HC Deb 11 March 1825 vol 12 cc1002-13

Mr. R. Martin moved the order of the day for the second reading of this bill.

Mr. Heathcole

said, he felt bound to oppose the bill. He had listened to the statements of the hon. mover upon former occasions, but he confessed he had heard nothing which, in his view of the subject, called for the enactment of such a measure. The hon. mover had, on a former evening, detailed to the House, in a most affecting manner, the many injuries inflicted on the bear, which had been for so long a time baited at the Westminster pit. Now, he had been induced, by curiosity, to pay a visit to this bear, and he declared that a finer animal of the kind, or a more prosperous and hopeful set of cubs, he had never seen. The fact was, that this bear had been continually baited for six years; and they had been at last obliged to discontinue baiting him, because he had grown too fat for the exercise. The hon. member had also indulged the House with a history of the cruelties practised upon a greyhound by a French surgeon; that statement, however had since been contradicted in the public journals. If such a bill as this was to to pass, they were also bound to prevent the cruelties practised in coursing, hunting, shooting, and fishing. He would ask any hon. member—and he should like to hear the casuistry by which the question would be evaded—whether there was any more cruelty in baiting a bear with one or two dogs, than there was in hunting a stag with ten or twenty couple of hounds. If parliament put down bear-baiting, dog-fighting, and such sports, and allowed stag-hunting and other rural amusements to be continued, then might it indeed be said, that they had one law for the poor and another for the rich. It was known that his majesty himself kept stag hounds, and encouraged an indulgence in that sport. Many hon. members then in his eye also had packs of stag-hounds and fox-hounds, and were therefore, upon the principle of the hon. member for Galway, as much liable to a charge of cruelty as the proprietor of the Westminster pit in Duck-lane. He hoped the House would not interfere to the prevention of those hardy sports of the field, in which English gentlemen indulged, but which, in fairness, must be suppressed, in the event of the hon. member's bill passing into a law. He would move, as an amendment, "That it be read a second time on that day six months."

