HL Deb 06 May 1909 vol 1 cc813-33

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill of which I desire to move the Second Reading to-day is virtually the same Bill which I introduced in your Lordships' House seven years ago. It is a very simple Bill, and, I venture to think, long overdue. It proposes to prohibit three highly objectionable forms of sport—the hunting, coursing, and shooting of animals which have been kept in confinement—which more and more every year are felt to be an offence to the public conscience. I am sorry to observe that a noble Lord opposite—Lord Newton—proposes to move the rejection of the measure. I sincerely hope he may be able to tell us that he will not persevere in that intention. Knowing as I do the sincerity of the noble Lord, I am a little surprised that he should set himself against this much-needed Bill, the more so because, so far as I remember from what he said on the previous occasion, his views are in no sense on the side of those sports. Therefore I wonder the more that he proposes, while he does not approve of the sports, deliberately to assume responsibility for perpetuating them. I ask myself why it is that the noble Lord takes this paradoxical attitude. He told us on the previous occasion that he did not himself approve of any one of these three practices, but that he had some conscientious difficulty. He had the feeling, which is, perhaps, a very generous and natural feeling, that it is not more cruel to shoot a pigeon let out of a trap than it is to shoot pheasants and partridges. Again he said, I think, that there was no more cruelty in hunting a carted stag than in hunting a wild Exmoor stag. It might be said, on the same lines, that there is no more cruelty in the tearing to pieces of a poor rabbit just taken out of a crate than in hunting down a wild rabbit. I think the noble Lord has overlooked the shock which these things give to the public conscience. The public, whether rightly or wrongly, do see a difference between shooting a pigeon which is let loose from a trap and shooting a wild bird living its natural life; between the hunting of a semi-domesticated, and, perhaps, petted deer which is brought to a starting point in a cart, and hunting the deer on its native haunts; and they also regard rabbit coursing as a degrading amusement. I therefore still entertain the hope that the noble Lord may see his way to let this Bill be accepted so far as he is concerned in this House. I recognise his difficulty; but all his arguments tend, not to the rejection of the Bill, but to the strengthening of it. If the noble Lord believes that there is objectionable cruelty in the shooting of pheasants, for instance, then I say the natural tendency of his argument should lead him to add a strengthening Amendment to my Bill. It is really a plea for extending the operations of this simple Bill. I do not wish to extend its operations at this moment for various reasons.

If the Bill is passed in its present form it will satisfy the conscience of the community generally, and will not interfere with any single one of our manly and legitimate sports. I fail to understand, therefore, why the noble Lord and those who agree with him should have this difficulty. It is due, no doubt, to a certain tenderness of conscience. They feel that there would be a certain suspicion of inconsistency if they supported this Bill and yet continued to pursue their own sports. I venture to think that any member of this House may vote for this Bill and pursue all his ordinary manly sports with regard to wild animals with a very clear conscience. In all seriousness, I do hope your Lordships will give a favourable consideration to this Bill, for, although it is a small and modest measure, it is one which, if passed into law, would be a worthy addition to the series of beneficent Statutes which have done great credit to both Houses of Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is clearly described in the Memorandum which I have prefixed to it. It aims at the abolition of certain spurious kinds of sport, and thus at the protection of those animals which, though nominally wild, are in fact kept in confinement and released for the immediate purpose of being hunted, coursed, or shot.

This Bill, as I have said, is only one of a series of Acts which from time to time have been demanded by the public conscience. The present Bill is, in fact, only an extension of the Wild Animals in Captivity Protection Act, 1900, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord James of Hereford, was successful in passing through your Lordships' House without opposition. I hope I may have the influential support of the noble and learned Lord on this occasion, with an equally satisfactory result. But that Act has proved to a great extent a dead letter, mainly, indeed, because of the want of the extension which is proposed in this Bill. The Cruelty to Animals Acts, 1849 and 1854, excepting one section which relates to fighting and baiting, apply exclusively to domestic animals; and the Act for the protection of Wild Animals in Captivity, 1900, does not apply to the hunting or coursing of any animal unless it has been liberated in a mutilated or injured state, in order to facilitate its capture or destruction, so that at present the animals which this Bill is intended to protect enjoy no legal protection whatever from any kind of cruelty in sport.

