HL Deb 02 May 1972 vol 330 cc658-723

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a short Bill, it is a simple Bill; but in its way it is an important Bill. There have been many attempts to get a similar Bill through the House of Commons but those attempts have been unsuccessful, not because of lack of support but because of lack of time. As far back as 1925 a Bill to prohibit the coursing of live rabbits and hares passed its Second Reading and Committee stage in another place but failed to get a Third Reading because of lack of time. That means that 47 years ago a Bill nearly identical with this Bill amost abolished live hare coursing. In 1949 a wider Bill was before the House of Commons which not only included coursing but some deer hunting as well. That Bill failed to get its Second Reading but two hundred Members of that House put down a Motion asking for an inquiry into all forms of cruelty to wild animals. This led to the setting up of the Scott Henderson Committee, which reported in 1951. That Report dealt with all live animals; but everybody would agree, whether in favour of hare coursing or against it, that the Scott Henderson Report was indecisive and in some ways contradictory. Both supporters and opponents of my Bill could quote passages from that Report in support of their point of view.

In the 1966–70 Parliament there were several attempts by Private Members to get this Bill through the Commons, but again it failed and the Government promised help. In May, 1970, the then Government themselves introduced a Bill which passed its Second Reading in another place less than two years ago by 203 votes for the Bill to 70 against; but the General Election intervened and again the Bill was not successful. There have been several attempts in this Parliament, but in the House of Commons there has not been time for full discussion on Second Reading. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to give your Lordships' House an opportunity to express an opinion.

I want to make just a few preliminary remarks. First of all, this is a Bill to abolish hare coursing—and I want to emphasise that. It is not a hunting Bill. Secondly, I do not belong to any animal society: my interest in this Bill arises from the work that I did at the Home Office and the fact that I had given my pledge to private Members in the House of Commons at that time that Government time would be available. I know that there are some people who support this Bill and who do so because they support the abolition of all blood sports. On the other hand, there are some who do not take that view: they would not vote for the abolition of all blood sports, but they think that hare coursing is exceptional. The League Against Cruel Sports is in the former category; it is for the abolition of all blood sports. On the other hand, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would not say that all forms of putting down of pests are bad, but they think that this Bill ought to be passed and are very keen indeed to see the abolition of live hare coursing.

What is competitive live hare coursing? According to the official publications of those who support hare coursing, it is a sport in which one hare is pursued by two dogs, normally greyhounds, matched against each other. Points are awarded for skill and speed in turning the hare; but it is said that it is not essential to the result that the hare should be killed. Rules for the sport—or the so-called "sport"—are drawn up by the National Coursing Club. It is true that many coursing events, including the main event of the year, the Waterloo Cup, are run under these rules, but at smaller events there is evidence to show that the rules are not always kept. This is not so much a local sport as a sport which takes place in a locality with coursers travelling from event to event; and at some of the coursing events betting takes place. Some hare coursing is on open ground, but much of it is in fields with beaters to round up the hares.

I want to be as non-provocative as possible in this speech, and I will quote from the Scott Henderson Report on the day that its authors went to see the Waterloo Cup run. The Waterloo Cup, as I say, is the one event where the rules are probably more strictly kept than at any other coursing event. The members of the Committee describe the beating up of the hares like this: On the morning of each day in which coursing is to take place, several beaters go out to some considerable distance from the coursing ground and begin to drive the hares towards it … the hares are driven towards the coursing ground, and as soon as one gets near to the entrance the men whose job it is to prevent them dodging off to the side begin to shout and run forward so that the hare runs straight on towards the Slipper's box"— the slipper being the man who holds the dogs on the leash before he sets them to chase after the hare. The Report goes on to say: He does not release them for every hare that enters the coursing ground, but only if there is a single hare which, in his opinion, is in good condition and likely to provide a good course. This is how the hares are beaten up into the coursing field.

Although it is not essential to the competition that the hare shall be killed, it is true that many are. It is true that some escape, either whole or injured. One of the rules of the National Coursing Club says: The merit of the kill must be estimated according to whether a dog by his own superior dash and skill bears the hare; whether he picks her up through any little accidental circumstances favouring her or whether she is turned into his mouth, as it were, by the other dog. The trip, or the unsuccessful effort to kill, is where the hare is thrown off her legs or where a dog flecks her but cannot hold her. My Lords, I think it is for us to judge: Is this a cruel sport? The British Field Sports Society, in favour of coursing, says that greyhounds have long, powerful jaws and they seize the hare and kill it as cleanly and as naturally as a terrier kills a rat. That is what they say. But it is strange that one of the rules of the National Coursing Club is this: Pickers up shall be stationed on each side of the coursing ground and as near as practicable to where the courses are likely to end. If the hare is brought down, the pickers up shall, without delay, go to the hare and satisfy themselves that it is dead—and if it is not dead, they shall kill it forthwith. This seems a very strange rule if we are to believe what is said about the hare's being killed instantaneously. They have a man there to see that the hare is dead and, if not, after it has been mauled by the dogs, to kill it. Surely this rule contradicts the assertion that the hare is always killed instantaneously.

I will again quote from the Scott Henderson Report about the kills which were seen at the Waterloo Cup. It says: Of course sometimes the hare does not get away and is killed by the dogs. Usually the leading dog catches it and pulls it down. But the other dog as a rule is close behind so that it is also on the hare within a second or two. The speed is so great that it is impossible to see what actually happens but generally the hare is on the ground with both dogs biting at it. We did not see any of the tugs of war which were described to us in evidence though on one occasion when the dogs caught the hare in the rushes they reappeared carrying it between them. As soon as the hare is caught the man who is responsible for recovering the hares on that side of the ground runs forward and gets it from the dog and if it is not dead he kills it by breaking its neck. This, then, is the so-called sport.

I have here some reports of inspectors of the R.S.P.C.A. who have on various occasions been to hare coursing. I have, if anybody needs them, the names of the inspectors, and the numbers and the dates on which they went, but I do not think it is necessary for me to go through all that. I will read just one or two of their reports: …on three occasions where the killing was witnessed, the screams of the hares could be heard for seconds after the hounds were tearing at them … Another one: During the afternoon session two dogs chased a hare right to where I stood, and they grabbed it at about 25 yards in front of me. I had a pretty good close-up of the hare in the jaws of the two dogs. And another one: Another hare had at least 200 yards start, and to the right of the dogs, and was caught in 60 seconds, and definitely tugged by each dog for approximately 10 seconds until freed and necked"— "necked" being killing by strangling.

Then a further acount by another inspector of the R.S.P.C.A. reads: Once the dogs caught it they pulled it in different directions by its back legs. One dog … ran off with the hare trailing on the ground beside it as it ran. A man caught the dog and took the hare from its mouth. As he did so, the hare let out an ear-piercing speal—the man then broke its neck. I picked up the hare and examined it and saw that its front leg was broken and the flesh rolled up like a sleeve; its back legs were broken and its hindquarters broken and dislocated by the tug-of-war—its stomach was ripped open. All these injuries were inflicted whilst it was still alive. Even if such instances occur infrequently it is surely enough to condemn coursing, which the organisers maintain is indulged in purely to judge the skill and speed of the hounds.

I know that opponents of this Bill will say, "Why hare coursing?" and will point to other cruelties to animals. I know that in the animal world a great deal of cruelty is inflicted on animals by other animals. We know that a great deal of cruelty is inflicted on animals by man. I accept that there has to be control of vermin and pests. Animals and fish provide food for humans, and those of us who are not vegetarians sometimes do not think too much about the killing and the preparation of the meat and the fish which we eat. I accept that there has to be killing for food and there has to be killing for the control of pests. But live hare coursing is not for the control of hares. Indeed. in certain areas hares are preserved and sometimes imported specially for coursing. Hare coursing is not to provide food; it is simply unnecessary suffering in the name of so-called sport.

Then I can imagine opponents of the Bill saying "Why ban this sport? Why pick on this particular one?" Over the centuries Parliament has singled out certain animal sports and legislated against them. In the nineteenth century Parliament stopped cock fighting, bear baiting, bull baiting and badger baiting, and I have no doubt whatsoever that we shall hear repeated to-day some of the arguments that were used over 100 years ago in this House. I believe that live hare coursing is in the same category as these other so-called sports and should have been abolished many years ago.

There are many organisations against this sport: I have mentioned two—the League against Cruel Sports and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is sometimes said that it is townspeople who are against this sport and that people in the country are for it. But the National Union of Agricultural Workers—and they are numerous in country districts; indeed far more numerous than anybody else—are on record as being in favour of the abolition of live hare coursing. The Church of England National Assembly in February 1970 passed a strongly worded resolution against hare coursing. I am very sorry indeed that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has had a serious illness and is not able to be with us to-day. I have just received a telephone message from him in which he wishes me every success with the Second Reading of this Bill and says that he is very sorry indeed that because of his illness he is unable to be present. In addition to that, I think the experience of those who have had anything to do with this matter shows that there is a great deal of public sympathy towards the Bill.

Who, then, wants to keep this dreadful so-called sport? There are the coursing clubs, whose members number under 2,000 and who, as I have said, travel around; and I know that there are some noble Lords who would be against hare coursing but who think that this is the first step to the abolition of other blood sports. So far as I am concerned, we are to-day discussing a hare coursing Bill. If any other Bill at any other time were to come before Parliament I think we should all judge it on its merits; and that is what I ask noble Lords here to-day to do with this hare coursing Bill.

It is sometimes said that it is mainly miners who indulge in this sport. I have lived all my life among miners and I still do, and I must say that the miners who live near me do not spend all their time going to coursing meets or belong ing to coursing clubs. They might have a few whippets but they do not chase live hares with them. I am very pleased indeed that my noble friend Lord Blyton will be speaking later on and will deal with this point at greater length. But I do not judge the cruelty of a sport by those who take part in it; I judge it by what it is. I am rather amused sometimes at the way in which people seem to be so concerned at preserving the sport of miners, and saying that we must keep this so-called sport because of the miners. Usually they are the people who would not lift a little finger to help the miners to get a decent wage. It is in fact just an alibi to keep this sport.

What then, in conclusion, is the effect of this sport? First, I think I have said enough—I could have said more—to show that there is no doubt about there being cruelty to the hares. From time to time I have seen reports which show that on occasions it is detrimental to the hounds and that they, too, suffer to a lesser extent. But, my Lords, what about the men and women and the effect on the minds of the men and women who take part in this so-called sport? We are living in an age of violence and we are becoming immune even to human suffering. I hope that your Lordships in the 20th century will vote to be rid of this barbarous and cruel mediaeval practice masquerading as sport. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Bacon.)

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to intervene briefly at this stage in the debate to say a few words about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards this Bill. It is something of a tradition in the field of protection of animals, particularly in such aspects of animal protection as we have in this Bill, where I think we shall discover that opposing opinions are strongly held, that initiatives are left to private Members like the noble Baroness and decisions are taken on a free vote on personal judgment and, as the noble Baroness said, on merit. That tradition need not be absolute but the Government think to-day that we should follow it, and therefore I must tell your Lordships that the formal attitude of the Government towards the Bill is one of strict neutrality. If that makes me the quarry of all noble Lords on both sides of the House then I shall have to learn to fend for myself and to run, as the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, just murmured, very fast.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, has said, the Bill is confined to the single issue whether competitive hare coursing should be banned by law; and on the technical side I should say that the Bill is short, simple in construction, and, so far as we can see, entirely adequately drafted for the purpose that the noble Baroness has in mind. I think that will not surprise the noble Baroness. As she told the House, a good deal of interest has been shown in this subject in another place, but rather to my surprise so far as my researches have shown this seems to be the first occasion, at any rate for a very long time, that it has been discussed in this House.

The noble Baroness has already referred to the views of the independent Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals —the Scott Henderson Committee which reported in June, 1951. I think that this will be the subject of a good deal of comment in the course of the debate. Perhaps I might recall a few of the thines the Committee had to say on the issue, because they did pay a great deal of attention to coursing, competitive coursing in particular. I have in mind paragraphs 262 to 281, Recommendations 34 and 35, and Appendix IV about the visit of some of them to Altcar in 1950, from which the noble Baroness quoted part. They thought it right to have a first hand knowledge of the activity before they formed a judgment and so they went to see. In the light of this experience, passed on to those who did not also go, they expressed the view that—and I quote from paragraph 281: …the cruelty involved [in the sport] is less than the opponents of the sport allege… May I say at once that I agree with the noble Baroness that it is very difficult to quote from this Report? It is very difficult to find non-selective quotations. I am trying desperately not to prejudice the issue one way or the other. I thought of reading out the whole of the passages of the Scott Henderson Report but I thought your Lordships might welcome that almost less than anything else. So I am bound to pick out sentences here and there. That broad judgment took account of the reservation that they had expressed in paragraph 274 about the retrieving of the hare, the picking up in the event of its being caught by the dogs. The Committee were assured by the National Coursing Club at that time that it was the duty of whoever was first on the scene to recover the hare and to ensure that it was dead. But the Committee said that they were "not entirely convinced" that the trainers of dogs, as opposed to the stewards in some cases, took as much care over this as they should and recommended that the Club should take steps to secure strict observance of the rule; that is Recommendation 35 at the end of the Report. Subject to this they expressed themselves satisfied that the National Coursing Club took proper steps to see that the possibility of cruelty is reduced to a minimum. Soon after that, as I understand it, the National Coursing Club did review and tighten up their rules to ensure that any suffering that might be caused was further reduced. Then there was a further development recently. I must say from the point of view of my education, not actually having been able to go to a meeting since I achieved my present position, at least I have had the opportunity of reading a recent document prepared by Mr. Owen Stable, Q.C., and Mr. Stuttard commissioned by the British Field Sports Society and published about a year ago. Again without going into this in detail, it does seem to me that this is essential background reading for those who wish to understand this extremely complex subject. It is an extremely complex subject. The more one reads this document (and I have tried to read it all) the more difficult it becomes to find out exactly what one feels about it.

