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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, he believed that it had been trapped. Trapping is permissible under our law and is extremely indiscriminate in terms of the animal that is caught and the time of year. It can involve a vixen that is carrying cubs.
In relation to liberty, we do not start with a clean sheet. We start with centuries of history and the entrenched liberty in this country for country people to hunt. To criminalise what has been normal, conventional and fully accepted, not only in the country but also in the towns, would, as my noble friend Lord Hutchinson stated so clearly, be an
I should like to say a few words about public opinion. There is a danger in this Chamber that our nexus with the hunting fraternity is so close and natural, and their access to us so privileged, that we are apt to underestimate the strength of feeling of those who want to see hunting abolished. I hope that in the future stages of the Bill we will avoid the caricature of what I call "snobs and yobs". The numbers of old unregenerate snobs in the hunting fraternity, who look down on everybody, and of yobs who disregard the law and seek to bust up hunting, are minuscule minorities.
We must concentrate on the fact that many people, largely because they do not understand the issues as we do, feel passionately, as the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, showed so wonderfully today, that hunting is cruel and wrong. Those of us who think that abolition is wrong are in the business of hearts and minds, trying to win them over. That is difficult to do, but we have to try a good deal harder than we have to date. I hope that the hunting fraternity will show more leadership and imagination in the way that it reaches out to that body of ordinary, decent citizens, who do not understand all the things that Burns has beyond doubt shown us.
I commend the middle way, precisely because it ministers to public concerns and assuages natural hostility to the notion of digging out, of blocking up earths so that the fox cannot get back in, of cubbing in a way that all good huntsmen would not accept, of trespassing, and of the various excesses that inevitably occasionally disfigure some hunts.
To have licensed regulation rather than the alternative--voluntary self-supervision--will be more effective in winning over that part of the public (quite a large part) which is there to be won over. It is too late for the voluntary self-supervision alternative.
Perhaps I may say a word on sovereignty. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that it was I who did battle this morning with the redoubtable Tony Banks. Perhaps I did not punch hard enough. But this issue should not be subject to the Salisbury convention. We need to think carefully, as do the Government, about the state of the Bill. Frankly, unless it is part and parcel of their manifesto, those of us who believe strongly that abolition is wrong must stick to our guns.
Finally, hunting stimulates an intense pride in farming and the countryside. A competitive spirit of emulation proceeds from hunting. It is partly because of hunting that agri-business has not made even greater swathes into our countryside. The countryside is there to be enjoyed by the townsmen and women no less than by the country people.
Hunting is an antidote for the decommunalisation which has afflicted not just the towns and cities, but also the countryside itself. With the aggregation of farms, and the reduction in the numbers of farming families and of farm labourers, hunting has become a crucial social network that has huge benefits for the country. In an urbanised, deracinated and impersonal world, many from the cities find solace and refreshment in hunting, a nearness to nature so absent from their normal lives that to cut it out in the mistaken belief that it will eliminate cruelty will be seriously misconceived.
Sadly, I no longer hunt or ride, but my happiest memories are of hunting and competitive riding. I can honestly say that I never rejoiced in seeing a single fox killed. But the death, in my experience, was always instantaneous. Hunting in many forms has been and still is the driving force which makes this country the pre-eminent equestrian nation of the world.
Like others who have spoken, I feel strongly that this Bill is truly misplaced, divisive of our nation and a waste of parliamentary time. In addition, it is an unwarranted attack on liberty, livelihood and tolerance in our countryside. As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, whose wonderful speech we were honoured to hear today and who has done so much as president for the Countryside Alliance, said in a newspaper article, this is a,
Animal welfare and cruelty are the most widely-cited reasons for the banning of hunting with dogs. But in his report my noble friend Lord Burns did not conclude that hunting was cruel, as has already been said. The report recognised, quite rightly, that farmers, landowners and gamekeepers consider hunting to be necessary to manage the fox population correctly. Those who have seen lambs killed by foxes or a chicken house raided by a fox, will be under no illusion whatever: foxes are vicious vermin in need of proper control.