I think I shall be able to show that two of these sports, at any rate, are liable to exhibitions of cruelty which shock the public conscience. In my view cock-fighting, which our forefathers abolished sixty years ago, was a manly sport compared with rabbit coursing. On the previous occasion I had in my hand a memorial in favour of the Bill—I think it would still be supported by every one who signed it—from 467 persons engaged in education at Oxford and Cambridge and in our great schools. Those who signed this memorial comprised seventeen heads of colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, fifty-three professors there, 136 college tutors and lecturers in those two Universities, and 261 headmasters of public and grammar schools. Then I have the testimony of the very influential memorial which was addressed not so long ago to the late Prime Minister. That memorial was signed by sixty-five members of the other House, and by thirty-six distinguished persons who are not in the other House. At the head of that list I find the name of Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley, and I might mention many others well known to your Lordships. I have in my hand another memorial exactly similar, which was quite lately addressed to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack; and I hope we may hear the Lord Chancellor's view on the question this afternoon.

Then, again, I have other testimony which I think ought to be brought before your Lordships. Almost all the best of our newspapers when they allude to these sports do so with deprecation. The Field, the country gentleman's newspaper, has not a word to say on behalf of them. I have here a letter from a highly respected incumbent in Sussex bringing to my notice what happened near his own house the other day. He says that a stag with its horns cut off and with one foot hanging owing to the near foreleg having been broken, probably by wire, was worried past his gate and down the lane beyond by the Surrey stag hounds. The poor brute endeavoured to stand at bay in a garden, and then hobbled on its three legs down the lane to a stable-yard, where it was despatched by the huntsmen. My correspondent adds— A more revolting case of cruelty could hardly he conceived; and, needless to say, it created no small resentment among respectable people all round who saw it. Another case of which I have particulars occurred the other day in Somersetshire, and is reported in the Cheddar Times under the heading "Savagery at Cheddar." It appears that a deer was imported on March 29 from the district of Surbiton. The animal, a tame semi-domesticated creature, was let loose upon the beautiful Cheddar downs on March 30 to be hunted. The deer had no chance to run far. Timid, strange, and frightened it had proceeded but a short distance when the hounds caught it and bore it to the ground. This however—continues the newspaper account—was not the intention of the huntsmen, who called the dogs off. The deer, bleeding heavily from a torn flank, then sped away and doubled back, and finally ran into the river where the dogs soon surrounded it. The animal was, however, rescued from its terrible position, and being in a state of collapse was given whisky to revive it. Its wounds were sewn up and it was removed, to be patched up apparently for use on some other occasion. This account, as was not at all surprising, was followed by a series of letters to the newspaper from persons remonstrating against such an exhibition of degrading cruelty being possible in this country. It has been said that this account is not a true one, but I have in my hand a letter from the editor of the newspaper in which he says that in every respect it is substantially true, and that he is prepared to stand against any proceedings that may be taken with regard to it.

I return for a moment to the sport of rabbit-coursing, which, I am bound to say, is far and away the most degrading of all. This sport is a favourite one, I am told, in certain districts; it used to be so on the commons around London, especially on Sunday mornings, but, owing to the vigilance of the police and their being able to bring it in as a public nuisance, I am told that it has lessened in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. But that is not the case in some other districts. On the Tyne it is, I am told, very popular. In South Wales it retains its popularity, and nothing, I venture to think, would be more revolting to your Lordships than some of the scenes in these rabbit-coursing competitions. I have here a letter from a retired colonel in the north of England who is a Justice of the Peace. He says that these rabbit-coursing competitions are generally got up by some low-class publicans and betting men, and are of a cruel and degrading character. He says— The training of young dogs for this sport is even more cruel and revolting than the sport itself. … The rabbits are conveyed to the place of meeting very often in large crates; they remain crowded together in the crates for some hours possibly, and are taken out by the neck, dangled in front of the dogs, and then thrown out to be captured. I noticed in the Newcastle Chronicle the other Saturday no fewer than seven advertisements of different meetings of this kind for the purpose of rabbit-coursing immediately around Newcastle. The prizes offered varied from £5 to £30, and at the end of some of the advertisements were the words, "plenty of rabbits." I venture to think it is high time that this kind of exhibition should cease in a civilised country like ours.

