In the absence of the Senators who tabled the amendment I would like to move amendment No. 1:
In page 13, line 38, after "land" to insert "or water".
Vol. 83 No. 6
In the absence of the Senators who tabled the amendment I would like to move amendment No. 1:
In page 13, line 38, after "land" to insert "or water".
I would remind Senators that on Report Stage each Senator may make one contribution, and when the Senator who proposes the amendment is called the debate will be concluded by him or her. Amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, are related and may be taken together.
Cavan): The House already dealt with similar amendments by Senator M.D. Higgins during the Committee Stage but those amendments were withdrawn. I regret that, on the grounds already given, I am not prepared to accept these amendments. The amendments, I think, are based on a misconception. The word “land” wherever the context admits throughout the Bill—as this section certainly does—includes, by virtue of its definition in section 2 of the Bill, “land covered by water” and therefore it would permit of nature reserves being established on lands which include lakes, rivers or other wet lands.
Section 15 (1) (b) specifically permits of nature reserves on State-owned foreshore, and section 15 (1) (c) clearly allows for marine nature reserves. The Senator's point about community recreational interest in amendment No. 2 is not acceptable either, because the criteria in the establishment of nature reserves are intended to be scientific or ecological rather than recreational. There may, of course, be a community recreational spin-off benefit from such a reserve and, indeed, for that reason among others, I am taking powers under section 59 to regulate public access to and use of such reserves in the interest of conserving the community of flora and fauna for which the reserve is established in the first place.
Incidentally, I understand that Senator M.D. Higgins has been in communication with my Department in relation to the Bill and that he is now satisfied that the Bill as it stands meets the intention behind his amendments.
I should like to thank the Minister for his explanation. I do recall when this was being discussed on the Committee Stage that he felt the defination made it unnecessary. I should like to thank him for the further clarification and ask the intention behind his amendments.
(Cavan): Section 22 deals with the enforcement of protection of wild birds and provides that, with the exception of the pest species in the Third Schedule, it will be an offence to hunt wild birds otherwise than in accordance with a permission or a licence granted by the Minister under this Bill. Subsection (5) lists exceptions to the prohibition on hunting which I have just mentioned, and subsection (5) (e) with which we are concerned in this amendment, provides that it will not be an offence:
to take eggs of a protected wild bird or to move eggs from the nest of such a bird to that of another bird of the same species for the purpose of having them hatched out.
The amendment arises from a point of interpretation of paragraph (e) of subsection (5) raised by Senator Robinson on Committee Stage. The Senator asked whether, as the paragraph stands, it would be possible for a trespasser to take the eggs of a pheasant and transfer them to a tame pheasant to hatch them out. At that time I expressed myself as satisfied that the paragraph was not broad enough to permit a person to do that as he would be guilty of trespassing and larceny. However, I promised the Senator to have this point looked into. I am now advised that the paragraph could not be interpreted as a good defence for a trespasser doing what Senator Robinson suggested. However, Senator M. J. O'Higgins in making his contribution on Senator Robinson's question raised a point which appeared to me to be valid, if I interpreted him correctly, namely, that the paragraph as it stands might not permit a person, where the hen pheasant had been killed by a car, to take the eggs to the nest of a bird of another species —for example, a clucking hen, as he put it. On re-examining the paragraph I have some doubt that it accurately reflects my original intention, which was twofold, namely, that it would not be an offence (1) to take the eggs of a protected wild bird to an incubator or to the nest of another bird of a different species for the purpose of hatching them out or (2) to remove the eggs of a protected wild bird to the nest of a bird of the same species where scientific advice or experience dictated that that was the best way of securing the successful hatching in the case of a particular species. I am satisfied that this amendment is necessary in order to remove doubt as to my intention.
I do not want to hold up the Bill—the Minister has been very good in extending himself to meet the points that were raised on Committee Stage—but I had intended asking about the question of removing eggs for hatching out in an incubator if the necessity arose. I gather from the Minister's remarks that, in fact, that is covered by his provision. My only reason for standing up is that I do not see that immediately and I was wondering if he could direct my attention to it.
I would like to thank the Minister for having looked into the point. In fact, I was not suggesting on Committee Stage that there was any question of a person no longer being a trespasser who would be a trespasser for other purposes. It seemed to me and it still seems to me that a trespasser can remove the eggs and hatch them out under another bird and obviously the person would still be a trespasser. He would not be committing a further offence but would come in under this formula. It is a very small point, but I would like to thank the Minister for having considered it.
(Cavan): Arising out of Senator Michael J. O'Higgins's intervention, I am satisfied that the amendment as drafted will cover the removal of eggs for hatching in an incubator. What we propose to do is to delete subsection (5) (e), which reads:
to take eggs of a protected wild bird or to move eggs from the nest of such a bird to that of another bird of the same species for the purpose of having them hatched out.
and to substitute the following paragraph for that:
to take eggs of a protected wild bird for the purpose of having them hatched out, or, for such purpose to move such eggs from the nest of such a bird to that of another bird of the same species.
"Having them hatched out" would cover it?
(Cavan): Yes. Senator O'Higgins appreciates the following words meet the point: “to take the eggs of a protected wild bird for the purpose of having them hatched out”. It does not say by what means. I am glad that Senator Robinson is satisfied with the section as drafted now.
Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are cognate and may be taken together.
(Cavan): In reference to these amendments, the Senators will remember that on Committee Stage points were raised in regard to the venue for hearing prosecutions which would be brought under these two sections, that is, section 22 and section 23. It was appreciated that prosecutions should be brought against the defendant in the District Court area where he resided or in the District Court area where the offence was committed. The Senators were not satisfied that went far enough because some Senators, notably Senator W. Ryan, pointed out that it might be difficult, if not impossible, in a mountainous area straddling a couple of District Court areas, to say with certainty that the offence was committed in one District Court area or another. I was asked by Senators —it was represented to me—that the Bill should confer jurisdiction on all District Justices to hear the offences under the Act. I had amendments drawn with that end in view, but quite candidly I am not entirely satisfied with the amendments as drafted and, with the permission of the House, I propose to withdraw these amendments, and I will have the matter further looked into and, if I still consider it necessary, I will introduce suitable amendments to meet the points in the Dáil.
Since it was necessary for the amendment to be moved for the Minister to speak, I take it the House now agrees that it should be withdrawn?
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 24, between lines 34 and 35, to add to section 26 the following subsection:
"(4) There shall attach to each licence granted under subsection (2) or subsection (3) of this section a condition that the hounds shall wear muzzles of such a design as to preclude their inflicting any injury on or bringing about the death of the hare."
On the Second Stage, in making the case against hare coursing, I referred to hunting generally as a very primitive instinct which is in all of us. The instinct to hunt goes back to earliest times, to the earliest forms of pre-civilisation when the need to hunt, to kill, was essential for survival. That is an instinct which persists and has been in very many cases, in most civilised and advanced countries, changed into a kind of analogue of itself. The need to hunt and the primitive drive in human beings is preserved. One no longer needs to hunt to live although the way things are going that might change very quickly. At the present time one does not need to hunt to live and, therefore, hunting has been transformed into a sport and the sport has had taken out of it to a very considerable extent, the cruel aspects to which I referred. This is part of the progress of civilisation and is one that has been welcomed by most people. We see it in bull-baiting, in dog-fighting, cock-fighting, bear-baiting and many other kinds of sport which were essentially very cruel to the animals involved in them. We see also the development of clay-pigeon shooting, where people like, say, Senator O'Higgins who likes shooting, can take pleasure in the skill of shooting and of seeing the effect of the bullet or cartridge shooting down the objective without hurting or maiming an animal. These are quite primitive drives and it is quite useless to pretend they are not there; they are there. But where they can watch a hunt without the effect of the pain and killing of the animal it seems to me there is not much harm in that.
