HL Deb 28 January 1974 vol 349 cc55-77

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move this Bill be now read a second time. As your Lordships will perhaps recollect, the previous Bill which I introduced in June last was not only given a Third Reading in your Lordships' House but given an unopposed Second Reading in another place. There is no doubt that the anxiety of the public generally, and of Parliament in particular, continues in respect of our concern for the provision of proper care for animals which are held in zoological gardens where charges are made for admission.

As I stated previously—and I do not propose to detain the House for any length of time—the Federation of Zoological Gardens was brought into existence for the purpose of supervising the care given to the animals under the control of the members of that Federation. Its membership now consists of some 38 zoological gardens, and about one million visitors per annum visit those gardens. The members are anxious to ensure that the care which they give to the animals should be of the highest degree, and they are more than willing, because of that—and perhaps in spite of that—to have their zoological gardens inspected in the strictest manner possible so that if any deficiency is discovered, albeit they have taken every precaution that they felt necessary, matters can be put right by them. This is the spirit in which colleagues in both Houses have approached this very important matter.

My Lords, there is no doubt whatever that in many cases animals have not been given proper attention. Although some of the owners of the gardens concerned may not have been aware of the deficiencies which exist in zoological gardens under their control—and in many cases there was none—the fact is that great public concern has been aroused by the reports which have been given from time to time as a result of investigations conducted by responsible, interested bodies and individuals. For example, the Sunday Mirror investigator, Mr. Pettigrew, wrote: The safari parks of Britain's stately homes give a lot of pleasure to a lot of animal lovers, but the pleasure depends on the belief that the animals are living in as near natural conditions as possible, conditions that suit them and make them contented. The Sunday Mirror inquiry into safari parks has uncovered disturbing evidence that this is not always the case. Nobody suggests that there is deliberate cruelty by those who run the parks, but ill-treatment caused by lack of experience and lack of knowledge is none the less ill-treatment. May I take a few examples from the objective and penetrating article written by this Mr. Pettigrew? He quoted the case of an infant cheetah, suffering from an injection, which froze to death when denied the heat of other cheetahs to keep it warm at night; baboons huddled together in cold and inadequate shelters, pathetically trying to keep warm round a bonfire; terrified tigers driven up trees to escape a Land Rover driven by young, irresponsible and unsupervised staff, who presumably thought it amusing. Sir Peter Scott, the famous naturalist, says that he does not think the parks should keep animals which do not acclimatise well to our cold and wet climate. One of the attractions of the safari parks is that they give animals a freedom of movement denied them in the cages of conventional zoos, a poor freedom if linked with cold, squalor and overcrowding, because in the wild, big animals have many square miles of territory. The Sunday Mirror inquiry showed that the standards of some parks are not satisfactory, and that there is urgent need for independent and expert supervision.

May I quote a report issued by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals some time ago? Officials were warned by them about the increasing number of small zoos in Britain. They want laws to lay down minimum standards and to control the number of zoos because they say that many animals are kept in dirty, cramped conditions. A veterinary surgeon who toured some of the many zoos reported deplorable conditions. At one zoo, cages and pens were dirty, bedding non-existent or badly soiled, and water containers full of leaves. I believe that my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale is going to speak on the matter, and he is much more acquainted with the methods and the inquiries that have been made by that particular Society, of which I believe he is a highly respected honorary officer.

I said a moment or two ago that I do not propose to keep the House long. At one time I thought of reading out the relevant column numbers and asking whether Members would be good enough to read what I said earlier, instead of listening to me, which I am sure would have been more pleasant for them. But I want to make just one or two further references. In column 990 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for June 15 last year I described the zoo legislation introduced by other countries, which was very considerable. The position today remains as it was when I mentioned it in my speech then, and during the last few months, in connection with this, the Zoological Federation has been consulted on its zoo inspection system by both the Dutch and the Italian Associations. My noble friend Lord Cranbrook (in column 996 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for the same day) referred to the reputation of zoos. He said: … the reputation of all zoos will suffer if had zoos are allowed to continue". He made the point that dealers and pet shops are controlled by legislation, and that it would be illogical to exclude zoos from similar controls, since many acquire animals from dealers. He said it was worth while emphasising that no good zoo need fear this Bill.

