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Lord Carter: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. I have been listening to his speech with great interest. Is he aware that Chapter 4, paragraph 30 of the Companion, states that:

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. As he is aware, Saint Hubert was in 1799 the Bishop of Maastricht. The Normans came over here and, with the Bayeux Tapestry--

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I believe that the year was 799.

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I believe that when Her Majesty the Queen passes legislation and gives Royal Assent, she does so in Norman French. I take the rebuke fully. I meant merely to say that some people are making too much of a nuisance about this matter. I stand firmly behind the tiny minority in the country who effectively are being persecuted by a majority of what we would call the "ecologists of the time". That division needs to be healed if this legislation is dropped.

12.3 a.m.

Lord Patten: My Lords, I greatly enjoyed everything that my noble friend Lord Selsdon said. It rang with truth throughout, except perhaps when he described himself as "a peasant farmer". I wish to light on three points: on cruelty, on minorities and on terrorism connected with so-called animal liberationism. In doing so, I consider it proper that I declare my interest--or rather, lack of interest. I do not fish; I do not shoot; and I do not hunt. I do eat meat and fish and I sometimes benefit from the medicines which have been proved by animal experimentation.

That leads me to the first of my three points on the subject of cruelty. I find myself in great difficulty as to why hunting with hounds is judged to be uniquely cruel compared, for example, with the fate of a fish being played at the end of a line, or gasping or dying on a bank, or the fate of a fox, deer or wild or reared bird being shot, but poorly shot, and crawling, flapping or flying off to die in agony--sometimes an agony that lasts for many days and, on occasions, for weeks. I simply do not see the qualitative difference in cruelty.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, discussed her butchering forebears. Anyone who has been to an abattoir will know that beasts queuing up to be dealt with in even the most humane conditions sense that something rather unusual is about to happen to them. They feel stressed and some of them feel pain. Dare I be so incorrect as to say that it happens in abattoirs, that it probably happens rather more in the ritual killing that is connected with kosher slaughter and that it happens very much more in the ritual slaughter connected with halal meat? Those largely unsung matters are often thought of as not being "correct"; however, it is correct to mention them in the context of trying to judge what is and what is not cruel and what should be banned by this House and another place.

At the moment in the United Kingdom animals are being experimented on for human good under carefully controlled conditions in laboratories. That is licensed by the Home Office and the animals experience not just discomfort but extreme pain on occasion in order to benefit human beings. The noble Baroness's definition of cruelty involved pain and suffering; however, pain and suffering are all around. I simply do not understand why one form should be judged uniquely to need to be dealt with in legislation--as may well happen with hunting with hounds.

That leads me to my second point, which is about minorities. The keeping of dogs of any size--large, medium or small--in flats in tower blocks is pretty disgusting and I do not like it. I caught myself once in conversation when I was about to say--luckily, I stopped myself--that someone should do something to ban the practice. Then I realised that there is a minority who find comfort in having an animal with them--they live in what could be called typical inner city conditions. We should not seek to ban what a minority does. Likewise, I think that it is repugnant for people to keep birds in cages. When I raise that point, I am told that pensioners find great comfort in having a budgerigar or a canary, so I draw back from seeking to introduce into your Lordships' House a Bill to ban the keeping of dogs in tower blocks or of canaries and budgerigars in cages. In the end, I have to respect the rights of minorities because I place humankind above "animalkind".

Thirdly and lastly, whatever happens to the three options in the Bill, it is important for the Government to look to the protection of those who are involved in any form of work with or sport or experimentation on animals because I feel that the risk of a growth in animal terrorism is substantial. If the Bill is voted on in such a way that hunting continues, the activities of those who seek to promote animal welfare through direct terrorism, threats, bombing and all the rest, will continue. Equally, should hunting be banned at some stage, those selfsame people will turn their attentions to those who fish, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, pointed out or to those who shoot. There will be a succession of terrorist activities by those claiming to protect animals.

