HC Deb 25 February 1949 vol 461 cc2167-259

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

In doing so I will try, however inadequately, to speak for creatures who cannot speak for themselves and who were depicted in a recent "Punch" cartoon coming to the Table of this House and appealing for protection against the thoughtless cruelties of man. I am also speaking for thousands of people all over the country, humanitarians of all classes, including such distinguished leaders of thought as the Dean of St. Pauls, the Rev. A. D. Belden, Professor Gilbert Murray, George Bernard Shaw and Professor Laski—[Laughter.]—he has survived the recent hunt, anyhow—and Mr. H. N. Brailsford.

Many people have written to me in support of the Bill, including many farmers and many Labour workers in rural areas who are distressed at the suggestion in some quarters that some important leaders of our party do not want the Bill to have a Second Reading. I have also had many letters from lifelong Conservatives, who write to me saying: I loathe your politics. I dislike your party, but I support your Bill. The fact is that the Bill is no party Measure. Compassion for suffering is not the prerogative of any political party. Hatred of cruelty is common to every civilised humane and adult mind.

The Bill has also, I notice, aroused a certain amount of organised hostility, some of which has taken the most peculiar form. This morning I read that fox hunters are going to ride down Piccadilly uttering their peculiar cries. I think that it might have amused the late Mr. Oscar Wilde to see the unspeakable pursuing the uneatable in the vicinity of Leicester Square. Most of the hostility has been directed not against the Bill at all, but against an imaginary Bill which was supposed to prohibit angling, shooting, rabbiting, beagling and fox hunting, indeed all country sports in which the death of animals is involved. The Bill that I am moving today does none of these things. Hon. Members on all sides, whatever their views may be, will agree that it would be unfair that the progress of the Bill through the House, this moderate, reasonable and easily adaptable Measure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] Oh, yes, that is quite clear—should be prejudiced by arguments that have nothing to do with the case and by a campaign started long before the provisions of the Bill were known.

I will explain what I mean by "adaptable." This is a Bill to prevent cruelty, and it mentions four forms of cruelty. Therefore, if some hon. Members only dislike three of those forms or two of them, the Bill can be amended in that direction. It will still be worth having if only one of those forms of cruelty is abolished. I commend this aspect to the Minister of Agriculture who, most unfortunately, I thought, appeared—I hope that it is only an appearance—to commit himself to opposing the Measure before he had ever seen its provisions.

I want to pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), the admirable son of a highly respected father, because it is owing to his tireless energy and his simple humanity that the Bill has come before the House. He it was who secured the promises of many hon. Members, including myself, that if they were successful in the Ballot they would introduce a Bill of this nature, not necessarily this Bill but a Bill of this kind. Therefore, in this matter I am but the instrument—I am very proud to be so—of a younger intelligence.

We in this country are not a cruel race. We always pride ourselves on our love for animals. However, this love for animals which characterises our people is of very modern growth. Just over 100 years ago there was very little love for animals in this land. Horrible cruelties were perpetrated on animals in the early part of last century and there was no law to prevent them. Cats were skinned alive for the sake of their fur, bears and badgers were baited, dogs were matched against monkeys and fought each other to the death, and bull baiting was a national sport and was defended in the House of Commons by almost the same arguments which are being used against this Bill.

People who wanted to abolish bull baiting in the early part of last century were told in Parliament—they were told by most distinguished men, men like Canning, Robert Peel, and William Windham, who was described by the late Lord Rosebery as the greatest English gentleman of his time and perhaps of all time—that bull baiting had existed as long as this country itself, that it had improved the qualities and breed of the British bulldog, that it gave an athletic, vigorous tone to the character of the classes engaged in it and cultivated the martial spirit of the people; that hunting, shooting and fishing were equally cruel, if not more so, and if anything should be abolished first; that those who wanted to abolish bull baiting were depriving the people of all their amusements and that they were likely to destroy the old English character by abolishing all rural sports. We can almost hear the voice of the British Field Sports Society and its ducal chief.

Bull baiting and other cruelties were prohibited by the Act of 1835, which was superseded by the Act of 1849, and then through the long Victorian era that Act was the main Act which governed the law relating to cruelty to animals, and it remained the main Act until the Protection of Animals Act, 1911, which consolidated all previous legislation on the subject and is the present law of the land. Speaking broadly, none of these Measures to prevent cruelty to animals up to 1900 gave any protection at all to wild animals but only to those animals which were "sufficiently tame to serve some purpose for the use of man" and although something has since been done for wild animals in preventing the infliction of unnecessary suffering upon wild animals in captivity, wild animals which are free and running in the fields and woods or swimming in the streams are still awaiting the protection of this House and the law.

Some slight attempts have been made to protect them. In 1930 and 1939 Bills to prohibit the hunting, of wild deer were presented to the House but made no progress. In 1925 a Bill to prohibit the coursing of hares and rabbits and the hunting of carted deer got through the Committee stage but failed through lack of time to secure the Third Reading. That Bill was supported by the present Minister of Agriculture, who, with his usual calm lucidity, exposed the atrocious cruelty of these so-called sports and declared that the Bill ought to receive universal approval. That was 24 years ago. The object of that Bill has not yet been achieved. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give sympathetic consideration to this Bill or at least will not oppose the Second Reading. Let the Bill pass to the Committee stage where it can be examined in more detail. After all, 24 years is a very long time to wait, and in all probability in another 24 years neither the Minister nor I will be here. Let us, therefore, do something now while we can for some of the helpless hunted creatures of our countryside.

The Bill is a very simple one. It prohibits on the grounds of cruelty the hunting of deer, badgers and otters and the organised coursing of hares and rabbits. In case this leads to the undue prolification of these animals, the Bill permits the destruction of such animals in such areas and by such methods as may be laid down in regulations issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. I will deal with all these matters as I go along.

I will take coursing first. In the first place, the Bill prohibits the coursing of hares and rabbits. In sporting language, I believe that the difference between "hunting" and "coursing" is that in hunting the hounds pursue by scent and in coursing they pursue by sight. However, that is not a dictionary definition, nor, as far as I know, is it a legal one. In the Bill "coursing" is given a special definition which will be found on page 2. Under the present law it is lawful to release a captured hare or rabbit for coursing purposes as long as it is not injured or in an exhausted condition and as long as it has a reasonable chance of escape. The Bill sweeps away both of these qualifications. It says that no cap- tured hare or rabbit can be released for coursing in any circumstances whatsoever and that there can be no coursing in a restricted area whether there is a reasonable chance of escape or not. However, it does not prevent—this is very important because there has been some misunderstanding on the point—a man going out with dogs and flushing a hare in the fields or on the hillside and letting hounds pursue it. That is still lawful under the Bill because the hare is not restricted in any way but has the whole world in front of it. The Bill is aimed only at organised coursing meetings such as Altcar, the meet for the Waterloo Cup. At Altcar, hares are driven by beaters into the coursing area and are coursed separately by hounds.

It is said by the supporters or defenders of this sport that when caught the hare is instantly killed. However, that is not always the case. Peter Wilson, writing in a special article in the "Sunday Pictorial" on 6th February, described what he himself had seen: The hare screamed again as one hound seized a hind leg. The second dog got the hare's head in its mouth. The hare's cries were now muffled so that it bawled like a child left alone in a deserted home. In a previous article in the "Sunday Pictorial" the same writer said. I'd always been told that the hounds went for the neck, like a terrier after a rat. It isn't true. The greyhound goes for the entrails to try to drag them out—a steaming scarlet mass.

Brigadier Head (Carshalton)


Mr. Cocks

This was in the "Sunday Pictorial": And the hare screams and squeals and kicks. My God, how it screams. Like a child with a hot iron on its bare flesh.

Brigadier Head

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? As we are being given as an authoritative statement something from the "Sunday Pictorial" about a subject of which many hon. Members of the House know nothing whatever, it is fair to say that anybody who has any dealings with greyhounds knows that the statement that they go straight for a hare's guts is utterly untrue.

Mr. Cocks

This statement was made by a well-known writer in the "Sunday Pictorial," a paper with a large circulation, and if it were not true I suppose some action could be taken or some denial could be made. I have not seen any denial made of that statement.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

It is not true.

Mr. Cocks

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that it is not true. I am relying on this writer in the Press. He said that he saw it himself, so the hon. and gallant Member is saying that the writer is either a liar or blind. Miss Johnston, the honorary secretary of the Prohibition of Coursing Committee, wrote me a letter on what she saw at the last meeting: Twice during five hours I saw the two dogs catch a hare, in the first instance, by the ear and the other dog by its hind leg, and in the second case one dog got the hare by the back and the other by its haunches. In both cases the entrails of the hare fell on the ground. What can be said in favour of so ghastly a sport as this? A correspondent—I do not know whether a lady or a man—has sent me an amended version of a famous poem which runs:

  • " 'Twould ring the bells of Heaven
  • The wildest peal for years,
  • If Socialists and Tories
  • Defied vote-losing fears;
  • And banded all together,
  • Despite their party cares,
  • To sweep away Man's cruelty
  • To helpless, hunted hares."
The only defence of this form of coursing I have heard is that it helps to keep down the number of hares. I have a leaflet here issued by the British Field Sports Society called "The Truth," and I would not doubt its being the truth. This is what they say: On the first day of this year's Waterloo Cup, 48 hares were coursed and nine were killed. It mentions two smaller meetings at each of which only three were killed out of over 30 coursed. I accept those figures. They prove my case, they show that in spite of all the money spent, all the manpower employed, all the cruelty involved, these meetings as a means of keeping down the number of hares are quite useless.

The "Sunday Pictorial" called coursing in a headline "Britain's wickedest sport." It is time it was ended. I ask the House, whatever they think of the rest of the Bill, at least to end this horrible cruelty, this rotten relic of a more barbarous age.

Another bad form of cruelty to my mind is badger hunting, a useless cruelty too. The badger is the most interesting of all English mammals. It does far more good than harm, and many landowners and farmers like to have a badger on their land. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that a number of men go out and dig up a badger and then, instead of hitting it on the snout and killing it instantly, they throw him to the dogs. As the badger has a tough skin, it sometimes takes 20 minutes before he is dispatched.

Another form of badger hunting which ought to be stopped is badger hunting at night. A number of old fox hounds, trained to scent badgers, are sent out. Their aim is to get the badger in the open before he returns to his sett. This is often extremely cruel, and I heard of one case where a badger was chased over the fields, savaged by dogs and beaten with sticks for about a quarter of an hour before he was finally killed. This also should be stopped, because the badger is one of the pluckiest animals alive, and he deserves a better end than that.

People have asked me, "What would you do in the case of a rogue badger which kills fowls or other poultry?" I think they are rare. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In a case like that, under regulations issued by the Minister, the county agricultural committee could issue a permit to some humane and knowledgeable person—such as the hon. Baronet the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas)—to go out and dig up the badger—I know he has dug out many—and kill it in a humane way. Or it could be done under the supervision of the pest officer. But indiscriminate badger digging, and all badger hunting with hounds, such as the wicked massacres perpetrated recently by the Axe Vale Badger Hounds, when they killed 28 badgers in one month and three in one night, should be absolutely prohibited.

I have not much to say about the otter except that it is a most playful and delightful animal. I know a lady who used to keep one as a pet. She lived in Sussex, and she took it on a 'bus to Brighton and back. The otter apparently liked the aspect of Brighton because the next morning, at the 'bus stop at the end of the lane, it tried to get on the 'bus again. The passengers were frightened and knocked it off. The curious thing is that a man came up in a car and said, "Stop knocking that animal about." He picked it up, put it in his car and said, "I am the master of the otter hounds. I have always wanted to have a tame otter."

The otter probably does more good than harm. If it kills an occasional water fowl or takes a bite out of a salmon, it eats innumerable eels which destroy the spawn of salmon and trout. It seems a cruel thing to chase such a delightful animal up and down a stream for five or six hours before killing it. If they get too numerous, they may have to be shot by the pest officers but, for the time being, I think the otter should be protected from hounds. I will not say more than that because I do not know a great deal about the otter except what I have read and have been told.

I now come to the sport which has aroused the greatest public indignation of all, the hunting of the red deer of Exmoor, the Quantocks and Cumberland. This Bill also covers the fallow deer of the New Forest and other places. It also covers that foolish mock-sport, hunting the carted stag. I do not intend to deal with those this morning; I want to concentrate my arguments on the red deer. There is no doubt in my mind that the hunting of the red deer is revoltingly cruel. It is so unpopular in this country that if a plebiscite of the population were taken, 99 per cent. of the people would vote for its prohibition. People may know nothing of the technical difficulties of keeping down the numbers of the deer, but they instinctively feel that this form of hunting is so cruel that it should no longer be tolerated, and I think that in this matter the public instinct is right.

I do not wish to harrow the feelings of this House unduly, but I must give two examples of what I mean. I could give many. I met a gentleman the other day called Mr. Pope. He has permitted me to mention his name. He is now an inspector of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Some years ago he hunted with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. He saw many revolting sights. On one occasion he saw a stag fighting for its life on the bank of a stream. The hounds were leaping up at it. The hounds tore out its scrotum, causing it to bellow with pain. It was not until after 10 minutes of further agony that the stag was killed.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

Could the hon. Gentleman say when this incident is alleged to have occurred? What year, and what date?

Mr. Cocks

I have not the date here, but I have given the name of the man who saw it. It was about 20 years ago; I know that. I think it was in 1930, but I am not certain. I would like to point out that in bringing these things forward to the House I am not giving them as events but as examples. They are examples of what could happen, even if they had not happened. They could happen when stags are being hunted by hounds.

Mr. Collins (Taunton)

Could the hon. Member say whether Mr. Pope mentioned where the hunt was during that 10 minutes?

Mr. Cocks

No, he did not. Some of the huntsmen were there. The stag went into the water.

The second example which I wish to give was printed in the "West Somerset Free Press." This hunt was at Porlock Weir on 24th March, 1942. The report said: This particular stag had its tail, with several inches of the spinal cord, torn from its living body, and yet, so great was its fear, that the animal ran on for a further quarter of a mile to the sea. … only to be further torn by the hounds and drowned. The stag's tail was found in a garden and the story is confirmed by 12 witnesses.

It is argued by supporters that the hunt is not so cruel as it was because the huntsman has a humane killer and when the stag is brought to bay it is instantly killed. That may be so when the man with the killer is up with the hounds at that particular moment, but he is sometimes a long distance behind. On rough ground horses often cannot keep up with the pack. Mr. Littleton Powys, a member of the well-known literary family, fishing in Badgeworthy Water a few years ago, said the hunted stag came up, the hounds came up after it and went past him. It was three-quarters of an hour later before the hunt itself arrived. In the space of three-quarters of an hour the hounds could do what they liked with the stag so long as it was not able to keep them off. Richard Jefferies describes a hind, which cannot defend itself, being pulled down by the hunt and eaten alive, so that by the time the huntsmen arrived the bones had been picked clean.

I think it is time this cruel sport, carried on merely for the pleasure of 300 subscribers to the hunt, should be abolished for ever. As a Devonian, I resent this stain on my county's reputation and I hope the members of the hunt come from Somerset or some other foreign part. We all know that the red deer, as pests, can do much damage to crops and that their numbers must be kept down. But the hunt does not keep down their numbers sufficiently. How can it, when they spend a whole day hunting one stag or, at most two? By the figures issued they kill just over 100 a year, that is stags and hinds combined. Yet in 1939–1940, when the war was on and there was no hunt and when deer were shot. 412 were killed in 1939 and 453 in 1940.

Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

How many were wounded?

Mr. Cocks

I do not know. The figures I have given were of the number killed. All I say is that the number kept down by the hunt is not a quarter of what were actually killed during the war.

Mr. C. P. Tanner of Kingsnympton Park, Umberleigh, North Devon, writing in "The Times," on 12th February, said: Hunting does very little to control the number of deer … Fifty years ago there was no stag hunting here and there were no deer. Now we have both. During the war I planted 60 acres of young fir, and now the deer are proceeding to ruin the young trees. … I have endeavoured to get the Pest Committee to shoot these herds, as this is the only sure way to control the deer, but apparently they are unwilling to do this in view of the present value of venison. I do not know what that means. The letter continues: There is no question at all that hunting is the one and only reason why deer exist. This letter was from a landowner in North Devon and I think it is conclusive.

In my view, deer hunting should be absolutely prohibited. The Minister of Agriculture should decide what number of deer should be allowed to exist. In 1882 there were only 50 stags and 250 deer, and that might be the figure. I see that a gentleman writing in "The Times" today suggests that they might be transported to other regions where they would be very welcome and where there would be more food for them. I do not know whether there is anything in that or not. If they cannot be reduced in that way steps must be taken to reduce the excess number by shooting. There is no reason at all why the services of the harbourer, who is expert in the ways of deer, and the hounds called tufters, which drive deer out of the woods, should not be used in combination with shooting parties by local sportsmen organised by the Pest Committee. There is no reason why regulations should not be made permitting local farmers who have a high level of marksmanship to shoot a given number of deer every year and to have the venison in return. I do not know what the Minister of Food would say about that, but I have no doubt it could be arranged.

Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)

Would the hon. Member say what they would use to shoot the deer—rifles or shot guns?

Mr. Cocks

Those are details which could be gone into at the time. I agree that a rifle would be best, but it would be dangerous for other people; shooting with buck shot is another way, and perhaps shooting with heavy revolvers, too.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

The hon. Member is putting forward this Bill on the plea of preventing cruelty to these animals. Does he not consider it even more cruel to wound deer?

Mr. Cocks

I had not quite finished my sentence. I am dealing with all those points, if the hon. and gallant Member will be patient. If it is said that at present farmers only pepper and wound the deer and that it goes away wounded and perhaps dies an agonising death, I would mention that I have heard it suggested that that is due in many cases to the fact that the farmers do not want to get into the bad books of the hunt and, therefore, do not want to kill the deer. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well. that is the argument I have heard. I have heard it suggested that because it would be unpopular to kill the deer they only want to drive it away. If the farmers knew they could kill the deer and have the venison, they would much rather kill the deer because of the venison and they would not let it escape. [Laughter.] There is a lot of laughter, but I am not proposing to take a park of artillery to Exmoor. There is no reason why, during a certain week or fortnight during the year, advertisements should not be placed in the local newspapers saying that certain areas in Exmoor would be dangerous in those weeks because at that time deer were being shot by expert riflemen, by crack shots sent down from Aldershot or somewhere else. [Laughter.] The only reason I can suggest for this laughter is that hon. Members opposite have not a very high opinion of the firing accuracy of the British Army.

Hon. Members

They trained them.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Does the hon. Member suggest arming them with machine guns?

