Wildlife Bill, 1975: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is in many ways a monumental piece of legislation in the field of preservation and conservation of wildlife. It is clearly a Bill—and this has been acknowledged by many speakers already —for which there is a need and also for which there has been a demand. I believe the Minister is quite right when he said in his opening statement that the success of the Bill depends on the volume of public sympathy and support which it can attract.

This Bill is a courageous Bill. I say that because as a person who is interested to some extent personally in game shooting, having read this Bill and heard the Minister's speech, I think there are provisions in the Bill which are nearly bound to cause resentment—I was about to say "ruffle the feathers of some shooters" but I would be accused of a pun if I said that. The Minister and his Department have shown responsiveness to the needs that exist in this field and they have shown considerable courage in the manner in which they propose tackling the problems as indicated in the provisions of this Bill.

The Minister has made it clear in his opening statement that the general approach has been on the basis that there is no such thing, as he put it, as free shooting. While I would hesitate to adopt that as a general principle, I understand what the Minister means and it is particularly in this context that I admire his courage in the manner in which he is tackling the problem.

The Minister went on to indicate his view that anyone who shoots for game over somebody else's land without permission is a poacher and I think very few will disagree with that. Taking the poacher in that sense, although most people who take part in the activity of shooting game regard a poacher in a somewhat different sense—they regard a poacher as a person who seeks to take or capture game by unfair or unlawful methods—the person who goes out shooting with a gun on somebody else's land without actually taking permission may be regarded as a tresspasser but from the point of view of the ordinary games man I do not think he is regarded as a poacher in the other sense. I understand and sympathise with the point of view of the Minister in this connection. It might be said that it is no concern of the Government, the Department or the Minister whether an individual is trespassing on another individual's land and that whatever remedies are sought or should be sought for that situation should be sought by the owner of the land.

That is a fairly valid point but the machinery which the Minister is establishing is not primarily designed, as I see it, for the purpose of protecting any one against trespassers. It is for the purpose of tightening the law in the interest of game and wildlife preservation. That is the Minister's interest in the particular machinery which is being established. It still will remain the right of a person whose land has been trespassed against by someone shooting over it without permission to take whatever action he may see fit.

It is at this point that I can see the possibility of some misunderstanding and resentment being caused. Most of us who are interested in game shooting will be familiar with areas in the country where there have been what might be regarded as traditional rights of free shooting, where traditionally over the years it has been the practice to allow all and sundry to go in and shoot without objection. Most of us who go around the country on holidays, duck shooting or pheasant shooting, no matter what area we go into there will always be local people, perhaps someone in charge of the hotel, who will be able to say: "Of course you can shoot on such and such a mountain. You can shoot on such and such a bog. No one has any objection." I can see that people who have been accustomed to getting that kind of hospitable reception in local areas may feel aggrieved at the steps the Minister is taking in the Bill to put a curb on what he has described as poaching. At the same time, while I understand that resentment, I find it difficult to be convinced that the steps the Minister is taking are not the correct ones. They are the only steps open to him and he is not taking them in the interests of trying to curb people's freedom or trying to prevent people from trespassing as such; he is taking these steps in the interests of protection and conservation of wildfowl.

There are various other measures set out in the Bill towards achieving the same objective—the possibility, for example, of a bag limit; the possibility in certain circumstances of curtailing the open season or extending the closed season; various sections which deal with unfair methods of taking game, hunting at night, and so on. All these are steps which are open to the Minister and he is taking them. Some of these steps will be bound to create a certain amount of criticism and cause a certain amount of concern among people who have been accustomed to a much more free-and-easy approach to the question of game shooting.

The provisions which are contained in the Bill and which the Minister obviously hopes will assist in the cause of preservation and the protection of game life are principally those contained in sections 28 and 29. My only doubt about the provisions of these sections is as to whether or not they will be entirely workable without a very great increase in the staff of the Minister's Department or activity by the Garda. The provision in section 28 is to impose a prohibition on game shooting except by qualified persons. The qualifications required are, first, that the person must be 16 years of age or more, secondly, he must have sporting rights or be a guest or invitee of someone with sporting rights or shooting with the written authority of the owner with sporting rights; or, thirdly, he must be a member of a body, presumably a body such as a gun club which has sporting rights; or fourthly, he must belong to a category which is declared as qualified by the Minister.

Senator Cáit Uí Eachthéirn, referring to this question, spoke of two gun licences, the ordinary gun licence and the game licence. I think the Minister spelled out in his introductory speech that the question of two gun licences for the ordinary game shooter would not arise; that there would be an endorsement placed on the ordinary gun licence which would enable the person to use his gun for game. In order to get that the applicant must be in a position to make a declaration to show that he is eligible under the category of qualified persons.

My doubt as regards the workabilty of this section relates to the question: how does one prevent a person who has a gun licence from using it for game? I know that in section 74 there are fairly stiff financial penalties for offences committed under the Bill, but it would take an army of gardaí to enforce the section. That fact emphasises the correctness of the Minister both in his approach to and reading of the situation, when in his opening statement he referred to the success of the Bill depending on the volume of sympathy and support which it might attract.

When the Minister referred to poachers—the person I call the trespasser-poacher—it occurred to me, and I am sure to anyone else who is interested in game shooting, that there is another type of poacher who is much more objectionable and more of a danger to conservation and preservation of game birds: that is the person who goes out a week or a couple of weeks before the shooting season opens, gets the first run-through a shoot and kills off, say, pheasants before the season opens. I regard a person who deliberately acts in that way as a cheat. To the extent that the provisions of this Bill may stamp that kind of action out, it will be a more valuable step towards preservation and protection than the prohibition which might be put on the person who is technically a trespasser. Very often people who trespass know that the area on which they are shooting is one where there is no objection by the owner or group of owners to visitors or others going in to shoot. However the person who deliberately goes out before the season opens and tries to cheat his own colleagues, who have shotgun licences in a particular area, is, in my opinion, much more a poacher of the objectionable sort.

