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Lord Sanderson of Bowden: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that there is hunting in the Borders at present and that that is followed by the shooting with guns of foxes?

Lord Watson of Invergowrie: Yes, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. That is indeed the case. That is what the legislation provides for and that is how it was framed. It does not provide for the fox to be torn to pieces at the end of the hunt in the way that used to happen prior to the legislation.

There are those who claim that it is business as usual in Scotland, as the noble Lord has perhaps demonstrated. Court challenges, which are within the court system in Scotland at the moment, claim that individual human rights have been violated. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, states in the Bill that he has been advised that it does not contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. That has been challenged in one or two of the contributions that we have heard. In the Scottish courts, a judgment has been made that states that there is no contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Scottish legislation, which, in that sense, is similar to the Bill that we are considering today.

In a recent case brought by the Countryside Alliance and others, Lord Nimmo Smith ruled that its arguments were "incompetent" and "of doubtful relevancy". The Act did not interfere with the private lives of petitioners; there were no infringements of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to the control of possessions; and the Act did not discriminate against those bringing the case.

The business-as-usual brigade in Scotland are being orchestrated to some extent by their political masters in London. As today's debate has shown, they want to convey the impression south of the Border that it is impossible to legislate effectively against hunting with dogs, with a view to influencing the outcome of our debate. Such a strategy will not succeed because the overwhelming view expressed in another place must eventually prevail.

It was always expected that when the ban came into force in Scotland, individual members of the mounted packs would test the Act and that has proven to be the case. In doing so, those individuals are sailing rather close to the wind. Two masters of foxhounds have already been charged and now face prosecution for offences relating to "the deliberate hunting of a fox with hounds". Another case is with the procurator fiscal. I do not welcome that, because I do not want to see law-breaking in any form. I was rather surprised by the contributions of my noble friends Lady Mallalieu and Lord Donoughue, who said that the legislation would criminalise people. My noble friend Lady Mallalieu said that it would criminalise even her family. They will be criminalised only if, after the Bill becomes law, they choose to break that law. No law creates criminals.

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Criminals are entirely of their own making. That has to borne in mind. The prosecutions that are under way in Scotland give the lie to suggestions that the Act there has no bite or that one simply cannot, in any legislature, legislate against hunting with dogs.

The misinformation campaign being conducted by the pro-hunt fraternity to discredit the Act in Scotland is being aided and abetted by certain newspapers. Those newspapers are in Scotland, but I see that some members of what we might just about term the "Fleet Street press" have entered that mindset as well. A good example of Scottish newspapers' involvement was provided by the Sunday Times last September. It claimed that a hunt in the Scottish Borders allowed hounds to chase foxes over six miles and quoted a member of the hunt as saying that of 30 foxes killed,

    "five had been finished off by hounds".

The journalist also claimed that the guns were miles away from the scene, or "specks in the distance". When a formal complaint was made to Lothian and Borders police by the Edinburgh-based animal protection organisation, Advocates For Animals, the police, to their credit, quickly and thoroughly investigated the matter. A senior officer later stated in a letter that,

    "during the whole day, not a single fox was seen, let alone chased or killed, by the hounds".

In addition, the police stated that the journalist had,

    "embellished, to a very large extent, what actually took place".

When pressed, the journalist,

    "admitted that the message he was trying to convey in his article was that the new legislation did not appear to be changing any aspect of country life".

My advice, therefore, would be to take with a huge pinch of salt any bold assertions attributed to those opposed to the Bill.

The line being spun by the Countryside Alliance and others in Scotland is that they are concerned that more foxes are being killed since the Act came into force. It is quite touching, though scarcely credible, that they have suddenly become the fox's friend. It was never the intention of the legislation to prevent the killing of foxes. Its intention was to prevent foxes being torn to pieces by hounds. The intention has always been that foxes can be flushed into the open and shot. I accept the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord King, about the accuracy of gun-owners. However, if they are as wayward as he suggested, I would question whether they should have a licence in the first place. I accept that it is not a precise science and that there will be mixed results, but surely that was always the case. It was never possible to have a clean kill with a gun in all cases.

Before the ban in Scotland, 18,000 foxes out of a population of approximately 24,000 were killed annually, the majority of them on the roads. That is still the case. Fewer than 500 were killed by the then 11 mounted packs with hounds. The proportion being shot has barely changed. As for wounding, no animal welfare organisations, as far as I am aware, have reported an increase of calls from the public about the widespread discovery of wounded foxes. Should a fox

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be shot and wounded, the Act allows a dog to be used to locate the animal—I stress the word "locate"—so that, if necessary, its suffering can be ended quickly.