I expect most noble Lords who are taking part in this subject have read the whole document. It seemed to me that the introduction is very helpful, together with the paragraphs on the kill and the picking up, which are paragraphs 161 to 195, and the whole of Chapter 5 on cruelty, which incidentally picks out what the noble Baroness said about the slightly contradictory terms that can be read into the Scott Henderson Report and they quote the noble Baroness on this subject. I think this is an important contribution. They go on to discuss the Scott Henderson Report. Then finally, in paragraphs 415 to 418, they make some observations at the end of their recommendations. So perhaps that does, at any rate, help people to form a view about the subject, and I would recommend it to your Lordships.

I should perhaps remind the House about the earlier Scott Henderson Committee's conclusions about hare coursing. These were reached in the context of a much more general approach to the suffering caused to animals in the course of field sports. Here I have to go back to paragraph 144, which I think is worth quoting. They said: After carefully considering all the evidence which we have received about this very controversial matter, we have come to the conclusion that any sport that has a reasonable measure of support and is a traditional activity of the countryside, and has some utilitarian value (either by making a useful contribution to the control of some wild animals or by providing recreation for an appreciable number of people) should not be interfered with except for some very good reason. A certain amount of suffering is inevitable in all field sports and we do not think that public opinion, even in the light of such facts as we have been able to discover, would approve of the abolition of every field sport that involves slight suffering to the animal concerned. Those are their words. That was the general background against which they were judging all the matters they had before them.

They then stated two propositions which they applied in reviewing each of the individual field sports, which they did one by one. First, they said that interference with the sport would be justified only if the evidence showed that the amount of suffering was greater than would be involved in the use of alternative methods of control. The second proposition was In cases where the sport does not in fact serve to control the animals, interference would be justified if there were more than a slight degree of suffering". The Stable Report I think, discussed these propositions.

Turning very briefly to what the Committee said about hare coursing, their first finding was that coursing involved no more suffering than the shooting of hares as normally practised. However, they noted that hare coursing was not claimed to serve as a means of control, a point the noble Baroness made in her speech. So they addressed their minds to what one might call their second test, which I have just read out. Here their conclusions are stated twice. In paragraph 144, to which I have just referred, they stated their belief that with the possible exception of otter hunting in certain areas such a degree of cruelty does not exist in any of the field sports at present practised. Then, in Recommendation 34 they said: The degree of cruelty involved in coursing is not sufficient to justify its prohibition.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount. Would he also quote what I think is most contradictory in the Scott Henderson Report, the last sentence of paragraph 280 on page 75?


My Lords, I am perfectly happy to quote it; but the trouble is, as I have already said, that if one starts quoting parts of this Report it is difficult to know where to stop and re-start. If the noble Baroness 'wishes I will read out the sentence: Consequently, the suffering which is caused to hares coursed at such meetings comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted. That means that you have to refer back several sentences, to where they deal with Altcar, and then you have got to look at the conditions that applied at Altcar on the day that they went there, because it was a day of very exceptional weather and they said so. This is the trouble about the Scott Henderson Report. I do not think the Scott Henderson Committee can be said to have condemned hare coursing. On the other hand, I do not think one can say that they commended it. This is one of the reasons why I am staying neutral. I am trying to accommodate the noble Baroness in quotation, but there is this problem about which parts one quotes. Recommendation 34, to which I referred, went on to conclude: For the reasons set out in paragraph 280 and 281…' —that is the quotation I have just made— …we have no specific recommendation as to the continuation of the sport. That is all I want to say about the merits, and, as I earlier promised your Lordships, I have been very neutral. I want to mention one other matter about enforcement supposing this Bill were to become law. I am afraid that I have to tell the House that one envisages certain problems of enforcement. I need hardly stress that the police are fairly well extended at the moment in dealing with serious crime, and I think everybody in the House commends their efforts in trying to deal with that, and other pressing matters, too. I do not think they would be able to devote very much of their time or facilities to the enforcement of criminal legislation, which this is, in relation to hare coursing. If the Bill were to become law, formal meets run under the National Coursing Club rules would undoubtedly stop. But it would be a much more difficult matter to enforce the law against those individuals who still chose to course hares in remote places, with no publicity and not subject perhaps to any particular rules. So there is that problem which I would ask your Lordships to bear in mind.


The noble Viscount complained about the violence, and said the police could not control this. But would there need to be any control if hare coursing were abolished altogether?


With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, I wonder whether he followed exactly what I was saying. What I was saying was that the formal meets would instantly stop because the people who run them would be law-abiding. The difficulty would be enforcement of those people who chose to continue the sport in remote, under-populated parts of the country where the matter did not come immediately to the attention of the police. That is the danger.


My Lords, can the noble Viscount tell us how successful the police are at the moment in preventing illegal cock-fighting and bear-baiting? Is this something which he seriously thinks, if this law is passed, will continue and will require much police enforcement?


My Lords, before my noble friend answers may I tell the noble Leader of the Opposition that in certain parts of England cock-fighting still goes on quite extensively?


My Lords, I am not going to ask my noble friend Lord Derwent, where.

Several Noble Lords

Why not?


I might do that another time, but not in the course of this speech. But it meets the point the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, put to me. So the formal attitude of the Government on this Bill is one of strict neutrality and I must leave it to your Lordships to decide the basic issue on its merits in accordance with each of your own individual judgments and in the light of what looks to me like being a very full debate to come.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, the Bill before the House is, one can fairly say, a tiny Bill, and that is perhaps fitting because the subject matter, although highly emotive, is a very tiny subject matter. If this Bill were passed the effect it would have would be that about 600 hares a year would end their lives in some other way, either at the hand of man or at the hand of Nature, and with a risk of considerably greater suffering than they do at present. Somewhere between 800 and 900 people would be prevented not from coursing hares with greyhounds or with other coursing dogs but from testing the prowess of their dogs in doing that which tens of thousands of years of natural selection, before man had anything to do with the breed, had adapted them to do, and doing it under rules designed to ensure that the minimum of suffering to the hare is caused.

It is, I think, because there is so small a number of people whom this sport affects that there is throughout the country a great ignorance of the facts, not only about coursing but about the natural history of hares; of what is involved and the other ways in which they die. It is vulnerable because so few people have an interest in its continuing. It would make no difference to me personally, and I suppose it would make no difference to any but a handful of your Lordships, if this Bill were passed; it is several years since I myself have been to a coursing meeting. What it would do—and I live in a part of the country where there is coursing—would be to deprive some of my good friends and neighbours of a healthy open-air pleasure which they enjoy. And because it is a small minority who are concerned, this House should be all the more vigilant to see that they do not suffer through lack of representation of their case.

There is no excuse to-day for ignorance about the facts of coursing. In 1951 there was the Scott Henderson Report, which has already been referred to, and in 1971, 20 years after—because there had been great changes in agricultural patterns in those 20 years—there was a review of coursing undertaken by a distinguished member of the Bar and a distinguished member of the Council of Nature to see what were the conditions to-day and what changes, if any, were needed as a result of the changes in agricultural patterns, the changes in sporting patterns and the like, the growth of syndicates, and the need for conservation of the hare as a result of what has happened to its diminishing habitat.

May I say just a few words about the coursing which is hit at by this Bill? There are about 120 meetings in the course of the year in the whole of the country. At a coursing meeting the average number of hares that are caught and killed is about one in four.


My Lords, would the noble Lord suggest that at Altcar and the Waterloo only one in four gets killed?


My Lords, at Altcar, which is the place where the highest class of dogs are coursed, the figures would be about one in three. There may be occasional exceptional circumstances when the weather is particularly bad and the plough balls up on the hare's foot that a higher proportion is killed. But throughout the season and over the country about one in four is the average. How long does a course take? The average length of a course is between 30 and 45 seconds. There is no possibility of exhaustion to the hare. If it is one of the majority that get away, it gets away unscathed. When it is killed, in a great majority of cases the kill is instantaneous. Of course it is not always. I know of no ways in which hares can be kept down which do not contain the risk in some small proportion of cases of a period between injury and death. But in coursing, at any rate, that period is reduced to the minimum.

The Scott Henderson Report had, as you have heard, one reservation about coursing. At that time there was a convention—although one hardly needed a convention—that the hares in the minority of cases where they were not killed immediately by the hounds should be killed as quickly as possible. The Scott Henderson reservation was that officials should be appointed, especially pickers-up, to see that this was done. The National Coursing Club in the following year changed its rules to provide for such pickers-up. and in the Stable Review they recommended that that number should be increased to four so as to be sure there would be someone near where the course ended. That recommendation has again been accepted already by the National Coursing Club and has been put into effect. Thirdly, the hares that are coursed are wild hares. They know the terrain; they know every hole in the banks or in the hedges. The noble Baroness used the evocative words "beating up the hares". Your Lordships should perhaps know that that is the technical expression for a number of men and women walking in a large circle, walking at a gentle pace, with the hares moving in front of them, just as a hare did last week when I was walking across the fields at my own home.


My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord allow me to intervene? He said that I used an evocative term. I used exactly the term that is used in the literature put out by those who are in support of hare coursing. In fact, when I described beating, or beaters-up, it was a quotation from the Scott Henderson Report.


My Lords, that is what beating hares means.


Yes, my Lords, I know.


My Lords, finally, what is judged in hare coursing is not the kill but the skill, and the greyhound that kills the hare is not, as often as not, the winner, because it has not shown the skill. The Stable Committee Review recommended three improvements which I think affect the consideration of this Bill. First of all, the Committee recommended that the National Coursing Club should appoint its own inspector to attend all meetings to make sure that the rules were being obeyed. Secondly, they recommended that there should be four pickers-up, as I have said, instead of two. Thirdly, they recommended that there should be written rules to reinforce the practice of giving a minimum slip—that is to say, giving the hare a start of at least 80 yards—and to reinforce the practice of making sure that a hare was not coursed if it was either weak or in difficulties because of balling-up upon its feet. All those recommendations were accepted and are now in force.

What this Bill prohibits is this form of sport undertaken under conditions designed to ensure the minimum suffering to the hare. What is perhaps significant is what it does not prohibit. It does not prohibit the killing of hares by greyhounds or lurchers without any such precautions. It does not prohibit shooting or snaring. It does not, because it cannot, prohibit hares from dying a natural death. If your Lordships are going to read the Scott Henderson Report I would commend a reading of paragraph 43, which shows what all of your Lordships who are used to wild animals know: that a natural death to a wild animal is not a death devoid of suffering—devoid, very often, of much greater suffering than is caused in hare coursing.

What, then, is the purpose of this Bill? It cannot, I venture to say, be simply regard for the hare. This Bill—and its predecessors, to which the noble Baroness has referred—was designed by those who promote it as a first step to the abolition of all field sports: of hunting, shooting, and of fishing. I have no doubt that it is inspired by a sincere belief that it is wrong to kill animals in the course of sport. I respect that belief and those who genuinely hold it, just as I respect the belief of those who are vegetarians that it is wrong to kill animals for food; but I do not share it. I venture to think that it is founded upon two misunderstandings: first, a misunderstanding about wild animals and what happens to them in the natural state; secondly, a misunderstanding of the motives of those who take part in country sports. There is, for nearly all of us, no pleasure in the kill itself. In those sports where man is a direct predator, in shooting and in fishing, it is the pitting of his skill against that of the quarry; in hunting, in coursing and in falconry, where man is not the direct predator, it is seeing the skill of the predator, the foxhound, the greyhound, or the hawk, pitted against a natural quarry in natural conditions. Coupled with that, there is the healthy open-air exercise in the country and, if I may say as one who perforce has to live most of his life in very artificial surroundings, it is getting back to Nature from an artificial world.

It is, I venture to think, a matter for the individual conscience of each of us to decide whether or not he wishes himself to engage in field sports, provided that it does not involve any greater suffering to the animal concerned than it is likely to have to endure in the course of a natural death. That was the criterion which the Stable review laid down, and it is one which I think has a great deal of sense in it. The Scott Henderson Committee laid down two criteria, which your Lordships have heard. The first was that the sport should have the object of controlling the numbers of animals; the second was that the suffering involved must be very slight in those localities where the first criterion did not apply. In the twenty years that have passed, the emphasis has been on control and keeping numbers down, but to-day, at any rate so far as the hare is concerned, it should be on conservation. There is no doubt that in those parts of the country where coursing is practised it has the effect of conserving the numbers of hares and enabling me, when I go around the fields in my own part of the world, to see more of those delightful creatures than I should otherwise see.

