Thomas Moore – 1932 Speech on the Slaughter of Animals

The speech made by Thomas Moore, the then Scottish Unionist MP for Ayr, in the House of Commons on 1 March 1932.

I beg to move,

“That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the humane and scientific slaughter of animals; and for purposes connected therewith.”
The title of the Bill which I am asking the leave of the House to introduce today is not unfamiliar to me or to many of my older colleagues—[HON. MEMBERS: “Agreed!”] I am sorry that I cannot accept the suggestion of hon. Members, although it is very kind of them. There are one or two important announcements in connection with the Bill which I wish to make, and which, I hope, will facilitate its further passage upstairs to Committee. I apologise for taking up the time of the House under the Ten Minutes Rule, but there are one or two points which have guided me in making this selection. It is not with any view to getting publicity for the Bill or for myself. The Bill does not need publicity. It has received it all over the country. There are three points. The first is that there are over 200 new Members in the House of Commons who know little or nothing, possibly, of the slaughter of animals. The second is, that there will be no opportunity for a Second Reading Debate, and therefore I wish to put before Members the reasons why I should like, not only to get the First Reading of the Bill, but an undertaking that I shall get the Second Reading at a later date without discussion, so that the Bill can go upstairs to Committee, where we shall be able to thrash out any minor points which may arise. I will not even take up my full 10 minutes, so hon. Members need not get upset.

I introduced a. Bill about four years ago, but on account of the fact that we had some doubts as to whether England was a sufficiently progressive country to try out the experiment, we limited its application to Scotland. The Bill in due course passed into law, and it has been working for three years to the satisfaction of those who kill, and to the even greater satisfaction of those who eat. In view of that success, I introduced the Bill last year. It received its Second Reading, after a full and exhaustive Debate lasting an entire day, without a Division. It went upstairs and got halfway through Committee when the unfortunate national crisis arose, so that the animals as well as the rest of us had to suffer from the crisis. After that all our efforts were brought to nought, and so to-day I am presenting the Bill again. I hope that after all the knowledge and experience gained upstairs in Committee and discussions with Members of the House of Commons, I shall have no difficulty in inducing my hon. Friends to give me what I want.

For the benefit of new Members, I will briefly explain what we desire to do. We want to ensure that all animals killed for human food are slaughtered by a mechanical instrument and also that all animals killed in knackers’ yards are slaughtered by the same mechanical instrument instead of by the present barbarous and inhumane method known as the pole-axe. At the present time 500 local authorities out of 1,500 have voluntarily adopted the Ministry of Health model by-law making the mechanical killer compulsory. Thousands of practical butchers have voluntarily adopted the same method. The Bill is supported by leading scientists, many of whose names I mentioned last year, including such eminent men as Lord Moynihan and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, by the veterinary profession headed by that distinguished official Professor Hobday, by all the women’s organisations, and by all humane and progressive butchers. I have in my office to-day some thousands of signatures to a petition launched by the Council of Societies for Animals which expresses the desire of the world and his wife to have this system adopted and to have the recalcitrant local authorities and butchers brought into line with those who are more progressive. The Bill is promoted by that great society, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and that fact should be a sufficient guarantee that it is good in its intentions.

When the Bill was promoted last year every newspaper in the country, headed by the “Times,” had leading articles advocating that this long overdue reform should take place. Not only were hon. Members affected by their assurances, but they were also affected in their pockets by the Bill of last year. Last year a very considerable tax was put upon hon. Members, because their mail bags were very heavy. Therefore, in these days of national economy it would be well, even on that ground, that the Bill should be passed without delay. The Bill is a national one. It cuts across no party interests. There are no party issues involved. No Members of the Cabinet need fear a twinge of conscience about supporting the Bill. No one need fear being suspected of the paternity of the child. One of the most important reasons for my speech and one which my agricultural friends will welcome as a concession, relates to pigs. Pigs were included in the last Bill, and during the Second Reading and Committee Debates attacks were made upon that provision. Therefore, I have decided, in order to facilitate the passage of the Bill, to withdraw pigs from its scope. I do that because many of my hon. Friends fear that the agricultural industry or the pig-breeding industry might be hurt. I also do it because we are making experiments with a system of electric stupefaction which may revolutionise the whole of the pig-killing process.

I desire to introduce the Bill line by line similar to the Scottish Act, which has been working successfully for three years. Last year it was stated that there are 16,000,000 animals involved in this question of slaughter annually. Owing to the attitude of the local authorities and butchers who have adopted humane methods of slaughter 4,000,000 animals have been relieved from suffering under the old system, but there are 12,000,000 animals which are still affected annually. By our action in this House we can show that we are determined finally to remove that stigma from our national conscience. The present Minister of Agriculture was Secretary of State for Scotland when the Scottish Bill was introduced. He gave us wonderful support then, and he can back up everything that I have said. I believe the present Secretary of State for Scotland would be prepared to do the same thing, because he has seen the Act working in Scotland and knows of its success. I believe the present Minister of Health would be delighted also to speak in favour of the Bill, knowing how well his model by-laws have worked. I leave the matter in the hands of my hon. colleagues, who will see that justice is done to suffering animals.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lieut.-Colonel Moore, Mr. Buchan, Countess of Iveagh, Mr. Lansbury, Mr. Macpherson, Sir Rennell Rodd, Miss Lloyd George, Sir Hugh O’Neill, Sir Stafford Cripps, Sir Ernest Graham-Little, Sir William Davison, and Sir Robert Gower.