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Once such terrorist activity begins, it becomes endemic in society. I should like to say to the Minister, who has borne this lengthy session so stoically, as a loyal old boy of the Home Office and a loyal old boy before that of the Northern Ireland Office--I say that in a bipartisan way--that once one allows terrorism of any kind to creep into a nation's culture, it is very difficult to eradicate it. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, circulated a very helpful note to noble Lords on the terrorist organisations worldwide which the Government seek to proscribe. Many of those organisations have never done anything damaging in this country, but we proscribe them because we wish to help other governments to stamp out terrorism. There is a yawning gap in that list. There is no mention of terrorist activities by those who purport to promote animal welfare in this country. I ask the Minister to draw that matter to the attention of the Home Office.

Hunting should not be subject to peculiar legislation, because it has not been proven that the cruelty involved in hunting is any different from the other cruelties to which I have referred. I believe that this House should respect minorities, and protect, through the law, those who lawfully carry out lawful activities.

12.12 a.m.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I have hunted with harriers, North and South of the Border in Ireland, and several times with fox hounds in England, but I have not hunted since 1970. Suffice to say, we killed very few hares, and I was only ever once close to such an occurrence. It was extremely fast.

I am the only speaker who comes from Northern Ireland. I share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Patten, about terrorism being introduced into a culture. Noble Lords may ask why I am speaking at all when the Bill will not at this stage affect the Province. You could say that it is none of my business. However, the horse breeding, training and competition industry in Ireland is vital to its rural economy. Most noble Lords will know that Irish hunters are best, and some may even own them, and will know what Irish breeding and the upbringing of animals on the tremendous grass in Ireland has done for the remainder of the United Kingdom and its equine industry.

If the Bill becomes law, it will have a devastating effect on our rural economy. I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and other noble Lords who have spoken against the Bill, for reasons that they have expressed more eloquently than I could ever do.

We have heard on a number of occasions that hunting with dogs equates to bear baiting, dog fighting and cock fighting. That fallacy must be corrected. When speaking of hunting, we are talking about the control and management of several wild species, some of which are classed as pests. As we know, the bears used for baiting and the dogs and bantam cocks used for fighting, were already under control and managed

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for those so-called "sports". Hunting, therefore, cannot and should not be compared with those two "sports", and should not be included with them.

We all agree that killing anything causes suffering--and hunting is no exception--but we must look at the alternatives and any suffering that they cause when compared to hunting, and at the problems associated with those methods.

We have already heard a great deal about snaring, and the Burns report questions its future. Few countries in Europe permit snaring, and I would not be surprised if Brussels managed to get its talons into that too.

Snares cause immense suffering, not only to foxes, but also to other animals such as badgers and occasionally deer. I have found foxes in snares--not my snares; I do not use them--where they have obviously taken a long time to die. I have also released two badgers. They become extremely angry when ensnared and it is a dangerous operation to release them. In one case I had to employ a pitchfork, jam it over the badger's neck and into the ground, and take the wire cutters to the snare. By the mess around, one could tell that that badger had been there for some time. Small deer of the type that we have in Northern Ireland are also sometimes caught in snares. I found a dead deer with a snare around its middle. So we must not forget about that suffering.

We have already heard about the animals that are wounded with shotguns and die days or weeks later. Also, foxes are often shot close to the head and are blinded. That can be worse than simply being physically wounded; they just cannot see.

Perhaps the preferred option is lamping and shooting with high-powered rifles. At present it takes place in more open spaces with a low density of rural population. However, much of the hunting takes place in lowland areas and in the Home Counties, where there are many roads and a great deal of rural housing. Many of the areas in which hunting currently occurs would be quite unsuitable for the use of high-powered weapons.

My business at home and my personal day-to-day use of high-powered rifles justifies my saying something about lamping with such weapons. A .22 rifle with a 38-grain bullet is dangerous for up to one mile. But it is considered underpowered and unsuitable for the shooting of foxes. So high-powered rifles have to be used. However, most are dangerous for more than three miles, with bullet weights of between 80 and 150 grains. It is increasingly difficult to obtain licences for such rifles in Great Britain, let alone Northern Ireland. Police forces inspect the land where they may be used more often, primarily for safety and justification of requirement.