Mr. Cocks

Of course, the riflemen would be guided by expert moorsmen, men expert in the moors and in the ways of the deer. Where there is a will there is a way. Abolish the hunt, and alternative ways of killing the deer—and not cruel ways—will soon be found and adopted. It is too absurd to say that in these days of scientific slaughter there is no way of destroying the deer suddenly and painlessly, and that we must return to the primitive and savage hunt of the time of Nineveh and Babylon. If we asked Field Marshal Montgomery to clear the deer he would soon clear the moors of all the deer we wanted removing. He would reduce them to any number required. I hope that eventually Exmoor will be declared a national park and that wardens will be appointed to regulate a certain number of deer and keep them within suitable limits. In other words, as a writer in "The Times" suggested, deer should be nationalised. It was suggested by the Editor of "Wild Life" in "The Times" of yesterday. That is a matter for the Government and not for me.

I think I have said enough to prove that this Bill at least deserves a Second Reading. Hon. Members may dislike certain parts of it, but not other parts. They could work to get the parts they dislike removed. If we could only save the life of "Squire Brock" it would be worth having this Bill.

I would also assure hon. Members that there is no possibility, if this Bill is allowed to go to Committee, of the abolition of fox hunting being introduced on the Committee stage although, of course, if that were done, it could always be taken out again on the Report stage. I regard this as a point of personal honour. I have given a pledge that although I am also opposed to fox hunting I do not intend putting in the abolition of fox hunting at a later stage. I would not lend myself to a Parliamentary manoeuvre of that kind and I give a pledge that if it were introduced against my will, I would not proceed further with the Bill.

Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)

But is the hon. Member able to commit hon. Members of a Standing Committee, who are not yet appointed?

Mr. Cocks

I shall be on the Committee, I hope, and I should oppose that being done. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) did not hear me. I said that if abolition of fox hunting were introduced against my desire and wishes and my opposition, I would withdraw the Bill.

May I say a word to the Government, especially to the Lord President of the Council? This Bill may not be a vote catching Measure, but it has the support of humanitarians and animal lovers all over the country, very strong support. I believe that if the Government allowed a Second Reading, in order that the Bill might be further discussed in Committee, they would gain more votes than they would lose. It may be that the Bill is badly drafted, as we have not had the help of skilled Parliamentary draftsmen, but I have no doubt that that could be adjusted. The Lord President would find me very reasonable and open to accept suggestions from him and the Government. In fact, I am very much like the man in the Phil May drawing who says: I will do anything in reason Maria, but I won't go home. I will do anything in reason for the Lord President, but I will not drop the Bill.

As one grows older, one realises that civilised life with all its gentleness, compassion for the weak and thought for others, is but a small island in the vast ocean of cruelty, selfishness and insanity inherited from millions of years of subhuman ancestry. To drain that ocean completely will, perhaps, take thousands of years, but here and there sometimes we can make small advances and drain a little land, close up some inlet or fill in a shallow bay. In A.D. 402 a considerable advance was made when Telemachus, a Roman monk, rushed into the Roman arena and tried to separate two gladiators. He was killed, but as a result the Emperor Honorius issued an edict which abolished gladiatorial displays and massacres of animals for ever. That was a gain for civilisation. There was another permanent advance in this country in 1835, when bull baiting was abolished. We make permanent gains when laws against cruelty to children and animals are enacted. So shall we continue to gain ground, for, as John Morley says: I am quite sure that the time will come when people will read of the wanton cruelties which we now inflict in sport with the same abhorrence with which we now read of the bloody orgies of savage tribes and the cruel scenes of the Roman amphitheatre. With every day that passes the future of civilisation is in process of formation. We ourselves are moulding the future of our country and our race. We are moulding it this afternoon. Shall we take as our pattern for the future the practices of Attila, the Hun and hunter, or the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi? Attila, or St. Francis? That is the choice I ask the House to make. That is the choice the House must make this afternoon. I beg to move.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

On a point of Order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a question of procedure? The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) said that in certain circumstances he would withdraw the Bill. I would be grateful if you can give us guidance as to whether it is competent for an individual Member to withdraw a Bill merely because he has moved its Second Reading. He may desire to withdraw the Bill, but, if other hon. Members desire to proceed with the Bill, would it be competent for him to withdraw it?

Mr. Speaker

That follows under our usual rule. If the hon. Member asks for leave to withdraw and any hon. Member objects, of course he cannot withdraw it.

11.46 a.m.

Mr. Carson (Isle of Thanet)

I wish to support the Bill whose Second Reading has been so very ably and wittily moved by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). Since the Bill was printed and my name appeared on it, I have been down to my constituency and had a a chance at first hand to find out just what the opponents of the Bill are saying.

I had a fairly rough meeting in one of my rural areas. It was not rough from the local people, although there was one farmer who opposed me—he opposes as a matter of principle—but the rest were imported in a 'bus from a nearby town. It afforded me a good opportunity because I was talking on the Conservative agricultural charter and I had a larger audience than otherwise I would have had. But it was organised opposition and organised distortion of what the Bill seeks to do. Organised distortion has been put forward by the British Field Sports Society. I have been rung up time and again, by ordinary working people accusing me of trying to close the electric greyhound track at Dumpton Park. That is the kind of distortion there has been.

I listened as far I as could, amidst the uproar of the public meeting, to what my opponents wanted to say and they made no case which would make me alter the view I have held over a number of years. It is hard to argue on this matter with people who are real enthusiasts in regard to blood sports, because the difference of opinion is so great and so fundamental that there is no common ground on which one can meet them. Our ideas and theirs differ entirely as to what constitutes cruelty to animals, and the enthusiasts are being quite honest when they say they cannot see that coursing a hare, for example, is abject cruelty. They do not think it is. They look at it entirely from the angle of whether it is sport or not; what the hare feels and what is done to the hare comes into the argument to a very small extent. I was told at the meeting that I was trying to stop an age-old sport and to remove the pastimes of the rural community. The proceedings went on for some time, but I did not find there was very much interest in the cruelty angle, or that the people who tried to interrupt were particularly interested in it.

It is part of my belief, rightly or wrongly—and I have held it for a number of years—that it is fundamentally wrong to chase these animals, putting fear and terror into them—which is what is, in fact being done—and then to have them killed by dogs purely in the name, or rather the pseudonym, of sport. I have listened to the arguments from the other side to the effect that it keeps down vermin. The hon. Member for Broxtowe has dealt with that point thoroughly. Every hon. Member must know perfectly well that there are many farmers in the country—there are some in my constituency—who will not allow hares to be shot because they want to keep them for coursing. It is done in my constituency and in other parts of the country. The number of hares could easily be kept down by shooting, if that was allowed.

I am told that because I support this Bill I am against tradition. Of course, as a Conservative, I am not against tradition—I am all for tradition if it is good tradition. I think that this is a darned bad tradition. Bear baiting, cock fighting and such jolly little pastimes were formerly traditional sports of this country which our ancestors had come to think, over a period of years and centuries, were part of the backbone of British tradition. Those pursuits were stopped, and there was an outcry. Unless someone moves against cruelty, we shall sit down under it for centuries to come, and nothing will be done.

I was told forcibly that what I intended to vote for was an absolute negation of freedom, that I was taking away freedom from the ordinary person in the country. From the beginning of man, freedom has always been controlled. There is no freedom to murder, which is a control of freedom. It is a control of freedom that I am not allowed to beat my dog until it dies, whether I wish to do so or not. Freedom has always been controlled and always will be controlled. The only argument which we have to decide today is how much that freedom should be controlled. That is very often the difference between political parties on other matters. In any ordered society there are bound to be rules. I do not believe that one of the freedoms that should be allowed, and one of the freedoms of which we should approve, is the freedom to commit cruelty as and when one likes.

I have been to coursing meetings before the war. I have seen the hare, as it became exhausted, and as the dogs or hounds began to overtake it, screaming in terror. Someone told me the other day that that is a reflex action. I do not believe it. The hare is alive, it is frightened and it is perfectly aware of what is going on. I heard that scream in six courses in one day, and I shall remember it as long as I live. I do not want to hear it again, and I do not intend to do so.

I represent a constituency with large agricultural interests which are utterly opposed to this Bill, and which are utterly opposed to me in this instance. I cannot be accused of trying to court popularity in my constituency. I have done exactly the opposite. It is my conception of life that in a matter like this, upon which one feels very deeply indeed and about which one has had these feelings for a number of years—they are not feelings which have arisen as a result of this Bill, I have always held them and always shall—I should not be right in sacrificing one of the basic principles of what I believe in order to gain a little easy popularity. We have many defects in our human makeup. I regard the worst of these as cruelty; it comes above everything else. After the unforgivable sin, which I would put first, of cruelty to children, cruelty to animals comes second. I say, as I have previously said, and shall always say, that anything I can do to help to blot out cruelty to children or to animals, I shall do, and I always have done. I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading.

11.54 a.m.

Mr. Maurice Webb (Bradford, Central)

I beg to move to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add, "upon this day six months."

I ask the House to reject this Bill, and to do so on Second Reading, because I hope to be able to show that it is not capable of the kind of adjustment which I should desire to make in it in Committee. It raises matters to which I am opposed and to which I wish the House to be opposed when we divide upon the Motion to give the Bill its Second Reading. It is not easy for me to undertake this task. I can think of many more pleasant ways of exercising my right as a Private Member than in having to oppose the kind of speeches which we have just heard. They were moving speeches, and I wish to pay my tribute to them. We know my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), whose sincerity and integrity are recognised in all parts of the House, as a sensitive person, and we recognise the motives behind his actions. I am sure that the whole House would wish to applaud the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) on his great courage in opposing his constituents on this matter on the ground of conscience.

Surely the House has seen, in the kind of treatment which was meted out to the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, a graphic but quite alarming indication of the strength of feeling on this issue in the countryside. [Interruption.] I wish that the House would allow me to make, my speech. The fact that there is this feeling in the countryside, however, is something of which this House must take note and to which it must pay attention. That is what I want to do in my speech. I am not concerned about votes in this matter. I have not the slightest idea how my attitude to this Bill will affect my position in my constituency. I am, however, concerned about justice and about great considerations of liberty which are involved in this matter.

I believe that before we in this House begin to make a further intrusion upon the liberty of the subject we have to be satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that it is necessary, that it is essential and that it will not create a worse mischief than the one which we are trying to remove. I begin with the quite evident manifestation of angry opposition to this Measure in the countryside, and not merely there but in many great industrial districts in the North—mining and textile areas—where coursing is a pastime to which the people there have for many years given their support. In those urban areas as well as in the countryside there is considerable objection to this Bill.

I begin with this violent angry opposition. I do not think it is artificial. It is something very real. I was in Cornwall at Christmas, and I made it my business to talk to a lot of yeomen, farm workers and small farmers. I was immensely impressed by the extent to which they were apprehensive about what Parliament intended to do about their sport. It was something of which we in this House must take account. We cannot merely push it on one side and say that these are angry people. They are the people of this country and are entitled to be considered in this House.

In addition to that, I had to meet a deputation from my own constituency, which consisted of ordinary working men. Three of them had worked during the night so as to be able to come down and see us here in the House. These were not the idle rich, these were not playboys; they were ordinary working men who wanted to carry on this sport, and who denied that it was cruel. They convinced me, at least, that I was under an obligation to them to vote against this Bill in the House today. I declared my attitude to the Bill in an article which I wrote in a local newspaper a few days ago in the hope that it would bring forward some indication of public feeling in the constituency. I received only two letters against my attitude, and both of these came from outside Bradford. One of them was from a lady for whom I have great respect. She wrote: I do not want Parliament to approve the continuance of the chasing of animals to death for fun by a handful of idle playboys who have nothing better to do. That is really not a true picture of the situation. It is playing with words to suggest that this great sport is something which is entirely in the hands of idle playboys of that kind. It is something with which quite ordinary people in large numbers throughout the country have occupied themselves for many years, and they want to keep on doing so. It is true that a good deal of publicity put around the country in glossy magazines about this business of hunting creates a false impression. It is all surrounded by a facade of snobbishness which I deplore. In these pictures of women and horses in the "Tatler" you cannot tell sometimes which are the women and which are the horses. But all that is a facade, a spurious facade, which belies the real truth of the matter. The ordinary working people in the countryside and the industrial districts have enjoyed these sports. They do not believe they are cruel and they want to go on enjoying them. Since very ordinary people are involved, I say that this House must be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that here there is a mischief and an abuse which is so grave an affront to the interests of the State that we have to stop it. I do not believe that that case has been established.

I believed also that we have to be quite certain, before making another intrusion on the liberty of the subject, that a worse mischief will not arise in its place. I believe that would be the case here. This is the Mother of Parliaments. I do not believe that, as the Mother of Parliaments, it is our business to act as some mothers do and stop the children doing everything, just because they are doing it. It is not our business to say, "Go outside and see what the people are doing and tell them not to do it." We, and all modern Parliaments, are under an obligation to restrict liberty in the inevitable ordering of our society. At this time, we must make very many intrusions on the liberty of the subject; but that means that we must be very cautious before we make an unnecessary intrusion. We must make a most anxious and searching scrutiny of the facts before we do it. I cannot think that here there is an abuse or mischief which is intolerable and offensive to the public interest, and on both the grounds which I have put forward, I want the House to reject this Bill.

I started off with all my instincts in favour of my hon. Friends. I went into the facts and I came to the conclusion that there is gross exaggeration of the degree of cruelty that exists in the business. I am satisfied, after careful discussion of this matter and after reading with great care all the information put in front of me, that there is no cruelty in hunting which cannot be generally covered by the existing law of the land. If there are cases of observable and known cruelty, we have the power to deal with those cases and subject them to penalty.

Mr. Cocks

Not wild animals.

Mr. Webb

Even wild animals. I think the hon. Member will find that that is so.

Let me look at the Bill in detail. Take coursing, for example. Coursing is represented to be a very savage, indecent pastime. I do not think it is. It is not to my taste; I do not like it, and I should be affronted by it myself; but I am quite satisfied, from the kind of inquiries which I have made, that there is not a sufficient degree of cruelty to justify stopping people who want to course from going on with what they want to do.

Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)

Has the hon. Member ever seen it?

Mr. Webb

I am not sure. When I was a boy I have a recollection that I did see it. I have a recollection of going to a coursing meeting, but my memory is not at all certain. It is so far back that I would not put it forward as an argument. I have not been recently, and I do not pretend to know, but I have been—[Interruption.] It is not easy to make this difficult argument. I think that the number of hazards to the hare and to the rabbit in coursing are not substantially greater than they normally face in nature. Nature itself is ruthless. That is the trouble. Animals themselves are predatory, and the things which they do to each other are infinitely worse than anything done to them by man. Although it is not to my taste and I do not want to follow these things, I do not think that there is that degree of cruelty to animals which would justify us in imposing this complete ban upon it, as we are asked to do by this Bill. I believe that the statements I have made on this ground are accurate, and I shall wait to see whether or not they can be disproved.

Certainly not anywhere in the sport of hunting is there anything so brutal as nature's own cruelty. That being so, how can we, at this time, when we have imposed so many burdens on our people and inflicted so many restrictions on their liberty, impose the quite sweeping restriction suggested in this Bill? I do not think that the degree of cruelty is high enough to justify it. I do not think that the facts establish that the degree of cruelty is high enough to justify going forward with this Measure.

If we were to pass this Bill and find other methods of effecting the result of keeping down wild life or keeping it under control, as we should have to do to preserve our crops, I am convinced that the last state would be worse than the first. The alternative methods are in themselves most inhumanly cruel. I have seen photographs of traps that make me shudder. They are just as horrible as the cries of wounded animals about which we have all been moved this morning. I have read with deep feeling and anger of foxes and other animals being caught in traps and gnawing off their legs in order to escape from these beastly things. We have to face these facts. That is cruelty and inhumanity and that is the alternative to this business of hunting— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If there are any hon. Members who think not, they will have ample opportunity of putting their case, but that is as I see it. Shooting, too, in dealing with stags, involves a high degree of risk of causing more cruelty by wounding more animals than are killed, and allowing them to run loose in the woods with maggot-infested wounds, and all that kind of thing. We have to face these things if we are a judicial assembly trying to do the right thing.

Much as I should like to do so, I cannot bring myself to support this Bill, because I believe that the alternative arrangements which we are bound to make if we are to keep a balance in nature and a control over wild life, will effect a degree of cruelty utterly beyond anything which now exists. Our problem surely is to control wild life. I do not want to eliminate completely from this island certain sections of wild life which must be kept going. I should like to think there will always be foxes in this island. They are beautiful animals, but we cannot allow them to run around indiscriminately. Nature effects a kind of balance, but I am convinced that, on the whole, hunting by man is an essential element in this business of nature effecting a balance in wild life.

Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)

What does the hon. Member say about war?

Mr. Webb

I do not say it about war, but I believe it is true about hunting.

Mr. Piratin (Mile End)

It is completely unscientific.

Mr. Webb

If we were to dispense with hunting, the whole thing would be out of balance and we should be faced with having to do all sorts of things which I personally do not want to have to do.

I recognise that my views are abhorrent to many people with whom I am normally in good relationship, but I feel in this matter as strongly as they do. They must not think that they have a monopoly of morality in this business. It is just as important to stand up for the liberty of the subject in this House as it is to stand up against cruelty to animals. Because I believe that most profoundly, I ask the House to reject this Bill.

12.10 p.m.

Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I wish to pay tribute to the sincerity of the sponsors of this Bill, but I must also draw attention to their lack of knowledge. I should like to give one example. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) suggested that we might allow shooting for one fortnight on Exmoor with a party of expert shots and a warning that it was a danger area. I was in America some years ago when the deer shooting or hunting season started. Every one who went out wore a red cap so that he would not be shot. Hunters were allowed to shoot only one buck, but anything that moved was shot at. I went through Cincinnati and I bought the local paper, which said: So far only six people have been wounded. Mr. X was killed but it is thought that he was mistaken for a game warden. The hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb) mentioned that hunting was thought by many to be the sport of the so-called, but far from, idle rich. Those people who thought that must have had rather a shock when they found that, without exception, every branch of the National Farmers' Union in this country opposed this Bill. One reason why I support the rejection of the Measure is that the anti-sport societies which have backed this Bill have said and written quite openly that it is really intended as the first step towards the prevention of hunting, shooting and fishing. Apparently the criterion is that if one goes out with hounds or dogs to see them work, one is committing a crime but if one says that it is in the cause of food production and one hates doing it, then one may get away with it. The essence of sport in field sports is that the animal hunted should have every possible chance of escape and should not be constrained in any way. As coursing will be dealt with by other hon. Members, I will not refer further to that subject.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe mentioned me in connection with what he called badger hunting. The badger is the oldest surviving British bear. Very few people would like to see it exterminated. Very few people know when badgers are in a district until there are too many of them, because the badger is a nocturnal animal. They do more good than harm when they are present in small numbers because they dig out wasps nests. Their skins are so thick that they are impervious to stings. They also dig down and eat the stops or nests of young rabbits. On the other hand, as they become numerous they take to raiding poultry houses, and one can see scratches on the doors where they have tried to make an entry. I should like to read a letter which appeared in the "Daily Mail" on 23rd December which said: Within the last fortnight I have dug out and killed nine badgers. They were pulling out the bottom boards of fowl pens to get at the fowls and they were killing lambs for which dogs and foxes were blamed. Some people believe that badgers do no harm. Any type of carniverous animal which becomes too numerous must do harm because it must live on something.

