|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, continually used the word "deliberately" rather than "intentionally". I should be interested to know whether that word better conveys his intention and will be the subject of an amendment at later stages of the Bill.
A considerable amount of time was spent in this House and in another place, both in 1992 and in 1995, in trying to determine a satisfactory definition of what constitutes cruelty. If we continue to pursue this new approach, it seems to me that we may need to introduce amendments and spend a considerable amount of time trying to define certain acceptable methods of wildlife management and control so that these cannot be challenged by some novel interpretation under this legislation at a future date. It is not beyond speculation that shooting with a shotgun might be ruled as capable of inflicting suffering, and then we are back into the old area of intention.
One part of the Bill leaves me completely perplexed. Clause 1(2) states that paragraph (e) of Section 2 of the original Act should be omitted. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, would argue that the legal use of poisons does not cause unnecessary suffering. However, the current legal use is not confined to the control of rats and mice--which, after all, are mammals, whatever their other status in law may be--but may be used for the control of squirrels and moles, and perhaps for other mammals of which I am not aware. The Government have to reserve the right to use strychnine to control foxes in the event of an outbreak of rabies. We cannot leave it that the Government should require primary legislation to carry out this activity. Unless the noble Lord can reassure me on this matter, I feel that an amendment will need to be introduced into the Bill to ensure that that paragraph is retained.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, like every noble Lord who has spoken, I appreciate the opportunity provided by the Bill to discuss an issue of great importance to the House. There is no question but that during the debate on Monday--and, who knows, for a long time afterwards--we will be carrying out a most important task on behalf of the people of this country; that is, we will be giving our minds to an issue about which a great many people are concerned.
I am heartened by my knowledge that over the years when a Member of the House introduces a Private Member's Bill it has been customary for that Bill not to be opposed; it is given a Second Reading. That does not happen automatically--sadly, I have been in the House when a Second Reading has been opposed--but I subscribe to the convention that such a Bill should be given a Second Reading. It should then be sent to the other place, where I hope that it will be dealt with in the normal way, and I can imagine exactly what that will be.
Other noble Lords have declared interests. I have no interest to declare as a member of any organisation; I simply declare a lifelong belief, or commitment, or feeling, that hunting foxes and wild animals is wrong. It is either right or it is wrong; I believe that it is wrong. I do not disrespect those who believe that it is right. This is not a political issue. It goes across both sides of the House, as we shall see on Monday, and is an issue among all parties. We all have to make our decisions.
Not only am I very much concerned with what the Bill seeks to do; I should also certainly subscribe to the view that we have heard from many that its purpose is to be helpful to those who take my point of view. However, I do not believe that it will be. With respect, the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, have said so many times that, ultimately, this will be dealt with in the courts where determinations will have to be made. I am mindful of the fact that the magistrates' courts vary; that they are numerous; and that they come to different decisions.
I can understand a situation where, for example, a criminal act is committed in the eyes of individuals and they need to proceed with the evidence. That evidence will undoubtedly need to be a carcass. There will need to be a post mortem, as well as an assessment, a judgment and a finding, all of which will then be produced as the evidence in the case. It will then be tested; it needs to be. A magistrates' court will have to determine whether an offence has been committed and then apply, in its judgment, the punishment to suit that alleged crime. I can envisage time being wasted and much money being spent. We not only have this House as the nexus of appeals; we also have the European Court. Quite frankly, I just wonder whether the desire to do something that I accept is designed to be helpful will be fulfilled.
I turn to the definition of "cruelty". I have considered the evidence, but, quite frankly, I do not have a jot of experience in the matter. Indeed, I adopt the same stance as that of the former Prime Minister, Mr John Major, who stood up during the debate in another place and said, "I've never hunted; I have never seen a hunt. But I have my views on the matter". That is where I stand. My view on the matter is that it is cruel and barbaric. I have seen pictures of the barbarism and the obscenity and it has been conveyed to me through correspondence. I am interested only in moving towards a situation where such practices are obliterated.
When we examine the possible effect of this Bill, the test for me is whether or not it answers the fundamental question: should the hunting of wild mammals with dogs for sport be banned? Many Members of this House attended a well-attended meeting yesterday and heard the speech made by the chairman of the Countryside Alliance. I listened to him and was grateful for his presence at the meeting. But when it came to the question of the motives in the minds of different people for hunting, I believe, with great respect, that he ran into trouble. He said that, for many people, the premise upon which hunting takes place is watching the way that the dogs "work". They do not see the kill; they do not feel the cruelty. It is the social ambience of the hunt that attracts them. Yet, once the chairman had said that, it was challenged from more than one side.
Quite honestly, the great difficulty here is trying to persuade people like me that hunting with dogs is a benign exercise. In my view, it is not accidental. It is organised for, and culminates in, a sequence of events that the people who go along for social purposes know will happen. I do not believe that it is right; I believe that it is wrong. Indeed, it will be difficult to go through a process--as this Bill proposes--whereby the suffering must be proved in every case.
