Wildlife Bill, 1975: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I want to join with other Senators in welcoming the Bill in general terms. Most people would agree that the Bill is necessary. Some Senators referred to the fact that the introduction of such a Bill has been proposed for a very long time. This is partly due to the very difficult time —as we who are in public life know —which the Department of Lands experienced internally. The Department of Lands are responsible for a great many things. Most Senators and Deputies who have been dealing with the Department of Lands for a very long time have found it very difficult to come to grips, in real terms, with any transactions, correspondence or dealings with them. I always had the impression that the Department of Lands found it difficult to conduct their business like other Departments. I accept that there was delay in introducing the Bill but I hope that when it becomes law it will do more than just put on record very elaborate terms for the files in the Department. I hope that, with the introduction of this Bill, there will be an effective follow-up. I fear the size of the Bill, the wide coverage and the Minister's long introductory speech. With such a sizeable Bill there is the danger that it will become ineffective; that the very people who will be expected to administer the Bill will be so bound up in its details that nothing constructive will follow. If this happened then it would be counter-productive and it would not correspond with the welcome which the Senators have given the Bill.

The follow-up action to the Bill is very important because those people who are interested in the preservation of wildlife will look to this Bill to regularise the many anomalies which have existed for a long time. When we discuss the working of the Bill I hope that we will have the basic guidelines and that they will come into effect in the near future. County committees of agriculture, regional game councils and gun clubs are all anxious that some effective measures be implemented by the Oireachtas to bring about an improvement in the situation. I am not entirely convinced that this Bill will do that but I hope it will. I ask the Minister to get the basic principles contained in the Bill across to as wide a section of the people as possible. That is the best contribution the Minister could make, rather than having elaborate legislation which was understood only by brilliant officials in his Department.

I am sure it is the Minister's and his Department's intention to have those people who are interested in the preservation of wildlife involved in the administration of the new Act. If the terms of the Bill are understood, most people in regional game councils, county committees of agriculture and gun clubs will be anxiously awaiting directions and help from the Minister. From my experience as a member of a county committee of agriculture and a regional game council I feel these councils are very anxious to preserve wildlife, especially game, but that they are frustrated in their attempts by the Department of Lands. Now, I hope we shall have an effective means whereby legislation can be put into effect.

Section 16 provides for the setting up of an advisory council and I hope the Minister will include all interested people on that body. If the Minister does that he will have good results.

The Bill covers a very wide area and one could talk on many aspects of wildlife. I should like to mention briefly the preservation of game. I have seen many clubs making very determined efforts to preserve game but they have been fighting a lost cause for a long time. It is an uphill battle to enforce the many regulations connected with the preservation game. I know some of the reasons why these organisations have been fighting a losing battle. I hope the Minister will examine this matter. The Department of Lands, through the Forestry Branch will have a major part to play. In every area where there is game there are forests. These forests are game sanctuaries.

I hope the Minister will not depend entirely on the forester in a particular area to advise on the administration of the Act as far as game is concerned. I have had the unhappy experience where a forester set himself up as the landlord and only the forester, his friends, relations, bank manager or other connections could shoot and take game from that part of the lands. However close the relationship between the forester in the area and the Department of Lands there should not be total dependence on the forester because he could very easily abuse the privilege, the knowledge and the power he has to the detriment of the preservation of game and by so doing actually bring about a deterioration in the credibility of the Department.

The forester is a very powerful man in the area because through him come tenders from regional game councils and from gun clubs for certain stretches of land. He has a decisive role to play in the allocation of lands to gun clubs and regional game councils. Therefore, he would be in a position of power and all too often the forester himself is totally in charge of that area and largely responsible for any game that is taken from very large stretches of forests. This position can be abused by a forester. I know of a case which still exists where a forester is abusing his position and only he and his friends can take game from a certain forest or from a wide range of forests which would be largely a sanctuary for game at the present time.

There is great danger that this can happen without the knowledge of the Department. The Department would feel that their representative on the ground would be the man with the most knowledge, the man who would be prepared to administer fairly in all cases. He would make recommendations. In cases where a forester is actually involved in taking game and has a gun licence, I think that the Department or the Minister should ensure that he is not abusing his rights and privileges. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not leave it to the local forester to decide whose tender will be accepted for a certain area of land and that the Minister will have other means of finding out what gun club or what game council are suitable tenants for land left by the Department and that the decision will not be left entirely to the local forester.

I hope that the Minister realises— it is of great importance—that at the end of the day you will have to depend on a wide section of the public effectively to administer this new legislation. It is not only a matter of the preservation of wildlife and game; definitions of game and vermin must be clearly set out here. The legislation must be followed up by help on the ground for those who are going to eliminate the vermin which has been largely responsible for the destruction of game and wildlife generally that we would like to preserve.

County committees of agriculture have been determined for a long time to make contributions out of their limited budgets for the wiping-out of vermin in various parts of the country but their budgets are limited and they can only make small contributions. Regional game councils have been getting some help from the Department for a long time. I do not think they have been getting enough. It is very hard to get effective work carried out in this field without getting a reasonable amount of help from the Department. The advisory council that will be set up will certainly have the task of assessing the need for providing money for the destruction of vermin and advising on various aspects of the preservation of game. I hope that the advisory council will embrace as wide a circle of opinion and involvement of people interested in the preservation of game and wildlife as possible.

This Bill also covers wildlife at sea. One could talk for a very long time on the various aspects of wildlife; the wildlife that it is desirable to preserve and where vermin come in. I rely mainly on the advisory council that is to be set up and I hope that people from the various industries, including the fishing industry, and those associated with fishing generally will be represented on the council.

I have had the experience of being closely associated with fishermen who have spent a good deal of money providing trawlers, nets and very expensive gear and they go out now in the salmon season fishing for salmon. I have seen as many as 20 or 30 salmon heads in a net, the salmon having been eaten by seals or sealions. I do not know whether this Bill will classify them as wildlife to be preserved or vermin of the sea. It is very important that there should be a clear definition of what is desirable here. There are people who think it would be a great crime to destroy sealions, seals and fish like that, and I hope that all interests can be taken into consideration when clear guidelines are being set. It is very very hard for those involved in the fishing industry who labour through the night with very expensive gear to find out in the morning that most of their fish have been destroyed by the sealions and seals. I hope that these will be classified as vermin and not as wildlife that we would be entitled to preserve. The fishing industry are the best people to advise on this and their advice should be recognised and accepted.

I do not agree with some of the speakers here who said that our present sporting activities are costing too much. We are the cheapest country in the world in this respect: a man can get a licence for a gun and he can pay a £1, or a very minimal contribution and have practically free shooting and free game licences. This is for nothing in comparison with the amount of money that people are prepared to spend on other forms of recreation. I hope that people will have to pay sufficient for it to appreciate that it is a very well worthwhile sport and that money must be spent to preserve game for those who want to shoot it in their leisure time. I never want to see the situation where it is only a rich man's sport. This would be totally against the wishes of most of us.

Nevertheless the cost of sport and sporting, shooting and hunting game should be in relation to other forms of sport. It costs money to play golf: annual fees must be paid to any golf club. We should have a premium on sporting and shooting that would commend the sport and would contribute towards the preservation and the restocking of game. That could be done when this Bill is being implemented. All in all, I am fairly confident that the public response to this measure will be very good and I hope that the Minister will use this opportunity to tap all the various interests involved. He will get the best results from the Bill if there is an immediate follow-up.

The various clubs in the country will be very anxious to contribute to the implementation of this Bill. I hope that the widest possible consideration will be given to all who are anxious to contribute—the county committees, the regional game councils, the gun clubs, the landowners, the fishermen. These are vital interests that must be taken into account if the Bill is to be effective. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not allow this measure to become dormant but that we will see a completely fresh approach to the whole matter of preservation of game and have clear definitions of game and vermin so that all the interested parties will know clearly how they can contribute, and that we will not be in the dark expecting the Department alone to administer the legislation that is now being introduced.

I am always fearful when wideranging legislation is introduced. People take it that it is the answer to all the problems but in fact it is only the paper answer. I hope this is not the paper answer. We have waited a long time for this Bill and I sincerely welcome it and hope that it will be put into effect and clearly understood by those who want to be helpful and to contribute to it.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Bill. I admire any measure that is taken to preserve wildlife, be it fauna or flora, in this island. As a race we have been particularly neglectful of the wildlife all round us. While I would not go as far as Senator Browne who last evening described us as the last barbarians in Europe, we have been remiss in the manner in which we have treated our wildlife.

This Bill is merely a beginning. I see serious defects in it but I look upon it as the beginning of a constructive attempt to preserve wildlife. Probably the greatest defect is the lack of methods of enforcement of the various sections. From reading it, it is quite clear that the people who are expected to enforce the various sections in the Bill are the Garda Síochána. To my mind this is ridiculous: as we well know this force is already grossly overworked. I cannot see how they can take on this extra duty of implementing the rules and regulations laid down here. What with extended working hours and with a far greater security problem their time becomes more fully occupied every day. If we expect them to implement these regulations we are gravely mistaken.

There is great need at the moment for gamekeepers. Some speakers have mentioned how the gamekeeper system went with the passing of the ascendency class and the major estates. It has not been replaced. I should like to advocate that game councils be set up throughout the country cerresponding to the boards of conservators which control salmon and trout fisheries. These boards could employ gamekeepers and control preservation of game as outlined in the Bill. Of course such councils would have to be subsidised, but we must have some such system because these protected species will not survive unless we have a very efficient method of control.

I welcome section 13, which proposes the setting up of a Wildlife Advisory Council. First, I hope that this body will be completely above politics and that it will consist of people who are actively engaged in the preservation of wildlife. It could do a great deal of good if it consisted of the right people. They should be given the job of correlating the work which is at present done by State bodies such as An Foras Talúntais, An Foras Forbartha, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Inland Fisheries Trust. These have served a very useful purpose and they all deal with various aspects of wildlife.

I should like to see this council coordinating the work of these State bodies thereby performing a very valuable function. I believe they work independently at the moment.

I referred to my fears that these regulations will not be enforced. At the moment there is a law which states that you must license a dog. I have not heard of anybody being prosecuted for having an unlicensed dog in a long long time. Yet dogs roam through the country in tens of thousands and do tremendous damage to our wildlife. If we cannot control such domestic animals which are supposed to be under strict control and under licence, how are we to protect the wilder species? I would go so far as to say that the uncontrolled manner in which dogs and cats are allowed roam the countryside must have a terribly serious effect on our stock of wildlife.

We are indifferent to our environment. We are blessed with wonderful wildlife animals but we do not really appreciate them. By and large we are a cruel race. It is imperative that we have such a Bill as this, and that this Bill be enforced to get rid of the excesses practised towards our wildlife animals. One way of conditioning the minds of the public, and especially of the young people, is education. If we are to treat these creatures properly, young people will have to be taught to respect them and love them.