I still object to hare coursing because I think there is an enormous amount of fear involved where the hare is concerned. Quite obviously, nobody could object to greyhound racing which is the closest analogue to this particular coursing. It is practically identical except that the animals chase an electric hare. They give an enormous amount of pleasure and sport to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Quite obviously that is useful in its own way in order to help people in their recreation time. It gives them the excitement and all the thrilling experience of watching two fast beautiful animals competing against each other to try to catch the uncatchable hare. They can put bets on and win or lose money but that is their own business. It is part of the average urban recreation.
We also have the kind of sport to which I referred recently. I said, in praise of the Taoiseach, that it was a good thing he had given a lead in hunting. I understand his kind of hunting is restricted to drag-hunting. I may be wrong on that, but I always gave him credit for doing that anyway. Am I wrong in that?
If it were not so, I think it would be desirable that he should give a lead.
The Senator will always be correct if he is talking in praise of the Taoiseach.
I see, I might have expected that. This is on a very narrow issue, I am sure the Seanad will have to agree, and it happens to suit my case. It occurred to me that similarly with stag-hunting, they do not kill the unfortunate stag they hunt. They catch it and hunt it again. So the general trend in the hunting of animals has been towards this appreciation of the fact that killing an animal is a barbarous thing to do, particularly a weak and defenceless animal such as a hare, a stag, an otter or a badger.
For that reason I wondered whether Senators would accept an amendment which would meet the case. Many of them were very indignant the other day when I suggested that there was something peculiar about somebody who liked to watch a sport, or call it a sport, a procedure organised at considerable expense and trouble which tended to be directed towards hunting to the kill, very painfully, of a tiny little animal by the wonderful animals, greyhounds. As many Senators as were here turned on me with great indignation, and I do not mind that at all. The main point was they do not want to see the animals killed at all. That was the last thing they wanted. What they wanted was the marvellous sport of the turning of the hare, the cleverness of the dogs, one outrunning the other and then the fact that one got to the hare quicker than the other.
As reported in column 64 of Volume 83, No. 1, of the Official Report, Senator W. Ryan said:
...nobody in this House gets any pleasure from seeing a hare killed at a coursing meeting.
At column 65 Senator Deasy had this to say:
As Senator William Ryan has pointed out, Senator Browne made a very incorrect statement in saying that coursing followers enjoy the spectacle of seeing hares killed. This is untrue. They do not enjoy it. They are delighted if the hares escape and go free after the coursing meeting.
I hope that is true. He then continued:
There was nothing in the newspapers about a coursing meeting held in Donabate two weeks ago when no hare was killed.
That is a very important point. Presumably the coursing match at Donabate was an exciting spectacle and gave great pleasure to the people who were there. The organisers of the meeting were satisfied with themselves. An ICC speaker on a television programme we were involved in said that young people in rural Ireland derived great pleasure from organising meetings. The people in Donabate killed no hares, but they had a good meeting. These people are experts, cognoscenti of the game of greyhound coursing. They were quite happy that a good meeting could take place and have no hares killed.
Senator McAuliffe also pointed out that if hares are properly fed with oats, turnips and cabbage they will not get killed. The implication of his advice to the hare was to feed well and he would not get killed. Cleary he did not want the hare to be killed either. He is an expert on this subject and he told us a lot about breeding of hares.
Senator Russell adopted an Olympian approach, saying he never went to these sports, and he lived near Clounanna. He said:
Every sportsman regrets the killing of any animal whether it is a fox killed in the hunt, or a hare killed by beagles, or by dogs....
If I might correct the Senator, I did not say that I had never been to a coursing meeting. I said it was a long time since I attended a coursing meeting.
"It is many years..." I beg the Senator's pardon. Lest there be any misunderstanding, I quote from column 67, Volume 83 of the Official Report, where the Senator said:
... It is true that all sportsmen who go to coursing meetings go to see the dogs. It is a contest between the dogs and not between the dogs and the hare. Everybody regrets when a hare is killed.
Then the Senator continued:
Every sportsman regrets the killing of any animal... They should remember that the hare is a necessary ancillary factor in the sport of coursing. The main thing is the dogs. People bet on the dogs and watch them coursing and applaud when a hare escapes.
What makes that an Olympian statement?
The detachment from this plebian pastime——
It is not detachment; it is a fair statement.
This is a matter of interpretation. The Senator is welcome to interpretation. Mine is that it was an Olympian statement.
It was an intentional statement.
"I live very close to one of the most famous meetings in the world, the Irish Cup at Clounanna"—I do not attend, but then I am not like the rest of men. It is straight out of the tale about the Pharisee.
The Senator continued at column 67:
It would have been more helpful if somebody had suggested methods by which the rate at which hares are being killed could be decreased. That would have been a constructive proposal...
I suggest that I have made this constructive proposal in my amendment which was suggested to me by a concerned individual in County Kerry.
In column 69 the Minister pointed out that this was a Bill for the conservation of wildlife. My amendment proposes to conserve the hare. This is of assistance to the Minister as well as to other Senators who are worried about this suggestion that I had in some way or other slandered them by suggesting that they liked the killing of the hare, the scream of the hare as he was torn to pieces by the two dogs. They tell us that the last people in Ireland who would like to see the hare becoming extinct are the organisers of coursing matches, that if the hare became extinct, coursing as it is known now would come to an end. That is the case made by the group who met in Strasbourg, the Association for the Preservation of Wildlife: that if coursing continues in this manner it will come to an end.
The Minister continued in column 70:
Senator Browne has obviously overstated his case because he said it is deliberate killing of the hare. Deliberate killing is not involved in coursing. People who organise matches, if they had a choice, would like to see the hare escape.
There are a number of such people here, and he spoke for them with some authority. Surely that is a very important observation by no less a person than the responsible Minister. He continued:
Matters are so arranged that the hare gets a reasonably long slip and has a chance of escaping. It has been said that 90 per cent of the hares coursed escape.
If this is a good thing I am suggesting that we should try and up that 90 per cent to make it 100 per cent. Everybody would then be happy.
The Minister continued at column 71:
There is no doubt that hares which are killed suffer...
That is on the authority of the Minister. That is not Senator Noel Browne being hysterical or overstating his case.
One lady Senator was very angry because I spoke feelingly about tearing little hares to pieces.
At column 76, Senator Whyte said:
If I believed, as Senator Browne obviously believes that coursing is purely for the enjoyment of people seeing hares being torn apart, then I would be opposed to coursing. The Senator has a completely mistaken idea of what the sport of coursing is. I make no apologies for calling it a sport. The Senator is quite right when he says there is a certain exclamation when two dogs pass one another and people are concerned with the winning of the chase. The same applies when an artificial hare is involved. The same situation applies when a racehorse is involved. People are interested in the speed of the animals involved, and perhaps place a bet on the matter as well.
That is quite innocent, quite innocuous, and nobody could complain about that. Is that what hare coursing is about? This is what we will find out when we proceed to a vote on this amendment. If it is as innocuous as Senator Whyte said, then he is quite correct to continue to support it. He is well aware that, as the Minister said the hare is killed painfully. Under this amendment the hare need not be killed at all.
Senator Whyte went on:
If a hare is killed nobody regrets this more than the people involved in this very important greyhound industry.
He then went on to accuse me of being unfair:
We are doing less than a service to the people involved in the greyhound industry when we imply that they attend coursing meetings just to see hares killed or torn apart. This is a mistaken idea and one that ought not be put across in responsible debate.