Then, with regard to South Wales, I have exactly the same kind of testimony. A man in a high position in one of the Welsh Universities states that he is afraid that this degrading sport is even on the increase among the miners of South Wales. I think we shall all agree that it does not imply special cruelty in those who follow these practices. The real fact is that they do not think. Their thoughts are concentrated on the sport and they forget the suffering. It is surely our duty as legislators to see that these cruelties no longer remain as a shock to the humane feelings of the more enlightened part of the population. I venture to think that if there is any place in which it is appropriate that such a Motion as this should be moved and adopted it is your Lordships' House, which is noted as an assembly of fine sportsmen; and in as much as that is the character of this House it is specially incumbent upon such a body of men to see that sport is not degraded. Legitimate and manly sport is one of the preservatives of the finest elements of English life, and we should be specially careful to keep it from the stains that such practices as these cast upon it. Corruptio optimi pessima. Your Lordships are in a particularly favourable position for initiating a beneficent motion of this kind, for you are independent, have time to consider it, and wide experience on the subject. By approving the Second Reading of this Bill you will purify English sport, remove a discreditable stain, strengthen the hands of the police in all parts of the country, and satisfy enlightened public conscience. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Bishop of Hereford.)


rose to move the rejection of the Bill. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in response to the appeal made to me by the right reverend Prelate, whose honesty and consistency in this matter I do not doubt for a single instant, I should like to say that I have carefully examined my own conscience on the subject of this Bill, and it is because I am conscientiously unable to support it that I find myself compelled to take the step of moving its rejection. This Bill is an old friend which, after appearing under many aliases, is, in fact, really nothing but the Spurious Sports Bill over again. It is, as the right reverend Prelate has informed us, the same Bill which was introduced here by him seven years ago and which this House rejected, the right reverend Prelate apparently being not able to secure a co-teller with himself even though he represented that many of the unfortunate rabbits whose sufferings he described came from his own diocese.

I am informed that this Bill is drawn in so faulty a manner and that so much mystery and doubt attaches to those well-known terms "place" and "enclosed place" that it would be almost impossible to carry it into effect. But I do not wish to enter into these legal technicalities. I desire to oppose the Bill upon its merits, and will leave the task of dissecting its legal weaknesses to some subsequent speaker. Although, no doubt, the Memorandum attached to the Bill is not absolutely accurate, it at all events blurts out the actual purpose of the Bill—namely, that this is a Bill not to prevent cruelty to animals, but to brand what are called spurious sports and to draw a line between what is genuine and what is spurious—a thing which, for my own part, I am not in the least inclined to do. And behind what I can only term this general attack on sport it is not difficult to see in the background the Humanitarian League and those persons who look upon zoological collections as immoral institutions and who raise shrieks of agony at the spectacle of Eton boys actually running with live beagles after a live hare.

The right reverend Prelate, if. I did not misunderstand him, appealed to me, as a so-called sportsman, to support him in his endeavours. I do not lay any claim to be a sportsman, although I suppose I have the same vicious inclinations as most of the noble Lords whom I see sitting around me. I am not at all sure that I know what a sportsman is. A man who shoots big game is a sportsman; a man who rides a steeplechase is undoubtedly a sportsman; so apparently is a man who passes day after day watching what is known as first-class cricket—an occupation which, to my mind, is even less exhilarating than that of sitting on a Private Bill Committee and productive of even less excitement. A man is described as a munificent sportsman who, perhaps, invests several thousands on buying a two-year-old, and who very likely in the course of a few days' time would be unable to tell it from half-a-dozen horses of the same colour if he saw it among them; and the man in a lower walk of life who goes round the corner and backs, at starting price, a horse he has never seen and never will see, having ascertained first what has won the race, is looked upon as a dashing sort of sportsman. For my own part I give it up. The only method of deciding what a sportsman is would be for the right reverend Prelate to move for a Select Committee of this House to be appointed, with the noble Earl, Lord Lonsdale, as Chairman, assisted by capable assessors. For my own part I am quite incapable of defining a sportsman, and I doubt whether my right reverend friend can do so either.

And if it is difficult to define a genuine or spurious sportsman, it stands to reason that it is equally difficult to draw the line between what is termed spurious sport and what we may call legitimate sport. As a matter of fact, all sport in this country, with the possible exception of rat hunting, is more or less artificial. It becomes more artificial every year, and it also becomes more expensive. In fact, it has become so artificial and expensive that it would not altogether surprise me if the present Budget were to put an end to a vast amount of so-called legitimate sport in this country. Take for instance, the standard sports. Take shooting. Nothing is more artificial than shooting as it is conducted in this country at the present time. What, I should like to know, would there be to shoot if you were to do away with your keepers, your watchers, your patent foods, your pens, your incubators, and all the paraphernalia necessary for the purpose of producing and rearing what are humorously called the ferœ natureœ.