A ban on hunting will do nothing for animal welfare; in fact the reverse is true. Other forms of control will be necessary. It has already been estimated that some 75,000 foxes are shot each year. Trapping, snaring and gassing all lead to a lingering death. In his report the noble Lord, Lord Burns, concludes that,
It is reasonably well established that between 6,000 and 8,000 full-time jobs would be lost as well as many part-time voluntary jobs and those of associated tradespeople who rely on hunting for their livelihood. Estimates of between 14,000 and 18,000 have been well reported. That is serious enough. We cannot rely on diversification, particularly in remote areas. The loss of hunt kennels would mean the loss to farmers of disposal of their fallen stock. Hunts play a dominant role in both the rural economy and in the social and cultural life of the rural community. Farriers, saddlers, feed merchants, vicars, publicans and vets, to name a few, all interact one with the other. Hunting forms what is aptly described as "social glue" in many communities and in times of stress hunting people come to the aid of others who are in trouble. It is estimated that it would take up to 10 years for the countryside to readjust itself following a ban. Not one single fox would benefit. As someone said earlier in the debate, the only ones who would probably welcome a ban would be the foxes themselves.
As some noble Lords may have noticed, tomorrow we shall be faced with three options to decide how we proceed with the Committee stage of the Bill. First, we have independent supervision. If we had implemented the Scott-Henderson report we would not be here today discussing this Bill, but that is history.
Currently, 10 bodies control hunting with hounds in all its forms. The lead is shown by the Master of Foxhounds Association, which does an excellent job. Currently it is looking at all foxhounds. It and the other nine bodies answerable to the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting are working closely together. One wonders whether they are a little late off the starting blocks.
Measures which should be strictly in place to control hunting in the future, if a ban is not imposed, must include a code of conduct for digging out, bolting and earth stopping. Then arises the cost of the future independent body, ISAH. It is variously reported as being £500,000. The money will have to come from the hunts themselves. One wonders who is going to bite the hand that feeds it. There is the question of whether there should be some form of regional control.
Throughout this debate we have heard about the differences between the various regions and the importance of local authorities for hunting. Statutory regulation is both expensive and complex. It lacks clarity and a definition of the offences, which in turn will lead to difficulties of enforcement. No case has been made out in law for a total ban. It would do nothing for the welfare of the quarry and it would lead to serious economic, agricultural and cultural consequences.
Enforcement. This is an intolerant and anti-democratic measure based not on fact but on prejudicial dislike of an activity by a significant minority of ordinary law-abiding people from all walks of life. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), as is right and proper, has made it absolutely clear that police forces across the country will enforce any new law, but, at a time when resources are fully stretched and there is much adverse comment about the police presence, or lack of it, in rural areas, this additional burden may well be one too many. At a time when magistrates are desperately trying to come to terms with human rights legislation--itself a cause of much extra work and uncertainty--the ambiguities and difficulties of prosecution created by a total ban would be as unwelcome as a fox in a henhouse.
If this Bill becomes law and there is a total ban on hunting with hounds, it will do irreparable damage to our countryside. There will be a loss of jobs and even more damage to an already struggling rural economy--all to no benefit to the fox. A major part of our heritage will be lost; and, even more important, thousands of decent and law-abiding citizens will become potential criminals without a single fox deriving any benefit whatever. I totally reject a ban on hunting.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, my first instinct following the Queen's Speech was to wish that this Bill had not been included. I believed, as I wrote in the House magazine--even before the outbreak of foot and mouth disease--that there were many other issues of greater importance to the vast majority of those who lived in the countryside: rural schools, hospitals, employment, transport, shops and post offices, to name but a few. The last three were virtually decimated under previous administrations. However, this debate is with us and we must face our responsibility in relation to it.
I have been lucky enough to live most of my life in rural communities. I was born and brought up in Lincolnshire where I lived for the first 21 years. I then moved to Suffolk where I lived for 23 years, and I now live in rural Essex. To listen to some noble Lords one might be led to believe that almost every person who lives and works in the countryside is involved in, and supports, hunting. That is patently not the case, and the postbags of many of my friends in the other place show me that.
In each of the geographical areas I have experienced warm and loving friendships and social patterns which have sustained and developed me. But, unlike other noble Lords who have spoken, I have not had, or felt that I needed, the hunting community to supply that. In each area my social patterns have tended to be woven among those who have, at the strongest, opposed the hunting of foxes and hares with dogs or, at the weakest, been indifferent to it.
