April 10, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)



The information called for by this question is set forth in the following extract from a discussion on the subject which took place at the Imperial War Conference on the 26th day of April, 1917. This discussion' was embodied in a return laid before the Parliament of the United Kingdom in September last, and also laid before the Parliament of Canada at the last session, and which reads:
Imperial War Conference, 1917.
Extracts from Discussions at the Imperial War
Conference on the Admission of Canadian
Cattle into the United Kingdom.
Note.-The discussion took place on the Fourteenth Day, Thursday, 26th April 1917. (See p. 113 of Minutes of Proceedings in [Cd 8566.].)
Mr. Rogers : Mr. Chairman, yesterday, when
the Resolution presented by Sir Albert Stanley from the Board of Trade came before this Conference, a Resolution which was, in my judgment, very proper and very desirable from
all points of view, he was able to make no mention of beef imported from the Dominion of Canada, and my purpose in bringing the matter up is to draw attention to the fact that this was entirely due to the action on the part of the Board of Agriculture in placing an embargo-as against Canadian cattle because of alleged pleuro-pneumonia in a shipment of Canadian cattle to England in the year 1892. Now, as I understand, it was shown conclusively that the allegation was erroneous, and that it was irregular to create the embargo and to put it in force; but later it was made statutory. Since that date I may say, for the information of the Conference, that over 3,000,000 head of cattle have been shipped from Canada and slaughtered on arrival in Great Britain, and no single case of disease has been discovered. Now you can understand that this is a condition which we complain of very seriously, and we have made several appeals with respect to it. Later on we got an answer -through his Excellency the Governor General of that day, Lord Grey, giving us a copy of a letter from the Board of Agriculture, in which it was stated that the experience of foreign countries had shown how suddenly and unexpectedly foot-and-mouth disease made its appearance, irrespective of an efficient veterinary organisation.* That goes to show that the Board of Agriculture were not able to support the ground upon which they placed an embargo against all Canadian cattle originally, and shifted their ground in making this statement that in foreign countries experience went to show that very suddenly and unexpectedly foot-and-mouth disease could develop. This has had a very detrimental effect in Canada. This, of course, intensifies the feeling that a great injustice has been done by the Board of Agriculture as against the Dominion of Canada in respect of the cattle industry, and when this Resolution was presented by Sir Albert Stanley, we felt that it was an opportune moment to bring this matter to the attention of the Conference, in order to see if it would be possible for us to have redress. I may say that our Minister of Agriculture, in a letter on the question, states that our cattle are as healthy as any cattle in the world, and during the three outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the United ^States, which have occurred since the embargo was placed, Canada has been able to maintain her herds absolutely free from infection. From the point of view of disease, therefore, I feel very strongly that there is every justification for the removal of this embargo. Of course, we naturally argue that this embargo has been placed as a matter of policy by the Board of Agriculture for the purpose of the development of the British live cattle industry. If the Board of Agriculture conceive it to be their duty and to be in the public interest of Great Britain to have a policy of protection of their live cattle industry, then we would have no complaint and offer no objection; but we do seriously complain in that an embargo is placed against our cattle which supplies this protection and carries with it the stigma that they are liable to have pleuro-pneumonia, and, therefore we suffer not only in this market but more or less in the markets of the United States. I think it is due to Canada-and I think this is the proper time when we should ask this Conference-to take some definite action in order that this wrong may be remedied, so that our Canadian cattle shall have the same consideration and be received in Great Britain without having to go through the embargo that has been placed upon them by the action of the Board of Agriculture.

You, Mr. Long, were good enough to suggest that you would like to see present here a representative of the Board of Agriculture when the matter came up, and the discussion on the point was adjourned from yesterday for that purpose.