If this Bill is passed, my Lords, the effect will be to increase slightly the risk of suffering of a small number of hares—because no one suggests that the alternative of shooting does not involve a great risk of suffering. The effect will also be to reduce the number of hares in those areas where coursing takes place, and to brand as criminal a few hundred decent country people whose numbers have been too small hitherto to make their voices heard. This House has an opportunity to-day in the course of this debate to dispel some of the public ignorance of the facts about this sport. I hope that it will take that opportunity, and I urge noble Lords not to support this Bill.

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to a rather extraordinary speech from the noble and learned Lord. I propose to return to it in a few minutes' time, but I do not intend to speak for very long. After all, this is only one of the very many debates on this subject to which I have had to listen. What impressed me, first of all, in contradistinction to the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down, was the very fair, very concise and very reasonable way in which the case for the Bill was made by my noble friend Lady Bacon in moving the Second Reading. Secondly, I thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, did a very fair job from the Government Front Bench. I have had experience of taking part in debates without coming down on one side or the other, and winding-up by saying, either in this House or in another place, "It will be left to the Members to make their own judgment on the matter." I thought that the noble Viscount did that admirably. Towards the end, I thought he would be tempted into going just a little too far by my noble friend who called for a further sentence to be read. It is like the Bible. Once you have read another sentence, you really must go on to read the next one to find out what it is all about, and when you do that you can sometimes feel uncomfortable. However. I think the noble Viscount overcame the difficulty cleverly.

I thought the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, was a little injudicious in saying that if we give this Bill a Second Reading, then ipso facto we shall be declaring that everyone who has indulged in coursing is a criminal. I thought that was a little unfairly put, because we are doing nothing of the kind. What we are considering to-day is the suffering of the hare, and there can be no doubt that the hare does suffer as a result of this form of sport. Not even a supporter of the sport would say that the hare does not suffer. But nor would we argue from our side that the hare does not suffer in its natural surroundings—of course it does. Just as human beings suffer in their ordinary surroundings, so does the hare in its environment. That is not the argument which we are putting to-day.

The case so far as suffering is concerned has been clearly established. But I take it a little further than has been done so far. I am not satisfied by someone, either in this House or in another place, getting up and saying, "As a result of certain recommendations, a particular council has been instructed to take steps not to abolish but to lessen the suffering." That is an admission that there is suffering, and what we are saying to-day is that, if it is humanly possible, we should be taking steps not merely to lessen the suffering but to abolish it. That is the line which I take. When the Bill was introduced in another place in February this year, it was said by my honourable friend, Mr. Price: I saw greyhounds coming off that track in a far worse state than the hares…I saw dogs coming off exhausted, torn and with toe-nails hanging off."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/2/72; col. 919.] So that not only do the hares suffer; I do not think that even those who support this sport would deny that the dogs suffer as well. Of course they do. So we should either abolish coursing or leave it as it is. I am not impressed by the noble and learned Lord's saying that this is a first step towards the abolition of all other field sports. My noble friend Lady Bacon never made that claim. She went out of her way to state, quite specifically, that whatever others might think about any other form of sport, let them come and make their case to this or to the other House, and let us make our judgment.

The only point which I thought was a little weak in the argument of the noble Viscount was when he said that even if this Bill became law we should have great difficulty in policing the country.


No, my Lords; I did not say that. What I attempted to tell the House was that I did not think noble Lords would consider that the policing of this Bill took priority over police work in detecting and dealing with serious crime, and their other diverse duties. I was merely warning the House that they have a good deal on their hands already. This would add something and it might not have priority.


My Lords, I do not know why there should be that interruption. I am not arguing that this matter ought to have prioriy. But if this Bill becomes law, then it must be administered. What really interested me was the intervention of one of the noble Viscount's noble friends, who assured him that, despite the fact that cockfighting had been abolished, it still went on (I hope I am not exaggerating the case he made) very considerably in the North. As it has been declared illegal, I should have thought we would not have the attitude of the noble Viscount that he did not want to know about it.


No, my Lords—in the middle of my speech; that is all.


Whether it was in the middle, at the end or at the beginning, here is the noble Viscount hearing one of his noble friends say, "I know that the law is being broken"; and it is rather strange for the noble Viscount to say, "Well, we do not want to know about it". If in fact it is being broken, then it is the duty of the Government to know about it and it is the duy of the authorities to take the necessary action. It was argued by the noble and learned Lord that if we pass this Bill we shall save about 600 hares. That was the figure he used. He said that 600 hares may be saved. If the noble and learned Lord thinks I am misquoting him, perhaps he will give me the figure he used, because I do not want to be unfair to him.


My Lords, I said that about 600 hares would end their lives in some other way with greater risk of suffering.


The noble and learned Lord went on a little later to say—and this is what I wanted to deal with—"Because if they do not die this way they will die in some other way". I must say that I did not regard that as very logical. One could say that about the human race. One could say that about a man who commits suicide: that if he had not committed suicide he would have died in some other way, so we should not take steps to prevent it. There can be no logic at all in that argument. Indeed, if we are to be judged as an Assembly that is worth while—and do not forget that this particular House of Parliament has a tremendous reputation for its fairness and its liberality—I am certain our reputation would not be added to by the suggestion that, just because a few animals which might be saved would have to die naturally, we should not take steps to save them. I did not say—and I was a little surprised at what the noble Lord said in this respect—that all we proposed doing by this Bill was to deprive some of his best friends from indulging in this sport. Sometimes, of course, the great test of friendship is to tell a friend that what he is doing is wrong, and to seek to persuade him not to go on doing it.

Finally—and I am very near the end of what I have to say—let us not use the argument that we keep down hares by actions of this kind. That is a sheer pretence. What is done is that hares are put into fields to try out dogs, and there is nothing in this particular form of sport that restricts the hare population. So, my Lords, I think that, as we have this great reputation, we should consider the hare in the same way as we did the cock when we abolished cockfighting. It may interest the noble and learned Lord to know, when we talk about the numbers that are killed at coursing meetings, that the Scott Henderson Report, dealing specifically with the meeting at Altcar, at which the noble and learned Lord said the best dogs were on show, gave these figures. On the three days of the meeting the number of hares coursed and killed were: on the first day, 48 courses with 20 kills, which is 41 per cent.; on the second day, 44 courses with 36 kills. which is 82 per cent.; and on the third day, 17 courses with 7 kills, which is 41 per cent. So the figures that they give to prove their case are certainly distinctly different from, and very much worse than, the figures supplied by the noble and learned Lord.


My Lords, if the noble Lord would read on in the Scott Henderson Report he would find that the conditions upon that day were quite exceptional.


My Lords, the conditions may, or may not, have been exceptional. I simply take the evidence as it is presented to me and to the public. These are the facts as they were discovered. To suggest that those in favour of hare coursing have never had their case put for them is, I think, a slight exaggeration. I have never been at any debate on the subject when those who supported hare coursing were absent. Indeed, to be very logical, one finds that after all these debates, and even if they have never been represented, hare coursing still exists, so their case did not go by default.

My Lords, what we have to consider is whether it is morally right for us to permit this sport to take place. I have watched it. I personally looked at a film which was taken with the approval of the Hare Coursing Society; and, having watched it, I became more firmly convinced that I could not support it. I trust that when we come to make our decision this evening, either in support or against the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lady Bacon, we shall think well and take everything into consideration, including the morality of this particular sport. However, it will he for your Lordships to judge. I hope your Lordships will do it kindly and dispassionately, and I have no doubt that you will come to the conclusion—I hope so, at any rate—that this Bill ought to have a Second Reading.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my purpose, in the few remarks that I shall make, to attempt to convert any dedicated opponent of all field sports, if there be any in your Lordships' House. I know that nothing I say will change their views. They have their principles, to which they are of course fully entitled, and I have mine. But I think it possible that there may be some among your Lordships who have doubts about this sport of coursing; who support and possibly participate in other sports, such as shooting or fishing, but who think that coursing involves a greater degree of cruelty, and is therefore something of a special case, or who think possibly that shooting rather than coursing is a more humane method of controlling the hare population. These are obviously grave doubts, since, when it comes to reconciling one's conscience, by a vote, with the long-term welfare of an animal, in this case the brown hare, one is up against the awkward predicament that one cannot consult the animal. One can proceed only from one's own personal observation of what actually takes place in the countryside and what actually happens at, say, a coursing meeting or a shoot—which, so far as I can make out, often bears no resemblance at all to what is depicted by the propaganda of the abolitionist societies.

My Lords, except for 13 years spent in the Army I have lived all my life in the country, either in Hampshire or on the other side of St. George's Channel, and I have associated all my life with those who derive their living either from the land or from the sports which take place thereon—farmers, gamekeepers, shepherds and many others. I do not think that I have ever known one who did not think that coursing was in fact the most humane method of killing hares—much kinder than shooting, my Lords; but, of course, not nearly so effective as a method of control if you happen to be in an area where control is needed. In fact, coursing lays no claim to being an effective method of control: it kills too few hares for that. I know that there are still places where, in the interests of agriculture and forestry, hares must be shot, sometimes in quite large numbers. These areas are becoming fewer. There are many places which I remember as a boy, in the 1920s, as good hare country where brown hares are now rapidly declining in numbers. Personally, I think that in a few years, and certainly within the foreseeable future, conservation rather than control will become the watchword for the brown hare. Be that as it may, if cruelty is the issue, shooting hares is not more humane than coursing. Some 75 per cent. of the hares coursed do not get killed; they get away. That is on average. Of the other 25 per cent. the vast majority are killed instantly, bitten through the backbone by a greyhound which by its size and strength and the speed with which it is travelling would be capable of killing a far larger animal than a hare. The remaining very tiny percentage which do not die immediately are despatched very quickly by the pickers up who, under the rules laid down by the National Coursing Club are now stationed at strategic points.

What of the hare which is shot in the hind leg? The abolitionists talk of hares screaming at the end of coursing. This in my experience very seldom happens. But it happens quite often at a shoot. What of the hare which is wounded but runs on and is not picked up? She dies of gangrene, possibly up to two or three weeks later. Coursing never leaves a stricken hare on the field. To-day, under the rules of the National Coursing Club, coursing is a well-conducted sport. Much of the abolitionists' propaganda is directed at the killing. In fact, from a purely technical point of view, the killing is not important. Coursing is a competition between two dogs and the dog which kills the hare (if either of them does so) is not necessarily awarded the highest points by the judge.

Under the terms of this Bill, if I read it aright, coursing as conducted under the rules of the National Coursing Club, would become illegal; but coursing, which literally means "pursuit by sight" as opposed to pursuit by smell or sound, would not become illegal. To prohibit all coursing, taken in its literal terms, would present to the Parliamentary draftsmen and the Whips a nightmare beside which the Industrial Relations Bill and the Race Relations Bill would appear as the pleasant dreams of yesterday. Gone would be the National Coursing Club rules and regulations; gone would be the regulation numbers of pickers up; gone would be the legal minimum distance of the slip. The sporting element also would go and coursing would presumably revert to what it was in the Middle Ages with the kill as the be all and end all of the course.

Is that in the long-term interests of the hare? I do not think it is. As I think I have stated before, in some parts of the United Kingdom the hare is disappearing. Modern farming methods, huge urban development and shooting syndicates are seeing to that. But in those places where a coursing club has a satisfactory arrangement with a landowner, that landowner regulates his farming activities to allow coursing which, by its very nature, kills the weaker hares. This is to the benefit of the species as a whole; for the result is that only on such estates is the hare to-day really holding its own. It comes to this, my Lords. Be it hare, the red deer or any other wild animal or bird, the only relatively secure species are those which are the object of a sporting interest.

My Lords, I think that somewhere along the line the noble Baroness (with, I am sure, the best possible intentions) has gone wrong on this issue of cruelty. I am sure that she hopes under the terms of her Bill to lessen the degree of cruelty which the inexorable laws of Nature necessarily impose on all wild animals. I submit that it will not do so and that it may, on balance, increase it. But I must also ask myself why coursing has been singled out for so much attention recently. As the noble Baroness has stated. in the last three or four years there have been two legislative attempts to interfere with it in another place; and now there is this Bill before your Lordships. Why special attention for coursing and not for, say, fox-hunting, with its thousands of adherents organised up and down the country in supporters clubs? And why not special attention for fishing, the participants in which sport can literally be numbered in millions? Coursing is not more cruel than many other sports. In fact, it is less so than some, including, in my opinion, shooting and fishing. I have lived for the greater part of my life very close to most of these sports and I can only speak in the light of my own observations.