I have no sentimentality about animals. My paternal grandfather, father and a number of uncles were butchers. They and our farmer friends bred and killed animals for one reason only--for consumption. At an early age I learnt that a special pretty pink piglet, or a pet woolly lamb, was for a time only. When it grew to the required size it would, like all the rest, be transformed into pork or lamb chops.
I understand well that the fox is a wild animal and that it kills. Anyone who has seen a chicken run after a fox has visited knows that in graphic detail. I learnt at an early age that my chickens were eaten because, as my father told me, I had not penned them properly. I well understand that the number of foxes must be curtailed and that no method of killing them is perfect. Despite everything I have heard, I still prefer shooting. I believe that the House slightly underestimates those who shoot in the countryside. I have witnessed many pheasant shoots. If the farmers involved in the shoots were poor shots, as has been claimed tonight, those who organised the shoots would never do so again. Those shoots continue, as does the shooting of hares and rabbits. I am assured by those that I know in Suffolk, who still take part in those shoots, that they can, and do, shoot and kill foxes. But I can of course only take their word for that.
The banning of hunting may not save a single fox's life. However, it would concentrate minds on alternative forms of hunting. Before I expand on that argument, I want to turn briefly to the proposal described as "the middle way". As currently written, I remain unconvinced that much would change. A way which still allows hunting with dogs, as now, is a strange form of compromise to me.
As some noble Lords may know, I am a keen supporter of codes of practice, which the middle way advocates. However, the very point of a code of practice is that it is guidance only and not a legal requirement. However tough, it stops short of being a legal requirement. I believe that we need more than that. Most importantly, the middle way does not consider a limit on the time that wild animals can be chased. If we are serious about having a middle way, that matter has to be considered.
I turn to the repercussions that a ban on hunting would have. As a former trade union official I immediately considered the consequences for those employed, in whatever way, in hunting. As we have heard, the statistics for employment vary widely. I am not particularly interested in playing the numbers game with jobs. I start from the premise that every job is important, especially to the man or woman who is likely to lose theirs. That applies as much in the rural areas as in the steel works, the coal mines or in manufacturing industry.
I therefore spoke directly to those involved on a daily basis with the organised workers in rural areas. I found that the annual conference of the agricultural workers section of the Transport and General Workers' Union, had voted to oppose hunting, despite a goodly number of those voting being involved in
Having seen the Brocklesby Hunt in Lincolnshire on many occasions, I can well understand the magic for those who hunt with dogs, but I do not believe that that magic extends to the fox. I, too, looked up the word "cruelty". In my dictionary the definition is to produce pain and distress. I believe that the hunt causes both to the fox.
At this point I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. The noble Lord explained to me why, as currently envisaged, hunting a drag for many would not be a replacement for hunting with dogs. I appreciated that. However, having made inquiries of others with knowledge of hunting a drag, I support my noble friend Lord Harrison in sincerely believing that it could become an equally exciting alternative to hunting with dogs if the will is there to properly introduce it.
As well as drag hunts already mentioned, between September and December 2000 hunting with drag trials were carried out successfully in the New Forest. Phase B of those trials is now taking place. In this country hunting a drag has evolved as a sport possibly more akin to a point-to-point than a hunt and has tended to be on a set course. However, this form of hunt a drag could be substantially developed. I am assured by those who hunt a drag that it could be whatever those involved want it to be. There is no reason why the drag scent could not be made unpredictable on non-set tracks. It could certainly be developed on a much wider geographical basis than has been practised so far. The only need would be to provide landmarks around which the drag is taken. Additionally, there is no reason for a drag hunt to disrupt a farmer's work or crops, as it is sometimes claimed it would. Indeed, it is not unknown for hunts to disrupt working farms and cause damage to crops and fences. The track of the drag need no more disrupt than the best hunt would.
The old adage of where there is a will, there is a way, applies. A phasing out period of hunting with dogs would give time for adaptation. Hounds can be trained to follow the drag scent, and for the hunter and horse there would be little difference if some imagination was applied. Because I firmly believe that, despite all the protestations to the contrary, hunting with dogs is cruel and that there is a viable alternative, I believe that we should listen to and follow the vast majority of voices and votes from the other place. After all, they are elected by the people and answer democratically to that electorate.
