Report of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. - Animals (Anæsthetics) (Amendment) Bill, 1933.—Second Stage.
Thursday, 14 December 1933
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Counihan: I beg to move—“That this Bill be now read a Second Time.” Before I introduced this Bill I consulted with the Minister for Agriculture and I may say that I have received his whole-hearted support. This is a very short and simple Bill and it does not require much explanation. As Senators are aware, since the passing of the Animals (Anæsthetics) Act, 1919, it was unlawful for any person to dishorn any animal over one month old without first administering a general anæsthetic of such strength as to render the animal insensible to pain during the whole process of the operation. This Bill proposes to repeal that Act. In the opinion of any commonsense or practical person that Act should never have been applied to Ireland. It was never enforced, it can never be enforced and it never will be enforced and any law that cannot be enforced should not be retained on the Statute Book.
Every year in this country we dishorn about 200,000 cattle. These 200,000 illegal operations are performed by about 20,000 farmers and there are only one or two proscutions every year arising out of the 200,000 illegal operations. In consequence of that state of affairs the law, when it is not properly enforced, should be repealed. Is it cruel to dishorn cattle? I contend it is not cruel. I will admit that it is a painful operation, but it is a quick operation. I have often dishorned hundreds of cattle.
Mr. Counihan: Without an anæsthetic, and the actual time it took me to saw off both horns was less than half a minute. Less than four minutes elapsed from the time the animal was knocked down until it was again on its feet.
Mr. Counihan: Let us consider the hardship and expense that would be inflicted on farmers if the law were to be enforced. It would take at least 2/6 to 3/- worth of chloroform to put a beast to sleep; it would necessitate the attendance of a veterinary surgeon, and, in view of the present price of cattle, a farmer living five or six miles away from a vet, and having only one or two cattle to dishorn would have to pay practically the whole value of the two cattle in order to get the operation performed.
Undoubtedly, an anæsthetic, when properly administered, will save pain for the half minute during which the horns are taken off, but I would like to lay emphasis on the phrase “properly administered.” There is no indication in the Animals (Anæsthetic) Act as to who is to administer the anæsthetic. I have heard, on reliable authority, of cattle that were put under an anæsthetic for dishorning purposes and they died while under it. I have heard of cases where cattle were put under an anæsthetic for dishorning purposes and when they were allowed up they pushed their heads against the walls and ran mad around the place. I have never heard of cattle doing anything like that when there was no anæsthetic used. I have it on the best authority that cattle suffer more discomfort when dishorned under an anæsthetic than when they are dishorned in the ordinary way.
I would like the Seanad to look at the matter from another aspect. In the Free State we produce 1,000,000 cattle every year. We export about 800,000 cattle. The majority of our cattle have to be transported long distances by rail and sea. In the first instance, they are taken from the principal breeding parts of the country, the south, west and midlands, and are railed to the port, then shipped to Great Britain and again railed through that country. Everyone will admit that hornless cattle are very much safer in travel than horned cattle. They cause less injury to one another when going to the fairs or markets and they thrive better. There is another consideration. Our customers in England and Scotland require hornless  cattle for house and yard feeding and, unless we are able to supply the goods they require, they will get what they want from Canada where, incidentally, there is no Anæsthetics Act.
A big proportion of our polled cattle are sent to Scotland and the North of England. They are fed there in loose houses and covered yards during the winter and spring; they are stall-fed or yard-fed. Would it not be more cruel if these cattle, instead of being fed loosely around these yards, were to be tied up in a stall, chained and kept there in the same position for the five or six months while they would be fattening? That is a point of view that people opposed to dishorn cattle might look into.
This Act cannot be enforced in this country; it would not be worth while endeavouring to enforce it. Even if it were enforced it would only save pain for about half a minute. I will ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading.
Mr. Comyn: I beg to second this motion and I hope this measure will be considered with the same calmness and full consideration as this subject has received in this country and in the courts of this country. There is a law in force here which provides a penalty for cruelty to animals, and cruelty is defined as any unnecessary pain or ill-treatment. An organisation in Great Britain, where there is a similar law in force, brought proceedings for the dishorning of cattle.
