ORDERS OF THE DAY. - WILD BIRDS PROTECTION (AMENDMENT) BILL, 1927 (SEANAD)—SECOND STAGE.

I have been asked to move the Second Reading of this Bill and I am glad to do so. It is a very simple Bill and I do not think it is likely to meet with opposition. It is not necessary to say much in explanation of it. Its purpose is mainly to prevent unnecessary cruelty to birds. If wild birds have to be caught, the aim of the Bill is to see that they are caught without unnecessary cruelty. In the first two clauses, nothing more than that is aimed at. In the third section, protection is afforded, during a certain period of the year, to the eggs of certain special birds. I do not think there is likely to be any opposition raised to the affording of protection to the eggs of these birds in the nesting season. I move the Second Reading of the Bill.

I support this Bill. This Bill is a very small and unpretentious looking measure of five clauses. But it is really more important to the farmers and to the community in general than one would suppose. Certain sections of the Bill deal with the prevention of cruelty to wild birds confined in cages. That needs no commendation. It is not necessary to say that a bird should not be kept in a cage in which it cannot spread its wings. I never see a wild bird in a cage without longing to set it free. I think that feeling is general. It is pitiable to see larks that should be soaring high in the sky confined in miserable little cages. It goes without saying that that is cruelty. Birds generally are supposed to have a most detrimental effect on the work of farmers. As a matter-of fact, the good that birds do the farmer is far and away greater—I speak as a practical farmer—than the damage they do. That is my experience over a great many years.

Crows, for instance?

Even crows. The damage that crows do to newly-sown fields is very much overstated. I have seen newly-sown fields black with crows and I have watched the results. I have heard people prophesy that nothing would come up in those fields, but I have found that there was no such result. Every year the same thing is said, but there is no such result.

Would the Deputy be able to say a good word for the woodquest?

Are not crows outside the scope of the Bill?

I apologise for being out of order. Speaking about birds generally, I only wish to point out that they do not do the damage they are supposed to do. The most important part of this Bill is clause 3, which deals with the eggs of the plover. Everybody knows the two classes of plover— golden and green. The golden are migratory. The green may be migratory or they may not. To use the words of Deputy Lyons, in his speech on the Railways Bill, "they are birds of passage that are always with us." I do not know whether Deputies are aware that the plover is one of the most useful birds we could possibly have, because he is specially keen on eating up the germs of fluke which are supposed to be found on snails and insects of that kind. They are the greatest friends the farmers can possibly have, and they ought to be preserved by every means in our power.

I am sorry to say that in a great many districts plovers are netted wholesale. There is nothing to prevent that in this Bill. I think that for our own sakes, and because of the good they do, the netting of plovers ought to be prevented. Shooting is quite another thing. The taking of the eggs is nothing in comparison to the wholesale netting of these birds. I see Deputies smiling, but what I am now stating is a fact, and if Deputies choose to look up books on the subject they will see I am right.

There is another class of bird which should be entered here. I allude to bullfinches, also the farmers' friends. They are delightful birds, and they are an ornament to any country. They are becoming extremely rare here. They eat the seeds of plants that are very detrimental to the land. For this reason they ought to get preservation just as much as plovers. No doubt they do a certain amount of damage, and I know that successive gardeners I have had have urged me to kill bullfinches, but knowing their value I always stood out against that. I wish very much that birds of that type would be added specially to this Bill, because these birds are undoubtedly the farmers' friends. As a whole they may do some damage, but I believe they can be kept away by a shot being fired in the morning and also in the evening at the proper time. They are about the best friends the farmers have because, amongst other things, they eat the wireworm.

This Bill ought to be passed. I should like to have additions made to it in regard to these other birds which are undoubtedly of great benefit to farmers. The measure gets my wholehearted approbation, and I hope it will also receive the approbation of the House.

I am not sure how far Deputy Wolfe was in order in introducing a bull into a discussion on a Bill concerning wild birds. His case is made worse by the fact that the particular bull he introduced was, by some zoological freak, the off-spring of a "lion." I am sure every Deputy must have listened with great sympathy to Deputy Wolfe's plea for the caged bird, and must have appreciated his passionate feeling, whenever he saw a bird in a small cage, to liberate it. I only hope the birds will reciprocate that feeling and, if the time ever comes when they will see Deputy Wolfe in a small cage, they will do their best to liberate Deputy Wolfe.

