? I refuse to believe it.
For some extraordinary reason, as has already been pointed out, a reason which is quite incomprehensible in view of the solicitude expressed for animals, veterinary research and the need to benefit animal welfare are also conspicuous by their absence. As has been said, these are to be no concern of the Committee of Moral Reference, judging from Clause 3 which makes no reference to them. If this Bill becomes law, we should, for example, be unable to carry out further research in such fields as rabies, of particular concern to dog lover and doctor alike. In fact it would seem that veterinary research in this country, including its agricultural and bloodstock aspects, might just as well pack up—a fact that may give considerable concern to many of your Lordships. So much for some of the vital aspects of animal research which the Bill fails to provide for.
Unfortunately, in its positive proposals it is no less open to criticism. I and other noble Lords have already referred to the shortcomings of the composition of the Committee that it is intended should take over the responsibilities of the Home Office. Incidentally, I question the applicability of the name of the proposed Committee, implying that it is to be a guardian of morality. The first point to which I should like to make reference, to which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has already referred, relates to Clause 22 which states:any person procuring or participating in the performance abroad of an experiment that would be refused a certificate under this Act shall be likewise disentitled "—that is, to hold a licence. My Lords, I do not see how it would be possible to enforce this and, if it were possible, it would mean that a very large number of 1013 research workers wishing to come to this country to pursue their work would be automatically prevented from doing so. As one who has had many such coming to my department from overseas, I feel this would be an impossible situation.
To turn to the conditions under which the Committee of Moral Reference would authorise a pain certificate, it is stated in Clause 3 (4) (a):no severe pain or distress shall be caused deliberately.What does this mean? As I understand it, no experiment would be permitted if there is a likelihood that it would cause severe pain or distress. If this is so, it might be held to include many vital fields of animal research, depending on the definition of the word "severe". How does one define it? The noble Lord, Lord Willis, has underlined this difficulty. But if such an interpretation can be excluded and it is intended to ensure that only the primary intention should not be to cause severe pain or distress, this is an insult to all engaged in experimental work on animals. They are responsible persons and not perverted little boys inflicting pain just for the sake of it.
The same implication is apparent in Clause 3 (4) (b), where it says:no greater pain or distress shall be caused than is requisite to effect the purpose of the experiment".In this paragraph, which also deals with toxicity tests, anyone who has any experience in this field would know that such step-by-step testing as is laid down would be quite impracticable — particularly when the toxic effect may be delayed and large numbers of substances are under test, as in the safety testing of drugs. So far as the stipulation in Clause 3 (5) is concerned, that the pain certificates must be applied for at least six weeks before they are required, an indefinite number of blank certificates would have to be issued in advance if a large part of diagnostic work involving animals was not to be brought to a halt.
Turning to Clause 5, dealing with the inspection of research centres, subsection (1) states that every registered centre should be visited not less than four times a month by veterinary inspectors, and with the increase in the number of inspectors that this would involve this is really going too far. Even if they could 1014 be recruited, the expense would be quite unjustifiable. As I said, I have held a licence for many years, and having been concerned with experimental work my mind boggles, as the noble Lord, Lord Porritt, said, at the implications of subsection (2) of this clause. An unheralded visit from the honourable Member for Much Quizzing, or perhaps even the great honour of one on a busy morning from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, acting in the capacity proposed for him, would be liable to drive you round the bend. If the visit of an M.P. or other lay person is to be worth while, it must involve a large amount of time on the part of the experimenter being given up to explaining, as far as possible in non-technical language, the objective of the experiment and the need to use animals and possibly inflict considerable pain or distress in order to obtain the desired information. Even then the visitor with no special knowledge could hardly be expected to grasp it all and would certainly not be in a position to pass judgment on the necessity or lack of it for the experiment he had witnessed. The fact of the matter is that the inspection of such work is not a matter for Members of your Lordships' House or of another place, but solely one for qualified professional inspectors who are doing the job very effectively under the present system and who from experience know what to look out for.