Our schools in recent years have played an increased role in this regard. For instance, in the primary schools for several years past we have had environmental studies where the students learn about various animals and plants. There was a great void in this regard because for many many years appreciation of animals and plants was not taught as a school subject. Likewise in the secondary schools, we have biology as part of a subject for the Intermediate Certificate. It is taken in science, together with physics and chemistry. It leads to a greater understanding by the children of our plants and animals. Our generation have been particularly lacking in this type of knowledge, as was illustrated in this debate. I would not like to set myself up as being more knowledgeable than anybody else but I have an average knowledge of wildlife. I heard one Senator getting mixed up between crows and pigeons. He was not able to distinguish between them. Another Senator gave us a lecture last night on the innocence of foxes. He told us, and he was quite serious, that a fox will not attack a lamb unless the lamb's mother is having a second lamb. This lack of understanding is almost bewildering. Most of us have great gaps in our knowledge of the wildlife around us. These two mistakes typify the lack of knowledge which is prevalent.

As I pointed out, one of the major defects in this Bill is that we will not be able to enforce it. I do not agree with the section which states that burning scrub, undergrowth and clearing undergrowth and vegetation is not allowed between 18th March and the 31st July, except in the pursuit of agriculture. This is too wide. It gives permission to a farmer or an individual to burn vegetation where birds might be nesting and breeding. Before any burning or clearing is done, the land concerned should be inspected by an official of the Department. He should see that damage is not being done to a protected species, as outlined in this Bill. This is too sweeping a concession.

Burning is carried out on a large scale, especially on hilly ground and mountains in the months of April and May. The amount of damage done is colossal. Breeding birds and their nests are wiped out wholesale.

There should be restrictions on such clearing and burning. People doing archaeological work are allowed to destroy nests and to remove eggs out of nests of protected birds. There should be stricter controls on this. We must protect the species. The houseowner or landowner affected should be compensated rather than be allowed to kill these birds or remove their nests or eggs. We are allowing too much latitude in these sections.

Reference was made to forests and afforestation in this Bill. I am disappointed our forests have not been used to a greater extent as habitats for preserved species of animals and birds, especially woodcock, partridges, pheasants and so on. There is a conflict of interests between what is desirable and what is economically the best thing to do. Unfortunately, econnomics have dictated policy to the detriment of what we should do.

At the moment our forests are almost invariably coniferous. They have become what were described as ecological deserts with no undergrowth and no vegetation to create the habitat for most species of wildlife. I suggest that we vary our afforestation policy and intermingle a couple of acres of deciduous trees here and there in new State forests, thereby creating the desirable type of habitat to which I have referred. Very little wildlife exists in our forests, other than vermin, such as foxes and rabbits. It would be more desirable if they were used as sanctuaries as well as for their commercial value.

What alarms me most about the Bill and about our approach to wildlife in general is our lack of knowledge as to what has happened our wildlife over the years. A large number of species of birds, for instance, decreased in number and nobody seems to know why. I have seen no evidence of investigation into why the numbers have decreased. What is the cause of the decrease?

There seems to be a serious decrease in the numbers of common birds such as the song thrush, yellowhammer, housemartin, sandmartin, kingfisher. Nobody seems to know the reason for the decline. I do not think sufficient investigation has been carried out to find the reason for the decline. Have we any prospects of doing so? I would advocate that a census of wild life species be carried out regularly. It would enable us to find out what the decrease was due to. We have very little knowledge why numbers are decreasing.

Senator W. Ryan mentioned that he had heard only one corncrake in his part of County Tipperary this year. In the west of Ireland they are reasonably plentiful. In the south and east of Ireland they are non-existent. We should do our utmost to find out the reasons for the disappearance of the corncrake. Swallows are on the decrease also. There is a serious danger that puffins will disappear altogether. Puffins used to appear in large numbers on the west and north coast. There is a drastic reduction in their numbers. What is the reason for these decreases? The most topical theory put forward is that seeds are dressed in such a manner with certain chemicals and pesticides that they kill off certain species. In Great Britain and other countries these dressings have been totally eliminated. They have not been totally eliminated in this country.

Agriculturists advise that certain seeds should be dressed with DDT and other pesticides. There should be an investigation into the effect these have on birds. Another theory put forward is that song thrushes and the other birds I mentioned are on the decrease because their natural habitats have been affected.

Removing fences and hedgerows and the turning of a number of small fields into a vast open space have become very popular. It is tied up with modern concepts of farming. We should do quite a lot of investigation into this type of decline. Under this Bill hawks are protected, but hawks and pheasants are very susceptible to the types of dressings which we are getting on seeds.

The Department of Lands have carried out a survey on the numbers of woodcock in the country. The survey has not been published. While the numbers are decreasing there is no conclusive evidence as to what is causing the decrease. We are very lacking in our knowledge of the effects these chemicals are having on these birds. There is a contradiction in the Bill with regard to present legislation. Perhaps the Minister would explain how it has arisen. In the Third Schedule to the Bill otters and seals are a protected species. At the moment in certain areas there are bounties given for the destruction of otters and seals. How can we reconcile the protecting of them, on one hand, with the awarding of a bounty, on the other?

My reason for bringing up this lack of knowledge and my concern with certain aspects of the Bill is illustrated as follows. The cormorant is a bird which is not protected under the Bill. It is regarded as a pest. Scientific evidence proves that the cormorant is not a pest or a destroyer of young salmon and trout as was originally thought. A booklet entitled The Food of the Cormorant illustrates from a number of surveys carried out in recent years throughout the country that the cormorant depends for its food largely on fish which have no commercial value, such as the bass and the small eel. It is a mistake to think that cormorants feed upon salmon and trout principally. The survey clearly illustrates that it depends only for two per cent of its food upon salmon and trout. Because of our misconception as to what it eats and kills it is regarded as a pest to be eradicated. This survey shows quite clearly that it is not the pest that it is considered to be. Bounties are paid for cormorants and in many cases the birds that are shot are not cormorants at all. They are a different species which are not protected under the Bill. The cormorant is often confused with the shag. The shag causes considerable damage. This type of false image which is built up about certain animals and birds is quite alarming. Sufficient research has not been carried out for us to enable us to formulate some of the theories which are behind the framing of this Bill.

Seals are protected under the Bill, although bounties are paid in certain areas to get rid of them. A lot can be said for retaining a certain number of any species no matter how great a pest it is. I do not want to see seals wiped out. They should be retained in colonies in places where they can do little damage to commercial fisheries or to the nets of fishermen who operate in these areas. We have two types of seals, the common seal, found all around the coast and the grey seal, which is found chiefly on the west coast. But they are not plentiful in numbers. We should set up sanctuaries for seals and confine them to those areas and eliminate them from river estuaries where they do tremendous damage to salmon stocks and nets.

The same principle could be applied to cormorants. They do a tremendous amount of damage when they congregate around salmon or trout hatcheries, so they should be eliminated completely from those areas. I am glad to see the otter is being protected. One of the finer points of the Bill is that certain animals, which were never given protection, such as the otter and deer, are now being protected.

Very little attention is given to flora in this Bill. It deals primarily with animals and birds. I should like to see more research into the different types of trees and plants which could be grown. On the south coast one could find a fig tree or a cork tree growing. Some years ago an experiment was carried out in either west Cork or Kerry to grow vines in the open air. I do not believe the Department of Lands have carried out much research in this matter. It would be interesting to find out if certain trees and plants could be grown in subtropical areas such as West Cork or South Kerry. If, as the Cork Examiner says, potatoes can be picked in Goleen, West Cork, in the month of April, it must mean that some of these tropical plants could be cultivated if proper research was carried out. Plant breeding has reached a stage of development where certain strains of these plants and trees might be able to grow in our climate.

Under the terms of the Bill we get rid of having to have two licences, a gun and a game licence, and there will be just one licence covering the two. Anybody holding a game licence should be a member of a gun club. There are too many mavericks at present, under no control or restriction, taking pot shots here, there and everywhere. It should be a condition for obtaining a game licence that the applicant belong to a gun club and be subject to the rules and regulations of that club. It is not an uncommon sight to see men going down to the foreshore and taking a pot shot at a seagull or some other seabird. This type of shooting should be completely outlawed. I should like to see more stringent control of people with guns in that respect. Gun clubs do a great job in restocking sanctuaries and they are one of the most alert organisations where the preservation of wildlife is concerned.

It will probably be necessary to have game licence fees increased to cover the type of restocking necessary at present. These clubs are not given enough financial support to enable them to make improvements. An increased subsidy from the Department would be a great help.

Reference was made earlier to the granting of a special licence to visitors from Europe and elsewhere. Some of these visitors—I am sure most of them are excellent sportsmen—are inconsiderate and do damage in that they shoot indiscriminately small birds such as robins, thrushes and blackbirds. I should like strict control to be exercised over such people if they are allowed to shoot.

It has been pointed out to me that while it is an offence to kill certain preserved types of animals and birds it is not an offence—I am open to correction on this—to be found in possession of a preserved animal or bird which has been shot or killed. This conflicts with the law relating to the catching and killing of salmon, under which, if you are found in possession of a salmon which has been illegally killed, you are liable to prosecution. Under this Bill it seems that a person can be in possession of a preserved animal or bird and still escape prosecution. This seems to be a defect in the law.

There has been much comment on the various bloodsports practised. I have the greatest sympathy with the people who advocate the abolition of certain types of bloodsports, but I do not think they are being entirely practical. For example, the lobbying of interests as regards coursing and other forms of hunting is so great that there is no possibility of these sports being eliminated in the near future. A parallel could be drawn with the gun clubs in America which see to it that the carrying of guns will never be prohibited. We must face the fact that coursing and fox-hunting will continue.

What I would like to see is these sports being carried out in a humane, controlled manner. There has been quite an element of cruelty in some of these sports because sufficient controls were not exercised. While these blood sports will be retained, it is our duty to see that they are controlled. For instance, it is common knowledge that hares are recoursed. Hares which have run—they may be on trials or at a coursing meeting—are sometimes run again on the same day. I believe that hares should be allowed loose if they have completed one course; give them a fair chance. There is a great deal of trafficking in hares. When one coursing meeting is finished they are sold off to another club and they have to go through the same routine and this is most unfair. By abusing the rules in this manner coursing people are creating a lobby against them which would not be half as vigorous if they managed matters a little more carefully.

It is a common thing, for instance, to throw a young rabbit or a young hare to a greyhound to blood it. This practice of blooding is despicable and should be stopped. It is illegal, but too many people who should know better do it. I am a supporter of greyhounds and track racing, but I am not a supporter of coursing, because it can be quite revolting at times when hares are being killed. I would not allow my feelings to dictate that other people should not enjoy coursing. It is a long-established sport and gives great enjoyment to a large number of people.

The bulk of the genuine coursing people detest any type of cruelty and are anxious that the sport be run on proper lines. It would be wonderful if a mechanical hare like that used on the track could be invented for park coursing. In this age of technology that should be possible but we will have to wait and see if it can be done.

