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How can we Protect Ourselves from Diseased Meat ?
In Germany, France and most civilized countries, slaughtering takes place at stated hours in large public slaughterhouses and all the meat is examined by highly trained inspectors, nearly all of whom are qualified veterinary surgeons. In this country the animals are killed in small private slaughterhouses, usually situated behind the butcher's shop. These slaughterhouses are very numerous. In London, for example, there were in 1897 no less than 470, and the number in smaller places is proportionally much greater; Sheffield, with a population of 356,000, contains 190 private slaughterhouses. The establishments are scattered over the town, no stated hours for slaughtering are observed, and the so-called inspectors are nearly always persons who have had no special training for their work. According to the Report of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis: “In Battersea, for instance, four plumbers and three carpenters discharge the office of meat-inspectors; in Hackney the duties have been committed to two plumbers, one carpenter, one compositor, one bricklayer, one florist, one builder, one surveyor, and one stonemason. In Portsmouth a solitary butcher has received as colleagues three school teachers, one medical dispenser, one carpenter, and one tram-conductor."
It is obvious that the task of efficiently inspecting a large number of scattered private slaughterhouses where slaughtering may take place at any time is one of extreme difficulty and would require a large and expensive staff of specially trained officials. But in the large municipal slaughterhouse, with slaughtering carried on at fixed hours, meat inspection becomes a comparatively simple business.
The Royal Commission on Tuberculosis reported that “the use of public slaughterhouses in populous places, to the exclusion of all private ones, is a necessary preliminary to a uniform and equitable system of meat inspection. This, important as it is, would not be the only advantage arising from the supersession of private establishments by public slaughterhouses. There are many other
Advantages of Municipal Slaughterhouses. Many of our private slaughterhouses are in so insanitary a condition that the meat is exposed to foul emanations from drains, decomposing blood, offal, etc. They may easily become a source of grave danger to the surrounding districts. In municipal slaughterhouses, on the other hand, the buildings are specially designed for their purpose; they are kept in good sanitary condition, and the meat is therefore not subject to deterioration. The concentration of the business of slaughtering in one large establishment removes many sources of nuisance from the neighborhood of dwelling-houses, and by placing the building near a railway station, the driving of weary and exhausted cattle through the streets would be avoided and the street danger to the public would be lessened. On humanitarian grounds the superiority of municipal slaughterhouses is obvious. The closed doors of private slaughterhouses must hide many a pitiful scene of clumsy cruelty. In our public establishments we could insist that none but skilled persons should be employed in the work of killing, and that only the most improved appliances, such as the Greener method, should be used.
German experience has shown the disadvantage arising from even the slightest modification of the municipal slaughterhouse system. In the Berlin slaughterhouses separate chambers are provided for each butcher who desires to rent one ; but this in practice has been found to militate against the inspection of meat, and hence in slaughterhouses more recently constructed the butchers slaughter in common halls, paying fees for the use of the premises. Osthoff (Handbuch der Hygiene, Vol. VI.), in considering the cost of the use of public slaughterhouses, and of the inspection of the meat in relation to the cost of the meat, estimates the additional cost due to these causes as amounting to about half-a-farthing per pound of meat. The German public slaughterhouses are in all cases self-supporting. The six municipal slaughterhouses of Paris cost the city 6680,000, and as far back as 1851 they were stated to be yielding an interest of 6 per cent. per annum upon the outlay.
Provincial Experience. By section 169 of the Public Health Act of 1875 any urban sanitary authority has the power to provide a public slaughterhouse, and the system is already in operation in fifty towns in the United Kingdom, and others, as Rochdale, in September, 1899, and Yarmouth in October, 1899, are adopting the same plan. In some cases, as, for example, Glasgow and Manchester, the system has proved a financial success ; in others, it has entailed some charge upon the rates. It must, however, be remembered that local success or failure depends largely upon the butchers, who may decide to use the municipal slaughterhouse, but cannot be compelled to do so. It is therefore not sufficient to provide the municipal slaughterhouse, we must also
Abolish the Private Slaughterhouses. Many towns in England, Wales and Ireland have provided slaughterhouses, but (apart from a few exceptional instances) they have no power to abolish those under private control except in case of flagrant violation of the law. Dublin has erected a fine public slaughterhouse, but few butchers use it. They prefer the private slaughterhouses where practically the carcases are not inspected and could not be without a large staff of inspectors. In Germany, when the town council has erected a public slaughterhouse, it may issue an order prohibiting the slaughtering of animals in the district except at the public slaughterhouse. In Scotland, a municipality has the power to declare that when a public slaughterhouse has been provided, no other place shall be used for slaughtering, except for a period of three years in the case of existing registered slaughterhouses. Scotch town councils should be urged to use this power, which, according to the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, should be extended to all towns in England, Wales and Ireland. English town councils should be urged to petition Parliament for legislation to this effect, and should meanwhile provide a public slaughterhouse.
The establishment of public slaughterhouses, and the abolition of private ones, are measures that have received the strong support of the medical profession in this country. At the meeting of the British Medical Association, in August 1899, the State Medicine Section unanimously supported Dr. Manby, the Assistant Medical Officer of Health of Liverpool, who read a paper strongly advocating the municipal slaughterhouse and the abolition of the private slaughterhouse. Our leading writers on public health are unanimous on this subject. It will suffice to quote Sir Richard Thorne Thorne, the Medical Officer to the Local Government Board: “Public slaughterhouses, officered by skilled inspectors, and supervised by medical officers of health, are urgently required, amongst other reasons, for the prevention of tuberculosis in man."
"... the properly administered public slaughterhouse is demanded as an act of justice to those trading in meat ; it is demanded in the interests of public health and of decency; it is demanded for the prevention of cruelty to the lower animals, and it is demanded to bring England -if not the United Kingdom—somewhat nearer to the level of other civilized nations in this inatter."