Remarks have been made about the activities of saboteurs and others. As a law-abiding citizen and a reasonable person, I am repelled, like most decent people, by the activities of extremists. On Monday, I shall attempt in the limited time available to me to comment on what was said by my noble friend Lady Mallalieu about the intimidation, violence and terrorism connected with the issue. I say that it is not all on the side of the hunters: some of it is perpetrated by those who oppose hunting. In other words, it is not right to categorise people. I believe that my noble friend Lord Donoughue talked in terms of extremists and people who hate country folk. There will be some like that, but the vast majority of people who share my views on the matter are reasonable people who just cannot stomach the idea that wild animals are hunted to their death by people for sport, and cruelty.
Therefore, I shall not oppose the Motion when the Question is put at the end of the debate. However, I very much hope that colleagues in another place will give it the treatment that I believe it deserves.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by adding my congratulations to those offered by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, on this valuable piece of proposed legislation and for thus giving us the chance to discuss such an important matter. I find myself very much in sympathy with what the noble Lord said, especially as regards the exemptions and grey areas in existing legislation. I am glad to be able to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that I do not support this proposed legislation for sentimental reasons. There is a truth--it may be a brutal truth, but it is, none the less, a truth--namely, that there is a food chain. The human species is at one place on it and mammals are at another. Nor do I support the Bill for anthropomorphic reasons. Again, a brutal reality is that there is a need for pest control in the last resort in order to safeguard the position of our species.
Surely the mark of a civilised society must be that those processes are carried out with the minimum of suffering. Therefore, I particularly support the wording of the Bill and the reference in Clause 1 to "any person" intentionally inflicting "unnecessary suffering". Along with many other noble Lords, I believe that this issue will no doubt be raised again on Monday. However, I do not wish to dwell upon it today.
I should like to raise quite another issue. I wonder whether the noble Lord considers that this is indeed an issue which could be brought in under the provisions of his Bill. I should also like to hear from the Minister what view the Government take on it. The process to which I refer is that of genetic implantation. In simple terms, plans are now well advanced to breed animals with a disease implanted in them; for example, cystic fibrosis. I am talking about the deliberate breeding of faulty animals--that is to say, deliberately to breed maimed animals, deliberately to cause suffering--and then experimenting on them to see whether cures can be found.
I should like to make it clear that this is not about Huntingdon Life Sciences. I doubt whether anyone likes the proposal to experiment on live, healthy animals but it is a necessity to ensure that medicines are safe for human use. The experiments by Huntingdon Life Sciences, and those conducted elsewhere, are carried out in a controlled way at minimum levels and, most importantly, within a statutory framework. Therefore, within the evolutionary chain, I see these experiments as a regrettable necessity but a necessity none the less. I submit, however, that gene implantation is different because its objective is to breed diseased animals, intentionally to cause suffering. At the very least in my view, there is an issue of public policy which deserves wide discussion.
A number of scientific articles on gene implementation have been published recently. The one I wish to quote from appeared in the Financial Times of the weekend issue of 24th/25th February. As a non-scientist and a banker I feel more at home with the
I understand that transgenic experimentation on mice has taken place for some years. However, the DNA of a mouse is very different from that of a human being. Monkeys are much closer to human beings in that regard--hence, this new work. Fluorescence, however, is only the beginning. The article further states that Schatten is now working,
The noble Lord, Lord Graham, used the word "obscenity" in reference to hunting. I believe that we are getting close to obscenity when we talk about deliberately breeding maimed animals. I hope that I am not alone in finding this a difficult and challenging moral issue. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said that his Bill does not, and will not, cover animal laboratory experimentation. He will understand that I am concerned about that gap. As I hope I have made clear to your Lordships, the processes I have described inherently and intentionally cause suffering to animals. I therefore very much hope that the noble Lord may consider introducing amendments to strengthen his Bill in that respect.
I also hope that the Minister may find just a moment when he replies to the debate to outline the Government's approach on this issue which I believe is coming upon us by stealth. I end as I began by congratulating the noble Lord on his Bill. I wish him success with its broad approach.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I rise in the gap to express my warm support for the Bill so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. He said that it might be of interest to some of your Lordships who wish to speak in the debate on Monday. I certainly had intended to speak on Monday in order to support the middle way and in doing so to declare two interests
My second interest is a much more personal one. As some of your Lordships may know, for many, many years I have refrained from eating meat. I am a passionate vegetarian. I became a vegetarian on the ground of cruelty. I have seen too much cruelty and too much cruel death in my lifetime, not least between 1940 and 1946, gratuitously to cause cruelty to humans or to animals. Having listened to the debate, it seems to me that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, seeks to outlaw gratuitous cruelty to wild mammals. That, of course, includes foxes. He mentioned that it might be incorporated as an amendment in the Hunting Bill. I hope that it will be because it constitutes the middle way which I would wish to support if I were to speak on Monday. As I say, I hope that it will be incorporated and that it will attract wide support not only inside but also outside your Lordships' House.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for bringing the Bill before your Lordships' House and for enabling us to have a particularly interesting debate this morning.
