Worn-out Horses (Transport)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th September 1948.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Percy Shurmer Mr Percy Shurmer , Birmingham Sparkbrook 12:00 am, 20th September 1948

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.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

asked the Minister of Agriculture what arrangements he has made for the transport of worn-out horses during their journeys to slaughter for human consumption; and whether he is aware that horses are now being conveyed at the rate of 80,000 a year for this purpose.

Mr. Williams:

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.

Photo of Mr Percy Shurmer Mr Percy Shurmer , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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?

Mr. Williams:

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.

Photo of Mr Richard Stokes Mr Richard Stokes , Ipswich

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?

Mr. Williams:

I can assure my hon. Friend that our inspectors are constantly in touch with the railway authorities, who are themselves responsible for the wellbeing of animals in transit.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore Lieut-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore , Ayr District of Burghs

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?

Mr. Williams:

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is trying to put words into my mouth which I have never uttered. I do not accept the allegations made by a person who writes for a living, whether he claims to be writing the truth or not.

Photo of Mr Albert Bechervaise Mr Albert Bechervaise , Leyton East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of these animals are in such a condition that they have to be slaughtered in the railway sidings?

Mr. Williams:

That is entirely contrary to my information. I have the latest news from my inspectors, who are continually in consultation with the railway authorities.

Photo of Mr Percy Shurmer Mr Percy Shurmer , Birmingham Sparkbrook

Does my right hon. Friend suggest that the photograph of a horse, a mare and a foal standing together on bare stones was a faked photograph?

Mr. Williams:

I do not suggest any-thing of the kind. All I can say is that my inspectors investigated the case written about in one of the Sunday newspapers, and they found that the allegations made in that article were utterly untrue.