What a prospect, though, for animal experimenters throughout the country to look forward to if this Bill were ever to become law. One undoubted effect would be to drive many of them abroad, as has already been said, where regulations would not be so strict—an exodus which would be to the great detriment of medical and veterinary research in this country. I simply cannot believe that your Lordships will agree to give further consideration to this Bill, based as it is on false premises and open to serious criticism on practically every point of detail. On the other hand, I feel that this debate will have served a useful purpose in reminding all experimenters of their great responsibilities in this field. The overall aims of vivisectionists and anti-vivisectionists alike are surely the same—the alleviation of human and animal suffering and disease and the acquisition of knowledge to that end by the most effective means.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, before I begin, may I say that I think it is a great pity that this very important debate should be taken at this time of night when the House is virtually empty. I should have thought that something a little less important could have been tucked into to-day and this Bill relegated to another day. However, be that as it may.
I am going to support the Second Reading of this Bill, but with certain very grave reservations. I support it because I know the noble Lord, Lord Willis, well enough to know that his motives are entirely genuine and sincere and that if there is anything wrong in the Bill it is probably simply because he has been badly briefed. I do not know who has been responsible, what organisation or society has given him the information that he has received, but he quoted in his opening speech some very sweeping allegations against totally unnecessary and irresponsible experiments. It would be interesting to know where he got those allegations from; and may I say that if anybody hears of experiments such as those, their first duty is to go to the police and report them with some evidence that they have actually seen them.
I dislike experiments on animals, as I think do all responsible research workers and, as I know, does the noble Lord himself. But I also dislike human suffering, and I have seen enough of it to know that it can be every bit as horrible as any suffering we may see in animals. Therefore I feel that anything that will check the research that is necessary to eliminate that suffering should be very carefully looked at.
I should like first of all to refer to the Committee of Moral Reference in Schedule 1. I am entirely in favour of having the Bishop of London, particularly the present holder of that Office, as the Chairman of this Committee. He will make an excellent, entirely impartial chairman, which is what is wanted; but the composition of the rest of the Committee seems to be to be utterly unrealistic. They are all highly respected eminent men in their own walks of life, but I very much doubt whether any one of them will have the faintest idea as to (a) whether experiment is necessary for 1016 medical research, or (b) whether or not it is causing pain. I think we want on the Committee people with expert medical and veterinary knowledge. This is a matter that I think could be put right in Committee. In fact, I think that all the objections which I am going to make to-night can be put right in Committee; and that is why I support the Second Reading.
My Lords, paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 says that experimentsinvolving procedures or suffering of the type mentioned in the third schedule to this Act should be permissible if, and only if, a significant benefit to human welfare could be expected to result from their performance.What is a "significant benefit to human welfare"? I do not think it is generally known—in fact it was not known to me until a few days ago—that by far the majority of experiments on animals are made, not to produce some new substance, but to test the quality of some already known substance which is coming on to the market. I believe—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that an instance of this is insulin which varies very much in its strength—or so I understand. Some are extremely strong, some extremely weak. It has to be tested on a live animal before it can be put on the market. That is an important point. Surely that drug is of significant benefit to mankind.
Clause 3(3) mentions alternative methods. Tissue cultures have been mentioned already. They are, I suppose, among the most prominent of alternative methods. Tissue cultures are very good and are much used for certain things but only to a very limited degree, because the tissue is only a part of the human body. A substance may be tested upon tissue and produce no reaction at all, but when it is tested on the whole body it may produce a violent reaction. Therefore tissue culture is no use except for materials which purely affect the tissue.
Another great objection to the Bill is that there is no provision for veterinary science. It has already been mentioned to-night that rabies has been practically exterminated in this country by means of animal experiments, and surely we want our pet animals to live in as healthy a condition as our fellow human beings. It has also been said that the Bill could drive research into other countries where there is less protection for animals than 1017 exists here. I think this point needs careful thought. Of course one might say that simply because other people are doing wrong, that is no reason why we should not do right. On the other hand, I think one must ask oneself whether we are trying to protect all animals or merely trying to protect those which are at present resident in the United Kingdom. Surely it should be all animals. Therefore, we do not want to drive research abroad because there will be far less protection for them there than there is here.