The sport of coursing is conducted in a well-regulated manner under the rules of the National Coursing Club. So why pick on coursing? I think that the answer is that very few people course; that it is not strong in organisation or finance to defend itself. It takes place in fairly remote areas and hardly anybody knows what actually goes on or what would be the implications for the brown hare if it did not go on. It is, therefore, more susceptible than any other sport to misrepresentation and to false propaganda. I do not think that it is right or fair, or just that the small body of men and women who regulate their affairs decently and within the law should be the victims of hostile legislation merely because they are weak in numbers and in organisation. For myself, I hope that coursing, as conducted under the rules of the National Coursing Club, will continue for as long as the hare population makes it practicable. I ask your Lordships to reject this Bill.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, it is always an added pleasure to take part in a debate in this House which is not on strictly politically partisan lines. It would be unfortunate if it were suggested that there was any political partisanship in this one. So far as the Government are concerned, we have had from the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, a clear expression of their complete neutrality. The noble Baroness who introduced the Bill is entitled to our consideration for her feelings of compassion. We all share her views on avoiding the instillation of fear or the infliction of pain on animals. But those views must be tinged with a certain degree of practicality. I think we are all indebted to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, for having put to us, and with such a practical presentation, so balanced an opinion. He drew attention to the fact—and this point was taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy—that only a relatively small number of hares suffer death from coursing. I do not know how many hundreds of thousands of hares each year are killed in this country in various ways or which die naturally. It really is rather amazing that the time of this House and of Parliament should he taken up with trying to legislate on a matter like this which applies only to a modicum of the animals which form the subject of the Bill.


With respect, my Lords, surely that is what the House of Lords is for in respect of whatever small but important numbers. Admittedly a minority of the hares are involved, but surely the principle is that of the House of Lords in general.


My Lords, perhaps I was wrong, but I was trying to get into perspective the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy.

I pass on to another point made by the noble Baroness. In defiance of fact, hare coursing is included in the area of sport which is common to all sections of the British community. The noble Baroness referred to miners. My boyhood home was in an area of the South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire coalfields and I knew that area very well, although of course it is a long time ago now. That was before the days of the Welfare State, but not before the days of strikes, or of destitution arising from bad trade, and the miners were often in great distress. It was then said that the lurchers owned by the miners would certainly get priority in respect of what food had to be bought—even (I hate to say it) over the requirements of the family. There was a deep-seated enjoyment of the sport—not cruelty—by the miners and by all the other sections of the British community who lived in the country and got near to country life. They were following what they thought was a proper way to exercise their dogs.

The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, dealt with the point which arises: that, assuming this Bill became law, how exactly would one police it? I know Lincolnshire very well. There are wide open spaces there, and some of your Lordships live in parts of the country where there is a great population of hares. Of course farmers will keep dogs and enjoy testing their dogs against the dogs owned by their friends. Are we to have policemen all over the country to see that two men do not put two dogs together to course against a hare? The whole thing is ridiculous. It is not a sound proposition; it is just idiotic.

To take up a point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, if hares are not killed by coursing they are bound to die in some other way: even the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, will agree with that. Many may die in great pain. Therefore we are talking about legislating for such a fraction of occurrences. Noble Lords will have been in the harvest fields and seen hares die. I should hate to suggest that any of your Lordships who go shooting are bad shots; doubtless you are all such good shots that you kill everything instantly. But we all have seen bad shooting, and rabbits and hares. which do not seem to feel the pain, still having the urge to escape when one or more of their legs has been broken. I think that brings the matter into better focus. We must realise that the leverets may be the prey of stoats and weasels, as small rabbits may become the prey of foxes. That is logical and is part of wildlife.

Are we going to forget what is the law of the jungle? We cannot legislate, any more than anybody else can, for protection against what wildlife was intended to be. We may regret that it should be so, but the laws of Nature provide that there should be a progressive predatory habit to maintain virility and vitality in the species. We shoot elephants, my Lords; and why? Because if there were too many of them they would create conditions in the nature reserves in which there was not sufficient food for other animals, so that all would suffer. We cannot legislate against these things. Once you start this sort of thing on what road do you travel? There are all the other kinds of field sports which result in death. What about fishing and hunting? In shooting is there not the danger of bad marksmanship causing pain? Or trapping: is not that much worse?

There are other noble Lords who wish to speak in this debate and it is wrong that any one speaker should take up too much time. Succeeding speakers will put points of a practical nature. In her consideration for the House the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, realised that a very small proportion of your Lordships are interested in or know much about coursing, but to-day we have had a good education from the noble Baroness, although perhaps she exaggerated the emotional side of it. I appeal for common sense in this matter. The conditions of wildlife as imposed by Nature should be kept in mind as well as the possibility of exaggeration by protagonists of such legislation as this Bill. Let us remember that Nature ordained that there should be death for all animals, as for all human beings. A good many human beings do not die without pain and I suspect that that applies to animals, too.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, this is the kind of discussion which, even with the best of intentions, can tend to create more heat than light. Because I feel that the case for this Bill is overwhelming, and that the opposition to the Bill is a ragbag of irrelevancies, I must be the more careful not to overstate a case which if stated temperately, must I think command the general agreement of the House.

My Lords, there are three levels at which the indictment of hare coursing may be expressed, and the first, of course, is the level of cruelty. It may be argued that there are relative degrees of cruelty and that we are rather too eloquent in imposing our own physical and natural reactions upon an animal world about which we have very little precise, and no direct, knowledge. Nevertheless, the evidence that a great amount of cruelty attaches to this particular sport is incontrovertible, and no amount of reference or comparison—to which I shall refer in a moment—with other forms of natural hazard and danger can compensate for the fact that in this particular sport there is a great deal of intentional, or at any rate inevitable, cruelty.

Morally speaking, cruelty is an absolute. I remember that it was the very famous Dr. Inge who once, when challenged as to two—if indeed there are two—absolutely morally objectionable things, said, "Cruelty is one of them, and mocking the insane is another." I would tend to agree with him: cruelty is bad; and where it is involved in a sport it should be condemned. Secondly, whatever the cruelty involved to the animal suffering this particular form of sporting activity, it would appear to me to be a very ignoble and unworthy exercise on the part of homo sapiens to find pleasure in this particular kind of sport. I hope that those who to-day regard violence as one of the great evils from which we suffer will take the greatest opportunity of seeking to abate it where indeed it can be abated.

I happen to he the only representative of the clergy and ministry taking part in this debate, and I would venture to draw the attention of your Lordships to a very significant fact: that those who oppose this Bill have, with commendable prudence, avoided the Christian issue. In fact it is impossible, as it seems to me, to defend this particular form of activity by any principle that emerges from the Christian faith. It is not impossible to commend it in terms of the practice of the Christian Church, for bullfighting in Spain is an example of what seems to me to be the total failure of the Church to recognise brutality where it sees it and to condemn it where it finds it.

I think I ought to say that it would be dangerous for any spokesman on behalf of the Christian faith to believe that this particular sport is condemned in Scripture. The unfortunate fact, for those who quote proof text, is that you can find text, if you search diligently enough, to support any proposition, from killing witches to making wars or enjoining upon women to keep quiet in church. I do not substantiate the claim in terms either of practice of the Church or any particular interpretation of Holy Writ. But thus sport, so-called, is totally and absolutely against the spirit of Jesus Christ, and it has been overtly and repeatedly condemned by the Churches in this country. I would refer, in the presence of my friends of the Anglican Communion, to the fact that they have on record their strong and quite clear condemnation of this sport, so called; the Methodist Church and other Churches have repeatedly expressed their detestation of it officially: and whatever may happen to-morrow in the affairs that belong to Methodist, Anglican, Communion and Reunion, we are at least agreed that for a Christian or a would-be Christian the practice of this kind of sport is out.

What are the particular objections raised to this Bill? I listened with care to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, who seemed to me to give the impression that hare coursing bestowed some kind of kindness upon the hare, and that it would suffer much worse if it were not so humanely and considerately despatched. I will not spend any time in bleeding the heart for these people who otherwise would be prevented from exercise in the open air, for it seems to me that the exercise is carried on mainly by the animals and not by the human beings. This of course is tommy rot. The plain fact—and we all know it—is that the particular practice is for the pleasure of those who indulge in it. It is not for ecology or conservation of the species.

This leads me to the weakest spot of all in the Report of Scott Henderson, not I think sufficiently clearly brought out as yet. The evaluation of that Report, which seems to suggest, and in various places does overtly say, that the amount of cruelty is not greater than that which would be obtained from shooting as another method of conservation, falls completely to the ground, because hare coursing has nothing to do with conservation; and those noble Lords who have talked at large about the necessity of caring for the hare, conserving the brown hare and so forth, are talking without any evidence to support them—evidence which the Scott Henderson Report looked at, and declared in other passages to be totally irrelevant and not true. It is not a question of caring for the hare and conserving the species. It is simply a question of the preservation of a sport in which human beings find their pleasure in a form of violence. To that I cannot give my agreement, and I invite this House to give its total disagreement.

If it be argued, as again it has been argued, that this is the thin end of the wedge, I must say that I find this an extraordinary proposition to come from noble and learned Lords, who would profess, surely, that every case in which they are invited to form a judgment and upon which they have to form an opinion should be treated on its own merits, and not confused with the possible repercussions on future occasions, which might be of a very different nature. This to me is legal nonsense, and I hope that the House will agree. If it be argued—and there are those who are still of the opinion—that here is an exercise in contravening the laws of Nature, then may I detain your Lordships for little while in order to remind myself, and perhaps remind your Lordships, that this idea that we stand in some Olympian detachment from the world of nature, looking upon it and culling our evidence from its practices, is a very curious form of self-delusion. We ourselves are the most sophisticated, if not the most intelligent and worthwhile, product and specimen of the world of nature, and we should not be here unless we had combated, and indeed repudiated, many of the practices which some noble Lords have regarded as inevitable and have almost coated with the veneer of respectability. It is only because we have been prepared to recognise higher values than those which belong to the lower creation, and to espouse them, that we have been able to emerge from the slime, and indeed from "Nature red in tooth and claw".

I wonder how many noble Lords have the experience of knowing what has happened in the great game reserves, and the way in which many animals have begun to change their habits for the better, and to tolerate, and finally command, conditions in which the kind of savagery to which their forefathers or their predecessors were committed has changed. I happen to believe—though it is a far cry— that when man begins to apply the principles which he has so long neglected in the affairs which belong to his own species; when he begins to apply those Christian principles to the world of nature, the world which has been so in-temperately called by some people "red in tooth and claw", he will find a response there. It would not surprise me a bit if one of the answers to the problem: how does man get rid of war? is: how does man begin to repudiate some of the worst practices towards what he is pleased to call the lower creation?

This, my Lords, is a very bad, a silly and unworthy practice. Let no one be under any misapprehension that it involves an intolerable amount of suffering; that it degrades those who take part in it. In a world of violence and blood, I should have thought it would be an easement of the human spirit for Members of this House to strike even a small blow for the reduction of the total amount of violence, for by so doing I think it would make for a better world for themselves and for those who come after them.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and reverend Lord who has just spoken said that in this debate he had heard only a ragbag of irrelevancies. I hope that I can do better than that. Before commenting on the Bill, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness who introduced it on the fact that it is commendably short. I am afraid that, so far as I am concerned, there the bouquets must cease. It is pertinent to this Bill first to discuss what I call the anti-field sports brigade. These people are divided into two groups. One group, who in my opinion do not understand the situation, have my respect; but the other group are really unworthy of your Lordships' attention, because that group object to field sports, which they regard as the pastime of the rich and the privileged, or, if you like, on grounds of class. Those are unworthy motives, and I will not discuss them further. Before coming to the group that I admire, may I point out that where coursing is concerned, membership of all clubs shows only 7.3 per cent, of landowners as members. I agree that to-day there are very few landowners who are really rich—certainly I am not. If you look through the membership of these coursing clubs, you see the butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers, and 22 per cent. of the membership are town dwellers. There is a large percentage of farmers—18 per cent.—but the members are mostly ordinary people.

I come now to the group who oppose blood sports, and who, as I say, I respect. They oppose blood sports because they think them cruel, and especially because they do not like cruelty to wild animals. Anyone who dislikes cruelty must command our admiration, because cruelty is a most despicable vice. But they make their mistake in attributing to animals their own emotions. All my life I have lived with animals. I have bred animals and have been brought up to take part in blood sports, as were my people for generations before me; so, if I may say so, I do know what I am talking about. Although some of us may underestimate the intelligence of certain animals, the hunted stag, fox or hare does not worry about his wives or children, knows nothing of death and does not need to worry about making a will; but he certainly has an instinct for self-preservation, and he knows fear. I have studied wild animals at first hand and they show no apprehension of death. In fact, hunted animals sometimes behave with extraordinary nonchalance. For instance, I have seen a fox, with hounds not so far behind, turn aside to chase a rabbit—he cannot have known what was coming to him!

We have heard a great deal about pain in this debate. Of course, we do not know how much pain is felt by animals, but presumably (as with human beings) the more sensitive the animal the more pain is felt. But what we do know is that when animals (or human beings) are under great stress or excitement they do not feel the pain they would feel in cold blood. I remember my father telling me how he got four bullets through his back. He did not feel anything and it was only two or three days afterwards that he experienced any aches. I have seen a horse out hunting with half his flank torn off on going through a gate. The horse seemed perfectly willing to go on despite this injury though it was naturally stopped instantly. I have seen deer shot by poachers grazing with half their entrails out, and have myself gone out to shoot them. I submit that those animals cannot have been feeling pain. Of course the nerves of such animals may have been numbed by a bullet. We have to be careful when we are talking about such things not to jump to conclusions.