Lord Reay: My Lords, I am somewhat surprised that the Government are still persisting with this Bill, which is widely recognised to have little or no chance of becoming law. In view of the new crisis that foot and mouth disease has brought to the farming community, I should have thought that any government, particularly on the eve of a general election, would have wished to spare it this additional persecution. I had hoped that the Government might show the same degree of consideration for farmers as did the Countryside Alliance when it postponed its march on London. At least in the past week some signs have appeared that the Government may be interested in a compromise. I shall come back to that in a moment.
Some of those who call most vociferously for a ban on hunting like to represent it as marking a stage in the evolution of man's moral progress, one which would follow on naturally from earlier bans on bear-baiting and cock fighting. In so doing, they claim to occupy a superior moral position to their opponents. I think that that claim should be questioned.
I have never myself hunted, although there have been members of my family who have done so for at least the past 100 years. Indeed, there are those who continue to do so. I greatly admire the equestrian skills and the physical courage required from those who hunt. These attributes have linked hunting to other activities, which have brought fame, and on occasion glory, to this country--flat racing and steeplechasing, show jumping and three-day event riding, and in former days mounted prowess on the battlefield.
Hunting of course has figured prominently in English literature and art, as the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, pointed out. Stubbs and Wootton, Sartorius, Sargeant and Munnings--some of the greatest pictures by these and other great names in English painting were devoted to hunting subjects. And in literature you have the subject treated by Surtees and Trollope, Siegfried Sassoon and others. Hunting prints are ever popular and figure in homes and public places up and down the land. Hunting is woven into the artistic and cultural history of this country.
Another reason for treating hunting with respect is for the sense of community it fosters. To its credit, this was something fully appreciated by the Burns committee. Paragraph 28 of the summary puts it well. It states that,
The fallen stock service benefits farmers throughout the country wherever there is hunting, and hunting brings its social benefits throughout the country wherever there is hunting. But what Burns says there is outstandingly true of the part of the world about which the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, speaks so
If hunting was banned, and with it any incentive to protect those deer, they would risk being wiped out, as appears to have happened once before in the 19th century when there was an interruption in hunting. As the Burns report makes clear, those deer that survived would bury themselves in the woods and no longer present the visible and sometimes audible attraction for visitors to the area. The RSPCA might achieve its aim of eliminating the debatable degree of suffering caused by hunting, but at what cost, even to the deer themselves? Is the elimination of suffering through the elimination of life a goal worth striving for?
The Burns report did a great service when it insisted on comparing any suffering caused by hunting with any that might be involved in alternative means of control, but I am not sure that it went far enough. If one is to prepare policy on the basis of reducing the suffering of wild animals, then why ignore the suffering caused by one animal to another? Hunting may seriously compromise the welfare of the hunted animal, but in a phrase that will surely result in a part of the Burns report gaining at least one entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations one day, the fox itself is a serial compromiser of the welfare of other living creatures. Should not any analysis which claims to provide an audit of animal suffering acknowledge that?
I can understand that there are those who have a conscientious objection to hunting. How many there may be, one cannot be sure, but it is significant that Burns was able to show that, in those areas in which it conducted a study where hunting took place, the majority of the population supported the continuation of hunting. Those who have a conscientious objection need not take part in hunting and should be protected, as far as is reasonable, from its incursion into their lives. But it is tyrannical to seek to ban the legitimate traditional activities of a minority when its members do no harm to others except, purportedly, to offend the conscience of what is almost certainly only another minority. There is no end to where that process may be carried once it has been embarked on. Indeed, each of us could compile our own list of legitimate activities that we would rather never see practised again.
However, one position adopted by the Countryside Alliance with which I do not find myself in agreement is in its support for the Bill promoted by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, to amend the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 by removing the exemption granted to hunting from the provisions of that Act. If that was done and the protection for hunting was removed, I think that it would be naive to suppose that
On the other hand, I believe that the Countryside Alliance is entirely justified in its stated willingness to listen to any proposal for compromise on the question of regulation. If I understand the position correctly, it believes, rightly in my opinion, that self-regulation, perhaps in a more transparent and well-publicised form than has existed in the past, would be the best system of control for the future. Nevertheless, it acknowledges that to win public confidence it may be necessary for such self-regulation to have statutory backing. I would not quarrel with that. Provided that such a solution preserved the essentials of the sport as practised today, introduced the very minimum of bureaucracy and sought only to see applied more generally the highest of standards in current practice today, then I think that regulation should be accepted--not because I believe it is necessary on animal welfare grounds but for political reasons.