I should like to mention Clause 5, which deals with the inspection of registered premises—four times a month or once a week. There are 600 registered premises for research in this country. One will have to recruit a new army if it is intended to visit them all once a week. I think four times a year would be entirely adequate. I should like to see something done to ensure that experiments which are carried out are not irresponsible and are not unnecessarily painful. I do not think many of them are, because I think that research workers are responsible people who have as much consideration for causing pain as we have. Therefore I think the noble Lord should really stop and consider whether he is not putting too hard a brake on research, action which is, after all, going to cause a good deal of difficulty in the medical world. I sincerely hope, therefore, that he will accept such Amendments as I hope to put down for the Committee stage, if we have one. I think that provided we consider it thoroughly we could make it a workable Bill.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Somers, a question? The noble Lord said that he approved the appointment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London as Chairman of this Committee. Does he realise the intense resentment in Scotland against such an appointment? The Church of England does not affect Scotland; the Church of England communicants and bishops are dissenters in Scotland. If the noble Lord wishes to realign the balance, the Committee would have to include with the Lord Bishop of London the Moderator of the Edinburgh Presbytery.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ LORD BROCK
My Lords, I had composed a fairly long speech, but in view of the late hour I will only say, as shortly as possible, what I feel has abundantly emerged from our debate. I suppose I could decline to say anything, but I feel it would be improper of me to say nothing.
I should like to indicate my support for the Act of 1876 and for those who administer it so well. Also, I would like to comment on the present Advisory Committee which exists to judge any doubtful matter that the Home Office wish to refer to it, and which I think is a very satisfactory Committee—in contrast, of course, to the Committee on Moral Welfare which has been proposed and which has an entirely unacceptable composition. I wish to emphasise again the point already brought out, that the members cannot possibly understand what they face. Particularly I would suspect that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has no idea what amount of work this would involve. It would certainly allow him and his successors no time to conduct their episcopal duties. They could manage only part of the work if they acted as a rubber stamp. One would have to think up an alternative organisation that would supplant the present Home Office organisation and that excellent panel of advisers with presidents from learned societies and Royal colleges who do the main mass of work. I find it impossible to conceive of an organisation that would be equal to and certainly superior to that.
There is no provision in the Bill for any veterinary research or any improvement of animal welfare, which to me is quite incomprehensible in the case of people who declare their interest in animal welfare in relation to research projects. There are many other equally unacceptable details, but I will not go into those. They have already been stressed. Briefly I would say that the Bill is unwise, badly framed and totally unacceptable.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I am sure noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I have completely scrapped my speech. However, I would like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who is such a distinguished scientist, one or two questions. He quite rightly said that dolphins, which belong to the whale family, are extremely intelligent animals. In fact I have known of a case where a dolphin was run over by a boat; he was stunned and the other dolphins tried to keep him on the surface. The noble Earl said, and I am quoting from memory, why did not the people who sponsored this Bill worry about dolphins kept in dolphinariums where, as he said quite rightly, the dolphins live only for about five years on average, whereas in their natural state they might live for 30 years, certainly for 25.
May I quote a paragraph from a Mr. Richard Ryder, senior clinical psychologist at Warneford Hospital, Oxford. He is talking about monkeys, baboons and rats that were kept for research, and he says:My first experience of an animal laboratory was when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge. They were kept for weeks and months before they underwent brain surgery—usually in small single cages about 2 foot by 3 foot,…living upon wire mesh, deprived of exercise, their lives devoid of any normal pleasure. Usually they could not be allowed any natural contact with others of their species, and their diet, never varying from day to day, consisted of dry proprietary pellets.They are kept in cages a fraction of the size that the most impecunious zoo would be allowed to keep animals in. The noble Earl was complaining about dolphins being kept in a small area. When there are monkeys kept in these cages, only 2 feet by 3 feet, for months on end, it seems rather odd that the noble Earl should complain about dolphins. But I quite agree that dolphins are not being experimented on for, presumably, human benefit.