To look at the matter logically, perhaps we may consider the rat. The rat is an intelligent, sensitive animal; it is in fact more intelligent than the stag—yet we poison rats with the most cruel poisons. We give them phosphorus, which slowly burns them up so they get a terrible thirst and are in great pain. But I see no Bill for the protection of rats. Yet, my Lords, when the hunted stag turns at bay, the huntsman comes along and shoots him dead, so that he suffers a far more humane death than the rat. Anyone who studies this matter will know that the rat is an intelligent and sensitive animal; but people do not care about rats because the rat, to the average person, is a loathsome animal. The stag appears to most people as a beautiful animal, and so people allow their emotions to get the better of them.

Consider the case of an old lady going for a walk in the autumn sunshine: she disturbs a cock pheasant in the hedgerow. That old lady is being just as cruel as the man who comes along with a gun and shoots that bird, because the cock pheasant has no apprehension of death—when he is shot, he is shot; but what does cause him apprehension is when a foreign body disturbs his habitat, and so he goes cackling away over the autumn stubble. That is where the cruelty comes in; so we must blame the old lady just as much as the man with the gun. We must preserve a sense of proportion and we must be logical. This House must not gain the reputation for being illogical in its legislation.

My Lords, I suppose I should now turn to the Bill—but I have been rather enjoying myself. I have attended a few coursing meetings, and sometimes I have been out with just two or three friends and a couple of dogs. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross appeared to think that if this Bill became law it would affect all types of coursing. Perhaps I misunderstood him: of course it does not. What I find completely nonsensical about the Bill is the fact that it affects only coursing meetings. There would be nothing to stop a farmer, a miner with his whippets or a gipsy with his lurcher, going out to course hares if this Bill became law. This would make death more cruel for the hare, because if the ordinary man is going out with a couple of dogs he does not give the hare a hundred yards start. It may be very open country with no sanctuaries, and the hare will probably be killed. But at a coursing meeting, in my experience anyway, although I do not know whether this is in the N.C.C. rules, the hare always has some cover because there is a bit of kale or other cover, and if the hare is strong he will get there. But if you are going out coursing with a couple of dogs there are no such sanctuaries, except of course by chance.

So, with all due respect to the noble Baroness, I think that this Bill is absolutely nonsensical. The coursed hare is to some extent protected by the rules of the N.C.C. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, told us that between 25 and 30 per cent., or under exceptional conditions of mud perhaps 40 per cent., of hares are killed at coursing meetings. Well, that is not so with a private individual. If you go out to get a hare for the pot, of course you go out to kill it; but, as was pointed out the object of coursing meetings is to test dogs. The noble and learned Lord also pointed out that coursing under the N.C.C. rules lasts only about 35 seconds and that on the whole hares are killed instantaneously. I imagine that this happens about 85 per cent. of the time. To prove this, all hares killed at coursing meetings go for human consumption, and if they were torn about that would not be possible. Many of us are probably sick and tired of seeing the photograph in the Press of two greyhounds having a tug-of-war with the hare. That photograph has been going the rounds for years—that hare was dead before the tug-of-war took place. We have to remember that all the hares coursed are wild. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said that they were driven in to the place where the coursing was to take place, but the coursing ground is not enclosed in any way and they do have the sanctuaries that I have mentioned.

However, there is one thing to which I really must object. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, said—and I can shoot him down here—that coursing did no good for the conservation of the species. With due respect, the noble Lord is completely wrong, and I will tell him why. As the noble Lord will know—at least, I presume he will know—all predators prey on the weak. The Eskimos have a saying that "the wolf keeps the caribou herds plentiful and strong". The reason they say is because the wolf kills only the weak. Therefore no Eskimo will shoot a wolf. If you have a properly regulated coursing meeting it is the very strong hares that get away and they therefore ensure the survival of the fittest. If all coursing meetings were abolished, though only a small number of hares are killed, many more hares would have to be shot, which is more cruel. As we have heard, many hares would be wounded. May I quote the Scott Henderson Report? It states: There can be no comparison between the lingering death of a hare that is shot and wounded and the quick death of a hare that is coursed and caught. That is perfectly true. Anyone who has taken part in a farmer's hare shoot knows that it is a most terrifying experience. The people shooting often are inexperienced, they are usually bad shots, they are highly unsafe and it is most unpleasant.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount? He challenged me on a point which will bear a little investigation. In the Second Reading of the Hare Coursing Bill, held in another place on May 14, 1970, it was stated that the Departmental Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals under the chairmanship of Mr. Scott Henderson, which reported in 1951, indicated very clearly that the principal object of coursing was sport, and in the view of the Committee it could not be regarded as a method of control. The speaker went on to say that his right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, confirmed that coursing made no contribution to the control of hares and if abolished would in no way add to farmers' problems.


My Lords, the National Coursing Club has never made the claim, and I would certainly not make the claim, that coursing is carried on for the control of hares. If you abolish coursing farmers would not tolerate hares on their lands. They would probably shoot them and eventually you would have the extermination of the brown hare. The brown hare is already sadly declining in numbers owing to mechanical farming, chemical sprays and so on. It has been said that hares that are coursed, if not killed by the dogs, often die of exhaustion. That is complete nonsense. I have studied Nature enough to know and admire the handicraft of Nature and how beautifully she creates her works. Nature has created the hare to preserve itself by its great speed. It does not fit in with the law of nature for a hare to be created which would die from exhaustion after being chased for 30 or 40 seconds. The Scott Henderson Report said that there was no reliable evidence to support the view expressed about exhaustion.

The sad commentary on this type of legislation is that those who wish to abolish field sports in the mistaken belief that by so doing they are preserving wild life are in fact doing the reverse. Field sports, provided that they are carried out according to strict codes of conduct, as has been the case with generations of men who have rural backgrounds, have preserved for our generation many of the wild animals that we still have. If there were not the protection afforded by field sports and selective culling, the stag, fox and hare would probably have vanished a long time ago. I suppose there are some abolitionists who would welcome the extermination of these species under the mistaken impression that they are avoiding cruelty by so doing. Such people show an amazing lack of knowledge of wild animals. As has been brought out in this debate, very few wild animals die a painless death. Animals die of starvation when their teeth have gone. When an animal gets old he is pulled down by some predator. If he is a large animal, like a deer, he may get a lung infection, lung worm or some chronic infection. No wild animals die a comfortable death in a bed.

My Lords, I am going to end now. I suppose that one day people will come to understand that though we now get millions of people, pouring out from the cities in their tin gods to roar through the countryside, and no doubt they admire a clump of trees—


My Lords, will the noble Viscount forgive me? He has not quite explained why it is not inhumane to shoot a deer but inhumane to shoot a hare.


My Lords, I will answer the noble Baroness with the greatest pleasure. It is inhumane to shoot a hare because you shoot a hare with a shot gun. If you do not shoot it at very close range and are not accurate you will wound it. If you shoot it over thirty yards you will probably wound it. When you are shooting a stag you do so with a high velocity rifle. You do not shoot the stag until you are absolutely certain that you will shoot him through the heart stone dead. He is a stag selected to be shot because of his age or type. If you are shooting hares you shoot any hare that gets up. You ought not to shoot at hares over twenty-five yards, but a great many people do. You cannot really compare the two.

I was referring to the abolitionists and from where they get their support. We have millions of people going into the country to-day (and it is a very good thing that they go to the country) and they admire the colours on a hill or the outline of a wood. It is difficult to explain this and I do not want to be offensive in any way; but to them, if they are townspeople—and it is nothing to do with intelligence, it is a matter of upbringing—it is like a lifeless tableau: the trees and the hills might well be made of plastic. They think it is as easy to rearrange those as the furniture in their drawing-rooms. They do not understand the organic form of nature or the ecological or biological processes that have gone on for millions of years to create these things. Until people understand this, you will always have this ignorance regarding the countryside and everything that goes on in the countryside.

My Lords, I have spoken for too long; but I should like to end by saying that I have no hesitation in expressing the view that if coursing under the code of rules of the N.C.C. were abolished you would be doing the brown hare a disservice. You would not be helping conservation. I fully appreciate that the noble Baroness who introduced the Bill has done so with the best intentions. She obviously belongs to the second group who dislike cruelty, and not to the first group that I mentioned in my speech. If you do away with field sports you are going against the conservation of nature, because field sports—call them predator sports if you like—have through the ages conserved nature. Therefore, my Lords, if this Bill goes to a Division I shall vote against it.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Bill before the House. I do so because of my experience in life in this particular field. So I will not quote from the Scott Henderson Report but will speak about my experiences in life at the Waterloo and whippet racing in the North-East among the miners. I have never owned a whippet or a greyhound, but I have in the past helped those who in those days trained them for the courses. Their sport in the main is whippets and greyhounds. The miners are not rich but they do indulge in this sport. For them it was a matter of pride, as it is for the speaker before me in these days. In the old days the whippets used to be run at live rabbits. At that time rabbits were regarded as vermin, which was a justification for the sport.

In those days when a man got a whippet puppy the first thing he had to train it to do was to kill: it was no use keeping a whippet unless it would kill. It is the same with a greyhound on coursing: if it will not kill, it is not much use. People used to train whippets in the old days by getting rats, knocking their teeth out so they could not bite the puppy, and teaching the puppy to kill by that method. Whippet racing in those days was like course racing to-day. It goes on on a great scale, and bookmakers on courses shout the odds and owners back their dogs. The dogs are on the leash barking madly, knowing what is to come. Years ago rabbits in boxes were brought from their habitat miles away and were put down on the course. The rabbits were terrified by the barking of the dogs, in an area of which they knew nothing. Fifty yards from the start the rabbit was placed, and at the same time two men had two dogs, ready to slip them. The rabbit started to run, in a strange land with the two whippets bearing down upon it; and the rabbit never had a chance. The first dog to catch it and to bite it won the race. Always as the first dog got the rabbit, the second one came up and got hold of it, and it was torn between the two of them. When the tug-of-war was over the mutilated beast was taken from the dog's mouth. The solicitous owners, in the name of sport, would caress their dog, wipe its mouth carefully and take away the fur and the blood from its jaws.

Thank God! so far as County Durham is concerned, among my people with their whippets, all this has now gone. First myxomatosis took away the rabbits, and took toll of them in a wholesale manner. None could be got. It was a godsend in disguise. The sport is still carried on in my county. On the courses now there is a drum at the finishing line. The wire is pulled out to 50 yards from the trap, and at the end of the wire is a rabbit skin. As the drum coils around at a fast rate the whippets are released and the first to pass the line wins the race. Whippet racing goes on to-day without the horrible spectacle that I saw years ago, of rabbits being pulled to pieces. Rabbits are not vermin to-day. Many working people know that to their cost. They now pay 5s. 6d. a pound for rabbit in the butcher's shop if they want a little bit of rabbit for their dinner—they are golden rabbits now.

I now come to greyhound coursing. I have been to greyhound coursing and I can tell your Lordships something about it. It is many years ago since I went, but it is still the same sport. The first thing about it is that when the greyhound is a puppy, if you are coursing him, you must teach him to kill, because in the race you get two points for turning the hare; you get two points for leading up to the hare, and points for the kill. That is the lovely sport we are talking about! Now, where was there any fairness for the hare in the Waterloo on these courses? The whippets chase the hare at a different place from its track. It take a very good greyhound to catch a hare that is on its track; it is when the hare is off the track that it is bewildered and the greyhounds are likely to get it. I should like to see a greyhound catch the hare when it is on its track in its own habitat. It is when the hare if off its track, out of its habitat, that the greyhound can deploy what is known as "the Waterloo". The same happens at the Waterloo as happened at whippet racing years ago. If you have two huge greyhounds deploying a hare, if one turns it the hare turns to the other one; that one bites it and then the other one bites it as well. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, spoke about hares getting away. Not many hares get away in the Waterloo Cup, my Lords: take it from me; and I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen hares torn in two when they have been beaten off their track by greyhounds. When the tug-of-war is over there is the same procedure that we saw at whippet racing years ago.

This is not control of wild life. It is sheer cruelty of the worst form. At the Waterloo the booking fraternity are present; there are national sweeps on the Cup. There are generally 52 dogs and 26 heats until, after the elimination, it comes to the final. You can back a number and trust to luck, and, as I said, there are points for turning the hare, leading to the hare, and for the kill. This so-called sport is just brutal. If you want to see greyhounds run, I suggest that they are run on the greyhound tracks after an electric hare, and not run after hares in the field in the brutal manner that I have seen. Of course, man being what he is, if he has a lurching dog he will naturally go into a field and his dog will kill the hare. But as the noble Lord who preceded me forgot to say, if the man is caught he can be charged with poaching on the land on which he has allowed the dog to catch the hare. This sport is absolutely commercialised for profit. The hare is the victim of absolutely unfair circumstances, and as a result of my experience of all this I am glad to support the noble Baroness in her Bill.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot. I should like, if I may, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Margadale, for letting me "hop the queue", because I have to go to an important meeting in a matter of minutes. That speech from Henry V which begins, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends", is perhaps appropriate to-night with 21 people speaking on the same subject, but I do not think we should look on Shakespeare quite in the context that I have quoted: surely this Bill would come better out of Much Ado About Nothing.