There are several ways in which to reduce the number of badgers. I will enumerate them. They are trapping by gin or snare, poisoning, gassing, shooting, digging and hunting by night. Trapping is obviously the most cruel. If a gin trap for a badger is set in the open in a run it must be set and left unlooked at for about a fortnight. The badger is so wily that it will not go near any place where there is human scent, and it has a very keen nose. But if a trap is left uninspected for a fortnight, it is just as likely that it may be left for three weeks. Then one may find a wretched badger caught by the leg and kept for over a week, or it may be two, starving to death. Only yesterday I met a former Member of Parliament who told me of an instance which was within his own knowledge. A week or so ago a badger with a trap on its leg was run over by a motorcar. The badger was not killed but it became caught up in the wheels. The driver did not know what it was. He found when he tried to release it that he could not touch it because it was biting and snapping at anyone who went near. The animal had to be killed. That was the only way of getting it out of the trap.

Of course, setting a trap in the open is actually illegal, but it is done. If a trap is set in the mouth of a hole it must be covered, but the badger is so wily that he rolls over it when he comes out of the hole. By setting several traps, one may find that he rolls over one trap and becomes caught in another. But more often than not he rolls out of the hole and all one catches in the trap is a few hairs from his back. Therefore, trapping seems to be out of the question on the grounds both of cruelty and inefficiency.

If a badger is caught in a snare he will bite through it. On one occasion at Thame in Oxfordshire I took a badger and brought it home with me. He had a deep cut round the neck. I used chloroform and tried to get the snare off his neck, but it had cut completely through the skin and was deep in the flesh. The snare was so tight that I had to kill the badger. It was impossible to help. The poor animal must have been in agony. Obviously, snaring is no solution. Now let us consider gassing. Every badger sett is two or three layers deep. Every four feet or so there is an oven or chamber with three entrances, in which he can sleep or play. If he is disturbed, the first thing he does is either to attack the dog which disturbs him or to start to dig himself in. After all, a badger hibernates in winter, and he can wall himself in away from the gas and stay there perhaps for weeks until he is suffocated.

Mr. Cocks

We do not want to do that either.

Sir J. Lucas

But it is done by the pest officers. In sandy soil or chalk the badger can dig faster than a man. If poison, the use of which I hate, is tried in liver or some such dainty, the badger may not take the bait. He is pretty artful and there is always the danger of poisoning something else. If one wants to shoot a badger it is difficult because he only comes out at night. One may have a moonlight night, but to shoot a badger one must stay down wind of the sett and it is not an easy job to shoot him when he comes out at midnight amongst the brambles. If he is hit, probably he will only be wounded.

There remains the alternative of digging. The hon. Member for Broxtowe said that this could be humane. One needs more than one or two dogs for this job because they get tired and need to be relieved and young ones have to be trained. The diggers come along usually with a barrel of cider. They do not get paid and they want the cider to keep them going. When an experienced dog is loosed he tries all over the earth so as to wind the nearest place to the badger. He then goes down, and probably within a minute one hears a bay and grunting as the badger attacks him and he gives way. It is undesirable to employ a dog that fights the badger, because that means that there is cruelty. Some people like to use a bull terrier—or they certainly did in the old days. Here may be a matter for regulations laid down by the British Field Sports Society. Bull terriers fight silently, fight out of sheer savagery and will attack the badger and get chewed up, and that is where cruelty comes in. What is wanted is a dog that will bay a badger, and only when the badger turns to dig, will bite him from behind. If the badger is left for a moment, he digs in and we lose him, but if we are lucky, we eventually corner the badger. The thing to do then is to take the dog out watch for the badger as he comes out, tail him, if one is brave enough and pop him into a traveling box.

Mr. John Paton (Norwich)

I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying, especially as I am not an expert in badger hunting; but what does he mean by "popping the badger in a travelling box"?

Sir J. Lucas

I will explain in a minute. One day in Leicestershire, a very hot day, when I was after a badger, I gave my dogs a drink. I put in a drink for the badger, and he came and drank in front of me, completely unafraid. So I caught him, and put him in a box. Why did I put him in a travelling box? Because although I have hunted many badgers, I have killed only half a dozen. I hate killing them. We would catch badgers and offer them to landowners who would give them good homes. In due course we turned them loose where badgers were scarce. To worry a badger after you catch him, is definitely unsporting, and it is also illegal. I think that the British Field Sports Society should step in and say definitely that it is unsporting and illegal to worry a badger once it has been taken. A badger once caught, if it is not to be turned down elsewhere, ought to be killed immediately. His only vulnerable part is his nose, so the thing to do is to hit him on the nose with a crowbar. In the old days they used to put a cord on a badger's hind legs and bait him, but that is now rightly illegal. I should like to see a code of sportsmanship laid down saying, amongst other things, that badgers should not be dug in the early months of the breeding season.

But this is the case against this Bill. If a jockey punishes a horse unduly in a race, he is dealt with by the stewards, but we do not ban racing. We do our best to prevent even unintentional cruelty by prohibiting the carrying of whips and wearing of spurs by the jockeys in apprentice races. Because accidents happen, steeplechasing is not banned. Because a referee is mobbed, we do not ban football, but the club may be fined.

Now I should like to say a word about the hunting of badgers. We have heard about the hunting of badgers with foxhounds. I do not say that I would approve of the hunting of badgers by night with foxhounds. Badger hunting must be at night, because as I have said badgers are nocturnal. In the West Country they go out on a moonlight night, in September. After giving the badger an hour's start, off they go, falling into every bramble bush they can find, and the badger always gets away; the only cruelty is to the people chasing the badger. The only hope of catching him is to put sacks in the mouths of some of the holes, and hope he is silly enough to run into one, to be caught by a watcher before he gets out again. Normally the badger is taken away and let loose again to run another day.

We have been told today about well-known people who are against hunting and field sports. Professor Laski and Mr. Bernard Shaw have been mentioned. I was not particularly impressed by that. I can give the names of some distinguished people who like field sports. I looked in "Who's Who" last night, and found that one in every three of the distinguished people, of all walks of life and professions, who have there stated their recreations, follows some form of field sport. By way of example, I should like to mention one or two of them—people we all respect, and who are or were lovers of field sports. There is Lord Ullswater, a former Speaker of this House. He was Master of the Ullswater Foxhounds. Lord Darling was a deer hunter. It was out hunting that I first met him. He wrote hunting poetry. We have probably all read articles by Miss Frances Pitt, who writes about nature. She was a Master of Foxhounds—of the Wheatland Foxhounds, I think. Nearly all our Services chiefs are field sports lovers. Hunting is the most democratic form of sport in the world. Anybody, on days when the hounds are out, can follow free of charge so long as he does not do any damage or leave farm gates open, damage fences or allow cattle out of the fields. The annual hunt point-to-point is free for everybody; no charges of any sort are allowed except for cars parked alongside the course.

I do not wish to question for one moment the sincerity of the supporters of the Bill, but I do say that I think the Bill is ill conceived. I should very much like to see the ruling bodies of sports follow the example of the Association of Masters of Foxhounds, and take stringent action in cases of cruelty. I think that after this Debate we shall find something of the sort happening.

Dr. Segal (Preston)

On a point of Order. Before the hon. Baronet sits down, may I ask him whether he will correct what I am sure was an unintended omission from his speech? Would it not have been more in accord with the traditions of the House if he had taken the House into his confidence, and, during his speech, declared his interest?

Mr. Speaker

That is scarcely a point of Order.

Sir J. Lucas

I have not dug a badger for 20 years, and, therefore, I do not think I have an interest in the matter, except that I should like to see humanity in all sport.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Kenyon (Chorley)

I am sure that the House has been interested in the speech of the hon. Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas), who has shown an intimate knowledge of the habits of the badger and methods of dealing with the badger. I think that the question which we have before us today is not solely whether we are against or in favour of field sports or blood sports. It seems to me to go far deeper and far wider. One of the characteristics in the forward surge of mankind to greater civilisation is a growing abhorrence of all forms of cruelty. It is a characteristic that is reasonable, that is rational, and is based upon the fuller development of the moral, ethical and the humanitarian principles. Thus we have seen, as civilisation developed, the passing of laws with the object of ending habits and traditions and actions which had become repugnant to the finer feelings of life.

Whatever may be the outcome of this Debate, the fact that it is taking place shows quite clearly that the processes which I have outlined still continue. I am sure that every Member of this House can take pleasure in watching the wild life of our country. I have grown up amongst it. Although I have seen in many parts of the world other forms of wild life—in India, in Africa and in the Commonwealth—I do not think that anywhere in the world is there so fascinating a form of wild life as we have in this country. That is why I do not like to see it destroyed either by hunting or by any other means. That is why I say that the question that we are discussing is far greater than the principles which are put forward in this Bill. I want to put to the House the point that we should consider how we can preserve the wild life of these islands and by what means keep that wild life within proper limits.

Let us consider the case of the deer which has been mentioned. Deer can be kept in these islands in national parks. They can be properly preserved and properly controlled; and to say that hunting is the best method of control is just nonsense. Hunting by dogs and by horses is nothing less than organised cruelty, and it should certainly be abolished. It very often results in the most revolting form of death that one can see. Arguments have been used that other methods of limiting the number of deer are more cruel than hunting. Members say that if we begin to limit the deer by shooting, there would be far more cruelty. I must say that this shows a complete ignorance of the proper methods of limiting these animals. Any proper forester and game warden and very often gamekeepers, knowing the habits of these animals, can destroy them humanely and easily. They study their habits, they know their runs, and by watching and taking necessary precautions they can destroy them effectively and almost painlessly. It is sheer nonsense to give the idea that if these animals are to be destroyed by the gun we shall have a large number of amateur shooters going out to destroy them—nothing of the sort. By regulations, the Minister of Agriculture could place that authority in the hands of a game warden who, by knowing the habits and life of these animals, could destroy them easily and effectively.

Mr. Collins

If that is so, why were not these methods pursued during the war, and why was it that the Cotsmore deer had to be hunted before they could be shot?

Mr. Kenyon

I think that the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks) gave the figure of 400 killed in one year during the war by shooting.

Mr. Collins

Deer had to be hunted before they could be shot.

Mr. Kenyon

The hon. Member may know the facts, but in that case all I can say is that proper methods were not employed. If we go into the forests of Canada, we find that the game wardens there can effectively and easily keep down the number of the animals with which they deal. It could be done here. The hunt goes out for sport; the warden goes out to kill. They each go out for a different purpose. There is all the difference in the world in their methods and in their objects. Arguments have been used that we cannot get close enough to these animals to kill them. We can get close enough to take photographs of them, and where one can get with the camera one can get with the rifle.

Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)

One wants to get there with the bullet.

Mr. Kenyon

I should not think much of any shot who could not kill an animal from camera distance if he had a rifle.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

Has the hon. Gentleman never heard of the telephoto lens?

Mr. Kenyon

Certainly, but I must point out to my right hon. Friend that quite as many photographs are taken with the ordinary lens as are taken with the telephoto lens.

I now come to hare coursing and rabbit coursing. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen this so-called sport, but I say that if the Members of this House had to watch hare and rabbit coursing, there is not the slightest doubt that this sport would be completely ended as quickly as this House could do it. It is the most revolting, the most cruel and the most degrading so-called sport in this country today. The incidents described by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) are quite true. I have seen hares torn to pieces on the field, screaming as the dogs chased them.

Brigadier Head


Mr. Kenyon

Yes, I have. It is no use the hon. and gallant Member saying "No." I am telling the House what I have seen.

Brigadier Head

The hon. Gentleman is telling the House what he thought he saw, which is quite a different thing. As he says these things, let me tell him this: after the Waterloo Cup all the hares killed were inspected, and not one hare had its guts hanging out, nor were their skins damaged. They were killed quickly, as the hares always are.

Mr. Kenyon

The hon. and gallant Member is entitled to put forward whatever he may have seen. I am telling the House what I have seen. As for the assertion that the hare does not scream, as we have been gathering sheep, the sheep dog has roused a hare and chased it, because a young dog will, before it is trained, follow a hare; I have heard the hare scream then, just as I have heard it scream on the coursing field. Certainly the hare screams; a hare cries like a baby; and to hear it is one of the most harrowing experiences one can have. Moreover, I have spoken with many men who engage in this sport, and they themselves admit that it is a cruel sport. They engage in it because they win money at it.

Lord Willoughby de Eresby (Rutland and Stamford)

The hon. Member is talking about hares screaming. Has he ever attended a hare drive when they have been shot with shotguns? If he does he will really hear a hare scream.

Mr. Kenyon

That merely proves my case, that they do scream. I have not attended a hare drive because I do not go out for the sport. If I go out to shoot a hare, I do so in order to kill it; and I cannot remember the day when I had to take a second shot at a hare. Any good farmer who goes out to kill a hare does so, in all probability, because he requires it for his dinner. But this sport involving capturing the hares, bringing them to these places and having them chased by dogs, is the most revolting of cruelties. In the first place, in so many cases the hare is brought on to strange ground. If the hare is on its own ground it stands a chance. But it is brought on to strange ground; the dogs are behind it; it has to run forward; very often, on some of these grounds, there are flagmen on each side to keep the hare on a straight course. To bring the hare on to strange ground is like taking a countryman out of the heart of the country and putting him in the centre of London: he is completely lost. Give the hare a chance and it would match the dog. But it is not fair, and it is not just, to bring the hare out of its own country and put it on to strange ground. I repeat, if hon. Members had seen this so-called sport they would, without hesitation, wipe it out completely.

I was amazed when I heard the speech of the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and I want to say now that that speech does not represent the feelings and views of our movement, either in this House or in the country. The overwhelming feeling of our movement is in favour of this Bill.

Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)


Mr. Kenyon

It is what we have grown up with through the years. We have stood for the abolition of all forms of cruelty, and I am glad that we can stand here today and support this Bill in this House. The hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb) talked of speaking to farmworkers who are against us on this. The majority of farmworkers I have spoken to—and I live in the midst of them—are as much against cruelty as any of us; they are as much in favour of the abolition of coursing as anyone. The contention that because nature is cruel we should permit cruelty to continue, even where we can stop it, is the most fantastic argument I have ever heard. If that principle were followed in this House, there would be no progress. Nature is always cruel; but I always thought that we were higher than nature, that we developed finer feelings than the feelings of nature, and that we were here to protect the weaker things in nature, because we are possessed of those higher and nobler instincts. I am amazed to hear any hon. Member on this side of the House say that because nature is cruel we must continue cruelty, even that which we can abolish.

A few weeks ago I took my two daughters, who are children, to the pictures to see a film called "Bambi," which hon. Members may have seen. It was a children's matinée and the cinema was packed with children. Much is said about juvenile delinquency, but I was cheered as I saw the reactions of those children to that film: the happy, joyous and lovable scenes in that film called forth their admiration and their joy. When it came to the hunting scene, when the dogs were there and the animal was shot, the shock and horror that went through that cinema audience could be felt. I realised then, as I said afterwards, that the heart of our children, the children of this nation, is sound. They will stand for the things that are good, true, kind, clean and wholesome, while they will revolt against that which is cruel, merciless and unclean. I am glad that the children of our nation react in this way. I hope that hon. Members will allow "a little child to lead them," and will give a Second Reading to this Bill.

12.50 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) has made an impassioned speech in support of this Bill. I do not for one moment question the sincerity of the motives of the supporters of the Bill, but I should like to make it clear that my reason for opposing it is that I do not believe it will result in a diminution of, but rather in a substantial increase in, the suffering of these animals. It is common ground between both parties that neither side wants to see any unnecessary cruelty inflicted, and I regret therefore, the observations of the hon. Member for Chorley which seemed to indicate that he thought his was the only party concerned with the prevention of cruelty to animals.

I desire to address my observations to the main argument for this Bill, the argument of cruelty. Does hunting involve cruelty to the animal hunted? It may be that in some cases some degree of cruetly is involved, but that is no real argument for this Bill, unless it is made absolutely clear that as a result of it, there will be a decrease and not an increase in the suffering of animals. I am sure that the hon. Member for Chorley will agree that the killing of any animals normally involves some degree of cruelty, and for myself I should like to be more satisfied that the cruelty to animals in slaughter houses and in transporting them, has been reduced to the least possible degree.

What we have to decide today is whether hunting is unnecessarily cruel, and whether the alternatives to hunting involve more or less cruelty and suffering. As a responsible assembly we should approach this question calmly, coolly and impartially. Instances of alleged cruelty have been widely published, and they are usually without any indication of where or when they occur. That is why I interrupted the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) in the course of his moving speech in support of this Measure. He was quite unable to give the date or place of one incident, and with regard to the other incident he mentioned, my information is that the facts are not as he stated—that is the incident at Porlock Weir. We have had an incident quite recently where a reverend gentleman published an account of what he thought he had seen. It was a lurid account that was alarming to people who love animals, but it has been established to be utterly untrue. I regret that sort of thing, and I particularly regret it when we find a society called the National Equine and Smaller Animals Defence League, joined with a league against cruel sports, sending out a circular after a writ had been issued in connection with this case, containing this passage: On account of this statement, which in our opinion is true. I wonder what inquiries were made by them before they led people to suppose that a fox had been put to death in a cruel fashion. What inquiries were made by these two societies before they expressed their opinion which has been established to be quite untrue? In determining whether or not hunting is cruel, we should try to cut out all exaggeration and untrue and unreliable statements of that sort. I hold in my hand a petition issued by the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports. It shows a large photograph of a stag being pursued by dogs. The stag and the dogs are swimming in a river. I have no doubt that this sort of photograph arouses strong feelings in many people in this country, but it is a photograph of something that never happened in this country. This photograph was taken of an incident in France. If this sort of thing happened in this country, why is it that these societies have to rely on a photograph of a stag being hunted in another country?

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Is the hon. and learned Member suggesting that stag hunting in this country does not involve stags being chased by dogs, or, as the photograph shows, a stag swimming in the river being chased by dogs? Does he suggest that this sort of thing would not happen if a stag went into a river?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am suggesting that if this sort of thing happened in England, these societies would not have to rely on a photograph of something that happened in France.

Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)

Might it not be the case that the society could not obtain a photograph of a similar incident which occurred in this country?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am trying to get down to the facts, and I think the issue is confused and made more difficult by misleading propaganda suggesting something has happened in this country which in fact did not take place in this country. That is what I am deploring. It is my view that if the case for this Bill is a good case there is no need to bolster it up by untruths; indeed, one can draw the inference that the fact that such methods are used by these societies is an indication of the weakness of the case for the Bill.