Let me take another sport—that of hunting. Hunting, again, is one of the most artificial and at the same time one of the most expensive forms of sport which exist. I gather, from an interesting article contributed by a noble and sporting friend of mine who, I imagine, would be recog nised as a legitimate sportsman—my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke—that his poultry fund expenses alone amount to no less than £1,000 a year, and that no fewer than 10,000 chickens, valued at 2s. a-piece, were necessary in order to keep the highly artificially protected animal, the fox, in existence; and I do not think anything can demonstrate the artificiality of hunting better than this, that now I understand that the fences which it is safe to jump are carefully designated lest any mistakes should be made.

Take the case of fishing. The industry of supplying and breeding fish and eventually turning them out for sporting purposes is now a large and elaborate industry; yet, under this Bill, supposing you had reared trout or whatever it may be upon the patent foods, horseflesh, and various nutritious diets provided by experts in these matters and you were to take one of these fish out and fish for it within a fortnight, you would come under the lash of this Bill and render yourself liable to fine or imprisonment—that is, of course, if you were lucky enough to catch one. What we are asked to do under this Bill is to brand certain forms of sport which are not so dissimilar from what I may term legitimate sport as the right reverend Prelate would like us to believe.

There are three so-called spurious sports aimed at. One of them is pigeon-shooting. Now pigeon-shooting is not an amusement in which I indulge. I have no admiration for it, and I do not think I have ever shot at a pigeon since I did so when an undergraduate at Oxford with very small success. But, after all, is there any essential difference between the production of pigeons for shooting purposes and the production of pheasants and partridges? The three species are reared for sport, and there is no deception about it. As a matter of fact there is considerable deception in the matter, because in each case the bird, from his earliest moments, is taught to regard himself as the object of man's special care and solicitude, and even up to almost the last hour of his life he still receives the careful ministrations of man, and then, no doubt to his inexpressible horror and amazement, man proceeds to attempt to kill him.

Everybody who shoots knows that it is a very common practice to rear what are called wild ducks. These ducks, unless they are treated in an extremely intelligent manner, are apt to develop lethargic and sluggish habits, and in order to counteract this tendency it is frequently found necessary to take these birds to, say, the summit of a hill, place them in a pen, and then liberate them and shoot at them, I do not say invariably with success. I do not contend that this is a particularly inspiring thing to do, but, at the same time, from the sporting point of view, surely it is superior to shooting these what I have termed sluggish birds whilst they sit quacking on a pond, which is the only alternative. What, I ask, is the essential difference between this practice and pigeon shooting?

I pass from pigeon-shooting to what the right reverend Prelate calls the hunting of the carted stag; and, frankly, I have no hesitation in saying that I do not think there is any greater instance of misapplied energy than the crusade which is directed against the so-called carted stag. I look upon the hunting of the carted stag as a meritorious and laudable amusement. It is a form of sport which provides an enormous amount of enjoyment and causes a substantial amount of money to be spent in a useful way. To my mind it is a much more creditable thing to gallop after a carted stag than it is to pursue most forms of sport. It requires some courage to gallop after a stag, whether he be tame or wild; it requires no courage at all to follow the legitimate sport of a pheasant shoot or even a grouse drive, armed with a couple of guns and assisted, by a loader. The only danger which you run in that case is the danger which you may possibly incur from unskilful legitimate sporting companions.

I should like to remind the right reverend Prelate of the evidence given upon the subject of the carted stag by my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale in the course of the debate which took place some years ago. Lord Ribblesdale stated that the stag, hind or buck, whatever it may be, was the object of universal interest and general attachment, and there is no denying the fact. The tame stag is so much a favourite that certain animals have become well known and enjoy exceptional popularity; so much so that just as star performers will draw a large crowd at theatres or operas, when it was known that a certain well-known stag or hind was going to be produced on a certain day the field always showed a corresponding increase in numbers. I would recommend anybody who feels any doubt on the subject to study the interesting work by Lord Ribblesdale, and from that he will gather that these tame deer are kept in the best of condition, given the best of food, and live on such good terms with their surroundings that there are instances of one of these much commiserated animals actually coming home in a sociable and amicable way accompanied by the hounds which had been pursuing him all day. There is an equally authenticated instance of a deer which was on such exceptionally good terms with the hounds that he actually fed out of the same trough with them; and in the three years during which my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale was Master of the Buckhounds he states that only four accidents took place, which I think is a sufficient reply to the charge of cruelty in connection with this sport. As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the charge of cruelty in connection with tame deer hunting has about as much foundation as a charge which I heard a foreigner once make against fox-hunting in this country. This gentleman said— Fox-hunting is an extremely cruel amusement. At the very first fence which I jumped I spurred my unfortunate horse's eye out.