I mentioned the trespasser-poacher, and many of these may feel aggrieved by this legislation, but there is another side to the picture, somewhat different from the general question of conservation, looking at it from the point of view of individuals who have gone to the trouble of restocking gun clubs under the supervision or encouragement of regional game councils. Very often people invest quite an amount of money and a good deal of time and expertise in restocking areas. It is only right and fair that people who involve themselves in that trouble and undertake that kind of expense should be entitled to expect that others will not simply go in and reap the harvest of their labours. That side of the picture should not be overlooked.

Senator Kilbride, I think, was right in talking as he did with regard to the scourge of myxomatosis in rabbits. Senator McGlinchey and some others referred to the days when there were large estates which were well stocked and well preserved. That situation obtained here. The reduction in game stock generally—I am talking of the most common types of game birds like partridge, which used be common, grouse and pheasant—was due to a number of factors, one being the breakup of the large estates. I think valuable work, such as work in bogs, drainage and land reclamation, also had its effect but the breaking-up of the big estates had a very definite effect. The second most serious effect was the introduction of myxomatosis into the country some decades ago.

I hold no brief for rabbits as such. I used enjoy eating a rabbit occasionally. I agree with Senator Kilbride's description of it. Many people regarded it as a delicacy. Many others regarded it and relied on it as what used be referred to as the poor man's chicken. I appreciate the point of view of a farmer who found that his corn crop, in particular, was being badly damaged by rabbits and that rabbits were increasing. I understand all that. At the same time when myxomatosis was introduced it had a savage effect. Most Senators from rural areas have seen rabbits afflicted by myxomatosis, seen the blindness occurring and seen them reeling around with sores on their heads—a disgusting sight, quite apart from the feeling of pity one had for the obvious suffering of the animals.

It had a secondary affect on game birds in this way, that up to the time of the introduction of myxomatosis, when there was a large rabbit population in the country, by and large the fox population fed on the rabbits. When myxomatosis wiped out the rabbits foxes turned their attention from fur to feather and the result was a fairly dramatic reduction in the stock of game birds in the country. That is still continuing. Where there are foxes in large numbers—and obviously there are foxes in large numbers throughout the country—they are forced to prey on birds rather than rabbits. My personal view is that they probably acquired a taste for birds and that, even if rabbits were back as they were before, possibly foxes would continue to prey on young birds.

A further effect followed the introduction of myxomatosis and the wiping out of the rabbit population. When rabbits were plentiful it was comparatively easy and comparatively cheap for either a landowner or a gun club or a syndicate that got together for purposes of taking care of a shoot and enjoying it to make proper arrangements for a gamekeeper to look after the shoot or the land. In addition to being paid what would probably have been quite an insignificant cash wage the gamekeeper was only too glad to be given trapping rights for rabbits in which he was primarily interested. He was able to make quite a good living out of trapping rabbits and selling them and their furs. When the rabbits went, that particular occupation also went. Many people just were not able to afford what it would then have taken to pay and maintain a full-time steward or gamekeeper to look after the shoot, as regards preservation, restocking and so on. Therefore, the introduction of myxomatosis, I think, had a very drastic affect on bird numbers in the country. That seems to be recurring. In many areas, certainly in my own area, rabbits are back in good numbers, but I understand that even when they are young and up to the time they are graziers they still become afflicted with myxomatosis. Whether it could ever be eradicated once it is introduced, I do not know.

I know that a not inconsiderable number of people are against all types of hunting, whether it be what is normally referred to as a blood sport or shooting. While I do not necessarily share it I can certainly appreciate that point of view. A personal friend of mine is a crackshot with a shotgun but he will not shoot birds or rabbits or hares. He contents himself as long as I have known him, with clay pigeon shooting. He simply would not use his gun to kill a live animal or a live bird. There are people who feel like that and I respect their point of view, their feelings and their principles. At the same time, it is absolutely true to say that hunting has been there from time immemorial, hunting of one type or another, and certainly hunting for the pot. Essentially, even though people who go out with a shot gun might not admit it, that is game shooting: they are shooting for the pot: they are not shooting simply to kill a bird and leave it there to rot. They are shooting in the same way as the angler goes out with his rod and his creel, to bring back something for the pot. I can see a distinction, of course, between hunting of that sort and what might be called hunting for entertainment. But in one shape or another hunting has been there from time immemorial.

There is just one other thought I want to leave with Senators, particularly those who feel strongly about fox hunting. I am going to leave myself open to a broadside from someone when I say this. I have not particularly strong views about this. That is probably my own fault; I never really got down to thinking about it. I am not a hunting man in the sense of hunting a fox from horseback. Last time I was on a horse was some years ago; we parted company and I have not been on horseback since. I would not really be fit to partake in the exercise of fox hunting. I understand that it is exhilarating. But leaving all that aside, the thought which I would like to leave with people is this. Particularly in the west of the country I could say—Senator Michael D. Higgins will correct me if I am wrong in this—a considerable asset to our economy has developed in the breeding of hunters or halfbreeds. They contribute greatly to the economy of a number of farmers. They are not big breeders but small or medium-sized farmers who have a good mare and produce the goodclass of half-breed that is used for hunting.

Or as a showjumper.

Yes. Very often the showjumper starts as a hunter. But if fox hunting as we know it were to be eliminated it is worth considering what effect that would have on the breeding of hunters here. There might be a limited number who would still continue in the game in the hope that they might get a world beater in the showjumping class, but certainly the kind of ready cash that can be got from the rearing of good half breeds for hunting purposes would be gone.

Those are the only thoughts I have on this Bill. The Minister has shown not merely considerable awareness of the problems that exist but he has shown considerable courage in his approach to this. I wish him every success so far as this legislation goes. By and large people interested, either as I am, as an individual, in game-shooting or interested from an emotional point of view in the preservation of wild fowl in the country will wish the Minister success in his efforts in this field.