Therefore, lamping will not be a permissible alternative in all areas to control by hunting. Where it does take place, lamping is and has to be done currently with great skill and care for human safety. Even after going through a fox, parts of the bullet travel a long way at extraordinary angles. I shot a fox

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last week or the week before. It was standing two feet in front of a bank. On the entry side of the fox's chest was a little hole the size of a pencil--it was a 270 bullet. On the exit side there was a spread of two inches, and that is within the width of a fox's body. On the bank there was a spread of seven inches. It was not just a lateral spread; the spread was up and down as well. The danger zone surprised me. It being so wide and extending for hundreds of yards behind the target means that it would be too dangerous to shoot in many areas.

The suffering caused by wounding has been dealt with. Suffice to say that wounding will always be a possibility, especially when shooting at night. I hope that I have shown that the alternatives to hunting as methods of controlling foxes are not always viable and, if viable, frequently cause even more suffering. Snaring and shooting will always contribute to control; but they cannot provide complete control in all areas. I believe in freedom of choice and civil liberties, and I most certainly oppose this Bill.

12.19 a.m.

Earl Peel: My Lords, whereas I deplore the prospect of a ban on hunting, I actually welcome the attention that hunting has been given through the debates which we have been having over the past year or so. I say that for the simple reason that I believe it is about time our fellow citizens began to understand the truth about hunting. Much of that truth has been swept under the carpet and much of that truth has been distorted. I believe that the debate we have had this evening in your Lordships' House is an example of what the truth is about hunting. I hope and pray that it will contribute to people's genuine thoughts on this difficult subject.

I believe that perhaps the most interesting development that has taken place through the media is how strong is the libertarian argument that has come through in virtually every single newspaper in this country. I for one welcome that enormously.

I do not hunt. Sadly, I can claim no relationship to John Peel although I have followed foxhounds on a number of occasions. All I can say is that from first-hand evidence I regard hunting as a truly great community activity embracing a genuine synergy with nature, the countryside and its people. It is quite incomprehensible that we should be contemplating legislation to criminalise an activity that has grown out of rural life over many generations, honed and shaped through need and through experience and conducted, by and large, by thoroughly honourable, well-balanced and caring individuals.

Can they all be condemned as cruel, immoral criminals without a care for the animal kingdom or the well-being of the countryside in which they live? Of course they cannot. It is a perfectly ridiculous notion. Can anyone think for one moment that they do not consider the actions of their ways? To condemn them and their successors would be wholly wrong. I am bound to say that particularly when one considers the appalling antics of some of their more vociferous opponents.

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Like other noble Lords, I appreciate the views of those who find it difficult to come to terms with killing in this way. But as is so often the case--and we are all guilty of if--judgments are too frequently based on those well-used words "prejudice" and "ignorance". As regards hunting, that is often compounded by the increasingly stark divide that now exists between urban and rural lifestyles and culture. I regret that enormously, but, sadly, the opponents of hunting have exploited that divide very effectively.

However, democracy should surely be big enough to embrace such differences. I believe that it is incumbent on all those who take part in the legislative process to discover the facts before passing judgment that will seriously compromise the activities and well-being of others even if they are a minority. It is a sad fact that even now, after the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns--and I commend him and his committee on all their work--there are still members of the legislature of this country who have not even read the noble Lord's report. I believe that that is a disgrace.

Hypocrisy, selectivity--call it what one likes--abounds in all of us: I accept that. But to hear the likes of the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, condemn hunting on the basis that foxes are attractive and intelligent is typical, particularly when I imagine that implies that if they were ugly and stupid it would be perfectly all right to hunt them.

However, I have noticed recently that the poor London pigeons have been condemned by their mayor as winged vermin. I have noticed too, as my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke pointed out, that one junior Minister has conceded that ratcatchers should be allowed to continue under the Bill and that he will be allowed to chase a rabbit but not a hare. I love the idea of calling back one's dog and saying, "You can't chase that, it's a leveret". Quite a number of other concessions have been made which I believe simply draw attention to the real reasons behind this Bill.

To date I believe that the most far-fetched and irrational statement is that made by a spokesman of the League Against Cruel Sports who said:

    "We have no objection to the controlling of numbers--we object to the hunting of animals for fun".

On that basis, hunting would be acceptable if everybody was prepared to sign an affidavit beforehand to state that he had no intention whatever of enjoying himself. What a complete nonsense.

