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Lord King of Bridgwater: My noble friend has raised precisely the point that I wished to make. One of the features of the Bill that was brought from another place is that, in taking the decision for a ban, the other place has decided to take no interest whatever in what the alternatives should be. The Bill merely determines that one method of dealing with foxes, stags or whatever should be banned. I speak as having formerly represented part of Exmoor. My noble friend Lord Onslow read out the interesting Porchester report, written about Exmoor. It was a study set up by the Labour government of that time to consider particularly moorland conservation and the introduction of moorland conservation orders that related to biodiversity and nature conservation issues.

Since then, the question of the alternatives has arisen. Evidence has come forward on Exmoor of what the alternatives might be. In what I thought was an unfortunate, unilateral act, if one can call it that, the National Trust decided to ban hunting from its estate which came within the area of the Devon and Somerset stag hounds, which had previously been hunted. That suddenly created an area where the deer used to roam where the hunt no longer went. Some disturbing figures have emerged on the incidence of wounded deer. That is the challenge that must be faced.

The merit of the amendment before your Lordships is that it charges the registrar with undertaking a full and decent investigation of relative cruelty and of what will involve less suffering. As my noble friend Lord Willoughby has rightly said, it issues the challenge to those who seek simply to ban deer hunting and who say, "We're against cruelty". They cannot just shut their eyes and say, "Well, as long as we've banned hunting, we've abolished cruelty".
 
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Animals are going to be culled in one way or another. Those who seek a ban have a responsibility. If this ban goes through, the responsibility for what happens thereafter will be on their heads. They will have to listen and I know they will. Many Members on all sides of this Committee have rather more practical experience of some of these issues than I do. But I shoot and I have hunted. To my absolute terror, I once went out with the Devon and Somerset stag hunt, at the invitation of the chairman of the hunt, so that I should know what it was like in my constituency. It was an exciting experience. We did not account for a stag on that particular day, but it gave one a much better understanding of the issues.

The hunt carries out an important role even now. If a stag is shot and wounded, it is of course axiomatic, if one cares about cruelty, that that animal is found and, if it is seriously wounded, put out of its misery. I hope that any noble Lords who talk about stalking in Scotland will accept that there is little similarity between the coombs of Exmoor and the great deer forests of Scotland. They are quite different. Somebody has to find that deer or stag and it can be done only with dogs. That is their regular role. At any hour of the day or night, the stag hounds will turn out and try to track down a wounded deer that will have been shot by somebody else—possibly by a poacher, because they can be valuable animals—and account for it.

It is interesting that 233 deer have been shot on the Holnicote estate in the four years since the National Trust introduced its ban, whereas 149 were shot in the 10 years before it. That is on that one estate and reflects the need to cull the deer. My next statistic does not relate necessarily to the National Trust stalker. Since the ban, 20 wounded deer have had to be shot by the stalker on the part of the Holnicote estate that was traditionally hunted; only two had had to be shot in the 10 years previously. Those figures provide an immediate measure of suffering. The total number of casualty deer which were accounted for following call-out of the Devon and Somerset staghounds increased from 35 per year before the ban to 57 per year since the ban. Sadly, it was reckoned that probably less than half the injured deer on Holnicote are found, brought to the attention of the stalker and dispatched before suffering lingering death from their injuries.

That is the challenge that those who seek a ban face. If the hounds are not allowed to be used, wounded deer will not be found. If the hounds and the hunt are disbanded as a result of the ban, that facility will no longer exist. The suffering on Exmoor in that respect—I accept that other noble Lords will raise other issues—will clearly be much worse. That is a consequence that those noble Lords who vote for a ban must knowingly—because I have given them that information—be prepared to accept. They must accept the totality of the problem.

In my constituency, the League Against Cruel Sports decided to address the problem of protecting deer from what it saw as the cruelty of hunting by establishing a sanctuary. The problem with that was that it tended to congregate deer. It resulted in a concentration of deer
 
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which the British Deer Society said was extremely unwise on health grounds. I hope that the Minister has been informed by his officials of the serious concern about TB in deer in the concentration that now exists around Baronstown. I know that some of his officials have been involved in some of those considerations.

