HC Deb 21 May 1823 vol 9 cc432-5

Mr. R. Martin moved for leave to bring in a Bill to prohibit Bull-baiting and Dog-fights.

Mr. Brougham

said, he was a friend to the principle of any measure calculated to put an end to animal or human sufferings; but it was an objection to the present bill, that it did not go far enough. It aimed at the prevention of sports which formed the amusement of the lower orders, but did not. interfere with those in which the more wealthy and powerful classes indulged. He would ask whether fishing, grouse-shooting, hare-hunting, horse-racing, fox-hunting, and other diversions of the same kind, were not every whit as cruel as those against which the bill was levelled? When on a former occasion it had been urged that if the latter animals were not destroyed, they would overrun the earth, the late Mr. Windham had said, that that was a poor argument as regarded fishing. There was a sound as well as a ludicrous way of treating this subject; but it was enough for him at present to take an objection to it, because it tended to draw a distinction between the lower and higher classes of his majesty's subjects, with respect to amusements in which there was equal cruelty. He therefore gave notice of his intention to oppose the bill in every stage.

Mr. R. Martin

said, that the argument of the hon. and learned gentleman was most absurd. It was as much as to say, that if five hundred persons were cast upon a rock on a desolate island, and all could not be saved, the attempt should not be made to save any of them.

Mr. Peel

objected to the motion, because it belonged to a class of subjects which he did not think fit for legislation in this manner.

Mr. John Smith

said, that so far as dog-fighting was concerned, he would vote for the bill. He understood that, in the very neighbourhood of the House, amusements, as they were miscalled, of the most gross and brutal kind were carried on. Such proceedings ought to be discouraged; and the motion of the hon. gentleman should have his voice, even though be stood alone.

Mr. W. Smith

was happy that his hon. friend had introduced this subject. He hoped it would be successful, because he was convinced that a bill of this nature would be advantageous to the character of the lower classes of Englishmen. The practice of bull-baiting, dog-fighting, and badger-baiting, did not, whatever might be said to the contrary, add to the real courage of Englishmen. But it tended to keep up and extend a brutal ferocity, which was not advantageous to the country in any point of view. The argument which was founded on the impropriety of interfering with the amusements of the poor, while those of the rich were left untouched, would, if examined, be found fallacious. The pain which animals suffered in the one instance, was incidental and unavoidable, and the rich man would be better pleased if he could prevent its occurrence; but, in the other instance, the degree of pleasure in the spectator was proportioned to the quantity of suffering which was inflicted on the animal. If the conduct of those who pursued such pastimes were examined he believed it would be found that their proceedings during the night were just as cruel and as lawless as they were through.out the day.

Sir M. W. Ridley

could not agree with the hon. gentleman, that dog-fighting or bull-baiting had such a tendency to render men savage and ferocious. In his younger days he had witnessed some of these exhibitions; and as they had not made him ferocious, he thought they would not have a different effect on the people in general. Such subjects as these he considered to be far beneath the dignity of legislation. If the House entertained such questions, they would next be called on to provide a fit punishment for the slaying of cock-chafers and the destruction of flies.

Mr. R. Martin

wished to know whether leave would be given him to bring in a bill merely to protect dogs; and whether, if he withdrew his motion now, he would be allowed to bring it forward at a more advanced period of the session? [Cries of "No, no."]

Mr. Fowell Buxton

expressed a hope that his hon. friend would not be prevailed upon to withdraw his motion. The same arguments had been urged against his former bill, the effects of which were found to be so salutary. As to the tendency of such sports, he could state the case of a boy, who, from attending at dog-fights, and mixing with the society there, became perverted in character, and lost to every useful, purpose in society. He was less fortunate than the hon. baronet opposite, for his morals were corrupted.

Mr. Brougham

wished to ask his hon. friend, whether he had ever taken the trouble to analyse the component parts of the company at a horse race?

The House then divided: Ayes, 18; Noes, 47.