I pass to the third so-called spurious sport—rabbit coursing; and here I must admit that the position is not quite so strong as I should like. Speaking selfishly, speaking on my own behalf and probably on behalf of many noble Lords who sit around me, I should be very glad to see this sport put an end to, because it is not only an undesirable form of amusement but a great incentive to poaching. As an instance I may mention that purveyors of this amusement have called upon me and actually had the impertinence, when I refused to sell them rabbits for coursing, to tell me that they would have them taken if I refused to accede to their request. There is practically nothing to be said in favour of this sport. At the same time I am disposed to think that the scenes of revolting cruelty which the right reverend Prelate alleges take place are somewhat exaggerated. In view of the fact that the law is sufficiently powerful to prevent even the overcrowding of goldfish and carp, as has been proved, I find it impossible to believe that it would be hopeless for the various societies which occupy themselves with questions of this kind to interfere with success; and, if it comes to a question of cruelty, I doubt very much whether rabbits coursed by dogs suffer in reality greater pain than those rabbits, wounded in the case of legitimate sport, which expire probably in great pain at the bottom of their holes, or whether they really suffer more than those rabbits which pass hours caught in steel traps, or a rabbit which has its blood sucked from it by a ferret.

But what weighs with me is not only the question of relative cruelty, but the fact that, in spite of what the right reverend Prelate says, this is most emphatically the sport of a class; and it seems to me that something more is needed than a mere, if I may say so, sentimental objection to justify us in suppressing a thing of this kind whilst we permit other forms of sport to be indulged in by the wealthier classes and by people who are able to choose whatever form of sport they prefer. The line of distinction between these classes of sport appears to me to be too narrow for legislation, for logic, or, I would even say for common sense; and I think it would not only be illogical, but extremely presumptuous, on our part if we were to dictate to the working classes as to what form their amusements should take. It is extremely difficult to argue with those convinced and honest persons who are sincerely opposed to all forms of sport, and who object to the taking of life for the purposes of pleasure; but I must say that I entirely fail to discern those signs of the public conscience being outraged by these exhibitions to which the right reverend Prelate alluded.

The memorial which the right reverend Prelate produced for our edification conveys very little to me. It was obviously a memorial signed principally by dons, by schoolmasters, and, presumably, by divines. As far as I can see, very little interest is actually taken in this question. Not a single person has written to me on the subject of this Bill, except one association which asked me to oppose it. What evidence is there, I should like to know, that the conscience of the democracy is outraged by these so-called spurious sports? I admit that it is always difficult to ascertain what the opinion of the demo cracy may be upon any given question. The best opportunity for obtaining their opinion, we are always told, is the annual meeting of the Trade Unions Congress. At those congresses all sorts of extraneous subjects are discussed. I have even seen this House condemned, and I think I can remember numerous instances in which they condemned the Established Church. They have condemned such things as militarism; but I cannot recollect one single instance in which any view was expressed about the immorality or the degrading nature of these so-called illegitimate sports which we have been discussing this afternoon. When I see a genuine condemnation of them by the working men, and when I see a measure brought in by them and passed through the popular House, then I confess I should be much inclined to modify my opposition to Bills of this kind.

All I have to say, in conclusion, is that I recognise the sincerity and the honesty of those persons of whom I have spoken who have a conscientious objection to taking life for the purpose of amusement. They are perfectly consistent, and some day their efforts may result in that beneficial change at which they are aiming. Some day any noble Lord who sticks a hook in a worm or a gentle, or who liberates a rat from a cage for the purpose of being worried by a terrier, or who even, without taking sufficient precautions, puts his foot upon a blackbeetle may be looked upon as a sort of outcast of society. But at the present moment we are a long way from reaching this, if I may call it so, angelic elevation. At any rate I know I am unregenerate so far, and I cannot help feeling a profound conviction that many of my noble friends are in the same position, and if we assume the attitude that we are to select our own amusements, that we are to go on pursuing any sports we like irrespective of the suffering caused, and at the same time we attempt to prescribe the forms of amusement of persons less fortunate than ourselves, it would not only be an act of presumption but it would be an act of hypocrisy. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— To leave out the word 'now' and to add at the end of the Motion the words 'this day six months.'"—(Lord Newton.)