I think that the cruelty of beagle-hunting, terrier-hunting and fox-hunting is being completely overstressed. There is very little cruelty. The people who follow these sports do it more as an exercise than anything else. They are not interested in killing. They do it just for the sport of the hunt. Quite often they never meet up with a fox or with a hare and they are quite happy to walk several miles. Most of them are happier still if they kill nothing whatsoever. I would go along with the point made by Senator Higgins that digging out animals and killing them at the end of a hunt should be prohibited. Be it a fox, a badger or an otter, that practice should be stopped. The hunt itself I would not disagree with, but it is quite cruel to catch up on an animal, dig it out and kill it.

I listened to some of the anti-blood sports people speaking and I felt that they stayed on a rather narrow line. We all got this information from the anti-blood sports people and we are thankful to them for it. But are there any other creatures which suffer unduly at the hands of man? It was not referred to very much that, when people go shooting pheasant or anything like that, quite a considerable number of these birds are injured, but nobody has advocated a complete ban on shooting. How many times do you kill a pheasant outright? There must be a large incidence of just wounding, and how many pheasants are flying around the place with a few dozen pellets in them and suffering grievously?

Another thing which does not seem to cause any concern, and I think it should, is the suffering which fish endure. Do we honestly believe that if we catch a fish on a hook that that fish does not suffer? This is an ill-founded idea. I have it from probably the leading source in zoology in this country that a fish with a hook in its mouth suffers every bit as much as you or I would if we had a hook in our mouth and we were pulled around the place for a couple of hours. We have a notion that fish do not suffer, but why limit the anti-blood sports lobby to a few animals like the hare and the otter and so on? What about the lobster or the crab which to be eaten should be boiled alive. Is that not cruelty? Do they suffer? I am sure they must suffer excruciating pain. But who is concerned about it? I do not find that anybody is concerned about it because I imagine that the lobby which you would build up against any such movement would be overwhelming and there would be no action taken. It should be borne in mind that they do suffer.

I should like to ask the Minister how are our blood sport laws and regulations going to stand up in the EEC. Are there going to be general regulations. We have rules governing almost every aspect of life. We are going to have common laws for many things. Is there any prospect in the future that we will have common laws for blood sports or similar activities?

The Minister mentions aviculture here and he is making it an offence to use things such as bird lime, snares, nets and traps to take certain species of birds and he is making it an offence to have them kept in captivity. I applaud this measure. It is a very common thing around the countryside to see goldfinches and other song birds in cages being offered for sale. This type of trafficking should be prohibited. It is a disgrace that birds whose natural habitat is a hedgerow or a tree should be captured by one of these methods and put in a cage for the rest of its life. Similarly—and I do not think it is mentioned here— the rabbit does not seem to get any protection under this Bill. The keeping of pet rabbits—wild rabbits, not tame rabbits—in cages and offering them for sale should be prohibited. This is extreme cruelty. I was glad to see that "dazzling" is also prohibited. This is to be welcomed because it is an unfair way of killing game and often interferes greatly with livestock.

I have a number of questions to ask the Minister on certain matters relating to hares but I will leave most of those to the Committee Stage. For instance, under the Bill it would seem to me that hares can be shot just about any-time—there is no restriction whatsoever on the shooting of hares. This may be an error that is not intended. Therefore I should like to have the Minister's views on it.

Overall it is quite a good Bill but as I have said it is only a beginning. We have been remiss in our attitudes to wildlife and to our environment in general. This is an attempt to correct faults but I hope we will have further studies to know why some of our wildlife species are becoming extinct and to arrest the decline. It was mentioned yesterday that it is like closing the stable door when the horse has bolted as regards certain species which are to be preserved.

In the Third Schedule there is reference to engles being preserved. To my knowledge no eagles nest in this country or have nested for a number of years. It would be a good idea if we made a special effort to provide a habitat for a species like that which could come back. They nest on the Scottish coasts and if we had habitats specially kept to entice those birds back it would be a tremendous advantage. I should like to ask the Minister if we have buzzards in this country. The only place any of us has ever seen a buzzard is in the west hovering over the remains of some creature that has been shot. A kite is mentioned also but I have never seen one. Do they exist in this country? I should like to see provision made to get them back. Obviously if they are mentioned in the Schedule it means there are areas with habitats which would be suitable for them. There is reference to a whale which seems to be too ridiculous for words. Maybe whales frequent our shores every now and again, but not to my knowledge. The pine marten is protected. I believe they were quite common in this country up to 20 or 30 years ago. Now they are virtually extinct. One can find an odd one in the northern part of the country. Seals, which I have previously referred to, are quite plentiful. I like to see them protected but only in specific areas. We have other species which we very seldom see, like the natterjack toad. I should like to know what that is and have we got such species or when we did have them——

There are a few of them in the Seanad.

——also dolphins. I do not believe dolphins frequent our shores. I should like to comment on species of birds which are not protected. I have already mentioned cormorant which I believe is a much maligned species and should not be on that list. The premise on which he has been placed on that list is false. He should be preserved especially in certain areas. I know that the bullfinch does tremendous damage in orchards. He eats the bulbs and so on and deserves to be restricted in numbers. Unfortunately what happens with the bullfinch is that it is often confused with the chaffinch which is entirely harmless. I understand that when people go out to trap and kill bullfinches in orchards they also wipe our large numbers of chaffinches. Consideration of that should be taken into account.

I should like to know what damage the house sparrow does. The house sparrow is not protected. I am not satisfied that he is a pest and should be eliminated completely. To my mind a house sparrow is relatively inoffensive and does not do much damage. Pigeons of course are a great source of nuisance and damage to crops. The starling is also mentioned. I should like to know what damage the starling does. Starlings get rid of a lot of undesirable smaller creatures and are a cleansing type of bird rather than damaging. I doubt the wisdom of having them included on that list.

I apologise to the Minister if I appear to be over-critical in this regard. I am critical because I feel that the type of investigation which should have been carried out to determine that list has not been carried out. We have not got the facilities in this country to do that type of in depth investigation. We should be very careful before we eliminate a species which is not doing great damage.

I will end as I started. My greatest fear about the Bill, laudable as it is, is that it will not be enforced until such time as we have agencies, unless we can employ people such as gamekeepers who will protect the sanctuaries of the wildlife. Otherwise there is grave danger of a further serious deterioration in our wildlife numbers in general.

I welcome the Bill with the sort of reservations Senator Deasy has expressed. Many of the criticisms which have been made of it in the House by both sides, non-political criticisms by people who have a feeling for our flora and our fauna and who realise the need for their preservation, are well founded. It is one of the frustrations of a legislator to see legislation being proposed which he knows is being done in the right spirit but which he feels is coming much later than it actually should.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. There is the problem of getting public opinion to the stage at which there is enough pressure to produce legislation and to have time allotted to deal with it. There are all these types of problems and this is one of the areas in which we have been very neglectful. There is no doubt that this legislation or similar legislation should have been on the Statute Books many years ago. As I have often said to Ministers and their advisers, perhaps it is more important than actually getting legislation like this on the Statute Book that we should change public opinion.

We are one of the agencies who can help in this respect. There are others. The Minister and his Department have a great public relations exercise to do in educating people about wildlife. I know that a start has been made in this regard, but there is a tremendous amount more that can and must be done. It is important not to produce legislation some of which will be very difficult to enforce, as Senator Deasy has just pointed out, but to get the public in a frame of mind in which they will realise what is valuable, what is rare, which part of their heritage is unique, and they will ensure that it is protected. That is the most important thing that has to be done. If this discussion helps in some way to achieve that, then it is worthwhile.

One of the two things which disappoint me most in this Bill is the omission of any serious legislation to deal with the fish on our coasts. I raised the problem of the vanishing salmon on another occasion in this House and I got a considerable response from all those people in maritime constituencies who have had the privilege that I have had of fishing in various parts of the country. I said to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries that unless something is done to restrict the issuing of drift net licences we just will not have any salmon in a few years. I did not get much response from him. I am sorry that something has not been done in this legislation at least to acknowledge this. This is another inter-departmental problem, as are some of the problems the Minister has tackled in this Bill. I am sorry that something has not been done at least to help in this tremendously serious situation.

I do not want to dwell on this but the increase in drift net licences has been spectacular and the decrease in spawning salmon going up our rivers has been equally spectacular in the past ten years. The writing is on the wall. If something is not done soon to rectify the situation then there will not be any fish left to drift net or to angle for or to do anything else about. I pointed out on another occasion that I have considerable sympathy for people who make their living or part of their living from catching salmon, but in other countries it has been found necessary to buy these people out. We will be faced with that situation. We will have to impose severe restrictions if the fish are to survive at all. That is the first thing that disappoints me in this Bill.

The second thing is that something more concrete has not been done on the problem of coursing. Senator Deasy was realistic in what he said. There is not any possibility of just passing a blanket ban on coursing. There are too many people involved in coursing to get away with that. If we recognise that fact then we should tackle the consequence of this and that is we should do something to regulate coursing and to prevent the extreme abuses, which seem to be fairly general and frequent, which occur in all parts of the country.

In section 26 the Minister is empowered to issue licences to hunt otters or deer or to hunt or course hares. As far as the first two animals are concerned I think those licences should not be issued. I do not think there should be any otter hunting. It should be completely banned. There should not be any stag hunting. That should go. We have got to that stage. It is fairly infrequent, as has been pointed out in the Minister's address and in the explanatory memorandum. Both are traditional activities, though relatively limited in extent— this is in parenthesis to otter hunting and stag hunting. There may be two otter hunts in the country, one or two stag hunts, but the situation is that these animals have decreased so much that we are now in a position when we must discontinue all otter and stag hunting. I hope to table an amendment to this effect.

However, the situation in regard to coursing is different. We have to realise that it is totally different, but we should make some provision to regulate coursing and not just issue licences to the Irish Coursing Club, because at many of the meetings run by the Irish Coursing Club, as we all know, there are remarkable abuses which have already been referred to and outlined in other speeches. I will not go into them again. We are just passing the buck. We are not facing the problem. It is something that should definitely be done in this Bill. I should like the Minister to consider introducing an amending section in which he takes upon himself the power to regulate what happens at coursing meetings. We are not facing up to our responsibilities if we do not do this. The proper place to do it is in the legislation that is here now. We should not talk about a special amending Bill. It should be done now. I hope the Minister will do it. I know from his introductory remarks and from the work that is being put into this Bill that he recognises the problems. He feels for our flora and our fauna. This is the most severe of the abuses with which we are faced in these type of blood sports.

As has been correctly pointed out, our cruelty to animals occurs in virtually every blood sport. I have done a good deal of shooting and fishing myself. I know the type of cruelty that can occur. One wants to minimise it. One wants to develop a spirit among the hunter or the fisher or the shooter, or whoever it is, to ensure that cruelty is minimised. I like the suggestion that has been made that digging animals out of their burrows or their dens should be prohibited. That certainly is not part of the hunting tradition. This should also be a part of this legislation—that animals should not be dug out of their dens. I hope we will do something on the Committee Stage of the Bill to prohibit digging out. I should like to see the amendment coming from the Government so that there would not be any doubt as to which side the Minister is on.