Of the coursing clubs of Britain there are only about 23 left, because they were more or less wiped out by the Ground Game Act—the rabbits and hares Act passed by Mr. Gladstone in 1880—and those noble Lords who have spoken too much about humanities and cruelty are clearly people who can dissociate themselves from all the terribly unattractive things that happen in the animal kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke about the horrors of bullfighting, but I should like to tell your Lordships that in the main bullfighting is kept alive by the British tourist, so there must be a great many black sheep in that noble Lord's flock.

What I should like to speak about quite briefly to-night is not vivisection, not the horrible things that are done to Rhesus monkeys, but the selection of the species, which has been touched on shortly by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrards. Surely we can think rather less for a moment about the hare and think a little about the types of dog that are raised to course that hare. I do not have to tell anyone in this Chamber that animal breeding is selective and that one can get results only by trial and error. There are many breeds of dog which bring in money to their owners, if they are of a mercenary turn of mind—although I think more people love their dogs for what they are—and they try to improve on them by breeding better and bigger dogs and smaller puppies.

The great breeders in the animal kingdom are those who have survived against the shrinking habitat, against disease and against all the numerous obstacles which are placed in the way of any animal. But it is just the same for a domesticated animal as for a wild one, and with due respect to the noble Baroness who presented this Bill there is nothing crueller than a little lapdog being kept on a lead and being given chocolates and never let out for a run. If you want to breed a good greyhound, a good saluki, a good whippet, a deerhound, or even a lurcher, they have to prove themselves. This has rather been overlooked in this debate so far and I hope it will be borne in mind when an attempt is made to bring down the "big stick" on a very small number of country people who enjoy their country lives in the old way, in the manner in which they were born. "All men are equal on or under the turf"—coursing or racing. The community thrives on the sort of holiday which perhaps the noble Baroness would think is a brutal one. I cannot follow her point of view at all.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is getting late and I do not want to detain your Lordships for long. I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness on the way in which she put forward this Bill and on the moderation with which she did so. But, having said that, I must add that I do not agree with her. I have always been interested in dogs of various sorts, as a breeder, an owner, a would-be trainer and a would-be handler. Perhaps they are rather more difficult things to do than may be readily said in a speech, but I have no direct connection with a "long dog"—that is to say, a greyhound, a whippet or a lurcher—which are the main concern of this particular Bill. But I should say that several of my family—two grandchildren and I think now also another granddaughter—own whippets. Within the' last week the granddaughter has acquired a driving licence, and I feel that she is much more likely to do herself harm with that than with the whippet.

I do not pretend to be an expert on coursing as a whole, but I want to take up one or two points that have been made during the debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, spoke of the position of the police and of the time consumed by many different police duties at the present time. It so happens that within the past few weeks I attended a court when four gentlemen were on a charge of walking on Government land with four dogs. A long argument and a good deal of evidence were put forward. There were many rights of way in the area and inevitably, after 10 policemen had been kept in court the whole morning, the case was dismissed through lack of evidence. That just shows what can upset the time of the police, who are fully pressed in their work in many fields at the present time.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Templemore, who said that there were two sorts of dogs: those who chased by sight and those who chased by smell. But in fact any of them, unless they are rather carefully trained not to do so, will chase a four-legged animal, given half a chance. As I see it, while Clause 1 of this Bill aims at making it illegal for a coursing meeting (or what is known as a coursing meeting at the present time) to be held, if it were found that two people out for a walk with two dogs had had a bet on the event, they also would be committing an offence. Indeed, the farmer or the owner of the land on which the incident happened could be prosecuted for allowing it to happen, though it would be a difficult and complicated case to prove in law.

There is one other point which I should like to make, quite briefly. The Scott Henderson Report has been mentioned from both sides of the House, as has the Stable Report. But since these two Reports were made no action by any Government, of either Party, has taken place, so they were presumably satisfied that there was not a case for further legislation. Since those Reports were made, in fact, certain recommendations contained in both those Reports have been put into the rules by the responsible bodies of coursing. That is something which I think must be remembered when a Bill such as this is put forward: that they do it with every feeling in their heart as to what they should do. I hope that, particularly having in mind the liberties of owners of dogs, this Bill will not receive a Second Reading, and that other ways of humanitarianism in the animal world will come first. I hate to see, as one often does, a number of dogs shut in a car without open windows. I consider that this leads to much more cruelty than is likely to happen to the 600 hares mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, a few days ago I received a typewritten circular, headed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, inviting me to attend this debate and vote for the Bill. I feel a duty to those who were kind enough to be aware of my existence, if not of my views, to say a few words. I want to explain, in view of what I shall say briefly, that I was coming in any case, but that having been invited I have paid very special attention to what was said by the noble Baroness and by the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, whose name I think was also on the paper. I want to congratulate the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, who spoke in a sense contrary to my own views, on the extreme good humour and gloved-handed treatment to all opponents. That I appreciate, because there has been quite a lot of passion on one side or the other. I realise that when I sit down by some people I shall be dubbed as something less than a Christian. Never mind. I address my remarks in response to the noble Baroness who opened the debate so graciously.

I want to join issue on three matters. Coursing is said to be unique and it is also said that one should take each item on its merits. I feel it impossible to accept that. You have coursing, which is two greyhounds after a hare; you have beagling, which is a number of hounds after a hare with most people on foot; you have harriers, which is a number of hounds after a hare with most people on horseback; and you have fox hunting—and sometimes harriers and the foxhounds are not distinguishable. You have stag hunting as well, which is a number of hounds after one animal and there is falconry, which is a beast after a beast. In that respect, all these activities resemble each other so very closely; some beast is trained to chase others. There was a weakness, I thought, in the case of those who argued that we must regard this as unique, simply because they did not do it themselves. The noble Baroness asked us to put this in the same category as cock fighting, bear, bull and badger baiting. The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, mentioned cock fighting; that we should treat this in the same way. I have never been one who would have wished, had it come in my time, to oppose cock fighting, because it is one of these so-called "sports" where two creatures want to get at each other; it is not a case of one pursuing the other and the other fleeing, because if that happens the contest is over. I should be willing to vote for the restoration of what I regard as the miners' fun, cock fighting. The Bill to which we are asked to give a Second Reading cannot logically be separated and distinguished from half a dozen other forms of sports, two of them concerned with hares.

Another factor on which I think the arguments have not been persuasive in any way is the question of the percentage of escapes. I cannot see what difference it makes what percentage of hares escape. You judge it on the one that does not escape. We do not, when we take our lambs to the slaughter-house, count it to our credit if one escapes and runs down the road and lives to bleat another day. It is, of course, a sporting factor, but it is not a humanitarian factor, and I cannot see why it is held to be more humanitarian if more escape and less if none escape.

I accept most readily that the case does not rest on control, so far as I am aware. It does not rest on the control of a very attractive animal which might multiply excessively. I accept the argument that but for coursing some of these hares would not be there at all; they would not be bred; they would not be imported, and there would be less hares. If there were the same numbers they have to die somehow, and I agree with those noble Lords who have said that the ways of nature are not kind, and that they have got to die somehow. If you question the inflication of pain and death, I wonder whether you are not tempted towards the blasphemy of Omar Khayyam: What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake? I think we must accept nature as we find it and not be too ignorant of the fact that we breed lambs for the mint sauce.

As a matter of interest, and by way of analogy, I traced the history of the Exmoor stag, because I happen to live there. They were virtually extinct between Waterloo and the Crimea, when there was no hunting, and it was only the hunt that brought them into existence. They are such delightful creatures, and without the hunt I do not believe they would be there. If there were no hunt, you would still have to decide how to cull them. You must cull; you cannot let things multiply for ever. Hunting is one of the ways in which it is done. It is the common factor between hares and stags, that neither would be there at all in some of these areas but for the hunting. If we like to have them and if we enjoy them, how are we going to cull them?—because that has to happen in the end.

The noble Baroness made our flesh creep a little with references to screams and strangling. You have only to chase a hare a little way before they scream. When I was a boy and could run faster I used to chase the young ones. I remember that they started screaming very quickly. They make a most distressing noise like a baby being brutalised. It is most harrowing. But strangling is not the way you are taught to kill a hare or rabbit. You take it by the hind legs and separate its head from the rest of its body. I was brought up to do it and I have done it hundreds of times. I was told that it was the quickest death you can inflict. It is not strangling and it is not associated with screaming.

With those few adverse comments, which I regret because of the invitation I received and its source, I must say that I shall vote against this Bill, as I would for the collection of sports to which it belongs.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have two regrets: the first is that the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, did not think fit to send me an invitation such as she has to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. No doubt she assumed that I would not be open to her persuasive influence. The second regret is that owing to judicial duties I was unable to hear her speech and the speeches of the four others who followed her. That is my loss. I have no doubt she made the case for a bad Bill as persuasively and as well as it could possibly be made, and I regret very much not having heard what she said because I have heard her on many previous occasions and I have always found that in the course of her speech she has provided me with plenty of material for my own.


My Lords, if the noble and learned Viscount will allow me to say so, I am sorry he did not get one of my letters. Maybe it is not because I thought he would not agree with me. I naturally assumed that he would be in favour of any Bill I introduced and he would not need a letter.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has made an assump tion—I think the first assumption she has ever made about my conduct.

My Lords, I should like to come to the substance of this Bill. The debate has covered a wide range and I do not propose to go over all the ground that has been so ably and fully covered already. There was the noble Lord, Lord Blyton—I was surprised about this—who seemed to think that one argument to be advanced in favour of the Bill was that it would prevent bookmakers from taking bets on dogs. That, I thought, was rather astonishing. But surely the main issue here is whether the practice of coursing does involve an unacceptable degree of cruelty in this age. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, said—I heard his speech—that there was incontrovertible evidence that it caused more cruelty than other forms of sport. He did not bother to produce any evidence in support of that statement. I must say to him, with the greatest respect, that I can only regard that as showing his ignorance of field sports in general, because I should say that it was patently not the case.

I have never engaged in coursing—I am hardly of the right figure to do it—but I do enjoy shooting. I do not enjoy shooting hare, because if one happens to wound a hare one knows that it will go away and die, perhaps in great agony, many days later. Therefore I would say, without any hesitation at all, that the wounding of hares by a shot-gun can be far, far more cruel than the death of a hare by coursing. But the noble Lord, Lord Soper, says that there is incontrovertible evidence that the coursing of hares is more cruel than any other form of sport. I would say that that was wrong. I took a note of it when he said it. My Lords, what are the facts? As I understand it, it is a. small proportion of the hares coursed that are killed. Is it suggested that they suffer pain during the coursing? I have a labrador dog which is very badly behaved and will insist on chasing hares. I cannot stop her. I have never seen the hare show the slightest sign of distress. I do not think that during the actual course there is any cruelty. So it comes down to this: is there cruelty in killing the small number of hares which are killed as a result of coursing? So far as I can learn, the vast majority of those hares are killed instantaneously, as painlessly as could be. Some, it may be true, do undergo some degree of suffering. One has seen this photograph, widely distributed, of greyhounds holding on to a hare, whether dead or alive. But I must say that even if some suffering is entailed in the death, the death takes place in a very short space of time—not days, not weeks, but within seconds.

What we are asked to do is to say that this sport which gives pleasure to a very considerable number of people should be prohibited because a part of the small percentage of hares killed in coursing may suffer some pain, and perhaps no more pain than they would suffer in the course of death in the ordinary, natural course of events. My Lords, I must say I have not understood—perhaps I should have understood if I had heard the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon—why it is that on this occasion coursing has been selected for attack. I remember a debate no less than 23 years ago in another place, on another Bill, a debate in which I in fact spoke. I am not going to ask anyone to read the speech I made, but that was on the Protection of Animals (Hunting and Coursing Prohibition) Bill. Some of your Lordships now present no doubt will remember that Bill. It sought to prohibit the hunting of any deer, otter or badger or the coursing of any hare or rabbit. But coursing was defined somewhat differently than in this Bill. It was the coursing of any hare or rabbit as to which previous steps had been taken to reduce it into possession or to circumscribe the area of its removement. Under that Bill, supported by the same bodies as support this Bill, coursing in the form that now takes place would be largely permissible.

