« PreviousContinue »
EDINBURGH VETERINARY REVIEW
Innals of Comparative Pathology.
ORIGINAL COMMUNICATIONS AND CASES.
Have the Importations of Foreign Stock into England been bene
ficial to us as a Nation? This question—now seriously debated in most parts of the United Kingdom, and more especially amongst the breeding and grazing communities—presents to us rather a wide field for discussing a subject fraught with paramount importance, not only to the agricultural body, but likewise to the great consuming classes of the whole country. In its consideration, we find special interests involved, and those, too, of by no means a limited character, which, on the one hand, from the desire for protection from competition, contend that free trade in stock has been ruinous to them; and, on the other, that other than absolute freedom would have the effect of advancing the quotations far beyond those at present realised in our markets, and that, consequently, every encouragement should be given to the foreign producers to insure for us an increased quantity of food to meet the consuming powers of the people. It is not our intention, on the present occasion, to enter into a political discussion, bearing upon the value of free trade as a whole ; but we consider it indispensably necessary that we should calmly and dispassionately-seeing the extent of the long-complained-of disease amongst both beasts and sheep, and the heavy losses which have been sustained during the present year (losses, be it observed, far more extensive than have been recorded in the public journals)—consider a few points in connection with the production and consumption of animal food. The leading points may be thus briefly summed up :
1. Have we, as a nation, profited by the free introduction of foreign stock?
2. Have prices of either beasts or sheep suffered from foreign competition?
3. Have the losses of home-fed stock been equal to the importations?
4. Are the precautions taken to prevent the spread of disease in England and elsewhere judicious, and equal to the emergency?
VOL. V.--No. XXXIII. JANUARY, 1863.
which admits the on, as given abous details, it wila
Lastly, we propose to demonstrate the utter fallacy of the system which admits the intermixture of foreign stock with our own.
The first question, as given above, has never hitherto been raised; but, on close examination of various details, it will be found all-important both to the producing and consuming classes. The former naturally desire a remunerative price for their productions, whatever they may consist of; whilst the latter too frequently contend for the necessity of enlarged supplies, from whatever source they can be obtained, without fully comprehending the effects which may ultimately arise froin the importation of an article, which carries with it a fearfully destructive power, and which may be instrumental in raising the value of a particular commodity far above its ordinary levelconsequently, in sapping the very foundations of our agricultural greatness. London being the great emporium for the import and sale of foreign stock, claims our attention, in the first place, as the largest consuming city in the world, and as the centre of disease, which we shall prove as we proceed. The great increase in the population of the metropolis during the last ten years, viz., 440,798, the actual census in 1851 being 2,362,236, and in 1861, 2,803,034 souls, would naturally lead us to the conclusion that the necessities of the people would lead to an enormous increase in the consumption of butchers' meat, and the operations of free trade in foreign stock would materially assist in providing for the requirements of an augmented population. Let us bring a few statistical facts to bear upon this question. In doing so, we will take the past 11 years, viz., from the period of the census in 1851, and include the value of beasts and sheep in a given period. If we mistake not, the details will show that free trade in cattle has been otherwise than favourable to the country generally. In the 11 years, then, ending with 1861, the total supplies of stock exhibited in the London markets, were as under: TOTAL SUPPLIES OF STOCK EXHIBITED IN THE LONDON
Thus we find that, comparing 1861 with 1851, the increase in the supply of beasts for the whole year was only 25,801 head; but, if we
compare 1861 with 1853, in which latter period 269,607 beasts were shown, we find a positive deficiency of 10,045 head! In 1853, the number of beasts turned out unsold to reappear for sale—and we beg particular attention to the turning-out system—was under 10,000; whilst in 1861, it was nearly 20,000 head. It follows. therefore, that the deficiency was nearly twenty thousand head. But it may be said that the local markets in the vicinity of London have increased in importance. To some extent they have; but, in numerous instances, they have been partly supplied from the London market, and during the greater portion of 1861 and the present year, much of the meat sold by the butchers at Brighton, Hastings, Lewes, Margate, and Ramsgate, as well as in the towns north of London, has been derived from the metropolitan market; so that, in point of fact, the increased supplies, consequent upon the free import of foreign stock, are nowhere to be met with. It may, however, be contended that the additional consumption has been supplied by a very large increase in the arrivals of dead meat up to Newgate and Leadenhall markets from Scotland and various parts of England. On this subject we have made close inquiries, and the result of our investigations proves conclusively that the reverse is the case. The total number of carcasses received up to those markets, since January last, has not exceeded 30,000 per week; but, in 1851, they were upwards of 40,000, and in one week in 1841, they were nearly 80,000. Of course, prices in the latter year were very low, and who can feel surprised that they were so, with enormous supplies of home-fed stock, and with a population considerably less than at present?
Having shown a deficiency in the supplies of beasts, as compared with the natural law of demand, we may now direct attention to the numbers of sheep exhibited. And here we find even a more remarkable statement-confirming as it does the pretty general impression that some potent cause has operated against production. From the above comparative table, it will be seen that in 1851 the supplies of sheep and lambs exhibited comprised 1,549,426 head, and that, in 1861, they had declined to 1,378,901 head, being a decline in them of 170,525, notwithstanding that the imports of foreign sheep increased in the same period 56,700 head, viz. from 179,210 to 233,910 head! In addition to this serious falling off in the numbers of homefed sheep, it is necessary to observe that nearly all breeds-downs and half-breeds excepted-have shown a great deficiency in quality, although much has been said in favour of the new system of forcing animals, and of the advantages resulting from a rapid production. Clearly, we now require such a system as shall provide for the wants of all classes; but we have great doubts of the value of that which aims at too large a growth of fat. Prior to the commencement of free trade in foreign stock, there was very little difficulty in purchasing full-mouthed sheep in the London market, with, of course, a full proportion of lean on their backs. Now, however, such a description of sheep is not to be purchased. Taking the supplies collectively, we