I should like to refer very briefly to amended provisions which appear in the Bill that is now before your Lordships. There is no point in my referring to the clauses: they speak for themselves; and many of us have spoken on them before. Under Clause 8(1)(b), the fees are to be calculated, on the number of or the amount of money received from paid admissions". This gives the Council more flexibility in devising a formula which will be fair to the various zoos in accordance with the number of visitors they attract. Clause 11 is a new clause requiring the Council to report annually to Parliament. This should allay the fears of anyone who believes that the Council will be too autocratic. I would refer your Lordships to paragraph 1(b) in Part I of the Schedule, under which the four members nominated by the Secretary of State are to be appointed, having regard to the size and type of zoological garden … This accommodation is to meet the suggestion of Lord Tollemache and Lord Strathcona, each of whom represented non-Federation zoos at the time of the debate. It will be a difficult task to choose zoos on this basis, but with the number of zoos being looked into from the point of view of an arrangement of this description it can be put into effect usefully.

Under Part II of the Schedule paragraphs 6 and 8 respectively provide for removal of a member of the Council and enable the Council to borrow. It does not seem to me that these are controversial from the point of view of the zoo world. Perhaps I ought to point out (this can be rectified very easily at Committee stage) that paragraph 6 refers to "Mr. Secretary of State", which is obviously a misprint.

I would ask the House in the circumstances to give this Bill a Second Reading. I think it is a matter which should be put through fairly quickly. There is deep concern, and I do not imagine that anyone can reasonably oppose a Bill which endeavours to give proper protection to the animals and proper protection to those who visit zoos, and generally to deal with the position, which at present is an unsatisfactory one in very many respects. I beg to move.

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

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I would be very nervous about addressing your Lordships for the first time on any subject, but I am particularly worried about rising to speak on a Bill which your Lordships have debated so often before. I am very glad to have the opportunity to support this Bill, but at the same time very sorry that it has not proved possible for it to become law before I have the chance of saying my bit. I should like to add my support to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, for introducing and persevering with such a worthwhile Bill. I think that I am right in saying that it was during an election campaign in Swansea, in which my great-grandfather was a candidate, that the political interests of the noble Lord, Lord Janner, were first awakened. I sincerely hope that his first encounter with the great-grandson is not going to reverse that process.

Reading through the previous debates on this Bill in your Lordships' House, I find that I am in very good company in making a maiden speech on this subject, as the noble Lord, Lord Tollemache, spoke for the first time on a previous Second Reading. I regret to say that I am not able to bring to this debate the wide experience and expert knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Tollemache, brought to the previous debate. However, I do have an interest in this area, as I have been a member of the Pheasant Trust for a number of years and keep some ornamental pheasants myself. The Pheasant Trust exists to keep and breed ornamental pheasants, and to encourage others to do the same. Of the 48 species of pheasant alive to-day, no fewer than 16 are at present considered to be in danger of extinction. The Pheasant Trust is housed at Great Witchingham in Norfolk, which is also the home of the Norfolk Wildlife Park.

These two organisations have a marvellous record for breeding birds and mammals, and particular emphasis is placed on breeding rare or endangered species. At the same time, the Wildlife Park has a collection of animals that is ideally set out for visitors, and considerable care is given to providing educational material for schools. In 1972, for example, the Pheasant Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Park together bred and reared to independence 63 mammals and 367 birds. Losses during 1972 amounted to 22 mammals and 94 birds, giving a net gain over the year of 41 mammals and 273 birds. In the same year, 3 mammals and 60 birds listed in the Red Book of endangered species were successfully bred by the two establishments, and in the ten years since its foundation in 1961 the Pheasant Trust bred 882 birds of eight species of pheasant listed in the Red Book.

This is a very remarkable record, and I think it would be fair to say that very few other zoos could equal it. A breeding record like this enables rare species to be preserved, and creates reserve pools of endangered species that can be reintroduced to their country of origin, when circumstances permit and when there seems a reasonable chance of the reintroduction being a permanent success. Reintroducing captive bred stock into the wild is not easy, but it can undoubtedly be very successful, the reintroduction of the European bison being a classic example. Over the last few years, the Pheasant Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Park have between them played a part in successfully reintroducing Swinhoe's pheasants to Taiwan, Cheer pheasants to India, and eagle owls to Norway and Germany, and the Pheasant Trust is currently working on reintroduction schemes involving several other types of pheasant in various countries.

As important, in my view, as reintroductions, successful breeding in zoos should eventually make it unnecessary to hunt, capture and transport wild animals to zoos, with all the unnecessary but inevitable suffering and death that that process entails. Many wild animal populations not in immediate danger of extinction are declining in numbers, and, were zoos to become self-sufficient, that would at least remove one of the pressures on these animals.