Senator Deasy made some wise remarks about the problem of cruelty to animals. There are different ways in which man can be cruel to animals. For example, the cooking of lobsters or crabs—they are boiled alive. That is the traditional method of cooking them. The story goes that they have to be alive otherwise the flesh will not be good. Anybody who has worked or lived on a farm or comes from a farming area knows that dealing with animals involves a certain amount of cruelty. One has just to ensure that one is being humane and that the basic rules—the Protection of Animals Acts—are adhered to in the spirit.

I often find that modern methods of farming, although on the surface may appear to be very humane, are not really: for instance, chicken farming or egg raising in which birds are kept indoors and can never get out. They are penned into a small space during their short lives. This may turn out to be very cruel. I know that in the US the same thing is happening with stock raising: the stock are penned in for their whole lives; they can fatten quickly indoors. This may be a very cruel way to treat animals.

This is one side of commercial farming. Any agricultural endeavours involve dealing with animals and the animals do not always behave as expected. They will have to if they are to be milked or fed and this may mean beating them with a stick or putting halters on them or trying some other form of pressure. The whole point is that, even though there is legislation, if this is done in the right spirit then major cruelty can be avoided. Here again it is a question of education—getting people to realise that things can and should be done taking the feelings of the beast into account.

I should like to make some specific comments about the Bill. A considerable amount of it is based on British legislation. In this case it is probably a good thing. I think that British legislation in this area is generally good and it is recognised to be so. I like the idea of blanket protection for birds or animals, with specific exclusions for certain species. However, there is room for argument about the lists given in the Schedules. The time to raise the specific arguments is on the Committee Stage. The blanket protection for birds, with specific exclusions, could be extended to other vertebrates and some invertebrates. We could have done some more in this Bill and dealt with other species. But the idea is correct and, presumably, where necessary the Schedules can be amended or extended and further legislation can be introduced speedily at a later stage if it is found necessary.

There is a point which does not come strictly within the terms of the Bill but I think it should be mentioned because there is danger that some of our geological phenomena may come under severe pressure. After all, geology is also part of our national heritage. There are parts of the country in which there are rare stones or rocks or other fossils. These are interesting collectors' items. They are easy to dig out and are rare and they cannot get away like animals can—they are there, waiting to be taken. The practice of knocking these things out with a hammer is becoming rather prevalent as people learn more about them. It is a pity that something could not be done to help this situation, but it does not come strictly within the terms of the Bill.

I should like to see more emphasis on habitat protection rather than on species. The point has been made that a habitat of exceptional interest regarding fauna may contain no or few exceptional plant species but that the habitat itself might be worth protecting.

I should like to ask the Minister a question which he has been asked by many other speakers: what is to be the position of the non-statutory bodies—An Taisce, The Irish Wild Bird Conservancy and so on—on the Wildlife Advisory Council? I hope that bodies such as these, which everybody recognises to have done sterling work in actual preservation and conservancy and in changing public opinion in the whole of this area, will have representation on the advisory council.

Another point is that the Minister has not given himself compulsory purchase powers to establish reserves. I have looked at the Bill and I do not think he has such powers. It will probably happen that a situation will arise where this will be desirable. It might be something that would be very infrequently used but there probably would be occasions when it would be desirable to have a famous reserve which had not been scheduled purchased by the Minister. Perhaps he can do this under some other legislation.

There is also the problem of where the authority of each Department lies. Section 43 of the Bill requires the Commissioners of Public Works in undertaking future arterial drainage schemes to take all practical steps in the interest of wildlife conservation, to safeguard nature reserves, refuges for fauna and lands subject to management agreement. It is all right to say this and it is certainly worthwhile saying it, but is there any way of giving this some more teeth? This is a worthwhile section but when a row breaks out between the Department of Lands and the Commissioners for Public Works, their interests will not always coincide. They will certainly diverge. Who is to be the arbiter, who is to win? As people have already pointed out, the commercial interests usually come out on top. It is likely that they will have there way when the crunch comes.

I would like to see something more being done to give some teeth to section 43. It is all very well just to take "all practicable steps" but who will decide what these steps are? We all know that drainage has been the main reason for the decrease in bird habitats. Drainage schemes have in many cases wiped out wildfowl nesting areas. Who will decide, when the commissioners want to undertake a big drainage scheme, whether they have taken "all practicable steps"? It is a difficult problem and I should like to hear what the Minister has to say.

There are other welcome provisions that have been mentioned. Section 34, prohibiting the use of traps, snares, nets and other devices. Section 35 controls the use of decoys and section 36 prohibits the harrassment of wild mammals. I welcome the acknowledgement of the place of scientific research in section 32, which deals with the capture of live wild birds for ringing purposes under licence. I am one of the fortunate people who have lived in the country and have benefited a great deal from the shooting and fishing facilities available. If one has any sensitivity one naturally becomes interested in the behaviour of wildlife. I became more interested in that and less interested in hunting them. One of my brothers spends a considerable period every year on a deserted island off the Belmullet Peninsula with David Cabot of An Foras Forbartha undertaking a survey of the varied species of geese on the island of Inishkee. It is an island that was formerly inhabited. There are some houses there in good repair that are used by the graziers. There is very good grass on the island which is the main food for the geese. The island is still grazed to a certain extent.

The ringing of geese is a difficult problem because the geese are extremely wary and they have to be caught in nets. They can only be netted at night. The nets are set up over small lakes into which the geese come at night. If a goose is in the net for more than two hours at a stretch it is likely to strangle itself. So, all through the night the nets have to be inspected at two-hourly intervals and any geese caught—they are relatively few and far between even though the goose colony on the island is very big—have to be taken out and dealt with. They are big, strong and powerful birds and one must know how to handle them. There is a good deal of skill and experience involved. Then the geese are measured and ringed with different coloured rings. This enables researchers to use binoculars to count the ringed geese from a distance. From this they can get an idea of the changes in population, the migratory habits, the whole life cycle of the goose. When a goose is captured somewhere else the information is fed back because of the rings they wear. This is valuable. It gives us an idea of what the population is like. It allows the Minister to make decisions as to which sort of species can be protected and which sort of species may be hunted. I am very pleased that there is a section which recognises the essential nature of this research. It is important that this goes on and that it is encouraged and that it must be carried out in a scientific way. It is a good idea to licence this activity to make sure that it is only undertaken by skilled personnel who are dedicated and whose motivation is a scientific one.

I also welcome the provision for establishment and recognition of private reserves—establishing nature reserves in section 15—and the recognition in section 16 of the work that has been done by private individuals to set up reserves. That is good, constructive legislation and will certainly repay the Minister's Department. It is an obvious move to make.

Section 12 is one of the interdepartmental sections providing that other State Departments and other public bodies will consult with the Minister before taking decisions on projects or activities which might adversely affect wildlife. I do not know whether there are any penalties if section 12 is not adhered to, but the fact that it will be there on the Statute Book is a good thing and it will make people more aware of the problems. Before this, some of our State Departments paid little attention to the problems which we are beginning to solve in the Bill. Therefore, section 12 is worth including.

The whole Bill is worthwhile. In some senses, it is late in coming. With my two specific reservations that nothing has been done to regulate coursing except through the Irish Coursing Club and that nothing has been done to deal with fish life, particularly the problem of the vanishing salmon and the increase in drift nets, I welcome this legislation and I will reserve my detailed comments for Committee Stage.

I welcome this Bill. It is long overdue. It sets out to do what it is very necessary to do. I would like to pay tribute to the people engaged in regional game councils and the network of bird sancturies. They have done a good deal of useful work. Without their assistance the situation in regard to wildlife would have been much worse than it is at the moment.

A special compliment must be paid also to the people who really matter and those are the people engaged in agriculture, the people who live in this area all the time. It is more and more necessary that we have this legislation and that more people become aware of the pattern of agriculture so as to ensure that our wildlife is preserved.

If the present trend continues and we concentrate wholly on agriculture there might not be any room left for wildlife. This would be a tragedy. Senators have referred to the changes which have taken place in agriculture, the type of fences that are erected, the form of cultivation that takes place, the weedkillers and the seed dressings. All of these have adverse effects on wildlife. It is necessary that more attention be given to the needs of birds and the vegetation required for their survival.

It will be necessary to preserve those very valuable assets even in an artificial way. In the past waste land was very plentiful. There was an abundance of hedges and shrubs, the natural habitat for wildlife. If we are to produce more from the land and have less waste land there will be need for artificial means of preserving wildlife. Irrespective of what laws are made and penalties imposed, without the co-operation of the people who are living and working with our wildlife at the ordinary level, on the farms and at forestry level, very little can be done. It is necessary to ensure that we have this co-operation. Wildlife is there not only for the people who live on the land to enjoy but for everybody in the country.

The tendency is for fewer and fewer people to live in the more backward areas; the greater proportion live in towns. Because of that there is a greater need to be able to benefit from wildlife by walks in the country, by shooting and fishing. It is important that the people have a proper realisation of the viewpoint of the person in the country. It occasionally happens that people who visit the country areas leave gates open, jump over hedges and make gaps here and there. It is this heedless behaviour that causes bad feeling between those who live on the land and those who want to enjoy visits to the countryside. I would like to see a proper appreciation of the countryside by people who visit it. There will be greater need for nature reserves both on private land and public land, because of the changing nature of agriculture.

Many of those who shoot game do so as a means of getting exercise and enjoying the beauties of nature. They are not very concerned if they do not shoot even one pheasant. Unfortunately, there are the few who go out just for the kill. This destroys the object of the whole exercise. I would like to see legislation to ensure that bag numbers are strictly limited. I do not think it would take away from the enjoyment of the sport if only a certain amount of birds, animals or fish are taken.

There are limits on the particular types of birds that can be taken. It is illegal to shoot hen pheasants. This is largely observed because people engaged in the sport realise the necessity for this type of restriction. Another reason why it is observed is that no financial use is made of hen pheasants. I can see no reason why the number of cock pheasants cannot be limited as well or why people who are genuinely interested in the sport would not observe the rules. There is great need for those rules at present. In the past it was possible to see a few cock pheasants but now it is more common to see one cock pheasant and half a dozen or more hen pheasants. Perhaps too many cock pheasants are being taken. This will have a bad effect on the pheasant population in the long run.

The Bill proposes to restrict the issue of licences for game purposes. It implies that the person who has a right to take game has an obligation to put something back into the sport, into the preservation of game. This need not be a difficult thing to do. It is not unreasonable to expect a person who wants to take part in the sport to be a member of a gun club or of a game preservation society. Wildlife just does not happen as it did in the past. Nowadays, effort is involved to ensure that our wildlife is preserved.

Gun clubs should not be just clubs. Many of them put a good deal back by way of restocking and ensuring with the co-operation of the landowners that many areas are kept as game reserves. Many smallholders greatly resent the fact that people think that because they have a licence to shoot game they can walk in and shoot. Smallholders who never bothered shooting game themselves like the game to be there. They come quite close to the houses and it is amazing how tame they become. The owners resent the number of sportsmen who come just to shoot and put nothing back into the preservation of wildlife. There is an obligation on those who take game to put something back into the sport.

