Protection of Animals (Prevention of Deer Hunting).

– in the House of Commons at on 26 April 1939.

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Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to prohibit the hunting of deer, and for purposes connected therewith. I am asking leave to reintroduce a Bill which on the last occasion received the support of the House without a Division. The purpose of the Bill is to prohibit the hunting of deer. It is a short, simple Bill. The first Clause declares that a person shall not chase, hunt or pursue, or cause to be chased, hunted or pursued, any deer with hounds. The second Clause makes a person guilty of an offence under this Bill liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £25. The third Clause states that the Bill shall not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland. I should have preferred to introduce the Bill under less exciting conditions. For some weeks I have been hesitating about which day to do so, hoping that nothing very critical would happen, and in the end I am afraid that the day I have chosen is as inappropriate as any that I could have selected; but there is no certainty of what may happen on other days, and I think it wise not to postpone the introduction.

This Bill is brought forward with the object of safeguarding the deer of this country from the torture to which, in certain circumstances, they are not only liable but have undergone. In the County of London and in some of the adjoining areas we encourage children, through organisations like the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to write essays and compete for prizes in order that they may grow up understanding something about the value of humanity and of kindness to animals, and 170,000 of such essays are written each year. I think it is rather incongruous that while we do that it should be possible for stag hunts in the West Country to give rise to such incidents as were mentioned in the House on the last occasion, and which certain eye-witnesses have testified publicly have taken place within the last year. On 29th August last a number of holiday-makers and their children witnessed the spectacle of a hunted stag, with hounds in full cry, leaping 100 feet from a cliff top near St. Audrie's Bay, Somerset, to crash to death on the beach. A spectator said: The stag jumped to death to escape being dragged down and torn by the hounds. Councillor J. M. Boltz, a member of the "Come to Somerset" Association, said: This kind of thing will prevent people coming to see our beautiful country. To witness such a spectacle in the midst of some of the finest scenery in the world is horrible. A local rector, in a letter to the "West Somerset Free Press," protested, saying that he believed he spoke for a great number of people in the neighbourhood who were a little nervous of expressing an opinion publicly. On 28th January a hunted hind took to the sea at Warren Point, near Minehead, followed by a calf. A follower of the hunt tried to shoot her from the shore, but in face of hostility shown by the crowd, desisted. The hind eventually came ashore, but the calf was drowned, its body being later recovered from the water by a fisherman. It may be said that these incidents are exceptional, but so long as they are likely to take place so long must this particular sport be considered barbarous and one which ought not to be tolerated. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) has been good enough to send me a copy of a sort of brief that has been prepared for him by people who take the opposite view.

Photo of Mr George Lansbury Mr George Lansbury , Poplar Bow and Bromley

It is written in the form of a brief, and as the right hon. Gentleman sent it to me he probably thought that I should use it. The point of his case against me is that he has been in communication with the master with regard to the incident near Minehead, and there is the following statement: The master gave strict injunctions that someone should go down to the shore to see if the hind was all right and, if so, allowed to go free. If, on the other hand, it happened to have received any injury it was, if possible, to be shot with a humane killer. The Secretary accordingly went down to the beach. Seeing the hind swimming very strongly he tried to get as near to it as possible to see if it was injured or not. He had with him a humane killer. The crowd thought he was going to shoot it, whereas he had no intention of doing this unless the hind was wounded. Later, when the crowd had dispersed, the hind came ashore and went back inland. Some time later the body of a calf was washed up by the pier and it has been alleged that this calf was with the hind, but, in fact, no one saw the calf with the hind, and there is nothing whatever to connect it with the hind. It was later alleged that the hind was seen on the shore calling for her calf, but it has been quite impossible to verify this, and in fact, I am doubtful if hinds ever do call their calves. Incidentally, at that time of the year it is not a calf, but fully grown and known as a yearling. I want to be quite fair to the right hon. Gentleman in this matter, but I would point out that people who were there disagree with the master of the hunt, who was not himself present, as I understand it. There are the two facts that the hind was in the water and that a calf was found later by a fisherman. When the calf got there the right hon. Gentleman does not know, but people have said that they saw the calf and it was drowned. Whether that is so or not I would ask the House whether the case as it stands, even on the basis of what the master says, is not in itself a condemnation of the sport. Then I should like; to point out another case, and that is that a gentleman here in London saw—I am told that time is getting on, and so I will not give another case. I only want to say, in conclusion, that we are living in days when, apparently, brutality and violence are on the increase throughout the world. All through the lifetime of the oldest man or woman in this House there has been in this country a very determined effort to put down cruelty to animals in every shape and form, and I hope that the House this afternoon will once more give a unanimous vote in favour of this Bill being brought in.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Lansbury, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore, Mr. Clynes, Mr. Granville, Mr. Harvey, Mr. Ammon, Mr. Barr, Sir Robert Young, Colonel Wedgwood, Mr Ede, Sir Frank Sanderson, and Mr. Graham White.