I maintain that killing by hunting is the least cruel method. I suppose that at great expense and effort we could exterminate the red deer of Exmoor, although I am not sure whether or not the hon. Member for Chorley is in favour of that. I suppose that we could possibly exterminate all otters, but not all badgers, hares and rabbits. But in the process of such extermination, if that is what the supporters of this Bill want, does anyone doubt that considerable suffering would be inflicted and that if these animals were exterminated the country would be much poorer and less attractive.

If we are not to exterminate all red deer in England, we must face up to the position that however much we love red deer, they are not harmless animals but are capable of doing a great deal of damage. Therefore, we must find some method to control them, and that problem is not solved by the hon. Member for Chorley merely saying that we should make a national park and leave it to the game wardens. Exmoor is not like Canada, and anyone who uses a rifle on Exmoor is asking to give employment to lawyers by being tried for manslaughter. If this Bill passes into law and stag hunting is prohibited, other means will be used for the destruction of red deer, such as poison or snaring. Snaring would be used in a larger degree, and we all know that the suffering of an animal that has been caught in a snare and has torn it away from the place where it was fixed, must be very great.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe dealt very lightly with alternative methods. He tried to maintain that the wounding of stags and deer by shotguns, which did take place during the war years, was because farmers thought it would be unpopular to kill them. I thought that there he was making an entirely unwarranted reflection on farmers in that part of the world. Farmers are no more cruel than anyone else and I am certain that no farmer wished to wound any beast for the reasons put forward by the hon. Member. What happened was that shots were fired by persons who, although wanting to kill, failed to do so. It is difficult to kill a stag with a shotgun. The consequences of the abolition of hunting in that part of the world will be that people will use guns and even other methods, as I have described. It is difficult to kill with a shotgun, but extremely easy to wound. Where a stag is wounded with a shotgun, it has a very agonising death.

Mr. Kenyon

I do not think that anyone who supports the Bill has advocated the use of a shotgun for the killing of stags. A shotgun should not be used, but a rifle.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am grateful to the hon. Member for coming so far with me. It still leaves the problem of what method to be used on Exmoor, if we prohibit shotguns. An hon. Member has suggested a revolver, but anyone who has had to use revolvers knows how dangerous they are. I was myself nearly shot by one, by accident. What are the other methods? Snaring, poisoning? People might say that those things might not happen, but about 100 years ago they did happen. Hunting on Exmoor nearly ceased, and during that period the wild deer were nearly exterminated. I have a book here written by a Mr. Williamson and called "The Wild Red Deer of Exmoor." It contains this passage: About a century ago the Hunt became poor. Few people came to Exmoor to hunt, the hounds were a scratch lot and inefficient, the meets were infrequent. Hunted deer nearly always escaped. It is a fact that during that period the wild red deer were nearly exterminated. Stags were seen with maggots eating loose their pelts, which flapped on their flanks as they ambled away from summer visitors on the moor. Blowflies laid their eggs in the shot-gun wounds. To-day the deer are numerous and the stags are not hunted until they are at least four years old. If the Bill were passed I fear that it would have the same effect.

Because I am a deer lover I, for one, shall vote against the Bill. I have no doubt that those who vote for it will do so for humane motives but I am convinced that by voting for it they will in fact be voting for increased suffering for the red deer. If the Bill is carried, we shall see in a few years' time only a few, crippled suffering beasts crawling about Exmoor, and those who visit that lovely part of the country will be deprived of the pleasure of seeing fine healthy animals.

A great deal has been said with regard to badger hunting. I do not propose to touch upon that aspect of the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) and other hon. Members have referred to coursing, and to hares screaming and that sort of thing. I would point out, as the Mover also said, that the Bill does not prohibit coursing. All that sort of thing can go on in the countryside. It deals with coursing only where previous steps had been taken to bring the hare into possession or to circumscribe the area of its free movements.

The hon. Member who introduced the Bill said he was not going to say much about otter hunting. I believe that we shall find with otter hunting, as with stag hunting, that if we prohibit hunting in those cases, other means of destruction will be resorted to. There can be no doubt about it. Although the hon. Member said that he would not accept an Amendment to include fox hunting in this Measure if it received its Second Reading, there should be no mistake that fox hunting has been excluded from the Bill only for tactical reasons. Let us not be deceived about this matter. I have here in my hand a bulletin issued by the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports. It says: Our anti-hunting Bill before Parliament. Mr. Cocks got third place in the Ballot. Then appear these words: For tactical reasons it was decided to split the Bill into two Bills.

Mr. Cocks

I do not know from what the hon. and learned Member is quoting, but I would like to say that the decision to exclude fox hunting was purely personal and taken on my own, and had nothing to do with anybody else. I said that if we were successful in the Ballot I was prepared to bring in the Bill and I was not going to include fox hunting.

Brigadier Head

Will the hon. Member tell us why he did exclude it?

Mr. Cocks

Although I am opposed to fox hunting, it does not fill me with the same horror as does stag hunting. It was for a personal reason of my own.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I hold in my hand this leaflet. I hope there will be a new and revised edition of it and that we shall be told the real reasons.

Mr. Cocks

I do not know from what the hon. and learned Gentleman is reading.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am reading from a bulletin issued by the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports and it says that for tactical reasons fox-hunting was dropped. These people, whose sincerity I do not doubt but whom I regard as misguided enthusiasts, will next attack other sports, if they get this Bill on to the Statute Book, sports which they have threatened in the past, such as fox hunting, shooting and fishing. If they have their way the ultimate end will be the destruction of all the sport of the countryside and the infliction of cruel suffering, if not extermination, upon the animals in the countryside. For these reasons I shall oppose the Bill.

1.10 p.m.

Mr. Stubbs (Cambridgeshire)

Like other hon. Members I have received hundreds of letters protesting against the Bill on the ground, which I think is justifiable, that it is a direct and unwarrantable interference with country sports. Not only farmers and landowners, but workers, too, have written and said that they are against people interfering with country sports. Workers whom I claim to represent in a large rural area in Cambridgeshire do not get the opportunity for sport that people in the towns can get. They work hard for long hours, and Saturday afternoon is about the only time they have for recreation. Some may go to football matches but not all can, and the general feeling is that this is an attempt to interfere with the countryman's sport. What is wrong with a man and his dog going out on Saturday afternoon for a bit of coursing? Where is the cruelty? We have been told some horrible stories this morning, but it has not been established that coursing is cruel. The promoters might have made a better case if they had not told these horrible stories. These stories have come from people who—I mean no offence to them—do not understand country life; if they did understand it they would have taken far more care over the preparation of their case.

Acts which we passed in 1947 for both England and Scotland prohibited the use of steel traps for catching rabbits. We recognised that there was cruelty in the use of the steel trap, and we can therefore claim that we are against cruelty where it exists. I strongly object to the allegation that the people in the countryside are guilty of cruelty. We are no more guilty of cruelty to animals than are those who make the accusation. If there is cruelty, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals exists to deal with it. Cruelty to hares and rabbits has not been established this morning.

Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)

It all depends what is meant by "cruelty."

Mr. Stubbs

Exactly, and it would be interesting to know exactly how you will define "cruelty." I would not be at all surprised if you exhibited cruelty in your own house in what you do with the cat.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)

I hope that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Stubbs) was not addressing the Chair.

Mr. Stubbs

I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Evidence ought to have been brought about what goes on in our markets. In my opinion, there is more cruelty in the markets of our country than there is in the countryside. Several considerations must be borne in mind in relation to fox hunting. I come from the very important area of Newmarket, where we can claim to produce some of the finest bloodstock in the world. Our horses are used not only for racing but also for fox hunting, and that is where they get some of their training. The bloodstock industry is a very important one and it has earned us a lot of dollars through the sale of these wonderful horses to the United States. It is not true to say that when the fox is caught— incidentally the fox does a good job for the farmer in helping to rid him of rats which destroy stacks of wheat and barley—there is always cruel blood letting. The huntsman carries a gun with which he disposes of the fox in as humane a way as possible.

We are all anxious to prevent any real cruelty occurring, and it will be found that those who live and work in the countryside are anxious to do everything they can to effect a change if it is established that a countryside sport is cruel. Hon. Members will be doing the right thing if they vote against the Bill and thus stop any interference with what we regard as rightful sport of the countryside.

1.19 p.m.

Mr. Richards (Wrexham)

This has been a most interesting Debate, and it is remarkable that so many hon. Members on both sides of the House are anxious to participate in it. It was encouraging that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) moved the Second Reading in such a happy vein. If we look at things in their proper perspective, the Bill may be a landmark in the history of this country. Things move very slowly in this respect. I was interested to find that in a Debate about 100 years ago concerning bull-baiting, exactly the same kind of argument was used in favour of retaining bull-baiting as has been used today in favour of retaining these cruel sports. However, one is encouraged to read that Sheridan, a distinguished statesman, as well as a great actor, expressed his horror at the continuance in this country of a sport which, as he put it, was degrading. That is the point of view of the hon. Member for Broxtowe. As one hon. Member pointed out, there is a great deal of cruelty in nature, and it is the duty of humane persons to reduce the amount of cruelty in the world as far as possible. The simple object of this Bill is to do that, to prohibit certain sports that, without doubt, involve a large measure of cruelty.

I am interested primarily, and I think hon. Members on both sides of the House are equally interested, in the fauna of this country. After all, the number of interesting animals we have here is gradually dwindling, and it is our duty to do all we can to preserve what we have. It is a small list today compared with what it was only a few years ago. In my own country of Wales, a beautiful animal of the woodland has within recent years almost disappeared. I refer to the marten, an extraordinarily beautiful animal. Therefore, I am glad to see it suggested in the Bill that the remnants of the fauna of this country should be protected from being destroyed, particularly in a cruel fashion.

We had an interesting disquisition on the hunting, trapping and catching of the badger. The badger is rather an ungainly animal, but a particularly attractive one. He would be popular if people had the opportunity of seeing him, but the badger is a night animal and an extraordinarily difficult one to track. It is one of the most attractive sights of the countryside to see the beautiful sheen of his coat as he rushes through the woods, and to think that people should be spending their time in digging him out with the aid of dogs for the mere sport of catching and destroying him, is a degradation to the community.

I feel much the same about the otter. He is one of the most beautiful animals left to us and is perfectly harmless. It is true that occasionally he catches a few pike, but mainly he lives on eels. What earthly harm can he do, and why should the countryside occasionally be roused from its slumber by a number of men— and I am sorry to think women—struggling along the streams in a part of the country that they have never known until that day, hunting this beautiful, quiet, harmless animal in order to destroy him?

I need hardly say anything about the hare, of which we have heard a great deal today. The hare is just a bundle of nerves when the dogs are after it, but it is delightful to watch the hare in early spring, catching its leverets, and carrying them from one end of the valley to the other if it thinks there is impending danger. It is tragic that human beings, who are supposed to be living upon an entirely higher level, should be encouraged in the cruel sport of destroying some of the finest animals we have in our little country.

I hope this Bill will receive a Second Reading with an overwhelming majority this afternoon. It is a step, though only a slight step, in the direction of ridding the world of an entirely unnecessary form of cruelty. I believe that some of my hon. Friends, particularly on the Front Bench, have been rather concerned because they think it might result in the losing of votes. Some years ago the party—then in opposition—passed resolutions at the annual conferences abolishing blood sports. I am sorry to find that they apparently intend to alter their attitude now that they find themselves the Government of the country. On that I would only say that a party which changes its policy on the grounds of expediency, is not a party for which any of us have any deep respect. Perhaps I am unfair, and that is not the attitude of the Government towards this Measure.

The other day I received a petition, which I have here, from a lady whom I do not know. She was apologetic for sending this long letter to me with the signatures of 500 people who were strongly in favour of the Bill. The petition comes from the town of Montgomery. She says that although she did not canvass from house to house, she had no difficulty in getting all these signatures. She says that the farmers signed it, the shopkeepers signed it, all kinds of people signed it, because they are sick and tired of this business. There is a sentence in her letter which is possibly intended for the Front Bench: I have never voted Labour in my life, but I find that in future, if this Bill gets the support it ought to get, I, and a great many Liberal and Tory friends of mine, will in future vote for the Labour Party. Perhaps my right hon. Friend would care to look at it? As far as I am concerned it is a striking, unsolicited testimony to the accuracy with which the hon. Member who introduced this Bill this morning has gauged the feelings, not of the townsmen, but of the country men and women of this country.

I live in a very remote little valley in the heart of Montgomeryshire and at the end of that valley there is a very beautiful old Celtic church. How old it is nobody quite knows, but a very interesting feature is that it was founded by an Irish lady saint in the days of the old Celtic Church which flourished in these islands when Irish saints, saints from Brittany, saints from Scotland and saints from Wales, were all intermingled and travelled from one part of the Celtic archipelago to another. This lady came from Ireland and founded this little church in that very remote part of the world.

The first reference we find to her is an interesting one. It is of one of the Princes of Powys coming to hunt in this remote valley. He is very disgusted, indeed, because he is not having any fun with the hunting and the huntsmen are unable to sound their horns. He finds, strangely enough, that all the hares in the district find refuge beneath the skirts of a saintly lady who lives in the neighbourhood. Her name was Saint Melangell and until the last century the tradition lived on in that valley that if one just suggested that Saint Melangell would protect the hare when the hunt were after it, then the hare was quite certain to escape. This afternoon I wish simply to say that my prayer today, too, is that Saint Melangell should take not only the hare but also the otter, the deer and the badger under her fold and protect them henceforth.

1.33 p.m.

Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)

It is not for me to try to enter into the respective merits of Saint Melangell and Saint Hubert. It is not for me to enter into the arguments whether the Labour Party would win more votes or less votes by supporting this Bill or by opposing it. I begin by saying what a difficult Bill this is. Like the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), I can say that the happiest hours of my life have been spent watching wild life. Secondly, I have the greatest admiration for the integrity of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), who moved the Second Reading of this Bill and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson), who supported him. Thirdly, so far as I am concerned, two world wars have almost entirely destroyed in me the desire to take life of any kind. Nevertheless, I very much hope that the House will not accept this Bill.

I have the honour to represent a great hunting constituency. About one-third of Exmoor is within my constituency. I hope hon. Members will not think, as one of the supporters of this Bill suggested in a letter, that in opposing the Bill, I am just kow-towing to the wishes of my constituents. I would remind hon. Members that I am not standing again for Parliament so that I do not care two hoots, and in any case I hope I should have the integrity and decency to stand up for my beliefs.

I believe this Bill is a mistaken Bill for these reasons. The people in my constituency, being people who live where a great deal of hunting takes place, are surely those who know most about the degree to which there is cruelty in hunting. I have had well over 170 requests that I should oppose this Bill. I have had 19 requests that I should support it. We all know in this House that on both sides in this controversy there have been very earnest people, and there have been organisations urging us to vote one way or the other and I do not, therefore, attribute too much importance to the quantity of letters or the proportion of letters for or against this Bill. I must say, however, that I am very impressed by the quality of the letters.

What are the arguments we have been hearing most often today? There is the economic argument, about which I am glad to say we have not heard as much as I feared. Among the 20 odd letters I have had asking me to support this Bill some have maintained that this is a very great waste of money. But the people who stand to suffer most from any economic hardship are the people who, almost without exception, have urged me to oppose this Bill. They are the people who earn their living on the land and who stand to suffer if their crops are trodden down or their gates are left open. In any case, surely the economic loss is extraordinarily small when compared with the time and petrol and money wasted on betting, on football matches, or on many things of that kind or some of the amusements or sports of the people of the cities.

There is the argument of cruelty which, I am glad to say, has almost monopolised the Debate, and I think it is most important that it should have done so. As I think the hon. Member for Broxtowe suggested, we are responsible for making the social history of this country and to my mind it is extraordinarily important, and indeed very encouraging, that practically every speech has been concentrated on the degree of cruelty in this business of hunting. Nearly all the letters I have received in opposition to this Bill have been sent from the people who stand to suffer most from hunting, if the economic argument is advanced, but other letters in opposition to the Bill have come from people who share my love for the countryside and my love for wild life—the love that the hon. Member for Wrexham expressed so ably with his magnificent Gallic ease of language—from people whose knowledge of the wild life of this country is so much greater than mine can ever be that I have had to respect it. I have had letters from constituents such as E. W. Hendy, whose books on Exmoor I hope a great number of hon. Members have read and who is a strong opponent of this Bill.

The other argument about which we have not heard very much today is that hunting is harmful to the people who take part in it. The vast majority of people who are interested in hunting are people who follow on foot and who, therefore, probably never get in at the kill anyhow. I do not know how often I have puffed up hillsides following the hunt, but I have never seen the kill and I do not want to. Apart from that fact, it is surely very much less harmful that people should ride across open country or run across the country climbing up hill and down dale, even though we all admit that there is this measure of cruelty at the end, than that they should be sitting in cinemas watching those films of lust, sadism, cruelty and murder which we show to our children. That is infinitely worse. I think we have to see this in the right perspective. It is less harmful for that matter, than people sitting watching other people boxing. I will say a word about the letters I have received in favour of the Bill—

Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)

The hon. Member represents Bridgwater. Could he tell me the attitude of the town council of Bridgwater to the Bill?

Mr. Bartlett

As far as I know, I have had no representation of any kind from the town council of Bridgwater.

Mr. Alpass

Is it not a fact that they have declined to pass a resolution against the Bill?

Mr. Bartlett

If they have done so, they have not told me about it. The only information I have received from the constituency was from the National Farmers Union in Bridgwater, where one farmer put forward a resolution in support of the Bill, but could find no seconder.

I now come to the letters I have received in support of the Bill. I suggested that what must be important is the quality of the letters. Against the Bill I have had letters from people who love nature and know a lot about the countryside. Most of the letters I have had in favour of the Bill have come from people who live in cities and they have expressed their point of view bluntly, but not very persuasively. For example, a letter I had from a lady in Shoreham-on-Sea started by calling me a spineless yellow rat, like the majority of British huntsmen, who are a pack of inhuman cruel cowards who delight in the gory spectacle of a fox or a stag being torn to pieces. That is a point of view, but it is not the kind of really persuasive argument we expect in a democracy.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Perhaps the hon. Member for Bridgwater, Mr. Bartlett) will allow me to say that the lady is a constituent of mine and I believe she is slightly mentally afflicted.

Mr. Bartlett

I would not dare to follow up that point, but I have had other letters—

Mr. Alpass

Perhaps the lady is one of the supporters of the noble Lord.