I am glad that the representatives of that Department are here to-day, and if they have any explanation to offer, or any reason why this embargo should be continued in the future, then of course we would like to [DOT]know it and to understand it in order that we may be able to explain it, at all events, when we go back to Canada, because it is a very very very live question and one in which our people take the very deepest interest. Probably you will remember, Mr. Long, that I *had this matter up with you some days ago, and you sent me a letter to say "Mr. Prothero suggests, therefore, that further discussion on the matter should be deferred until after the War, when the representations of the Canadian Government can be brought forward for reconsideration." But we do not like to feel that we are misunderstood or that our cattle industry is suffering from a reputation that never did exist, and a stigma which never ought to have been attached. Therefore, if there is any explanation to be given on the part of the Board of Agriculture, we shall be very glad indeed to hear it.
Mr. Prothero: Of course you know in this country we are very panicky about outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and pleuro-pneumonia, and you quite correctly state that the case on which the policy was founded dates right back to 1892. I had up the papers which relate to the alleged outbreak in 1892, and as far as I could see it was not a case of pleuro-pneumonia at all. The case upon which this embargo was founded1-it is not quite correctly stated as an embargo, because cattle are allowed to be landed provided they are slaughtered at the landing-dates right back to 1892. As I say, I had the papers up before me this morning, and I think the papers show that the alleged case on which the embargo was founded is extremely doubtful as to its being pleuro-pneumonia. I also believe that at the present moment and for many years past, as far as I can make out, Canada has been free from the disease, and on those grounds therefore we should receive the present suggestion for the removal of the embargo very sympathetically. As far as I personally am concerned, and so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, after the War is over, of course, because it is not an economical mode of bringing meat to this country during the War to bring over live animals, we should, I consider, be wise to remove the embargo, and I think for this reason in the main: The home
demand for store cattle in the eastern counties has been rather imperfectly met for many years past. On the other hand, there has been a considerable increase in breeding in this country; but if we have, what I think we shall have, a large extension of the arable farming in this country, we shall want to increase our reservoir for store cattle. Of course, your Canadian cattle will co;ne over as what we call "stores/' that is to say, they are to ;be fed and fattened here in England. We shall want a great many more store cattle if we have this great extension of arable farming; we shall want more animals to trample the straw and eat the root crops. At the same time there are signs that we shall not get the same number of store cattle from Ireland as heretofore. fSir Robert Borden.]
You will understand-I do not know whether there is a representative of the Irish Department here-that the main opposition, at least one strong line of opposition, to the introduction of Canadian stores is that the Irishman is afraid that it is going to cut into his trade in store cattle with this country. Well, Ireland is advancing most rapidly 'in its agricultural development. If we get cattle from Ireland they will increasingly come over here in the form of finished, fully fed cattle. Therefore the supply of Irish store cattle is likely to diminish, and in that case again the fact that we can turn to Canada for store cattle will be of great advantage to us, and I can assure you that so far as the English Board of Agriculture is concerned, we are in favour of the removal of the embargo. We do not believe that there is now, or has been for a good many years past, the slightest ground to exclude Canadian cattle on the score of disease. I do not know-I am afraid you know a great deal better than I do-but any statistics I have seen as to disease in Canada show me that you have been remarkably free from it. That is so, is it not?
Sir Robert Borden: That is absolutely so.
Mr. Prothero: Therefore, that is the answer that I would like to make you. I am afraid I ought to consult the Irish Department, because they may make difficulties, but I do not think they will, because, as I say, the whole development of Irish farming is in favour of the breaking up of these great grass ranches on which the store cattle were grazed, and from which they were sent over. Instead of that they are adopting the finishing system, upon which, of course, there is very much more money to be made and much more profit agriculturally in other ways to the farmer.
Sir Robert Borden : Mr. Prothero, may I ask a question purely for information: Is the
'statute or the regulation which constitutes the so-called embargo applicable to all countries or is it only applicable to certain countries?
Mr. Prothero: It is applicable to all countries. I believe it was passed by Mr. Walter Long in 1896.
Chairman: It was.
Mr. Rogers: Are you quite sure, Mr. Prothero, that it applies to all countries?
Mr. Prothero: It does. I mean that it is a broad general principle, but we can admit animals in exceptional cases from time to time. I think that is the case.