Mr. Carus Wilson

supported the bill, and said a few words against the practice of cock-fighting.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he felt bound to oppose the second reading of this bill. His hon. friend—to whose kindness of intention no man was more ready to bear testimony than himself-—seemed to have adopted the motto—"nihil humani a me alienum puto." But, if the hon. member wished to prevent all cruelty to animals, let him bring in a bill to prevent field sports of every description, and he could at once understand it; but he confessed that he did not see upon what ground monkeys, and badgers, and bears were entitled to a distinct and separate legislative enactment for their protection. Let them for a moment compare bear-bailing with stag-hunting, and they would find that the former animal had a considerable advantage, because he was allowed the use of his natural powers, and was only attacked by one or two dogs whereas, before a stag-hunt took place, they deprived the animal of his horns, which were, in fact, his only effectual means of resistance, against the twenty or thirty couple of dogs by which he was pursued; inconsequence of which the poor animal must be worried to death, unless the huntsmen happened to be in time to save him by calling off the dogs. He would ask his hon. friend, whether there was any thing more cruel in dog or cock-fighting than in pigeon-shooting? A gentleman made a wager of 200 sovereigns with his particular friend, that he would kill the greatest number of pigeons in a given number of shots; and pigeons were accordingly provided and shot at with a double-barrelled gun, without mercy. Was not this as cruel as any treatment to which a monkey or a dog was exposed; and yet how was the cruelty to be remedied? If, then, they could not provide against that which might be called cruelty, in every case, why were they to interpose legislative enactments for the protection of a certain privileged class of animals? Why were the monkey and the bear to be protected, while the fox, and the stag, and the hare, were subject to the most unrelenting persecution? His hon. friend's bill stated: "And be it further enacted, that if any person shall, after the be concerned or engaged in, or shall promote or encourage, or any wise promote or encourage, or aid or assist in promoting or encouraging, any bear-baiting, dog-fighting, monkey and dog-fighting, or badger and dog-fighting, or cock-throwing or cock-fighting, or shall in any manner wantonly and cruelly beat, abuse or ill-treat any of the above-mentioned animals, or any domesticated animal, it shall be lawful for any person who shall witness such offence, to apprehend such person so offending, and to convey such offender before any justice of the peace or other magistrate within whose jurisdiction such offence shall be committed," & c. This clause, if carried into a law, would open a door to the practice of a wanton and oppressive tyranny; for nothing more was required than the information of any evil or designing person, to cause the conviction of any person who might be accused. But, there was another clause which was still more oppressive. It was this. "And be it further enacted, that if any justice of the peace, or other magistrate, shall witness such offence as aforesaid within his jurisdiction, it shall be lawful for him, on his view, to commit and punish the party or parties so offending, in such a manner as he might do under this act upon information and proof made before him of such offence." Here was the establishment of a severe and most oppressive tyranny. By this bill, a magistrate would have the liberty of the poor man at his disposal. For any gentleman in the commission, perhaps, after having dined upon crimped cod, and after having devoted the whole of his day to fox-hunting, aye, and when about to sleep upon feathers plucked from a goose when still alive, might turn round upon any unfortunate individual who thought proper to amuse himself in his more humble way, and at once punish him, without hearing any evidence or allowing any appeal. In his kindness to brutes, he would entreat the hon. member not to forget that part of the animal creation to which he himself belonged. With respect to Dr. Magendie, a gentleman of great professional skill, and to whom the hon. member had called the attention of the House on a former night, he must observe, that that statement had received a full refutation. But, supposing it otherwise, they all knew that the advancement of science required such experiments, and he would ask, would his hon. friend take into custody, and fine or imprison, the men by whom they were made? If the statement of the hon. member respecting Dr. Magendie were correct, he would not put himself forward as the defender of that gentleman; but, on the other hand, he should pause before he attempted to stop such experiments, by unnecessary acts of legislation. Such enactments ought, at all times to be viewed with suspicion; because the principle upon which they were founded was a most dangerous one. He opposed this bill, because he thought it unnecessary—he opposed it, because he thought it would have the effect of creating a privileged class of animals—he opposed it, because it went to debar the lower classes of society from those amusements, which persons of rank and station were to continue in the enjoyment of. If the hon. member wished to repress all cruelty to animals, then let him include in his bill, hunting, shooting, and fishing, and he should at once understand what he was at. In 1822, he the hon. member introduced and passed a bill to prohibit cruelty to animals. This year he came down with a fresh bill; and, if he succeeded in that, he would come next year, and say, "I find that there are still some animals unprotected, and as you have already given your sanction to two bills, and thereby acknowledged the justice of the principle upon which I go, you are bound to give me your support." He called upon the House not to allow themselves to legislate upon such subjects. The evils complained of would be done away with, by the growing intelligence and refinement of the country.