Mr. Bartlett

I oppose the Bill because I believe most sincerely, despite what was said by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) a little time ago, that the alternative to hunting is the extermination of a lot of our wild creatures. I am not just quoting from printed documents which are sent to us all. I have had descriptions from two friends whom I respect immensely—including one of the gentlest men I know—most appalling descriptions of what happens to stags when they are just shot and then run round riddled by shot and full of maggots, waiting to die. We have to keep that point in mind. I believe that the shotgun is hopelessly cruel in dealing with red deer and the rifle is almost impossible and dangerous.

I believe an hon. Member of this House was comparing the 120 square miles of Exmoor with Windsor Great Park and suggesting that because there could be a herd of deer and cultivated land in Windsor Great Park there could be the same sort of thing on Exmoor Forest. That seems just as absurd as the comparison made a little time ago by the hon. Member for Chorley between the forests of Canada and the relatively populated areas of Exmoor. Even if we have the best game wardens we can find keeping down deer by rifle fire, we shall get into all sorts of troubles, and Exmoor will not be the sort of national park we all want it to be.

My principal reason for opposing the Bill is not any of the reasons I have given hitherto. The same reason was put forward by the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb) some time ago. I really believe that from the evidence in my constituency there is nothing like enough weight of public opinion behind the Bill yet—it may come, I think it probably will—to justify this unnecessary interference with the way in which people amuse themselves and spend their leisure. As he said, in the modern State we have to have a great deal of interference with our private lives. I think it would be a great mistake if we gave a Second Reading to this Bill for this reason.

Unfortunately, half the population of this country lives in cities of 50,000 or more population and 75 per cent. live in towns of at least 5,000 inhabitants. Not nearly enough live in the country if we really want a sanely based population. Therefore, at any time this House can over-ride the feelings of the minority who live in the country. I think it would be just as unjustifiable, in view of the fact that we find that very few who live in the county want the Bill, if the majority of hon. Members of this House who represent urban areas were in this way to over-rule the desires and feelings of the people from the rural areas. We have no more right to do that than the rural populations would have to impose a ban on football or any of the amusements of the people in the cities.

I believe that if this Bill were given a Second reading we should be destroying something which is characteristically English. I should take up too much time if I reminded the House of how we would lose dollars and the harm that would be done to the tourist industry. All these Americans sending Christmas cards showing the meet, want to know that meets still take place. We should be losing a certain number of dollars in that way, but, of course, that is rather irrelevant and quite unimportant. What is important is that we should not interfere more with the private lives of people than we have to at present and should not interfere with the traditional life of this country. I maintain that the tradition of hunting in this country is very nearly as deep-rooted as the traditions of this House, and I therefore hope that the House will reject the Bill.

1.48 p.m.

Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)

In a matter of this kind it is easy to slip into the language of hyperbole, but the two speeches to which we have just listened have set such a good example that I will try to be as moderate as I can on a matter on which I feel very deeply. There are many things of which we, as British people, may justly be proud, as against any other nation in the world. We may have different reasons for pride at different times. Sometimes we speak about our imperial might, sometimes about our education, sometimes about our literature, music and art. It is right that we should be proud of all these things, but I think there is one thing in which this nation leads all the nations of the world and of which it can be most proud, and that is its progress in humane ideas. I am one who happens to think that humane ideas which lead to humane legislation are not complete if they exclude animals.

Not very long ago I was in a certain country, which I shall name Ruritania. In looking at a monument of antiquity which I had gone to inspect in a cemetery, I noticed a dog, an ordinary yellow mongrel dog, and, according to my habit, I spoke to him and patted him. He immediately bit me. When I was looking at my hand the man with me asked, "Don't you know better than to pat a dog in a backward country?" I am glad to say that one can pat any dog in Wales and one will not be bitten. One of the reasons for that, I am convinced, is that 99.9 per cent. of the population of Wales would be in favour of this Bill. That is the reason why I think it is safe so to deal with animals in Wales and in other parts of Britain, as compared with many other countries.

It has been emphasised that this is not a party matter. I wish I could be convinced that it is not. I am not quite sure that it is not. I know the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) spoke with great courage from the Conservative Benches, but the weight of opinion which we have heard from the Conservative Benches has been overwhelmingly against the Bill, whereas I think I am right in saying that the weight of opinion on the other side of the House has been overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill. It is very largely perhaps not a party but a social matter.

People who represent constituents who have money and leisure tend to defend these blood sports, and I do not blame them for doing so. People who represent working people as a whole ought to be against them. That is my conviction. I am told there are working men who are in favour of sports such as coursing, but they are not the sort of working men among whom I live. I know the working men of this country as well as does anyone in this House. I come from them and I live among them. I am certain that it would be as difficult to find a working man in Wales in favour of blood sports as it would be to see a blue moon.

The only argument which I have heard brought against this Bill is that it would interfere with the legitimate sport of the people. Of course it will interfere with sport; we do not deny it, but is sport as such so sacrosanct that we must sacrifice all our convictions and humanity for its sake? I have no doubt that the people who now speak in this way against the Bill would have been equally eloquent against the abolition of the gladiatorial shows in Rome, as were their predecessors against bull baiting a hundred years ago. Precisely those arguments which have been used today in defence of the sports with which the Bill deals, were used in defence of bull baiting a century ago and were used in favour of other pursuits that have been abolished.

I do not think that mere arguments are very potent in a matter of this kind. I do not think that a single person on either side of the House will change his opinion as a result of today's Debate. That may be a criticism of Parliamentary debate in general, but this kind of matter does not really depend so much upon what one thinks as upon the sort of person one is. Is one the sort of person who would naturally be against cruelty to animals, even if it is a small cruelty in the interests of sport? No amount of argument will convince anyone on either side; for one is just made that way. I should imagine that the person who has been convinced in favour of this Bill or against it by today's Debate must be a very rare bird indeed.

We have already heard references by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) to Peel and Wyndham and other people speaking in exactly the same vein against the abolition of bull baiting a hundred years ago as that in which hon. Members have spoken against this Bill today. I foresee the time in the future, perhaps not so far away, when a Member of this House, perhaps a reincarnation of the hon. Member for Broxtowe, will be quoting the names of people who have spoken today, as awful examples of what happens, because I am certain that those people of a hundred years ago like Peel and Wyndham were as conscientious, had as much integrity and were as certain that they were right as the hon. Gentlemen who have today spoken against this Bill.

I turn to a point which was put to me in the Lobby by a friend of mine about my being in favour of the Bill. He said that what I was really against was not blood sports but the enjoyment of the people. On that point, I would remind the House what was said, I think by Macaulay, about bear baiting. He said that the Puritans were against bear baiting not because it was cruel to the bear but because it gave enjoyment to the spectators. He thought that he had said a very smart thing, but he had not. What he said was very largely true, and the Puritans were, nevertheless, right because they well knew that the sort of enjoyment the spectators derived from bear baiting was degrading, was a bad thing for the soul, and therefore they could condemn it on moral and not merely on humane grounds.

1.56 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Boles (Wells)

I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) say that 99.9 per cent. of Welshmen are against hunting in any shape or form, because I suppose that if he is correct I have the honour to be perhaps the 1 per cent. of those born in Wales who are very much in favour of this form of sport. I cannot help thinking that the whole point of this Bill really concerns the question of how we are to keep control of the numbers of the wild animals mentioned in it. That is a debatable point and I have no doubt that there are various views upon it. Yet, when we come to sum them up, I cannot help feeling that by and large, we shall find that hunting with hounds and the humane killer is probably the most humane way of achieving that.

I am supported in that view by no less an authority on what we might call morals than the late Bishop of Exeter, who said: I think that the misunderstanding, for it is that, arises from not being conversant with the animal world. Those who love to watch wild life know that death and suffering are to animals in a different relation to what they are to human beings. The animal has no forebodings and but slight memory of danger. Death is soon forgotten, and there is no expectation of it. Animals, like rabbits and rats, which multiply quickly, die quickly, and yet while in life are profoundly happy. Hunger seems to be the thing most animals dread. The hunted deer will not grow thin with worry and anxiety. He will be profoundly happy, ready to fight to the death and to suffer wounds in his effort to claim many hinds as wives. The moment of the chase will be like the moments of his great battles, which in my boyhood I often watched, lying in the bracken. Suffering there is none. Those were the words of Lord William Cecil, the late Bishop of Exeter, who should be given credit for knowing something about the feelings of animals.

I wish to deal particularly with the case of stag hunting, to which reference has been made. I feel that the reason so many people are against stag hunting is probably ignorance of exactly what happens when a stag is pursued. The great majority who follow stag hunting do so for sport. Very few, other than the master himself, realise the seriousness of the struggle which is going on—the struggle to keep the numbers down to reasonable proportions, and to protect the farmers' crops. The picture we saw published recently by one of these societies of a lovely stag, with a magnificent head of horns, and the caption, "Harmless" written underneath, is by no means a true picture of the state of affairs. The damage that a few deer can do to a field of roots or a crop of corn has to be seen to be believed. It is the object of stag hunting and deer hunting to prevent, in the most humane way possible, that damage from being done.

Mr. Paton

May I put this point to the hon. and gallant Member, because it seems to be rather important in this connection: is not it a fact that the stag hunts preserve the packs, and in fact have been known to transport deer from Devon and Somerset up to the Quantocks?

Lieut.-Colonel Boles

I do not quite understand the point. Deer from Devon and Somerset migrate to the Quantocks under their own steam; they are not carried there.

Mr. Paton

Would the hon. and gallant Member answer my point? Is it not a fact that the huntsmen preserve the packs for the purpose of hunting them?

Lieut.-Colonel Boles

The packs?

Mr. Paton

The packs—the deer.

Lieut.-Colonel Boles

The herd is what the hon. Member means. They preserve the herd in so far as they discourage the indiscriminate slaughter by what we consider—although the hon. Member may not—to be extremely cruel means, the indiscriminate shooting in twilight or in the dark with shotguns.

Mr. Chamberlain

I wish to get this clear. The hon. and gallant Member did say just now that the main object of hunting was to keep down the number of animals. Yet he does not deny that at times the animals are preserved for hunting. The two facts cannot be reconciled.

Lieut.-Colonel Boles

I think I am quite clear in what I said. The numbers have to be controlled, and the most humane way of controlling them is by means of hounds and a humane killer. If it were left to the countryman to keep down the numbers, the slaughter would be very cruelly and inefficiently carried out.

One must realise that the people who hunt are sportsmen. A sportsman is one who disdains to win on a foul, and that applies equally in the boxing ring or on the football ground or in the pitting of one's wits against wild game. I do not care whether it is a buffalo or a tiger or whether it is hunting with hounds. On a broad basis it all comes to the same thing. In the case of hunting a stag the sportsman is very unwilling to inflict any unnecessary suffering at all, and he wishes to be perfectly fair to the animal he is hunting; that is to say, he will not kill any immature or young beast of the species; they must be full grown and able to take care of themselves.

Most countryfolk enjoy this sport. It is perhaps one of their main recreations. Must countryfolk become a herd of watchers from the touch-line, which is what the townsman, of necessity, is largely compelled to be? He is compelled to watch other people risking their life and limb for his delectation. The countryman wishes to take part himself in the business, and I can assure hon. Members that there is a good deal of risk to life and limb in following these country sports. It is not all on one side by any manner of means.

May I refer for a moment to the carted deer? In regard to the carted deer, there is a great deal of ignorance on the part of those who have never taken any part in the sport. I agree that it is in a different category altogether from hunting the wild deer in Exeter. What happens is this. The carted deer lives in a paddock alongside the hounds. When the hounds are out to exercise they probably go through the paddock in which the deer lives, but there is no attempt at all to chase the animal. The deer is taken to the meet in a van, and there let out. He may go, and if he runs the hounds are laid on; but I have seen the deer just stand there and eat grass. They tried to persuade him to move by cracking whips—[Interruption]—yes, persuade him to move by cracking whips. He jumped over a fence and stood eating grass in the other field. So he was put back into the van and taken home— [HON. MEMBERS: "Sport"!] Oh, yes, he enjoyed it; he got a bite of good grass. What happens supposing he runs? He runs until he feels inclined to stop, until he gets tired—[Interruption]—yes, and then he stops, and the hounds never touch him. The van comes up, he is put back into the van and taken home. In fact, it is on record that after one hunt the deer trotted home with the pack. [Interruption]—yes. We cannot say that there is any cruelty whatever in the hunting of the carted deer.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell the House whether these were British hounds?

Lieut.-Colonel Boles

May I, by way of illustration, take hon. Members for a stag hunt? First of all, we have the harbourer. He has a job to do which takes him a good part of the night, up to the early dawn hours. He has to locate the herd and locate the stag which they wish to hunt. The herd come away from the fields in the dark and take up their pitch in the thickest parts of the woods, and he has to be sure where that is. Then, at the meet, there are crowds of people. I do not know whether any hon. Members have had the opportunity of going to a meet of the Devon and Somerset Stag Hunt at Exeter. It is really a wonderful sight. There will be seen hundreds of foot people, hundreds of cyclists, people riding every sort of four-legged animal, children—all out to enjoy themselves for a day in the country. They take their food and eat it in the sunshine, because it is sometimes fine on Exmoor. This is all done because they like to see the deer. They like to have a chance of seeing the deer in his natural state. They take an interest in the animal itself.

At the meet the pack of hounds are kennelled on a farm, or something of that sort, and from the pack are drawn a few old hounds, called tufters. It is obviously useless and would be cruel to turn out a pack of hounds to find a herd of deer. So these old and trained hounds are brought out and the stag, which has been located by the harbourer is put up. This stag is nearly always accompanied by a younger deer, or perhaps two. Away they go, the hounds with the hunt behind them. Presently, the master, or huntsman, gets a chance to see what the hounds are following. He sees that they are following the two young deer and that the old stag is no longer in front of the hounds. Then—and I think this is the attractive part of the art of venery which comes into this stag hunt—somehow or other he must get off the two young ones which he does not want to pursue, and get back on to the old stag.

In the case that I am quoting, I followed all day. He took the hunt away in a circle and laid them on the heel line—that is the opposite way to that in which the deer had run. Working back on the heel line, some of the hounds divided from the others. The huntsman recognised that he had come that way originally and appreciated that the deviation from that line must be the line which had been taken by the stag who had, as they came along, doubled sharp back and laid down in the thick cover. Following on a little further the stag got up—by himself this time—and went away with the hounds behind. The pack was then laid on and the hunt continued. What was the end? At the end the stag went to water. He chooses a stream or river in which usually there are pools. When standing in a pool with his feet on the bottom, the stag is a difficult antagonist to tackle, because hon. Members will realise that the hounds have to swim. The stag can be most vicious with his horns and feet and the hounds cannot take him on in those circumstances. The huntsman approaches with the humane killer or shotgun, both of which are carried by specialists, and he puts an end to the stag.

The alternative to that is what has been described as the stag going to sea. That very seldom happens, though I have seen it. The stag is a very good swimmer. He takes to water easily and readily. The idea of the hounds swimming alongside a stag and pulling it down is perfectly ridiculous. The hounds cannot possibly drown a stag in water because they must continue to swim whilst the stag stands on the bottom and, therefore, has every advantage over the hounds. No hound can tackle a stag on that basis. A boat is sent out with a humane killer on board and the hounds are taken away to hunt something else or to go home. The humane killer is used and the stag is towed ashore. The only difficulty that arises sometimes is that fishermen get out in a boat before the hunt boat and they are inclined to lasso the animal and drag it ashore. That does not often happen, because the hunt are prepared for the emergency.

There is really no cruelty at all in stag hunting. There is none of this gloating over the stag at the end. The animal is killed and his carcase is cut up by someone authorised by the hunt. It is then taken back to the neighbourhood in which it was found, and where the damage was done, and distributed amongst the inhabitants. Hon. Members cannot find any fault with any part of that story. That is what actually happens.

What is the alternative to this method of killing deer? I have seen a deer caught in a noose. The method is the best that can be devised. The noose is put on one side of a big fence where there is a track through, and, as he goes through the fence, he puts his nose through the noose. A young sapling is bent down, and when the animal pulls on the noose, the sapling is released and he is strung up. That is the most dreadfully cruel thing that one can imagine. I have seen it happen, and I cannot imagine anything more cruel. When the stag is strung up it is supposed to be so high that it has not got its feet on the ground, but it is terribly difficult to keep the animal's hind feet off the ground. The result is that he jumps around and makes an almost impossible target for anyone to kill him cleanly. Even if there is a man on the spot—and as a rule there cannot be because if there were, the deer would not go near the noose—it is a difficult job.

Reference has been made to attempts to shoot deer with rifles. I have tried that and it is a most desperately difficult thing to do in that country. I do it in Scotland and there is no difficulty at all. But to do it on Exmoor, or on the borders of Exmoor, where I tried sometimes during the war when stags were doing damage to crops, is awfully difficult. I assure hon. Members that it simply cannot be done. One cannot use a rifle. One must use a shotgun. People talk about revolvers, but I am sure that they are only those who have never tried to use a revolver. I used to be an expert with the revolver and I realise how jolly bad one can be.

In order to use a shotgun one must be very close to the target and one cannot get sufficiently close to a red deer. Possibly one can shoot a fallow or a roe deer at a reasonable range as it gallops past, but one cannot kill a red deer in that way. Unless the use of a shotgun were combined with some efficient method of hunting up the wounded ones with hounds, the place would crawl with wounded animals. That is dreadful prospect. I assure hon. Members that if they knew anything about this matter, they would not contemplate that system. I consider that we are driven back to what is the best method, which by and large, is the hunting of deer with hounds and the use of the humane killer when they come to close quarters. That is by far the most humane method of keeping these animals within reasonable bounds.

2.17 p.m.

Miss Colman (Tynemouth)

I had already made up my mind to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, but if anything had been needed to convince me to do so, it would have been the speech of the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb). I can well imagine that the same sort of speech was made about 100 years ago when humanitarians were working for the abolition of the employment of young children. I can imagine that there would be the same sort of arguments about the liberty of the individual. I should also have been influenced in the same direction by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) who almost brought tears to our eyes when he spoke about the hunters' love of animals. The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Boles) with his idyllic picture of the carted stag trotting home with the hounds, was almost too good to be true.

Lieut-Colonel Boles

It is true. I have seen it.

Miss Colman

The British Field Sports Society have issued a pamphlet entitled, "Are you sure?" Until I read that pamphlet I was not quite sure about the desirability of abolishing stag hunting. Having read the pamphlet I am quite sure. On one page this pamphlet states that the number of deer must be kept within reasonable limits as they do untold damage to farmers' crops. That is perfectly true. On another page the same pamphlet says, with regard to foxes: It is to sport and sport alone that they owe their preservation. Then it says that this is more particularly true of the wild red deer of Exmoor, and it asks: Why is it that on Exmoor and some of the surrounding country the red deer still survive? This pamphlet, published by the British Field Sports Society, says that it is because first by law and then by tradition, this tract of Devon and Somerset has been set aside for the chase. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that these animals do untold damage and then say that if it were not for hunting there would be far fewer than there are now. To make matters worse from the point of view of the opponents of this Bill this pamphlet, after telling the number of deer destroyed during the war, and giving an account of the methods which were used during the war to kill them, says that if a deer was wounded it was possible to lay hounds on in a very short space of time and to finish it off, and concludes: It is above all important to note that this method of hunting a number of deer and shooting those which may come within range, while admittedly effective and the only practical one where large reductions are necessary contrasts very unfavourably with the age-old system of keeping the deer in check whereby during a day's hunting one deer is hunted. … Having indicated a more merciful way of killing them the pamphlet rejects that method because more are killed by that method than by hunting.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

Cannot the hon. Lady appreciate that there should be a reasonable number of animals, neither too many nor too few, and that the contrary is false?