Sir Robert Borden: We appreciate very much your sympathetic attitude with regard to the matter, Mr. Prothero. As to postponing it until after the end of the War, I am not so much impressed by the consideration put forward, because, assuming the absence of tonnage, nothing would come forward in any case until that shortage is relieved. As far as Canada is concerned, I do not want it understood that we desire to interfere in any way with the fiscal policy of the United Kingdom. 'If it is thought desirable here that the cattle industry should be protected, whether in Ireland, or England, or Scotland, or Wales, that is a matter of domestic concern for the United Kingdom, about which we do not desire to make any suggestion; but what has been felt in Canada, whether rightly or wrongly, is this, that under the guise of a sanitary regulation you have succeeded in carrying out a fiscal policy- ,
Chairman ; It was said just now that I was responsible for this policy, for advising the

Government. It certainly was not that at all, nor did we accept the view (which my friend Mr. Prothero has said obtained twenty years afterwards) that we had not abundant evidence. There was a difference of opinion between your scientific people and ours. Our people held a strong view about it. There was a great agitation in this country about disease, particularly pleuro-pneumonia, and our scientific people differed from yours.
Mr. Rogers: A Commission was appointed
to go into the facts of the whole case, and they decided that there was no ground for the action which was taken.
Chairman: Your people held one view and ours the other.
Sir Robert Borden: I think Mr. Prothero
has put it very moderately when he says that it was at least a doubtful case. I should say there was not any substantial evidence at all of disease in Canada. There was only one instance adduced, and the experts were divided upon that. We sought an independent investigation outside Canada, and that investigation convinced us that there was absolutely nothing in it, and from that time up to the present not a single case has developed in Canada so far as I am aware, whereas numerous instances of disease have developed in the United Kingdom during that time. As far as sanitary regulations are concerned, there would be far more reason for us to put an embargo against British cattle coming to Canada than there would for Great Britain to impose an embargo upon Canadian cattle coming here. Whether rightly or wrongly, the impression does exist in Canada, that it was more the carrying out of a fiscal policy than the enforcement of a sanitary regulation. I know that view impressed itself upon the members of the late Administration, and we are not free from it ourselves.
Chairman: Sir Charles Tupper held that
Sir Robert Borden: Yes, and the members
of the late Administration held that view; the Canadian (Minister of Agriculture I am quite sure held that view. If it is desired to protect the cattle industry in the United Kingdom, let it be done; that is a matter of domestic concern; but do not accomplish it by the enforcement of a regulation which casts an undeserved slur upon conditions in Canada.
I am sure we are all very much obliged to Mr. Prothero for the sympathetic consideration he has given to the subject, and, as it is a matter of sentiment with us as well as a matter of material consideration, I hope it may be possible for him to reach the conclusion that it is not necessary to await the termination of hostilities before taking action for this purpose; but that, of course, is for him to decide. I only offer a strong suggestion along that line.
Chairman : Of course you could get publicity given to the thing by having a question asked in the House of Commons, without passing any statute. As far as I am concerned, as my name has been brought into it I can only say that I entirely agree with Mr. Prothero's policy. I think the time that has elapsed has shown that Canada has had a complete and dean bill of health during that time. I am not concerned to defend my share of the policy, though I was personally responsible as Minister, but it is fair to my advisers at that time-I am sorry to say I am afraid they are no longer alive even-to say that they disagreed with the advisers of the Canadian Government. Sir
Charles Tupper was Minister for Agriculture,
I think.
Mr. Rogers: No, he was the High Commissioner.
Chairman: Perhaps I mean his son.
Mr. Rogers: He was never Minister of Agriculture. It was Sir Charles Tupper, the High Commissioner, who took the matter up and took a deep interest in it.
Chairman: That is our old friend who died the other day.
~Mr. Rogers : Yes.