Deputy Wolfe said the most important section in the Bill is the third one which deals with the taking of the eggs of plovers or lapwings. As one who has a certain affection for the delicacies of the table, in my personal capacity I regret that, but my sense of public spirit overbears my sense of private grief and compels me to admit that the section is necessary. I know that many of the eggs that have been sold in the Saorstát and elsewhere as the eggs of plovers and lapwings were nothing of the sort; they were the eggs of gulls.

Sold to gulls.

Yes, produced by gulls and consumed by gulls, as Deputy Gorey has said. I do not know what Minister is dealing with this Bill. I am afraid it is not any of the Ministers now sitting on the Government Benches. Possibly it is a measure for the Minister for Lands and Agriculture or the Minister for Justice. On whoever may be in charge, however, is the onus probandi that the eggs offered for sale as plovers' eggs were produced by plovers. What witnesses will be necessary? How will the fact be established? If the dealer comes into court and says, "This is a gull's egg and not a plover's egg," how does Deputy Thrift propose to convince him he is wrong? I am afraid the only manner in which you can meet it is by adding gulls' eggs to the eggs of plovers and lapwings. The eggs resemble one another so closely that it will be almost impossible for a member of the Gárda Síochána to distinguish between them. The only solution I can suggest is that as we have a Criminal Investigation Department attached to the Gárdaí so also should we have a Zoological Investigation Department of the Gárdaí. In those cities where the eggs are sold a trained zoologist. who I presume would carry the rank of sergeant, could investigate the matter. I suggest to Deputy Thrift that he might strengthen this section and make it easier of administration by adding the words "gulls' eggs." The Bill on the whole is a good Bill and I support it.

I think this Bill is a little bit ridiculous, with the exception of the section dealing with the lapwing. What astonishes me is that the authors of the Bill did not bring in a clause prohibiting shooting. It is in no way different. In nine cases out of ten you maim a bird instead of shooting it. This maimed bird goes about with, perhaps, a broken wing until it dies of starvation. Why not prohibit shooting straight away? I object to the prohibition of what we familiarly term twigging. We all went twigging at one time or another, and where the cruelty comes in there I do not know. The bird may be prevented from flying for about fifteen or twenty minutes, but outside of that it is not injured in any way. I hope the Dáil will not accept this Bill unless a clause prohibiting the shooting of birds is introduced.

Reading this little Bill one is struck by its insufficiency. In any well-regulated agricultural country they have a very definite policy with regard to wild birds. If you travel England or the Continent you will not see as many rooks in a month as you will see in Ireland in an hour. The same thing applies to wood pigeons, magpies, hawks and sparrows. We are raising here hosts of vermin of different breeds, and we have made very little effort to breed useful and paying birds in the country. Game has, practically speaking, got no attention whatsoever. A well-developed and intelligent Board of Agriculture would have no hesitation in eliminating as far as-possible the objectionable species I have mentioned, and they would replace them with birds of utility that would bring in a big annual income. Since the trouble in 1919-20 rooks have become a plague in the country. The same thing applies to wood pigeons, magpies, hawks, and even rabbits.

Rabbits are not birds.

Of course, rabbits are not birds, but they are one of the plagues that the Department of Agriculture could deal with. The same applies to sparrows. This Bill is of very little use. I object to the first section. With Deputy McBride, I fail to see where the cruelty comes in in using bird lime. Immediately the birds land on the lime they are removed and put into a cage. Whether the traffic in goldfinches and bullfinches is right is another question, but there is no cruelty in the performance of securing them. If you want to approach the matter, approach it from a different angle; say, for instance, you are lessening the supply of goldfinches. But if you claim that there is cruelty in the manner in which they are caught, that is not true.

On this question of birds it would be a good thing if the whole matter were adjourned, and then the Minister for Lands and Agriculture could consider it with the assistance of a Committee. This is a big matter, and we ought to have a national campaign for the destruction of the vermin we have got. We have three, four or five bad breeds, and it would be advisable to start a campaign to replace them with birds that will bring in a national income both from the point of view of shooting parties and the prices the birds will fetch. Let us imitate the example of the best countries in Europe; let us imitate the example of England and the Continent. There is a lot of mock sympathy about the poor birds. The sooner we become men and not old maids the better; some of us are tending in the latter direction.