It is wrong that hotels that do not pay for any licence can accept a bag of pheasants from so-called sportsmen. It should be impossible for this type of person to sell game except through strictly regulated channels. While there is a certain amount of enjoyment to be obtained from walking the land to shoot pheasants—probably they make good, nourshing food for people who themselves are not in a position to shoot—this should be done under strict control to ensure that the pheasants are not sold indiscriminately. If this were done there would be less incentive to shoot pheasants and this would be a great help.

Sections 33, 44 and 35 deal mainly with the different methods of taking game. It is important that the Minister has power to exercise control in this matter, because there are modern methods of catching game illegally. We know that abuses exist. Those with game licences sometimes use high-powered rifles with telescopic sights to pick off birds. There is no sport in this activity; they just want to make money. Wildlife should not be used for that purpose. Another abuse which is fairly common consists of people going out on lakes using speedboats thus scaring off flocks of geese and continuing to shoot at them.

These people are wasting the natural resources available. This is something that should be strictly forbidden.

I realise that it will be difficult to ensure that all the rules in this legislation are enforced: it would be impossible to expect that. But if the people living in those areas give their co-operation, then the fact that action would be likely to be taken against poaching would discourage the practice. It would be a pity if this practice were allowed to continue. Another abuse is hunting game birds and all types of birds and animals at night with powerful lights. This should be prohibited.

Certain farming activities, particularly the destruction of vegetation, by burning in the off-season hinders the preservation of game. If this burning is properly supervised and done at the right time there is no reason why more than minimum damage would be caused. I do not agree with Senator Deasy when he suggests that before this type of activity is undertaken a Department official should decide if it is the right thing to do. Perhaps when the time would be right, it might not be possible to get a Department official and the opportunity would be lost. This must be left to the good sense of the people after setting down certain rules. It is only by giving people responsibility that they will act responsibly.

The blood sports have already been mentioned and I realise that those who highlight the abuses are doing a useful job, because there is no reason why unnecessary suffering should be inflicted upon any of God's creatures, whether they be game or vermin. I do not think that a rabbit, which is game, suffers any less by being killed by a weasel or a stoat than a hare which is killed by a dog—even by a greyhound. We can be sure that the hare killed by a greyhound will not be killed by a fox. Nature has arranged things in a certain way.

Senator Browne mentioned that the fox was a useful animal which destroyed many thousands of rats and mice, and undue concern for the hare, just because it happens to be a hare, is not justifiable. All animals suffer in being killed. There is no reason why an act of man should make an animal's suffering greater than it need be. Indeed we do not know how much an animal suffers. As Senator Deasy already stated, we do not know if the fish caught on a hook suffers as much or more than the fish caught in a net and thrown up on the land out of its natural habitat. All we know is that life is born and must die.

We must accept that the breeding and rearing of dogs is a big industry. The people engaged in the industry have either full or part-time employment and that is a very important consideration especially when we do not have full employment. Such employment creates revenue and gives it to people who are underemployed. I should be very sorry to see any measures being taken which would have an adverse effect on this industry. However, it is only right that there should be rules to ensure that there is no unnecessary hardship.

I am glad that the Minister has enshrined in this Bill the right of coursing clubs to take hares for coursing. It would be unrealistic to approach the matter as if we could do away with the problem. We cannot do away with fox-hunting nor do I think it necessary that we should. Our bloodstock industry is built upon this type of activity.

A case has been made that our hare population is declining. It is declining I think, not because of coursing but probably again just because of the type of agricultural activity we have and probably even in this case because of the activities of Bord na Móna and other very valuable industries. Naturally, hares spent most of the time in bogs and you had thousands of acres of bogs covered with heather and the hares lived there. That was their natural habitat. In very many cases, this no longer obtains because all the heather is gone and you have thousands of acres of bogs covered only with bog mould. There is no room for hares or grouse or very many other forms of wildlife. But does anybody seriously suggest that because of this we should stop all but our own activities? Not at all; we must be practical about those things.

Bord na Móna must be practical also in regard to pollution. I know that in Lough Derg on the Shannon a very serious situation has arisen and has been gradually arising over the last few years: the lake is a dying lake so far as fishing is concerned at the moment; particularly the upper reaches from Banagher and Portumna.

There is a huge amount of pollution and people who are interested in wildlife and boating on the Shannon are very well aware of this. To my own knowledge this has been brought to the notice of Bord na Móna and perhaps of the Minister also. There is a real need for something to be done. Nobody suggests that the activities of Bord na Móna should be in any way restricted but I am sure it is possible to ensure that this bog mould is not allowed into the lake and into the river where it is doing very considerable damage. This is something that should be looked into.

Lough Derg on the Shannon was one of our best fishing lakes and was a great benefit to the area, to local residents and to the tourist industry. That community is declining rapidly largely due to the pollution of the lake which is largely due to bog mould getting into it from all the works being carried on in the midlands. This problem certainly needs attention.

I think that the national policy of allowing walks through forests is very useful: it makes people aware of the facilities there and the enjoyment entailed. Reference has already been made to the type of trees we have. We have one type of tree and it does not lend itself to helping wildlife in general except probably in the case of rabbits and other forms of life that do not seem to need undergrowth so much. It might be a wise thing for people engaged in forestry to have a look at the type of trees that are planted and how they might be varied to be of greater benefit to our wildlife. I compliment the Minister and his Department on the Bill before us. I probably shall have something to say on one or two sections on the next Stage.

Business suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

I regard this legislation, on balance, as revealing a progressive and praiseworthy attempt on the part of the Minister to set out a constructive policy base regarding wildlife. At the same time, he realistically acknowledges that there are problems and that he is perhaps not going as far as some people and organisations would wish him to go.

The first question to be put, not only in regard to this legislation but in regard to all legislative proposals is: does it go far enough? I ask people who might be inclined to put that question to accept the Bill for what it is: in the Minister's own words "a solid statutory basis on which future protective measures can always be built." There is no doubt that existing legislation needs up-dating. It is archaic in some respects, even anarchic, providing a free-for-all situation so far as wildlife the concerned. It is quaint to read some of the enactments repealed: the Deer Protection Act, 1698, the Game Act, 1787, the Night Poaching Act, 1826, the Poaching Prevention Act, 1862, and more recent legislation, the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Wild Birds Protection Act, 1930. These Acts were in need of up-dating and this has been carried out.

Regrettably, the practical operation of the protection in existing legislation now to be repealed was virtually nil. A clause in the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, created a feeling that unnecessary suffering had to be proved before that Act could give protection in certain instances. In the case of killing otters, gin traps could be authorised under previous legislation. In the light of gradually progressive public opinion, it is not only proper but desirable that there should be an up-dating of our legislation.

In dealing with wildlife protection, we are up against three very powerful sources of threat. The first source of threat arises in the scarcity and rarity of wildlife. Here there is a classical case of cause and effect. Rarity arises in the first instance in certain spheres of wildlife because land is much in demand. There is overuse of land. Because of this land use, a diminution in the numbers of certain species appears. That diminution leads in time to the species becoming rare and scarce. That rarity, unfortunately, brings out some of the more regrettable instincts in human nature, namely, the desire and the instinctive feeling to chase and hunt anything that is rare and scarce. This, in turn, leads to a situation where, the rarity and scarcity having become known to collectors, the wildlife or plant life concerned can become practically extinct. We could well arrive at a situation where the only species left in existence are those which stand on exhibition in museums. That situation is very much part and parcel, unfortunate though it may be, of modern society and modern life in its various forms of development.

The second threat to wildlife derives from the lack of public awareness. An extraordinary amount of indifference may exist in the public mind as regards wildlife, whether it is worth protecting and what should be done to protect it. That brings us to this question: is wildlife worth protecting at all? Some of us may feel instinctively that, of course, it is. There are so many attributes in wildlife that need preserving. Apart from its educational and recreational aspect, we have the benefits which wildlife can give to biological examination. We can say that Ireland is still a relatively unspoiled country and we should try and keep it so.

We must acknowledge that there are many people to whom wildlife is largely a matter of great indifference. We have to look at ourselves and see how, as individuals, we respond to the question of wildlife. I am loathe to pick up a rifle and shoot any species of wildlife. To cancel whatever contribution I might make to the preservation of wildlife, there are many people who pick up a gun and shoot species of wildlife as sport. I must acknowledge and respect their right to think along those lines.

The third source of threat is the very magnitude and complexity of the problem of trying to do something about the preservation of wildlife. Even the Department of Lands, which are behind this legislation and are most anxious to preserve wildlife, have unknowingly at times taken various measures which have done away with, and made certain species of wildlife almost extinct. This is a hazard of modern life and, whether we like it or not, it exists. For instance, a county council looking for waste land, perhaps an old bog site for a dump for refuse collection, might in their very desire to provide such a necessary service for the public be infringing upon a very precious piece of land as regards wildlife existence.

The problem is complex and very large. That magnitude is confirmed by the voluminous legislation the Minister for Lands has put before us. In this measure he has given certain protective provisions. Section 19, for instance, protects wild birds. These laws are to be praised since they guarantee a definite policy to safeguard the future of these birds. They give automatic protection to the bulk of Irish birds and will look after certain species which might arrive in this country. That is commendable and to be welcomed.

Section 23 deals with wild animals such as badgers, bat species, deer species, hare species, the otter, the red squirrel and the stoat. All these are to be given protection in one way or another. We come then to the very thorny question of deer, otters and hares, where the licensing will continue. Some people may feel that not enough has been done under these headings.

There is no doubt many people have qualms about coursing. To revert to what I said earlier, there are many people who do not look on coursing as being punishment to the hare. We must respect their wishes. To those organisations who, perhaps are far in advance of public opinion on the attitudes towards wildlife, I would just make a suggestion. While I commend their work to date, what is needed more than anything else is a better public awareness of what is at stake here.

We must admit that there is disquiet in regard to coursing. Open and closed coursing present problems, whether we like to face up to them or not. It is very hard to refute the argument made by the Irish Council Against Blood-sports that Ireland is now the only country in the EEC that has closed and open coursing. Britain which has only open coursing, is to introduce legislation in 1975 to ban open coursing. No other EEC country has any coursing. This is something which we will have to look at more closely in future. Other countries seemingly have gone ahead of us in regard to what should be done about coursing. I am not saying that we must follow suit, but we must study the case and look at it more intently than we did in the past.

The proposals put forward by the Minister in regard to deer are very welcome. They could lead to an increase in the number of forest parks in Ireland, which could increase the deer population for the enjoyment of all, adults as well as children.

When the subject of the otter is brought into conversation it evokes a lot of pity. There is no doubt that their numbers are decreasing very rapidly. There seems very little reason why the utmost protection should not be given to this animal. They clean rivers of diseased fish and eels, and the latter, of course, attack salmon and trout stocks. The badger is also being protected. He is the only representative of his ancestoral or parent species. He causes little or no damage to the natural environment. He kills rats and mice. Badgers should be given as much protection as possible.

The Minister is to be commended on making illegal the use of certain cruel devices that have been used for the trapping of animals—gin traps, snares, hooks, nets and so on. These are all commendable proposals. Once again they point to the need for up-dating of our legislation in order to bring it more into line with what people are thinking.