Chairman: No, I mean another Tupper, one of the sons. I thought he was Minister for Agriculture. He came over here, saw Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary for the Colonies, and then came to see me. There was a difference between the technical experts on both sides. In Canada they held that there was no justification; whereas our experts took the opposite view, and they held further that as it was possible for cattle to pass from the United States of America into Canada and they frequently did pass, and as in the United States there was risk of disease, they ought to be fortified here. That was the view that prevailed, and it was really a case for the experts, who were not fiscal reformers at all; they differed, and we followed our experts. I think, however, subsequent experience has shown that Canada has an absolutely clean bill of health.
Mr. Rogers: Yes, and we had it even in that case. They slaughter them now at the dock immediately they arrive.
Mr. Prothero: There is one point I might mention. I think, if I might use a slang phrase, we were rather "jumpy" at that time about cattle plague, because just before 1896, when this new legislation was made, we had been bringing in cattle from Argentina, and on the voyage a whole shipload of cattle were discovered to be actually suffering from foot-and-mouth disease. That was no doubt one of the reasons why we made this more drastic alteration, but we could, not by legislation but merely by an order of the Board of Agriculture, put Canada into the free list to-day.
Mr. Rogers: Then' for Heaven's sake why do not they do it?
Chairman: I think that is not so. I have not looked into this thing for twenty years, and I think that that was exactly the sin I committed from the point of view of Canada. I think before the passing of the Act of 1896, to which we are now referring, you could do this by Order in Council. At that time, as Mr. Prothero has said, there was the gravest apprehension here with regard to our cattle industry. It was extremely important to our English cattle-breeders to increase the number of cattle in the country. We had from the year 1865 or 1866, right away down to the nineties, a succession of outbreaks of various diseases, foot-and-mouth and pleuro-pneumonia, and the demand of the cattle-breeders in this country was that they should be protected against disease, however slight the risk might be. That was a demand which was backed by experts. That was the real history of it. I think that removed from the Board of Agriculture the power to put countries on the free list. I think you will find that you will have to repeal the Act of Parliament, but I speak subject to correction.
Mr. Prothero: I am afraid I have not looked at the Act on this specific point. I was not quite sure what point I was supposed to

address myself to, but I will look into it, and if we do take any action I do not see why it should not be taken at once, especially if we cannot put it into operation until after the war is over.
Mr. Rogers: How do you mean, you cannot put it into operation?
Mr. Prothero: Because there are no ships.
Mr. Rogers: We do not object to that, but remove the stigma against us from which we are suffering.
Chairman: Now the position is that the restriction is to be removed, and the Board of Agriculture will take such steps as are necessary for this purpose, but upon the understanding that, there being no tonnage, there cannot be any arrivals.
Mr. Rogers: I do not want to have any understanding about it. If there is no tonnage, that follows.
Chairman: No, I do not want it to be a misunderstanding.
Sir Robert Borden: It cannot become effective because there is no tonnage.
Chairman: We cannot do it; I am quite sure that the Shipping Controller would stop it at once, and he would say, 'We cannot let live cattle come because they take up too much room."
Sir Robert Borden: We perfectly understand that. [DOT]
Mr. Rogers: Yes, but still, we do not want to be placed in a false position. This is an old sore and an old grievance, and now is the proper time to have it cured, because the facts are all in our favour.
Chairman: The Minister of Agriculture has undertaken to do it.
Mr. Rogers: Do not you think we should have a Resolution about it?
Chairman: You do not want a Resolution, do you-or if you like you can simply move that the embargo on Canadian cattle be removed as speedily as possible.
Mr. Rogers: I beg to move that.
Chairman: Mr. Prothero accepts that, and there is an end of it.
Mr. Hazen: I think as we have a statement from the President of the Board of Agriculture that this restriction will be removed, and that he does not see why it should not be done at once, we might leave it there.
Mr. Massey: Does this embargo apply to Canada only, or to all overseas countries?
Chairman: All overseas countries.
Mr. Hazen: You do not ship cattle from New Zealand; it is too far.
Mr. Massey: They did ship cattle from Australia, but we never ship them from New Zealand.

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