I did not intend to intervene in this debate until I heard the gull mentioned. So far as gulls are concerned they are the worst enemy with regard to fishing throughout the entire country. They have devoured the green drakes on the Westmeath lakes until they have made them almost extinct. There are tens of thousands of them for four months of the year feeding on the natural flies that rise and they are accountable for the fact that you find it very difficult to get even two dozen flies with which to fish. I am in agreement with Deputy Gorey when he suggests that this Bill should be deferred on the grounds that it does not deal with the really big matter at all. There are large numbers of gulls devouring young pheasants, partridges, etc. We have a game protection association in County Westmeath and we give sixpence per head to anyone who brings in their heads.

Is that cruelty?

This is a matter that really ought to be deferred until it is dealt with on a larger scale.

I think the Dáil should find some better use for its time than in discussing a Bill of this type. There are other classes of legislation that could be discussed before the General Election that would be more use to the people. I do not see why the Dáil should waste its valuable time in discussing a measure of this kind. A few weeks ago we had a resolution from the Seanad, where this Bill came from, asking to have representation on the Executive Council. One realises now the object of that resolution. It appears that the object of the promoters of this Bill was to appoint a Minister for Game on the Executive Council and this is the first step in that direction. I know large numbers of men who cannot get employment, but who make a little money by catching goldfinches in a manner which is prohibited by this Bill, namely, by means of a decoy. They send a number of these birds away and get a little money for them, and by that means they get something to eat. If this Bill is passed, these men will be prevented from catching those birds. Deputy Gorey and Deputy Shaw explained the amount of harm that a lot of birds do. Crows, jackdaws and magpies destroy a large amount of agricultural produce. If it is a crime to catch birds and place them in cages, surely it must be a crime to shoot them in trees. The latter is supposed to be a sport but it is not the sport of the poor man.

To shoot vermin.

If I catch a plover or rob its nest I am liable to a penalty, according to this Bill. That penalty is either a fine of £25 or three months' imprisonment, but there is no penalty for shooting such birds. This Bill was apparently introduced to destroy any bit of sport which a working man may have. I presume that if the cage is not made as large as a piggery, the Senator who introduced the Bill would regard that as a crime. The size of the cage is not specified. I wonder is it to be nine by eighteen inches, or twelve by eight inches. I hope the Dáil will reject the Bill. It is unnecessary, and the Dáil could well spend its time in doing something more beneficial to the State than considering this Bill.

I oppose the Bill. There are numbers of people in the Saorstát at present earning a part-time livelihood in catching wild birds. If the supposed humanitarians who have promoted this Bill would go to the back streets in our cities and towns they would find plenty of scope to utilise their efforts in connection with the prevention of cruelty, not alone to animals, which were made for man's use and benefit, but also to human beings. People talk about cruelty to birds. There is much cruelty to game, such as partridge, that have been partly wounded and which, after suffering for two or three weeks, die as a consequence. It is said that we have not a sufficient number of small birds in the country, but, in my opinion, there are more birds in Ireland than in any other country. Thousand of them die in April and May because there is no food for them. Anyone who knows the rural parts of Ireland will find plenty of birds dead during these months. Humanitarians do not protect them. This country is not able to feed the amount of vermin in it. It is typical of the Seanad to come along now with a Bill of this kind when we know what has been the cost to the country for the last four years.