Senator Cowen supported the argument that every care is taken at each coursing meeting to see that no hare is killed if at all possible.
Senator McCartin said, at column 78:
I do not like the idea of two hounds killing the hare at a coursing match. On the other hand I do not want to stop my neighbours from coursing.
He also said:
I pity the people who seem to enjoy for itself the spectacle of the hare being killed more than I pity the hare.
How right he is. As I suggested, there is something peculiar about people who gratuitously take an unfortunate animal such as this and establish this elaborate procedure of a coursing match.
Here is the amendment I am putting forward to the Seanad:
There shall attach to each licence granted under subsection (2) or subsection (3) of this section a condition that the hounds shall wear muzzles of such design as to preclude their inflicting any injury on or bringing about the death of the hare.
This is quite a serious matter. We have accepted in relation to all the other sports that there was an element of cruelty—obviously, it was opposed by many people—and that cruelty should be removed from the various other sports, because people had grown used to them. These people were gentle people and would not ordinarily hurt a defenceless animal, but because the sport had become a community pastime in a local area they had become uncritical. All of us who have grown up in our culture have been uncritical. I myself have been uncritical in my time in relation to cruelty. It was only as time passed that I gave more thought to these things and realised that it was very wrong for human beings with their great power to take into captivity a tiny animal of this kind and to arrange this terrible amphitheatre, a meeting place, surrounded by fences in which this alleged training is carried out. It cannot be a serious training procedure because the hare does not know what is going on it is so frightened. It is a slur on the name of our people that we should continue to be among the last people in Europe to perpetuate this kind of what I have described before as a barbarous practice.
All the Senators who are influential in this sport now have an opportunity to exercise an important moral judgment: to decide that they will contribute what they can in order to reclaim the sport. I disagree with the coursing part. It is terrifying for the unfortunate animal. But at least my amendment makes the compromising suggestion in relation to hunting the unfortunate hare that, as in stag hunting, beagling, clay pigeon shooting and various other sports, the barbarity is removed and the people continue to enjoy the sport.
In saying this I should like to make it quite clear that I do not in any way doubt the sincerity or motives of Senator Dr. Browne in moving this amendment. He is being absolutely consistent with the views he expressed on the Committee Stage discussion of the Bill. So far as Senator Dr. Browne is concerned, he genuinely believes that the solution he has proposed in his amendment is one which should in a reasonable way meet the point of view of those who want to have coursing continued and the point of view of those who object to it as a cruel sport. I should like to assure the Senator that I am not speaking from any Olympian heights in regard to this matter. I have never attended a coursing meeting and my only knowledge is that which I gained from listening to speakers in this House and from the propaganda material with which I have been furnished from time to time by both sides.
There are a number of points which worry me about this amendment. My basic objection as a Member of Parliament, even though this House does not directly represent the electorate in the same way as the other House, is that we should adopt an attitude in which, rather than representing the people, we should endeavour to impose views, particularly—although I do not like using the term—a minority viewpoint on a majority. No matter how well intentioned, no matter how well motivated one may be in urging the adoption of a point of view which is a minority one, I do not think that a representative in Parliament is acting in his true capacity if his concern is to reflect, not the general view of what is desired by the majority, but purely a minority point of view.
I offer this as one of my doubts in relation to any effort to amend the law with regard to coursing in a Bill of this kind. In this I think I reflect a point which was made validly and strongly by the Minister during the Committee Stage debate. This does not appear to be the type of Bill in which one should interfere radically with the continuance of a system of coursing which has been adopted generally throughout the country. I could see much merit, at some stage, in Senator Browne or anyone else who would care to do so trying to get an in-depth discussion on this matter independently of this type of Bill.
With regard to the amendment itself, despite what I might regard as its face value—and I am not being derogatory when I say that—from the point of view of those who regard this sport as a cruel one, I wonder to what extent the amendment as it stands would be practical and workable.
The amendment seeks to provide that:
There shall attach to each licence granted under subsection (2) or subsection (3) of this section a condition that the hounds shall wear muzzles of such a design as to preclude their inflicting any injury on or bringing about the death of the hare.
The first question one must examine in relation to that is: who is going to be responsible for the design? Who is going to guarantee a muzzle of a design which would preclude the greyhound not alone killing the hare but inflicting any injury to it? I am not an expert on muzzles. I know from practical experience that dogs do not like wearing muzzles. I have never come across a dog that gave evidence of being comfortable when wearing a muzzle. It is natural for greyhounds to follow hares, but I would need a lot of persuasion to believe that it is natural for greyhounds or any other dog to wear muzzles. The first suggestion made here is that we should fit on greyhounds a device which is not natural for the animal to wear. By doing that, to what extent are we inflicting perhaps more than discomfort, perhaps pain, on the greyhound? I do not want to make a joke of this because it is a serious suggestion and deserves consideration, but it seems to me that you cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
The question arises on this amendment whether it is fair from the point of view of the greyhounds to muzzle them when they are engaged in something which is for them a natural exercise. The type of muzzle one finds for sale frequently does not, unless it is badly fitted, preclude the dog opening its mouth. It prevents the dog from getting a grip on something. Unless you can design a muzzle that will prevent the greyhound from opening its mouth, how can you ensure that the muzzle will be such that the greyhound can neither inflict injury nor cause the death of the hare while coursing? There is, quite seriously, an enormous practical difficulty there. If this amendment were accepted it would presumably be an offence not to comply strictly and rigidly with the terms set out in the amendment. I do not think that is possible.
Senator Browne aims this amendment entirely at coursing. He did, I think, in the course of his remarks —again a pun is not intended there— refer to stag hounds and possibly otter hounds. This amendment does not oblige the Minister, even if it were accepted, to attach any similar condition in the case of stag hounds or otter hounds.
We did try to have that abolished.
Yes, but you also tried to have coursing abolished. I am merely pointing out that, if what is suggested in this amendment is valid and practical, in relation to coursing, it would seem to me that it would also be valid and practical in relation to otter hunting or stag hunting. But it is not suggested for the latter; it is suggested for coursing. I do not know sufficient about the subject to know to what extent this or any variation of this suggestion would be practical. I should imagine that a great deal of examination and research would be needed to establish that.
This House, by its vote on the Committee Stage in relation to the general question of coursing, may be taken as having come to a decision, for the present at any rate, not to interfere with the general position regarding coursing. If it were required to look at the matter again in the context of the suggestion put forward in the amendment, I would feel that that should only be done following some fairly deep knowledge of the effect on the sport of coursing which would ensue from implementing this amendment. For all I know it would ruin the sport. For all I know the effect on greyhounds required to be muzzled would simply finish the sport. I have no doubt that Senator Browne would feel that that would be an additional virtue for this amendment. But in the context of the decision which the Seanad took on the Committee Stage —I am not suggesting it is done deliberately—if it had the result of ruining the sport, it would be a back door method of getting around a decision the Seanad has already taken. It would be necessary to know the effect of this amendment on the sport of coursing and it would be even more necessary to know the effect of the implementation of this amendment on the general welfare and well-being of the greyhounds involved. Here we have not merely the question of an emotional reaction. We are talking about what is a valuable industry. If, through undoubtedly very sincere feelings, we were to implement an amendment of this sort, which would have a drastically adverse effect on greyhounds, then we would be accidentally having an adverse effect on a very valuable industry.
