HL Deb 02 July 1874 vol 220 cc857-62

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, the object of the measure was to extend the provisions of the 12 & 13 Vict. c. 92—the well-known Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—to all animals, wild as well as domestic. The more humane spirit of modern times had put an end to numerous brutal sports in which our ancestors had taken delight—such as bull-baiting, badger-drawing, and cock-fighting; and Acts had been passed by which domestic animals had been placed under the protection of the law. Still, however, there was a great deal of cruelty perpetrated upon animals which did not come within that description, and it was the object of this Bill to extend to wild animals the same protection that was given to domesticated animals. Surely, the very same motives which induced us to interfere in the case of the latter were of equal force in reference to the former. The Bill did not apply to the necessary acts done in fishing, hunting, shooting, or other sports—the habits of sport were too intimately connected with manly exercise to make it practicable to include them in this legislation—nor did it apply to the destruction of vermin. Those words also of the 1st clause which made applicable to wild, equally with domestic animals, the 29th clause of the principal Bill, would have to be considered in Committee. The legislation he now proposed was not only in accordance with the more enlightened temper of the times, but was also in accordance with the feeling of the people of the United States and of the Continental nations, who, having followed the example of this country in giving protection to domestic animals, had now generally extended it to all dumb animals. He hoped their Lordships would give their consent to this Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Harrowby.)


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he sympathized most entirely with his noble Friend who had introduced the Bill, and his supporters, in the desire to put an end, by every possible means, to cruelty to animals. It was to the Bill and not to its objects he objected. The Bill was one of the most extraordinary ever laid on the Table of their Lordships' House. It was a worthy companion of the Wild Birds' Bill, which they had before them the other night which he had persuaded the House to reject. The first enacting clause was to the effect that, from and after the passing of the Act, the provisions of the 29th clause of the original Act should be applicable to wild as well as to domestic animals.


intimated that he intended to withdraw the clause and substitute another for it.


said, that he must take the Bill as he found it, and so consider it. The 29th clause was the Interpretation Clause of the Act. It stated that a "Justice" should be taken to mean "a justice of the peace." If this Bill passed, was it to be taken to mean "a wild justice of the peace." The next definition in the 29th section of the Act was that of "constable." Was it to be "wild constable" under the Bill? Then came a list of the domestic animals, which included bulls, cows, asses, &c, and in this Bill they had only to deal with the animals named in the 29th clause of the Act, so that any other animals of the animal kingdom, so called, were not included, for the 1st clause did not say all animals but all the provisions of the 29th clause, and in the interpreta- tion of statutes it must be limited to subjects ejusdem generis. There might be wild original cats; but the only other wild animals, as named in the Act, that he knew of in England, were the wild cattle in Chillingham Park. Then consider Clause 2. Look at the word "treatment." What was it? It was not cruelty in the abstract or in the view of the sensitive, but it was the cruelty defined in the clause of the Act. How, then, could it apply to fishing? Then, as to hunting, ferriting rats or rabbits or the destruction of vermin. Why were they to be exempted from the definition of cruelty? If cruelty under the Act was practised, surely such cruelty should be as much punished in such matters as in any others. The Act already provided for cruelty to badgers and such like in a separate clause. As one who had enjoyed the sports of the field all his life, he denied that they involved any such cruelty as was contemplated by the Act of Parliament, and he regarded the exemptions in the Bill as an insult to sportsmen. If any new law was wanted, which was very doubtful, let his noble Friend bring in a well-considered and well-digested measure, and it should have his support.

An Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Viscount Portman.)


was understood to say that "fish" were undoubtedly included in "animals." If his noble Friend repudiated the exemption of field sports, the second clause could be struck out in Committee.


said, he understood the position of the matter to be, that the noble Viscount (Viscount Portman) objected to Clause 1, because it gave a false notion of what was really meant to be done; and his noble Friend who had introduced the Bill (the Earl of Harrowby) had expressed his intention to withdraw it; and, consequently, the first thing which they would have to do in Committee would be to erase the clause. Then his noble Friend now proposed to strike out Clause 2, exempting field sports. When that was done, very little more would be left of the Bill than its Preamble. He would, therefore, suggest to his noble Friend that, as their Lordships were all agreed that cruelty to animals—wild as well as tame —should be put down, he had better withdraw the Bill, and re-introduce it in a form which would deal with the matter more thoroughly and practically.