Before I finish, I should like to ask the scientists this question. With due respect, I do not want to be rude but I thought they showed slight arrogance in this debate. I am not going to argue on the medical side. If it is a fact that animals have to be experimented on to preserve and to help human beings, then, provided that it is done as humanely as possible, that is all right. But where I cannot agree is when it comes to the non- 1020 medical aspect, cosmetics in the non-medical meaning, the psychological experiments. Because, so far as I know, no psychologist is a doctor, a medical man, and presumably they are allowed to experiment on animals without proper medical training. The other thing I cannot understand is why, if it is desired to find out the toxicity of some poison like weedkiller or detergent, the animals have to be dosed and dosed with these poisons—weedkillers, detergents, colouring material, or whatever it is—until they die. I would have thought surely it is enough to dose the animal until it is ill. Why is it necessary to dose it until it dies? Presumably all that is needed is to know when an adverse effect is reached. I do not have any sympathy with scientists when it comes to trying out pesticides and weedkillers. I think there ought to be some other means of testing these materials other than causing agony to animals. After all, we are all animals; we are primates. We call ourselves homo sapients and we by so doing rather try to distinguish ourselves from the animals. In my opinion, we may all be homo but I do not think we are all sapiens.
I would end by saying that I appreciate the noble Lord's action in bringing in this Bill. His motives are excellent. The Bill is very widely drawn, and it will be a pity if it does not get a Second Reading. If it gets a Second Reading, it can be very widely amended. I hope the Home Office will at some time do something about causing pain to animals just to prove the strength of a weedkiller, or the toxic content of bread colouring OT of a dye for colouring smoked fish. To test animals and cause pain for such purposes is highly immoral. Having said that, I will now sit down because I know the Whips want to close the debate.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, the noble Viscount has asked me a rather protracted question. If I may, I will compress it slightly in order to accelerate our debate. He asked why I talked about dolphins instead of primates, and the answer is because the Bill legislated for primates instead of dolphins.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, that was brief, and I shall try to be likewise. I 1021 have been a licence holder for many years; as Professor of Medicine I have signed hundreds of applications for certificates for research on animals; as President of the Royal College I have countersigned them; as a member of the Medical Research Council have come into contact with this, and finally, I have been a member of the Advisory Committee to the Home Office which was established by the Act of 1876. I am quite sure that everything the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said to us is correct. The 1876 Act was absolutely inspired. It has worked extraordinarily well. The regulations for animal experimentation are far better in this country than in any other country in the world. That is not to say that there could not be improvements.
I always feel with animal experiments that I dislike them intensely, and I wish they did not have to be done. I always feel on the side of the animals. With that, I have asked myself very sincerely whether I could possibly support this Bill to a Second Reading in order that we might, by amending it drastically in Committee, get something of an improvement. But I can see nothing in this Bill that improves on the 1876 Act. I can see a great many things that are not nearly so good. Therefore I cannot argue myself into that position. I do not know whether the noble Viscount is going to reply on behalf of the Government, but I should like to know why this Government and, if you like, the previous Government, have done nothing whatsoever about the Littlewood Report. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred to it as the Royal Commission, but it was actually a Departmental Committee. Why has nothing been done about this? That Report states quite clearly that the 1876 Act has been very good, that on the whole the situation is good, that scientists doing animal experiments are responsible people, that the inspectorate works excellently though it needs strengthening; and then the Report makes 83 recommendations, of which no fewer than 48 need legislation. I hope that my figures are correct.
This Report has been allowed to lie on the table, and it is a very great pity, because the 1876 Act needs amendment to bring it up to date in a number of ways. I can well imagine why the Report has been shelved. Successive Governments 1022 have said, "Well, after all, things are not really bad in this area. This is something that can wait until next month, or next year, or the year after; or to the next Government". So it goes on being shelved. I suggest to the Government that the time has now come for some responsible people to look into the Littlewood Report, read it carefully, and see what simple acts of legislation would improve matters.
