HC Deb 03 May 1983 vol 42 cc21-2 3.31 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend sections 1 and 15 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911; and for connected purposes. Despite the short and long titles of the 1911 Act, the Act protects not all animals but only domestic animals and captive or confined animals, unless released for hunting purposes and not otherwise impaired. My Bill would seek to alter the anomaly whereby, in a recent case brought by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it was found that to kick a hedgehog to death in a bus shelter was an offence, because it took place in a confined space, but that to do that in the open or in a field was not an offence. Again, to pour petrol over a lamb and to set it alight is an offence, but it is not an offence to do the same to a red squirrel. For hounds to hunt and tear to pieces a domestic cat is an offence, but it is not an offence for a fox to be torn to pieces in that way.

My Bill must be seen as a pro-animal, not an anti-hunting, measure. However, for the avoidance of doubt, I have included a provision in it to make hunting illegal. The Bill goes even wider than Labour party policy, as it would include all wild animals. One of the failures of other Bills that have been introduced by me, and several of my hon. Friends in the past, is that we sought to outlaw one particular practice, and thus drew attention, in an anti-hunt wat, to a particular animal, instead of to all wild animals. My Bill would introduce a new clause which would make it an offence for a person to hunt with one or more dogs wholly or mainly for the purposes of sport any wild animal with intent to kill, or take, or pursue, or knowingly permit or suffer any land to be used for such hunting.

Again, I have made an exemption for captive animals in order to avoid doubt. I have defined a wild animal as any mammal that is not domesticated. It has been put to me that the Bill is anti-Tory and not just anti-hunt. Had the Bill been passed before the selection of the Tory candidate for Cambridgeshire, South-West, Mr. Simmonds might not have had to reveal that he had shot 1,000 starlings in the morning and might now be confidently expecting to join a Conservative Opposition in the next Parliament. The Bill might have been named "Protection of Tory Candidates and their Wives Bill".

However, I would not stoop to doing that, because this is not a party measure. I have a copy of a letter from a Mr. Clive Skinner, which was sent to Tory Members of Parliament. Mr. Skinner is the secretary of the Conservative Anti Hunt Council and he has urged Conservative Members to support the Bill. I trust that they will do so. Mr. Skinner speaks not for a small and vociferous minority of Tory voters but for a majority of them. In a recent poll carried out in March, 78 per cent. of Tory voters were found to disapprove of deer hunting, while 62 per cent. supported legislation to abolish it. For hare coursing, the figures showed that 78 per cent. of those questioned disapproved and 65 per cent. supported the need for legislation. Furthermore, 62 per cent. disapproved of hare hunting., while 49 per cent. supported the need for legislation to abolish it and for fox hunting the figures were 54 per cent. and 42 per cent. respectively. The equivalent statistics for Labour voters were 88 per cent. and 80 per cent. for deer hunting, 86 per cent. and 77 per cent. for hare coursing , 75 per cent. and 63 per cent. for hare hunting and 69 per cent. and 54 per cent. for fox hunting.

Therefore, there is considerable support for such a measure among all sections of the community and in all political parties. If the Government want to curry some favour with the electorate, they should support my Bill in all its stages between now and the October election. Even in the countryside there is massive support for such a measure, although the exception is fox hunting, for which the one figure is 42 per cent. The majority of residents in the countryside support the proposal to end hunting. If any political party in the House could be certain of 42 per cent. of the vote, it would be content to form a majority after the next election.

The Bill extends further than hunting and covers cruelty to all wild animals. The environment and its creatures are placed on earth for the benefit of man; for his use, not his abuse. One of the most wanton forms of inhumanity is the cruelty that humans perpetrate on animals for sheer pleasure. Creatures that are made by God should be treated with a degree of dignity. Although they should not be put on a par with humans—and I would never adopt the over-sentimental attitude towards animals that many people do—they are entitled to be treated humanely and with dignity. That is what my Bill seeks to ensure.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Kevin McNamara, Mr. A. W. Stallard, Mr. A. E. P. Duffy, Dr. Oonagh McDonald, Mr. Joseph Ashton, Mr. William Whitlock, Mr. Stanley Cohen, Mr. David Winnick, Mr. Alexander W. Lyon, Mr. Tom Clarke, and Mr. Roy Hattersley.