My Lords, I hope that the Zoological Gardens Council that will be set up by this Bill will collect and collate the statistics on births, deaths, acquisitions and sales of animals that Clause 4(f) of the Bill will require all registered zoological gardens to keep. I hope that the Council will divide such statistics into endangered and other species, and make them available to the public, possibly by publishing them in their annual report. It will then be possible to see whether or not some zoos are "consuming" wildlife, and on what sort of scale. Hopefully, the collection and publication of these statistics would underline the importance of breeding, and would encourage any zoo-owners with a poor record to concentrate on getting all the animals in their care to breed whenever possible.

The 1972 Annual Report of the Norfolk Wildlife Park states: It will become increasingly difficult for a zoological collection to justify its existence unless it can show that it is a net producer rather than a net consumer of wild life. That is to say the number of animals bred in the collection each year must exceed the number lost. Regrettably few zoos can make this claim at the present time. I hope that this Bill will start to make it difficult for a zoological collection to exist unless it can show that it is a net producer of wildlife. My Lords, I should like to thank your Lordships for the kindness and consideration you have shown in listening to my remarks, and to wish this Bill a speedy passage through your Lordships' House.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I need hardly say with what pleasure I follow the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who has just made his maiden speech. Like many of your Lordships, I knew his father for many years and greatly admired him. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord on choosing as his subject for a maiden speech such a non-Party subject. I should further like to congratulate him on being so brief, because he was well within the ten minutes that I think is the usual usage of this House for maiden speeches. I once heard a maiden speech—I will not tell your Lordships who it was—that lasted nearly an hour. I wonder whether the noble Lord gets his love of wildlife from his mother (who I am very pleased to see here), or his father. I think I am right in saying that it may be from his mother, because I understand that a short time ago his aunt on his maternal side wrote a very good book on the Wildlife of Northumberland. I am sure that we all enjoyed the noble Lord's speech, and I hope that he will come often to this House—and perhaps one day he might even change sides. However, I will not bring that up now.

I spoke on the first version of this Bill in March, 1972. Unfortunately, I was not here for the second version, and now we have the third version. When I spoke on the first version I welcomed the Bill, but with certain reservations. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and conditions have somewhat changed. In considering the third version of this Bill, there are really only two questions we need ask ourselves. We must ask ourselves whether it is in fact necessary to have stricter control over zoological gardens open to the public—and I would stress the words, "open to the public". The other question that we must ask ourselves is whether this Bill is the best means of achieving that control. We already have laws in this country to protect animals in captivity. I need only mention the Cruelty to Animals Act 1911.

I should declare an interest. I have wild animals in captivity, but in that regard I am rather small fry. I have animals and also birds in captivity, especially eagles and falcons that I fly, but I do not have any carnivores, all my animals being herbiforous. When we talk about cruelty to animals, the first thing we must consider is controlling cruelty and escapes that might endanger or cause loss to the public. When I speak about cruelty regarding zoological gardens and safari parks, I am speaking of cruelty in the widest sense, because if cruelty exists in zoological gardens or safari parks, it is the cruelty of animals being kept in the wrong conditions.

So far as we know, wild animals—and I think this applies to all animals—lack certain things that human beings have. They do not have an imagination, so far as we can gather, and they do not have any appreciation of scenic beauty. To a certain extent, some animals can reason, but the wild animals' requirements are the essentials. They require a sufficiency of the right food and water, and the right temperature. They do not necessarily need the right climate so long as you provide the right temperature and the right humidity. If it is their habit, they need the opportunity—and it is not the habit, for instance, of a tiger—to exist in family groups in a sufficiency of territory. The question of territory is perhaps where all zoological gardens, including the London Zoo, may perhaps fall down. It would not be possible to give most wild animals the territory that they are used to. It would not be possible to give the wolf the hunting territory he is used to, or the tiger, because the amount of land is not available.

Apart from lack of territory, from my experience zoological gardens open to the public—and again I stress "open to the public"—on the whole do a very good job. However, one thing is certain. If any zoological garden does not keep its animals in the right condition, complaints will soon be made to the various bodies in this country that look after the welfare of animals, such as the R.S.P.C.A., the Universal Federation of Animal Welfare, and various other bodies. The viewing public are very critical. I once knew an old lady who was worried because one of my stags had cast only one of his antlers. Stags do not necessarily cast both at the same time, but she thought it had suffered injury, and wanted to know how it had been caused. We must realise that many complaints made by the public are founded on ignorance. It must be remembered that if zoological gardens open to the public do not keep their animals in the right conditions these animals soon lose condition; they become mopey and look miserable. There is a safeguard in the fact that these zoological gardens are open to the public and it would be very much against their interests to ill-treat their animals. Regarding escapes, the law regarding dangerous animals has now been brought up to date. So far as I can gather, there are very few escapes that have caused loss or damage to the public, and I think the danger of escapes is almost negligible.