Sir J. Mackintosh

said, he had hitherto confined himself to silent votes in support of this question, but he felt that upon this occasion, he should act an unmanly part, if he shrunk from his share of the misplaced censure with which the supporters of the bill had been met. It appeared to be the argument of the hon. and right hon. members who opposed this bill, that because it would not have the effect of protecting all animals from cruelty, it ought not to protect any, and that all ought to be left to the humanity of individuals. This was not, however, the light in which the bill ought to be viewed. The question was, whether that House was called upon to interfere for the prevention of gross and wanton cruelty? There was not in that House, any member more opposed to petty and trivial legislation than he was; but he felt that the former bill introduced by the hon. member, was not deserving of such a character; on the contrary, he felt that it had been productive of great diminution of cruelty to animals. The enactment of such measures would sink deeper and deeper into the minds of the people, and would, in the course of time, when aided by the diffusion of education and enlightened principles, be productive of the most beneficial effects upon that particular class of society whose habits of unnecessary cruelty the present bill was intended to repress. There were certainly some evil habits which it was found worse than useless to attempt to repress by penal enactments. He would instance gaming, which had gone on and flourished, notwithstanding all that had been done to repress it within the last three centuries. The measures used to repress it had, in fact, only given an advantage to the dishonest and desperate character, by encouraging dishonesty and fraud. As the laws had been found inoperative, so were the punishments inflicted in opposition to every principle of justice. Of what avail was it to fine the keeper of a gaming table 5,000l., or send him to the treadmill, while the men who gamed at the house were publicly known, and allowed to go at large? He would vote for the second reading of this bill, because he felt it called for; any defects contained in it might be rectified in the committee. — He admitted, that much evil might be done by the prejudices of certain classes, and the readiness of public writers to pander to those prejudices. Anatomy, which was the basis of sound medical knowledge, was suffering from them. It would very soon be out of the power of the English student to finish his education at home. He must seek in the schools abroad for those accommodations to his studies which hitherto had attracted foreigners to our shores. What would the great practitioners in physiological science have done, had they been impeded in their examinations as the practitioners of the present day were likely, by the growth of those prejudices, to be impeded? The immortal Harvey could not have made his luminous discovery upon the circulation of the blood without the aid of practical anatomy. No man would accuse him of encouraging cruelty to animals; but still he would say, that, of all the acts of authority which man exercised over the inferior order of animals, none was more excusable, for none was fraught with greater benefit, than the performance of those scientific experiments, the object of which was, to mitigate suffering, to remove disease, to establish health, and to prolong life. He would not shrink from any obloquy which might attach to his support of experiments, by which science was improved, and the sum of human misery was lessened. The process which led to this perfection in science was harsh, but the results were beneficent.—He would say one word, with respect to the learned and highly distinguished physiologist, Dr. Magendie, with whom he had the honour to be acquainted. He was no judge of the importance of Dr. Magendie's discoveries, but the concurrent voice of all those who were judges of these matters was loud in his praise. He believed that the hon. member for Galway had noticed the most aggravated parts of those experiments; but he must be permitted to observe, that none of these experiments, however cautiously and humanely performed, would bear discussion. When he was residing at Paris, he was introduced to Dr. Magendie, by their mutual friend, baron Humboldt, and, being in a state of ill-health, was attended by him, as his physician. It had been his misfortune to have suffered much from illness; but he always felt, as a considerable alleviation of that misfortune, the genuine sympathy, the true kindness, the unaffected tenderness, which he had constantly experienced from the able and intelligent medical practitioners whose advice he had sought. But he was bound in justice to say, and he should be base and ungrateful if he did not state the fact, that he never had been treated, amongst medical men, with greater care and tenderness than he had received from Dr. Magendie. He had no doubt, therefore, that if that gentleman had inflicted pain on any animal, it must have been when in the ardent pursuit of science, and with the hope, if not the conviction, that his experiments would be generally beneficial. He most fully agreed with sir Everard Home and Mr. Abernethy, that the experiments on living animals were only to be tolerated on the ground of absolute necessity, and that all that were not induced by that cause, ought strongly to be condemned. However, he did not think that such a subject could properly be made the ground of legislative enactments, but must be left to the humanity and feeling of the men of science engaged in performing the experiments. To the prosecution of these, this bill offered no obstacles, being only intended to prevent wanton cruelty, and he should, therefore, give it his cordial support.

Mr. George Lamb

said, that, though no friend of bull-baiting, he still felt inclined to oppose the second reading of this bill. The bill formerly introduced by the hon. member for Galway had a specific object, which daily experience proved to be necessary; namely, that of compelling drovers, carmen, and coachmen, to abstain from wantonly and cruelly tormenting the animals committed to their care. This bill had no such recommendation. He agreed with the right hon. Secretary, that the moment the legislature attempted to interfere with the sports of the people, they must do it upon grounds equally applicable to the rich and the poor. His learned friend had spoken of the games at which this bill was levelled, as not being the sports of this country; but he could show that they had been patronized by the great and powerful, centuries ago. Evelyn, describing a bull-bait that occurred in the time of Charles 2nd., stated, that "One of the dogs was thrown so high, that he fell into the lap of a lady of rank in the second gallery. Two dogs were killed. The sports ended with the ape on horseback; and I retired wearied with the filthy scene, which I had not witnessed for many years." That might be called gross, though, from the account given, the sport seemed to have been much admired by the court at the time. But that was not all, for, in the year 1702, under the gracious reign of a female, another specimen of that sport had been exhibited. He would read to the House a paper which he had found among the papers of a Vice-Chamberlain of queen Anne, Why or how it came there he could not tell. Whether the sports of the day, especially of the bull and bear baiting kind, were under the special control of the chamberlain, was a point which he would not now discuss, but simply content himself with reading the paper. It was decorated with the royal arms, and after being dated as from "the Bear Garden at Hockley in the Hole, nigh unto Clerkenwell Green;" it went on, "This is to give notice to all gentlemen and lovers of game, that on the 17th day of this present month of April, 1702, the following sports will be exhibited at this place:—first, a battle between two dogs, at one guinea each, one from a part of Middlesex, and the other from Cow-cross. The dog that shows the finest and fullest game, and comes the cleanest into hand afterwards, wins all. After that there will be a mad bull let loose with fire-works all over him, and two or three cats tied to his tail: also other varieties of bull-baiting and bear-baiting, beginning at two o'clock in the afternoon.—Vivat Regina" [a laugh.] He did not quote these instances in approbation of such proceedings, but merely to show that they had been encouraged as national sports. He conceived they ought not to legislate on this subject. It was interfering, unnecessarily with that, the cure of which should be left to that great corrective—education. For his own part, while there were persons who liked to be amused in this way, he would rather see them so amused, than not amused at all.