That foxes need to be controlled is, I believe, beyond doubt. What is more, fox numbers are increasing. In the absence of any natural predator, the job of control falls to man. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his committee concluded that hunting with hounds was no more cruel than any other form of fox control. That has been said many times for good reason, because it is an absolutely essential part of the debate.

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I believe that we must consider hunting in the widest context. A ban on hunting would not save the life of a single fox, hare or deer, or improve the welfare of those populations. In the case of the deer populations of the south-west of England, it would almost certainly have an adverse effect.

The Game Conservancy Trust, of which I have the great honour to be president, concluded in a recent piece of scientific research that,

    "Probably few foxes die in their sleep, quietly from old age; most are killed, starve to death, or die from disease".

Nature's way, therefore, is not the ideal that many believe. The trust goes on to say:

    "Relative to other methods, the killing of a fox by a pack of hounds is likely to be fairly quick--and probably much faster than many forms of natural predation".

Having just returned from Tanzania, where I witnessed a wildebeest calf being killed by three hyenas, all I can say is that it was a deeply unpleasant experience. The creature was disembowelled in front of us and took a considerable time to die. I also watched a lion playing with a Thomson's gazelle, which was also a fairly unpleasant experience. The lion played with it as a cat plays with a mouse. Incidentally, I wonder how many cat owners consider what their pets do when they get hold of a mouse, rat or bird. I am sure that the animal experiences fairly prolonged suffering. Will the Government consider introducing legislation against cats? It would be a brave Minister who made such a suggestion.

Another important point in the whole debate is that it is quite wrong to assume that animals, despite having a natural instinct to survive, perceive fear or death in the same way as the human mind. One often hears the argument that hunting has had its day in modern society and should be consigned to history, in the same way as cockfighting and bear-baiting. I find that an extraordinary argument born out of the same ignorance that suggests that hunting is all about satisfying a blood lust. Cockfighting and bear-baiting were outlawed through lack of support and need and the revulsion of those who witnessed them at first hand. Hunting, on the other hand, is a culture and way of life supported by folklore, literature, music and art in all its forms.

Perhaps the greatest argument for hunting, apart from the jobs that it creates and the fact that it helps to conserve the countryside at no expense to the taxpayer, is that it is a community activity and, in many parts of the country, a religion. Hunting provides sport in the purest sense and friendship, and transcends creed and class. Hunting is a way of life that derives its soul from the countryside itself; it is an extension of nature. There would need to be a mighty strong reason to pluck that lifeline from society. It may be a society which is alien to many, but there is no reason to undermine the very democracy in which this country has its roots.

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12.30 a.m.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I regret the need to spend so much parliamentary time on the Bill when there are so many other pressing problems in the countryside that I, like the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, would far rather have debated. I refer to the problem of rural poverty, the pressures on small rural schools, the closure of rural post offices and the inadequacy of rural transport. They are matters about which I would have preferred to speak, even to march on. However, the Countryside Alliance has been hijacked by the pro-hunting lobby. That has made it difficult for people like me to support it.

The theme of my contribution to the debate is "drawing the line". My position is that I am convinced that the hunting of wild mammals with dogs is cruel and unnecessary, both in the chase and in the kill. I therefore wish to see it banned altogether.

I have had to sit through this debate to hear myself called "ignorant, hypocritical, illiberal, prejudiced" and "fanatical". I forgive you all and do not intend to return the compliment.

Those noble Lords who think me ignorant and hypocritical are probably not interested in the reasons why I take my position. However, I intend to tell them. It has nothing to do with where I live. This is not about town or country. I speak with the voice of the country, but I also speak with the voice of the town, having spent half my life in each.

Thirty years ago I lived on a farm on the edge of a national park. I kept free-range chickens. Although there were plenty of foxes around, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I never lost one to a fox. There was a local hunt, but the vast majority of the foxes culled were shot by the farmers. I believe that all over the country that is the case. I was then, and have continued to be, familiar with the issues relating to hunting and the views of the hunting fraternity.

In coming to my conclusions about the Bill I have taken a cool, calm look at the issues. I do not romanticise the hunt, neither do I take an over-emotional view of animal welfare. I read the Burns report. I asked myself three questions: first, is the hunting of wild animals with dogs wrong? In other words, is it cruel and unnecessary? Secondly, should I, as a Liberal Democrat, seek to stop people doing it? Thirdly, do any of the arguments of the opponents of the ban overturn the answers to the first two questions? My answers to those three questions are "yes", "yes" and "no".