My Lords, what mystifies me about this Bill is that the sponsors appear perfectly content to rely on the present law, the Cruelty to Animals Act 1911, to protect wild animals in private zoological gardens not open to the public and wild animals kept as pets by individuals. But as I have just pointed out, there is surely more risk of cruelty to animals in private zoos not open to the public than there is in zoological gardens open to the public. I believe that there are people who keep pumas, cheetahs and jaguars (not the four wheeled but the four legged variety) in their backyards; that is where you will get the cruelty. In my opinion, that is rather an omission on the part of the sponsors of this Bill. I may be wrong in saying this because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, is extremely concerned with the welfare not only of wild animals but of all animals, but it might appear to the casual onlooker that the sponsors of the Bill did not have the welfare of wild animals in captivity uppermost in their minds.

Only two clauses in the Bill deal with the welfare of animals. Clause 4 deals with the welfare of zoos and Clause 5 with inspection. The other twelve clauses in the Bill deal with fees and such matters as that; I would call them a bureaucrat's field day. Unless my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross can tell us that under the existing Act there have been numerous prosecutions concerning zoological gardens open to the public it would appear to me that stricter control is not really necessary and therefore this Bill is not necessary. If my noble friend can give us a long list of abuses and complaints regarding zoological gardens open to the public then I am quite prepared to admit that stricter control is necessary. If it is necessary, is the Bill the best way to do it?

The noble Lord, Lord Janner, mentioned only one association, though in fact there are two associations to which zoological gardens open to the public belong. There is the Federation of Zoological Gardens, which the noble Lord mentioned, with a membership, I think he said, of 38. There is also the National Zoological Association, formed in 1972 after the noble Lord produced his first Bill. This Association represents nearly 60 safari parks and zoological gardens. There are also a few more zoological gardens outside the membership of either of these associations. The Federation of Zoological Gardens is closely associated with the London Zoo and I would not call it representative of the smaller zoological gardens.

So far as I am aware, the sponsors of this Bill do not appear to have consulted very fully with the National Zoological Association who, after all, represent nearly twice as many members as the Federation of Zoological Gardens. This, in my submission, is rather an omission on their part. I would point out that both these organisations conduct their own inspection of members' establishments. In fact the National Zoological Association inspection team includes veterinary surgeons in general practice, with long experience of zoos and safari parks, and also a director of the Universal Federation for Animal Welfare. They give their services free.

My Lords, I should not be happy to see many of the provisions in this Bill become law. Do we really want to add to the conglomeration of bureaucratic institutions by appointing a council of eleven men to supervise the inspection of a small number of zoological gardens? I do not think the case is proven for such a council. The expense for the smaller zoological gardens—now saddled also with V.A.T.—would be considerable. Members of the council would be nominated, a method often open—but nearly always unjustly—to suspicion. We know in this House, which is not open to suspicion at all, that we have the "usual channels". I think that perhaps some of the smaller members might object to having a council nominated. This nominated council would have arbitrary powers. They would have powers to remove a zoo from the register and perhaps ruin a man's livelihood. It is true enough that he can appeal to the magistrates' court. But is the magistrates' court the proper place to give a ruling on this question? It is true that my Riding Establishments (Amendment) Act, now on the Statute Book does have the same procedure, but in a rural area among the magistrates one is bound to get some magistrates whose children ride so that he will probably have some knowledge of horses. Where in magistrates' courts are you going to find any magistrates, such as the local grocer, who have a knowledge of tigers, or gorillas, or giraffes? It would be a very rare occurence to find magistrates who have any experience in these matters.

On account of the varied natures of zoological gardens and the specialised knowledge required, I also doubt whether Clause 4 would adequately cover welfare and safety because under Clause 5 only one member of the inspecting team need have professional qualifications. If the Home Office and Parliament are convinced that an independent inspection of zoological gardens is needed, surely that can be done by a veterinary surgeon on the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture. The number of zoological gardens is small. At the most it is 150 but the known ones number not much more than 100. Surely two veterinary surgeons would be ample for inspection purposes at an insignificant cost to public funds.