My Lords, I should first like to associate myself with what fell from the noble Lord as to the sincerity which I feel certain inspired the right reverend Prelate in bringing this Bill before us to-night. I remember very well that, if I may say so, the Bishop of Hereford was a great pet with Lord Spencer on account of his fondness for horses and his liking for horsemanship. I quite agree with Lord Newton that the word "sportsman," like the words "young person," is almost incapable of definition and interpretation, and I do not know whether, on account of his liking for horses, we can call the right reverend Prelate a sportsman. At all events, that fact brings him into direct and active ympathy with many members of your Lordships' House. I did not know that this Bill was coming on till yesterday, and, unlike the noble Lord opposite, I have not been at much pains to examine my conscience about it. I am inclined to agree with the late Sir Leslie Stephen when he said that in the ordinary affairs of life most men over fifty should have established a modus vivendi with their conscience. But though I have not done that, I have tried to exercise such a degree of practical sense as I possess, and in those circumstances, I shall support the noble Lord opposite in voting against this Bill. I confess that if I supported this Bill I should feel considerable hesitation in going to hunt with a pack of staghounds, and I may add that I hope to have that pleasure with the hounds of a noble Lord whom I see in his place, Lord Rothschild.

For the purpose of this debate I shall confine my few remarks to stag-hunting, which is the only point on which I am entitled to give any sort of opinion. I have never gone pigeon-shooting and have never witnessed rabbit-coursing. I think that a difficult proposition has been laid down. It is like the proposition which declares all wars to be wicked. You may say that all sport is cruel. I agree with the noble Lord who has moved the rejection of this Bill that it is difficult to say where sport ends and cruelty begins. What we have to look at is more or less the way in which people regard it in this country, and how far a Bill of this sort interferes with legitimate amusement.

Lord Newton

was kind enough to allude to a book which I wrote, and he referred to a gentleman who hunted carted deer and whose deer were on such good terms with their surroundings that they trotted together with the hounds and fed out of the same trough. That is quite true; but the Winchester gentleman in question—Mr. Neville—had great powers with animals, and it is impossible to generalise from an exception of that kind. There is no doubt that in a badly-managed establishment there might be a good deal of cruelty associated with the hunting of carted deer. In stag-hunting the field always go out to ride, and when things go wrong it is due to the fact that the deer is a weak one or that the pack is badly managed. Directly that happens the sport is, of course, at an end, and the people in the hunt are just as disgusted as anybody else.

The little hunting of which I have personal knowledge was done in a large way. We had splendid wild deer, bred in Windsor Park, and plenty of money to keep them as fit as fighting cocks, to which the right reverend. Prelate referred with comparative admiration. It is quite true, as Lord Newton said, that during the time I was Master of the Buckhounds we had only four or five accidents with the deer, and there was only one occasion when the hounds got at the deer. The other accidents were such as would have been equally likely to happen had the deer been wild. I do not go so far as to say that the deer actually enjoy being hunted, but I do say that the occurrences which the Bishop of Hereford has brought out are exceptional; and I ask your Lordships to dismiss the case of the Surbiton deer, or at least to retain it in your minds only as an exception and not as a common occurrence.

The noble Lord was quite right when he said that the deer in good establishments are regarded with great solicitude. I remember one cold December day one of the Queen's deer jumped into an icy cold pond, and Lord Cork, who was then Master of the Buckhounds, with two of the hunt servants, jumped into the pond after the deer. Being encumbered with boots and leathers they found it very difficult to put into action their aquatic accomplishments, and the whole field had to help to drag them out as well as the deer. That shows that stag-hunting is not altogether without its element of danger to those who pursue it. I remember that when we went out of office, in 1895, I was consulted as to what I thought about the future of stag-hunting in Berkshire. I said then that I thought Berkshire was wanting in some of the qualities essential for hunting carted deer; it was no longer wild country, and I said that on this account I could understand giving up stag-hunting. But speaking from actual and close experience—and I do not think I missed a day during the whole time I had anything to do with that establishment—I say that this general charge of cruelty in stag-hunting cannot be supported by any one who understands the question; and I would be very sorry if any one were to run away with the idea that what the right reverend Prelate has stated, though, no doubt, perfectly accurate, is what usually takes place in stag-hunting.