Opponents of the Bill do not have a monopoly on the use of the word "principle". I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in that respect. Disagreeing with a person's stance does not mean that he is not principled in holding it.

I cannot accept the opinion of those who say that the Bill has not been given ample consideration. It spent seven months in Committee in another place, involving the most minute scrutiny of its detail. Following that scrutiny, the Bill was the subject of a free vote, which is not a common occurrence in that place. The freely-arrived-at view of the elected Members was then clear. We should think long and hard about the consequences of rejecting the Bill in your Lordships' House. It seems to me that noble Lords who have called for it to be amended are interested primarily in stripping it of its ability to restrict meaningfully the activities of those who hunt foxes with hounds or course hares. Others want to reinstate the so-called middle way, which was soundly rejected in another place.

I urge your Lordships' House to follow neither road, but to vote in favour of the Bill as it stands. Times and attitudes change and we should be seen to reflect that in the manner in which we go about our business.

Scotland has ended the barbaric and indefensible practice of using dogs to chase, attack and kill wild mammals. It has demonstrated to the world that it is a modern nation that sets and holds very dear, high standards of human behaviour towards animals. Equally, that can certainly be said to be the case for England and Wales. It is therefore gratifying to see that this Bill will go further than its Scottish counterpart and, for that reason, it has my full support.

4.59 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, if I may say so with respect, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, was not only long and quick but it was unrealistic, as I shall show later.

I was MP for Huntingdonshire for 34 years and I hunted there regularly until I was 70 years old. Perhaps that is one reason that I am still all right at the age of 95!

The worst thing about abolishing the hunting of foxes is that it would cause immense cruelty to foxes if we did so. They must be killed because they cause so much pain and destruction. They kill sheep, poultry and game. They also attack small children. Recently I saw in the newspaper that a girl of four was attacked by a fox while she was asleep upstairs in her bedroom. The fox bit her on her arm and she screamed.

When hunted, foxes are never wounded but they die very quickly. Being light-weight myself, I had no difficulty keeping up with hounds. In the last few years that I hunted, I got into the habit of counting the number of seconds between the hounds closing in and the death of the fox. I never counted more than four seconds.

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In the cubbing season, old foxes and fox cubs are killed easily and quickly by hounds. Because foxes become so numerous when not hunted and because they are so aggressive and cause so much misery, if not hunted, they would have to be killed in other ways. There are only four other ways of doing so: shooting, poisoning, snaring and trapping.

Snaring and poisoning are illegal but effective, very cruel and difficult to detect, but I have seen it happen. I live in the depths of the country and have twice, by chance, come across foxes in a snare—not dead but suffering terribly. Poisoning is illegal and one does not know how or why it is done, but it is done. It is notorious among those who live in the countryside. Trapping is lawful but ineffective. Very rarely can foxes be enticed into a trap. Therefore, that does not work.

Therefore, we are left with shooting, and that is only partly effective, as has been mentioned. One noble Lord said that only about 50 per cent of the foxes that people try to shoot are killed. The rest go away wounded. I understand from a vet that a large proportion of foxes which are wounded go away and die slowly and painfully from gangrene. That is one result that would follow from the abolition of hunting. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Watson, who did not know that, would bear it in mind.

Therefore, it is in the foxes' interest that hunting should not be abolished. I hope that your Lordships, having given the Bill a Second Reading, will restore it to the more sane provisions that the Government originally put before another place.

5.3 p.m.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, I am very much opposed to the Bill in its present form, although I would support proposals for a middle way, as indicated, I believe, by a number of speakers today. It seems to me that the result of the Bill in its present form could eventually be, although not the intended result, the death of the species so far as concerns the fox. I shall come to my reasons for saying that in a moment. It could be the death of the species, save perhaps for specimens kept in a zoo behind bars or those which these days are becoming mainly urban. We hear more and more about urban foxes and we are beginning to appreciate the problems that they may cause in the future.

However, the fox in the wild is a fine animal. It is a hunting animal and a hunted animal. I imagine that one of the worst things that happened to foxes was myxomatosis among the rabbits, because that deprived the foxes of much of their natural food. It would be a shame if their number were reduced in the way that I have suggested could happen.

My position is somewhat different from that of those who support hunting generally because I live in an area of vast forestry plantations of softwoods produced by the Forestry Commission in a hilly, mountainous area, and the foxes love the forests. They

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can hide there and know that it is very difficult for a human being to enter the forests, save where roads have been put through. But, of course, dogs can do so.