Zoological gardens could be licensed by local authorities, as are riding establishments, on the advice of a Ministry of Agriculture veterinary surgeon. I am sure that zoological gardens would be prepared to pay a licence fee to cover the costs of inspection. That method would ensure expert and impartial inspection and licensing. It would dispense with an expensive and cumbersome ad hoc bureaucratic body, as I have already said, a body which the smaller zoological gardens might find overbearing and will certainly find expensive. We tend to forget that an organisation like the London Zoo, of which incidentally I am a Fellow, is very wealthy. The London Zoo gets big subsidies from the taxpayer. I believe that last year the London Zoological Gardens, including Whipsnade, got £2 million so that the fees payable under this Bill by the London Zoo would be a negligible burden. Therefore, in conclusion, I can only say that so far as I am concerned the Minister will need to put forward very convincing arguments that this Bill is necessary before I can support it if it should go to a Division.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, we have had 22 minutes of to me rather confused hostility to this Bill which I very much regret. I should have thought that the noble Viscount would feel as strongly as I do that if you are going to make money out of exhibiting animals to the public you not only should keep them properly but there should be rules to ensure that you do keep them properly. If the noble Viscount is against that, let him say so.


There are rules. It is adequately covered by the existing law in my submission.


With respect, that is not the case. There is no law to say that you must have proper veterinary attention for animals that you keep. There is no law to say that if you keep animals in a wide space you must have a reasonable way of catching them, just to give two examples. It is frightfully important. Anyone who is interested in animal husbandry or who farms, as does the noble Viscount, knows that one must have a crush. There are a number of things which ought to be insisted upon as there are a number of zoos, particularly of the smaller kind, to which he is as sympathetic as I am—I am not against them, I am for them—where these things are not done. Sometimes it is because the zoos do not have the money to do them.

As I understand it, the objective of my noble friend Lord Janner in producing this Bill is to lay down minimum rules. This is a rather big subject if you consider what has happened over the last ten years. In 1960 there were 30 zoos in this country; in 1967 there were 72; in 1972 there were 96; and in 1974 we have 167. I do not say of the increase in the last two years that some of the zoos were not there and had not been spotted before, but it is a tremendous proliferation and it is no good saying that the whole situation is perfectly all right.

These zoos are providing a need which in my opinion the public will increasingly demand. The public go out at weekends to see things and it is wholly desirable that they should, but there should be rules to ensure that these places are properly kept, and inspection is the only possible way of doing it. The R.S.P.C.A. and the Universities Federation have no automatic rights of inspection, and it seems to me essential that this should be part of any arrangement made. That is really all that this Bill is trying to do.

Just to give an idea of what exists, at the moment there are 82 proper zoos, which include nine societies, nine municipal zoos and 64 commercial zoos. There are 39 bird collections, which include three societies, one municipal and 35 commercial collections. There are nine safari parks, all commercial, and there are 12 aquaria outside those in zoos. Of those one is a society, six are municipal and 18 are commercial. There are 12 dolphinaria of which all 12 are commercial. So out of 167 zoos you have 138 which are purely commercial. Good luck to them! They are doing jolly well. I do not want to limit them at all, but I would wish to have them regularly inspected and to insist on certain standards.

That brings me to the most agreeable part of the few words I want to say, which is to congratulate my noble friend Lord Melchett on his, to me, striking, extremely well-informed and delightfully delivered maiden speech. He made one or two points which I intended making so I shall pay him the compliment of underlining them. First, the Pheasant Trust is a prominent member of the Federation, of which I should have said at the beginning of my remarks I am the chairman— so I have a part interest in this matter—and its director chairs our reading association. They have done a remarkable job in breeding birds and reintroducing them into the wild where they originated, which is one of the most fascinating things one can do nowadays and is a justification for the existence of zoos.

My noble friend's next point, which seemed to me admirably put, was: how many zoos are consumers of wild life? This is a point to which I should like the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who I believe is sympathetic to the whole subject, to give his mind. The noble Viscount said that the public can tell by looking at the animals, but they did not tell very well with the dolphinaria. We have heard horrifying stories of dolphins being replaced, with Gertie being replaced two or three times by a different Gertie; the casualties in dolphinaria were very heavy and the public could not see it. I do not think that that is something which people who have any interest in animals can accept.