Is the kill humane? The RSPCA and the noble Lord, Lord Burns, think not. I do not quote his report but what he said in the debate. I wrote it down verbatim. He said that he feels that the kill in the hunt falls short of standards we would expect for a humane kill. I agree. Since there are other more humane ways of culling foxes that endanger livestock, particularly with

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the special provisions for flushing out with dogs in certain terrain provided for in option 3 of the Bill, I believe that hunting with dogs is not necessary to control the population of foxes. It certainly is not necessary to control the population of hares and deer. Therefore, it is mainly done for sport.

I have no objection to people enjoying the countryside on horseback. It is a wonderful pastime and to be encouraged. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, whose speech I admired and whose views I respect, can continue to enjoy her perspective of the countryside from the back of a horse for many years to come. But I do not believe that she needs to cause the inhumane death of wild animals in order to do so.

At this stage, I would not expect the hunting fraternity to show willing to convert to new versions of drag hunting. They are taking a position. But I am convinced that if hunting with hounds is banned, that is what many of them will do. Therefore, the loss of jobs will be negligible and easily absorbable into the countryside economy. I do not minimise the matter of job losses. Every job matters. But most of the jobs in hunting are associated with horse ownership, and most of those will not be affected by an outright ban.

Society has a right to draw the line somewhere. As we become more enlightened, we move the position of that line. A century ago little boys were sent up chimneys. It is because we stopped tolerating that that it is now illegal. A century ago people could treat their domestic pets with great cruelty without any sanction. A century ago women could not even vote. Today, two of the most brilliant speeches in this debate have been made by women. Nowadays, there are laws about cruelty to animals, and quite right too. But I agree with the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, that there is a cruel event at the core of hunting with dogs. That makes it quite inconsistent with our other laws on animal welfare.

Good law is consistent law. I am a liberal and I believe that, on the whole, people should be allowed to behave as they please unless they are hurting other people or another living thing in a way that is unnecessary. However, I believe that society has the right to make laws to prevent unnecessary cruelty, especially to sentient mammals with highly developed nervous systems. That is where I draw my line. That is why I support our laws on animal welfare that criminalise people who badly mistreat animals, either domestic or otherwise. By the way, there are many regulations about how one treats rats and other laboratory animals.

I very much regret the need to disagree with many Members of your Lordships' House for whom I have the most enormous respect and admiration. However, I do so sincerely on my own moral and ethical principles. I ask that they hold my views in the same respect as I do theirs. I do not think it illiberal to seek to stop something I believe to be wrong. However, I believe that killing other living animals for sport is not a thing that dignifies humanity. Options one and two

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are licensed cruelty in my view and not worthy of a civilised, enlightened society. I therefore recommend a total ban to your Lordships.

12.38 a.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I must first explain that although I am a member of the Green Party, what I am about to say does not represent Green Party policy. My party is in favour of the abolition of hunting with dogs and that policy will be included in its manifesto for the forthcoming election.

Secondly, I should like to explain why I feel qualified to differ from my party and from the elected majority of the House of Commons on this issue. Quite simply, I spent the first third of my life hunting and the last two-thirds thinking about the ethics of it.

I was fortunate enough to be the son of a master of foxhounds in two countries and therefore was able to hunt four days a week during the winter holidays. That was one of the happiest times of my life. I was also an honorary whip to the beagles at both Oxford and Cambridge, joint-master of the draghounds at Oxford and a whip to the drag at Cambridge, thus completing what I think must be an unparalleled quartet of positions.

That period of my life reached a terminus, so to speak, when my father died. His coffin went down the avenue from his house to the church, of which he was a church warden, preceded by the hounds that he had bred, and at his burial, after the Protestant clergyman had consigned him to his grave, the Roman Catholic huntsman blew "Gone to Ground".

The next hunting day afterwards, hounds met at the kennels, put up a fox at the first cover they drew and ran four miles straight to my father's grave. I was out walking that day and saw them pour over the wall into the graveyard before losing the scent some 100 yards further on. This story has been documented and the obvious criticisms which could be attracted to it have been refuted. That was the last time I saw hounds hunting.