I raise this matter because it illustrates another attempt to impose some form of banning system, which the sanctuary effectively was, because the league owned the property and it banned hunting on it. It prevented what previously was the normal distribution and perambulation of deer, which was one of the effects of hunting. Hunting, by dispersing deer across the area and avoiding deer concentrations, led to the outstanding health and quality of that red deer herd. Why are not the red deer all across England like they used to be? The reason is, as is the case on Exmoor, the extraordinary relationship between the hunting fraternity and its deer. Some noble Lords may have seen a very good video by Ludovic Kennedy called "Guardians of the Deer". It illustrated that relationship between the farmers, who either hunt or are sympathetic to many of their friends who hunt, and the deer they allow to feed on their land at considerable cost to themselves and the value of their crops. The noble Lord, Lord Burns, and Lord Porchester identified that in their reports on Exmoor.

Artificial attempts to ban will have very damaging effects. I echo my noble friend Lord Willoughby in saying that one cannot vote for a ban without considering the alternatives. There is a great fallacy in the Bill that has come from another place. The amendment requires that under legislation somebody looks seriously not just at banning an activity but also at the alternative. It accepts that if the activity causes the most suffering, it should not be allowed, but if it involves less suffering than an alternative, it should be permitted. I strongly support the amendment. Buttressed by these important, seminal reports about the deer on Exmoor, I hope those noble Lords who are contemplating voting for a ban and opposing registration will carefully consider their position on this matter.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I underline with personal experience what has been said by my noble friends Lord King, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lord Mancroft in introducing the amendment. I have not troubled your Lordships with my views on the Hunting Bill since it was first introduced to this Chamber, when I am afraid I irritated all sides of the field sports debate—my noble friend Lord Onslow asks, "What's new?"—by revealing that I had perhaps shot more foxes and deer personally than all of your Lordships, all those who advise the Government and all Members of the other place put together. This experience led me to tell your Lordships how difficult it is to kill a fox cleanly with a shotgun using number six or seven shot, which is the usual shot with which the gun is loaded when people are shooting pheasants and a fox appears, although it is perfectly possible and normal to kill a pheasant or a rabbit stone dead with such shot.
 
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That irritated those on all sides of the field sports debate because hunting folk do not approve of shooting foxes; those who want to ban hunting do not want to be told that shooting is not a less cruel alternative to hunting; and shooting folk feared that I was saying that shooting is more cruel than hunting—which of course I was not saying.

Against that background, I take further issue with the feelings of the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, and others. I accept that they are genuinely held but they are feelings. I doubt whether any of them has ever personally shot a fox or a deer or, for that matter, a rabbit or a pheasant. I take particular issue with the idea that shooting deer is necessarily kinder than hunting them.

At home in Scotland, we shoot some 200 deer per annum. No deer hunting takes place in the highlands of Scotland, not because it has been banned but because the ground is altogether too boggy. Throughout most of the highlands of Scotland, one can hardly lead a horse over the land, let alone ride it. My noble friend Lord King is right: it is more difficult to shoot a deer dead on Exmoor because of the cover, the trees and the crops and the difficulty of seeing the animal clearly. And if an animal is wounded, it is certainly more difficult to find it on Exmoor than it is in the open expanses of the Scottish highlands.

We have very few wounded deer at home in Scotland—perhaps one in 300 or 400 that we shoot. But I must ask my noble friend Lord Hoyle and those who oppose the amendment to try to grasp some idea of the suffering caused when a deer is wounded: when it is shot in the jaw when someone is aiming at the brain; when it is shot in the windpipe when someone is aiming at the neck; and when it is shot in the stomach when someone is aiming at the heart. In the open expanses in Scotland, we can catch up with those deer. We usually dispatch them on the same day, but not always.

I am sure that that situation will exist on Exmoor and elsewhere if hunting is banned because, human nature being what it is, farmers and others will take to shooting deer on Exmoor. The fox will no longer be a revered animal in the English countryside; it will be shot at in anger and disdain whenever it is seen. Those who oppose the amendment must think very carefully of the considerable suffering that will be caused to all these animals if this amendment and the amendments that were accepted yesterday are eventually rejected by this House and the other place.


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