What are the problems to be considered? Where do the problems come from? How best can the provisions in this Bill protect wildlife? The Advisory Council as adumbrated by the Minister is good in itself. Again what is more important than anything else is to spread public awareness of wildlife and what it can mean to us, not only for recreational but for educational purposes.

It is not so many years since the world at large, decided in a positive manner that the very earth on which we live and stand is a finite resource. It is not infinite in its supply. The world attempted to do something about that. Some people may be cynical and say that the famous International Conservation Year, 1970, turned out to be no more than "Conversation Year". The effort was made to make the public aware that the earth is very much a finite resource, and so indeed are the wildlife species that exist in our country. They are not infinite. They will not continue in supply. Whether or not they go out of existence depends in the final resort on what we do about it. There is a need to spread public awareness through education. Are our television authorities doing as much on wildlife programmes as they could? Being privileged to receive BBC television I am aware of what the BBC are doing in this regard. Some of their programmes on wildlife are excellent and could be followed by RTE.

Local authorities should make provision for nature reserves and perhaps private organisations could also do something in this respect. The Department will have to carry out more surveillance in the field of coursing than hitherto. The necessary corollary of granting a licence would be inspections. The Department could carry out comprehensive inspections on what goes on at the various coursing meetings.

The greatest good that can come out of this legislation is the recognition by all and sundry that it can be used as a very positive base on which to bring in further legislation. There should not be long intervals between future legislative measures to protect wildlife. A regular review of our statute books is desirable.

We have all come to the conclusion that what really is involved in all of this is conservation. Conservation takes in a very much wider field than just wildlife. The land on which wildlife exists, the land which we use for all our multitude of needs from day to day, is part of the wider object of conservation. It is to that we must now bend our minds. The Minister can take certain pride in the fact that he has brought in a wildlife measure which is far ahead of other countries. Even though it may not go as far as some people would like, it provides, as the Minister himself said in his speech, a solid statutory basis on which further legislative measures can, perhaps, be introduced.

It is a good Bill. It is certainly a non-controversial Bill. The only controversial aspect is in regard to coursing, and whether enough has been done. We must be realistic. We must recognise that there are lobbies on all sides, lobbies to retain coursing, and lobbies to do away with it. It has been pointed out that a very profitable industry derives a certain amount of its build-up from coursing and the same applies to fox hunting.

In welcoming this Bill, I commend the Minister on what he has put before this House. The House will act on his assurance that any amendments will be considered very constructively.

Cavan): I want to express my sincere thanks to the Seanad for the manner in which it has received this Bill. The debate has been constructive and, indeed, instructive. At times, it has been fascinating in so far as it brought before the House a depth of knowledge which many Senators possess, both from the point of view of the city man or the urban dweller and the rural man or those engaged in agriculture.

I want to avail of this opportunity to join in the words of thanks and appreciation to the officers of my Department who put so much work into this measure over the years.

The fact that a very cordial and helpful relationship existed between the officers of my Department and many voluntary organisations—the National Association of Regional Game Councils, The Irish Wildbird Conservancy and The Irish Deer Society, to name but a few, has borne fruit in this Bill. The co-operation that has existed between the voluntary organisations mentioned and the officers of my Department has resulted in the accumulation of a very considerable amount of knowledge and information which was very valuable for the drafting of this Bill.

Naturally, I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity of processing the information which was acquired over the years in my Department and considered by my predecessors. I am proud I had the opportunity of converting all that thought, consideration and accumulated information into a statutory instrument, a Bill. I am also very pleased that I had the opportunity of bringing this Bill before the Government, getting Government approval, and now bringing it before the Oireachtas with the intention of putting it through and on the Statute Book.

As has been said, 45 years have passed since any measure of this sort was enacted. We had the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and the Irish Wild Bird Protection Act of the same year. When we come to repeal Acts of that sort—Acts which are 45 years of age —we are inclined to brush them aside as "those out-of-date measures". We can do that too lightly. When these Acts were passed in 1930 they represented very forward thinking at that time. They represented the views of the people and Oireachtas who thought it necessary to protect wildlife. If there is any blame attached to anybody for being remiss in this matter, people like ourselves must take the blame in the intervening period for not keeping these measures up to date.

By and large most Senators consider this progressive legislation and a charter for wildlife. With practically no exceptions, it has been received by the Seanad as progressive and comprehensive legislation which will serve as a protective and conservation measure for the foreseeable future. At some time in the future, however, some other Oireachtas will consider this Bill and think it out of date, needing improvement and amendment. That is the way I like to look on the two Acts of 1930 and the earlier Acts.

Before coming to specific points raised by Senators, I should like to deal with a few general points. Firstly, a number of Senators expressed disappointment that a Department of the Environment was not being established. They made the case that there was a necessity for such a Department to deal with the environment in general. I want to make it perfectly clear that this Bill deals with a section of the environment. It deals with what I would describe as a natural environment consisting of wildlife, wildlife being described as fauna and flora. It may well be that some people would wish to have a Department of the Environment to deal with all sections of the environment. I wish to emphasise and put on the record that this Bill is what its Long Title indicates:

An Act for the conservation of wildlife (including game) and for that purpose to protect certain wild creatures and flora.

This is what I have set out to do in this Bill. As I said, various people have been pleading over the years for a Department of the Environment. I am not at all sure that such a development, if it should take place, would be as satisfactory as was hoped. I am less sure still whether the setting up of such a Department would be the most suitable answer to our problems. However, one thing is clear. If, at some future stage a decision to establish a Department of the Environment is reached, the existence of this legislation will at least enable that sector of the natural environment to be more easily incorporated. The point I want to make is that the Bill I am recommending to the House, and which Senators have so generously accepted, will fit into any overall environmental Department or scheme that may be brought into operation later.

Some may say that the Department of Lands are the proper Department to deal with the entire environment. Others might say that the Department which deal with physical planning, such as water and sewage, road construction and building, are a more appropriate Department. This is a matter for discussion and on which people may differ. But one thing is clear: the Department of Lands are the appropriate Department to be entrusted with the conservation of wildlife, fauna and flora.

One reason why I say that is that the Department of Lands are by far the greatest individual land owner in the country, owning through their Forestry Section about 750,000 acres of land and owning from time to time through the Land Commission Division, about 100,000 acres. Therefore, it is reasonable that much of the habitat of the wildlife we are seeking to conserve will be found in land in the possession of my Department. Many of the rare plants which we also wish to conserve are likewise found there. That is why the Department of Lands are the proper Department to be entrusted with the conservation of our natural environment wildlife, fauna and flora. I believe that the measure now being enacted will fit into any overall scheme of things which may be designed in the future. At present the environment in general is being looked after by various Departments with the co-operation of an interdepartmental committee.

I have said that this Bill is a measure to conserve wildlife. It is not a measure to outlaw cruelty to animals. Much as I, along with everybody else, deplore cruelty to animals, the responsibility for the care of animals and birds preventing cruelty to animals, by and large, is entrusted to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries under an Act passed in 1965. As a person brought up on a farm in the country and as one who has a knowledge of domestic animals, I deplore, as much as anybody in the country, cruelty to animals.

The object of this Bill is to conserve the species, to ensure that the species do not become extinct. I have the greatest respect for the bona fides of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. They are a dedicated body of people, honestly believing in their aims and objects and believing that what they oppose is wrong. But their case is not being helped by extravagant support such as the speech of Senator Noel Browne. In approaching conservation and wildlife in general we must have a balanced approach. There were typical and classical examples of that sort of balanced approach from Senators. I was fascinated by the approach of Senator Harte, representing the man born and brought up in Dublin who looked to the country for breathing fresh air, as one who loves rural Ireland and who could not bear to see any interference with wildlife. He had the candour to say that, having heard the Bill explained and having read the explanatory memorandum, he recognised it as a great move in the right direction but he saw the other person's point of view.

I was also fascinated by the speech by Senator Kilbride, who spoke of the vixen running off with the chicken, reducing the flock of hens from 60 to five, and of the killing of the lambs by the fox. At the same time he was able to paint a picture of the cruelty inflicted on rabbits by the man-introduced disease of myxomatosis. He painted a picture of the swollen head and the swollen eyes of the suffering rabbit. That was a balanced approach to the whole thing.

On the other hand, a rather extreme attitude was taken by Senator Noel Browne who, apparently, is a self-appointed champion of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. He took the attitude that everybody was out of step except himself. He could see nothing good in the Bill. He was so extravagant in his denunciation of cruelty to animals and cruelty in general that he associated in the same sentence football and bull-fighting. That is going too far. I do not think it helps.

He also spent about one quarter of an hour denouncing the cruelty to the badger in the past and deploring the fact that such cruelty was to be tolerated in the future, whereas it is as plain as a pikestaff that the badger is absolutely protected in the Schedule to the Bill, that hunting is not allowed, that the Minister has no authority to grant permission for the hunting of the badger. There is permission to grant licences for otter-hunting and licences for hare-hunting, but the badger is absolutely protected. That sort of an unbalanced and obviously biased approach does not help. If we think that there are cruel things going on and that this cruelty should be alleviated, we only attain that by a reasonable and balanced approach to it.

The object of this Bill is to conserve the species. In conserving the species, we have in the Bill made enormous improvements for the protection of fauna. I propose to put on the record here some of the improvements that are in the Bill. First of all, there is all-the-year-round protection for the first time being afforded to wild birds, their nests and their eggs, excepting pest species and game species hunted under licence in open season. There are many birds that are being protected for the first time. Their eggs and their habitats are being protected. The most important thing in regard to the protection of wildlife is to protect the habitat of the wildlife because if that is not protected we certainly will not have any survival of wildlife.

For the first time protection is being granted to certain wild animals, including the badger, the deer and the otter. Until now these animals had no protection. They were regarded as vermin. They were at the mercy of anyone, who wanted to destroy them, to annihilate them or to do whatever they liked with them. Now deer are being upgraded from vermin to game. They are being fully protected with the exception of an open season during which they may be hunted in a prescribed manner. The same applies to the otter. At present there is no protection for the otter. The Bill gives him protection. Under the Bill the badger is being protected for the first time. Total and absolute protection is being given to the pine martin, which is pretty rare but exists in certain parts of the country and is being cultivated and experimented with by the Forestry and Wildlife Section of my Department at a forest in Portumna. The red deer is also being totally protected and is not subject to shooting, and the same applies to seals and whales.

Stag hunting and otter hunting is at present permitted freely and without any licence from anyone. That means that the otter and the deer may be hunted at any time of the year by anyone. That includes not alone the hounds and the packs who hunt them in an orderly way but those who wish to shoot them or kill them. Under this Bill these animals are protected and can only be hunted under licence from the Minister for Lands.

Because the Minister for Lands seeks to say that these animals may be only hunted under licence by him, he is in fact being accused of permitting the hunting of these animals. He is being accused in some minds, of introducing hunting of these animals, whereas in fact he is curtailing it, limiting and controlling it in a very drastic way. That is one of the reasons why the criticism of sections of the Bill on the grounds of cruelty to animals is unfair and unrealistic. In so far as this Bill deals with hunting and shooting it does so in ease of the animal. It does so to preserve the animals. It curtails hunting and shooting. It preserves close seasons. It lays down that hunting can take place only during open seasons. It does that in regard to animals and birds that up to now never got any protection at all. It is in the light of that that I say that the criticism of the Bill by those who hold wildlife very dear is unreasonable. Their approach should be: yes, it is an improvement.

