"That the Wild Birds Protection Bill, 1929, be read a Second Time."
Perhaps the Senate would bear with me while I explain the provisions of the Bill. In introducing it I said that its object was to consolidate and codify the existing law in relation to the protection of birds. The existing law consists of six British statutes, five later ones amending or extending the first one, or amending some of the later ones. The disadvantage of that is that anyone who wants to ascertain the law has to go through the six existing Acts of Parliament. What I have done in this Bill is to repeal those six Acts of Parliament and to put their provisions into this Bill in a way in which they can be read logically and in order. The advantage of that will be that the District Justice, the prosecuting member of the Guards, the prosecuting solicitor or anyone who wants to ascertain the law, will only have to go to this small Bill of twelve or thirteen sections instead of wading through the six existing statutes. May I shortly deal with what the Bill proposes? By Section 2 of the Bill a close time is created, from the 1st March to the 1st August, during which it is illegal to take or kill any wild bird whatever. There is provision later on in the section which makes a small exception to that. The close time is a close time for all birds and the second and third subsections of Section 2 give the Minister power by order, which he can make on the application of a county council, to vary the close time, to make it longer or shorter. It also gives him very important power in sub-section (3) which will enable any body who so chooses on the application to the county council, and by order of the Minister, to create what is known as a sanctuary. Sub-section (3) gives the Minister power by order, on the application of a county council, to order that no wild birds may be taken or killed in any particular places in the county during any part of the year. That is not only during the close time but at any time, and in that way a sanctuary can be created. That will enable a sanctuary to be created on the Saltee Island where, as I know, many people are very anxious—the owner is very anxious—to have a sanctuary created. In this Bill we have not forgotten the power of creating a sanctuary.
The penalties for taking or killing wild birds during the close time, or in what the Minister may make the close time, are prescribed by sub-section (4). So far as the birds mentioned in the First Schedule are concerned there is a maximum penalty of £1 per bird. For all the other birds the offenders get off with a warning for the first offence, and then there is a maximum penalty of 10/-. I said there was an exception to the illegality of taking or killing a wild bird in the absolute close season and it is an exception which I think is a useful and reasonable one. It is dealt with in sub-section (6), which says:
This section shall not apply to the owner or occupier of any land or any person authorised by him taking alive or killing on such land any wild birds not mentioned in the First Schedule to this Act.
That enables a farmer for his own protection, and for the protection of his crops, to take or kill birds not mentioned in the First Schedule, such as crows, hawks, pigeons and magpies. I think that section is a necessary protection for the farmer and is one given him by a British Act. Section 4 is the next section, about which I would like to say something. It is a mixture of the old law and of the new. It prevents anybody using as a scarecrow any live bird which is tethered. That is the existing law. It prevents the use as a decoy of any live bird which is tethered, or is secured by means of braces or other similar appliances, or which is blind, maimed or injured, and "(c) the use of birdlime or any substance of a like nature for the purpose of taking or capturing alive or attempting to take or capture alive any wild bird." That is new, but I think it is an absolutely necessary provision. Anybody who has not seen the effects cannot know the cruelty caused by the use of birdlime in the taking of these birds. It is not to the bird that is caught that there is cruelty, as it is treated and the birdlime is carefully removed; it is to the bird that gets away with this stuff on its poor feet. It alights somewhere, gets away again and then gets stuck, so that the result is death from starvation.
The only other provision in Section 4 is that preventing the taking or attempting to take any wild bird by means of a hook or other similar instrument. That is a common way of taking birds in some parts of the country. For offences against that section there are heavy penalties. There is a maximum penalty up to £20, or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months. Section 5 prevents the use of what are known as pole traps. That is, at places where birds naturally alight, they put a trap on the top of a pole or something like that. Sections 6 and 7 are new. They prohibit the keeping of any bird in a cage which is too small to let it spread its wings, with an exception when it is shown at a bird show. Section 7 prevents the taking of the eggs of the green plover or lapwing. I suggest that is a very necessary provision in a country where the lapwing is such a useful bird. Section 8 gives the Minister power by order, on the application of a county council, to prevent anyone taking the eggs of specified wild birds.
Then we come to what I consider to be the most important section in the Bill, one which makes a new law. It is Section 9, and prohibits the export of the wild birds that are mentioned in the Second Schedule. They are mostly song-birds. They include the peregrine falcon and the quail, but most of them are song-birds. I do not know if Senators are aware of the extent to which the export of birds is going on in this country. In Manchester and Liverpool there are large numbers of bird shops that get their supplies from this country. They have agents all over Ireland for the collection of goldfinches, siskins, larks, and other songbirds. In a very short time if that custom goes on—it is perfectly legal at present—there will not be a goldfinch or some of these other delightful song-birds left here. Another advantage of stopping the export of these birds is that it will also stop the use of birdlime, because it is in the capture of these very birds that birdlime is used. The extent to which this practice is going on can be judged when I tell the House that there are advertisements practically every week from these Manchester and Liverpool bird shops offering 5/- a pair for goldfinches and higher prices for some other birds. That is going on to a deplorable extent, and it is not only going to denude this country of some of its most delightful birds but it is naturally carried on with very great cruelty, because these birds have to cross the sea in what I might call parcels and a very large number of them arrive at the other side dead. Therefore I submit to the House that that particular section is of real value and one that it ought to accept.
I do not think there is anything else for me to mention in the Bill. It provides for the continuance in force of all the orders made in this country under the existing law. By this Bill we repeal the existing law. In a very large number of the counties in the Free State—sixteen or seventeen—there are orders which have amended the close time and have made other alterations in the law. By repealing the Acts under which these orders were made these orders would disappear, but they are kept alive by a sub-section of Section 14, so that they will still be in force and the county councils will not have to get new orders.