I have nothing to add to the general approach of my noble friend Lord Janner. I have taken a minute or two to ask the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, to consider whether he is right in being so very doubtful about this Bill. I should like to point out that the question between the Federation and the Association is not affected in any way by this Bill. The Association were consulted in some detail before the first Bill. We had a number of meetings, when we thought the Bill would go through quite quickly and it was necessary to settle what the two bodies would do. The meetings were entirely amicable; but then, quite suddenly, for no reason of which I am aware, they were broken off and have not been renewed, and I have taken no further action. I believe that zoos which are properly run will benefit from this Bill, and that zoos which are not properly run should not exist at all.

Finally, I should like to refer to zoos which are not open to the public, which the noble Viscount mentioned. I do not think my noble friend Lord Janner or anybody else wants to exclude these, but nobody can find a way of including them. The point about zoos which are open to the public is that you have a sanction to stop them exhibiting publicly and taking money, but there is no sanction against zoos which are not open to the public. Perhaps we can get together later and draw up another Bill to deal with them; I shall be very happy to do so. With the proliferation of zoos and the absolute lack of control over anybody who likes to hire a field and put a tiger in it, provided that it does not damage the public and is not subject to a complaint from the R.S.P.C.A., the situation is not very satisfactory. Keeping animals is a serious matter and it should be taken seriously. So I hope very much that your Lordships will support this Bill and will give it a Second Reading this evening.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask why he objects to the Ministry of Agriculture giving this service and appointing one or two of their veterinary surgeons to inspect zoological gardens? Surely that would be a much better method, and the zoos could be licensed by the local authority. That would save all the expense and would save having an enormous council of 11 men. Only two veterinary surgeons are needed to inspect 100 zoological gardens, yet there is a council of 11.


My Lords, if the noble Viscount can persuade the Government to make the Ministry of Agriculture do this work, my noble friend Lord Janner will immediately withdraw his Bill and we shall all support that move. Of course that is by far the best solution. I can only say that they will not look at it.

5.55. p.m.


My Lords, I intervene very briefly, for two reasons. First, I want to join in the chorus of congratulations to my noble friend Lord Melchett. I often feel that this House would seem a very elderly establishment were it not for the young hereditaries, and when the young hereditaries turn up on the Labour Benches they are doubly welcome. I thought my noble friend spoke most persuasively this evening. I hope that we shall hear him many times during what I hope will be a comparatively brief period before he assumes responsibilities commensurate with those which were borne by his distinguished father, and I also hope that his speeches will be made as if the from the Labour Benches but from the other side of the House.

Secondly, I wish to talk quite briefly about the attitude of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because I have heard it said during the last week or so that some who might be regarded as vested interests have been putting around the view that the R.S.P.C.A. is not behind my noble friend's Bill. The R.S.P.C.A. has consistently asked for proper control of establishments of this kind. They appreciate that probably, on the whole, the larger establishments are satisfactory, but there are, nevertheless, many small poorly financed zoos and displays of wild animals which leave a great deal to be desired. The Society, far from objecting to my noble friend's Bill, has taken the view that for two reasons it would be better if it were strengthened.

The Bill sets out the conditions under which an establishment will be licensed after inspection by appointed officials from the Zoological Gardens Council, and if it is not licensed in that way the proprietor will not be able to charge a fee for admission. The view of the Society has been that it might not be wholly effective if the inspecting officials were appointed by the Council, and that there might be a situation in which one zoo or a group of zoos had a special influence on the Council, which might cause a great deal of embarrassment to any inspecting official who took action to the detriment of an establishment.

We in the Society have therefore felt that, while we do not oppose the Bill in any way, it would probably be preferable that inspecting officials came, for example, from the Home Office or the Ministry of Agriculture, or were appointed by the Ministers responsible for these matters. We have also criticised the Bill because we are not satisfied that, if an establishment were licensed in the way the Bill proposes and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals later found that conditions there were not satisfactory, we would have the right to take action against the proprietor of the licensed establishment. Those are two respects in which the Society would like the Bill to be strengthened and, certainly, there is need for control of establishments of this kind.

I listened with great interest to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. I thought there was perhaps just a slight note of complacency in his attitude to these establishments. Perhaps he has a much nicer nature than I myself have, and he sees good where I may be a little more cynical. But, certainly, one cannot overlook the fact that a number of these establishments fall below the standard that we ought to require of them. When we debated this matter only six months ago, I drew attention to a report on the Windsor Safari Park which was visited by an R.S.P.C.A. inspector on December 19, 1972. The report which the inspector produced made absolutely awful reading. It transpired, for example, that between 130 and 140 baboons had to share one room at night. The report spoke of a head keeper who, in the view of the inspector, had no real training in wild animal care, changing the baboons from one pen to another with a whip in his hand, and the inspector said that the animals were terrified.