Another section of the Bill which is very much in ease of wildlife is the section which enables the Minister for Lands to suspend open seasons. The Bill provides for open seasons for hunting game. During extremely severe weather wildlife, particularly birds, are very vulnerable because they are lacking food and become tame from hunger. We are making provisions under the Bill to enable the Minister to make an order making it illegal for anybody to hunt or interfere with these wild animals or birds during that period. That is something that is very much in ease of wildlife.

Certain types of guns are outlawed. Guns which if used to shoot animals would inflict unnecessary suffering on the animals are not permitted under the Bill. Deer can be shot only by a heavy calibre bullet which will put him out of pain instantly. As the law stands this unfortunate animal may be shot with a shotgun—maimed might be a better way of putting it—and left to roam the woods and take days or weeks to die. That is another change that should be welcomed.

We have all sorts of brutal traps being used at present to snare birds and animals. Provision is made in the Bill that this type of trap, including the gin trap for the otter, is illegal. That is also an improvement and should be welcomed. The use of mechanically-propelled vehicles in hunting wild birds and animals will be banned. The practice was to dazzle them with lights and then destroy them. The use of lamps and other dazzling devices will be banned. Hunting at night is severely restricted. I put it to any reasonable person that the list I have read out in easement of wildlife is a move in the right direction. The Bill provides for a vast improvement on the present situation.

There has been a lot of discussion here on coursing and the cruelty involved in it. As Minister for Lands, I am not responsible for the conduct of coursing meetings. There are other statutes and other Ministries that are involved in one way or another in coursing. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is charged with preventing cruelty to animals.

Senator West conceded that to ban coursing altogether simply was not on. He conceded, in a very reasonable and constructive speech, that coursing is a built-in part of the way of life in rural Ireland and to some extent is a part of the economy of rural Ireland in so far as it is a necessary part of the greyhound industry.

The fact that this Bill will permit the catching or capture of hares by net does not mean that I condone any cruelty that may be involved afterwards. Wildlife in general, indeed even domestic animals, are subject to cruelty now and again to some extent. Senator Browne spoke yesterday about the fox devouring 21,000 mice and 9,000 rats a year; from somebody else's point of view these little animals may be just as dear as the fox which eats them. Senator Browne did not appear to see anything wrong with the fox eating alive the 21,000 mice and 9,000 rats. As a matter of fact, he appeared to be making the case for the preservation of foxes so that they could continue devouring the rats and mice. Down through the years in the country there is the castration of animals, the ringing of pigs and all other actions of that kind which take place on a farm and must cause considerable pain to the animals. Nobody suggests that that aspect of agriculture should come to a halt.

I am not condoning any abuses which occur on coursing fields. If abuses occur, there is machinery within the law for dealing with them. It would be going too far if I were to prohibit altogether the netting of hares by coursing clubs. I do not believe that such a proposal would be accepted by the vast majority of the people; I would not carry the opinion of the people with me. The steps I have outlined are a vast improvement on previous legislation in ease of wildlife.

Senator Dalgan Lyons, who spoke early on in the debate, mentioned the necessity for research into the variety of small birds, especially songbirds, which have disappeared from the countryside. I agree that there should be such research and the Bill makes provision for it. A number of Senators have welcomed that provision.

Senator Eoin Ryan, who opened the debate, in a short but constructive speech, dealt with the point I made, that is, a balance between one approach to wildlife and the other. He outlined this by saying there should be humane treatment and scientific research, that the element of sport involved should be protected and that the material aspect should also be borne in mind. That is the type of balanced approach about which I have been speaking.

Senator Martin raised the point about the Department of the Environment and I have already dealt with that point. The Senator also saw the possibility of a conflict between the archaeological interests and wildlife values in a hypothetical case which he envisaged. I cannot say that such a case will not arise, but a great deal of goodwill exists between Departments and agencies dealing with various aspects of the environment. I feel confident that under the terms of this Bill, which provides extensively for consultation, any conflict can be satisfactorily resolved. That is a reference to section 12 which makes it obligatory on any Department of State, the Commissioners of Public Works or State-sponsored bodies who are doing something which may interfere with the wildlife or its habitat to consult with the Minister for Lands.

I am confident that when such consultation takes place, a reasonable solution will be reached. Some Senators seemed to think that there should be an absolute prohibition against any Department doing anything which might interfere with wildlife. We have not reached that stage of affluence yet. That is an unreal approach to the situation. If we were to say that the Office of Public Works could do no drainage or that the Department of Local Government would not be permitted to build roads and so on, we would be entering into the realm of fantasy, which is no help to the conservation of the wildlife we have in mind.

Senator McGlinchey raised the question of grants to regional game councils. It is already standard practice to make these grants each year. The Bill will give a statutory basis for the allocation of grants. The details of the grants in each case are based on schemes prepared by game councils and discussed with the Department's game advisers. As I have already stated, there is an excellent relationship between my Department and the voluntary organisations.

Senator Dolan raised the question of what constitutes game. One reading the Bill might be stuck by the absence of the word "game". The Bill may not contain many references to "game" as such, but the traditional concept of this activity has not been neglected in the Bill and Senators will find that it is covered by the more modern term of "hunting". Birds and animals which are subject to an open season for hunting are regarded as game.

Senator Alexis FitzGerald queried the position in regard to international conventions and hoped that they would be ratified. Two important such conventions have recently been signed and are subject to ratification, after the Wildlife Bill becomes law. They are the Washington Convention on international trade on endangered species and the Rambler Convention on wet lands of international importance. I expect that both these conventions will be ratified when the Bill becomes law.

Senator Alexis FitzGerald also had a quotation from a Council of Europe publication dealing with deleterious effects of conifer afforestation on wildlife. May I say that not all scientists agree with that opinion. An account is given in that quotation of the vast areas of conifer monoculture with all its attendant risk of disease. This is not at all typical of afforestation in Ireland where the individual areas which are acquired and planted are relatively small and the choice of species, even within the range of conifers, varies sharply with changes in the nature of the ground. Feeding for wildlife is also very rich on the edges of these compact areas of plantation. The ill-effects of needles cast from conifer plantations on any fishing streams in the vicinity has, of course, been well known for many years and I understand that there are standing instructions in the forest service that new planting of conifers be kept well back from such streams and that where possible shrubs and hardwood be planted to encourage fly life.

Senator FitzGerald and other Senators also raised the question of compulsory acquisition of land. They seemed to think that there is no provision in the Bill or, more accurately, that there is no machinery at my disposal to acquire land for the purposes of the Bill. That is not so. I should like to say, however, that I think the success of a Bill of this kind will depend largely on public acceptance, public education.

As regards acquisition, the Minister will have under the Bill the same compulsory powers as exist under the Forestry Acts. In practice, these compulsory powers are rarely if ever used. This has not diminished the success of the State afforestation programme and I do not think a similar attitude would inhibit the success of the future wildlife conservation programme. As I told the House, the Forestry Division have acquired about 75,000 acres of land. All that has been acquired, or virtually all of it, on a voluntary basis and without any compulsion. The machinery is available under the Forestry Acts to acquire land for the purposes of afforestation and those powers have been extended under this Bill so that land may be acquired on a compulsory basis if necessary, but it is not visualised or anticipated that that will be necessary.

Senator FitzGerald raised the point of forestry versus wildlife. Game and wildlife generally are not all confined to forests. The forests are of course vital habitats and in their management and development for the future much greater attention will be given to wildlife needs than may have been given in the past. This is reflected not only in management at ground level but also in the recruitment of staff trained in disciplines other than forestry to ensure that the marriage between forestry and wildlife is a successful one. It helps in this situation that the training of all our professional forester staff is based on the natural sciences and this in my view and experience makes them very ready to assimilate the new responsibilities in regard to wildlife.

Senator Michael D. Higgins was very concerned about cruelty, particularly in regard to coursing. I do not think he was here when I dealt with cruelty in general and when, I hope, I convinced the House that this Bill has made big strides in ease of cruelty to animals. The problem of coursing still remains and I know we will have two points of view there. However, I think that the masses of the people would not accept a provision to outlaw coursing and I also put on record and want to repeat that I hold no brief for abuses or excesses in coursing parks.

Would the Minister consider the possibility of observing the conditions in coursing?

(Cavan): I explained to the House that coursing does not come under the control of my Department.

But the conditions for the survival of hares do.

(Cavan): My information at the moment, and such information as I can get, is that the hare is not in any danger of extinction and does not need to be conserved. Indeed, if that unfortunate state of affairs ever was reached there is ample provision in this Bill to make hares totally protected. I might avail of this opportunity to say that the Fourth Schedule contains a list of completely protected birds. I can add to that list at any time. The Third Schedule contains a list of pest species. I can remove any species from that Schedule by an order and transfer them into the protected list and I can do the same with animals.

Senator Higgins referred to technological developments and to the conflict between industrial development and the environment. He seemed to be concerned lest IDA activities might accentuate this conflict. However I would point out that the IDA would be bound by obligation written into section 12 which is aimed at making Government Departments and other authorities consult with the Minister for lands before determining things or taking decisions which affect certain important wildlife areas. I am convinced from my knowledge of the effect of consultation between Departments that that will result in a balanced and responsible approach to things.

Senator McGowan this morning was critical of the role of local foresters in the game sphere and in particular in relation to the allocation of shooting rights. I got the impression that Senator McGowan had a particular case in mind and that he was, without giving any names, making a complaint against a forester or foresters. I want to say that the allocation of sporting rights is done entirely on a tender basis and that the local forester has no function in the matter of acceptance or rejection of tenders. He is not involved even in making recommendations on tenders. If the Senator has information that appears to run counter to this position I would be glad if he would let my Department have details of the case and it will be investigated.

Senator Kit Ahern referred to regional game councils and to the need to have their views and opinions taken into account. The Senator may be assured that this is being done and the benefit of their long experience in game development and conservation will, of course, be taken into account. Senator Ahern also mentioned the money paid by sportsmen for gun licences and the desirability of ploughing that money back into game development.

In this context the Senator mentioned that revenue amounting to £1 million accrued from gun licences. I am afraid the Senator was exaggerating very seriously because there is not a revenue of £1 million from gun licences. The revenue does not exceed or is in the neighbourhood of £150,000. On the point of ploughing money back into game development, the position is that for the past 15 years or so my Department have given very substantial financial support to game development schemes implemented by regional game councils. Indeed the amount provided annually for this purpose by my Department in recent years is of the order of £100,000. This will indicate that a very large proportion of the revenue coming in from gun licences is going back to game development. Not only that, but my Department are also giving the game councils considerable technical advice.