I no longer farm but, when I last spoke in a debate on this subject, I explained that I subscribed—and still do—to the Plynlimon Pack, which hunts with dogs and shoots with guns. There are a number of such gun packs in the country and many of them are in Wales. Some are in Cumberland and in other mountainous areas, and what they do is very important.

I ask noble Lords to imagine the situation in an area such as mine. There is a great deal of hill area and forestry, and there are any number of foxes—probably far more per square mile than in areas of England and other parts of the country which are flatter and farmed more normally. But in an area such as mine, sheep farming is the basis of the farming community and the flocks are scattered. However, it is terribly difficult to find a fox attacking a flock. Perhaps I may give an example from my own experience in farming.

I remember going to my farm at about eight o'clock one morning. It was a dewy morning and in a 10-acre field I found, to my horror, no fewer than 18 lambs with their throats cut by a fox—all attacked in exactly the same way. I had been told about the losses that I had suffered on the farm, but this was the first time that I had witnessed for myself—first-hand, with no one else present—what had happened.

Foxes do such things at night or very early in the morning, but it is terribly difficult ever to catch one in the act. I know that people who have worked on my farm have lost their ducklings and hens, and so on, to foxes, but one hardly ever sees it. One sees only the result.

If the Bill were passed in its present form, how on earth would one keep down the number of foxes in an area such as mine? One cannot hunt foxes without dogs; one cannot shoot them without dogs; and one cannot get at them without dogs to drive them out of the forested areas. It seems to me that the other place did not even address that problem, as though the Members were completely unaware of it. They should know better because there are Members for South Wales there, and there are certainly packs in South Wales that over the years have been greatly supported by miners, and so on. Some of those packs still exist.

I believe that, if the Bill passed into law, the following situation would arise. In an area such as mine, people might come to the conclusion that it was better to get rid of foxes altogether. One can never shoot them one by one, and it is very difficult to authorise shooting by rifle in an expansive area such as mine because one never knows where the bullet will end up. In order to shoot with shotguns, the foxes must be driven towards the guns, as they are by the hounds, otherwise one cannot get at them at all.

I have never hunted, but as a guest I went a couple of times to see what they were at, first with Plynlimon and secondly on my own farm. I was amazed at how accurate the shooters were with shotguns; they were crack shots. But let us imagine what would happen if they were not allowed to have dogs to hunt. This must

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be a problem not only in my own area but in other vast areas of the country where the problems are totally different from that of normal farmland. It seems to me that the pressure would be, "Let's get rid of all the foxes. We shall never be able to control them without dogs. Let us have something, poison or whatever, to get rid of them all". I think it was Lembit Opik who was asked in my constituency, "What happens with foxes in your native Estonia?" "Oh", he said, "we don't hunt them there. We hunt not only bears but wolves, and the bears and wolves hunt the foxes".

As I said, the fox is a hunting animal. It kills any other prey that lies before it and will continue to do so. If it cannot get at rabbits and small vermin it will go for lambs, but only if in a precarious position, unless it is what we call a rogue fox. But it will go for other small mammals. It is a hunted animal. It is far better for it to remain as a species, hunted in a manner regulated by an Act of Parliament, than to be driven, as I believe it eventually will be, to oblivion if the Bill is passed in this form.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, nothing that anyone has said, or, indeed, will say in this debate will change any speaker's mind. Most of the interests which I have always declared in the past when debating this vexed subject are now null and void, thanks entirely to the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, and his ill-conceived Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill.

If the Government were to carry out an opinion poll on the subject, I think they would be staggered that most people would not know what they were being asked about. Those that did simply would not care. Hunting with hounds is not on anyone's agenda except, obviously, those many thousands who are actively involved in and, perhaps more importantly, whose livelihoods depend on hunting with hounds, and for that matter, all other country sports.

As other noble Lords have mentioned, it must not be forgotten that this Bill has nothing whatever to do with animal welfare. The double standards concerning animal welfare in this Bill are hypocritical to say the least. The vast majority of the apathetic electorate care about health, education and crime. They cannot believe that a Government can waste such an enormous amount of time debating foxes, especially bearing in mind that the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that he is,

    "resolutely in favour of a society of tolerance without prejudice or discrimination".

There has been a certain amount of talk about this Bill being part of the Government's manifesto. We know very well from resourced figures that only 2 per cent of the population ever read a manifesto. I remind noble Lords that the Government's manifesto was to,

    "enable parliament to reach a conclusion"

and not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, to bludgeon through a ban.