He goes on to talk about the cats having exposed living quarters and no inner sleeping compartments in which they can hide away from the public. This, my Lords, concerns the Windsor Safari Park, one of the most successful safari parks in the country, which must attract a very large number of visitors, but which at any rate at the time of the inspection a year ago fell very far short of the standards we are entitled to expect.

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend Lord Janner will consider the points that I have made before we come to the Committee stage; but although we have these small criticisms we nevertheless welcome the Bill very much indeed, and I hope the Government will feel able to support it so that it goes through your Lordships' House without opposition tonight.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, this is the third time round, as we all know, and it is notable—indeed, this must be one of the main justifications for doing it a third time round—for having induced the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, to make his maiden speech, on which I should like to join with other noble Lords in congratulating him. As to his future progress, the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, seems to have that fully under control already.

As for the Bill itself, the Government have not changed their position from that which I told your Lordships about before. As is customary in animal welfare matters of this sort, our attitude towards the basic issue of regulations for zoos, as the Bill embodies, is one of neutrality. It always has been. Certainly I must tell my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard that it is not for me to justify the introduction of this Bill—that is far from the neutrality which I seek to adopt—but I can tell him about prosecutions. There are comparatively few specific complaints about zoos, or about cruelty to animals in them, and on investigation most are found to be without any serious foundation. So not many prosecutions are brought for the ill-treatment of animals.

My Lords, the Bill now before us contains a few minor alterations in drafting from the Bill that left us last July. I think these improve the wording and the clarity, and I welcome them. But there are still a few aspects of this matter on which I am uneasy. They are not new points—I referred to them before—but I do not think they have yet been resolved. I do not mention these matters in any way in order to discourage the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and his supporters but because I am convinced that if the Bill is to be successful and effective in achieving its aims we must be sure, before it finally passes, that all its provisions are workable and capable of being put into operation effectively when the time comes. I am all in favour of the activities of the Council, including those in Clause 4(f), which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, mentioned; but it is a question of the means of doing all this that worries me.

There is the question of setting up the Council and of its administrative structure, and its subsequent operation and financing. I am not quite clear how it is envisaged that the Council will set itself up. It is noteworthy that under the Bill it is my right honourable friend rather than the industry itself that is to appoint the Chairman of the Council and a large number of its members, in some cases after consultation. Then there are other members who are to be appointed by the bodies mentioned in the Schedule. But after that it looks as if the Chairman and members of the Council themselves would be responsible for setting up the administrative structure needed to discharge their duties under the Bill. They would have to appoint the staff needed for this; they would have to have premises, and they would have to arrange for a supply of cash to tide them over, at least until they can start collecting registration fees.

This would be a fairly formidable task, I think, for the Council to take on without assistance. My right honourable friend would have neither responsibility nor authority to intervene; and let me make it perfectly clear that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, is quite right: the moment anybody started suggesting that the Government should embark upon expenditure of public money or the use of Government servants, I think my attitude of neutrality would take a very sharp about-turn, and I am afraid that I cannot hold out any promise to the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, or to my noble friend on that aspect. If the industry is going to do this, it will have to do it within its own resources.

It has been suggested that the two bodies we have heard about, the Federation and the Association, which together represent the majority of the zoos and which already carry out the sort of inspections proposed in the Bill, might be prepared to assist the Council to set itself up. If both these bodies supported the Bill and had indicated a willingness to co-operate in making it work, I might feel a little more sanguine about the prospects of the proposed Council becoming a going concern; but at the moment there is no indication of this. Certainly from the correspondence I have recently received from the Secretary of the Association and from the conversations that I have had (and there was also a doubt expressed in the speech of my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard) I gather that the Association remains opposed to the Bill in its present form—indeed, to some extent on this very ground of machinery that I have been talking about. So I shall be very glad to hear whether the noble Lord, Lord Janner, and his colleagues have given any further thought to the way in which these practical problems about setting up the Council might be overcome.