I think that the Bill is altogether insufficient to meet the problem which we have to face in regard to the protection of wild birds. I approve of the Bill to some extent. I do not approve wholeheartedly of Section 1, which, in my opinion, is not very reasonable. We all approve of the idea of preserving birds like the plover. I support the suggestion made by Deputy Gorey to the effect that the whole question of bird and animal life in this country ought to be dealt with in a more comprehensive way. Opinions will differ as to the usefulness of birds and vermin. Some Deputies seem to have the idea that the rook or crow is purely vermin and harmful. It becomes harmful when its numbers become disproportionate. It performs many useful services in the way of destroying the wireworm. When a rook or crow is supposed to be doing harm by picking at grain and young, potatoes it is really fishing for the larvae of the wireworm. What we have to try and guard against is anything in the nature of undue disproportion of certain birds. There seems to be an upsetting of the balance of nature occasionally, whereby one class of animal, or bird, will keep down other classes. Sometimes the balance gets upset with the result that we have something like a plague of rabbits which they often experience in Australia. In New Zealand there is a bird which usually eats berries but then it changes, becomes a meat eater, and attacks sheep very persistently. The sparrow, for instance, is in some ways a useful bird, but when its numbers get disproportionate it becomes dangerous. The same remark applies to the crow. As I have said, this problem cannot adequately be dealt with by means of a Bill of this kind. It should be dealt with by some Department, by legislation or otherwise. The few sections in this Bill barely touch on the whole problem of the destruction or preservation of wild birds, and I doubt whether I ought to give the Bill my support.

I think the promoters of the Bill ought to consider seriously Deputy Gorey's suggestion to have it referred to a committee for investigation. What is needed is not so much an Act for the protection of birds as an Act to protect farmers against birds. Rooks and crows have become so much of a plague they have the effect of deterring people from sowing tillage crops. Another extremely voracious bird is the woodquest. I ask Deputy Wolfe's opinion about these birds.

They do not come under the Bill. It is only plover.

Nothing can be said in defence of that bird, as it feeds on grain, and it is especially damaging in cottage gardens. I think Deputy Gorey's suggestion should be adopted.

The promoters of this Bill apparently know very little about the cruelty enacted in the catching of birds either by net or lime. A bird caught by birdlime is no more than thirty seconds on the twig when it is taken, and it suffers no injury. Whatever prompted the promoters of the Bill to prohibit the use of lime I do not know. If a bird is caught by a properly made brace it suffers no pain. There are other ways of catching birds, such as stringing them up by thread, but if they are caught by a properly manufactured brace they do not suffer. It is just like sitting a bird in a chair and simply lifting it up. Its limbs are not injured. I ask the Dáil to reject this Bill which, in my opinion, is nonsensical.

I object to Section 1, which prohibits the use of birdlime. In my constituency a number of working men come from Dublin on Sundays to have a day's sport by catching such birds as goldfinches and linnets. According to Deputy Wolfe these do not come under the Bill, but, in my opinion, they do. If the promoters of the Bill were really interested in the protection of game and opposed to cruelty to animals, I wonder they did not bring in a Bill to prohibit cruelty to foxes. We often see twenty or thirty dogs after one fox. Why did they not bring in a Bill—I think it would meet with objection on all sides—to prohibit coursing matches in which you generally have two dogs after one hare? This Bill, as Deputy Gorey said, was apparently brought in by people who have an idea that goldfinches and linnets should not be confined in cages. They object, apparently, to working men going out on Sundays for a day's sport by catching birds.

As I believe it is an interference with the liberty of these men and that it would prevent them going out on a Sunday to enjoy the only sport available for working men, I ask the House to reject this Bill. I am sure everyone approves of Section 3 in the Bill which deals with the preservation of the eggs of lapwing or plover, but as regards Sections 1 and 2 the people in my constituency are opposed to them, and therefore I ask the Dáil to reject this Bill.

I ask Deputies who have spoken against the Bill to consider the principle that underlies it. Its intention is to prevent a certain form of cruelty. We are not a cruel nation—certainly not to animals. It occurs to me that in the catching of birds there is sometimes cruelty committed. I admit that when you take a bird with birdlime the bird does not suffer very much if you get it, but what about the birds that you do not get? I have information to the effect that birds have been limed and have been left there to die. It is the principle that underlies the Bill that appeals to me, and I suggest that we should do something to prevent this cruelty. We do very little in that respect at the present time. There are certain birds that have quite disappeared from our country. I know at least two countries—I am speaking now from personal experience—where bird life has been destroyed. Both countries are now infested with insect vermin of all sorts, and certainly agriculture in the two countries has not been benefited by the disappearance of the birds. I do think that we ought to do something to preserve the birds, particularly the songsters, of our country, and not leave this country a silent country——

There is no danger of it becoming a silent country.