For political reasons--facing a large Commons majority in favour of a ban, one which is not likely to disappear overnight--those who wish to see hunting continue may have to accept compromise. Circumstances may well now favour compromise. If that is the way that the Government see it too, I agree with my noble friend Lord Jopling that they should tell us about it tonight.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests. I am chairman (unpaid) and shareholder (dividend free) of St Martins Magazines, which publishes two magazines, Country Illustrated and Hunting. I also should say that my father, grandfather and great- grandfather were all masters of the Warwickshire Hunt. I have no ambitions in that direction because I can remember looking in my grandfather's scrapbook, where I saw a rhyme which went:
Like the tens of thousands of people in this country who hunt, I have asked myself why the Bill has been brought forward. It seems to me that there are three principal reasons. One reason is that the Member for
The third reason, to which my noble friend Lord Rotherwick referred, is that the Labour Party, I believe, was given £1 million by the Political Animal Lobby (PAL) before the last election. The PAL is the political wing of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which, by some extraordinary coincidence, is one of the bodies that have come together to form Deadline 2000. When the Minister responds to the debate, I should be grateful if he would tell me whether I have got my facts wrong and, if I am wrong, what was the sum donated to the Labour Party by the Political Animal Lobby and when it was received.
We seem to have come a very long way from animal welfare with this Bill, as many noble Lords have pointed out. I was very pleased to see in this context that the Home Secretary had the good sense to vote for the continuation of hunting under regulation. We should hardly be surprised. When one looks at the Bill, there seems no justification whatever for a ban or for supporting one. It is a complete dog's breakfast. It is full of exceptions, anomalies and contradictions.
To give your Lordships a flavour of one or two of the main absurdities, deer may still be hunted with dogs and shot provided that the person doing so is doing it as part of his job as a professional and not for sport. If he enjoys his job--which he probably does, otherwise he would not be doing it at all--that is okay as long as he is paid for it. But if you do exactly the same thing and are unpaid--and you perhaps smile or enjoy what you are doing--you are criminalised under the provisions of the Bill.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, for reminding me that Welsh gun packs which hunt with dogs will be legal; they will be allowed to hunt. But if the very same packs which hunt with guns and dogs on a Saturday--the very same people, the very same hounds--hunt on a Wednesday but with horses, they will be criminalised. "Stands the clock at ten to three. Is the Mad Hatter coming to tea?". This is absolutely crazy.
Under the Bill, chasing a hare with a dog will become a criminal offence, but chasing a rabbit will not. If the Bill progresses, I intend to table an amendment that will require all dogs and owners to undergo a rabbit recognition course; otherwise, where are we? The Explanatory Notes state helpfully that,
And so the Bill goes on in its ludicrous way. But it is ludicrous only in that context. Its provisions will turn into criminals tens of thousands of people for carrying on what until now has been a perfectly legal pursuit. That is what is so galling for all of us who oppose this measure. All these are decent, hard-working, law-abiding people, the very people who help to make the countryside tick. Yet they will be subject to the draconian powers contained in the Bill. The burden of proof will be reversed; they will be subject, without a warrant, to stop-and-search provisions, and to the confiscation and destruction of their property and their animals, to swingeing fines and presumably, if they are unable to pay the fines, to imprisonment.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, said, none of us who hunt believes that what we are doing is cruel, or we would not be doing it at all. I strongly resent being told by Members of another place that my chosen sport is unacceptable in some way, but theirs is not. Mr Tony Banks, for example, said at Second Reading on 20th December:
Quite apart from the fact that MPs should confine their kissing activities to babies and not adversely affect the welfare of the fish by playing them for a long time, pulling them out of the water, photographing them, weighing them, and then kissing them, surely it is cruel if they are then put back to endure more of the same. It is absurd. Mr Salter said that he caught the same fish three times. How did he know? Did he ask it? If he is right, is not that cruel in the extreme? On what possible grounds do these line-drawers, these fish-kissers tell us how to lead our lives?