This is a pretentious Bill which is notable for the fact that it has missed opportunities and for its remarkable comprehensiveness in achieving so very little and, worse still, for drawing attention to an extraordinary, inexplicable lacuna in our legislation in regard to protection. Because it omits protection for particular forms of wildlife that I will deal with later on, it is a Bill which will contribute to making us the rather unfortunate claimants to yet another seedy and obscene record in failure to civilise our laws in a particular aspect of our society. It is a very frustrating activity of my public life to go through Bill after Bill introduced in this House and in the other House and time after time, no matter what aspect of the life of our society is concerned to find the same stark, materialist considerations: The inevitability of cruelty, punitive, repressive, suppressing violence and completely barbarous practices which seem to pass over the majority of Senators, and indeed Deputies, without their knowing of the extraordinary philistinism or barbarity of the practices which they pass into law.

Over the years I have had the job of drawing attention to our curiously sadistic behaviour in relation to, say, the punishment of children, penology, criminology or criminality. In all these aspects where one could or should expect some element of humanitarianism, one never finds it, we seem to have this extraordinarily sadistic, sado-masochistic element in the Irish ethos which is inexplicable. It runs right across the whole culture. This is not a special Catholic thing, or a special Protestant thing. It is special to us Irish; it is exceptional in Europe. It is becoming exceptional in the one-time Third World people. Now, instead of cruelty to animals by hunting and killing painfully, which all hunting necessarily is, people now go on safari with Leica cameras. They are leaving behind the great guns for killing elephants, lions and tigers. Senator O'Higgins was right when he said that there was an element of hunting for the pot in primitive times. The only way a man knew how to survive was to hunt for the pot. Those times are long past.

Some European and African countries have attempted to preserve their wonderful wildlife game, irrespective of the fact that peculiar barbarians with money, go on safaries to kill these wonderful animals—lions, tigers, elephants and so on. They now go to look at them, see their beauty and try to derive the aesthetic satisfaction that civilised human beings should get from seeing the beautiful products of nature they used to kill in other African countries.

This is a rather pretentious Bill. One of the points made by Senator O'Higgins is particularly valid in establishing its pretentiousness. It would require an enormous reinforcement in the warden/gamekeeper personnel in the Department to implement it. I do not think we are likely to get that. For that reason many of the provisions in the Bill will not be operative. Even if one looks at the schedule of animals referred to in the various sections, it will be seen that this is complete stable door legislation. The horse has long bolted in relation to most of these wild animals we are going to protect—buzzards, eagles, falcons, harriers, hawks, kites and owls. There are very few of these.

This is very formidable legislation which seeks to protect these species of wildlife. There are also the pine martin, red deer, seals and whales. The Minister will have to agree that there is a certain element of unrealism in the suggestion that he is going to bring any significant protection to these wild animals. Because this legislation has been delayed for so long, and because we have been so totally irresponsible in regard to the marvellous heritage of animal and bird life and the countryside, it is quite likely that this legislation is too late.

In the Fifth Schedule a number of animals are mentioned—badger, bat, deer, hare, hedgehog, otter, pine martin, red squirrel and stoat. Legislation will permit killing deer, hare, otter and badger. This means that the list of animals which one is going to protect is either non-existent, or, by the time the hunting people are finished, there will not be any of these left. This is a give it with one hand and a take it with the other Bill. It is very difficult to know why the Minister took the trouble to introduce it.

This Bill was promised by his predecessor, Deputy Seán Flanagan, as far back as 1970. It was to be a model-for-Europe Bill. That is quite untrue. Maybe Deputy S. Flanagan meant it to be so but he is no longer there and so cannot be blamed for it. The Minister must know that it is not true. In Strasbourg in 1974 an informal discussion took place and it was decided that a telegram should be sent about the "model Bill" to Deputy Fitzpatrick. The following advice was given: forget it, advised the Dutch delegates, the whole messy business of hunting and chasing and the industry which supports them will quickly come to an end as a result of their beastly excesses. The 5 or 10 per cent of the remaining wild animals will then have a chance or die out in peace. As for their laws being a model for Europe, enjoined the Swiss, that has not been true for a long time. They are an example of the worst in Western Europe, at least as far as wildlife is concerned. Only Italy is as bad and Spain is nearly 100 years ahead of the Irish Republic—and Spain has bull fighting, another form of barbarism.

What is the source of the quotation?

The Wildlife Protection Association meeting held in Strasbourg in 1974. This is the kind of insulation from the reality of the concept which the world has about the ancient and historic Irish people which is so confusing. We give the impression that we believe we are a very gentle race. We are the only people who think that; we are the only people who believe that. An extremely good case can be made for showing that we have no right to that opinion whatsoever.

The origin of that would be a most interesting activity to wonder about, from the psychological point of view. I have my own opinions, but I will not go into them now. It is a fascinating and horrifying thought that we have this preoccupation with cruelty, violence and the savagery of killing little animals who are not attacking us, but who are running away from us as fast as they can. We are hunting them as fast as we can on horses, with the yells and shouts Senator M.D. Higgins talked about, not unlike the hounds baying. Hounds can be forgiven for behaving like hounds. This is the extraordinary practice in relation to many of the beautiful little animals which do very little harm compared to what is said about them.

Senator O'Higgins mentioned one point in relation to the killing by shooting and so on and Senator Dolan also talked about this: we kill animals anyway to eat. I happen to be a vegetarian because I would not kill an animal myself and, therefore, I would not care to ask anybody else to kill an animal for me. I am not asking people to be vegetarians. We have a method of killing humanely. There is a great difference there. Senator Dolan said we have to kill animals for those people who eat meat. That is understandable. I want to emphasise that we kill them humanely. Nobody could say that when one takes a double-barrelled shotgun, a .22 or a .303 rifle, and shoots at a bird in a tree or an animal 50 or 100 yards away—a very high percentage of the animals hit are hurt and will die very painfully—that that is not cruelty. There is all the difference between that kind of killing with a gun or a hound and killing with the very blunt instrument of long distance pellets and slugs or the hunt to kill by hunters.