I was struck by the fact that three noble Lords referred to evolution in one way or another. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, suggested that we were rather further back on the scale in evolutionary terms than we might wish. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is obviously further advanced in evolutionary terms with regard to what I concede are animal rights. Speaking as a carnivore, I find it difficult to accept that animals have rights when we eat them. However, we have initiated an important debate this morning. We are somewhere along the evolutionary route as regards our treatment of animals.
The Bill has a useful part to play in that debate. I do not believe that, standing alone, it will constitute the debate on hunting that needs to take place. However, it will be useful as a part of that debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, has just said, if the middle way were to be adopted incorporating a body to regulate hunting, that would be an effective way forward.
I consider that the disadvantage of the Bill as it stands stems not from the words "intentional" or "cruelty" but, rather, "unnecessary". We still have forms of hunting which I believe fall outside anyone's definition of what is necessary. An example is hare coursing. I accept that foxes need to be managed. I have read extremely carefully the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns. I note that the methods of managing foxes, deer, mink and hares vary widely. It is interesting to compare the cruelty inflicted by shooting them ineptly with a shotgun, shooting them more
If we were to take the Bill as a stand-alone measure, thereby placing the onus on the courts to decide whether unnecessary suffering was caused, there would be inconsistency of judgments, as has been pointed out this morning. Although the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, regarded that as a bad thing, one could argue that magistrates in different areas had every right to make different decisions on unnecessary suffering. Hunting in an upland area might be considered the most efficacious control of foxes in that area. The courts may take different views for valid reasons.
Even if this Bill were to proceed in this House, it will be overtaken by the Hunting Bill. I believe that that is right because the Hunting Bill is the forum for debate. The public expectation is that there will be a legislative decision on the correct way forward. As an evolutionist, I believe that the middle way is right. The Government have not considered in sufficient detail the issues around fallen stock. I must declare an interest: my husband is chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority. A large number of issues about the management of the national deer herd remains to be resolved. None of those issues has been addressed, and if the Government were to support an outright ban sufficiently the deer herd would face rapid and extreme culling, as occurred in the Quantocks when the Foster Bill was first introduced. A ban on hunting should not place our national deer herd under the threat of less adequate management than we would all wish.
I hope that we shall return to this measure, perhaps as an addition to the Hunting Bill. Today's debate has been useful. However, I do not believe that as a stand-alone Bill the measure will be sufficient.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, this Bill is an important addition to the debate on animal welfare and hunting. Neither this Bill, nor the Hunting Bill which we shall debate on Monday, will achieve passage through both Houses in time for the general election which we hear will come in May--but, of course, the Government Chief Whip looks perplexed and knows nothing about that, as we would expect. Discussion on both Bills will add to the public and parliamentary understanding of the issues. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for introducing the Bill. The timing is helpful. It will add to our understanding in the debate on Monday.
My noble friend Lord Mancroft said that the Countryside Alliance welcomes this Bill. I, too, welcome it. I am delighted that the Countryside Alliance is able to support it. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, supports the Bill. Indeed, the Bill is referred to in Chapter 9, paragraph 38, of the noble Lord's report if no ban on hunting is introduced. As the noble Lord
I agree with the noble Lord that the courts could have a greater say. That would demonstrate clearly that hunting would not enjoy special favours. I would be in favour of hunting coming under the remit of this Bill. However, I agree with my noble friend Lord Mancroft; we would have to consider further the details of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, addressed the subject from another angle. He attempted to persuade your Lordships that the three choices offered to another place during debate on the Hunting Bill should not be offered to this House. I find that argument extraordinary. I cannot agree with any attempt to curb debate in this House and remove its proper role as a revising Chamber. Like another place, this House must be able to debate all three issues. I believe that the Government have given that commitment and will give it again at Second Reading of the Hunting Bill on Monday.
The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, spoke with her usual clarity on the Bill, animals in general and hunting. I agree with her concerns about how we treat pets and experiments on animals, to which my noble friend Lord Hodgson referred. Although the Bill does not cover such issues, they must be addressed by Parliament. The Government must consider the best way in which to address them.
The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that if he were a fox he would vote against the Bill in its current form. I understood him to mean that he would vote against the ban. His speech reflected his strong interest and experience over many years in dealing with animal protection and animal welfare issues. His contribution was helpful.
At first, the speech of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose seemed more to do with sport conducted in Scotland on a Saturday night rather than any afternoon sport. (I am not sure whether such activity is cruel--that is a different issue!) My noble friend was concerned about control of wildlife, particularly in relation to deer.
The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has always been against hunting. He believes that hunting wild animals is wrong. He is, therefore, against the Bill. The noble Lord said that he has never seen a hunt.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page