As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, made clear in his excellent speech, what makes it acceptable for them to decide that what they are doing is right and that what we are doing is wrong? Why is their moral compass so accurately set and ours so obviously wrong? I really do not understand the difference. I am very much looking forward to the Minister's reply to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Denham on the acceptability and justice of a division. Where is the dividing line to be drawn between hunting, fishing and shooting? Who are these people, cloaked in a little brief authority, to tell us how we should lead our lives, to deprive rural communities of their jobs and their livelihood? Who are they to tiptoe around drawing their little moral
Perhaps I may conclude my brief remarks by quoting from a letter that I received. I had a large number of letters on the subject--none, I may say, from those who would abolish hunting. It is from a young lady in Oxfordshire. She writes:
Lord Moran: My Lords, living in mid-Wales, where we are desperately anxious about the survival of our small herd of Welsh Blacks, I am all too well aware that rural Britain is in deep crisis and that most country people find it incomprehensible that Parliament should, at this time, be spending time debating the future of what is curiously described as, "hunting with dogs".
I do not know whether this Bill was allowed to go forward as a sop to old Labour, who have taken so many knocks from the Government, but the other day I heard a broadcast by Alistair Cooke in which he said that the founding fathers of the United States were determined to prevent the "tyranny of the mob". That seems to me a not inaccurate description of a vote by 387 Members of the other place to ban hunting. That vote included many Scottish Members who felt free to vote to ban hunting in England and Wales, although Englishmen and Welshmen are denied any voice in decisions on hunting in Scotland. By contrast, I listened with great interest to the impressive speeches made in this debate from the Labour Benches by the noble Lords, Lord Bragg, Lord Hardy of Wath and Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
I do not hunt myself, but I am appalled by the attempt to demonise and criminalise decent, law-abiding people in the country. This is an intolerant assault on a small minority--an assault based, I am afraid, for many people on ignorance, prejudice and a dislike of toffs. Above all, it is a denial of people's freedom to take part in an activity that does no harm to their fellows. The ostensible heart of the dispute is the question of cruelty. But if that were really the issue, why is nothing said, for example, about the practice of halal?
Fifty years ago the Scott-Henderson report, commissioned by a Labour government and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, concluded that foxes had to be controlled and that there was less cruelty in hunting than in most other methods of control. That is still true. In hunting, the fox either
The favoured option of the Burns committee of lamping is not practicable on the Welsh hills and the use of high-velocity rifles at night is not a very safe practice. I do not find the new and questionable concept of animal welfare science helpful. It led the excellent Burns committee into making perplexing statements, such as, for example, that the experience of being closely pursued caught and killed by hounds seriously comprises the welfare of the hare.
Fox hunting is part of our heritage and tradition, going back for many years. In mid-Wales, hunting has real practical value in controlling foxes. Farmers engaged in backbreaking and ill-rewarded toil cannot afford to employ someone to keep down fox numbers. The hunts do this. At the same time, a day's hunting is a community activity which is a social occasion for people who are cut off from most of the forms of entertainment available to those living in towns. In our part of the world, hunts are definitely not smart. Circumstances are simply different in Wales, but, despite devolution, the Welsh have not been allowed to decide for themselves, as they wish to do, on the future of hunting in the Principality. Why not, I wonder?
Hunting is important for conservation. Small woods and patches of gorse and thorn were often planted for hunting and shooting and kept for that reason. They are invaluable for all sorts of animals, birds, insects and plants. If hunting were banned, they might be done away with so that the land could be used more profitably. If field sports go, the effect on the British countryside will be profound. Also, a ban would have unpleasant consequences--some thousands thrown out of work, and probably a mass slaughter of hounds. Its implementation would be extremely difficult. It would create great bitterness and it might lead to defiance of the law by some people who would normally never dream of acting illegally. The effect could be like prohibition in America. The police are already hard pressed to cover rural areas and to deal with burglary, drugs and other problems, not to mention endless paperwork on firearms and gun licences. They would have a difficult job in enforcing a ban and would find that their good relations with country people were hard to maintain.
Why does the Bill include an unprecedented power to arrest someone who has done nothing wrong but whom a constable suspects may be about to commit an offence as well as a provision that an offender can be prevented from keeping a dog for life? All field sports are now under threat. If hunting is banned, who can doubt that there will be pressure to put an end to shooting and fishing? The wealthy organisations opposed to field sports will redouble their efforts and the rural terrorists with their balaclavas and baseball bats will continue their violent attacks. Only last week an elderly disabled angler had to call the police when he was threatened by 20 such thugs.