It is not necessary to hunt for the pot because we have many laws to make sure the butchers and abattoirs use humane killers. We have inspectors who make sure that animals are killed in a humane way, but not in respect of hunting or of this sport of following little animals until they are exhausted, fall at our feet, and the dogs tear them to pieces. How anybody can take one of the most beautiful birds in the world —the cock pheasant, with its glorious colourful feathers—and pour shot into that lovely body and destroy and bring it down in blood and broken bones and feathers, I cannot understand. How anybody can do that defies my comprehension. If it is done in the name of sport, that is an obscene misuse of that word.

There are Senators who do not share my views. Possibly, as time goes on and they think a little about what I am saying, they may come to share these views. I have not had these views all my life. This is one of the grievances I had against my upbringing and my education. I did not see the enormity of the cruelty of an adult taking a little animal in this very cruel way and killing it. This is one of the reasons why I take an interest in discussing this measure. I hope, as time goes on, that Senators will begin to, possibly not change their minds, but to understand the changing mind of young people. This is one of the hopeful developments in our society practically at all levels, that young people are becoming less involved in this display of violence which appealed to our generation and our forefathers. Remember bull-baiting, bear-baiting, cock-fighting and dog-fighting and all the brutalising, dehumanising, cruel and savage sports. They are now unthinkable to most of us. There is cock-fighting possibly in the Border counties still. They have passed into history. They are no longer acceptable to any Senators here. They would not think it funny to catch a bear or have bulldogs tearing at the noses of bulls and fighting to the death, or those other terrible displays of cruelty of, say, 50 or 100 years ago— bare-knuckle fighting among men. They are all unthinkable now. So we have progressed to some extent in the world, but it is limited here.

I am hoping young people will not follow in the pattern set for them by our generation. There is hope that they are not doing this. I find it reassuring that football matches are finding it very hard to get crowds. The essential warlike display at these football matches is violence of one kind or another. These are being supported by less and less. Even bullfighting in Spain is finding it quite difficult to get spectators. I am hopeful that the next generation will begin to see the unthinkable cruelty of these activities. The Minister could have taken this opportunity to deal with this question of cruelty to animals in the name of sport or of hunting.

The main animals in which I am interested are the otter, the badger, the fox and the hare. These are still to be fair game for hunters in the years ahead. Surely this is an extraordinary omission on the part of the Minister? He will not take the responsibility of eliminating the killing of these animals in the form of sporting activity. Even Britain, which had this inhumane attitude to animals among the ruling classes for centuries, has got to the stage where they are outlawing open coursing. We will be the last outpost of barbarity in all Europe in relation to killing, hunting and torturing animals. This is a scandalous reputation. Are we ashamed of this?

Senator O'Higgins talked about the money side of the hunting business. There is the question of whether cruelty should be permitted because there is money to be made from it. There must be some limit to the gross materialism of our standards in this allegedly Christian society. There must be some levels which we will not permit simply because there are a few pounds in it. Even if this consideration did not exist, is it not a fact that one can have drag hunts? If people must indulge in hunting, can they not have drag hunts?

The South County Dublin Hunt Club, to which the Taoiseach is attached, have a drag hunt. This is an utterly painless activity for the animals, apart from the horses. It is exciting, presumably; it is enjoyable and trains the hunters Senator O'Higgins was worried about. One could continue to have one's trade in hunters and, at the same time, not do it at the expense of the unfortunate fox.

I am particularly sorry that the otter will not be protected. Otter hunting is an extraordinary sport. These are gentle, delightful, clever, ingenious, brave, courageous little animals. Yet, hoards of young people go out with poles, sticks and hounds to follow this unfortunate animal on both banks of a river. The animal jumps into the water and tries to keep swimming under the water. When he comes onto the bank he is hunted back by these dreadful people with sticks in their hands. This tiny little animal is the target. They hunt him back into the water until eventually he is too exhausted—a hunt can go on for anything up to four hours—and is dug out with picks and shovels if he goes to ground. He is then beaten to death or the hounds tear him apart. He fights for his life, but the hounds are much too strong for him. If the hounds are not able for him, there are always the ring of bully boys with their big sticks to protect themselves from the poor little exhausted animal.

How could anybody call this a sport? It is extraordinary that there are young boys and girls throughout Ireland who have been brought up to believe that they are participating in a sport when they go otter hunting. Otters are said to kill fish. I do not see why animals should not have the right to live. Why must they be killed simply because they interfere with our way of life, but not in a meaningful way? If they get into spawning beds and kill the spawn, that can be prevented. The fish they kill, according to very close observation, are sick fish. It has been ascertained that they kill eels. Eels eat trout and salmon. The intelligent owners of riparian rights in these rivers are beginning to understand that otters are an advantage in a river. Very occasionally the otter kills salmon and trout. Otters are now encouraged in rivers in order to protect the river, the salmon and the trout.

The British magazine The Field contains records of these sports. In 1967, in an editorial they stated:

The truth is that the otter does little or no harm to fishing interests.

It is very difficult to understand why we allow this delightful little creature to be hunted by dogs and by people with sticks in this very cruel and unfeeling way. Perhaps some Senators can give a rationale for this kind of thing. I have never heard one which convinced me.

Senator Michael D. Higgins talked about Dr. Fairlie's work on foxes. He made it clear that much fallacy existed about hunting the fox. Incidentally, having listened to Senator Kilbride telling about the fox being bred to be killed and being a treacherous and cunning animal, I do not want to be disrespectful to the Senator, but the truth of the matter is that the behaviour pattern of an animal, and particularly the fox, is an extraordinarily complicated and abstruse subject. It is much easier to have the kind of piseog we heard from the Senator than to have factual information.

Dr. Fairley who has done between ten and 20 years study on the life and activity of foxes, now says that he could write a book about the fox and its activities, but what he does not know, the questions which have arisen since he started studying the fox, would fill volumes in a large library because, apparently, it is such a complicated creature. Dr. Fairley of Galway University, is the greatest authority on foxes in Europe. It is wrong to say they kill the lambs. There is quite an amount of evidence to establish that foxes cannot kill them so long as the ewe is present. The only time foxes will kill lambs is when the ewe is having a second lamb, where there are twin lambs.