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If countryside dwellers started to dictate to urban dwellers, the riots would be uncontrollable and I have to say I am always concerned when one reads of the Prime Minister's and his Government's commitment that shooting and angling are safe. It must not be forgotten that the devolved assemblies can overrule that pledge without any trouble whatever.

What harm does the Minister believe that country sports do to the nation? Those who participate in them do not require a vast police presence like at football matches. I believe that this Bill is a breach of civil liberties on an unprecedented scale. Also, I think it is worth stressing that passing this Bill is harmful to urban as well as rural Britain. It symbolises meanness, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice. It is unwanted, unwelcome, and, according to the police and judiciary, unenforceable.

Other countries throughout the world are far more tolerant, and fox hunting thrives particularly in places like the United States of America. My North American blood riles when I think what the so-called mother country is trying to embark upon. Hunting exists in six other European Union countries and six other Commonwealth countries.

I do not think for one moment that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, can begin to realise the utter misery that his Bill has caused rural Scotland. Certainly, there has been no rejoicing in the streets. Similarly, his Bill had nothing to do with animal welfare and, as statistics have shown, far more foxes have been killed this past season since his Bill became law. One must not forget that the Rural Affairs Committee of that pretendy-wee parliament in Edinburgh strongly advised MSPs not to vote for it. Only yesterday the Scotsman ran a headline,

    "Hunting ban taking its toll on Scottish jockeys".

I speak from bitter, bitter experience. His Bill has broken up family units, farms, friendships (not least of all marriages) and I just hope that he is justifiably proud of the misery he has caused to both humans and foxes.

What good will this Bill do for the history of mankind, let alone for animal welfare? What will it achieve? Man has hunted since creation and animals have done the same. Foxes, it must not be forgotten, hunt to kill for the sheer enjoyment of a kill, and I believe that this Bill will haunt and hunt the Labour Party forever. The ridiculous use of the word "utility" will be blazoned across the Government's epitaph. Every single national newspaper since the countryside march has criticised the Government for their misguided list of priorities. If Her Majesty's Government have any sense at all I believe that they should drop this Bill. They know that they will earn the respect of the nation for at least listening to public opinion.

On Saturday night I was deeply moved listening to the "Last Night of The Proms", particularly to "Land of Hope and Glory". If the Government are intent on continuing to undermine those who live in and love the countryside, there will be no hope and certainly no glory, not least of all for the wretched fox.

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5.18 p.m.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, like so many Members of this House, I find the Bill difficult to understand in what is intended for the benefit of hunted animals in particular, and wildlife in the countryside in general. Apart from other things, it contains a number of anomalous situations, and I point out two. For example, it is permissible to use one dog below ground to protect game birds who are to be shot—in other words, a form of hunting. Presumably, the wild animal referred to is the fox, which is to be flushed out by this one dog. That is not allowed if the wild mammal is the fox and the prey is another species of mammal such as lambs. As the National Farmers Union points out, an estimated 2 per cent of the lamb flock is taken annually by foxes. That amounts to 340,000 lambs per year at a significant cost of 13.6 million. One should ask a marginal farmer in the Lake District or on the Pennines whether this is a significant drain on his income. I am sure one would receive a very forthright answer.

However, one might ask why digging out is permitted for the benefit of one form of hunting and yet denied for another form of hunting. Another anomaly is the permitted use of dogs to flush out wild mammals for the purposes of falconry—another form of hunting. Those who have seen the fear generated in a mammal that is about to be attacked by a bird of prey realise that it is a fearful situation for that animal.

I am particularly glad to see that the Bill contains one area with which I would agree; that is the use of dogs if hunting is to be pursued for research and observation. That is a very important undertaking. The welfare of quarry animals is little known. It is a point that was made in the Burns report. I declare that I was a member of that committee. The more information that we have about the physiology and the welfare of quarry animals the better we can understand the whole issue of welfare in hunted animals. At least it would avoid the application of anthropomorphism that has dominated misquotation and misinterpretation of the results laid out in the Burns report. I would hope of course that any requirement for this research would follow the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

If hunting is to be abolished, the question naturally arises of how foxes will be controlled. We have heard from several noble Lords that foxes require to be controlled, that they are predators and can attack wildlife and also domestic livestock. The Burns report examined alternative methods of control, such as shooting, snaring, cage traps and so on.