Miss Colman

I am contesting the view put by the other side that hunting is the most merciful way of keeping the numbers down. I am arguing that, according to this pamphlet of the B.F.S.S., there is a more merciful way and a more effective way.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

Does the hon. Lady argue that it is more merciful to hunt deer after they have been wounded than before?

Miss Colman


Mr. Paget

That is what she said.

Miss Colman

No. According to this pamphlet, if a deer is wounded, in a very short time it is possible to finish the deer off, and this method used during war is better than to hunt a deer for the whole of a day. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. They cannot argue that we must keep down the number of deer and that hunting is necessary to do it, and at the same time say that deer are doing a great deal of damage. I would remind hon. Members that the Bill would abolish hunting but would provide for keeping down the number of animals by more humane methods.

With regard to hare coursing, the argument is exactly the same. I refer again to a leaflet published by the British Field Sports Society, which says that a great deal of damage is done by hares, and that on the first day of this year's Waterloo Cup 48 hares were coursed and nine killed. Hon. Members who oppose the Bill are trying to get the best of both worlds. They argue that hares do a great deal of damage and that coursing is necessary to keep down the numbers, and then they say that a very small number of hares are killed at a coursing meeting. In my view, coursing is a most brutal sport which is extremely popular with betting people and "bookies." In my constituency quite recently a boy was fined heavily for setting his dog on a rabbit. Apparently, it is illegal for a boy to set a dog on a rabbit, but legal for crowds of people to set hounds on hares.

I feel very strongly indeed, having listened to most of this Debate, that the supporters of hunting are merely trying to rationalise their extremely uncivilised idea of amusement and profit making. Every argument put forward against this Bill has been directed merely to the end of finding a reason for what is an uncivilised practice. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) reminded the House that bull and bear baiting were made illegal in 1835, and told us that exactly the same arguments were used then in support of bull and bear baiting as are used now in support of stag hunting and hare coursing. In a civilised society—as we hope we are—it must be recognised that animals do not exist merely for our own profit and our own pleasure, but that we on our side have a duty to render to them. This Bill may not be approved today, but even if it is defeated, we shall have done something towards rousing the conscience of the public to the evils of these forms of so-called sport, and sooner or later we shall succeed.

2.27 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)

Before the House reaches a decision on this Bill it is necessary for me to express the view of the Government, and to give what guidance we can, whether it is accepted or not, on what we believe is in the national interest. First, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks) on a speech full of good humour, pathos, emotion, and humanitarianism—all very desirable traits which none of us can ignore. I should like also to congratulate the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) on what I thought was a very courageous speech. However, while its motives and intentions may be good, I am quite satisfied that the Bill is based upon a wrong premise, and that to pass the Bill would lead to much more rather than to less cruelty. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Boles) gave a practical illustration a few moments ago of the realities, as distinct from the theories that have been enunciated. In any case, if the hon. Member for Broxstowe and I must disagree, still we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. Let me say that I yield to none in my detestation of unnecessary cruelty. I say so despite the references to my having supported a Bill of this kind in 1925. After all, one should never be ashamed to own that sometimes one may have been wrong.

Mr. McGhee (Penistone)

Which time?

Mr. T. Williams

In the 24 years since that speech was made in a Committee room in this Palace of Westminster, I have learned a good deal, not only about hunting, but a good deal about governing people—to the advantage of many of my hon. Friends. It is only after very patient and meticulous examination of all the facts that I am certainly satisfied myself that to abolish hunting without providing an effective alternative—and the Bill does not provide one: that is where the promoters have failed—would mean there certainly would be more rather than less cruelty in this country.

However, before dealing with that theme, I must say a word about grave, fundamental issues that no Government of this country can afford to ignore. I hope that my hon. Friends in particular will be tolerant while I deal with what I regard as a very grave national problem. The publicity given to these proposals has brought widespread repercussions. The controversy not only cuts across classes and parties but it also endangers our food production drive. There is an erroneous belief in some quarters that these sports are the exclusive preserve of the leisured class. They are, in fact, rightly or wrongly, a traditional feature of country life patronised by very large masses of the rural population. Any interference with them, except on grounds of national emergency or on solid proof of avoidable pain, might be fraught with very serious consequences so far as the nation is concerned. There never was a moment in the history of this country when the nation depended more upon the good will and co-operation of all classes of the rural population than it does today. I need not refer lengthily to our expansion programme and its possible contribution to our economic recovery, or the fact that we are constantly calling on both farmers and farm workers to increase their targets, the response to which, over the past 18 months has been universally good.

It has been said, and I believe that it is true, that in the wilds of some parts of the country, country people have very few relaxations; but they have many anxieties, and if, at this moment, without unchallengeable evidence, we strike at their limited opportunities for recreation—which is their choice and not mine—they would regard that as a very ill return for their efforts. I am bound to warn the House and the enthusiasts behind the Bill that we should risk the loss of willing co-operation in a great national effort. I have received a whole series of letters, like most hon. Members in the House, and I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind that for the moment I am responsible to this House and to the nation for its food production. England and Wales are split up into 62 counties. We have a county executive committee operating in each, and the letter which I have in my hand is from one chairman of a county executive committee. I have a whole pile of them. I would not accept intimidation of any kind as part of the argument, and I merely quote this one letter which I regard as typical. This chairman said: Hunting is often the only form of recreation for farmers in the winter and most farm workers take an interest in the Hunt, and take every opportunity of watching the hounds when they pass near their homes. Just as millions of Londoners take every opportunity of watching pageantry in London— I have just been told that certain hill shepherds have said that if hunting is stopped they will not remain in the out of the way places; you are no doubt aware that it is already difficult enough to get shepherds for hill farms. A very large proportion of farm workers in this county have signed the petition of the British Field Sports Society. … We hear a great deal about the lack of amenities and opportunity of recreation for country people, and if these Bills are passed and become law— [Interruption.] The letter says "Bills": the situation will become worse than ever. My own local hunt is managed by a Committee of 18, all of whom are farmers. That is an indication of what may happen in a certain part of the country, apparently the hill country of Cumberland or Westmorland—I cannot be quite sure which. While not every farmer or landowner or worker supports hunting—I have had letters from N.U.A. branches against it and for it—any more than, for instance, every townsman supports greyhound racing, horse racing, fishing, football, or boxing, it is obvious from my contacts and correspondence that a very large number of them do.

Another disquieting feature is the feeling in the rural areas that this is a townsman's attack upon the life of the country. [Interruption.] I am stating to the House what I think is the feeling in the rural areas that this is a townsman's attack on the way of life of the countryside, and that the arguments of cruelty are merely a cloak. I am not accepting every argument either from the rural areas or from those who support this Bill. They may not be true, but the feeling is certainly there, and the psychological reaction could not be in the national interest. We have to be realists in this House. The people in the rural areas read about football matches with attendances of 80,000 people, and they know that special trains are put on, despite the fuel shortage, and that thousands of cars are present, all using dollar petrol. They read of greyhound racing collecting 20,000 to 25,000 people at one meeting, with thousands of cars there all using petrol, and they know that the theatres are full and the cinemas are bursting with people, and yet, so far as I know, they make no complaint.

What they do say is that it is quite right and proper that people should choose their own amusements in their own way so long as there is no unnecessary cruelty. That is the case with which we have to deal. It is not only the rural people who are asking Parliament for an early assurance that very long-established sports and recreations shall not be interfered with. There is no doubt about it, that all my contacts go to show that they hotly resent being singled out for special limitations and being charged with inflicting unnecessary cruelty. Nevertheless, high sentiment, emotion and humanitarianism must not be condemned by any of us, but high pressure propaganda inevitably leads to exaggeration, and this is no exception to the general rule.

I have read articles which, apart from the merit or demerits of the case, talk about "sadists in fancy dress." I am rather surprised that a Londoner should use that sort of language. It may get the headlines but it is not an argument either for or against this Bill. What are the facts about cruelty, so far as one is able to collect them? One must face the fact that in the destroying of life and in particular wild life some pain is inevitable. Whether the purpose is to maintain a balanced wild life or to exterminate undesirable species of pests, life has to be taken, and all the evidence available to me shows that humanitarian interests are better served by an organised effort, under the control of responsible, experienced people who are all animal lovers themselves. Certainly, there is in that way much less chance of cruelty than by indiscriminate trapping or snaring or, indeed, inexpert shooting. I have seen traps which have caught animals, which have then escaped leaving a leg behind, and it is beyond my understanding to appreciate how much suffering that must have entailed. I know also about snaring, which means slowly choking the animal to death; and I know something about shooting, which cripples but does not kill, and certainly produces a much higher rate of prolonged suffering than does the instantaneous kill of the hunt.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

What about war?

Mr. Williams

I am not for one moment suggesting that these sports are the only practical means of achieving the destruction of pests. I am suggesting, however, that as wild life must be controlled to abolish hunting would not necessarily abolish cruelty. Indeed, the alternative of unregulated action may lead to infinitely more cruelty. Moreover, the preservation of wild life would definitely be imperilled if controlled limitation as practised by hunts gives place to freedom of attack by persons with fewer scruples regarding wanton cruelty.

Neither would I defend hunts on the ground that they are designed primarily as a measure of pest control. Their primary purpose is recreation and the joy of the chase, and the killing is merely incidental. It must be perfectly obvious to a person with any knowledge at all that 19 out of every 20 of those who follow the hunt never see a fox, and certainly never see a kill. It is a day out to them, just as a cocktail party may be a day out to some Londoners.

Much has been said about the cruelty of the kill. Now this House must, if it is to form a correct judgment, base its judgment upon precise knowledge of exactly what does happen in contrast with other forms of killing. I believe it is well established by now that the kill is usually instantaneous. There may be the occasional exception. But there is the exception on the other side, as where, for instance, not long ago a deer was found with its bottom jaw blown off, having lain there for over a week in agony until it slowly pined away, since it was no longer able to eat. There are exceptions on both sides, whichever the form of killing may be, but it could not be claimed that by the freelance method of attack there would be less cruelty than there is with hunting. I believe that this is where the promoters of this Bill have gone wrong. They regard hunting and cruelty as synomonous, thinking that to abolish the hunt is to abolish cruelty. On the contrary, they render rural recreation illegal, and do absolutely nothing towards abolishing or restraining cruelty. I hope that when four o'clock comes hon. Members will remember that, if the decision and Division is to be based upon cruelty no case has been made out for this Bill.

I have no power, as Minister of Agriculture, to secure a limitation in the numbers of wild animals until they are so numerous as to have become a pest. For example, I have no power to limit the number of deer that roam Exmoor so long as they keep away from crops. Indeed, as far as I have been able to ascertain, it is nobody's responsibility to control, in a general sense, or to limit wild life in this country. So far hunts, in an unofficial capacity, have provided for the limitation of herds and have promptly dealt with those that caused damage to crops.

Mr. Cocks

Clause 2 of this Bill gives the Minister those power.

Mr. Williams

Which I do not want. I will tell the hon. Member why in a moment. It is now suggested that I should be empowered to make regulations authorising the destruction of animals by specified methods. But the Bill leaves it for me to specify the methods, notwithstanding anything contained in the Bill. In other words, I can sanction hunting if necessary. Very nice, thank you. The promoters are today hunting the hunters: they will be hunting me tomorrow. That is why I do not want the power in Clause 2. It is easy enough for my hon. Friend to suggest that my pest officers ought to do it. Well now, that is over-simplification. It is just as much an over-simplification to say that there are some grand rifle shots at Aldershot and elsewhere, but it does not dispose of the central fact that the Bill itself provides no efficient, effective alternative to hunting for the limitation of wild life in this country.

At present the organisations for hunting are maintained at the cost of the interested parties. If we make hunting illegal it is quite obvious that they would disperse with their packs. But it is no part of Government policy to nationalise packs of hounds, and maintain them under Government supervision, just in case on some future occasion the Minister of Agriculture may consider that hunting is the most efficacious way of dealing with an excessive concentration of deer, hares, rabbits, or anything else. Moreover, my county agricultural executive committees—voluntary workers for the nation—have plenty on their plate with the production drive without adding to their duties responsibility for the control, limitation and destruction of wild life.

There is just one other thing I ought to emphasise before sitting down. The present powers of control of land pests are based on the principle that the occupier is responsible for keeping down pests—largely, of course, rabbits, rats and mice. The occupier must comply with orders from the agricultural executive committee or be subject to prosecution. They enter for carrying out the work, charging the occupier with the cost, and any worsening of the conditions, due to the suppression of hunting, would obviously fall on the occupier. He would, therefore, be entitled to use any legal method, cruel or otherwise, to keep down pests. But in the case of freely roaming animals that cover wide areas, it is a practical impossibility for any individual occupier to provide effective steps to deal with them, so that collective action on the part of the farmer himself and his neighbours would be required. It follows, therefore, that, especially on enclosed land, the pursuit must be rapid and effective, and willy nilly we are driven back to horses and hounds as a matter of necessity almost, regardless of any pleasure there may be.

In any case, why should the Minister be made responsible for that collective effort? It would certainly lead to a transfer from the occupier to the Minister of responsibility for dealing with that type of pest—I think a most undesirable development. In some parts of North Wales, where there are not any hunts, my Department do provide assistance to fox societies, who have accounted for a very large number of foxes by gassing, shooting or trapping on unenclosed land, and it is only there that these societies can operate. That would not be acceptable on enclosed land, since the farmers themselves prefer the hunt. In any case, there are no means of compelling farmers to form themselves into fox, deer or other societies for shooting, gassing or trapping, or adopting any of the other methods I have suggested which may be infinitely more cruel than the so-called cruelty today.

After very careful consideration by the Government of the whole situation, we have reached the decision that this Bill cannot have the Government's support, and I advise the House to refuse it a Second Reading on the following major grounds: first, that it is based on the false premise that its provisions would lessen cruelty; second, that the suppression of these sports without effective and efficient alternatives would lead to much less satisfactory activities, and, third, and this is of some importance, it would alienate the support of the rural population to our food-production programme, which is vital in the national interest.

Finally, I ask Members to consider carefully whether the supporters of this Bill have really justified this interference with the liberties of the rural population. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Webb) truly said that for nine years our people have had to forgo many liberties and put up with measures of austerity of which we cannot even yet see an end. Is this, therefore, the right moment to make another attack on freedom of action? In my view, the prohibitions in this Bill have no economic foundation and the humanitarian aspects are greatly exaggerated, if not wholly misconceived. Since this party have been given the power to govern the nation, I believe we have a record of achievement of which we ought to be proud, and I hope that at this moment we are not going to forfeit the good will we have so rightly earned, and go down to history as a party anxious to abolish the pleasures of others.

2.53 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

During the right hon. Gentleman's speech there were some signs of tension. I hope that my well-known soporific effect on the House will reduce that tension and that before I have finished the House will be both calm and empty. I should like to begin by associating myself with the right hon. Gentleman in the tribute he has very rightly paid to the high level eloquence and sincerity on both sides in this Debate, which I think has been a credit to the House. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) is well aware that I am no political friend of his, but I should like to pay a tribute to his sincerity and say that to me at any rate it produced a certain nostalgic feeling for the past to hear someone capable of such classic erudition in his peroration as the hon. Member always shows. Those are all the pleasant things I have to say, and I come now to my criticisms of the Bill.

I have often remarked in this House, and I do so again today, that the British hate logic and love empirical or paradoxical conclusions; but I submit that this Bill carries inconsistency to a point where it is indistinguishable from gross hypocrisy, and I should like to explain what I mean by that. There is something to be said—and some Members may say there is everything to be said, and I should not be disposed to disagree—for a code of law containing, of course, penalties, prescribing treatment for wild animals in the same way as there is a code of law for domestic animals which lays down the methods for dealing with them and preventing cruelty. Such a code of law—and let Members who support this Bill accept this part of my argument if they will—would mean dealing with such questions as poisoning, trapping, and hunting. It would stop the gross scandal and cruelty of the present situation by which four-legged animals of all kinds in the wild can be caught by steel traps and left to die a horrible lingering death. There is not one word in this Bill which deals with that sort of thing, and that is why I describe it as being inconsistent even in a country that does not mind inconsistency in many things.

I should like to mention one case of inconsistency. We have heard a very interesting description, from the point of view of one who knows his sport very well, of hunting on Exmoor, and I should like to say something about a part of England where there is no hunting of wild deer, the borders of Sussex and Surrey, but where the woods are full of roe deer which have probably come from the West, fallow deer which may have escaped from parks and even red deer. There is no code laid down by which these deer can be destroyed. Some are caught in snares and left to die a miserable death, and there have even been instances where a doe has been shot leaving a fawn to die. There is not one word about that in this Bill, and those who support it have not mentioned any other part of England than Exmoor. What is the sense of bringing in a Bill that purports to prevent cruelty and lays down no code for the sort of things I have mentioned? I challenge any Member—and no doubt other supporters of this Bill will be speaking before the end of the Debate—to say that hunting is more cruel than the things I have just described.

There is another thing about this Bill which is really astonishing, coming from people who quite honestly and genuinely describe themselves as the friends of wild animals. Why, if it is cruel to hunt badger or deer, is it not equally cruel to catch a fish? Can any Member of scientific attainment in this House say that a salmon caught by rod and line, fighting for 20 minutes or so with a hook in its mouth, with its life slowly ebbing away, and then landed with a gaff in its belly, feels less pain than a badger or hare? Why is that not dealt with in the Bill? We all know why; it is because Members below the Gangway, despite all they say about wishing to do away with cruelty, are afraid to lose the votes of thousands of fishermen and that is why it is a hypocritical Bill. I must say that in these matters I award the crown of absurdity to the organisation which improperly calls itself "Royal," for the Crown should not be called into controversy—the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Society which thinks it right to hunt foxes but wrong to hunt otters, which are just as destructive. In no other country could such a body get away with that without being ridiculed out of existence.