We can understand the farmer's viewpoint because of the folklore about foxes over the years, and when he sees a fox then every dead lamb or chicken is the work of the fox. This is not true. There are other animals, including roaming dogs and hungry dogs, such a distressing sight in rural Ireland, which can cause the trouble. The fox is frequently blamed but in Dr. Fairley's assessment—this is a scientific assessment—something like 50 per cent of the cases attributed to the foxes are attributable to other causes.

The fox serves a very useful function, to use civil service jargon, because they kill rats, mice and various animals. To destroy the fox would probably upset the balance of nature which other Senators spoke about and in that way, rather like the complaints of so many about myxomatosis, it would probably do more harm than good if the fox were eliminated. Of course the truth is the fox is not being eliminated, that the people on horses kill very few foxes. When these people talk about keeping down the foxes they are not really doing that, they are simply enjoying themselves in this bizaare pastime; but the excuse given is that they are keeping down the foxes. Neither, apparently, does the bounty system keep down foxes. The population of foxes is unchanged even though there has been the bounty system in Northern Ireland for many years; 7,000 to 9,000 foxes were killed but the same number of foxes still exists.

Why does fox hunting continue to be tolerated? Why does the Minister allow this sport to continue? Surely there are good reasons for its elimination, even from the agricultural point of view. The farmer does not want horseriders jumping through his fences, riding across his land and bringing these foxhounds, many of which are diseased. Indeed the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries make that point when they tell farmers, in order to protect their herds from brucellosis, to keep dogs off their land. Yet these kinds of hounds, in the form of hunts, could be the source of brucellosis.

Cub hunting is another extraordinarily cruel kind of foxhunting, whereby they bring the young hounds down, collect a few young fox cubs and after ten or 15 minutes they are caught and torn to bits by the young hounds. This is the process of blooding—surely, again, a totally barbaric practice. How can anybody defend taking these small animals, which are about the size of kittens, and throwing them to dogs to be torn to bits in order to blood the dogs? Meanwhile the poor unfortunate vixen will dodge around in the covert to the last minute trying to divert the hunt from her family— the wonderful courage of these animals in the face of this barbaric human behaviour. There is the blooding of children at foxhunts. Surely this is the most primitive tribal kind of behaviour by allegedly civilised human beings, taking the blood of the dead animal and smearing it over the child's face. These are the kind of things that we do and will continue to do under this new Bill. The Minister knows this goes on and he is doing nothing about it. It is extraordinary, but very few of the Senators seem to be unduly concerned about it.

There is one other fact which I should like to convey to Senator Dolan so that he would know the good that a fox does rather than the damage he causes. The fox kills, on average, 15 mice and six rats per day, that is 21,000 mice and 9,000 rats a year. So that could be a case, that if foxes were killed, the rats and mice would be allowed to proliferate.

(Cavan): Has the Senator no sympathy for the poor mice and rats?

I can understand a fox behaving like a fox but a human being behaving like a fox is a different matter altogether. This is the kind of way in which the balance of nature is upset. The fox has a very positive function. I appreciate the difficulties of farmers. I have seen my own lambs killed by something or other. I do not know what killed them but I did not necessarily blame the fox. There are ways in which foxes can be controlled, by gassing them in the setts. In some cases they have to be killed, but it is a reasonably humane way of killing them. To block their holes, making them go out into the open without any refuge or protection against dogs is completely unforgiveable.

The other animal I should like to talk about is the badger. Again, the badger is a beautiful and aesthetically a delightful animal. He lives on rats, mice, slugs, snails, worms, grubs, roots, berries, wasps, insects and young rabbits. Again in the balance of nature he serves a very useful purpose. He is a very important and valuable asset. In relation to the killing of poultry and the going into a silage pit that Senator Dolan talked about, these kinds of things can happen, but surely nowadays we have a responsibility. Senator Kilbride talked about the killing of hens, but if one keeps hens in insecure surrounds or if one has farm buildings which are not properly protected, surely one can hardly blame an animal if, being hungry, he decides to take advantage of the fact that you have left the door open. Most of us close the doors of our houses at night time, and if we have a shop or a petrol pump we do not leave it there for anybody to come along and take what they want. These are things that we observe in relation to our behaviour to one another. Why can we not take the same precautions and see that these animals are safely lodged and protected for the night? Most of the deep litter kind of poultry that is in use in rural areas is highly protected.

However, badgers are very shy creatures and badger-baiting, fortunately, is no longer permissible. I think most of us would shudder at the thought of the awful business of capturing a badger and then killing it with dogs. But there was a time when it was commonplace and accepted and its cruelty obviously not appreciated. Badger digging, however, is still legal. The terrier is sent down into the sett, the poor badger fights back. The diggers find out where the badger is and then they start digging down. Dog after dog is sent down into the sett to drag the badger out and then it may be killed when it is brought to the surface, but quite frequently, unfortunately, the people who have dug it out tend to indulge in the sport of losing it to the terriers and letting the terriers kill it or putting it in a sack and taking is somewhere else to kill it, again an extraordinarily cruel pastime. There were a few sequences shown on Telefís Éireann of a film taken in Northern Ireland in 1966 in which an unconscious badger was revived and brought back to life in order to fight on.

There is no justification for killing badgers in this way at all. Nobody has seriously made a case for it at all, and this is a wild animal like the otter and the hare that should have been protected in the Minister's Bill. There was a newspaper report here in 1966 of a badger killing:

The one I saw killed had put up a three-hour fight, but in the end the fighting spirit with which he had defended his life, his family and his home was exhausted. Its sleek black and white coat was covered in blood from the dog bites and slashes from two sharp tongs. Even then it took four blows with a crowbar to split open its skull and end its misery.

This is another process, incidentally, in badger hunting—the use of a badger tongs which is a very small weapon with very sharp edges, which is pushed down into the hole as soon as the badger is dug out. The badger is pulled out with this appalling weapon and then thrown to the dogs in order for the dogs to destroy him. That goes on in our society among Irishmen and women, presumably, too occasionally, but we are going to go on defending that kind of behaviour in rural Ireland, this cruelty to tiny little animals by civilised men.