I made my views known during the Committee Stage debate and I do not intend to go over the ground again. I want to take up a few points in supporting Senator Browne's amendment. These arise from Senator O'Higgins's speech. If he pushed his philosophical ideas to their logical conclusion, in which he said that essentially—I must be careful to quote him right—we must not push minority views in our position as legislators, that the majority rule must hold its way and that we only take the majority view into account, that would not be satisfactory because all government consists of compromise. As a member of a minority, I know that if my view was not taken into account, if it was disregarded, life would not be worth living. It is not a question of deciding that it is majority rule. If you have a sufficiently aggrieved minority and the cause of their grievance is not dealt with adequately and some compromise is not arranged, then life will not be worth living. To see the extreme result of this logical position one has only to look at the problems of government in Northern Ireland. However, I know Senator O'Higgins is interested in a more restricted and particular case. I just want to say that in general I just could not agree with his philosophical views.
He made some other points which I could not agree with. First of all, I do not think it would be beyond the wit of man to design a muzzle which could achieve what is aimed in this amendment, the protection of the hare, and would not greatly incapacitate the greyhound. That would be simple enough. It just requires some thought and some knowledge of what is going on. I do not think it would be an impossible task. He considers it is unnatural for greyhounds to be muzzled. Lots of unnatural things happen in sport involving animals. It is natural for a horse to run without any incumbrance, but he usually has a rider. One can see from the training that is necessary that horses resist the idea of having jockeys on them for a considerable time. Sometimes they manage to do so during the course of a race.
It is dangerous to argue that it is natural to do this or natural to do that. It is not natural to chase hares inside an enclosed park. It is natural for dogs to chase them out in the open. We are not talking about a natural sport and that argument is also fallacious. It is wrong to pass the buck and say this is not the place to introduce an amendment like this. I recognise the strength of the vote that occurred on the Committee Stage on the attempts either to abolish or to regulate and restrict coursing somewhat. There was a large majority in favour of maintaining the status quo. That does not reflect the feeling throughout the country on this matter. The feeling is changing rapidly. I would be prepared to bet quite a sizeable sum that, within ten years at the outside, we will have legislation which achieves what we are talking about here, and does not decimate the sport in any way. This will come because public feeling and public opinion are changing concerning coursing.
I would be quite happy if coursing continued provided some restrictions like this are placed on the dogs so that the hares are not savaged at the end of the race. As Senator Browne said, it is a very fine thing to see animals chasing each other in the open and in the natural course of events. Of course, they catch each other and there is cruelty in life. But this is a man-made situation and it is incumbent on those taking part in the sport to ensure not just a 90 per cent escape of hares but a 100 per cent escape. It seems to me that none of the arguments Senator O'Higgins has advanced really holds any water at all in this matter. It would be quite a reasonable thing to do, and a reasonable thing to ask the many people who obviously enjoy coursing meetings and, as Senator Browne has pointed out, who do not like to see the hare being killed. This would be a cast-iron way of ensuring that and therefore I support his amendment.
I should like to know what licence is meant in the amendment. Does it mean a licence granted to people who apply for a licence to carry out coursing events, or does it also apply to a person who has a gun licence? Secondly, the word "hounds" is used here. Is there any distinction made between the type of hounds, because there are tongue hounds, fox hounds and greyhounds? If this amendment was accepted would it mean that all these hounds would have to be muzzled? If that were so, how would it affect the many people who follow the hare with tongue hounds instead of greyhounds? Is it not a fact that tongue hounds hunt more by scent and greyhounds hunt by sight? There is a distinction there.
I cannot say how practical it would be to have muzzles fitted. I do not think it would be practical having regard to the various types of hounds. If, for instance, a man goes out fowling with a spaniel, a retriever, or a red setter, would it be necessary for him to have such dogs muzzled if this amendment was accepted? Of what use would muzzled hounds be to people hunting foxes? In other words, we might find ourselves causing a lot of trouble to people who enjoy and follow these sports, and interfering with people who go out hunting on Saturday and Sunday each week and who never kill a hare but follow them with the tongue hounds.
The last point I would like to make has already been made. It is a very important point. We will have to be very reasonable about this. Dogs, hounds, greyhounds and coursing are a very important industry. Let us be practical about this. It contributes very considerably to our economy. Much has been said about cruelty. Some complain about cruelty to the hares and others may argue there is cruelty to the greyhounds. They could have a point. It could be very cruel to a greyhound to be muzzled and have a hare within killing distance of him in his natural habitat. If we carried that point further, it would eventually mean we would reach the stage where we would ban all hunting songs and poems and probably prevent Radio Éireann from playing "The Fox Chase" by Leo Rowsome. I should not like such things to happen.
If this amendment was accepted it would automatically do away with coursing itself. Some Senators said tracking dogs are muzzled. That is true. Coursing and tracking are completely different. At the track six dogs in a race are muzzled. They are never within striking distance of catching the electric hare. That keeps up their desire and keeps them chasing the hare week after week. Experts say they do not reach their full speed at any time while they are following the electric hare.
In coursing, if you muzzle two greyhounds and they are slipped after the hare and one of the dogs come within striking distance of catching the hare, he cannot catch the hare because of the muzzle. The hare can come down the field again. He might not go to escape. He can go up and down the field perhaps six or seven times. He can play the two dogs out and finally the dogs will be valuless. A dog can be gruelled. There is no incentive for him to keep chasing the hare. I would say that on the second or third occasion a muzzled dog is slipped after a live hare he will automatically cease to follow. That is only natural.
Take the case of a shooting party. You put up a cock pheasant and you use blank ammunition. After one Sunday you will not have many men out shooting. Dogs have their own senses. If a dog believes he cannot catch the hare, he automatically turns. He will not continue. Somebody talked about open coursing and open hunting. There is nothing more cruel than open hunting. In open hunting the hare has no chance. There may be four or five dogs in a hunting party chasing one hare. At least in the closed park they are confined to two dogs and the hare has a better chance.
Listening to the debate on this Bill I have come to the conclusion that the hare and the greyhound have been singled out. To my mind the hare is the most respected animal of all. I carry a shotgun. I have had greyhounds. I now carry a rod. My shotgun licence entitles me to shoot a hare. In fairness to everybody I know—and I am sure the same is the case in every county —if you were seen damaging a hare with a shotgun, I am afraid people would be inclined to turn the gun on yourself.
There are different forms of cruel sports. Take rabbit hunting, for instance. The rabbit has no chance from the word "go" with three or four terriers and, perhaps, one or two old greyhounds that are used for nothing else hunting him. If the rabbit escapes the dogs and runs into his burrow a ferret will be put into the burrow and will get him out. To my mind that could be termed a cruel form of sport. It may take 40 or 50 foxhounds hunting a fox an hour to catch him. It is true that he does not last very long with 40 dogs tearing at him. Again that could be termed a cruel form of sport. If that fox escaped into a burrow there are always a few little terriers to get him out. He has no chance.
There are several other instances. The badger is a beautiful animal. I do not think there has ever been a dog that was capable of taking a badger from his earth with the result that, when people go hunting for badgers—I have never hunted them but I have been told this—they use bars, pickaxes and shovels. Again the badger has no chance. The most respected animal of all is the hare. People who drive a car, if they have not killed a hare themselves, have certinly seen a lot of hares slaughtered on the roads by traffic. Due to the fact that the hare has a tendency to cross the road for grazing purposes at night, quite a number of them are killed on the roads.
The most cruel sportsman is the person who goes out with a shotgun and a couple of dogs and puts up a flock of grouse and blazes into them with his two barrels. Some birds fall down. Others have a lot of lead in them and they travel for about a mile or so and they lie on the ground for days dying. To my mind that is the most cruel sport of the lot. I am sure anybody who has gone hunting will agree with me in that respect.