In England it was decided by the magistrates and upheld by two judges that the dishorning of cattle was cruelty. There then came before the courts in this country a case from the County Meath where a farmer named MacMahon was prosecuted for dishorning his cattle. That was in 1891. The magistrates having taken evidence submitted a number of facts for the consideration of the court. The first fact was that the dishorning of cattle does cause temporary pain; following upon the dishorning there is also some pain. It also found that the cattle which were dishorned were more suitable for the purpose of fattening inasmuch  as they throve better. The cattle were quieter and they found that dishorning enabled them to be fed in what are called straw sheds, that is, sheds partly open. In these straw sheds the cattle throve much better than if they were confined within stalls.
There was also a finding, and I see it repeated here by Senator Counihan, that horned animals are considerably injured in transit and that dishorning saves them a very great amount of injury and pain. The question also arose as to the pain and injury which horned animals do to each other if they are put into a straw yard and allowed to gore each other. Everybody knows what a terrible thing it is when one animal gores another. As far as a human being can estimate the pain that an animal suffers from the reaction afterwards is much more than what is suffered through being dishorned. That is to say, the pain of being gored is more than the pain suffered through being dishorned.
That case was fully debated and very wise men came to this conclusion, that it was not cruelty—that the mere infliction of pain was not cruelty, provided it is reasonably necessary for the ordinary use of the animal. If we have control over the animal creation at all then we have the right to use the animals reasonably for the purposes of mankind and it was held in the Irish Courts by three eminent judges that the dishorning of cattle was not cruelty, and the case was dismissed.
“It is a rather invidious thing that a great industry, properly conducted by people interested in it and having an interest in their own property and their own animals, should be interfered with on humanitarian grounds by other people who have not the same interest in it.”
 Now what you have on this question of the dishorning of animals is this:— That there were 14 judges in the three countries who offered an opinion and gave their decision upon it. Ten of these judges were of opinion, and so decided, that dishorning was not cruelty and was not an offence under the 1849 Act, which is a very skilfully drawn Act to prevent dumb creatures from being injured. These ten judges decided it was not cruelty and two English and two Irish judges decided it was. Therefore, how the matter stood since 1849 was this, that in England it was illegal to dishorn cattle and in Ireland and Scotland it was not, the fact being that the entire trade in fattening animals was done in Ireland and Scotland and in only one English county.
Other alternative methods were suggested. It was suggested that instead of dishorning the animal that caustic should be put on the head of the calf when a fortnight old so as to dehorn the animal. That was regarded as being absolutely impracticable and for various reasons. One was that horns were given the animals for their protection. Milch cattle are usually bought and sold horned. A man will not be likely to buy a springing heifer unless he can see the horns, because it is the greatest index to the quality of the animal. Moreover it is an ornament, it is a protection and it is a good thing for young calves, early growing cattle and cows to have horns.
Mr. Comyn: I am thankful to the Chair for allowing me to go so far. The point is whether dishorning should be done while the animal has its senses or whether the animal should previously have an anæsthetic administered. Now the dishorning of animals is a short, sharp operation. I do not know how much pain the animal suffers.
Mr. Comyn: Neither Senator Brown nor I can estimate what pain the animal suffers. I should say the amount of pain is not great, that it is not at all as great as the pain an animal suffers through being gored. Neither do I know what is the effect of an anæsthetic upon the animal, and few people who know nothing about it are entitled to offer opinions. Neither Senator Brown nor I know how much the pain is. This is a question on which we know nothing except from observation. I would be of opinion that the animal sustains greater injury and perhaps greater consequential pain through being put under an anæsthetic than it does by having its horns sawn off in 15 or 20 seconds.
Mr. Comyn: The Senator is not a bovine animal. The statute speaks of bovine animals. Let me submit to the House for its consideration—does the giving of an anæsthetic to bovine animals cause pain? This Act was passed in 1919 in Great Britain when there were no representatives from this country in that Parliament and when the position and the interests of the persons concerned were not before that Parliament. This dishorning clause was put in in a schedule. We all know what schedules are.  That was shoved into a schedule with various other matters in relation to cats, dogs, horses and other animals and bovine animals. The cow comes under bovine animals. I do not know what else comes under that description, but this was put into the schedule and slipped into legislation, a peculiar law per incuria.