It seems utterly wrong to try to make a harmless traditional country activity a criminal offence. The great numbers who took part in the countryside rally in 1997 and the even larger numbers who would have marched in London the day after tomorrow ask only to be let alone. We are faced with an urban move to dictate to a rural minority, an attack on freedom that runs counter to what one believed was the Labour Party's toleration of minorities and a drive to upset the whole pattern of country life. I believe that government should try to govern with a light hand and to promote a feeling of unity among the people of this country. This Government will not, however, let people alone and are once more acting in a way that is extremely divisive.
I am inclined to think that the so-called "middle way" would not be practicable or satisfactory, but we shall discuss that in Committee. I was sorry also not to be able to take part in the debate last week on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. But like the noble Lord, Lord Reay, I do not believe that that Bill would satisfactorily resolve the problem we face. The wealthy organisations opposed to field sports would surely employ top notch barristers to argue that hunting did inflict unnecessary suffering on foxes and other quarry and no doubt they could persuade some courts to agree with them.
I conclude that a compromise is probably not attainable and that this House should in due course vote to allow hunting to continue, policed by the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Ronald Waterhouse.
Baroness Gale: My Lords, I speak tonight as someone who has always believed that hunting with hounds is cruel and causes unnecessary suffering to animals. I support the total ban on hunting with hounds and therefore support the Bill as it stands. Although that is a minority view in your Lordships' House--I am the 54th speaker tonight and I believe that I am about the fifth or sixth to support the total ban--I believe that it is a majority view in the country.
I should declare an interest. I am vice-chair of the Labour Animal Welfare Society and vice-chair of the All Party Group on Animal Welfare. As a long-standing member of the Labour Animal Welfare Society I received a letter from the organisation, as did my noble friend Lord Winston. The organisation is made up of Labour Party members and acts as a highly respected pressure group within the Labour Party. Its aim is to ensure that animal welfare issues are on the agenda. It is not surprising that it should write to Labour Peers to express its views and to encourage those Peers to support the ban on hunting with hounds.
Much has been said about fox hunting. But the Hunting Bill is not just about fox hunting: it is about hunting with hounds relating to wild animals such as deer, mink and foxes. There has been debate about whether the methods used in the hunting and killing of wild animals can be tolerated in today's society.
If there has to be a cull of wild mammals, is there a better and more efficient way than hunting with hounds? I can accept that there are circumstances where the culling of wild mammals may be necessary. For example, there is a strong argument that fox control is necessary in some Welsh upland areas. There has always been a strong tradition of co-operative fox control among Welsh farmers. Some claims about fox damage could seem exaggerated. Most lamb losses on the hills are attributed to adverse weather, mis-mothering or lack of maternal milk, and diseases.
A major study in a comparable area of upland Scotland showed that fox predation was responsible for less than 2 per cent of all lambs lost. However, fox predation can be significant on particular farms in some seasons. The Burns report considered that gun packs represented the only demonstrably effective method of fox control using dogs. Furthermore, the noble Lord clearly believed that they were necessary in upland Wales. Deadline 2000 also believes that that is an acceptable method. I have given that example to illustrate that although I oppose hunting with hounds I, and many who share my views, can also accept that there are occasions when there has to be the control and culling of wild mammals. There is no objection to the controlling of the number of animals.
I fully support the Bill as it stands. The Bill has the support of many people in the country. It is something that Labour Party has supported for many years. It is good that the Government have found time to debate this measure. I look forward to the day when it becomes an Act of Parliament.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, perhaps I am one of the few in your Lordships' House who cannot understand what we are debating today or why we are debating the subject. Part of me says that perhaps we have the most divisive Government in history. The other part says that people do not know what they are talking about.
We were once a rural environment. As noble Lords will know, only 10 per cent of our population now live in rural areas. Of the 210 countries of which the United Nations list the population, we are one of the least rural. The Western Sahara is less rural than we are; and
This legislation is not about hunting; it is about a divided nation. It is about the haves or have-nots, or whatever we may call it. I should like to go back in history further than anyone can remember. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth will correct me if I am wrong. At about this time every year the Pope, recalling San Giuseppe, the patron saint of the worker, makes a speech in one of the Vatican states about the role of man: that man works to live but does not live to work.
