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Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: I welcome the addition of the test for registration, because it opens up a new dimension of wildlife management. Last week, we had a meeting in No. 2 Millbank with Vets for Huntingthere are 400 of themat which veterinary surgeons gave a very good statement on how they would change the group's name to "Vets for Wildlife Management". They perceived something far beyond the name "Vets for Hunting"; they felt that it was far too circumscribed.
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The phrase introduces something that I have spoken about before, which is the additional component of ISAHthe Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting. It thinks that wildlife needs to be managed. We all must accept that; it is accepted worldwide. Part of the management of wildlife is to make sure that populations are properly controlled and, if necessary, culled so that they do not die of starvation, suffer from endemic disease and the rest. The phrase is an important test for registration, and will produce excellent management of our prey species that are hunted.
Lord Hoyle: I want to sayI have said it previouslythat I am opposed to hunting with dogs anyway because I believe that it is cruel, as does the majority of the population of the country, whether in urban or rural areas. On utility, we are once more ignoring amendments that have been made to tighten up the Bill in the House of Commons. Wildlife management is a very wide term. It could mean anything or nothing; it is very vague. As the noble Lord, Lord Burns, said in his report:
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before I decide on the amendment, I would like some clarification from those who tabled it, if they would be kind enough to give it. First, what is the position of otters in relation to it? They obviously pose a threat to fish, but I would be horrified if there were any thought that they should come within the meaning of the amendment.
Secondly, with regard to wildlife management, Members of the Committee probably agree that badgers cause a lot of serious damage to various items in the list in proposed new paragraphs (a) to (g), but they are currently protected. What is the intention of the amendment with regard to badgers? Thirdly, I am not clear what would happen when serious damage prevention conflicted with wildlife management. By that, I mean when a species generally in declineone that we did not want to huntwas causing significant damage to crops in small areas.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: I want to reassure the patient and loyal Minister of what I am afraid is the abiding agnosticism of those on our Benches about the whole Bill. I do so along the lines that my colleagues the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Chelmsford and the Bishop of Peterborough have already indicated. I hope that this realistic amendment will find agreement in the Committee.
Lord Selsdon: I suppose that I could say that the cat had my tongue and the fox my throat, and that all I had
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was a still small voice. I am a disciple of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth. As the Committee knows, he has the only church in this country named after the patron saint of hunting, St Hubert. I would like to share with the Committee some of my experience from foreign countries, not least those where hunting is regulated, but where "hunting" is translated as "chasse" and means chasse-ing everything.
I have spoken often of wildlife and I have great affection for it. But because I have respect for Defra and the Minister, this morning I looked at his wildlife websites for a couple of hours. They are very goodthey are absolutely superb in the description of all aspects of wildlife, except the web page relating to the brown hare was down today, perhaps following yesterday's problems.
I am not seeking compromise, but the solution. The Bill has always related to wildlife. The problem is that we do not have in this country the type of rural population that we used towe have prejudices and other matters. In that part of the world where I have a house the fox is feared and loved. But as well as the shooting of everything in the shooting season, we are controlled by the Féderation de Chasse. That government body requires you before you can chasse to pass an exam. You must know about wildlife. You must be able to survive in the forests. You must know north, south, east and west at dark. You must know the names and breeding habits of all of God's creatures and you must protect them.
The fox and wildlife in general suffer severely if there is no management by the greatest predator of all: man. Disease, such as sarcoptic mange and others, becomes rife and spreads. We saw what happened with myxomatosis, which was an imported disease. It almost self-regulates rabbits. But in areas where the fox cannot be culled adequately, farmers very quickly break the rules and put out poisons in old meat cans. People who are walking their dogs are required in some of those areas to carry with them a syringe with which they inject their dogs within three or four hours of taking poison. The shooting brigade, the hunters, is required every year to go on a fox hunt. There are fox hunts with scenting hounds throughout the year to control the fox, but at the end of the season, to cull the numbers, advertisements are taken in local newspapers requiring all good peasants, great and true, to assembleto stand apart at 75 metres' distance to cull the foxes. Into the thickets and forests go an amazing collection of dogs, all of which are regulated and have tattoos on their earsoften microchipshave different voices and hunt in packs and pairs.
That is a strange event, but, in a way, the weak are culled to some extent, given that animals cull each other. Then, from time to time, nature itself takes its turn. Metres of rain fall in short periods which cause floods and destroy wildlife. Only two years ago we hadalmostthe fires of the centuries, when everyone was trying to protect wildlife. Believe it or not, wild boars charged fire engines in fear; and firemen tried to direct them with their hoses away to
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safety. The foxes attacked the firemen. When it was realised what was happening, the hunting dogs were let loose to get away from the fires themselves. There were stories of those retrieving baby wild boar, marcassin, and returning them to their mothers. Nature is wonderful, but it needs managing. The amendment is the most important of all.
Lord Crickhowell: I rise because I was prompted only by the question put by the Liberal Democrat Front Bench regarding otters. I am delighted that otters have returned in considerable numbers to the stream that flows past my garden in Wales. I believe that it is correct to say that they have returned, not due to any change in the rules of hunting, but because they are a protected species. Surely the proper way to deal with animals that we do not wish to be hunted is to protect them in that way. There are other forms of legislation which could provide the protection that the noble Baroness seeks. I think that I am correct that otters are a protected species, and I would be anxious if we suddenly discovered that the populations that had returned were being wiped out. However, there is a way to deal with that problem.
Lord Willoughby de Broke: The noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, said that the amendment weakened the Bill. That is not right. The Minister Alun Michael's own definition of "utility" was clearly expressed in a letter to the campaign for hunting. He said:
"'Utility' addresses the need for particular activities, particularly in the work of land and wildlife managers. It might be described as the need or usefulness of an activity for vermin control, wildlife management, habitat protection, land management and conservation".
The only other matter upon which I seek clarification regarding the second part of the amendment, relates to a second test for registration and, as my noble friend Lord Mancroft said, is almost impenetrable. There are other ways of controlling the fox population. Could the Minister state the Government's preferred method of controlling foxes? It may vary according to territory, but, surely, fox hunting is part of the mix. That is what farmers believeand I declare an interest as a farmer. We should have a mix of methods to control the fox populationunless the Government's line, which I have not heard them, or anyone in this House, suggest, is that foxes should be a protected species. I do not know whether that is the Government's view, but if foxes are not protected, they must be controlledlet us not mince our words, killedin one way or another.
Lamping finds favour in some quarters, but the report of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, points out the difficulties of lamping. We have recently seen that a person has been killed and two seriously wounded when high powered rifles have been used in the wrong way, at the wrong time in the wrong areas. The
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Government's thrust is to discourage people from using high powered weapons. It is much more difficult to obtain a firearms licence.
Shotguns are also widely used for this purpose, but, since the Burns report, the "middle way" supporters have produced an authoritative report, that is undergoing peer review, showing that control of foxes with shotguns brings its own problems of serious wounding, unless it is carried out in the correct manner with the right weight of shot, at the right distance and in the right conditions. That, too, has its problems.
My noble friend Lord Peel mentioned snaring in his speech yesterday. If it is properly controlled it could be a suitable way of proceeding, but Mr Michael said that he deplored snaring, which is extremely cruel. Even my noble friend Lord Peel admitted that if snaring was not appropriately done, it could be cruel. It is also non-selective. It does not choose only foxes. Anything can walk into a snare, whether a dog, cat, badger or anything else.
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