Mr. Comyn: Per incuria, that is without due care. There was no representative from this country in the Parliament that passed that law, and that law so far as it relates to the other operations on animals, so far as it relates to operations on cats, I do not know how far it has been enforced or obeyed. So far as it relates to valuable horses, it has been enforced in some cases, but so far as it relates to the dishorning of cattle it has been absolutely and entirely ignored.
Mr. Comyn: I said so far as the statute relates. There were other matters as well as the dishorning of cattle dealt with. My friend, apparently, has not read the Act of Parliament which he is here now proposing to repeal. There is a large schedule of operations on these animals, including bovine animals, in respect of which an anæsthetic has to be administered by law. So far as the dishorning of cattle is concerned it has not been obeyed. It is a law that has not been enforced because it could not be enforced. It is a law that does not suit conditions in this country. It was never contemplated by the people who are concerned, was never enforced by the Government, and, of course, it never was obeyed as it could not be. I say nothing at all as to the cost. If my friend is able to make a case that this dishorning causes unnecessary cruelty, then I will not argue as regards the cost, though I believe the cost would be prohibitive. But I do not put my argument on that ground. The ground upon which I put it is this:  that nobody has ever been able to prove that administering an anæsthetic to an animal is not more injurious to the animal than cutting off the horn at the proper time.
Mr. Brown: The best proof that the administration of an anæsthetic has not been injurious to a beast is the fact that this Act has been in force since 1919 in England and in Scotland, and that hundreds and thousands of beasts have been under an anæsthetic for that purpose. It is well to point out that the law has been in force in England.
Mr. Brown: I would like to know what is the object of Senator Counihan in bringing in this Bill. I regret that such a Bill should ever have been brought into this House. It is a retrograde measure. The test of the civilisation of a country is how they treat the animals that are here for their use and over which they have control. This is a horrible form of cruelty, and it was put an end to in this country because the courts had decided that it was not cruel. It was because of that that this Act of 1919 was passed, the purpose of it being to put an end to that cruelty and to overrule the absurd and cruel decisions of the courts. We are all in favour of dishorning, but the question of whether cattle ought to be dishorned or not is not before the House. It is the mode of dishorning an animal that we are now concerned with, and I ask are we to go back to the cruel mode in force 14 or 15 years ago? I am afraid that to some extent, perhaps to a large extent, this is a money Bill. It is because it is going to cost the owner of the cattle something that this has been introduced. It is a shameful thing that that kind of argument should be introduced into this House.
Mr. Wilson: Senator Brown asks if we are to go back to the bad practices that, he says, operated 14 years ago. The position is that these practices— this particular way of dishorning cattle —are operating at the present time and have never been changed. This particular way of dishorning cattle is on the Statute Book, but I suggest it is a paper law and that nobody attends to it. Occasionally an officious Guard with a spleen, perhaps, against some farmer, finds him doing this operation, brings him before the court and has him fined.
Mr. Wilson: The people dealing with cattle know their business as well as the dentist or the doctor. I want to try and bring the law into line with the customs and practices of the trade. I agree it is a painful operation,  but it can be performed in a very short time. I believe that the aftereffects of an operation without an anæsthetic are no worse than when it is performed with an anæsthetic. I understand that at the Model Farm a case occurred where an anæsthetic was administered to bullocks, and that when it was over the bullocks went wild through the yard and damaged themselves against the walls. The result was that when a second batch of cattle had to be operated upon they were not given an anæsthetic.
Sir John Keane: There are roughly, two sorts of people in the world: realists and idealists. We have got them in this House. We know what the practice is. Cannot Senator Counihan be content with letting the practice continue, and the idealists be content with having their ideals on the statute book? I suggest that there is no need for this discussion at all.
