§ [THIRD READING.]
§ Bill read 3a (according to Order), with the Amendments.
§ *THE EARL OF WEMYSS moved an Amendment prohibiting the use of a pole-trap "which does not instantaneously kill." In 1822, an Act was passed 588 to prevent Cruelty to Animals—horses, cows, sheep, etc. It was still referred to as Martin's Act, who was known as "the great philanthropist of beasts." His noble friend took a higher flight and sought to be known as the great philanthropist of birds. But there were birds and birds. Now the birds which his noble friend proposed by this Bill to protect were birds of prey which cruelly destroyed other creatures, and did a tremendous amount of damage to valuable property, to grouse and sheep. Lambs' tongues and sheep's eyes were the favourite food of many of these destructive birds. He had received two letters on the subject—one from a Mr. Cruikshank, who wrote from Glasgow, and the other from a gentleman in Edinburgh. Both of his correspondents were thoroughly acquainted with this subject. Mr. Cruikshank wrote that it would be a bad business for grouse moors if this Bill became law, as, on an extensive treeless expanse of a moor, it would be practically impossible for the keepers to kill down the peregrines and sparrow-hawks. The letter from Edinburgh was to the same effect. This correspondent said it would be a serious matter for many Scottish lairds, especially in the northern and western isles, where the peregrine falcon existed in great numbers. His correspondent pointed out, for example, that on the Island of Hoy, which ought easily to realise over 1,000 brace of grouse, only half that number were secured. And why? Six pairs of peregrines nested in the rocky precipices hundreds of feet in height so that they could not be reached by a gun. As these birds would not be attracted by a bait, the only method of catching them was by building cairns on the top of the cliffs, and capping with turf in which a trap was placed. This would be illegal if the Bill passed. His noble friend proposed by this Bill to render illegal the use of the pole-trap. Was there no cruelty through the use of other traps? What about rabbit traps, traps for foxes, and so on? He supported his noble friend in his desire to prevent cruelty where it could be done, and he believed a trap had recently been invented which instantaneously killed the bird caught in it. He had got one of these traps and had suggested to his noble friend 589 in charge of the Bill (the Marquess of Granby) that he should come and inspect and sit upon this trap, but he had not been to see it. This was a Bill to protect birds which cruelly destroyed other creatures. If it became law, and it was impossible to catch birds of prey by the use of the traps in question, so far from cruelty being diminished, it would be very largely increased; because every one of these birds of prey tortured and killed large numbers of other useful birds. He therefore moved his Amendment, the purport of which was that no trap should be allowed which did not instantaneously kill any bird which came into it.
In page 1, Clause 1, line 7, to leave out from the word 'instrument' to the word 'any' in line 8, and to insert the words "which does not instantaneously kill.'"—(The Earl of Wemyss).
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
pointed out that the Bill had gone through all its stages in the House of Commons, and as it had already reached its Third Reading in their Lordships' House he sincerely hoped the Amendment would not be pressed to a Division. The Bill itself was a very simple one, and had met with a considerable amount of approbation in the country. The Amendment would by its extreme severity of action militate against the general operation of the measure, which deserved every consideration at the hands of those who desired to abolish what might be called unnecessary trapping. With regard to the letters Lord Wemyss had quoted, he might say that for a long time past he had forbidden the use of these traps on grouse moors with which he was connected, and had not found the slightest diminution in the number of grouse. The keepers had not experienced any difficulty in keeping down birds of prey. The adoption of the Amendment would lead to vexatious prosecutions, because it was absolutely imposssible to guarantee that every bird would come down on to a particular trap at a particular angle, and any person who had a grudge against any landowner or keeper and saw a bird trapped, might say that death was not 590 instantaneous, and that the bird struggled for some time after it was caught. On many grounds it would be exceedingly unwise to overload the Bill with a provision of the kind proposed, which would make it unworkable and nullify the general good that it would do. He therefore hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
hoped the House would not accept the Amendment moved by Lord Wemyss, which would take away with one hand all that was given by the Bill with the other. If the Amendment was carried, any pole-trap might be used provided that on the pole, tree, or cairn was fixed a trap which instantaneously killed the bird that settled on it. But how was that to be arrived at? He had seen the traps to which the noble Earl referred. The way in which instantaneous killing was arrived at was by giving such a bend to the claws of the trap as to catch the bird in the body, by which means the fife was squeezed out of it at once. That was a capital arrangement, and, provided that they could assure that a bird of a particular size pitched on to a trap of a particular size, the bird was caught in this way; but it by no means followed that the trap was successful in other cases. A pole-trap was described in the Memorandum of the Bill as a steel spring trap with teeth, generally fastened by a chain to the top of a pole in a clearing of a wood. That was perfectly true so far as some portions of the country were concerned, but frequently a pole or cairn was set up in an open moorland, and owing to the fact that it was the only perching place in the vicinity, not merely birds of prey but every kind of bird perched upon it. All sorts of birds, many of them very harmless, were caught in these traps. His noble friend had said that the preservation of grouse depended on the maintenance of these traps. He could assure him that he was entirely wrong. There were moors after moors throughout Scotland where the keepers were strictly enjoined not to use these traps at all, simply because they caught so many more birds than they were intended to catch, and on which the grouse were fully preserved. Noble Lords, he was sure, were anxious that 591 some of the rarer birds of prey should not be destroyed altogether. He did not suppose there were any birds so frequently caught, or so much injured by these traps, as peregrines and eagles in the open moorlands. He did not think his hon. friends in the other House who were responsible for this Bill were either sentimentalists or people who did not care for sport. Sir Edward Grey and Mr. Sydney Buxton, who backed the Bill, were both distinguished naturalists—they were both sportsmen and neither of them could be called a sentimentalist. The Bill was not intended to pander to any mere feeling of sentiment, but to meet a real desire on the part of a great many people throughout the length and breadth of the country, and he did not believe that the passing of it would interfere in the least with the successful preservation of game, although, of course, in certain places other methods would have to be adopted in order to catch verminous birds.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
expressed the hope that the Amendment would not be accepted. He had tried the so-called instantaneous-killing trap and could assure the House that it resulted in more cruelty than the other traps. In nine times out of ten it failed to do what it was sold to do. If the Bill passed, as he hoped it would, there would be perfect liberty to trap on the ground. He had consulted an experienced vermin trapper and had been assured that it would be quite easy to get rid of mischievous birds by trapping on the ground.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, that as it appeared to be of no use dividing the House upon his Amendment, he would be content to let it drop.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Moved, That the Bill do pass.—(The Marquess of Granby.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.