asked the Minister of Agriculture if he is aware of public concern regarding suffering of horses in transit to slaughter houses, namely, lack of food and water for long periods; and what steps will be taken to stop this suffering.
I am aware that allegations have recently been made that horses have been kept on rail for long periods without food and water. Inquiries into specific cases made by my veterinary officers show that, in the main, these allegations are unfounded. I am sending a note on the subject to my hon. Friends together with a copy of the Exportation and Transit of Horses, Asses and Mules Order, 1921, which contains provision for the feeding and watering of horses and for the prevention of suffering during rail transit. I am satisfied that these requirements are generally being observed by the railway authorities. I have no information as to the number of horses conveyed for slaughter for human consumption.
While accepting the Minister's answer to a certain degree, is he aware that this racket is becoming very great in the slaughter of healthy horses, and that it is in the hands of certain people who are not caring one iota regarding the care of, and accommodation for, horses awaiting slaughter, and also for the feeding of horses during their journeys on the railways? Can he assure the House that his veterinary officers are taking complete notice of these facts, because this matter is becoming a scandal in this country?
I can assure my hon. Friend that whenever a case of cruelty during transit is brought to my notice it is immediately investigated by our veterinary officers, but, as I happen to be responsible only for the well-being of animals in the course of transit, that is the limit to which I have gone in my answer.
While I feel somewhat reassured by the Minister's statement that certain specified cases have been looked into, does he appreciate the great number of horses involved, and will he assure the House that he will not wait for everybody to bring complaints before turning his inspectors on to the main spots where these evils take place? Surely, his Department must know them?
Now that we own the railways of the country, will the right hon. Gentleman take some steps to reassure public opinion and to make certain that the Government can avoid the charge of conniving at this most despicable practice?