This morning Senator Deasy stated that as far as he could see the only enforcement agency will be the Garda. Indeed I think a number of Senators were apprehensive about enforcing some sections of the Bill. A number of them queried whether it would be possible to enforce the Bill. The enforcement of the Bill is entrusted not only to the Garda: section 72 of the Bill empowers the Minister to appoint authorised persons for the purposes of the Bill. I can only hope that some dedicated outsiders with experience in wild life and conservation will offer themselves and will be appointed as authorised persons. Of course the officers of the Forestry Division of my Department who are working in areas where the necessity for enforcement of the Bill will arise will be charged with enforcing the Bill.

As time goes on, I am sure there will be more people employed to enforce the Bill. It is not anticipated that we will flood the country with inspectors immediately the Bill becomes law. We have nothing like that in mind, but the machinery is in the Bill. The Minister for Justice will be asked to enforce it. We will appoint authorised persons in various places in the country and we have the staff of my Department already scattered in appropriate places throughout the country. Therefore, I have no doubt that the Bill will be enforced. It would be farce if the Bill was merely put on the Statute Book as a guideline without any intention of enforcing it. The Bill will be enforced.

Senator Deasy was concerned that hares are the only animals that can be shot under the Bill. The Bill provides for open seasons and the Minister, in making an order in regard to open seasons, can specify the manner in which fauna may be hunted. That, I think, covers the point raised by the Senator.

Some Senators were concerned that the Bill did not go far enough, that it did not deal with the question of fishing. The fishing waters of the country are operated and are subject to regulations made by another Department, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with a Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Fisheries Section. I do not think it would be appropriate to have an overlapping. For that reason, the Bill does not deal with fishing in general. There is provision in the Bill to deal with fishing if it happens that fishing waters are in a particular conservation area. We can go further into that on the Committee Stage.

The Wildlife Advisory Council was dealt with by many Senators and I indeed regard the council, which will be set up under section 13, as one of the most important provisions in the Bill. Some Senators thought that this council should have the right to give directions to the Minister as to what he should do in regard to certain matters and that the Minister would be obliged to take that advice. I do not think that would be reasonable. The Minister is the person responsible to the Dáil for the operation of the Bill. He will have to answer to Parliament for the carrying out of the authority entrusted to him in the Bill. I do not think it would be right or reasonable that an advisory council should have the right to veto, so to speak, decisions of the Minister. If the Minister is doing his duty properly he will appoint an advisory council of people skilled in the fields covered in the Bill and he will listen to their advice and pay due regard to it. He will in fact seek their advice. In addition to seeking their advice, the Bill provides that the council may offer the Minister advice on any particular item. That is as far as it would be reasonable to go and I can assure the House that in appointing people to the council my idea will be to get people who have a contribution to make to conservation. Any other council would be simply worthless.

There seems to be some confusion about licences for hunting game during the open season. The position is that a resident of the country will have to get only one licence. He will have to get a licence which will enable him to shoot birds and hares. He will simply get that from the Garda as he does now, but it will carry an endorsement that not alone has he a licence to carry a gun but that he is enabled to shoot protected birds and hares during the open season. If he wants to shoot deer he will have to get a permit from the Minister for Lands. If he is a visitor to the country and has no fixed place of abode here he will first of all have to get a permit from the Minister for Lands to shoot protected animals. In order to get that permit he will have to satisfy the Minister for Lands that he has made reasonable arrangements here for shooting—in other words, that he is not coming "on spec" and that he is not going to shoot all before him. Having got that, he can then go to the Garda and get a firearms certificate, but he will not get the firearms certificate at all if he is a visitor unless he has a permit to shoot protected fauna.

On this point, a number of Senators suggested that there should be a shooting test, something similar to a driving test under the Road Traffic Act, and that the holder of a firearms certificate should have an insurance policy for the gun. I will not issue any firearms certificates. In certain instances, as I have just said, I will issue permits to hunt game which will enable the holder to get a firearms certificate from the Department of Justice. Therefore, if consideration is to be given to a shooting test as qualifying him for a firearms certificate or if consideration is to be given to making it obligatory to have a firearms insurance policy in respect of each firearm, that is a matter for the Department of Justice. It is not a matter for me and it is not a matter for this Bill because, as I say, this Bill does not envisage the issuing of firearms certificates by the Minister for Lands.

Senator W. Ryan dealt with the poor price being paid for land by the Forestry Division and he expressed the hope a better price would be paid for land used for the purposes of the Bill. I am glad to tell him that serious consideration is being given to a revision of the price being offered for this type of land. It is a question of supply and demand.

Senator Harte made the city man's speech but approached the Bill, I thought, in a very realistic and understanding way. The message which I seemed to get from Senator Harte was: "Although I am a city man, although I love wildlife and would not harm a feather or fur, the package that I am getting in this Bill is acceptable and I welcome it."

Senator McGlinchey suggested a shooting test. I have dealt with that and other matters raised by him.

Senator Cowen bravely and boldly put forward the case for the Irish Coursing Club and for a realistic approach to the question of coursing. By and large I accept his view. He also dissociated himself from abuses or excesses in regard to coursing.

The theme which ran through Senator Russell's and many other speeches was that what we want is a more educated public in regard to wildlife and the beauties and amenities of wildlife. I entirely agree with Senator Russell and the other Senators who advocated more education. I keep repeating that I think one of the biggest steps made in this direction was made some years ago when our forests were thrown wide open to the public. Before that the forests were out of bounds to everybody except the forestry workers and the people who bought the timber. That was a great pity. Some years ago they were thrown open and by and large they have not been abused.

We have now forest trails and nature trails in most of our forests. We have booklets that have been circulated throughout the country and are available at all the forests. We communicate with the schools—practically every school in the country got a circular from the Department of Lands last year pointing out the amenities that were provided and how they could avail of them. At the Spring Show this year the Wildlife Section of the Department of Lands put on a very interesting stand. The theme was wildlife throughout the country, with slides and a commentary. It was availed of and proved very interesting. I agree with the necessity for education and I will welcome any further suggestions in that regard.

Senator Russell suggested a regionalisation of the advisory council.

(Cavan): If he suggested that he was suggesting not one advisory council but a number of advisory councils. Section 13 provides and makes it obligatory to have an advisory council but a subsequent section in the Bill enables the Minister to appoint other boards if he wants to appoint them, but it is not obligatory that he should.

Senator Horgan gave a welcome to the Bill with reservations. He was against blood sports but he adopted a reasonable approach to it. I have dealt with my attitude towards coursing, which Senator Horgan is opposed to and he made it quite clear that he was opposed to it. He also wanted otters to be protected. All I can tell him is that the lot of the otter has been completely improved.

I do not want to repeat the points I have already dealt with. Senator Dolan adopted a realistic approach to wildlife in general—he showed a very striking knowledge of it. He said that hunting went back to the days of Fionn Mac Cumhail and that it was not likely we would ever eradicate it. I was fascinated by Senator Kilbride's speech and his knowledge of rural matters in general.

There seemed to be some doubt about what constitutes a poacher or who should prosecute for trespass on land. In regard to trespass, a prosecution may be brought by the owner of the land, the occupier of the land or the owner of the sporting rights, and that is as it was before. There is not any worthwhile change there.

Senator M.J. O'Higgins seemed to think that the most reprehensible type of poacher was the fellow who sneaked out for a few days before the open season and shot all before him. I agree with that and, of course, the Bill provides penalties for that.

Senator Walsh spoke as the custodian of the "Garden of Ireland". She showed a great knowledge of the beauty and amenities provided there. I regret that I do not think that sheep killing and stealing would come within the province of this Bill. The Bill deals mainly with wildlife. It has been said that farmers have suffered from the trespass of deer. I think the Bill does make provision that if the farmers have difficulty with wild animals they are entitled to protect their interests. We can deal with that more fully on Committee Stage.

The Senator made the point that residents and visitors should not be treated alike. I think that I have shown in my earlier remarks that they are not, in fact, treated alike. Visitors will have to show that they have arrangements made for a shooting holiday; otherwise, they will not be allowed to shoot. Senator Walsh was also apprehensive that there was no provision made for netting hares for coursing. I can understand how that ambiguity crept in because the section states that the Minister may permit coursing clubs to net hares for re-stocking. I think that that is wide enough to cover netting hares for coursing. Senator Higgins and others will be very pleased if it is not wide enough; Senator Walsh will not be satisfied unless it is. We can talk about it on Committee Stage and see whether it is or not. My own opinion is that it is adequate. She concluded by assuring us that God walks in the Garden of Ireland.

Senator Deasy raised the question of enforcement and I have dealt with that. He also pointed out that dogs were marauding and doing a lot of harm and he suggested that the licence fee should be increased.

No, that the marauding be curtailed.

(Cavan): If the Senator did not say it, he did not say it. He showed a great knowledge of wildlife in general and he raised many matters in regard to the fauna that are being protected. I would like to discuss that with him on Committee Stage. He was worried about the Third Schedule which sets out the pest species. He thought that some of the birds included in the Schedule should be deleted from it.

I can tell the Senator that there is machinery in the Bill to do that and we can have a detailed discussion on the Committee Stage. But, even if the Bill is enacted as it is, there would be nothing to prevent the Minister from making an order next year changing those Schedules if the necessity arose. My advice at the moment is that the fauna have been put into the proper Schedules in the Bill.

Senator West, who spoke this morning, thought that the Bill was too late. All I can say is: "Is fearr go mall ná go bráth". It is a complicated and complex measure which has taken a good while to get before the House but the welcome it has received and the general approval it has been given would indicate that the work put into it is well worth while.

While Senator West does not like coursing he seems to accept that it would be unreasonable to abolish it at the moment. He made a plea for improvement and a stricter enforcement of the regulations. That is a matter for another Department. He was against the digging-out of animals. I think that digging-out can be prohibited under the Bill. At the moment the badger and the otter can be dug out and there is nothing under existing law to prevent that. Under the Bill, it will be possible to prescribe in regulations that this would not be tolerated.

Senator Whyte brought a rural man's knowledge to the Bill. He talked about the suffering of the rabbit at the hands of the stoat. I think he brought a balanced approach to the necessity to conserve wildlife and at the same time not to interfere with practices which have been established here over the years provided they are not abused.

Would it not be better to restrict the stoat and protect the rabbit?

(Cavan): I think that the people who would have to protect the rabbit would be the people who introduced myxomatosis.

The last speaker was Senator Markey, and I think he ended on the note that the Bill was a progressive step but that really what we wanted was to educate the general public in regard to wildlife, fauna and flora. I think there is ample provision in the Bill for that and that in the past few years we have been moving very much in that direction.

I want to conclude by again thanking Senators for their reception of the Bill and for their constructive contributions. Not alone were their contributions constructive, but they were instructive. I look forward to having an interesting section-by-section discussion on the Committee Stage. The principles of the Bill have been accepted. I have tried to state what my approach in general is to the Bill. I have a feeling that the consensus of the Seanad is very much with me in regard to this. That does not mean that we cannot discuss the Bill on Committee and amend it if necessary, where those amendments do no violence to the principles of the Bill or are not out of line with public thinking.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 10th June, 1975.
The Seanad ajourned at 4.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 23rd May, 1975.