The last two things I want to say are these. I have already paid tribute to the sincerity of Members who have spoken in support of the Bill. I know they think it is going to do good. I agree that there are hundreds—not thousands but hundreds—of people outside this House who are equally sincere in supporting this Bill, but there are other elements behind this Bill of a much less desirable kind. There are, for example, what I call "the Bloomsbury Boys," the people who invented the satirical phrase "huntin' shootin' and fishin'." Their patron saint is Oscar Wilde, who was the principal enemy of hunting in his day. I should not have thought that the hon. Member for Broxtowe with all his record and knowledge—and he is a very successful parliamentarian, if I may say so—would have desired to cite Oscar Wilde as his supporter. No wonder that the Bloomsbury Boys and their patron saint Oscar Wilde condemn: "huntin' shootin', and fishin' "—because they are outdoor sports requiring courage, endurance, and physical fitness, every one of which qualities is anathema to them.

Another type of curious person who is behind the Bill, and who really requires the attention of that numerous profession the psychiatrist, covers those who have what I can only describe as the Goering-like mentality. Field-Marshal Goering, some five years before the war, announced with great empressement that it was only the brutal British who indulged in the cruel sport of hunting the stag, and that in future, to mark the difference between the Germans and the British, there would be no cruelty to animals of that kind in Germany. In other words, it was horrible to hunt the stag; the only game you could hunt were human beings. I will tell a story in that connection for which I will vouch, and which I think will shock every Member of the House.

Some 15 or 20 years ago, a young lady out with a pack of stag hounds in the West Country, at a time when there was considerable excitement about the progenitor of this Bill and when there had been demonstrations by the League Against Cruel Sports, broke her leg. She was put into hospital with a fracture of the leg and she was in great pain. The fact that she had broken her leg, and was in hospital, was announced in the newspapers. Believe it or not, 20 supporters of the Bill outside this House were so sadistic as to write to that lady and to say that they were delighted to hear that she was suffering from pain and that they hoped that she was suffering as much as the deer had suffered. One woman wrote and said that she prayed every night that this young lady would die as she had condemned the stag to die. Those are the individuals with a Goering-like mentality who do not mind cruelty to human beings and who place animals above them.

It is a well-known fact of psychiatry that a great many of these people are slightly unbalanced mentally. Many of them are people who have had the misfortune in their lives of not succeeding in attracting the other sex, and who find that solace in the companionship of animals, domestic animals and in some cases wild animals as well, which they cannot find from friendship with their own fellows. I will give an example of such people. There was a case in court, which nobody would tolerate or agree with, in which a man was charged with cruelty to a cat. I think he threw a stone at it. It was reported that 15 women in that court fainted at this cruelty. Would they faint if they were told of some of the horrors put on human beings behind the iron curtain? Would they cry a bit about it? Not one of them. A cat must be protected, but not a human being. Those are the kind of people who are behind the Bill.

We were told by the hon. Member for Broxtowe—I do not want to make a party political point of it because this is not a party political question—that this was one of the landmarks among the great marks of progress. I agree that there have been such landmarks in the past. However, would it not be better when we have time on a Friday afternoon to discuss Private Members' Bills to discuss some of the ills affecting human beings in some parts of the world? Would it not be better to discuss the million people in camps in the depressed areas of Europe? Would it not be better to discuss what an hon. Member opposite writes about so eloquently in "The Tribune"—what is going on behind the iron curtain?

Mr. Cocks

On a Private Member's Bill?

Earl Winterton

There is nothing to prevent an hon. Member who has humanitarian instincts, bringing in a Bill to benefit human beings.

In conclusion, I want to pay this tribute to the Minister of Agriculture. During my time in the House of Commons as a Minister I have had to speak when a number of my own party—not, I hope, the majority—were opposed to me. It always requires courage to do that, and all of us on both sides of the House, whether we agree with the right hon. Gentleman, or not, admire the courage with which he put his point this afternoon. This Bill should be rejected for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture so admirably gave in his speech. It should be rejected despite the sincerity of its backers because it is dripping with dishonesty, evasiveness and inefficiency.

3.7 p.m.

Mr. Symonds (Cambridge)

This Bill certainly does arouse strong feelings. I am not sure that I have a Goering-like mentality—I hope not—but if it is any comfort to the noble Lord, my motive in supporting the Bill is not that I have been unsuccessful in attracting the other sex, because I can claim to be very happily married. However, feelings are aroused so violently in this matter, particularly among those who are supporting blood sports, that one rather feels that the people who ought to see the psychiatrists are those who support blood sports because the very violence of their opposition to any form of social control suggests a guilty feeling on their part.

I very much regret that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture announced the Government's wish that the Bill should not pass, and I regret that both he and the noble Lord should suggest that we on this side assume hunting and cruelty to be synonymous and that we expect by abolishing hunting thereby to abolish cruelty. We are not as simple as all that. We fully appreciate that there is, and inevitably will be, cruelty in nature. We also know, as the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) pointed out, that there can be and may be cruelty even in such places as slaughter houses, and we are all in favour, just as he is, of taking every step we can to reduce any such cruelty in slaughter houses. However, I would remind the House that a butcher in a slaughter house does not put on a pink coat and chase the sheep around for half an hour before killing them.

Our case with regard to cruelty is this. There may be cruelty in any form of reduction of pests. It may be impossible to avoid such cruelty, but we see no reason why cruelty, even if necessary and inevitable, should be made into a public festival and holiday.

We see even less reason why pests and vermin, if they need to be destroyed, should be specially preserved for hunting. We used to hear in the old days that the animal enjoyed being chased and that a good time was had by all. We do not hear so much of that argument nowadays and it has not appeared much in this Debate, but were that suggested again, I do not think we could take it at all seriously unless the huntsman decided not to adopt the monotonously regular course of being the hunter rather than the hunted. I would take much more notice of the argument that the animal enjoyed it if, for a change, now and again the huntsman took the place of the animal and we gave the human being so much start and then let the hounds chase him. I may be simple minded, but as I see it, if it is wrong to set dogs on a cat, it does not become right to set dogs on a deer simply by calling them hounds. As we see it. cruelty—inevitable as at times it may be—gives no justification whatever for making a spectacle of it.

We are asked, "If you wish to abolish hunting, what are the alternatives?" We recommend shooting, in the main. The effect of that would be a steady reduction in the numbers of the pests to be controlled. By the method of hunting, they are never reduced; in fact, numbers tend to increase and it is one of the arguments against hunting that it is one of the least efficient methods of reducing pests. I should hate my right hon. Friend to think that this is an attack by the townsmen on the countrymen, because I hold in my hand a letter giving a Resolution passed unanimously not by townspeople but at a meeting of the delegates of the North Devon Divisional Labour Party at Bamstaple last night. This is what the country people feel about it: That this meeting of the delegates of the North Devon Divisional Labour Party representing the organised Labour movement in the North Devon Division, protest most strongly that the Government is to withdraw its support from the Anti-Blood Sports Bill. For many years now the vast majority within the Labour Movement have opposed blood sports of every kind, and we urge the General Executive of the Labour Party to remind every Labour Member in the House of Commons of the feeling of the country in this matter before the Bill comes up for Second Reading on Friday.

Brigadier Peto

I missed the source of the quotation. Where did it come from?

Mr. Symonds

The North Devon Divisional Labour Party at a meeting at Barnstaple. I am quite sure that a large part of the suggested strong feeling in the country is not genuine. I have seen something of what has been going on with regard to the collection of signatures for this sportsmen's pledge. I have been told by anglers that they signed it and now regret having signed it. They were led to believe by those sponsoring this pledge that somebody was proposing to ban practically every form of outdoor rural activity. When they signed that pledge, they had not seen this Bill. Now they have seen this Bill they very much regret that their names are on that pledge because they support this Bill. As far as I can see, and so far as this Bill is concerned, the million-odd signatures of the sportsman's pledge are completely worthless. The Anglers' Federation, it is known, have repudiated any attempt by the British Field Sports Society to rope them in under its wing.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Regarding this question of anglers and fishing, is the hon. Member suggesting that a fish enjoys itself at the end of a hook when being played for half-an-hour or more?

Mr. Symonds

I was not discussing the feeling of the fish at all. I was discussing what is in this Bill.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

The hon. Member spoke of cruelty, and anglers are concerned about it. I am only suggesting that it may be cruel.

Mr. Symonds

If the hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) brings in a Bill to deal with fishing we will talk about it then, but at the moment we are talking about this Bill. I very much regret that the Minister is in opposition to this Bill because I am sure he is only engaging in a sort of delaying action. I am quite sure that, even if not today, this Bill will quite soon become law.

I want to end by quoting some remarks of the late W. H. Hudson, the naturalist, on what seems to be the present position: We have to remember that no form of cruelty inflicted, whether for sport or profit or from some other motive, on the lower animals, has ever died out of itself in the land. Its end has invariably been brought about by legislation, through the devotion of men who were the 'cranks,' the 'faddists,' the 'sentimentalists' of their day, who were jeered and laughed at by their fellows, and who only succeeded by sheer tenacity and force of character after long fighting against public opinion and a reluctant Parliament, in finally getting their law. We shall one day get this law.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Before the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) sits down, would he say why he thinks it more suitable to quote from a Labour Party resolution in North Devon when the Cambridgeshire National Farmers' Union, 2,248 strong, requests that this Bill should be opposed?

Mr. Symonds

I do not represent Cambridgeshire.

Major Legge-Bourke

Or North Devon.

3.13 p.m.

Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)

I would like to discuss the Bill in detail, but this is a late hour, many other hon. Members wish to speak and I have promised to speak only for a moment or two. I am opposing this Bill because I am, first and foremost, a lover of animals. It is difficult enough to prevent the extermination of wild animals in the parts of the world where the country is wild and far separated from the towns. But in this small country extermination would follow immediately on the stopping of hunting. I am also convinced that the result of the passing of this Bill and similar Bills would be to inflict far greater cruelty on animals and in the end the extermination of wild animals, and for that reason I am definitely opposed to it or to any other similar Bill.

Of equal importance is the relationship between town and country. Those of us who were brought up in the country and who have had the honour of representing country constituencies for a very long time know how difficult it has been to make the townspeople understand the problems of the countryside. Many of our agricultural difficulties have been due to that fact. Unfortunately, it took a war to make the townspeople realise that the country mattered at all. It has taken two wars of great magnitude to make them understand that the growing of food is vital to their own lives in the towns. At last I admit, as the Minister of Agriculture rightly said, there is a better relationship and understanding today between the town and the countryside, although I am afraid it has been based very much on the anxiety of the townspeople about their own future.

This is a most disastrous moment at which to undo much of the good which has been done. Although hon. Members who hold a contrary view may argue and may find any number of people who will make remarks to them to a contrary effect, there is no doubt that the majority of the country people feel very strongly about this Bill. I have been amazed at the strength of the feeling which has been shown and the number of letters which have come to me and I am sure other hon. Members have had the same experience. Those letters have not only come from those people who are keen hunting people. They have come from the ordinary men and women in the countryside and it is because they resent the interference of towns people in their traditional country sports. It is the interference with the individual's right to enjoy his sports in the way he wishes which is of fundamental importance. We are told that there is a general desire to lift controls and to abolish unnecessary interference with the individual but here we have a definite case where those who have not had personal experiences and knowledge are endeavouring by means of this Bill, to force the countryside to accept something with which they do not agree. I believe that this Bill will do more harm than good. I am quite certain it will not diminish the sufferings of animals but that very likely it will increase them and I believe it will create a feeling between the countryside and the towns which will be far from helpful. For these reasons I oppose the Bill.

3.22 p.m.

Mr. Collins (Taunton)

I do not agree with those who suggest that a thing we get pleasure out of or profit from is necessarily acceptable as a sport and that loss of either pleasure or profit would be a valid reason for opposing the Bill we are now discussing. But, in the absence of proof either that the practices complained of are cruel, or the absence of proof that the alternatives are either not less or more cruel, then those reasons of pleasure and possibly profit and interest, are reasons we can consider because, unless a good case is put forward for discarding them, they should go on. There have been from the supporters of the Bill many sincere, eloquent and passionate speeches. This is the kind of thing about which one can become eloquent. I may not have the ability of those who have spoken, but I think I could put as good a case against the cruelty of hunting murderers on Dartmoor as against hunting deer on Exmoor.

What we are concerned with are the facts of the case. I have heard almost the whole of the Debate and all the reliable, authenticated facts have been put forward by those who have said they oppose the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Colonel Boles), in what I thought a very interesting and convincing speech, gave the history of stag hunting and described it in detail. I noticed that the House which, at the beginning of his speech, was rather lively and somewhat ribald, quietened down and listened carefully because, obviously, he knew what he was talking about. No subsequent speaker has attempted to challenge anything the hon. and gallant Member said, or the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture that hunting the stag in the manner in which it is done on Exmoor is, at least, as far as is known, the most humane way of regulating those animals. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Symonds) spoke about extermination as being desirable. Exmoor is mainly in my constituency and I can say as a fact that the people of Exmoor love the wild red deer. They do not have to be regimented to vote against such Bills or express antagonism towards them.

Mr. Symonds

I did not say extermination, but reduction. I said that hunting did not reduce them.

Mr. Collins

If this Bill were passed we would have conditions like those in Belgium and Holland, where practically the only wild game is the seagull.

No attempt whatever has been made by the promotors of the Bill to put forward a reasonable alternative. Despite the sincerity with which my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) spoke it was obvious that he was deeply ignorant of the subject which he was discussing. To those who support this Bill I would say, "If you really want to know what the people of Exmoor think, if you want to study the terrain and see the conditions under which the deer live, come along and we will show you a stag hunt, and you will not repeat the kind of things which we have heard in support of this Bill today."

Mr. Alpass

Some of us have seen one and seen the cruelty.

Mr. Cocks

Why is it that stags are never killed anywhere near Lynton or Minehead, because it is so unpopular?

Mr. Collins

Stags are killed quite close to Minehead and, if not in Lynton, certainly at Simonsbath, in my division, close by.

My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe said that hunting the red deer was revolting cruelty. In my submission this is not a Bill to abolish hunting but a Bill for the promotion of cruelty to wild animals. My hon. Friend also said that 99 per cent. of the people of this country were against it. So far as my judgment and correspondence are concerned 95 per cent. of the people in my constituency are opposed to this Bill. [Interruption.] I said in so far as I am able to judge by correspondence. My hon. Friend said that while the people of this country know nothing of the technicalities of hunting they instinctively feel that hunting the deer is revoltingly cruel. Hitler often acted on instinct, but it was not always reliable. Facts and knowledge are more reliable, and it is beyond dispute that during the war, when it was necessary for war purposes to thin the number of deer, they were curtailed by 400 a year in the areas of the Quantock and the Devon and Somerset Hounds. It was found that the best and most humane method was first to hunt the deer past given spots, where men with shotguns were placed so that the deer could be shot at 15 to 20 yards range. The deer became gun conscious, broke away and did not conform by going to these particular spots, and they had to be hunted again. In other words the most humane way of doing the job was by hunting them and then shooting them.

The method used in ordinary hunts is to kill the stag with a humane killer. It is not killed at all until it is turning and until it is stationary. I do not deny that there is cruelty in hunting but I say that there is no cruelty in the kill; the cruelty if such there be, is in the chase. But my hon. Friends who support this Bill would deny the wild animal the one boon which it can ask, that of instant death. Because they make no provision in any part of the Bill—except to thrust their responsibility as citizens on to the Minister of Agriculture, who says that he does not want it—they say in effect that they will condemn the wild animal on Exmoor and elsewhere to any chance attack. We know what has happened in the past. In the first half of the nineteenth century there was no organised hunt on Exmoor. The deer were at the mercy of everyone, and in the Hungry 'Forties they were not exterminated but deer were found in frightful conditions in the countryside. Then there was the experiment of shooting with buckshot at Cannock Chase, which caused such a public outcry in 1934 that it was stopped.

I am surprised that no one has mentioned the fact that the R.S.P.C.A. is opposed to these Bills. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My hon. Friends have, in a document which they circulated, pointed out quite rightly that the Royal Society approves of the Bill in principle. That is true but they go on to say: We must however make a reservation on, the matter. If hunting is ended adequate provision must be made to prevent indiscriminate destruction by inhumane methods. No provision has been made in this Bill for that, and no speaker in favour of the Bill has made the slightest attempt to bring forward any way of doing it, because they do not know.

Mr. Cocks

I did.

Mr. Collins

If the R.S.P.C.A. make this reservation, they may be supporting the Bill in principle, but they are obviously opposing it in practice. I have gone into this matter very deeply and have had very considerable correspondence. I have attended public meetings which have been largely attended, where nobody attended by compulsion, where there was no shouting or rowdiness and everybody had an opportunity to speak. I do know therefore that in the country we get the views and opinions of people. I have also tried to get the views of people who are opposed to hunting and to discuss it with them in a calm atmosphere. I have here a letter from the Secretary of the League Against Cruel Sports. He suggested a conservancy and the appointment of suitable wardens, and then made this extraordinary comment, which I saw repeated in a letter to "The Times" by the Editor of the periodical, "Wild Life": These methods have been used in Windsor Great Park and Forest for nearly half a century with complete success. and would be equally efficacious on Exmoor. Anyone who is capable of making a statement like that—sincerely and honestly, of course—is obviously making it in complete ignorance of the vast difference between the two areas and the conditions under which the animals live. If that League devoted only a small proportion of the time, money and energy, at present spent on inaccurate and ill-informed propaganda, on research as to the best methods of humanely controlling the numbers of deer and foxes and similar animals, they might have a case. They might eventually find that properly controlled hunting was the most humane method.

It has been suggested that farmers are opposed to hunting. I say that is not so. In my Division we have more than 10 or a dozen hunts, including packs of stag hounds, fox hounds and various other forms of hunts, and I have never heard a single complaint from any farmer or farm worker—and they are not slow in making a complaint. In my view hunting is not in danger from legislation but from the hunts themselves. If the farmers ever said, "There shall be no more hunting" there would be no more, because they are the principal supporters of the hunt. It is vitally important therefore that there should be control by hunting. I hate killing things and I abhor cruelty. It is because I abhor cruelty, that I shall oppose this Bill.

It is true that damage is done not only by deer and other wild animals, but by organised hunts and that may be a menace to hunting. But there is no doubt at all that farmers as a whole are strong supporters of the hunt. I have in my possession a letter from the Exmoor Horn Sheep Breeders Society, who ought to be worried about hunting and the damage it has done if anybody is. They say: If this Bill becomes law it will seriously affect the prosperity of Exmoor. and they sincerely hope that everything possible will be done against it. I have also a letter from the Dulverton Rural District Council which is in my area and covers most of Exmoor. They have passed a unanimous resolution—[Interruption]—there are no party politics about it, there are Independent as well as Labour Members—

Mr. Alpass

What did the Taunton Town Council do?

