HC Deb 06 June 1828 vol 19 cc1121-2
Mr. Littleton

rose, for the purpose of presenting four petitions from Staffordshire, praying that a law may be enacted for the prohibition of the practice of Bull-baiting. After the late member for Galway (Mr. R. Martin) had succeeded in obtaining a bill for the better protection of cattle, magistrates, generally, for some time, acted on the impression, that a bull came within the term cattle. The court of King's Bench, however, had come to a contrary decision; and all the Judges had given it as their opinion, that bulls were not cattle, and, consequently, that they were not protected from being baited. It was decided, that cows and steers, of the age of two years, were cattle; but, that the adult male did not come within the description. This refinement of the court of law, he did not understand; and if Mr. Martin had not thought that his bill would put an end to the practice of Bull-baiting, he would have introduced a clause for the purpose, that it might never be looked upon as a matter of doubt. On the question itself, he had great doubt whether it would be wise in the legislature to put an end to Bull-baiting by positive enactment. He could not make up his mind that it was proper to deprive the poor and labouring classes of this species of amusement or sport (if sport it really was), while the rich were permitted, by the game laws, to possess an exclusive enjoyment, which, upon every principle, must be held equally cruel. Hunting, shooting, and horse-racing, might be less brutalizing in their effects; but it seemed hard that a poor man, who earned his money by the sweat of his brow, and required relaxation, should not be allowed to spend a few shillings as he thought proper upon his pleasures. It was, perhaps, wiser not to interfere, but to trust to gradual improvement and to the consequent gradual advancement of civilization— for the termination of a practice to which, unquestionably, there were objections.

Mr. W. Smith

supported the prayer of the petitioners. As even the hon. member himself had admitted that the practice was brutal and brutalizing, the sooner it was put an end to the better.

Sir James Mackintosh

presented a similar petition from West Bromwich. He entirely concurred in the prayer of the petition, and, though he was not prepared with any practical measure, he thought that the legislature might interfere with effect to prevent these barbarous and brutal sports.

Sir J. Newport

concurred in all that had been said on the subject, and cited the case of Waterford, in which the brutal practice had been terminated by the resolution of the mayor of that city.

Mr. Benett

followed on the same side. He said, he recollected when the practice was so prevalent, that in one day there were three Bull-baits in the cathedral church-yard of Wells. No legal mode of preventing it was available; as he was told that the people had a prescriptive right to bait bulls there on one day in the year. He was happy, however, to learn, that, from the influence of public opinion, the cruel practice had ceased altogether in Wells.

Sir J. Wrottesley

concurred in what had fallen from his hon. colleague, being quite sure that the increase of moral and religious feeling would shortly put an end to Bull-baiting, without recourse to a legislative enactment.

Ordered to lie on the table,