Finally, I should like to talk about the other extraordinary pastime in our society, that is, hare coursing. Coursing clubs are operated by the Irish Coursing Club and Bord na gCon between them. There is no doubt at all—and the Minister must know this—that the rules of the coursing club are very frequently broken. This again lovely wild animal, the hare, is becoming increasingly scarce, and even the blood sport people themselves recognise that it is becoming increasingly scarce. They hold about 90 meetings a year, about 140 days coursing, and the process is even more calculatedly cruel than the other ones I have recounted involving the badger, the otter and the fox, because this is a particularly gentle animal. I suppose the badger, the fox and the otter could all bite you. That might be used as a justification for smashing their brains in by some of these hunting men, but the hare is a particularly beautiful gentle animal. The coursing process is a particularly shocking one because the agony, the cruelty and the torture is so prolonged. It goes on and on and on.

The animal is collected in the first instance. They have drives and nets. They drive the poor hares into these nets and what is particularly offensive to me is that youngsters are brought out into these drives. These lovely animals are driven into the nets and when they are caught in the nets they are frequently screaming, struggling, terrified, and they are taken out of the nets, put in cases and then sent off to the coursing meeting. Then the farce of training goes on. Imagine training a wild animal in three or four days. What a misuse of the word "training". How could it happen? Anyway, they wire in the place where they have the meeting, and the theory is that six or seven days before the meeting these animals are hunted up and down by people shouting at them so that they learn to know the track between the slipper and the escape. Even if this did take place it would be an appallingly cruel process, but it does not take place; in fact in most cases the hares are not trained and the result of this is that when the hare gets into the arena— like the gladiators of old—it does not know where the escape hatch is. Which of us would in similar circumstances if we were to be hunted like that? Which of us would remember, in the appalling panic of the dogs behind you, where the escape was? So it zig-zags here and there and, of course, is quickly killed. The killing rate is very high and on some occasions hares have been known and have been shown to have been coursed when they were sick from pneumonia, when they could not run properly. Yet the coursing has taken place and a very high percentage of the unfortunate animals have been killed.

This process of so-called training the hares goes on. Then the poor little devils are hunted by these greyhounds who cannot be blamed for their behaviour because they are only animals. If some of them are not killed—and many of them are killed immediately —they then get to the escape. This is where the offensive misuse of the word "sport" comes into it. Instead of congratulating the gallant and brave little animal for getting away from the greyhounds, the animal is captured again and sent back into the enclosure to await possibly another course that day, and if not that day, another course the following day. If he survives all that, he will be encased again and be sold to another coursing club and be coursed until he is killed.

Is that not a remarkably extravagant exercise in calculated cruelty? Surely the kind of mind that does this is capable of doing all these things like Auschwitz and Buchenwald and justifying it? These are utterly helpless animals; they cannot even talk back or defend themselves. Most of them cannot even bite you. And they are about three feet high off the ground.

The Senator never caught them, or he would know about bites.

I am sorry, I hope the Senator was not badly hurt, was he? He survived anyway. That was a good thing. If he were to do to me the things that are done with the hare, I would bite him, too. However, the slipper is the man who lets the dogs off after the little hare. He is the brave man that stands behind the dogs. He has the decision whether to give the hare a fair run for his money or whether to have sport—kill the hare quickly and blood the young dogs, because the dogs have to be blooded apparently.

This is the kind of crude, simplistic thinking about animal behavour which could only be the product of extraordinarily ignorant minds. I just quoted there Dr. Fairley who spent between ten and 20 years exclusively working on the history and lifestyle of a fox and says he could write a book possibly on what he has found, and there would be a volume of questions to be asked about the behaviour of a fox after that. This of course is true of all animals, including ourselves. There is no absolute proof that an animal must be blooded before he will hunt no more than there is that a youngster who is blooded in this horrible way by the blood of a dead animal is going to hop up on a horse at the first possible opportunity and look for some unfortunate animal in order to hunt him and kill him.

Coursing is a disgusting practice. There is no doubt that there is a very big vested interest involved in the hunting of hares, but, as I said in relation to the fox, it is possible to have this kind of sport with mechanical animals. In Harolds Cross, Ringsend, and these other dog tracks all over the world there is no reason why one could not have this sport. I am not opposed to people enjoying themselves, but there is no reason in the world why we should feel that it is sporting to hunt an animal. We must be the only species in the world that kill one another because we are angry with one another. But we are the only species of animal which hunts for sport and gets fun out of it.

There is a terribly primitive implication in the sickness of the kind of human being that can see nothing wrong in this kind of thing.

The coursing club is not supervising this sport as it should supervise it. It is condoning the cruelty of this whole process of coursing. It is concealing it where it can. There is documented evidence to show that by the Irish Council Against Bloodsports. They have gone to the trouble of going to these disgusting meetings—and a revolting experience most of them must find it— in order to document the evidence and to show the various failures on the part of coursing clubs. I should like to quote, if I may, a couple of paragraphs from a committee meeting of the council after the conclusion of the annual general meeting trials of the South County Dublin Coursing Club on the 19th, 21st and 22nd October:

The bestiality of coursing was emphasised on Sunday last when one hare was caught by two dogs, pulled and tugged, but eventually got away and was again caught by one dog. The dog carried it round for a time by one leg when it again escaped but this time was once more caught by the two dogs. It was put out of its suffering when eventually the stewards reached the hare and killed it.

Another example:

Coursing's mercilessness was emphasized last Sunday when a small young hare released for coursing ran frantically to the wire at the side of a field in an attempt to get out. It was chased away by the onlookers——

brave onlookers behind the wire,

——and then headed for the entrance gate and the real escape. Just at the gate and freedom it was blocked and it was chased back to the hare paddock for further coursing. For officials to reach the hounds in order to release the caught hares took from 15 seconds to two minutes and five seconds. To put the maimed animal out of pain and suffering took anything from one to five blows at the back of its neck with the edge of the hand.