Why is it that we have this very narrowly drawn Bill applying only to one sport? The noble Lord, Lord Soper, seemed to object to references being made to its being the thin edge of the wedge, but I cannot ignore the fact that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is opposed to all hunting for sport: of foxes, deer, hares and otters, and to shooting and fishing for sport. The League Against Cruel Sports and the Society for the Abolition of Cruel Snorts, so far as I can gather, regard any field sport enjoyed in the countryside in which the death of an animal or fish may be involved as a cruel sport. My Lords, I simply cannot go along with that. In my belief the case for this Bill has not been made out, and that being so I shall enjoy, for once, being consistent and shall vote against this Bill, as I voted against the earlier Bill in 1949.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, I am going to be very unpopular on this side of the House when I vote against the Bill, but so far as I can see it is a badly worded Bill. Two neighbours cannot compete their dogs, one against the other, without; breaking the law. This law would be impossible to enforce, and therefore it would be a bad law. The rights of the individual are in danger. Let: those who do not approve of coursing stay away. Let those who enjoy it as a test of their dog continue to do so. Hare shooting is far more cruel. I was brought up in Yorkshire where a thousand hares a day were shot at Waiter Priory on my grandfather's estate. How many were wounded? My Lords, to obtain hare conservation plant half an acre of parsley. Hares love it and will flock in from all the surrounding neighbourhoods and come and eat it.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, many hares have been started in your Lordships' House this afternoon in the debate on the Bill which the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, has introduced to make hare coursing illegal in England—indeed, to abolish it. All your Lordships will agree with me, I think, when I say that I am sure the noble Baroness has introduced this Bill mainly on the ground that the coursing of hares is cruel. With the greatest respect and courtesy, I would suggest that the noble Baroness is under a misconception. The brown hare suffers a far worse fate through the balance of Nature, or in the shooting field at the hands of a man who is not a good shot.

Your Lordships have heard many arguments and opinions this afternoon both for and against the Bill. For my part, I am against the Bill, and in declaring where I stand I would mention that I have attended coursing meetings and also that I have read a great deal that has been written on the subject. I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than four minutes to state some of my main reasons for opposing this Bill. Among my reasons one or two stand out. First of all, coursing, in the true sense of the word as applied in this country, is the sport of proving the greater merit of two greyhounds in their competitive pursuit of a hare which has greater knowledge of the layout of the land on which it is being coursed. The National Coursing Club of England has laid down very stringent rules, and among them you will find that rule 41, which to me is a very important one, insists that a hare may not be coursed unless it has been at liberty for not less than six months on the land on which it is to be coursed. Under this rule the hare has an advantage over the greyhounds; it is fully aware of its many escape routes, where the greyhounds are not.

On many estates where coursing competitions take place special escapes, known as "soughs", are arranged for the hares to run into, and these are in addition to all forms of natural and purpose-made cover, such as fields of roots, kale and potatoes. The hare's greater knowledge of the terrain is of great help to it, for greyhounds pursue their quarry by sight alone and not by scent. In the past, there has been criticism from a body of people with regard to fencing used in coursing areas. Once again this is to the advantage of the hare, for it is large enough for the hare to run through but too small for the greyhounds to negotiate.

Next, I would like to bring to your Lordships' attention that, under another stringent rule, dogs are not slipped until the hare has from 80 to 100 yards start. Again they are slipped only to course a robust hare, which will truly test the ability of the competing dogs. In this conection, every coursing man wants strong hares that can evade capture and really test his dog. If a strike takes place which results in a kill, only one point is awarded for a clean kill; and from careful records which have been kept over the years it is shown that nearly 75 per cent. of the hares coursed evade capture. I am not speaking about the Waterloo Cup, of which the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, spoke. I would say to the noble Baroness that I think his figures may be correct.

I would remind your Lordships that when a kill results after a strike the hare is dead almost instantaneously. The greyhound has powerful and long jaws—which have been referred to by the noble Baroness—which aim at, and if successful immediately break, the hare's back. Only one point is awarded for a successful strike under National Coursing Club rules. The majority of scoring points are awarded for the abilities the greyhound shows when coursing behind the hare, and in particular for the dogs' agility when turning, and so on. A course usually lasts for 45 seconds, or a little longer. A gross misconception is rife, I believe, that suffering exists for a robust hare which has evaded the greyhounds, as is often the case. I would stress to your Lordships that untrue stories have been put around that a coursed hare, if it survives, lives on with damaged lungs or a strained heart. There is no true factual evidence of this. After a coursing meeting the ground is immediately gone over by beaters and "pick-up" men to ensure that this does not happen. My Lords, the green book which I hold in my hand contains the 47 stringent rules of the National Coursing Club of England. How I wish that the critics of this 3,000 year old sport would read it! Perhaps then, and only then, plus a few visits to coursing meetings, will they decide that coursing is not cruel.

It is for the reasons I have mentioned, and for others which have been dealt with by other noble Lords and noble Baronesses, that I oppose the Bill. In doing so I would repeat that I am well aware of the sincerity with which the noble Baroness has introduced the Bill into your Lordships' House, but I feel it is our duty to show that the noble Baroness has many misconceptions with regard to hare coursing. It is a sport which is followed by people in all walks of life in this country, and I would ask your Lordships to allow its continuance by opposing this Bill. In resuming my seat, I would say I wish to-day we had been debating man's inhumanity to man, instead of the alleged cruelty of coursing hares. I am a lover of animals, and I wish to place on record the fact that I would not vote against the Bill if I felt that coursing was cruel. Finally, I would remind you of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, said with regard to any suffering on the part of the hare. I agree with the noble and learned Lord that if this Bill were passed, 600 hares could suffer worse fates, but I would put the number as larger than that.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Margadale, in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, on the charming way in which she moved the Bill before your Lordships, and also on the most restrained manner in which she put across all that she said. I congratulate, too, on their restraint the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and an expert in coursing affairs, her noble friend Lord Blyton. Your Lordships' House, as we have heard to-day, is a place where a minority interest in this country can be and is looked after; indeed that is the sole reason, or one of the main reasons, for your Lordships being here. There have been 16 speeches and when the noble Baroness comes to wind up the debate there will have been 17 speeches. Of the speakers only four have spoken for the noble Baroness's cause. I am surprised that there have not been more in your Lordships' House speaking on behalf of the noble Baroness in response to her charming letter (which, much to my regret, I, too, did not receive) to attend this House. I fear that, although speaking with great sincerity, the noble Baroness and her noble friends and friends outside this House, still do not understand the points of view that others have put forward in to-day's debate but, more important still, the views of the minority who enjoy and have their pleasure in coursing in the countryside.

I think that five speakers on the opposite side of the House are in favour of the noble Baroness's Bill, and the remainder are probably Conservative. But I do not believe that politics have anything to do with this subject. No prudent Conservative Member of Parliament would go to Altcar at the time of the Waterloo Cup to explain the benefits which will accrue from the Industrial Relations Act. Nor, indeed, would any Socialist go to a place where there are field sports to put over a Socialist point of view. Field sports are enjoyed by all strata of the community, by people of all politics and of all persuasions.

I come back to what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, as my noble friend Lord Colyton, who will speak at the end of this debate, had the misfortune to miss the noble Lord's speech owing to a business engagement. Probably the highlight of this debate was the pleasure of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Soper. Without a doubt, he is one of the finest speakers ever to have addressed this House. It is a great privilege and a pleasure to hear him make a speech, from the bottom of his heart and without a note, and some of us wish that we could emulate his style and his manner. But even with what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, have said, I cannot find any new item of cruelty or anything else to show why hare coursing should be made illegal, which was not brought before the Committee in 1951, a synopsis of whose findings many noble Lords have already received. I do not believe that any new case or new idea has been brought forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, is obviously a great expert. It is of advantage to the House that we are able to hear great experts in every field. I have never been coursing, but I am passionately keen on field sports. But I am talking about field sports which are run under a set of rules. The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, made it abundantly clear that in his day the rules were extremely sketchy. He talked about the horrible spectacle in those days of rabbits being killed. I wonder whether the noble Lord's colleagues felt then the same as he feels to-day. We heard from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, why rules were brought in, and that coursing is conducted according to rules, as indeed are all field sports in this country. Perhaps one may say that field sports are conducted in a far finer manner in this country than anywhere else in the world.

That brings me back to the subject of conservation, which was mentioned by so many speakers, although the noble Lord, Lord Soper, did not agree. Conservation is the art of keeping numbers of species in the right balance. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, the 1951 Report made it clear that cours ing could not possibly be a manner of control. It does not attempt to be a manner of control; it is a sport. But the Report went on to make the point in paragraph 280 that, without a doubt, were it not for coursing there would be very many fewer brown hares in those areas where coursing is carried on. I think that is probably very fair comment.

The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, suggested that coursing should be conducted entirely on greyhound tracks. An attractive argument can be put forward for the idea of using a drag line instead of fox hunting. But if that happens something has gone out of the sport, something has gone out of that area of the countryside, and, above all—and the point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Margadale—something has gone out of the lives and numbers of those very animals which the noble Baroness and her friends are trying to protect. Those animals will no longer exist. Certain animals are put up with in reasonable numbers by those who live in the country because they are interested in a particular sport; in this case, coursing. I shudder to think what would be the position of the hare population if, at the same time, the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, and his friends grew parsley as well.

As I said, I can see no further reasons for the noble Baroness's Bill than those considered by the Scott Henderson Committee. I believe that, in all sincerity, the noble Baroness and her friends are basing their desire for this Bill upon the misconceptions about field sports which are held by many people who have not gone out into the field, although I am quite sure that the noble Baroness herself and many of her friends have taken part. But many people show no willingness to see, to learn or to hear what is happening in field sports. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, said that it was pleasure only which made people go coursing. Is it pleasure or is it interest? The noble Lord is probably able to make a far better point than I, but I do not believe that people go coursing for the pleasure of seeing a hare killed. Perhaps they did in the day of the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, when there was a little more robustness and the rules were not practised. But I believe that to-day it is very largely the interest which attracts people.

I agree that it is difficult to answer the question: when is an interest not a pleasure? But I do not believe that people go for the pleasure of seeing the blood, or that it is a pleasure to hear a hare scream. I believe people go because of interest in the dog. Without a doubt, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, dog breeding is a great interest in this country. But, contrary to the impression which the noble Baroness and her friends gave, the hare is not quite such a helpless animal. She is extremely cunning, extremely fast and, over a distance, faster than the normal greyhound dog. She is equipped with a pair of eyes which, at pace, enable her to see behind. I suppose they are more bulbous than those of most animals and they are one of her defences. In making a turn, she is more than likely to give the slip to the dogs. Two dogs are necessary because one dog is being pitted against another. But one dog is a very poor match for a hare, and it will very seldom kill her or even keep up with her. It is the cleverness of the dog which makes the hare turn, and which creates the interest for those people who take part in this sport. I think the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, is really very pleased that this sport is now run under the rules of the Society and is carried on under the strictest supervision.

My Lords, rather than the noble Baroness and her friends—and I respect how they feel—trying to sway the great majority of the urban population against, in this case, hare coursing, and in due course, as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, intimated, other field sports, I would wish that they would go out (and I know that they would be welcomed) to see how the sport is run. Then, if they saw anything which was against the rules and the regulations laid down by the associations concerned, they could report it to one of the bodies, probably the R.S.P.C.A., for an investigation. They would equally be able to investigate through the British Field Sports Society, which is the governing body for all these rules mentioned by the noble Lord. I believe that in that way a great deal more good would be done from the humanitarian point of view of looking after the interests of the animal that is being pursued than by stirring up great trouble and disappointment and taking away the interest of a large number of people in the country by a majority who live in the towns.

I thank the noble Baroness for the way she introduced her Bill, and for her great courtesy and forbearance over what is normally a most emotional subject. I am quite sure that your Lordships will be voting to see that her Bill does not go through, while at the same time respecting her feelings and those of her noble friends.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I much regret that, owing to unavoidable and unforeseen circumstances, I was not able to be present at the beginning of this debate to hear the opening speeches. I was particularly sorry not to hear that of the noble Baroness who moved the Second Reading, to whom I offer my apologies. Many noble Lords, and now my noble friend Lord Bathurst, have paid tribute to the fair and very moderate way in which she stated her case, and I only regret that I was not here to hear it. I also regret not hearing the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, who speaks with such knowledge on this matter. Therefore, my Lords, I speak with particular diffidence, coming in at the end of this debate. However, I have read most of the debates which have taken place in another place from time to time, including the speech of the noble Baroness when she spoke for the Government of which she was then a member. That was in 1967, and on that occasion the then Government took a neutral position, although I think she herself did not. I have also read this masterly review on coursing by Mr. Owen Stable and Mr. Stuttard, to which I really believe—and I hope the noble Baroness will correct me if I am wrong—no real answer has been formulated this afternoon.

Now I would sincerely ask your Lordships to believe that I myself, having always been devoted to animals, hate unnecessary cruelty. But, then, what forms of cruelty are to be condemned and what forms are to be condoned? Is the fear which is suffered by hundreds of steers waiting shivering for the painless killer really any different in kind from the fear of the hunted hare? I find it very difficult to determine between the two. Both, I suppose, can be said to be enjoyment of one sort or another—enjoyment for food or enjoyment for sport. It is axiomatic that, if hares are to be allowed to continue to exist, their numbers need to be controlled. This can be done by shooting, by hunting by beagles or harriers, by trapping or by coursing. As a young man at Cambridge I took part in coursing meetings at Swaffham on the Isle of Ely, and enjoyed myself. Later, on horseback, in the cork woods of the Alentejo in Portgual, where one risks one's own neck as well as that of the horse, the hare and the hound all put together, I enjoyed myself in that mounted form of the sport.

