HC Deb 04 August 1883 vol 282 cc1595-600

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Anderson.)

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee."—(Mr. Tottenham.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, the Bill had been discussed on a previous occasion, and it was then generally admitted that the Bill, as drawn by its introducer, could not possibly become law. No doubt, it was conceived in a spirit of humanity; but it was a specimen of what the Home Secretary had called "grandmotherly legislation." He himself did not indulge in the pastime of pigeon-shooting; and, therefore, he could speak quite dispassionately about the Bill. Those who had no practical knowledge of sports such as that to which the Bill referred ought to hesitate before they embarked on a career of legislation which might have serious results. What difference was there, as far as the question of cruelty was concerned, between pigeon-shooting and other kinds of shooting? He held that the cruelty was less in the case of pigeon-shooting than in other kinds of sport. Every precaution was taken to capture wounded birds, and the cruelty was reduced to a minimum. If this legislation was sanctioned, how long would it be before fox-hunting and fishing were also prohibited? Perhaps he might be told that a fox enjoyed being hunted. That he fully believed to be the fact, though how far being torn to pieces and eaten added to such enjoyment he would not detain the House by pausing to inquire. Nor would he stop to contradict anyone who maintained that a fish thoroughly appreciated the pastime of being dragged for an hour, or any portion of time, with an iron hook through its mouth. However, it was manifest that no form of sport could long continue if the principles propounded in the Bill before the House were to receive the sanction of Parliament and he put it to the hon. Member who introduced the Bill as to whether he really hoped to do any good by pressing it upon the House; and urged the House to consider the circumstances under which it was brought under their notice that evening. The House bad been sitting for a good many hours discussing legislation initiated by Her Majesty's Government, on the distinct understanding that it should not be asked to consider other measures; and, under the circumstances, he trusted that the Bill would not be proceeded with.


said, he supposed the right hon. Gentleman had never been in a dove-cot a few days after a pigeon-shooting match. He himself had been, and had seen hundreds of young birds dying of starvation in consequence of the parent-birds being taken away for shooting. He could not imagine how anyone could regard pigeon-shooting as fair shooting. He had been a witness at Hurlingham of the most gross cruelty and immorality in connection with pigeon-shooting. He saw good birds and bad birds put into the trap according to the betting. He was himself a member of the Hurling-ham Gun Club; but he had ceased to be a pigeon-shooting member owing to the gross cruelty that he saw practised there. He had seen birds struggling in heaps after they had been brought back by a man or by a dog. But even supposing that the pigeons got fair play at Hurlingham and the Gun Club, did anyone suppose that they got fair play in low pot-houses, where they were shot for bets of bottles of whisky and gin to be drunk on the premises?


said, that the Government ought to be ashamed of themselves for what had taken place that evening. At least, they might have left one responsible Minister to speak upon the subject before the House. If the same care were taken of young pigeons bereft of their parents as was taken in the case of young pheasants when the parent-birds were shot, the chief argument of the hon. Baronet who had just spoken would absolutely fall to the ground. The Bill was introduced in a spirit of mawwormism and cant. As to the hon. Member who had introduced the Bill (Mr. Anderson), he would ask what would become of Scotland if all cruelty to animals wore done away with? What would become of that country which sent the hon. Member to that House if grouse and other kinds of shooting were prohibited? He was surprised that a Scotch Member had had the hardihood to bring such a Bill forward, when his compatriots lived upon the cruelty he condemned. Then, with regard to the hon. Baronet, he always thought he was created a Baronet owing to the faithful service he had rendered to his Party; but he had now discovered another reason why that honour had been conferred upon him. It was for his marvellous exploits in slaughtering grouse. As they all knew, the hon. Baronet was distinguished for his great feat of killing 1,000 grouse in 1,000 hours. ["No, no!"] Well, he had been informed that in one day the hon. Baronet had killed no fewer than 400 brace, being armed—like Robinson Crusoe—with half-a-dozen guns, and firing first one way and then another, slaughtering all the birds that were round about him. He should like to hear from the hon. Baronet whether he had inflicted no cruelty then? [Sir FREDERICK MILBANK: No.] Did the hon. Member kill them all outright? [Sir FREDERICK MILBANK: Yes.] He was rather inclined to doubt that that really was the case in every instance, for he thought it hardly possible that any man could absolutely kill so many birds. The fact was that if a suggestion were to be made to extend the principle upon which the Bill was based to the sports which the hon. Baronet affected he would at once say that the circumstances did not warrant its application. If the hon. Member for Glasgow objected to the infliction of cruelty upon all animals, why had he not extended the provisions of the Bill so as to put a stop to fishing, which was undoubtedly cruel? He had been told by fishermen that the greater the pain inflicted upon a fish the better was the sport. Why did the hon. Member stop short at pigeon-shooting? Why did he not attempt to prohibit fox-hunting and rabbit-coursing?


said, that rabbit-coursing was included in the Bill originally, but was removed from it to please the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of his Party.


said, he objected to the Bill because it was a specimen of piecemeal legislation, and he also objected to the manner in which it had been brought before the House that afternoon. The House had been taken by surprise, as nobody understood that the Saturday Sitting was to be devoted to the consideration of measures introduced by private Members.


said, he also objected to the Bill. Pigeon-shooting in itself was not more cruel than other kinds of sport. If it was at times accompanied by malpractices, they could be remedied by better management. He did not take interest or pleasure in the sport himself; but it afforded an opportunity of enjoyment to people who could obtain no other form of sport. On that ground he would not interfere with it. He hold that it was more cruel to shoot pheasants, which were so tame that they would feed out of a keeper's hand, than to shoot pigeons out of a trap.


thought it would be a great mistake to pass the Bill, and so take a step in the direction of the abolition of all sport. One of the advantages of sport was that it provided manly and healthy diversion for those who otherwise would be tempted into vicious courses. He would conclude by moving the adjournment of the debate, in order to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober. Cries of "Order!" and" withdraw!"]


The hon. and learned Member must withdraw that expression.


said, he would withdraw it; he was simply referring to the jaded condition of the House—preferring to appeal from Philip drunk to:Philip sober.


, in seconding the Motion, said, it would be most unseemly to proceed with the Bill—


The right hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the Question of Adjournment.


said, that the House, having been taken by surprise, was not in a condition to consider the measure.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Wanton.)


stated that he thought the Noes had it; and, his decision being challenged, he directed the Ayes to stand up in their places, and Five Members only having stood up, Mr. SPEAKER declared the Noes had it.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 3: Majority 53.—(Div. List, No. 262.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Tuesday next.