The health of our live stock is of paramount importance to the national economy. It is fortunate, therefore, that there is now on the market a very wide range of economical and proven remedies which, under veterinary guidance, can be used very effectively in the treatment of many of the major live-stock diseases present in this country. That farmers generally are becoming alive to this position and are taking increasing advantage of it is reflected in the marked reduction that has taken place in the losses formerly suffered from such conditions as white scour, contagious abortion and parasitic infestation. There is much ground still to be made up, however, and one of the essentials to further progress is to put an end to the widespread and persistent abuses in connection with the sale of certain alleged animal remedies which are at their best useless and in many cases can be positively harmful and to encourage instead the use of remedies which have a real medicinal value. That is the purpose of this Bill.
The damage caused by these quack medicines goes further than the mere cheating of the purchaser. People who buy them are led away from applying proper remedies or from calling in expert professional advice in exactly those cases where it may be most necessary. Wrong treatment may mean the death of the animal. Sometimes the disease can be of a transmissible nature and irreparable damage may be done to other animals on the farm—perhaps on neighbouring farms—by the lack of proper medicines and attention. Furthermore, the farmer who suffers as a result of using a spurious remedy sold to him under the persuasion of an eloquent salesman will be biased against all veterinary medicine, good or bad.
The existing law does not in practice enable effective measures to be taken to deal with the sale of quack remedies and the present Bill has been drafted accordingly. The Bill envisages two types of control measures. The first of these (set out in Section 5) requires in the case of every commercial animal remedy that the name of the remedy, its composition, the specific remedial property or properties claimed and the name and address of the manufacturer and the packer be disclosed on the container and on any outer wrapper and that advertisements about the remedy should contain the same information. (The disclosure of additional particulars may be required by regulations made after consultation with the Consultative Committee provided for in Section 4.)
The second type of control provided for in Section 7 empowers the Minister, after consultation with the Consultative Committee, to make regulations for the control (including control by licence) of the manufacture, preparation, packing, import or sale of animal remedies. It is intended that this latter provision would be implemented, on the advice of the Consultative Committee, should Section 5 alone be found in practice not to be a complete deterrent to present abuses. It is believed, however, that the obligatory disclosure of the composition etc. of animal remedies should go a long way towards putting an end to the sale of quack products because farmers will know what exactly is being offered for the prices charged and sellers of such products who contravene the provisions of the Bill will be liable to proceedings. At the same time, it should be understood that Section 7 will undoubtedly be put into operation if the Minister, in consultation with the Consultative Committee, at any time considers that this is necessary.
The Consultative Committee provided for in Section 4 has a parallel in the similar committee which functions under the Therapeutic Substances Act, 1932. It will consist of experienced persons who will be in a position to advise the Minister in the making of regulations. It is intended that the committee will include representatives of the Veterinary Council, the Pharmaceutical Society, the Department of Health and the farmers.
Discussions in regard to the proposed legislation have taken place with professional and trade interests concerned and in framing the Bill regard has been had so far as is practicable to their views.