All I will add is that, as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Home Office, I was not entirely happy. I quite often disagreed with my scientific colleagues about the severity of certain proposed experiments—because it was of course only the difficult and severe ones that were referred to us. I think that we should have a reconstituted Committee, on the lines suggested by the Littlewood Report, and it should meet much more frequently. I would not require it to meet once a fortnight for no particular reason, but if it met even four times a year, instead of once in three or four years, it would be a great improvement. I also think the Committee should discuss very much more, not only the problems which are brought to their notice by the inspectors but general problems of policy; and whether, for instance, it is right to keep cats and dogs in quite small cages—and monkeys, too—which is something I absolutely loathe. Those matters of general principle a really active Committee, meeting frequently, could discuss, and in those respects, I think, could do a lot of good.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for not putting down my name for this debate, but I want to say one or two words on it because in the City of Edinburgh we have a very large research institution and they would like their opinions to be known. May I say to the noble Lord who has just sat down —and I do not want to be patronising—that I think his speech was the most substantial contribution to this debate that I have listened to to-day—because noble Lords in all parts of the House have had their opinions. One of the lessons I have learned in your Lordships' House is that the language does not differ very much from that in another place. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord 1023 Auckland, say that he had only two words to express and he took five minutes to express them. That was exceeded only by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who had one word which took him seven minutes to say. This is the kind of language we used to use in another place.
My Lords, what are we discussing here tonight? It is a Bill introduced by my noble friend. In fact, what is the purpose of it? To begin with, I do not much like its title, "Cruel Experiments Bill". But if my noble friend feels that there is something which must be done in this particular field, then my noble friend is entitled to introduce a Bill to do it. It so happens that I do not agree with the Bill that he has introduced, but I will always assert that he has a right to introduce it if he thinks fit. Indeed, I was a little disturbed, if I may say so, by the vehemence of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who I thought, from his most vituperative point of view, seemed to think that my noble friend did not have this right. Indeed, when he was calling in the aid of the Bible to supplement his case, I thought he was going a little too far. I felt rather like the old Scotsman who said that indeed he had a great belief in the Lord. When someone said, "And what had the minister to say in the sermon, John?", he said, "It was from the Book of Deuteronomy. I am not at all sure what it was about, but I think the minister was against it". That is a much better attitude to adopt —perhaps the noble Earl will just let me finish—than to take the line that the noble Earl took, and seek to condemn my noble friend for saying, mistakenly or not, what he was saying.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I never disputed the right of the noble Lord to introduce the Bill. I merely discriminated between his right, on the one hand, and its wise exercise, on the other. I said that this is too complex a subject for Private Members' Bills: the Government should exercise their proper responsibilities in this matter.
§ LORD HOY
My Lords, if the noble Earl wants to complain about the Government, I would agree with him; he has my full support. But, to tell the truth, the noble Earl has made so many 1024 amendments to the speech which he made originally that he had better get it drafted and submit it to me, when I will tell him whether I agree with him or not. All I say now is that I agree with the last remark he made—that he is against the Government. In that, I think he is absolutely right.
My Lords, this Bill seeks to do a job which I think might well be popular, but I would say to my noble friend who moved it that if one is going to bring in a Bill of this kind there is only one reason for doing so. The justification for the introduction of a new Bill must surely rest on demonstrating that the existing controls are inadequate. Provided one can do that one is entitled to bring in a Bill of this kind. Whatever else he might have done in introducing this Bill, I thought that my noble friend did not produce that argument, and that must be the test of any Bill of this kind. I had a long experience at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I do not like to boast about it, but I would say to your Lordships that I served as a Parliamentary Secretary in that Department longer than any other Minister in the Department's history, and in the course of my long experience I met these cases times without number.
