HL Deb 23 June 1874 vol 220 cc287-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the principal object of the Bill was to extend to the nests and eggs of wild birds the protection that was given to the birds themselves during the breeding sea-on by the 35 & 36 Vict. c. 78, the Wild Birds Protection Act. The Bill proposed to repeal that Act altogether, and to replace it by more extended provisions. It therefore enacted by the first clause that any person who should wilfully kill, wound, or take any wild bird, or should take any eggs from the nest of any wild bird, or destroy the nest or the eggs, or who should sell or offer for sale any wild bird recently killed, between the 15th March and the 1st August, might be taken before a magistrate, and for the first offence be reprimanded, and discharged on payment of costs, and for every subsequent offence should be punished by a fine not exceeding 5s. and the costs. The clause permitted the owners and occupiers of land to destroy upon their own land at any time of the year all wild birds other than those mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill or in the Preservation of Sea Birds Act, the 32 & 33 Vict. The Schedule added to the Bill contained the names of some wild birds, the omission of which from the Schedule of the former Act had occasioned some comment.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl De La Warr.)


expressed the obligations of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to the noble Earl who had brought forward this Bill. He trusted this Bill would prove but the commencement of legislation for the protection of all animals, whether wild or domestic, from cruelty and ill-treatment. He could not but think this was a matter in which we were behind some continental nations.


said, the Bill before their Lordships would require considerable modification.


said, that some years ago he had promoted the passing of a measure somewhat similar to that before their Lordships. In some of its details the present Bill would require modification, and he hoped that such Amendments as might be required would be introduced in Committee. In particular the list of wild birds mentioned in the Schedule would require careful revision—particularly in the way of addition.


concurred with the view of the noble Earl. The raison d'être of this Bill was simply the preservation of wild birds in the pairing and breeding season, and anything that went beyond that would be out of the reach of fair legislation.


hoped that their Lordships would hesitate a little before they introduced to familiar acquaintance with the criminal law of the country the juvenile population of the Kingdom—or make that which was a moral offence punishable by the criminal law, but which it would be utterly impossible to convince any boy was a moral offence, and as such deserving of punishment. They should also determine the principle upon which they would legislate on such subjects. He thought that the principle upon which legislation should proceed in protecting certain birds was either that they were rare or that they increased the supply of human food, and that for these reasons it was wise to protect them from indiscriminate and wanton slaughter. He ventured to think, however, that the Schedule of this Bill included many kinds which could not be brought within that category. Further, the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol) supported the Bill on a principle entirely different from that on which the noble Earl who had moved the second reading had based it, for the right rev. Prelate supported it on the ground that it was a measure for putting down cruelty to animals. But if that were to be the principle upon which they were to legislate, upon what ground was it that the Bill contained a section enabling landowners and occupiers of land to do the very thing which it was proposed to make criminal if done by anybody else? Their Lordships must be careful not to get into absurdities of that kind.


admitted that the Schedule, for which he was not accountable, would require careful revision.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.