Mr. W. Smith

said, he differed entirely from the opinion of his hon. friend. If there were any persons who could be amused by such exhibitions as were described in the paper which his hon. friend had read, he trusted they would never be amused while they were in existence. Much good had been done by the exertions of his hon. friend the member for Galway, as might be seen in every market in London; and he hoped he would persevere in his humane efforts. The bill had been opposed, because it was said to interfere with the sports of the poor alone, and had been spoken of as an innovation. Now, the interfering with the sports of the poor, and leaving those of the rich untouched, was no innovation, for the legislature had, in one instance at least, suffered the rich to have their dances when and where they pleased, while at the same time, they had expressly forbidden the poor the enjoyment of a similar privilege. No one could doubt the effect produced by these sports on the morals of the people. The bull-fights in Spain were the subject of comment of every Englishman who had visited that country; and yet these same - persons, though they could see the bad effects produced by the bull-fights in that country, could never be led to consider the evils resulting from the bull-baitings allowed in their own. He had no doubt, that in Spain such exhibitions, had been productive of the most mischievous effects; that the people accustomed to seethe wanton shedding of the blood of animals in their theatre, had thus been prepared to witness the shedding of human blood at the auto da fé-Such a supposition was by no means improbable—it was not taking a greater step than that exhibited by the inimitable Hogarth in his celebrated "Progress of Cruelty," where a wretch began his career, by pinning a cockchafer, and concluded it by the murder of the unhappy woman he had seduced.