Mr. Farren: I do not claim to have any special knowledge of this matter, but this afternoon this House, by almost unanimous consent, approved the principle of a Bill which proposes that when animals are being slaughtered at least the most humane methods will be adopted for that purpose. Immediately the House had come to that decision, Senator Counihan comes along with a Bill proposing to remove from the statute book an Act for the prevention of cruelty to animals on the lines indicated. I hope the House will not make itself ridiculous by, in one breath, giving a Second Reading to a Bill for the protection of animals, and in the next breath giving a Second Reading to another Bill to remove from the statute book an Act that was put there for the purpose of preventing the infliction of suffering on dumb animals. It is nonsense for Senator Wilson to ask: Why do you not bring in a Bill to make it compulsory on a dentist to give an anæsthetic when taking out a tooth in the case of a human being? A human being is a free agent in the matter and can decide for himself whether he will have an anæsthetic or not. Unfortunately the dumb beast  has no choice. If the custom prevails, as Senator Counihan and Senator Wilson said, then let this House not stultify itself by removing from the statute book an Act to prevent undue suffering being inflicted upon dumb animals.
Mr. Quirke: I am sorry I was not present during the whole of this debate, but while I have been here I have heard some of the most extraordinary statements in connection with this matter. Some speakers mentioned the fact that it was ridiculous to have a law on the statute book which was not enforced. I would like to ask what would be the situation here if every law in the statute book were enforced. I am afraid if the law, as it at present exists, were enforced to the letter, there would be very few people here at all. Speaking for myself, I say that if it were possible to enforce the law that was in existence a few years ago I would not be here. If the law at present in force were carried out to the letter many who are here at present would not be here. There was a difference of opinion in the debate on the last Bill about the amount of suffering endured by animals. People operating the business of dishorning cattle and who have been accustomed to it, such as Senator Counihan, really look upon it as a trivial matter. I have been enquiring into the business, and comparing it with various other operations, and, as far as I can find out, the operation of giving a lady a permanent wave causes an enormous lot of suffering. I do not say it is quite as bad as the operation of dishorning cattle, but it is something that needs attention. I am serious upon this matter, and have heard a good deal about it—
Mr. Quirke: I am merely drawing a comparison. Having regard to the discussion that took place on the previous Bill, I think it is rather unfortunate that the two Bills—the one we are now discussing and the previous Bill—came on on the same day,  because it is hard for some people to swallow statements they made an hour or so ago, while it would not be so hard for them to swallow statements they made a week ago. If some painless way of performing the operation of dishorning cattle could be found it would be a good idea. Perhaps, somebody who knows more about anæsthetics, local and otherwise, could suggest a local anæsthetic which would not be very costly. But there is one thing I want to emphasise: If the law is altered as requested by this measure, you will be really taking the power out of the hands of the authorities to deal with people carrying out cruel operations. My personal opinion is, and I am talking from experience, that dishorning of cattle, if properly done, with proper weapons, is not really a very serious matter. I am also aware that there are several ways of dishorning cattle. There is one particular way something like this: The cattle are driven into a pen, or a shed, and packed tightly together. A man gets in over the cattle and walks round on the backs of the animals with something like a shears for clipping the horns.
Mr. Quirke: This thing is fitted around the horns as near to the skull as possible and off comes the horn. That, in my opinion, is a very painful operation, and I believe the law in regard to it should not go. If you take the power out of the hands of the authorities which they have at present, and if a case of dishorning in that fashion, comes to the notice of the Guards, they cannot make anyone amenable to the law. If you take away that power from the authorities it will be open to certain people to use that cranch or other instrument of torture. While I do not agree with Senator Miss Browne that we are a brutal people——
Mr. Quirke: Well, perhaps, it was only to the people of her own county she was referring, but I do believe that there are exceptional people in this  country who would use an axe in this operation.
Mr. Quirke: I believe that there are such people in the country, and to take power to deal with them out of the hands of the authorities is a serious matter, and is something that should be very fully discussed before action is taken in that direction.