(Cavan): Section 26 provides essentially for the licensing of otter hunting and stag hunting. In addition, there is provision in subsection (2) for the Minister to permit, under licence, the sport of beagling and harrying and under subsection (3) the hunting of hares by means of coursing, in both cases during the close season for hares. It is important to note that we are dealing with licences here issued to permit this sport during a close season and for a very short time only, usually a couple of weeks in the month of March. A licence from the Minister for beagling or harrying or for coursing will not be necessary during the open season.
The clear intention of the amendment is to intrude into the manner in which the activities or sports of beagling and hare coursing are conducted. I hope I have made it perfectly clear on Second Reading that I am not prepared to become involved in the regulation of coursing matches as that duty is in the hands of the Irish Coursing Club by virtue of an existing statute, namely, the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, which is the responsibility of another Department. In the case of beagling or harrying after a hare, I see no justification for legislating for the muzzling of the hounds inasmuch as there are very few, if any, hares killed in the sport. In any case, subsections (2) and (3) of section 26 deal merely with the licensing of two forms of hunting outside the open season. In practice, it is intended to cover the few traditional beagling and coursing meetings held in the first two or three weeks of March—the generally accepted start of the closed season.
I have been arguing since the debate started on this Bill in this House that this is a conservation measure and not a measure to deal with cruelty to animals. The introduction of this amendment, more than anything else, makes that perfectly clear. If the House were to accept this amendment, it would be quite legitimate and lawful for those engaged in organising coursing matches, or engaged in beagling, to course hares at coursing matches with greyhounds without muzzles from the month of October or November, or whenever coursing starts, right up to March but, for a very limited period in March, they would be required to put muzzles on the greyhounds. That is an absurd situation.
The same situation would apply in regard to beagling. It would be possible for the owners of packs, or the people who organise packs of beagles, to hunt all through the winter with beagles without muzzles but, come March when they get a licence from the Minister for Lands for a couple of weeks, it would be necessary for them to put muzzles on the dogs. Again that is absurd. As Senator Dolan has pointed out, the sport of beagling is a tongue sport. The hare can be half a mile out of sight. The dogs continue to hunt by sight and their owners can identify their own dog by his "tongue"—as they call it— and they enjoy listening to the dogs and seeing them chasing after the scent of the hare.
As I have said, I am not prepared to deal piecemeal with coursing here if it needs to be dealt with—and I do not concede that it does. I am merely dealing here with conservation. I have no evidence —indeed, I will go further and say there is no evidence—that the hare species is in danger of extinction. If that evidence comes to light, I have ample machinery within this Bill to prohibit the killing or hunting of hares altogether by refusing to give any open season. If I thought it necessary—and I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not propose to do it—without this amendment I have power under section 9 of the Bill to impose the type of condition this amendment seeks to impose. I do not propose to attach such conditions to these licences.
I do not want to get into a discussion on coursing, but really what is involved in coursing is not an effort by the dogs to kill the hare. That is not the prime motive. What is involved in coursing is a trial of the speed of two dogs to see which of the dogs can go up the meadow the fastest. That is what is involved here. It is true to say that the hare does on occasion get killed. There is no doubt about that. I would agree with Senator W. O'Brien that, if dogs were to be muzzled and habitually coursed with muzzles after live hares, they would cease to course. They would cease to follow. It could also cause suffering and frustration to the dogs. I readily concede that the degree of suffering or frustration would not compare in any way with the severity of the suffering the hare endures if she is caught. Proper coursing matches are run on the basis that the hare gets a fair start, that she has a chance of getting away, of escaping. Of course, there is the danger that she will get caught and she is caught and sometimes killed.
I find it somewhat difficult to understand the fierce opposition there is to coursing by a small but powerful lobby while the same people do not seem to object to fowling, as it is called. They do not seem to object to the provisions of this Bill which permit hunting of animals or birds by firearms. If they were to be consistent and logical they should include that. There again there is suffering. If a duck is shot with a shotgun and falls in the reeds and only suffers a broken wing or leg, or both, it can hobble around suffering for perhaps hours or days. There has not been one word of objection from this lobby against that sport. You do not have to be consistent when you are opposing. You can be selective and oppose cruelty to animals and if you feel like it, you can close your eyes to the suffering of human beings, to extreme and wanton cruelty.
Perhaps I have gone into a field I did not intend to go into but I want to point out that there is not a lot of logic behind the opposition to coursing. On Fifth Stage I hope briefly to tell the House what is involved in the Bill. I candidly believe that all the good points and good and desirable sections in this Bill have been completely lost sight of in the opposition to this particular activity of coursing. The intention behind this Bill was never to prevent cruelty but rather to conserve nature, to conserve fauna and flora, and the Bill has done that very well. The absurdity of permitting coursing and hunting without muzzles for three or four months and then putting muzzles on dogs for a fortnight shows that this is not the measure to control coursing; if the House or Parliament want to control it, there is a way of doing that.
I honestly believe that the vote here on the last occasion which defeated an Opposition amendment dealing with coursing by 30 votes to five— and another Opposition amendment did not even get sufficient support to warrant a division—shows positively that there is no measure of demand in this House to outlaw coursing. I concede that if there were any demand in the country to outlaw coursing, one would expect to find it in this House. But, I repeat, this measure is purely a conservation measure, not an anti-blood sport measure. To try and use it for that purpose is really not helping the very desirable objectives behind this Bill. For that reason, I regret very much that I cannot accept this amendment in the name of Senator Higgins and Senator Dr. Browne.
Regarding this amendment, the Senators concerned may have been moved by the fact that greyhounds are muzzled in track racing. We are all well aware that greyhounds follow an electric hare when they are track racing. The reason greyhounds are muzzled in track racing is to prevent them from fighting with each other. Naturally they are not going to kill an electric hare.
I agree entirely with Senator O'Brien and the Minister that if greyhounds were muzzled at coursing meetings it would be detrimental to coursing itself, because the instinct of the greyhound is to course and that being muzzled would prevent this instinct. I should like to emphasise——
Would prevent what? You said "would prevent".
Would prevent that instinct to course. The fact that he would be muzzled——
I should like to stress upon Senators who oppose coursing is that we are recognised as having the best greyhounds in the world. The reason we have the best greyhounds in the world is that we have what is called a coursing strain in greyhounds, and this coursing strain crossed with the tracking strain, has produced the marvellous track greyhound we possess. To interfere with coursing by muzzling greyhounds would be detrimental to coursing itself and, therefore, detrimental to the greyhound industry. This industry is in a thriving state at present and the attendances at greyhound track meetings are improving immensely. It is this cross-breeding of coursing and tracking strains that produces the powerful track greyhound. On that basis alone it would be detrimental to the greyhound industry to interfere with coursing by muzzling the greyhounds.
Another point I want to make is that the hare may be severely injured through the use of greyhound muzzles. I imagine something like a wire muzzle would be used, if it did come to pass. You can imagine a wire-muzzled greyhound hitting a hare at 40 miles an hour. Naturally, the hare would suffer immense injury. On that basis, too, I feel that this amendment should be withdrawn.
Well, clearly, as Senator West said, it is going to take some time to educate this Seanad. The points raised by the various Senators are not very convincing. Indeed, Senator Cowen demolished one of Senator O'Higgins's main points about this prospect of the cruelty to greyhounds if they were to wear muzzles while racing, because, of course, it is true that greyhounds wear muzzles while racing in the greyhound tracks and it does not seem to inconvenience them at all.
I gave the reason they wear muzzles. It seems that Senator Browne and other Senators did not know they wore muzzles.