Individuals with an extensive knowledge and experience of damaged animals, including foxes—the 500 or so veterinarians of Vets for Hunting—clearly state from their knowledge of mammals that animals dealt with by other than hunting can lead to very serious welfare considerations. Wounded animals may linger with gangrene and other damage to them for days on end in great distress, often dying of starvation because they are too wounded to seek food. Seldom are hunted foxes presented for treatment at a veterinary surgery because the death of the fox is the usual result of the hunt.

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The paper from Vets for Hunting, which I am sure many noble Lords have received, also includes an interesting article by a Dr Addison, which is a contribution to the assessment of physiological stress and welfare of hunted animals in general. Without going into any great detail, it appears that the frontal lobes of the brain are the neural centres for the psychological trauma of pursuit. The development of these is greatly reduced as one moves down from Homo sapiens—humans—through mammals and into other animals. It may well be that, if this research is pursued, the interpretation of stress and compromised welfare of the hunted animal may require very serious re-evaluation.

In a previous debate on hunting your Lordships were in favour of the "middle way". Mention was made of ISAH—the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting—which has made major strides in getting agreement among the hunts of this country to eliminate or control certain practices that were considered to be objectionable. ISAH has drawn attention to the fact that hunting, apart from controlling predators and being a sport, which one must acknowledge it is, also embraces the concept of stewardship of the countryside. To act as a steward for the countryside could well be a criterion on which to judge the granting of a licence. In that respect the present Bill is disappointing as it does not offer any encouragement for hunts to consider this meaningful stewardship attitude. Yet Alun Michael stated in September 2002:

    "The future of hunting with dogs should not be decided on personal taste, but on evidence on the principles of whether or not it is serving an effective purpose in managing wildlife and whether it is more or less cruel than the alternative methods currently available".

The Bill offers nothing for the effective management of wildlife; nothing for the willing unpaid stewardship of the countryside offered by hunting; and nothing to indicate the alternative methods of control that are better than the present hunting.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Fyfe of Fairfield: My Lords, I disagree with almost everything said by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, apart from one thing. He said that almost everyone had more or less adopted entrenched positions and was extremely unlikely to change their minds as a consequence of this debate or perhaps following debates in this House. However, he struck a chord with me when he made some partly disparaging remark about the Scottish Parliament.

The subject has been debated thoroughly over the years. I suspect, as I have said, that all who are engaged in the matter are unlikely to change their minds as a result of these deliberations.

I have never hunted. I am not a huntsman. I have never participated in hunting activities and I have no intention of so doing. But I can claim to have some practical knowledge of hunting. I was chairman of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the co-operative group which banned hunting from its land almost 20 years ago. There is not the slightest shred of

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evidence to demonstrate that foxes have proliferated, in any sense of the word, as a consequence of that ban on CWS land.

I happen to live in Leicestershire, which is in the heart of fox hunting country. Living in Leicestershire as chairman of the CWS, which banned fox hunting, has frankly been quite uncomfortable at times. Social invitations have declined. Eyes are averted. I was regarded by some of my acquaintances as a reckless revolutionary because I supported the ban on hunting. But I do not seek sympathy. It does not trouble me.

I tell the brief tale of two people: one who lived for the chase and delighted in the kill—and to be fair he was quite candid on that—and one who maintained that the purpose of the hunt is to control. It beggars belief that someone can rise enthusiastically in the morning, mount a horse and justify it to himself by saying, "I am going out on this horse to control". But, in a roundabout, strange kind of way, I can understand the person who says, "I am out for the chase and the kill". I remain at least on nodding terms with the second person to whom I refer, because he is an honest man. He has been quite straightforward about what he believes in.

In recent weeks, most, if not all of us will have been bombarded by correspondence from pro and anti-hunt campaigners. One of the most amusing was from the lady who said, "I know that you are against hunting, but why do you worry, because we do not kill any anyway?" I could not quite follow that logic, but the fact is that they do kill and they kill in the most hideous and barbaric fashion. I have had the misfortune to witness a kill with children present. Try to explain to a child that slaughtering an animal under appalling circumstances is ever acceptable human behaviour.

Reference has been made to possible hardship as a consequence of a ban. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred to that in her opening address. I believe that that has been exaggerated, but as, I hope, a fair-minded person, I also recognise that it could cause some hardship. I have a suggestion. Could not fox hunting enthusiasts establish a fox hunting relief fund to alleviate financial distress that may be caused to people in endangered rural communities? Perhaps those of your Lordships who are better off than average might feel in their hearts able to support that proposed fox hunting fund so that others could benefit from it. There seems no enthusiasm from some sides of the House for that suggestion.

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