Mr. Staines: I am against this Bill. There is really no analogy at all between taking out a tooth and dishorning cattle. The human being can speak; cattle cannot. I remember some years ago bringing one of my boys, about four years old, to a dentist. A local anæsthetic was applied, and when the tooth was extracted the boy looked up at the dentist and said “I never want to see your face again.” About the same time I saw a beast dishorned. The animal was tied down with ropes and a man came along with a shears. Some people might say that the operation was sharp and swift and that there was not much pain. In this case it would be much swifter if the instrument had been sharper. But the man lopped at the horns until he got them off one by one. I have no doubt that the animal suffered considerable pain. When released half an hour after it ran madly down the street. I did not know at the time that an anæsthetic should have been applied. If I had known I would have reported the case. It is only now I know that an anæsthetic should have been applied, and I think we should leave the law on this matter as it is.
Mr. O'Connor: I should like to give my views on some of the statements made in connection with this Bill. Some years ago I was interested in cattle breeding and in the dishorning of cattle. I advocated the dishorning of calves of from five to ten days old. We had the greatest possible success, and made these animals nice pollies and got first prizes for many of them at the cattle shows. Personally, I would say, speaking as a member of the trade and with the experience of a lifetime, that I wish all the cattle in Ireland were pollies from the  point of view of the comfort they have when being fed. You can feed any amount of pollies with the greatest satisfaction and comfort to themselves, but you cannot feed horned cattle with the same convenience. I think that every farmer now polls his calves at the age I have mentioned, but there is an objection in a good many parts of Ireland where people rear young heifers for breeding purposes and they do not want them polled. Consequently, I do not think it should be compulsory in such a case where people feel that it is against their interests to have them polled. For all ordinary cattle, however, I do say, in extenuation of the dishorning being considered cruel in a sense, that it has been a long time in practice, and that there has been a good deal of trade attached to the polled cattle going to Scotland where they are more or less always welcome and where there is an extra demand for them. I have known of cattle being dishorned by a saw and the operation does not take very long, perhaps at the extreme it would be about five minutes. What I do say, in extenuation of the certain amount of cruelty which may be attached to it, is that the comfort of the animal afterwards during its two-and-a-half or three years of life or perhaps longer more or less counteracts it, and also there is a certain amount of profit in it. I do not go so far as to say that there is not a certain amount of pain attached to it, but in extenuation of that, I say that the length of time the operation takes is so short and the satisfaction and comfort to the cattle afterwards is so great that it more than compensates for the small amount of pain inflicted.
Cathaoirleach: I would like to call your attention to the fact, Senator, that the Bill is not concerned with the advantages of dishorning at all, but as to whether this operation should be performed with or without an anæsthetic.
Mr. O'Connor: I only wanted to explain how the views of the people are influenced. I do not go so far as to say for a moment that there is not a  certain amount of pain attached, but I do say that the dishorning of the cattle makes for their comfort afterwards.
Mr. Johnson: I do not know much about this subject except what I have heard during the discussion, but I was impressed a good deal by what Senator Counihan said in his opening speech, which he began by saying that the Minister for Agriculture had given some hearty support to his proposition. This is a repeal Bill, and ostensibly it is being promoted because the law which exists is not being carried out. It is said that it cannot be carried out and will never be carried out and that, in fact, no harm is being done by its being on the Statute Book, except for one or two cases in the year which, presumably, are cases where positive cruelty has been shown to the satisfaction of the prosecuting authority at any rate. They say that little harm is being done by the existence of this statute, as the promoters of this Bill assert. The fact that it is a Bill to repeal, and simply to repeal without any consideration of what the corollaries or other effects of simple repeal may be, suggests to me that it is inherently a case where the Minister ought to initiate any motion for repeal and that it should not come forward in this way without any formal approval or support by the Minister or any assertion by him that this is sufficient. I think that the movers of this Bill ought to withdraw it, and to make their case to the Minister with an urge that he should, if he is so strongly in favour of this action as Senator Counihan suggests, initiate a proposal to repeal this enactment. Until that were done I think I would oppose the Second Reading.