The last quote:

Children were brought into the meeting and trials to be taught the lesson that cruelty of the strong to the weak was acceptable.

Youngsters are encouraged to take the maimed animals and kill them, put them out of their misery. What an extraordinary way in which to train a child in kindness. I would ask the Minister to reconsider the provisions of this Bill, if not from a humanitarian point of view, then from the point of view of the good name of the country. We are the last country in Europe doing this kind of thing. We are the last barbarians in Europe. They have all gone through this like us. They have all gone through the savage era and they have become more civilised. We are the last among them.

I ask the Minister to amend section 23, to delete subsection (7) permitting the taking and killing of hares by coursing and so on, to delete section 26 allowing masters of hounds to hunt and kill otters and stags, badgers and such animals. This is one omission which would not cost too much. The case could be made for showing that it will not hurt materially. There was always a defence of all these other things, bull baiting, bear baiting, bare knuckle fighting, cock fighting, dog fighting, slavery—all this horrible inhuman behaviour by human beings either to one another or to animals. There is always this materialistic defence of them, but in the end finer qualities in human beings, which exist probably in us too although there is very little sign of it, still persists. In the final analysis if we do not do it for any of these reasons could we not do it because the rest of Europe has done it?

Unlike the previous speaker I should like to add my voice to the many Senators who have extended a welcome to this long overdue legislation. In doing so I should like to pay my compliment to the Minister for a most comprehensive and detailed statement of introduction. There is no doubt that he has been in consultation with the various sporting and conservation bodies who are interested in the preservation of wildlife, both at national and at local level.

As a Wicklow woman, I should like to say that Wicklow is one of the prime sporting counties in this country and has a special and very particular interest in this legislation and will continue to demonstrate that interest when the Bill is passed, as I presume it will be, by ensuring the day to day implementation of the new legislation. Unfortunately or fortunately, the close proximity of Wicklow to the capital has presented us with many advantages, but on the other side with very many problems, not the least is the heavy pressure on our wildlife population.

Wicklow has often been described as the "Garden of Ireland" but to a certain section of the community it is regarded more as the "back garden of Dublin" rather than the "Garden of Ireland". Having said that, I should like to place on record, firstly, the appreciation of the many people in Wicklow who are interested in tourism, of the traffic generated by reason of our close proximity to the capital. Certainly we appreciate the business that it generates in view of the close proximity to Dublin Airport and the sea terminal of Dún Laoghaire and the many visits that are paid to our beautiful county by the many tourists who come from all over the world.

Unfortunately, however, there is one type of visitor which we could well do without. I refer to the many vandals who come out in droves as day trippers and weekend trippers and who ravage and rape the natural beauty of our scenic county. I refer not alone to the destruction of our trees and bird life but to the killing of some of our domestic animals. There is a new cult in vogue at the moment where young boys come out with bows and arrows and go so far as to kill sheep which are the property of the sheepowners of the county. They kill sheep in our fields and I suppose skin them and refurbish their deepfreezes here in Dublin with them. I do not know whether one would call this a blood sport or a type of larceny but it is certainly something which no Wicklow person could condone and more particularly no person who would like to be regarded as a sportsman.

There is another element to which I would refer here. It is probably irrelevant to the Bill. That is the incidence of indiscriminate dumping in our county. Many would-be tourists and trippers who come out from the capital practise it because of the lack of scavenging services and refuse depots in the Dublin area: they literally strew their garbage over our beautiful county. This is something which we resent. Particularly as a member of a Wicklow local authority I resent it in no uncertain manner.

I have referred to the cult of the use of the bow and arrow. It may sound rather far-fetched and exaggerated to many Senators but it is nonetheless factual. If anybody doubts my word I can produce the facts to prove it. I have concrete evidence of it.

In section 74 of the Bill heavy penalties are envisaged which, if strictly enforced, should combat the ever-growing menace of the poacher. But, taking into account the everincreasing value of game as a source of food, one wonders if the penalties are severe enough. I would have grave reservations about this. It is something which I imagine will be dealt with on Committee Stage. I know that for many years associations like the National Association of Regional Game Councils, the Irish Wildlife Conservancy, the Irish Field and Country Sports Society and the Irish Deer Society have made representations to successive Ministers regarding the preservation of wildlife in Ireland. It is my belief that the keystone of this legislation will be establishment of the advisory council that has been referred to by the Minister. I respectfully suggest to him that he would recruit the personnel for this advisory council from representatives at national level of the various sporting organisations to which I have referred. I think that in that way we will be assured of the specialised knowledge, expertise and practical experience of the men most closely concerned with the conservation of wildlife. The smooth and efficient working of this Bill would really depend for success on the character and personnel of the proposed Wildlife Advisory Council to be set up under section 13.

In my opinion if there is anything wrong with this Bill it is that it is so long overdue. We remember that it is almost half a century since the Game Preservation Act, 1930, was introduced. The Wildlife Bill is a milestone in the conservation of game and the protection of our national heritage.

As a Wicklow person I should like to deal specifically with deer, which are a source of pride and pleasure in Wicklow. At last under the terms of this Bill they have got the status which they rightly deserve. They are no longer regarded as pests but are to be protected under this Bill. Our red deer, which are becoming extinct, are now included in the list of protected animals under section 23 and the Fourth Schedule. Other members of the deer family are similarly protected under the Fifth Schedule. It is worthy of note that Ireland is the only civilised country in the world without laws to protect native deer. Legislation to control deer hunting and deer preservation is urgently required.

For the first time close seasons will be established. Under section 33 the Minister will have power to make regulations specifying the type and calibre of weapons used to hunt deer. Our main cause for concern is that there should be a prohibition of weapons which are totally inadequate to control deer. Their use has been the cause of untold misery and suffering to the deer which are hunted by them. I refer specifically to the use of the .22 rifle and shotgun. It has been suggested to me by people who know more about this sport than I do that nothing less than .240 is effective.