I said that the Senator gave the reason. I did know that the hounds in the greyhound tracks are muzzled and I am surprised that Senator O'Higgins used that as a point, because it is accepted by greyhound owners that greyhounds can race perfectly efficiently with muzzles. While I am sure they have a certain sense of frustration, if it does not interfere with their efficiency it seems that that is certainly not a reason the amendment should not be accepted.
I do not accept Senator O'Higgins's extraordinary proposal, as Leader of the House, that this House should not propose significant amendments to legislation put before it. What else should we be doing here but putting amendments to the various Bills? Is it not our exclusive function to make amendments we think are desirable. I am in favour of the other House having the right to change the Bill again if they wish to. I would not take that power away from them. They have the final say in amendments because they are the elected representatives and they must have that power. But I do not see why we should put forward amendments which we do not think substantially change the proposals in any particular Bill presented to us if we think changes are merited. I do not think that holds at all.
I deplore, as did Senator West, the suggestion that a minority—I do not want to overstate the case—should keep its head down. This is an extraordinary proposal from the Leader of the Seanad: that minorities should not put forward unpalatable proposals to the majority and expect them to be accepted by the majority. Surely this is the whole basis of the democratic process, that we put the minority view, which, so frequently, tomorrow is the majority view. Surely this is the essence, the whole reason why we get up and talk at one another in this way and try to persuade one another in this way? One of the pleasantest experiences in my whole life in politics is that, over the years, I have been able to put forward a minority view. I very often appear to be putting forward minority views but I have considered it to be one of the fine things about political life here that a member of a minority can get up and put forward points of view, with disagreement by those who do not share those views. This again is the essence of this general principle of the right of individuals to disagree with one another, to hold majority and minority views. Anything rather than the other approach of: "If you do not share my views then somebody shoots you down, or uses violence, or whatever it might be."
I think this is a very important principle, the right of the minority. The Leader of the House should have been more careful before he used that particular argument in talking about the decision of a handful of us to put forward what is an apparently unacceptable view to the majority. In this question of the minority I have frequently put forward minority views. I take comfort from the fact that in many of the views I have held I have been a member of the minority only in the Republic of Ireland. If one takes most of the western civilised democratic societies, with advanced cultures and standards and values stemming from those enlightened and advanced cultures, I would not be in the minority at all. It is the members of this Seanad who are in the minority. It is the members of the community which so frequently differ from me who are in the minority when one takes the views held on matters of this kind, say in western Europe alone.
We are the last but one of the western European countries to keep this. When the British introduce their Bill in the Lords we will be the last. I do not feel as downcast as some people think I should feel on issues like this which is of relative importance only. But on much more important issues, I get great comfort from the fact that my views are shared by one-third of the world. I deprecate the fact that an argument of that kind should be put forward: dogs hunt efficiently with muzzles.
A number of Senators made the point that this might affect the greyhound industry. I dealt with this on Committee Stage when I pointed out that many countries who have abolished coursing have retained their greyhound industry and had no difficulty in doing that because dogs continued to be used in greyhound racing. That brings me to the answer to another point raised by a number of Senators. This seems to be shifting across an unpleasant suggestion I made which does not appeal to the Senators. They do not want to see the killing. It is the hounds that want to see the killing. It is the animals that want to see the blood flowing. It is the animals that want the hare to scream and to get the satisfaction of killing the unfortunate animal. They said they did not like to see animals being killed or hurt or in pain; it is being done for the benefit of the dogs. If they accepted this amendment and put muzzles on the dogs they would not continue to hunt the hare. Of course, as Senator Cowan pointed out, night after night all over the country greyhounds continue to hunt hares around the various greyhound tracks. As far as they are concerned the electric hare disappears mysteriously into a hole in the wall and they can never catch it. It does not seem to me that that argument holds water either. The hounds will continue to follow as long as a moving object is put in front of them until that object disappears. They run as fast as they can to try to catch that moving object. Therefore hare coursing enthusiasts need not deny themselves the pleasure of watching coursing. I cannot accept that point either. We are left with the disagreeable conclusion that it is the Senators who want to see hare coursing continued and it is not simply a question of the dogs.
May I point out the case of the beagles who follow draghunts or hounds who follow draghunts? The Taoiseach hunts in this way apparently with pleasure. The dogs hunt the drag, which is a bag of linseed. Week after week these stupid animals go out hunting the scent. The people who like following the animals, following the linseed bag at great expense across country on expensive animals, continue week after week at this particular sport. I understand that staghounds apparently follow this wretched stag week after week across County Meath and at a particular time they call off the hounds, put them in a horsebox and bring them back. There is no validity in the argument suggesting that greyhounds or any kind of otter hounds or staghounds or beagles would not continue to follow the scent if the scent is put down or it is a moving object.
I disagree with the Minister's suggestion that the killing of birds was not raised. It was raised by me, and Senator O'Higgins will confirm that, I am sure. I questioned Senator O'Higgins about this. I have objected to hunting all forms of animals. It is degrading to human beings to do this.
I do not think the Minister has a point when he talks about this Bill being a conservation Bill. Essentially the objective of this would be to conserve these beautiful animals—otters, badgers and hares. There is no conflict in my mind between the proposal that he should further the likelihood of these animals being conserved by destroying the likelihood of their being killed by organised killings of this kind. Apparently up to 40 could be killed in any day.
The Minister said he did not want to intrude into this sport. He says he only licenses it for just after the close season, a couple of months. That is why this amendment was put down.
(Cavan): A couple of weeks.
Our difficulty is that he would not accept the responsibility of licensing meetings. This is handed over to the coursing club. Of course, if the responsible Minister, as a man who knows and would accept that the sport is one which ends up in killing the animal in a painful manner, expressed his disapproval of it, then this would be a guideline to the coursing clubs. It would then be up to them to take heed of the feelings of this House and, assuming that the Dáil accepted our amendment, it would be accepted as the general practice.
Fortunately coursing is not really a widely enjoyed sport, if I can use the word "sport". Therefore it is unreasonable of the Minister to expect a large public opinion on it. Probably very few members of the public knew what terrible acts were committed by people who hunt hares at coursing matches until they heard the revolting sound of the unfortunate hare being killed in the television programme the other night. It is interesting to note that the producers had a very good film which they wanted to show on that programme on hare coursing, but the coursing clubs got an injunction against the showing because they were obviously deeply ashamed and felt a great sense of guilt about the horrible performance which is involved in what people call the sport of hare coursing. The coursing clubs insisted that the public should not see what goes on at coursing matches. If they were not ashamed of what they were doing at coursing matches, they would be happy to allow the TV personnel to make a complete exposure of the horrible practice of hare coursing. They used a legalistic device to ensure that the public would not be allowed to pass judgment on hare coursing. At least the public heard the horrible scream of the little hare being torn to pieces by a couple of greyhounds in order to give—I repeat —rather a sick excitement to those who enjoy hearing little animals screaming while they are being torn to pieces.
Senator O'Brien said there were many very cruel forms of sport, such as rabbit hunting, fox hunting and badger hunting. We have named all of these sports and have objected to them. Why is it that Senators, like Senator O'Brien, who recognise cruelty in other forms of sport, do not recognise the same cruelty in the sport which they follow? We experience the same difficulty when we speak to people who follow fox hunting, badger hunting and otter hunting. They all feel that their particular little vice is a permissible one. It is, of course, the mote in the other person's eye; it is the other person who is perverted and likes hunting little animals to a painful death.
Our special problem here is that we are dealing with a Bill which is concerned with hare coursing. We are not dealing with a Bill—as the Minister said, and I agree with him—concerned with rabbit hunting and the other kinds of open hunting and shooting referred to.