Mr. O'Farrell: All I want to say is that if the House, having passed the Slaughter of Animals Bill, now, hot on its feet passes this Bill, they will make themselves the subject of every comedian and cartoonist in the country, and rightly so. One Bill is in favour of the humane treatment of animals, and the other proposes to return to barbarity. All the advantages of dishorning can be obtained by  applying a caustic to the horns of the animal when it is a calf. Anyone who is keen on dishorning can do that. Senator O'Connor has told us that he dishorns all his cattle before they are a month old. There is no reason why Senator Counihan or anybody else cannot do that. If they object to that, it is not too much to ask them to use an anæsthetic. Senator Wilson says that the law is not being observed at all, that it is a fraud, and, presumably, their tender citizen conscience revolts at the idea of a law being on the Statute Book which is not being observed. Hence, in this Bill we are asked to remove what is an anomaly. We have had Senator Comyn posing twice to-day as a cattle expert. If I were a friend of his I would advise him to keep his role of legal expert, judging by the examples of the treatment of brute creation which he gave here to-day. I do hope that the House will not make a laughing-stock of itself by passing this Bill.
Mr. Counihan: I shall reply to the last speaker first. He is very fond, on all occasions, of using the word “barbarity” and such like expressions to Senators who disagree with him. He speaks of barbarity because cattle are dishorned. I contend that the opinions of the people who say there is no cruelty in dishorning are quite as much entitled to be taken as the opinions of Senator O'Farrell. Eminent judges have contended that there is no cruelty when the operation is performed by a competent person under favourable conditions. There are several cases of judges giving that opinion.
Mr. Counihan: This is a law which was passed in 1919. It was passed in the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and passed at a time when we had no Irish representatives in the British Parliament. We all know the influence Senator Brown, Senator O'Farrell, and Senator Mrs. Costello would have in influencing legislators, if there was no one in this House who understood anything about an Act that had been passed. It was “put  up” to them by Senator O'Farrell in such terms as “barbarity,”“brutality” and “cruelty,” while anyone who understood the position knows that it would be more cruel to leave the cattle with horns. I have been asked why not leave very well alone. I say that there are 20,000 farmers performing 200,000 illegal operations on cattle every year. I was asked, as a representative of the cattle trade, when a prosecution was taken, to try to have it quashed. I could not do so; the law must take its course. Senator Johnson says that there must be cruelty.
If a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals walks into any farmer's place and finds him dishorning cattle he can bring that man before a district justice, who has no option but to fine him for breaking the law. Cruelty need not be proved if the owner was found dishorning the cattle without using an anæsthetic. These are the facts. I have not heard very much about the cruelty of hunting a fox, which is much more cruel; I have not heard anything about the cruelty of hunting a stag, which is much more cruel; I have not heard anything about chasing a hare, which is a great deal more cruel.
Senator Brown says that this is a Money Bill. It is. I pointed out on the Second Reading that if a farmer with two cattle had to pay 2/6 or 3/- for an anæsthetic, as well as the fee of a veterinary surgeon to administer it, he would lose the price of his cattle. We see where money can be chucked around in all directions to satisfy the whims of a few people who consider there is cruelty in a practice of which  they know nothing. There is not cruelty. Senator O'Farrell has stated that the Seanad will make itself ridiculous if it passes this Bill, after agreeing to the principle of the Slaughter of Animals Bill. I agree with the principle of the Slaughter of Animals Bill when it is referred to a committee of this House, and I hope that that committee will bring forward a commonsense and an agreed measure when they are finished with it. Senator O'Farrell need not accuse the supporters of this Bill of being in favour of barbarous and cruel practices. I have done more to prevent cruelty to animals than any other member of this House.
Mr. Counihan: Except Senator O'Connor, and even there I question if I have not done more. At meetings of the cattle trade I have advocated the prevention of cruelty to animals, especially at fairs and markets and in course of transit, yet I am accused of bringing forward a barbarous measure. I say this is a commonsense measure to repeal an Act which 20,000 farmers are breaking every year. I thought the members of the Seanad would have more commonsense.
|Bellingham, Sir Edward.
Comyn, K.C., Michael.
Counihan, John C.
|Brown, K.C., Samuel L.
Browne, Miss Kathleen.
Duggan, E. J.
O'Farrell, John T.
Cathaoirleach: As regards the business of the House, we have two Bills left uncompleted, the Horse Breeding Bill and the Workmen's Compensation Bill. It is desirable that these should be dealt with before the Dáil reassembles on January 31st and I suggest that we meet on January the 17th for the purpose of the discussion  of these Bills and completing them in the necessary time.
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