I am not trying, I emphasise, to discourage the noble Lord or to disparage what he is seeking to do; but I feel that this is the sort of problem which must be solved before this Bill gets on to the Statute Book. It is no use glossing it over in the hope that "it will be all right on the night". I think that if the scheme the Bill sets out to establish is going to function and function effectively, there must be no doubt about the way in which the Council, which is central—indeed the whole Bill revolves around it—will be established; and we shall want to know how it will operate.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Janner, will not think that these are unhelpful remarks. They are intended to be constructive criticism and to make the whole of his enterprise into a successful one. Certainly there is nothing other than that that I want to criticise. The formal attitude of the Government, as I have said, is one of neutrality; and I am very happy indeed to leave it to your Lordships to decide whether the Bill should progress, how quickly, and with what Amendments, so long as they do not include public funds.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, let me commence by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, on the excellent speech which he made. I was very interested to hear his reference to the intervention I once made at a public meeting when his great-grandfather was being attacked for his political views. I had the privilege to know his great-grandfather afterwards fairly well, and certainly to know his grandfather and his father, and their various spouses. I am sure that if his grandparents and his parents had been living at the present time they would have derived very considerable pleasure from hearing the speech that he made; and we hope that we shall hear him often.

With regard to the Bill itself, let me first of all point out that this Bill has been very closely examined over a considerable time, and I and my co-sponsors have given very careful consideration to the points that have been brought to our notice. I would say to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, that the Association, which was formed after we had introduced this Bill originally, and which consists purely of commercial people who have a vested interest—we must face up to that fact—has not at any time during the whole of the proceedings brought forward any amendment. We have gone right through the points raised in this House and no one raised any point when the Bill went to the other place.

My Lords, when preparing a Bill, one has to take into consideration the main principle with which one is dealing and do one's best to meet the suggestions made. But then one has to accept a kind of compromise. We could have made the Bill very much stronger in its effect but we have taken into consideration the points which have been raised at various times. We tried to get into contact with the Association, but it stood aloof from the deliberations in both Houses. Examining what they have put forward, we do not feel that it could contribute towards solving the serious problem which exists in any better fashion than the provisions of this Bill. There is no suggestion in the Bill of amour propre on the part of anyone. It is simple in form and no one could obtain any advantage from its provisions whatever association or federation they may belong to, other than the protection of the good name of zoological organisations and gardens throughout the country.

We are anxious to remove the possibility of serious allegations being made by responsible people. I hope the noble Viscount will appreciate that at this stage I do not wish to exacerbate the position. But some of the statements made in the investigations which have taken place have caused alarm. They have been connected with some of the members of the Association to which the noble Viscount referred. In its general terms, the Bill seeks to provide efficient machinery which would give satisfaction to the public, and provide for the protection of animals and the proper control of zoological gardens. There is nothing in it, in my view, to which anyone could object in respect of the grounds to which I have referred. My colleagues and I hope that the good name of zoological gardens will thus be protected against the very serious allegations which have been made in respect of the keeping of animals. One animal keeper said that he was horrified at what was happening in the zoological gardens with which he was concerned. In itself, surely, that is enough to indicate that something has to be done about the position. One could give many instances of the serious events which have taken place. I do not say that they have happened with the intention of zookeepers or as a result of any deliberate act on their part, but rather because of neglect of some kind which could and should be dealt with by legislation of this nature.

I would add to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, about the keeping of animals by private people. I do not think that I could be accused of having failed in any way to bring to the notice of Parliament the fact that I think some kind of legislation should be introduced to protect those animals as well. But we cannot do that through this Bill because it would create certain complications which could not be easily overcome. I hope we shall give a Second Reading to the Bill. If there is any point which a noble Lord wishes to raise during the Committee stage that could be dealt with, but once again I would point out that no one did so during the Committee stage or the Report stage or the Third Reading of the two previous I sincerely trust that this Bill will receive a Second Reading.


My Lords, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Janner, that he spoke of responsible publications, but the only publication he mentioned was the Sunday Mirror. I mean no disrespect to the Sunday Mirror when I say that I should have been far happier had he quoted The Times, the Daily Telegraph or even the Guardian. I do not think that the Sunday Mirror is a good example. Certain newspapers are published to cause sensations. The other point I should like to make to the noble Lord is that if he had seen baboons in the wild he would know that they are very gregarious animals and love crowding together.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House longer—because we have had a fairly long and interesting debate on this Bill—but does not the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, realise that even if he does not like the Sunday Mirror the fact remains that it would be better to have an Act of Parliament which would prevent any allegations of this nature rather than that there should be allegations which disturb the public? That, my Lords, is the main point.

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