I have also shot hares, as was mentioned by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in this country and I have shot them on the Continent; and I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the suffering of the hare which is shot or wounded is far greater than anything that occurs in coursing. The number of hares that die of gangrene or otherwise, having been shot in the shoulder or in the leg and having crawled away, is infinitely greater than anything which ever takes place in coursing. Then of course there is trapping, which I suppose would be advocated by some of those who advocate means of controlling the hare population, apart from shooting or other forms of hunting, and which is, I believe, the cruellest of all.

But, my Lords, coursing is also a sport. It is one of the most ancient of British sports. It is also carefully controlled by the National Coursing Club so as to minimise suffering and to ensure that the coursing of hares takes place, so far as possible, under the most natural conditions of the British countryside. I really believe that, in spite of the sincerity with which the opponents of hare coursing have deployed their case, their ideas as to what constitutes the sport are totally misconceived. This is not an aristocratic sport: there is support for it from all elements of the population—and not merely the rural population, but also from the industrial field. If an attempt is to be made to prohibit coursing, how is it to be defined in practice? How are you going to prevent, say, the noble Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and perhaps a friend, with their dogs, letting them run alongside one another and perhaps having a bet on the subject as they stroll round the covert?

Now the Report of the Scott Henderson Committee, which I suppose is the most important official pronouncement on this subject and which was published under the Labour Government (Command Paper 8266) in June, 1951, was quite categoric. It laid down that the degree of cruelty involved in the sport was not sufficient to ban it, and I do not believe that the position has changed in any way since that time. On the contrary, I think that the conditions and rules which govern the sport to-day are better than they were then. I believe that I am right in saying that in 1967 my old friend the late Lord Stonham proposed a review of coursing. When I was adopted Conservative can didate for Taunton and he was the sitting Member I remember his making a speech in favour of stag hunting up at Dulverton—and he did so for one reason alone. He realised that if stag hunting were allowed to die out, or were suppressed in that part of the country, the stag I would disappear. It would be shot in cruel ways; it would crawl away and die of gangrene, and the stag population of Exmoor would disappear. I believe that that is true of hare-hunting. whether it is by greyhound, by beagles or by harriers.

Finally, my Lords, there is one thing that I would draw to your Lordships' attention—it may have been mentioned earlier, before I came into the Chamber, or it may not. In another place on February 4 of this year, Mr. Price, when introducing a Bill identical to this one with a speech in which he imputed cruelty to those who enjoy coursing—quite sincerly, I have no doubt—openly admitted that this really was the thin end of the wedge against other field sports. With all respect to the noble Baroness, I believe that that is why we are presented with a Bill in this House on what is perhaps the most difficult form of field sports to justify. I believe that that is the reason, my Lords: I believe seriously that this is intended to be the thin end of the wedge. I am not presuming to attempt to wind up this debate, but I wish to say that I certainly intend to vote against the Second Reading, and I hope that it will be defeated.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, may I add just one thought to this discussion? We have been told that the pleasure derived from attending coursing meetings is motivated by delight in watching the speed and skill of the greyhound. If this is so—and I have no doubt it is—is it not a fact that incomparably more people can enjoy just this pleasure if the hare is electric?


My Lords, my name is not on the list of speakers. I had decided not to speak only because I thought I could not stay until the end of the debate, but I can say very briefly what I want to say. Personally, and rather marginally, I shall vote for this Bill; but I should like to put this point of view to your Lordships. Nearly everybody has talked about cruelty to the animal. This is, I agree, important in assessing whether the sport is or is not cruel compared with other activities. But a far more important factor, I think, is whether it is or is not a public spectacle. I do not mind about the people who participate in it, but if it draws large crowds, and they see animals being killed in this way it has a degrading effect on them. That I consider far more important than any arguments that have been put forward this afternoon about conservation, cruelty or anything else.


My Lords, I can express in a few sentences what I have to say. One of the great difficulties in any debate of this nature is that none of us really knows how animals feel. All we can do is to try to assess whether any particular human activity will help create a more humane society. In my view, the encouragement or the condoning of hare coursing cannot possibly have that effect—rather the reverse. For that reason, having listened to nearly all the speeches, I propose to vote for the Bill.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a very good and interesting debate. I should like to thank all those who have taken part, and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, who did very well a job which I had occasionally to do on Private Members' Bills: that of being neutral and of trying to put both sides of the case. I think he did that very well. There was only one point at which some of us thought he was hesitant in what he said. It was in his remarks about the police. He said that if this Bill were passed there would be a difficulty in enforcement and that we should be adding to the burden of the police. My Lords, that is true of any law which Parliament makes. I would also remind the House that the animal welfare societies are of very great help here. They bring to the notice of the authorities any cases where they find the law is being broken. However, I do not think that the argument adduced by the noble Viscount concerning difficulties on the police should stop anybody from voting for this Bill.

I should like to thank those who supported me in this debate and also those who opposed the Bill. I did not go round seeking speakers in this debate. I thought there would have been only a few speakers and an early vote. When I saw the list at lunchtime to-day I feared that the debate might be uneven and that we might be at a disadvantage. That has certainly been so numerically, but I must say that the more I heard from the opponents of the Bill the more grateful I was to them. I would not have missed for anything the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. He made a great speech which he thought was against the Bill but which I thought was really making our case for us. However, I can see from looking in various parts of the House that the beaters have certainly been out to-day. We shall see what happens when we come to the vote.

My noble friend Lord Nunburnholme thought that the Bill was badly worded and that it was unworkable. But as the noble Viscount from the Home Office realises, this Bill is identical to the Bill which was drawn up by the Home Office and by the Parliamentary draftsmen for the previous Government in 1970 and which, as I have said before, obtained its Second Reading by 203 votes to 70 votes. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said he had not heard my speech and that he also had not heard the case for the Bill. I think that that was his misfortune, because the fact that he did not hear the one meant that he did not understand the other. Had he heard my speech he would have heard the answers to many of the questions he asked. But I think it would be unfair to noble Lords to repeat the whole of my speech for the sake of the noble and learned Viscount who was not here at the beginning of the debate.

My Lords, I felt that the opposition arguments were contradictory. We were told that this Bill was being produced because there were so few people who went hare coursing and that we were out to stop a sport which was indulged in by a few people who were helpless to protect themselves, whereas other speakers talked about so many thousands of people who went round enjoying this sport. We were told that this sport was instrumental in keeping down hares. Other speakers opposing the Bill told us that this sport was instrumental in preserving the brown hare. I am at a loss to know which is correct. But these were the speeches; and that is why I say that the speakers who opposed this Bill have been so helpful. One of the themes which kept recurring was that if the hare was not coursed in this way it might die a more horrible death, either by shooting or through natural causes. Well, my Lords, of course, if we are not murdered we may die in bed. But that does not prove that murder is not cruel.

The noble Lord, Lord Colyton, quoted from the Scott Henderson Report. I wish that he too had been here at the beginning of the debate because he would have heard that both the noble Viscount who spoke for the Government and I were agreed on one thing. It was that both supporters and opponents of this Bill could turn to Scott Henderson and pick out almost anything to support their point of view. I have never read a more contradictory or more indecisive Report. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, made two points with which I should like to deal. First, referring to the speech of my noble friend Lord Blyton, who described what whippet racing used to be like when live rabbits were used, the noble Earl asked whether my noble friend's colleagues in those days thought then as the supporters of coursing do to-day. It seemed to me that he missed the whole point of Lord Blyton's speech, because what my noble friend was pointing out was that although the miners took part in that kind of sport many years ago they do not do so to-day. The point was that the miners have become more humane while the supporters of hare coursing have remained in the last century.

There was another point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst. I did not intend referring to this during the course of this debate but I do so because of what the noble Earl said. He said that he hoped those who opposed hare coursing would go and see the sport and would go and see field sports. That is precisely what some of my friends in the other place did. Mr. William Price, Mr. Joe Ashton and others, a few months ago, went to see hare coursing. What happened? They were spat upon; they were kicked; they were physically assaulted. So much so that there was a court case, which came into court only three weeks ago, and one of the people responsible for this conduct pleaded guilty and was fined. So there is not much encouragement to accept the noble Earl's invitation, if that is what is going to happen to us.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I had no idea that her friends had suffered this trouble at the meeting. I just wonder, my Lords, whether they visited it in what would be a normal and good mannered way of visiting such a meeting. I am quite certain that the organisers of any hare coursing meeting, let alone any other field sports, would be only too pleased to welcome the noble Baroness and her friends in a reasonable, peaceful and quiet manner in order to put their points. May I just say a word with regard to the point that she made about the noble Lord, Lord Blyton?




My Lords, may I just interrupt the noble Baroness for one moment to ask whether she would inform the House of the circumstances in which her friends, Mr. Price and the others, were attacked? Mr. Price said in his speech in another place: It is right to say that earlier in the morning and quite unknown to us, two members of a hunt saboteur's association had been throwing missiles in the direction of the dogs and, not surprisingly, had got hell out of it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 4/2/72; col. 919.]


My Lords, I am well aware of all this. I have spoken to my friends about it. The same thing happened to Mr. Sheldon and others who went on another occasion. However, as I say, I did not intend to mention it, except that the invitation was given.

In conclusion, my Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, said that he wished that we had been discussing man's inhumanity to man. Surely we shall also be judged as a nation by man's inhumanity to any living creature. Cruelty is cruelty, wherever we find it. I agree very much with the noble Lord who spoke from the Cross-Benches and said that it is not only what happens to the hare; it is not only what happens to the hounds; it is the degradation of those who watch this sport and partake in it. In my original speech I quoted the resolution of the Church Assembly on February 5, 1970, and I

cannot do better than quote this one sentence from the resolution: That this Church Assembly is of opinion that this sport is cruel, unjustifiable and degrading, and it is for Christian people in the light of their Christian profession and responsibility to make plain their opposition to activities of this sort. It is on that note that I end, my Lords, and I ask support for this Bill.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

heir Lordships divided: Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 115.

Airedale, L. Garnsworthy, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Ardwick, L. Granville-West, L. Rusholme, L.
Avebury, L. Hall, V. St. Davids, V.
Bacon, Bs. [Teller.] Hanworth, V. Segal, L.
Balogh, L. Henderson, L. Shackleton, L.
Barrington, V. Hereford, Bp. Shannon, E.
Beswick, L. Heycock, L. Slater, L.
Blyton, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Somers, L.
Brockway, L. Hoy, L. Soper, L. [Teller.]
Champion, L. Huntingdon, E. Southwark, Bp.
Chorley, L. Hurcomb, L. Stamp, L.
Collison, L. Jacques. L. Stocks, Bs.
Cowley, E. Janner, L. Stow Hill, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Lauderdale, E. Strabolgi, L.
de Clifford, L. Lea'herland. L. Strang, L.
Delacourt-Smith, L. Lichfield, Bp. Summerskill, Bs.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Listowel. E. Tan law, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Loudoun, C. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Effingham, E. Maelor, L. Vernon, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Maybray-King, L. Wade, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Morrison, L. White, Bs.
Foot, L. Phillips, Bs. Willis, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Platt. L. Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.
Gardiner, L. Popplewell, L.
Aldenham, L. Cranbrook, E. Gowrie, E.
Allerton, L. Crawshaw, L. Greenway, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Grenfell, L.
Ashton of Hyde, L. Daventry, V. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Davidson, V. Hampden, V.
Atholl, D. De L'Isle, V. Harcourt, V.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Denham, L. Hemphill, L.
Barnby, L. Digby, L. Henley, L.
Bathurst, E. Dilhorne, V. Hertford, M.
Berkeley, Bs. Diplock. L. Hindlip, L.
Bethell, L. Dulverton, L. Hylton-Foster, Bs.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Dundee, E. Konside, L.
Brain, L. Dundonald, E. Killearn, L.
Bridgeman, V. Essex, E. Kilmarnock, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Falmouth, V. Kindersley, L.
Burton, L. Ferrers, E. Kinnoull, E.
Carnarvon, E. Feversham, L. Knutsford, V.
Carnock, L. Fitzwilliam, E. Leicester. E.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Fortescue, E. Leigh, L.
Colgrain, L. Gage. V. Linlithgow, M.
Colyton, L. Gainford, L. Lucan, E.
Conesford, L. Gisborough, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Glasgow, E. Lvell, L.
Craigavon, V. Glendyne, L. Lvtton, E.
Craigmyle, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] MacAndrew, L.
Macleod of Borve, Bs. Onslow, E. Swansea, L.
Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Penrhyn, L. Templemore, L.
Poltimore, L. Thomas, L.
Mansfield, E. Rankeillour, L. Tollemache, L.
Mar, E. Redmayne, L. Townshend, M.
Margadale, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Vestey, L.
Masham of Ilton, Bs. Sempill, Ly. Vivian, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Somerleyton, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Monckton of Brenchley, V. Spencer, E. Westbury, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Stonehaven, V. Westminster, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strathclyde, L. Wigram, L.
Nelson of Stafford, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Wimborne, V.
Northchurch, Bs. Wolverton, L.
Nunburnholme, L.[Teller.] Sudeley, L. Yarborough, E.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.