—as far as birds are concerned.

I do not think there is any danger of the country becoming a silent country. The principal criticisms that we have to meet against this Bill arise from the fact that many Deputies who have spoken against it really want something better than the Bill proposes to secure. This is a very simple Bill and only proposes to go a very small way. I quite agree with Deputy Gorey that there are big questions involved; that it would require inquiry and a comprehensive scheme to deal with the problem, but any such inquiry, or the taking up of the matter on a large scale would involve a very considerable amount of time. Even supposing that we were to take the matter up now there would be no hope of getting legislation through on such grounds inside of two or three years. All the Deputies who have spoken against the Bill said it contained at least one good thing, namely Section 3, which deals with the preservation of the eggs of lapwing or plover. I want to suggest to these Deputies that, if they differ from the promoters of the Bill on the other sections their course is quite clear. They ought to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill in order to secure Section 3, and then if there is a substantial feeling in the House against Section 1 it would be perfectly easy to delete it on the Committee Stage and to leave Section 3 as the only valid section. If they agree to do that, then at least they will be securing one good thing even though they aim at a better thing. I desire to say, however, that I do not agree with the arguments of Deputies who have spoken against Section 1. As Deputy Alton has pointed out cruelty does not arise so much in the catching of the birds as in the failure to catch them. I want to draw the attention of Deputies to another part of that section. It proposes to deal with a matter in which, I think it will be admitted, definite and distinct cruelty is practised. Sub-section (1) of Section 1 prohibits the use as a decoy of any live bird which is tethered or which is blind, maimed or injured. I do not think there is a single Deputy in the House who could get up and say that the use of a decoy in that manner is not a cruel thing.

The Deputy surely must be aware that all the decoys that are used are stuffed birds?

The Bill proposes to prohibit the use as a decoy of any bird which is blind, maimed or injured, and it is therefore only doing a thing which I am sure all Deputies approve of. I do not believe that a single Deputy would approve of the use of such a bird as a decoy. There are some other things in the Bill which Deputies object to. If they agree to give the Bill a Second Reading, then on the Committee Stage they will have the opportunity of moving to delete the things that they object to. If the majority of the House is in favour of the things that they object to, then of course they will be deleted. The principle of the Bill is against cruelty to birds, and I think that is a matter on which the House ought to agree. I do not want to spend too much time speaking on the Bill, but I ask Deputies to give it a Second Reading, and afterwards to secure what they want on the Committee Stage: to take out such things as they object to, and leave in what we have all expressed our approval of. Every Deputy who has spoken has expressed approval of Section 3. I ask Deputies to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put—That the Bill be read a second time.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 40.

  • Earnán Altún.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Seoirse de Bhulbh.
  • John J. Cole.
  • Bryan R. Cooper.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceóil.
  • John Good.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Liam Mac Cosgair.
  • Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
  • Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • James Sproule Myles.
  • William Norton.
  • Ailfrid O Broin. Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
  • Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
  • Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Liam Thrift.

Níl

  • Pádraig Baxter.
  • Daniel Breen.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • John Conlan.
  • James Dwyer.
  • Séamus Eabhróid.
  • Michael Egan.
  • Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
  • David Hall.
  • John T. Nolan.
  • Michael K. Noonan.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Mícheál O hAonghusa.
  • Seán O Bruadair.
  • Tomás O Conaill.
  • Parthalán O Conchubhair.
  • Aodh O Cúlacháin.
  • Liam O Daimhín.
  • Séamus O Dóláin.
  • Tadhg O Donnabháin.
  • John Hennigan.
  • Connor Hogan.
  • Seosamh Mac a' Bhrighde.
  • Séamus Mac Cosgair.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Tomás Nógla.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Mícheál O Dubhghaill.
  • Peadar O Dubhghaill.
  • Seán O Duinnín.
  • Donnchadh O Guaire.
  • Seán O Laidhin.
  • Fionán O Loingsigh.
  • Pádraic O Máille.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
  • Andrew O'Shaughnessy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Alton and Cooper. Níl: Deputies Gorey and Hall.
Motion declared lost.
Ordered:—That a Message be sent to the Seanad accordingly.