In the meantime, I had been ordained and had studied moral theology and I have been thinking about the ethics of fox hunting on and off ever since. I have come to two firm conclusions. First, I would not now willingly take part in a hunt. That is not just because I am old and decrepit. I am 72 and my maternal grandfather was 84 when he died in your Lordships' House, having ridden a five-mile point to hounds barely six weeks before. Why I will not do it is because hunting is not part of the good life to which I believe that I am personally called.

During the time that I have been in your Lordships' House, I believe that I can say accurately that I have been the foremost proponent of animal welfare since the death of Douglas Houghton. I have introduced three Bills concerning the protection of animals, of which two completed their passage through this

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House. But they were concerned with the protection of farmed animals, who are in our power and whom we treat abominably, far more than we ill treat any wild animal. Our relationship to wild animals is far more complex.

In the case of an animal like the fox, a predator himself but with no natural predators except for man, I believe that our duty, as far as we can, is to establish a regime which controls population numbers while keeping the population healthy. That is best done by a complex approach which includes fox hunting. If you abolish fox hunting, there would be a virtual extinction of foxes in some parts of the country, combined with a large but very unhealthy population elsewhere.

That is why I shall not vote for abolition. As for the other two options, as a liberal by nature I dislike over-regimentation. Nevertheless I see no real harm and some virtues in a system of licensing hunts and will, God willing, vote for that at Committee stage.

12.42 a.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My Lords, I wish to claim credit for giving the shortest speech in this Second Reading debate. It will be a short and personal speech. My grandfather on my mother's side was a member of the Labour Party for all of his life. He was also a hill farmer on Dartmoor. He had 45 acres and he ran his cattle and sheep up on the moor. As a boy and a young man, I spent many of my holidays on Dartmoor, so I think that I understand well the integral part played by hunting in farming life in the Dartmoor area.

On my grandfather's farm we regularly undertook puppy walking; fallen animals were regularly collected by the local hunt; my grandmother's turkey house was regularly raided and on occasion we had to call in the terriermen to take care of the foxes. I know that I am right to say that that rhythm of farming life continues today in a very active form.

However, it would be quite wrong for me to give an impression that my grandfather hunted because he supported rural traditions or some form of rural social services. That is not the case at all. He hunted because he enjoyed it. He enjoyed the thrill of the chase and he liked to see the hounds working. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he hunted until he was well into his 80s. The question for me, therefore, is a question of motivation. That is the nub of the issue.

Certainly, what my noble friends who have spoken tonight and many friends in the Labour Party find distasteful, if not disgusting, is the enjoyment which people derive when they go out to hunt. My noble friend Lord Watson called this a question of morality. I agree that it is a question of morality, and it is that point which I wish to address.

I have been a Member of the House for 10 years now and there have been a number of issues on which I have voted to liberalise the law in relation to human activities in which I have never participated myself and which, in an emotional sense, I do not really

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understand. I voted to liberalise the law because I think it is right, particularly for this House, to be tolerant of minority groups which choose to live a way of life that the majority does not understand. That is a libertarian point--I hate to use that word because it has been so much adopted by the party opposite--which I understand.

I find it much more difficult to explain my second reason for wishing to address the issue of motivation. It concerns the way I felt as a young man on that farm in Dartmoor, where I did not hunt myself but I knew a lot of people who did go out to hunt. I simply do not accept that they were acting in any kind of inhuman way. I do not believe that their hunting diminished them in any way at all. I would say quite the contrary. People who spend their whole working lives caring for animals, breeding animals, occasionally killing animals and hunting animals, show animals a proper respect. I use that word in an urban sense, in the way in which many of our urban minorities use it; that is, treating people with respect; treating them as they should be treated.

In his opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord McNally--who is about to sit down in his place--spoke about the editorial in the Observer in which a distinction was drawn between the thrill of the chase and the cruelty of the kill. He said that that distinction was too fine a line to draw in this day and age. I understand that distinction very clearly having seen the people who engage in hunting activities. I do not think that it is too fine a line. It is something which is clearly understood by those who are active in the hunting world.