My Lords, I desire to join with Lord Newton and Lord Ribblesdale in saying how much I appreciate the sincerity with which the right reverend Prelate has brought forward this Bill; and I am certain that, when we vote against the Bill, he, on his part, will acquit us of any wish to countenance cruelty to animals. I, in company with the two noble Lords who have just spoken, will yield to no one in the desire to oppose cruelty to animals. The right reverend Prelate has rested his case rather on the violation of the public conscience than on the cruelty to the animal. I am not myself an expert either on rabbit-coursing, stag-hunting, or pigeon-shooting—the three sports threatened—though when I was an under-graduate I took part freely in all three; but I honestly believe that the miners who indulge in rabbit-coursing and those who take part in pigeon-shooting do not do so in order to gratify any brutal instincts. With regard to stag-hunting, it has been abundantly proved by the last two speakers that there is very little cruelty attached to it.

I was very glad the right reverend Prelate referred to the case of a stag which had been impaled on spiked railings. If there is one thing more than another which requires to be seen into, and, if possible, overhauled by legislation, it is the putting up of spiked railings in a hunting country. Noble Lords laugh. I am not going to make use of this debate for a defence of the sport in which I am interested. I am glad to say that at this time of day it requires no defence whatever. But is not all sport cruel? I admit most frankly that all forms of sport, and all relations of man to animal when he is pursuing it, must necessarily partake of the nature of cruelty, and one kind of cruelty cannot be separated from another by Act of Parliament. There are two sorts of cruelty. There is the physical pain inflicted upon the animal, like that which, no doubt, the fox feels when he is being torn by hounds, which is momentary, and there is the pain which a lot of well-meaning people think that an animal suffers because its surroundings appear to them to be of an unjust and cruel nature. You will never be able to settle how much the animal in question feels the injustice of its position. For my part I do not believe that a pigeon in a trap knows that there is a blood-thirsty man with a gun ready to shoot it the moment it is liberated. I feel that it is very difficult for us to say how far the surroundings in which it is placed can enter into the consideration of the animal itself.

There is a form of cruelty which I think, might very well be dealt with by legislation. The amount of vermin which die lingering deaths in steel traps is very horrible to contemplate, and I, for one, would join heartily with any band of reformers who would turn their attention to that particular branch of cruelty. There are other things which we would like to include, but I do not think that a measure of that kind would have any more chance of passing into law than this Bill. There is, for instance, the erection of barbed-wire fences in hunting country with the full knowledge that people are certain to ride over them. That is an un-English thing to do. But if there is one thing more un-English than that, it is the kind of practice that has been alluded to—namely, the putting up of danger signals to warn people that certain fences are dangerous to eldest sons or heirs to landed estates who ride to hounds. I hope that the right reverend Prelate, in his future consideration of the question of cruelty to animals, will seriously consider the question of steel traps. That is a matter which ought to be looked into by the Legislature, and I, for one, would give my hearty support to any attempt to deal with it.


My Lords, this is a subject in which I have interested myself ever since I have been a Member of Parliament, and therefore I ask permission to say a few words on this Bill. I cannot sufficiently admire the adroitness of the noble Lord, Lord Newton. I have often admired it before, but never more than on this occasion. The noble Lord has succeeded, I think by reason of the discursive spirit in which he regarded the proposals in the Bill, in so attracting the attention of the House to other very interesting topics, urged with admirable humour, that we seem to have forgotten the nature of this proposal and what is the justification for it. The noble Lord, in the first place, distinguished between, or challenged others to distinguish between, those who are sportsmen and those who are not. I was sorry to observe that he regarded as being more or less in the same category people who sympathise with first-class cricket and those who were in the habit of putting money on a race after they knew the result.

Does the noble Lord not know that one of the main characteristics of sport in this country regarded as essential by all men worthy of the name of sportsmen is that of giving the animal fair play? I will not say anything about stag-hunting. I have never been out stag-hunting myself, and do not intend at any time ever to go. It is a very small matter. There are very few stag hunts in this country, and therefore we need not trouble ourselves much with them. The main point is that of rabbit-coursing. The noble Lord himself did not attempt to defend that. He knows perfectly well that nothing would induce him to take part in it. Why? Because he knows it is not sport at all. It is not a sport, but a cowardly amusement—a disgusting amusement. It is all very well to say that poor people cannot afford to have the luxuries of the rich. That is no reason why they should indulge in a cowardly and degrading amusement.