I agree that there will be a response from any human being to any allegation of cruelty, and we all want to take steps to put it right, but if we are going to do that by legislation we have to remember that the legislation becomes legally the responsibility of everyone concerned. That is what my noble friend is asking of us tonight. I think of one small measure in the Bill, the appointment and dismissal of veterinary officers by a committee of the R.S.P.C.A. That would not be appropriate or acceptable to the profession. It is a section of the agriculture industry for which I have a great respect. The veterinary inspectors do a tremendous service. Very often they are not commended for the job they do, except when we are in trouble because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease or something of that kind. Then everyone pays tribute to their work. But when the incident is over they are forgotten. I do not think that veterinary officers would like to be at the beck and call of such a committee as would be created by my noble friend's 1025 Bill. For that and other reasons I cannot support the Bill. I think that my noble friend was right to introduce it and to ask your Lordships to debate the matter, but, having done so, I think that he would be equally right to say that he does not propose to take the Bill to the Division Lobbies.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, we have had a fairly lengthy debate and I am in a little difficulty because a number of points were raised, but I am sure that at this hour your Lordships will not expect me to answer all the points. Were I a scientist or a doctor, probably I should be able to answer a number of the points raised, but without a doctor or scientist at my elbow to advise me I do not know the answers. I am sure that there is an answer to many of the points that were raised, if only because I know that there are many distinguished doctors and scientists who take the opposite view to that expressed by some of the speakers who have opposed the Bill.
The pattern of the debate was not entirely unexpected to me. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hoy for his defence, which was not quite necessary because I am always happy to take on a scientist and I can look after myself. The pattern of the debate was summed up by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who made a brilliant speech, often quite funny. Like a dancing master, he danced all round the point without getting on it, and sometimes he confused the House with comments which indicated that he had not studied the Bill in detail. For example, the word "cosmetics" is clearly defined. There can be no mistake about what we mean by "cosmetics". What interested me most, and the point was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, was the way the noble Earl poured scorn on the amateur. He showed that we who are promoting this Bill are the woolly-minded idealists and he and his friends are the stern, practical people who, at the end of the day, are concerned with the good of humanity while we woolly-minded idealists are the reverse.
I assert strongly the right of the amateur to be heard in all matters concerned with this country: and I can talk of them on a large number of issues, not least decimalisation, where if the voice 1026 of the amateur had been listened to by some of the experts we might be a lot better off. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, mentioned a little arrogance. I thought that the arrogance was monumental. It did not surprise me a little, because it seems to me that there are two professions in this country, in particular, that suffer from this kind of insulated arrogance because they lack contact with reality and they lack contact with ordinary people: they are the scientists and, if the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will forgive me, the law.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that the two professions which have most contact with individuals and their suffering are precisely the doctor and the lawyer?
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, might it also not be possible that that is precisely why they have to keep themselves so isolated?
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, I was particularly referring to the scientists. I should be more convinced if, for once—just once—apart from the noble Lord, Lord Platt, one of the scientists got up and said "It is conceivably possible that some of the evidence, as brought forward by these woolly-minded idealists, these amateurs, is right; it is conceivably right that Helen, the animal I mentioned, was a bad case and should be looked into; there may be dozens of other cases; it is conceivably right that somebody in my profession "—says the scientist—"may at some time become de-sensitised to the suffering of animals, as men have become de-sensitised to the suffering of other men. It may conceivably be right that something is wrong and we ought to listen, and it is therefore our duty, as scientists, and the duty of our scientific organisations, to approach the Government and make proposals as to how the law of 1876 could be amended and improved."
It would be of great interest to me if that was said, instead of vague words of blessing about my motives, and saying, "He is a very sincere lad, but very mistaken", and so on. I should be much more convinced if we had a few hard, practical proposals, and less of this cutoff, stonewall arrogance which seems to suggest that "Everything is right in our 1027 world and nothing is right from outside". Why do you gentlemen think for one moment that people are screaming out, year after year, about cruelty to animals if there is no basis of truth in it? Why do you arrogate to yourselves all the moral judgments, all the rights? Why do you say, "We, and we alone, know what goes on, because we, and we alone, can understand what an experiment is for." I beg you, gentlemen, to come down from that great big pyramid on which you place yourselves and listen occasionally to the humble voice of the amateur. Think sometimes that the man in the street could be right. He may not phrase it right; he may not argue correctly; he may even get his experiments 1028 mixed up, but, by God!, he could be right. Why do not you listen sometimes?
As I have said, I have not time to go into all the detailed points that have been asked—and there is another reason for it—and at this stage I will not press the Bill to a Division. While thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.