Mr. Collins

We will come to Taunton presently—

Mr. Alpass

Well, do not be long

Mr. Collins

The hon. Member seems to know more about Taunton than I do. Dulverton happens to be the area concerned with the red deer and covers the whole area of Exmoor with the lovely Exmoor villages. The council places on record its dismay at the two Bills for the prohibition of certain field sports. They point out that the prohibition of hunting will affect their rateable value to the extent of £2,751 a year, or 17 per cent. of their total rateable value. I do not accept that as a valid argument for opposing this Bill, but I say that it becomes valid when nobody has shown us a good humanitarian reason, a good reason in opposition to cruelty, why we should support it. There are whole village communities, not merely farmers and farm-workers, but everybody in the village, who have got together and who oppose this Bill. I hope that my hon. Friends who have brought forward this Measure will realise that some of us who do not hunt and who hate cruelty, have genuinely and sincerely looked into this matter and have come to the conclusion that no better alternative has been proposed by them. Sincerity in this matter, hatred of cruelty, is not the monopoly of those who support this Bill. The great majority of people who hunt are animal lovers who hate cruelty.

Had there been more time I would have spoken about the other parts of the Bill. I think its promoters have made their case against coursing, but they fail because they have put this wide umbrella over the various subjects. Therefore, I urge hon. Members, in the interests of justice and the countryside, to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.

3.37 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Heywood and Radcliffe)

I cannot hope to vie with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in the anecdotes with which he delighted the House, but on one point at least I can agree with him, and that is in paying tribute to the very reasonable and well reasoned case that has been advanced on both sides of the House during this Debate. It is easy—and I am only too conscious of it myself—on subjects about which one feels very strongly, at times to use language which is not just to one's opponents and which is certainly not seemly in a Chamber of this kind. That temptation, to which at times I know I have fallen, has been avoided by hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, we can at any rate agree that the Debate has served a useful purpose in clarifying many of the issues about which there is considerable doubt and confusion in the minds of many people on both sides. I do not want to add at any length to the tributes paid to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson). They have both made magnificent speeches in support of the case which I hold very dear. I would only say that, however much the constituents of the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet may disagree with him in his views, they can be proud to be represented by a Member of his calibre.

The very moderate and well-reasoned speech of the hon. Member for Broxtowe emphasised the fact that to a large extent this is a compromise Measure. I agreed with my hon. Friend's decision to exclude fox hunting and to make that a separate subject in a completely distinct Debate. The only difference of opinion I have had with my hon. Friend is, that I should have liked to have included the hunting of hares in this Bill—partly because the only pack of hounds in my constituency is a pack of harriers, and I should not like them to think that I was running away because of political complications.

This is a very moderate Bill. In making it a moderate Bill we hoped to acquire for it a very wide measure of approval among hon. Members of all parties. That confidence was increased when we heard that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had accepted in principle the main proposals which we put forward. But those hopes which we had have been belied during today's Debate. I have been distressed and disheartened by some of the speeches made by hon. and right hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House. We had hoped, as I say, that this compromise Measure would have obtained wide support. We had every reason to do so. We had before us the resolution moved by a Mr. Tom Williams—not the victor of South Hammersmith, but the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture—at the Labour Party conference in 1928. We had the passage in "Labour and the Nation" put in by that great Socialist, Sidney Webb.

Even more recently than the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred, we had two Bills introduced in the House in 1937 with almost tedious pertinacity on the right hon. Gentleman's part, because he sponsored the same Bill twice in six months for the prohibition of coursing of captured animals and of carted stags. That was first an all-party Measure, sponsored by Members of all parties in the House, but so much did it become a Labour Party Measure that on the second time the right hon. Gentleman sponsored it, it was supported only by seven Labour Party Members, the members of other parties having been dropped. In 1939 a Measure for prohibiting deer hunting was introduced by that great Socialist, George Lansbury, supported by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman cast the net of humanitarianism rather wider then. There was a Measure before the House in 1939, the Wild Birds Protection Bill. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to Members "not to allow economics or personal sport to intervene where the protection of bird life is concerned." That is the principle we are trying today to extend to wild animals in this country, and the right hon. Gentleman has run away from the right hon. Gentleman we used to respect.

The Measure which we have before us is of very limited scope. It covers, among other things, the prohibition of coursing. I know of no arguments which have been advanced in the House today that destroy the excellent arguments the right hon. Gentleman himself advanced in the House in support of the view that coursing is a cruel sport. What arguments have we heard today in defence of coursing? My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe quoted the British Field Sports Society about the number of hares destroyed at the Waterloo Cup meeting. I spent last night working through "Sporting Life" for the results of the first day of the Waterloo Cup. My figures do not altogether agree with the figures given by the Society, but they are substantially the same. Out of 48 courses there were 11 kills. It seems likely that in three further courses the hare was killed well away from the crowd of spectators who were watching that somewhat unsporting event.

But what is the contribution made to agriculture by an occasion like the Waterloo Cup meeting at which 48 hares are coursed and 11 of them destroyed? On what grounds of interest and benefit to agriculture does the right hon. Gentleman rest his case? If this is not a question of agriculture, and does not therefore concern the right hon. Gentleman, I say that to have 48 hares coursed in one day for human enjoyment, and 11 of them harried to their deaths, is not a fitting pastime to take place in a Christian country. I hope that hon. Members will remember the views that the right hon. Gentleman expressed in the days before he was borne down with the burdens of office he so bravely bears today.

We have heard today that there has been no question of cruelty in the Waterloo Cup meetings. Let me read an extract from a letter sent to me from somebody I do not know. It is from a gentleman who in the first Great War won the military cross when flying with the Royal Flying Corps. Obviously he is not a crank and an un-British sentimentalist like my hon. Friends and myself. This is what he says: It was the end of a long course. The two greyhounds were as exhausted as the hare, who pitifully swam the narrow canal to us, the spectators. The two greyhounds turned away, but as the poor bedraggled hare crept up the bank to us, a sportsman put his foot under it and kicked it back into the jaws of one of the hounds who was almost too 'whacked' to kill it, so the two hounds had a tug-of-war with the still live and suffering hare. In the light of such sufferings it is not surprising that the Opposition Chief Whip was, until a fortnight ago, Vice-President of the National Committee against Coursing. I say that no hon. Member or right hon. Gentleman in this House has made out any defence for the prolongation and continuation of coursing in this country.

Let us turn to the second aspect of this Bill, dealing with the prohibition of interference with badgers. What is the defence that hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman have put up for that? There was an interesting, well-informed and very humane speech by the hon. Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas), from whom I personally have learned a great deal and benefited very considerably and to whom I am happy to pay my tribute as a genuine humanitarian. The speech of the hon. Member for South Portsmouth was, however, largely irrelevant to the discussion today for the humane control of the badger population described by the hon. Member for South Portsmouth is covered by the provisions of this Bill. What we want to get rid of is the other kind of destruction of badgers which is described in a book written—a little ironically—by the Press officer of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture—a book called "Wild Animals and the Land." The right hon. Gentleman's Press officer says this: Sometimes the badger is given his quietus mercifully and quickly but usually what follows is likely to revolt any man with a sense of fair play and a regard for what Americans call an 'even break.' Briefly the unfortunate badger, as likely as not already partially disabled, is literally thrown to the dogs, which may number six, ten or even a dozen. The gallant beast is ultimately borne down by sheer weight of numbers. Mr. Lancum, the Press officer to the right hon. Gentleman, goes on to express this view: The theory that the badger is a menace to agriculture is quite untenable. I remain convinced that if the total of this animal's misdeeds be weighed against the good that it does, there will be found a substantial balance in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman comes to the House and asks us to prolong the kind of suffering to which I have referred.

Mr. T. Williams

In case there may be some misunderstanding, I should like to inform my hon. Friend that the Press officer of the Ministry of Agriculture does not write books for me or for the Ministry of Agriculture. He is a free person away from his duties and presumably he is quite entitled to write just what he likes.

Mr. Greenwood

I was careful in spite of some provocation not to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. I will only express this view, that presumably the right hon. Gentleman has some respect for the integrity and intelligence of the officials of his Department. If the right hon. Gentleman has any further doubt about the badger, I will refer him to a number of extremely interesting books in the Library of the House from whose study he may perhaps benefit.

Let us turn to the hunting of the otter. I do not want to bore the House with long quotations from the books of Mr. Lancum or the Lonsdale Library on the subject of the otter, but if the right hon. Gentleman will refer to those authorities he will find that there is a general consensus of opinion that otters are in many cases a help to fishing in rivers and that they do no damage of any substantial kind to agriculture. I do not want to expand on that theme because my time is limited, but I am perfectly prepared to take up the matter with the right hon. Gentleman at any time and bring to his attention the views expressed by authorities better qualified than I am to speak on this subject.

Mr. Paget

This is important. Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that when otter hunting is stopped the otter is exterminated? That has always happened.

Mr. Greenwood

I do not agree about that at all. There was very little otter hunting during the war and there was apparently a slight increase in the otter population of this country. But in spite of the fact that the qualities of the otter are very substantial indeed, I have figures here, quoted from the "Horse and Hound," of otter hunts of 2½ hours, 5½ hours, 3¾ hours, and 3 hours. That is the kind of gentlemanly humane country pastime my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture wants to perpetuate.

My time is running short and I shall touch but briefly on the question of deer, around which most of the discussion this afternoon has taken place. Apart from the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, I do not think that there has been any serious defence of the hunting of the carted stag. I find it a little nauseating to read in Baily's Hunting Directory entries such as this, about the Mid-Kent Staghounds: The deer and the hounds are the property of the hunt committee. This seems to me as ignoble a sport as anybody could wish to take part in, and it is little surprise that for a very long time the R.S.P.C.A., whatever the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) may think about it, has been bitterly opposed to continuation of the hunting of the carted stag.

We do not deny that in many cases deer are capable of doing very considerable damage; but I have also no doubt at all that, in fact, the damage done by the deer is grossly exaggerated. I know of a farmer in the Quantocks who keeps his land properly fenced—which the Duke of Bedford suggested in "The Times" a week ago was one solution—and who, although he himself is a root farmer, has in fact never suffered seriously from the depredations of the deer. But surely the ultimate solution lies in the setting up of the Nature Conservancy, which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council announced in this House about a week ago. I think the Lord President had better get quite clear in his mind exactly what will be the function of the Nature Conservancy, because we cannot have the Nature Conservancy preserving the animals on the one hand and the hunt destroying them on the other.

The Minister of Agriculture talked about free-lance slaughtering. We, of course, have never suggested that there should be free-lance slaughtering. We have suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should have power to get rid of pests in whatever way he regards as suitable, regardless of this Bill. But we, as private Members, have no opportunity of putting into a Bill any provisions for which financial provision would have to be made. That is why we have not been able in the Bill to put forward the specific proposals that the Government and the right hon. Gentleman have been asking for. If hon. Members want to know the alternative, I believe that it was well put when my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Colman) quoted the pamphlet put out by the British Field Sports Society. I had intended to quote that myself, but in the circumstances I believe it to be no longer necessary.

We are told that if we did away with hunting there would be the most appalling cruelty inflicted upon the stags and the deer of the West Country. But there is cruelty being perpetrated at the present time. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins)—whom we are glad to see back in the House so fully recovered from his recent illness—attended a meeting at Dulverton, reported in the "West Somerset Free Press" of 12th February when Loud applause, to hunting horn accompaniments, punctuated Mr. Collins' speech. It must have been a proud occasion for the hon. Gentleman, because in December the "West Somerset Clarion," published by the Labour Party to whom he owes his return to this House, was saying that agricultural workers in Somerset are demanding that privilege, which for so long stalked the Taunton Division should dismount from its hunters and get down to the solid job of production. That is the solid job of production from which my right hon. Friend thinks the farmers will be taken away if this Bill is passed. At this meeting these words were used: Not long ago two hinds were found in a field dead from poisoning; the ground around them was beaten flat—they had died in agony. Not very long ago a stag was reported to be walking downstream in the last stages of exhaustion, trying to drink with its lower jaw shot off and eaten by maggots. That is the fate to which these animals are to be condemned"— and here is the absurdity of the argument— if the only thing which keeps clean killing for them is abolished. That sort of thing is happening at the present time. There is another case a friend of mine wrote to me about, the case of a farmer who said that he would shoot a deer, not because he could kill it, but because it would go away and die in the hills, devoured by maggots. Right hon. and hon. Members have stated that snaring would be resorted to if hunting were abolished. Snaring is resorted to even today when hunting is allowed. I have in my hand a deer snare: two of these have been sent to me during the past week, one from an anonymous source and one from a friend of mine in the Quantock country. Both letters said that these snares are at present set by servants of the hunts when complaints from farmers about damage by the deer become too

numerous. Hunting is clearly an inadequate way of keeping the deer under control.

In conclusion, I wish to make two observations. I was not present in the House last week, and therefore was unable to attend any of the private meetings which took place during that time. I have here, however, cuttings from eight newspapers which give a description of a speech my right hon. Friend is alleged to have made urging my hon. Friends not to do what they believe to be right but to do what is politically expedient. I hope that the Press reports are not an accurate description of my right hon. Friend's point of view. On three occasions this party has followed a course of expediency rather than doing what it believed to be right, and on each occasion it has emerged with its credit and self-respect in shreds and tatters. I hope that my hon. Friends are not going to make the mistake my right hon. Friend is asking them to make today.

But there is a more important question than this which touches everyone in the House. Nine chairmen of county agricultural executive committes have told my right hon. Friend that he can forget about cropping targets if this Bill goes through. Are we, the Parliament of this country, Conservative, Socialist and Liberal Members, to be dictated to by nine chairmen of county agricultural executive committees? This party made a mistake in 1931 when it surrendered to the bankers, and I say that we shall be making a mistake in 1949 if we surrender to a handful of chairmen of committees who have been appointed to these positions by my right hon. Friend.

Question put, "That 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes. 101: Noes. 214.

Division No. 68.] AYES [3.59 p.m.
Albu, A. H. Chater, D. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)
Alpass, J. H. Cocks, F. S. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)
Ayles, W. H. Coldrick, W. Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.
Battley, J. R. Collick, P. Guy. W. H.
Bechervaise, A. E. Colman, Miss G. M. Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Beswick, F. Corlett, Dr. J. Haworth, J.
Bower, N. Daines, P. Holman, P.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Bramall, E. A. Diamond, J. Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Dodds, N. N. Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Evans, Albert (Islington, W.) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Burke, W. A. Evans, John (Ogmore) Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Ewart, R. Janner, B.
Carson, E. Fairhurst, F. Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Foot, M. M. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)
Chamberlein, R. A. Goodrich, H. E. Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)
Kirby, B. V. Palmer, A. M. F. Sorensen, R. W.
Levy, B. W. Paton, Mrs F. (Rushcliffe) Sparks, J. A.
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Paton, J. (Norwich) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Piratin, P. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Longden, F. Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
McAdam, W. Proctor, W. T. Vernon, Maj W. P
McEntee, V. La T. Ranger, J. Viant, S. P.
McGhee, H. G. Richards, R. Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.
Mack, J. D. Ridealgh, Mrs. M. Warbey, W. N.
McLeavy, F. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Weitzman, D.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Rogers, G. H. R. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Manning, Mrs L. (Epping) Royle, C. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Mellish, R. J. Sargood, R. Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Messer, F. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Yales, V. F.
Mikardo, Ian Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Morley, R. Skeffington, A. M.
Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.) Skinnard, F. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Symonds.
Oliver, G. H. Solley, L. J.
Acland, Sir Richard Freeman, J. (Watford) Maitland, Comdr. J. W.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G Gage, C. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)
Amory, D. Heathcoat Gammans, L. D. Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Astor, Hon. M Gates, Maj. E. E. Marlowe, A. A. H.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Glyn, Sir R. Marsden, Capt. A.
Baldwin, A. E. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Barlow, Sir J. Gordon-Walker, P. C. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Granville, E. (Eye) Medlicott, Brigadier F.
Bartlett, V. Gridley, Sir A. Mellor, Sir J.
Beechmam, N. A. Grimston, R. V. Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.
Bennett, Sir P. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Molson, A. H. E.
Berry, H. Hall, Rt. Hon Glenvil Morris-Jones, Sir H.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Hamilton, Lieut-Col R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)
Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.) Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Birch, Nigel Harden, J. R. E. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Blackburn, A. R. Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Mullan, Lt. C. H.
Bossom, A. C. Haughton, S. G. Neven-Spence, Sir B.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Head, Brig A. H. Nicholson, G.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. p. J. (Derby)
Brown, George (Belper) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Odey, G. W.
Brown, W. J. (Rugby) Hogg, Hon. Q. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T. Hollis, M. C. Osborne, C.
Bullock, Capt. M. Holmes, sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Paget, R. T.
Butcher, H. W. Horabin, T. L. Peto, Brig C. H. M.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Howard, Hon. A. Pickthorn, K.
Byers, Frank Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Pitman, I. J.
Challen, C. Hurd, A. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Channon, H. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Clarke, Col. R. S. Jarvis, Sir J. Price-White, Lt.-Col D.
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O
Collins, V. J. Jenkins, R. H. Ramsay, Maj. S.
Conant, Maj R. J. E. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Rayner, Brig R.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Keeling, E. H. Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Kerr, Sir J. Graham Rees-Williams, D. R.
Crawley, A. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Renton, D.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. King, E. M. Roberts, H. (Handsworth)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H. Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)
Crowder, Capt. John E. Lambert, Hon. G. Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Cuthbert, W. N. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Ropner, Col. L.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Langford-Holt, J. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Davidson, Viscountess Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Saltar, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Lee. Miss J. (Cannock) Savory, Prof. D. L.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Scott, Lord W.
De la Bère, R. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Scott-Elliot, W.
Delargy, H. J. Lewis, J. (Bolton) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Digby, S. W. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Smith, E. P. (Ashford)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lipson, D. L. Smithers, Sir W.
Donner, P. W. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Spearman, A. C. M.
Dower, Col. A. V. G.(Penrith) Low, A. R. W. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Drayson, G. B. Lucas, Major Sir J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Drewe, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Strauss. Henry (English Universities
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)
Dumpleton, C. W. MacAndrew, Col. Sir C. Stuart, Rt. Hon J. (Moray)
Dye, S. McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Stubbs, A. E.
Eccles, D. M. MacDonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Studholme, H. G.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Macdonald. Sir P. (I of Wig[...]t) Sutcliffe, H.
Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Maclay, Hon. J. S. Taylor, Vice-Adm E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) MacLeod, J. Teeling, William
Fox, Sir G. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale.) Macpherson, T. (Romford) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Webb, M. (Bradford, C.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Tolley, L. Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Touche, G. C. Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Eart
Turton, R. H. Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Ungoed-Thomas, L. White, Sir D. (Fareham) York, C.
Vane, W. M. F. White, J. B. (Canterbury) Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Walker-Smith, D. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Ward, Hon. G. R. Wilcock, Group-Capt C. A. U. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Watkins, T. E. Williams, C. (Torquay) Mr. M. Phillips Price and
Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge) Brigadier Thorp.

Question put, and agreed to.

Words added.

Second Reading put off for six months.