Rabbit-coursing is indulged in mostly for the purpose of betting, and betting is spoiling most of the sports and games of this country. There is nothing finer in the world than a horse race. Nobody enjoys witnessing one more than I do, and yet whenever I do attend a race meeting I am always horrified at the betting adjuncts on the course. One result of the evil is that servants are induced to steal the silver spoons and forks from the side-board, in order to pay their betting debts. County Court Judges will tell you how betting agents persecute servants and others who do not wish it known that they have been betting. Gate-money is also doing great harm to cricket. Sport is a very fine thing provided you keep it as genuine real sport. It is no use seeking for further distinctions. Every one knows the difference between genuine sport and that which is not genuine; and I am quite sure Lord Newton would draw the line at rabbit-coursing. Rabbit-coursing is unnecessarily cruel and must be degrading to the people who take part in it. I do not know in the least how many of your Lordships are disposed to give a Second Reading to this Bill, but I sincerely hope there are some. For myself, I shall certainly vote with the right reverend Prelate.


My Lords, I do not know whether my right reverend brother intends going to a Division, but in case he does not—and it was, I think, by his own wish, and not through the failure to find a co-teller, that on the previous occasion he did not divide the House—I should be sorry to remain silent. Of course it is always easy, when a discussion of this kind arises, to ride off upon the difficulty of defining the exact line that ought to be drawn, and the precise phraseology which would cover those who stand on this or that side. While no one could have treated this subject with more skill and grace than the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, yet even Lord Newton in his inimitable way admitted that the so-called sport of rabbit-coursing, against which this Bill is mainly directed, is an undesirable form of amusement, and that nothing was to be said in favour of it. This is one of those matters upon which public opinion necessarily grows from generation to generation. We have advanced upon the views of our grandfathers. I venture to think that most of us have in our own experience grown somewhat in the views we should adopt upon a matter of this kind quite apart from the mere question of advancing years. I am afraid that I myself ought to stand here in a white sheet after a good deal that has been said, because I possess an insignificant cup—I think it is only honest to say it—which in my undergraduate days I won at pigeon-shooting. I think there are one or two noble Lords in the House who were my competitors on the occasion when I won the cup. I simply mention that as an argument to show how completely, as has occurred in my own case, a man's views may change as regards what is, and what is not, a legitimate form of sport. I find it hard now to realise that I could have looked upon this matter in the careless way in which one was apt to regard such matters years ago. To go back a few generations, bull-baiting used to be an extremely popular sport in this country. Objections were, as we know, taken to it long ago, but we all remember Macaulay's phrase, that the Puritans objected to bull-baiting, not because it hurt the bull but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. The other day I came across, in some of our Lambeth records, a protest raised by the inhabitants of Lambeth, who urged that the bull-baiting taking place in Vauxhall Gardens ought to be stopped because of the unpleasantly mauled condition of the terriers that were thrown on the ladies' laps by the bulls. We have drifted as far from that as it is possible to conceive; and I firmly believe that fifty years hence it will be found as impossible for the then members of your Lordships' House to realise why we refrained from taking exception to rabbit-coursing as it is pursued to-day as we now find it difficult to understand why a hundred years ago exception was not taken to things like bull-baiting. We are growing from generation to generation in the understanding of these matters, and I believe that by now and then expressing our abhorrence of things which are felt to be disgusting and cruel we help to stimulate public opinion on matters on which public opinion is somewhat sluggish. This discussion should prove helpful in that way, and our thanks are due to the Bishop of Hereford for having brought in this Bill. If my right reverend brother goes to a Division I shall certainly support him.


My Lords, I rise to say but one word. No one is more fond of sport than I am, but I look upon rabbit-coursing as cruel and degrading, and will do all in my power to stop it. I shall, therefore, vote for the Second Reading of this Bill.


My Lords, I rise to explain the line which the Government take with regard to this Bill. This Bill or a similar Bill has been before both Houses of Parliament on various occasions. Different personal opinions have been expressed by different Home Secretaries upon the Papers in the Office, but the line the Home Office has adopted all through has been not to put the weight of the Government either upon the one side or the other. On this

Bill to be read 2a this day six months.