said, the Bill had been drawn by a Gentleman whose name, were it known, would command universal respect. But the simple question before the House was, whether their Lordships were prepared to extend that protection which was already given to domesticated animals to all animals whatsoever. There had been a large amount of small criticism on the two clauses of which the Bill consisted. The promoters of the Bill had thought it would be more convenient that the word "animals," restricted in its meaning by the Interpretation Clause of the original Act, should be extended to all "animals." The word included every living creature; it included "fish" equally with the noble Viscount and the noble Earl. The question submitted to their Lordships by the Bill was no other than this—whether or not the Legislature would extend the protection of the law to all God's creatures—to the fish of the sea, to the fowl of the air, and to every living thing that moveth upon the earth, over whom God had given man the dominion? Was it fitting that England, which had been the first to legislate upon this Christian principle, should now stop short, and be content to fall behind Prussia, Saxony, the Cantons of Switzerland, and the United States, where all animals were protected by legislation against the cruelty of man? If the noble Viscount (Viscount Portman) thought that the exemption of acts done in pursuit of sport should not be excepted from the Act, he could move to strike out the clause in Committee. As the law at present stood, frightful acts of cruelty were committed which the magistrates were unable to punish. He had recently received information of a case in which a man was charged before a magistrate with having hung living rats before a fire to roast them, yet the offender who was guilty of that most frightful sin had to be discharged, because, although he had trapped the rats and had had them some time in his possession before he roasted them, yet they could not be regarded as domestic animals. All that the magistrate could do was to express great indignation that such a cruelty should be allowed to re- main without punishment in this civilized country. There had been great difficulty in convicting a man who had been guilty of the common practice of putting out a chaffinch's eyes, in order to make it sing better. It was clear that something should be done to remove the doubt whether these poor captive creatures should be considered animals, and entitled to the protection of the law. He earnestly asked their Lordships to give the Bill a second reading, and to aid the promoters of it in amending its provisions in Committee.


said, it was not with any disposition to smile at this proposed legislation that he rose to make a few observations upon the Bill; but he desired to ask what it was the Bill was intended to do? The one enacting clause proposed to extend the existing law to wild animals. But had his noble Friends who supported the Bill looked at the provisions of the Act now in force? That Act contained numerous provisions, relating, amongst other things, to the conveyance of animals by railway, the slaughtering of animals, and the registration of all animals which were kept in certain places; and there were Schedules to be filled up with descriptions of such animals, their age, sex, and so forth; and this Bill proposed to extend that law to wild animals of every description. The Act contained a reference to a "pound," or receptacle "of the like nature," for animals. Now, he had some idea of what a "pound" was, but not of a receptacle "of the like nature." He was told that the term would include a space of ground surrounded by an enclosure, and in which rats or rabbits were hunted. It was also said that any person who kept animals in these places without sufficient food and water should be liable to penalties, and if for 12 hours they were without those things another person might supply them and recover the value thereof from the person impounding the animals. That might produce results of a very singular description. The terms of the Act of 1849 were, for the most part, inapplicable to wild animals. Now, if they took from the Act the few words which were applicable to wild animals, and enacted that any torturing of those animals should be liable to punishment, that might be sufficient. Then, to omit all reference to chasing, hunting, shooting, and fishing would be tantamount to saying that, in some respects, torturing wild animals would be permitted. He would suggest the withdrawal of the Bill for the present, and that another Bill should be introduced which should simply apply to the torturing of wild animals, and he would recommend the use of the words to be found in the Act now in operation.


pointed out that under the Act in force there was a provision under which a penalty of £5 was imposed for "torturing." If they passed this Bill it would, in effect, extend the game laws. It would be difficult to define the meaning of the word "vermin." He had heard pheasants and partridges called vermin, and gardeners called thrushes, and farmers called sparrows, vermin; but what would be vermin under this Bill?


said, he thought the noble Earl would act wisely in following the advice of the noble and learned Lord, and withdraw the Bill. At the same time, he hoped the promoters, after this discussion, would endeavour to frame another which would meet with more success.


proposed, after what had taken place, to withdraw the Bill.


said, that it was the part of a good Judge to enlarge rather than narrow his jurisdiction, and thought as the 3rd section of the Act applied to baiting animals of a wild as well as of a domestic nature, magistrates need not have scrupled to convict those who tortured such animals, although of a wild nature, as were completely in the power of those who subjected them to agonies from which they could not escape. If once wild, they were thoroughly reclaimed, and ought to be under the protection of the law till an amended Act should be passed.

The said Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn; then the original Motion and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.