I shall not vote for a ban on fox hunting. I shall listen sympathetically to the arguments for a middle way. I would say to members of my own Front Bench that it is for Parliament as a whole to decide when a simple majority is not enough. I believe that this is one case where a majority will not do.

12.47 a.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I was not sure whether or not to speak at this late hour but, having listened to nearly all of this fascinating debate, I feel that there are two brief points which should be made in a way in which they have not quite been made already. They concern the balance of pain which may be endured by foxes when they are hunted, on the one hand, or when they are shot, on the other.

My first point is that people who have done little or no shooting--they include most of the people who support a ban on hunting--generally believe that shooting accurately is much easier than it really is. I suspect that one of the reasons for this unhelpful belief is the way that shooting has been represented over many years on television and in films, which is all that most opponents of hunting ever see of shooting. I fear that they may remember the countless occasions when the Lone Ranger, or some similar hero, casually raised his rifle, fired, and some hapless Red Indian dropped stone dead off the top of a ridge several hundred yards

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away. Our cinema culture has even made it look fairly easy for James Bond and others of his ilk to kill people stone dead with a pistol, which is in fact extremely difficult, even after an awful lot of practice and at close range.

I make this point against the background that most opponents of hunting, including all of your Lordships who have spoken today, agree that foxes will still need to be killed even if hunting is banned. I assume that we need not go into the pain caused by snaring, gassing and so on; the alternative appears to be shooting.

The question is whether foxes will suffer more pain being shot than being hunted. Here I must bring in my personal experience. In doing so, I fear that I may alienate the hunting fraternity as well as its opponents because hunting folk do not approve of shooting foxes.

I gave up riding on my ninth birthday, largely, like my noble friend Lord Ferrers, out of fear. My pony was too large for me and it had an awkward habit of biting me when the grown-ups were not looking. I have never been hunting. Indeed, the terrain of Rannoch Moor where I have since lived is altogether too boggy and difficult to ride over at all, let alone to hunt. I have to say that, having heard this debate, I regret that we do not have a foot pack. I am sure that it would have been a better way to control our foxes than shooting them. I also see that a foot pack would be a tremendous help to our somewhat dispersed and difficult social fabric.

But we do not have a foot pack, so I have to confess that I have shot, or stood next to someone who has shot, several dozen foxes over the years. I have shot them, and I have seen them shot, with both shotguns and rifles. I have to tell your Lordships that very few have died instantaneously, and some have escaped wounded. Foxes are very tough, wiry creatures. When shot with a shotgun, even at close quarters, they nearly always require a second barrel, and often a dog will even then get to them before they die.

So the vision of the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, who I regret is not in his place--he may have gone to bed--of foxes being driven out of woods to waiting "trained marksmen" who dispatch them instantaneously, like that mythical Red Indian in the Lone Ranger film, is simply not realistic. It will not be like that. There will be many deaths lasting several minutes, and there will be many foxes which get away wounded, to die in circumstances at which one can only guess. That is where the balance of pain seems to me to shift inevitably in favour of hunting. If the noble Lord, Lord Watson, and his supporters think that his "trained marksmen", whoever they will be, will be better shots than most of the people I have seen shooting foxes, then, with the greatest respect, I have to say to him that he is likely to be wrong.

So a fox's death by shooting is seldom instantaneous. Even lamping at night with a rifle, which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Burns, said that he favoured, produces its wounded animals, which are then more difficult to find at night than they are during the day.

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It therefore seems to me that the balance of pain in the death of a fox lies clearly in favour of hunting and against shooting; so I very much hope that this Government will not allow it to be banned.

12.53 a.m.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, this has been an interesting debate, to say the least. Those of us who are speaking against hunting understand what a fox must feel like when it is being pursued. So many noble Lords have expressed the opposite opinion.

One thing that I disliked from the beginning was the attempt to portray the Bill as an urban-versus-village measure. I have never lived in an urban area, except when in London. I have always resided in a village at the foot of the Pennines. I say to noble Lords that their description of life in a village does not match my conception of life in a village. The people in my village and all the other villages in the area are, as has been said, more concerned about the quality of schools, rural transport, jobs and the bus service. Indeed, one of the last great debates we had related to an attempt to save a bank that was being closed. That is what concerns people in villages, not hunting. Listening to noble Lords, one would think--

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