As reported at column 85, Volume 83 of the Official Report, Senator Walsh said:
I take great pleasure in opposing this amendment.
The opponents to this amendment have been depicted as bloodthirsty psychopaths.
I do not know if these are the exact words, but I do not consider myself to be in that category. I did not call Senators "bloodthirsty psychopaths". I asked why they enjoyed hare coursing. They capture the little animal, arrest it in an elaborate arena, train their animals to be very fast and skilful and then release this unfortunate little animal into this enclosed arena from which there is one exit which the hare might or might not find. They set these highly-skilled animals with powerfully sharp teeth to hunt the hare as long as possible—that adds to the sport—to the death. Senators all denied indignantly that they wanted to see blood spilled. The best defence today was the one which said it was done for the sake of the dogs, again an evasion. I have dealt with that particular argument, as with the other ones. Therefore, I am left to conclude that the majority of Senators who spoke, who continue to support hare coursing and who will not accept this amendment, are behaving in a completely hypocritical way. I should like to press the amendment.
The question is that the amendment be made. Will Senators seeking a division please rise in their places?
Senators Dr. Browne and Dr. West rose.
The names of the Senators will be recorded in the Journal of the proceedings of the House.
Amendment put and declared lost. Government amendment No. 9:
In page 26, line 24, to delete "restriction imposed by" and substitute "restrictions contained in".
(Cavan): Section 29 provides for the granting of licences to hunt game birds and game animals with firearms during the open season for such birds or animals, fixed by order of the Minister under sections 24 and 25, respectively, subject to the restrictions on the use of certain firearms contained in section 33. The purpose of this very minor drafting amendment is to have consistency in the use of the term “subject to the restriction contained in section 33” with its use in subsections (1) and (2) thereby removing any doubt as to the interpretation in the context of subsection (5). It is purely a drafting amendment.
I have no objection to the amendment. I was not here at the time and I do not know whether it was possible to have a discussion on the modification in section 33 on Committee Stage. As the Minister points out, this is subject to the restrictions imposed by section 33. The restrictions imposed in section 33 effectively are to limit the use of firearms to firearms where not more than three cartridges can be used. I think that is reasonable. But I think the reasons for it should be spelt out by the Minister.
Business suspended at 5.10 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
I was making the point, which I think might be of some importance in obtaining goodwill for this measure, that in regard to the restrictions contained in section 33 which are referred to obliquely in the amendment limiting the type of firearm that can be used for game purposes, it should be made quite clear that this is a step which is in the interest of conservation. The idea is that in future automatic weapons will be limited to three cartridges. At the moment the usual automatic weapon shotgun has a magazine load of five cartridges and there are a number of these on the market. I do not know to what extent they are used other than for wild fowling. They are used normally for wild fowling and I know of at least four types at the moment. There is the Luigi Franchi, the Winchester, the Remington and the Browning. The modern Winchester, as far as I know, is already adapted for only three cartridges as against five cartridges for which the Luigi Franchi has provision.
My experience of automatic shotguns leads me to believe quite firmly that it is very much the exception that a person out hunting with one of them would get in a third shot even, and, certainly, except in the occasional case where a person is wild fowling and possibly flighting for geese, it would be very exceptional that a person would discharge more than the third shot. For that reason I think the limit of three which is —to use the wording that the Minister is now recommending—not "imposed by" but "contained" in section 33 is reasonable, but it is going to have the effect that people who at the moment have automatic shotguns with magazines catering for five cartridges will have to get those adapted or modified so that in future they will carry only three. I do not think this is going to be a particularly expensive operation, but it is going to be an operation that a number of people in the country will have to carry out. That will be appreciated once they know quite clearly that this is not something being done to spite them, that it is not being done simply for the purpose of restricting them in the legitimate enjoyment of their sport of hunting whatever it may be, but that it is something that is being done for the purpose of trying to preserve and conserve not merely game stock like partridge or grouse or pheasant but also wild fowl in the country. As I say, they are used mainly for wild fowl. I would say that only the very occasional person abuses the position by having the advantage of a five-cartridge magazine and slaughtering a whole flock of wild fowl. I would say that the person in that position is very exceptional and that it will be understood and accepted, provided it is clearly understood that this is in the interests of conservation and that in the long run it will benefit everyone interested in sport of this type if we do preserve the stock of game and save them from being decimated, as could happen with the automatic weapons available at the moment.
(Cavan): As I understand it, Senator O'Higgins finds amendment No. 9, which is purely a drafting amendment, acceptable and there is no question about that, but it is true—indirectly at any rate—that the amendment affects section 33. Section 33 is the section which limits the cartridge-carrying capacity of shotguns to three. I think most people would believe that the normal cartridge-carrying capacity of a shotgun is two, but shotguns with a cartridge-carrying capacity of up to five are not uncommon. The proposal in the section is to restrict the cartridge-carrying capacity of shotguns to three. That is a happy medium, one more than the ordinarily accepted number and two less than what would be described as the maximum.
The restriction on the repeater and automatic shotgun is primarily in the interests of conservation. The use of these weapons can result in excessive killing of wild birds, especially when they are at rest or feeding. As I say, some of the shotguns are capable of firing as many as five shots without reloading. By requiring their modification or adaptation so as to be capable of firing only three shots without reloading we are adapting a reasonable standard and one which goes most if not all of the way, towards meeting the wishes of hunting and conservation organisations both national and international. I might add that the restriction is more likely to affect the visiting rather than the native shooter. I can assure Senator O'Higgins that there is no question of putting this into the Bill simply to be awkward or simply to penalise people who have these more elaborate weapons. It is done simply and solely in the interest of conservation and in order to prevent the wholesale slaughter of wild birds. I suppose a shotgun with a cartridge-carrying capacity of five might be related to a practice of habitually and all the time giving the hare a very short slip. It is much more likely that a five-shooter will kill more birds than a double-barrelled gun with a capacity for three cartridges.
Does it mean that tourists coming to this country with that type of weapon will be examined at the point of entry? A man can come in with a shotgun carrying five cartridges and pretend that he is using one with three?
(Cavan): The way that that will be dealt with is that tourists coming here will have to get a hunting licence from the Minister for Lands in respect of a gun. Of course the gun will be inspected and if it is a five-shooter he will have to have it adapted so that it will only effectively fire three without re-loading.
I do not know whether I may raise this on the amendment, but the Minister did mention——
The discussion is concluded. While short questions are permissible, it is not desirable for a Committee Stage debate to develop.
I do not intend to go into the depths of it. With regard to the matter of a licence, I did mention at one time the question of people from the Six Counties coming to the South and having a gun licence. There is a gun licence and a firearms certificate, which are two different things. If you insist on people from the Six Counties having a gun licence along with a firearms certificate it will mean that these people will not come here. As I said on a previous occasion, I do not think that a game licence is valid on a Sunday in the Six Counties. Consequently they will not think it worth their while getting a licence to come down here. They may be members of gun clubs——
The Senator is well beyond the amendment.
I wish to make a remark on a question that arose in regard to visitors. There will be a problem here. Some Germans but particularly the French come to the West of Ireland to shoot and most of them have five-shooters. Does the Bill mean that they will have to adapt five-shooters?
(Cavan): I understand it is not a very expensive or difficult operation.
This should be made known to them before they come rather than when they come.
(Cavan): If they are to obey the intention of the Act they will have to make advance arrangements about a shooting holiday. The Bill is drafted so as to discourage people from coming here “on speck” and shooting everything on sight.