I submit, with respect, that it should not be necessary to obtain a licence to hunt hare or deer with hounds in an open season. I would not oppose the licensing of packs of hounds to hunt the otter. With regard to section 44, I feel that the entering of lands while hunting protected wild animals should be allowed without having to obtain the prior permission of the land owner.

On sections 22 and 29, I consider the Minister should not be obliged to impose the same conditions on residential and non-residential sportsmen when granting licences. It would be desirable that licences granted to nonresidents should be for specific periods only and not for a full year at a time.

With regard to section 74, which deals with penalties, I think minimum penalties as well as maximum fines should be laid down and procedures devised to ensure that the rates of fines may be adjusted to keep in line with the real value of money. The minimum fine for killing a red deer should be much larger than for killing a more common mammal. It is a well-known fact that poachers who shoot deer have a lucrative market in this city for the animals they kill. For that reason I think the fines for this poaching should be much greater than for other poaching offences.

Mandatory confiscation of firearms and other articles used in connection with such offences should be stipulated and persons so convicted should automatically lose their licences to hunt.

Section 34 deals with the netting of hares, which is permissible. No provision has been made for the netting of hares for the purpose of coursing them. This omission will require to be rectified.

Sections 11, 15, 18 and 55 deal with land acquisition and compensation for land acquired. Accordingly, land may be acquired for reserves and refuges for wildlife through established orders, recognition orders or designation orders. The procedures for obtaining the agreement of private land owners to the acquisition of land and the conditions for obtaining proper compensation when such land has been acquired is very unsatisfactory and not according to established custom.

At this juncture I should like to pay tribute to the many private game preserves that are in existence throughout the country and particularly in my own county, Wicklow. Firstly, there is one game preserve at Broadlough near Wicklow. Secondly, we have on the Grangecarne Estate perhaps the only herd of white deer to be had in Ireland. I am open to contradiction on that point. I do not think that people who keep such game preserves and who give their land for this purpose are amply complimented and compensated.

Of particular interest to County Wicklow are sections 55 and 56, dealing with the compulsory acquisition of land for nature reserves. Senators may recall the uproar which was created when a former Dublin County Councillor, Councillor Niall Andrews, proposed the creation of a national park in part of the Wicklow mountains.

I have no hesitation in announcing that I was one of the shocked groups, so to speak, because of the sad experience we have had of the trippers. I have referred to the people who devastate our country at weekends. I fail to see how such a national park could be policed without being a heavy burden on the finances of the State. Perhaps the Minister has other ideas about this and perhaps there are other people who could demonstrate to me and to many of the members of the Wicklow County Council, particularly to the farmers of the county, that such a park could not only be established but could be controlled and maintained. I doubt that. The idea has met with much opposition from the members of the Irish Farmers' Association in the county and it has been under serious consideration for quite some time. The idea of a national park with free access to vandals and despoilers of all descriptions was something to which the sheepfarmers and the ratepayers of Wicklow did not take kindly.

While on the question of the preservation of deer, I think the Minister has a problem on his hands. I would be very loath to see the extinction of the deer population but I think it is on the way. I also feel that the Department of Lands have another obligation. Wicklow is also famous for afforestation, as the Minister knows well. If my information is correct, much damage has been done to the young trees by some of these deer. I do not blame the deer. They have got to live. Young conifers or the bark of whatever they go for is a sweet bite. If we are to preserve the deer and preserve the vegetation there must be a systematic fencing programme initiated by the Department. The two of them do not go hand in hand.

I am strictly opposed to poaching in all its forms, but there is one poacher in respect of whom I would lean slightly in the other direction and that is the farmer who is being beseiged by deer which comes down from the mountains and eat his crops, particularly root crops. This happens within three miles of where I live. In these times it costs so much to plant a crop, to buy seed and fertilisers, that no farmer can afford to lose a crop whether it be through vandalism or through pests. I would give a certain carte blanche to a poacher such as that. I would be the first to make representations to the Minister on behalf of a farmer who was being pestered in such a manner.

I referred to the fencing policy I should like to see initiated by the Department of Lands, and this brings me to the question of sheep. As a former member of Wicklow County Committee of Agriculture the question of sheep scab in Wicklow often arose. One excuse which was often presented to the agricultural instructor and the various inspectors, of Departments and otherwise, was that sheep found refuge within the State afforestation plantations and that they could not be rounded up at sheep-dipping time. I could not stress too forcibly the point that our young plantations must be fenced properly.

I was disappointed that most of the Senators spoke of the gory details of "this horrible blood sport business". They painted very grim pictures. But very few saw fit to speak of the flora end of this legislation. They dealt mainly with fauna. I should like to recite a little poem I learned when I was a child:

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot.

Rose pool, ferned grott—

The veriest school of peace.

And yet the fool contends that

God is not.

Not God

In gardens where the eve is cool?

Nay, but I have a sign—

`Tis very sure

God walks in mine.

Having said that, I will go back to the Garden of Ireland, Wicklow. We have many beautiful plants that are almost extinct. We have a very famous oak wood in Shillelagh which is certainly in need of preservation. Timbers from that wood have gone to the construction of Liverpool Cathedral and many famous buildings on the Continent. I regard it as part of our national heritage in Wicklow and I should like to see it preserved. The Burren in Clare is the only place in the world where wild orchids grow in abundance and where there are many tropical plants which are not found in many parts of the Continent.

In conclusion I should like to say that the various interested organisations with whom I have had consultation since this Bill was first furnished to us, have unreservedly welcomed it. I have had two of them in the House with me since the Bill was introduced. I have no doubt that they will have suggestions to make to me and other Senators on the Committee Stage. There are many amendments that can be made on that Stage. I commend the Minister for introducing it and I hope the Bill will have a smooth passage through the House.

What is it proposed to take tomorrow?

It is proposed to continue with the Wildlife Bill.

What about Friday?

The situation is unchanged. We are hoping to have the Social Welfare (Pay-Related Benefit) Bill by Friday. It is proposed to sit at 10.30 a.m. on Friday.

Debate adjourned.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 22nd May, 1975.