HL Deb 09 July 1900 vol 85 cc926-8


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I may explain that this Bill passed through the House of Commons, where it was introduced by a private Member, without opposition. It is not in the proper sense of the term a Bill brought forward by Her Majesty's Government, and I am only taking charge of it as a person interested in the subject. I am sure the Bill is one which will commend itself to your Lordships. Existing statutes for the prevention of cruelty to animals (with the exception of one relating to vivisection) include only domestic animals, i. e., those animals which, by their nature, are accustomed to mankind. Wild animals in captivity, and animals which are domesticated although not domestic, and animals which have not boon sufficiently tamed to serve some purpose for the use of man, are still without protection from such cruelty as falls short of actual maiming or wounding. To these animals it is the object of the Bill to extend protection. Animals in a menagerie are, I understand, in training often subject to great cruelty. Perhaps your Lordships may recollect an incident which called the attention of the public to this subject. I refer to the cruelty which was inflicted on two elephants at the Crystal Palace. The elephants themselves adopted a course which brought the matter prominently before the public. One elephant mortally injured his keeper, and, having broken from his captivity, proceeded in a direct line to a house occupied by a member of Her Majesty's Government. The elephant broke into the grounds, devastated the shrubberies, and finally pulled down the vineries. This Bill is not intended to deal with cruelty alleged to arise in sport, such as stag-hunting or rabbit coursing, nor in the preparation of animals, etc., for the food of mankind, nor in process of scientific experiment, as these are matters which may be open to controversy. Scotland is excluded, as there are special statutes for the prevention of cruelty in that country. Its only object is to save birds, beasts, fishes, and reptiles, at present unprotected, from unnecessary suffering, wan- tonly or unreasonably inflicted whilst they are actually in a state of captivity without chance of escape.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Lord James of Hereford.)


I am glad to hear my noble and learned friend say that this Bill will not affect sparrow shooting and rabbit coursing, which are very popular in the North of England; but I think care should be taken in the wording, so that it will not be in the power of faddists to commence prosecutions all over the country.


I am afraid I must disagree with the noble Viscount who has just spoken. I regret very much that the Bill does not deal with rabbit coursing, which, as practised in the neighbourhood of many large towns, is unmitigated cruelty, without any kind of sport about it. I beg to say that I shall move an Amendment to insert rabbit coursing when the Bill is in Committee.


The objection of my noble friend with regard to rabbit coursing might apply to stag hunting, and that would be a serious matter.


I hope I road the Bill rightly—the noble and learned Lord will tell me if I am wrong— but it seems to me that the cases mentioned do not come under the Bill at all, because stags and rabbits when let loose are not under confinement. For my part, I should be only too delighted to see the hunting of the tame stag entirely abolished. I should like to know whether worm fishing will not be affected by this Bill; the creature is a reptile, and in fishing is subject to tin appliance which hinders its escape.


I must say I regard this Bill with some apprehension lest in the absence of a precise definition certain cruelties may be made to come under the Bill, and thus great annoyance be caused. The turning of a fox out of a bag to be hunted is about as cruel a performance as any I can imagine.


With reference to the observation of the noble Earl, the Earl of Portsmouth, I would point out that the Bill comes from the House of Commons as an unopposed Bill, and that any extension of its provisions will imperil its passing during the present session. I hope we shall not in this case allow the best to be the enemy of the good. I have not heard one word in the discussion which gives any reason why you should provide protection for a cat or a dog and refuse protection to other animals whose freedom has been taken away and who are kept in captivity.


After what the noble and learned Lord has said I shall not persevere in the Amendment of which I gave notice.

On Question agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.