LIST OF AUTHORITIES. “Public Health in European Capitals,” Dr. MORISON LEGGE (Swan Sonnenschein ;
1896.3/6). - Reports of the two Royal Commissions on “Effects of Food derived from Tuberculous Animals on Human Health," 1895, and on "Administrative Procedures for Controlling Danger to Man through Tuberculous Animals," 1898.—"The Administrative Control of Tuberculosis," Sir R. THORNE THORNE (Baillière, Tindall and Cox; 1899. 3/6).-" Cattle Tuberculosis," LEGGE and SESSIONS (Baillière, Tindall and Cox; 1898. 3/6).—Report on the Abolition of Private Slaughterhouses, Dr. HARRIS, Medical Officer of Health, Islington.-"The Abolition of Private Slaughterhouses,” Dr. PETRONELL MANBY (Britisk Medical Journal, Sept. 2nd, 1899)—“Hygiene and Public Health," 5th edition, WHITELEGGE (Cassell ; 1898. 7/6).-—" Slaughterhouses" : Report by Dr. SHIRLEY F. MURPHY, Medical Officer of Health to the Public Health Committee of the London County Council.—“Municipal Year Book," 1899. Lloyd. 2/6 (for statistics of cost, &c.).; various Town Council special reports, such as South Shields (1876) and Leeds (1879); and see the extensive bibliography given under “Abattoirs" in the subject index to the Surgeon-General's Library, Washington (in British Museum), First Series, vol. I., pp. 2-4 ; Second Series, vol. I., pp. 2-4.
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WOMEN AS COUNCILLORS.
As the law stands at present, women can sit on Parish Councils, on Urban and Rural District Councils, on Boards of Guardians, and on School Boards. They cannot sit on County Councils or Borough Councils; and in spite of the decision of the House of Commons that they should sit on the new Metropolitan Borough Councils which replace the Vestries under the London Government Act, 1899, they were expressly excluded by the House of Lords, on the motion of Lord Dunraven, on 26th June, 1899. As they had sat on the Vestries since 1894, this was a withdrawal of an established right, and consequently a deliberate step backwards in political development.
The debate in the House of Lords did not touch the practical side of the question. The supporters of the women spoke generously against Lord Dunraven and his followers, who were facetious and rather coarse in the vein usual on such occasions. Neither side seemed to understand that the Councils have to do work which cannot be done by men, and that until women sat on the London Vestries it was practically left undone at an untold cost in human suffering and public decency.
What Women are Wanted For. One of the most important duties of the new London Councils will be the inspection of workshops under the Public Health Act. In these workshops many women are employed; and the Councils will have to inspect the sanitary accommodation provided for them, and to question them, receive their complaints, and so forth. It is contrary to English conceptions of decency that a man should make such inspections, or that women should be questioned by him or make complaints to him in such matters. When the Vestries were thrown open to women, this was at last recognized, and women inspectors were appointed. It is impossible to describe the state of things which was then discovered.
Women Inspectors not Sufficient. But it is not enough to appoint a woman as sanitary inspector. If there are no women representatives on the Council, her position is extremely difficult and unpleasant. She cannot initiate any action on the part of the Council; and the tone in which questions concerning women are still discussed, by Peers and Vestrymen alike (a tone which is at once silenced by the presence of a woman representative) makes it practically impossible for her to approach male members of the Council on the subject of her duties.
Street Sanitation. Again, the public sanitary accommodation in the streets of London will be in the hands of the new Councils. The needs of women were completely ignored by the London Vestries when the Fabian Society published its "Facts for Londoners" in the eighties; and it is still difficult to obtain adequate accommodation for them. But since women have been represented directly on the Vestries, matters have improved; and underground lavatories, which have become common of late years, are now provided for women as well as men, though not yet as a matter of course, and seldom without some opposition from within the Vestries. Unfortunately, the existing arrangements are quite insufficient. The lavatories for men offer two kinds of sanitary accommodation. For one no charge is made : for the other a penny is charged. In the women's lavatories there is no free accommodation : only one kind is provided at a charge of a penny. The grievance to the women of London (four out of five of them poor women) is intolerable: to men, who do not suffer from it, the thought of its existence never occurs. The plans for the newest underground lavatory in London (Leicester Square, 1900)* shew an attempt to remedy this grievance; but it still exists everywhere else. And when women are banished from the Councils, the Councillors will have no access to the women's lavatories, which will be all the worse conducted on that account.
Here, then, we have two departments of municipal work, of exceptional importance to the public health of our cities, the comfort of the citizens, and the cleanliness and decency of its less frequented places, in which the co-operation of women is absolutely necessary for efficiency, and its absence an abominable scandal.
Chivalry of the Peerage. It may be true that the work of a Rating Committee or a Finance Committee can be done as well by men as by women. It may seem true that a Public Works or Parliamentary Committee can get on as well without women as with them. But there is not even the semblance of truth in such an assumption concerning Health Committees. When Lord Dunraven said to the House of Lords, “I never yet have understood that women take a particular delight in drains, or are interested in paving, or derive much joy out of ascertaining the cubic contents of buildings," he confessed to a lack of common sense and humanity for which, as an officer and a nobleman, he should atone by introducing a Bill as soon as possible to undó the mischief his thoughtlessness did last June. Had the Peers known what they were talking about, it is inconceivable that they would have tolerated the speeches they laughed at on that occasion.
Prudery of the Press. It is hardly necessary to add that the greatest obstacles to reform in such matters are raised by the prudery of the Press, which will give the fullest publicity to such foolish quips as “How can a woman be an alderman ? " or to coarse jests made by
* It is being erected by the Strand District Board, which will be merged in the Borough of Westminster in November next.