(Cavan): Section 37 is intended to restrict the hunting of protected wild birds and protected wild animals at night except under special research licences granted by the Minister under section 22 (7) in the case of protected wild birds, or section 23 (6) in the case of protected wild animals. However, section 22 (7) provides for the licensing of hunting for certain purposes in addition to research purposes. For example, it has now been broadened by way of amendment to allow for gun dog training and trials. Consequently, the reference to section 22 (7) in this section needs to be more specific, and I am proposing to change it to read for the purposes of paragraphs (a) and (d) of that section.
(Cavan): Section 38 prohibits the use of lamps, mirrors or other dazzling devices in hunting protected wild birds or protected wild animals except while ringing birds or hunting for educational or scientific purposes under licence. This amendment is consequent upon the Committee Stage amendment of section 32 extending the provisions of that section, which dealt with the licensing of bird ringing, to the banding, ringing, tagging or marking of wild animals as well as wild birds.
(Cavan): Section 65 provides a number of amendments of sections 3 and 12 of the Firearms Act, 1964, so as to extend their application, at present confined to game, to all wild birds and wild animals protected under the Bill. The specific amendment in subsection 1 (b) is to bring section 3 (2) of the Firearms Act into line with the provisions of section 27 for temporary suspension of open seasons in severe weather conditions.
The table to the section sets out the full texts of the relevant subsections of sections 3 and 12 of the Firearms Act, 1964, as they are being amended under the Bill. The words now being inserted by this amendment form part of section 3 (3) of the Firearms Act, 1974, and were, I am sorry to say, omitted due to a typographical oversight. It is merely a drafting amendment.
Could I raise again the question whether a person coming in from the Six Counties needs a firearms certificate as well as a game licence? The point is that if this person applies for a game licence in the Six Counties—I think he pays £6 for it—he cannot use it on a Sunday. Consequently he will be reluctant to take out such a licence. I think it should be sufficient if that person held a firearms certificate, which is a different thing, and then let him apply for a licence when he comes in here or if he is a member of a gun club here.
(Cavan): The arrangement for visitors who wish to shoot here for this year have been made quite independently of this Bill and are already in force. They were made under order by me as Minister for Lands and this is the first year that shooting by visitors was tightened up. Indeed there was quite a volume of public demand that it should be tightened up in order to avoid excessive shooting and abuses. The arrangements for this year require anybody coming from outside this jurisdiction— I think that is the best way I can put it—to have a game licence in the country of origin and to get a permit from me. That is largely experimental and it will be reviewed next year either, hopefully under this Bill, or under the order. In the light of representations that have been made and of experience this year we can see what is the best thing to do. We will certainly bear in mind Senator Dolan's suggestions.
I should like the indulgence of the Senators to put on record what changes are brought about by the Bill, but before doing so I should like to deal with two points raised on the Committee Stage which I specifically undertook to deal with. Senator Mary Walsh raised two points on section 17, which is the section dealing with the designation of areas as refuges for fauna. She suggested that there should be rights of appeal against the designation order made by the Minister and also in relation to compensation payable following the making of such an order. I undertook to look further into these aspects and to come back to them on Report Stage. I have done so and I hope that what I have to say will allay the Senator's worries.
Let me take the Senator's second suggestion first, namely, the question of an appeal on the compensation aspect. Section 17, as it stands, provides for the payment of compensation to persons having an interest in land which becomes the subject of a designation order. This compensation is specifically related to the diminution in the value of the land resulting from the ministerial order or to any loss or disadvantage suffered by what I might refer to as the aggrieved party. That the compensation should be so based is justified by the fact that no question of acquiring the land arises, and I am sure that the Senator will have no fault with that aspect of the matter. The actual level of compensation will be a matter for negotiation between the Minister and the parties concerned—and this goes to the heart of the Senator's proposal—but where agreement is not feasible the amount will be decided by arbitration under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919. I hope the Senator will agree that for practical purposes this is tantamount to providing for an appeal on the compensation issue. I am sure she will accept on reflection that the section as it stands does, in fact, adequately cater for what she has in mind. That is the procedure adopted for assessing compensation in respect of land acquired by all local authorities in the country for their various statutory purposes.
I should now like to refer to Senator Walsh's first point, namely, the proposal for a right of appeal against the Ministerial order under section 17. I realise that the position here is not as clear cut as the other proposal. The situation is that, following publication by the Minister of the relevant notice of intention to make an order, including any protective measures in relation to habitat, it will be open to various interested parties, including of course any landowners concerned, to object to the proposed order. The Minister is obliged to consider all objections lodged and he will then decide whether and to what extent the designation order should be made. It is at this stage Senator Walsh would like to see the right of appeal provided for and I can readily appreciate her viewpoint. I should like to repeat, however, that in section 17 there is no question of acquiring land; at most only the user of the land will be affected. It is true that there are compulsory acquisition provisions elsewhere in the Bill and where this course is followed, the landowner concerned will of course enjoy all the rights of objection and appeal which apply to compulsory acquisition procedure. I must emphasise that section 17 in no way comes into this category. Indeed, the section is designed to meet situations where conservation by the State of some particular wild fowl is desirable, be it a species of fauna or its habitat, it can be effectively carried out while at the same time leaving the habitat involved in private ownership. At the same time, I would be less than candid if I did not say that the section in so far as it does not incorporate a right of appeal against a ministerial order does contain some element of teeth, but since under the Bill the conservation of wildlife will be the function of the Minister and as a proposal for a designation order would be grounded entirely on scientific facts, it would, in my opinion, dilute the Minister's powers unduly if provision were to be made for an appeal. For the reasons I have just mentioned, together with the fact that no acquisition of the land by the Minister is involved, I am satisfied that the provision for an appeal by objection is not warranted and that any claim should be met solely on the basis of the financial framework envisaged in the section. I trust the Senator can accept this explanation.
I might also point out that under the compulsory acquisition, there is, in fact, no appeal to a court unless on a question of law, which means that in effect there is no appeal once the procedure laid down in the Acquisition Acts is complied with.
The other point was raised by Senator Deasy and I should like to compliment him on his obviously detailed examination of the proposals in the Bill. He raised the question on Committee Stage as to whether the chough, the raven and the kingfisher should not be included in part 1 of the Fourth Schedule. I would remind the House that under the Bill all wild birds except those listed in the Third Schedule are being protected. Part 1 of the Fourth Schedule lists the rare species within the protected category, in other words, those which are to get special protection. The real impact of this special protection is seen in section 22 (6), which provides that, where an offence is committed in relation to a protected wild bird, it would be a good defence to claim that the capture or killing of that bird was urgently necessary to protect property described in section 42 (1) from damage and that the circumstances made it impractical to get the Minister's permission in advance.
However, this good defence plea will not apply to a wild bird listed in the Fourth Schedule. Senator Deasy apparently based his case for the inclusion of the chough, raven and kingfisher in the Fourth Schedule on information contained in a booklet issued by the Forest and Wildlife Service of my Department. The booklet is entitled A List of Common or Irish Birds. The full references in the booklet to the three species are:
Chough breeds mostly on rocky coast from Antrim anti-clockwise to Waterford. Probably over 1,000 pairs form the total population.
I would not regard this species as rare or in danger at the moment.
The raven breeds in cliffs and increasingly in trees thinly distributed in suitable habitats and increasing.
The fact that this species is thinly distributed throughout Ireland is not to imply that it is in any sense rare. Its numbers, as I have said, are increasing.
The kingfisher is widespread and fairly numerous. Found mainly on slow-moving unpolluted waterways and in winter often by the seashore.
There is no question of this species being rare. In the circumstances there is no case for putting these three species in the specially protected category in part 1 of the Fourth Schedule at present. I can, of course, do this, under section 22 (2) of the Bill should the occasion demand.