In about the eighth century, long before the Norman conquest, the great Saint Hubert, the patron saint of the hunter, was out hunting. He saw a stag and was about to shoot. Suddenly a vision of our Lord came before him. The stag asked, "Why are you killing me? Are you killing me to eat, in which case it is okay? If not, it is not okay". Saint Hubert later became rather European--he became the Bishop of Maastricht. My contribution will relate to the Labour Party's desire to rush headlong into European legislation on hunting and the harmonisation of everything. Not only was he Bishop of Maastricht, but recently a wild boar held up the whole airport at Nice.
I am not sure what that may have to do with hunting, but there is a division between what we Normans call the ecologiste de ville and the paysan. Your Lordships may be surprised to know that I am now a peasant farmer. As of last week, I am a legal paysan exploitant juridique viticole vinicole of the European Union, entitled to grants in great quantity, because my colleagues in the countryside are not getting enough grants from the European Union.
We Normans--or we Celts, as I am--have been told that the British have exported a large number of very dangerous agricultural things, such as E.coli, foot and mouth disease and now the lunacy of dealing with the nuisibles. Your Lordships will know that nuisibles are nuisances--they are effectively vermin. The greatest vermin are the red deer, the badger, the fox and some of the smaller animals such as the pie and the jay. None of them is very edible, but they destroy other creatures on God's earth. The term, "nuisible" is now being used to describe the ecologistes de ville. They are becoming a nuisance because they do not understand the countryside.
I shall deal first and foremost with the fox. We know that it is a serial killer. My experience came at the end of the war when I had to look after the chickens and came down one day to find that they were all gone or their heads had been chopped off. That was my fault and I was blamed. I went out to look for the fox. Not long after, I found one in a gin trap and I felt sorry for it. Gin traps are now banned. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have ever seen a fox caught by one leg in a gin trap. I had been told that it would gnaw its leg off to escape, but I somehow wanted to release it because it was not fair, yet I did not know how to. I was a Pharisee and walked by on the other side. I was told that I should have reported it, because even then gin traps were not desirable.
I was then told that we must shoot foxes, but I was also reminded that we must leave them to the hunt, because the chance of shooting them accurately was very remote. Your Lordships can imagine that I am standing here with a 12-bore with maybe four shot and my maximum range is probably the length of your Lordships' House. At this time of night, in the twilight, when the fox would be out, I would be bound only to wound it.
I declare a small interest in that to some extent I was forced to hunt as a child. The pony was too fat, my legs were too short, my hard hat was a large bowler and I did not really know what I was doing, but I did it for a few years with various hunts. The pony always wanted to go back to Dartmoor where it came from. This would include running over hounds and being shouted at. I felt very insecure and I decided to move into my own hunting realm. I tried to train the pony so that I could ride it with a shotgun, because I found that on a horse I could creep up on pheasants in a way that I never could if I was walking. I have realised that that form of sport might well be allowable under the Bill.
I come back to my peasant farming world. As your Lordships will know, in some European countries it is possible to hunt on anybody's land if you have a licence, as long as you keep your back to their house and are not within 150 metres. You can hunt in packs of hounds, often with two or three four-wheel drive cars. Some of the most exciting and important hounds are called les beagles anglais--English beagles. The beagles anglais are rather small, whereas the beagles francais are effectively foxhounds. A good English beagle can fetch as much as £4,000 if it is trained to hunt the predator of all time and the greatest nuisible--the sanglier sauvage, which we wiped out about 200 years ago because it was a danger to our society.
In continental Europe there is now almost a plague of wild boar, which weigh up to 150 kilos. But they, like the fox, can be protected to a certain extent. The hunters, who are so keen to keep the wild boar and the fox out of the vineyards because both animals like grapes, will give a grant. They will pay 50 per cent of the cost of an electric fence to keep the wild boar and the fox out of the vineyards.
In addition, one finds that other forms of grant are available. However, the punishment for breaking the law, which bans hunting between twilight and dawn, is very serious. First, one's car may be confiscated and one must buy it back at its "new" value. One's gun will be taken and, again, one must buy it back at the "new" value. One will be fined heavily and may end up in prison for a period of time. There is only one gardien de chasse for miles around. Therefore, it is probably better to take on the gardien de chasse and to do him some harm rather than take the risk of ending up in gaol. However, in the background we have Saint Hubert.
At the beginning of every hunting season in every church through continental Europe there is the feast, or rather, not the feast, because that takes place in May, but the meeting of Saint Hubert. Horse after
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