Mr. R. Martin

replied. He said, he thought it was no answer to him to say that he had not gone far enough, and that he ought to have legislated to put an end to the sports of the field. Such an argument, instead of being applied to him by the Home Secretary, was peculiarly calculated to be addressed to that right hon. gentleman himself. If stag-hunting was as that right hon. gentleman had described it, then was there a sufficient justification for him to call on that right hon. gentleman to exercise his influence in the government to put an end to such a barbarous sport. And he did, therefore, call on the Home Secretary to do so, and to begin the salutary reformation by recommending to the king, whose adviser he was, to put down the royal hunt, and dimiss the royal stag-hounds. If that event took place, no one could doubt that it would produce a most beneficial effect on the morals of the people; as it might lead to the putting down of other stag hunts which annually took place in the neighbourhood of London. The argument, that he had not by this bill done all that ought to be done, was no answer to his claim to do as much as was possible at this moment, any more than telling a man who attempted to save one hundred out of eight hundred persons of board a sinking ship, that he could not preserve all, would be a sufficient reason to induce him to abstain from attempting to rescue any of the 800 from a watery grave. He considered that the places of amusements in London where these cruelties were exhibited, formed a nucleus for the greatest villains in the world. Had the gentleman who opposed this measure asked the open- ions of the aldermen of London, the magistrates of Middlesex, or of any other magistrates? He would himself answer that question in the negative; for he knew that nearly all the magistrates in the country were in his favour. It had been said, that the House, by passing this bill, would be legislating on the people, and on their sports. If that were so, he was against the sports of the people; but it was a consolation, that if they were legislating against the sports of the people, they were legislating with the people on their side; and, on behalf of the unvitiated population of England, he claimed the enactment of the law. The House had received petitions from all parts of the country in favour of the proposed measure. Indeed, no man could properly vote against this bill, unless he would go the length of saying, that no cruelty exercised on animals ought to be the subject of legislation. One word as to professor Magendie. He did think the experiments of that professor most horrid and most wanton. He did not mean to say that experiments ought not to be permitted where they were for the discovery of any latent point of science, that would materially benefit man by being discovered. In such a case he thought they ought to be permitted; but with respect to those which he had stated to have been performed by Dr. Magendie, he did not mean to declare, that they could load to no practical benefit; that they had been performed by the doctor a thousand times, before in Paris; and that they were only exhibited here to produce a dramatic effect. Against the supposed propriety of such exhibitions he had produced the testimony of the first physician and the first surgeon in this Country; and to their opinion he could now add that of the regius professor of anatomy in the university of Oxford, who thought it was doing good to the country to call the attention of the public to these matters. Indeed, he should be content to be called a wicked maligner of character, if he could not produce from the -Works of professor Magendie himself a Strong condemnation of that conduct which the professor had lately pursued here. The circumstances which he had related of the professor were substantially true. It made little difference as to the real question, whether the experiment had been performed of a spanial or a greyhound, for in one case the professor had selected a spaniel, whose organs of smelling were so much finer than that of other dogs, for the purpose of making his experiments on the nerves, by which he could entirely destroy the sense of smelling even in that animal. He knew that what was spoken in that House was privileged from the action of libel; but he desired, in order to try the real merits of the question, that such an action might be brought, and with the view of enabling professor Magendie to commence the action, and to obtain evidence to support it, he had gone down that day to St. Bartholomew's hospital, and had there repeated the statement, as nearly as possible in the terms in which he had before made it in that House. But what signified it whether the dog was a spaniel or a grey hound. The distinction reminded him of a scene to which he was witness within the walls of Newgate. A man who had been condemned for murder protested to the ordinary that he was guiltless of the crime laid to his charge, and that to execute him for it would be an act of murder. The ordinary said —"You have been found guilty on the evidence of many witnesses of beating out the brains of your wife." "True" replied the prisoner, "but I was charged with having beaten out her brains with a mallet, whereas I only beat them out with the pole-axe. I am therefore a murdered man." Just of the same nature was the distinction taken between a spaniel and a greyhound, in reference to the present argument. He knew for a fact, that Dr. Magendie, while performing one of those barbarous operations on a dog in England, placed his mouth close to the car of the suffering animal, and said, patting it with his hand, "restez tranquille;" then turning to the spectators, he added, "Il serait plus tranquille s il entendait Francais." But it was unnecessary to trouble the House with the mention of any further cases. He would, therefore, leave the question to rest upon its own merits, having answered the objections which had been urged against it.

Mr. Wilmot Horton

said, that the bill formerly introduced by the hon. member was directed against wanton acts of cruelty; but the present was directed against cruelty which was only incidental to amusements. He could not, therefore, give it his support.

Sir F. Burdett

said, that, as every body agreed that a beneficial result had ensued from the former bill which the hon. member had introduced, be thought it should naturally lead to the conclusion, that they could not do harm in going a little further with him. It was not, he thought, fair to draw any comparison between field sports and those sports (if they could be so called) which the hon, member desired to put down. The former were conducive to health and activity—every Faculty of the body was called into action in their pursuit; but the latter were mere spectacles of unmixed barbarity — animals being set to tear each other to pieces, for the gratification of a multitude who stood passively looking on. It appeared to him very strange that in the course of the discussion the most, important part of the subject had been overlooked—he meant the injurious effect which such scenes bad on the morals of society. Putting ail other considerations out of view—considering that he was not legislating on a principle of humanity towards brutes, but for men—he could not avoid giving his support to the bill. The persons who joined in the sports which would be affected by it, were the very nuisance of society. The neighbourhood where the sports were pursued was the worst in the metropolis. The common law of England justified the principle of interfering with regard to any thing which had a tendency to injure the morals of the community, and cruelties were in principle punishable by common law at the present moment. The object of the bill was merely to carry that principle into effect, in those atrocious cases which shocked the public morals. He did not think that the powers of the bill would be abused. On the contrary, he feared that they would fall into disuse, unless the hon. member for Galway could appoint a successor as industrious and persevering as himself, to see its enactments carried into effect. For these reasons the bill should receive his cordial Support.

Mr. F. Buxton

supported the bill.

Sir M. W. Ridley

opposed the bill, because he could not consent to sanction the preamble, in which it was asserted, that it was necessary to put down these sports.

Sir T. Acland

considered these sports calculated to form such heartless, coldblooded characters, as had assembled in Cato-street.

The House divided: For the second reading 32; For the amendment 50; Majority 18. The bill was consequently lost.