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Bear-Baiting Bill, 1825-Feb-24
[1825-Feb-24] "House of Commons, Thursday, February 24, 1825, Bear-Baiting Prevention Bill," Parliamentary Debates 12 (1825-Feb 03 to 1825-Apr-18): 657-61; Google Books: Online Library of Free eBooks.
Bear-bating Prevention Bill.] Mr. Martin, of Galway, rose to move to leave "to bring in a bill to prevent Bear-baiting, and other cruel practices." He submitted his motion with perfect confidence of its success; because, in the interval which had elapsed since the last session, he had conversed with every alderman of the city of London, with almost every police magistrate in the metropolis, and with many magistrates in different parts of the country, and had collected from their conversation that it was their unanimous opinion, that these cruel practices ought to be put down. He had been told by them, that nothing was more conducive to crime than such sports; that they led the lower orders to gambling; that they educated them for thieves; and that they gradually trained them up to bloodshed and murder. The reason why the police could not meddle with these practices was, that they were not in general exhibited for money. He held, however, in his hand an affiche, which would bring the sports under the notice of the police, since it fixed a price upon the ticket which was required for admission to them. It announced that "Billy, the phenomenon of the canine race, and superior vermin-killer," would go through his wonderful performances on Tuesday next, and that the receipts of the pit would on that evening be presented to the distressed widow of Billy's late proprietor. It then stated, that "a dogfight—a turn-loose match with two dogs and two fresh badgers—and a drawing match," would follow this astounding spectacle; and that several dogs would then be tried at a bear previous to their being sent out upon their travels to foreign climes. The doors were to be open at seven, the performance to begin at half-past, and the admittance to be 3s each. The whole of the sports were said to be instituted by the "express invitation of several noblemen and gentlemen of the first distinction." He expected that this declaration would secure to him the vote of the learned member for Winchelsea. On a former occasion, that learned member had said, that he (Mr. M.) meddled only with the sports of the poor, and turned away his eyes from those of the rich. He did no such thing; but was equally anxious to meddle with both when he found them opposed to the dictates of humanity. The learned member had said, "show me that the nobility take part in those sports, and I will join with all my heart in putting them down." He was sorry to say, that some persons of rank and name did patronize these cruel practices. The persons to whom he alluded, deserved to be stigmatized with severer reprobation than the poorer classes, against whom alone his bill was said to be directed. Their education ought to have given them feelings averse to cruelty and bloodshed, and to have taught them that their example would be of vast importance in propagating such feelings among their inferiors. He therefore trusted that the learned member would redeem the pledge he had given him, and would give his strenuous support to the bill. He could see no rational objection that could be urged against it. By the Marylebone act all bear-baiting and other barbarous sports were prohibited within that parish: and it appeared to him difficult to assign any reason why, if that parish was to be exempt from such inhuman exhibitions, the parishes of St. George and of St. Margaret, or of any other saint, were to be disgraced and disgusted by them. It was not, however, merely bear-baiting, and sports of a similar nature, that he wished to abolish: there were other practices, equally cruel, with which he thought the legislature ought to interfere. There was a Frenchman of the name of Majendie, whom he considered a disgrace to society. In the course of last year, this man, at one of the anatomical theatres, exhibited a series of experiments so atrocious as almost to shock belief. He would not trust himself to express a further opinion upon this fellow's conduct, but would merely say that he looked upon those who witnessed it without interfering to prevent it, almost in the light of criminals. This Mr. Majendie got a lady's grey-hound, for which he paid ten guineas. He first of all nailed its front, and then its hind paws to the table, with the bluntest spikes that he could find, giving as a reason for so doing, that the poor beast in its agonies might tear away from the spikes, if they were at all sharp and cutting. He then doubled up its long ears, and nailed them down to the same table with similar spikes [cries of "hear," and "shame"]. He then made a gash down the middle of its face, and proceeded to dissect the nerves on one side of it. First of all, he cut out those nerves which belong to the sight, and whilst performing that operation, said to the spectators, "Observe when I pass my scalpel over these nerves, the dog will shut its eyes." It did so. He then proceeded to operate upon those of taste and hearing. After he had finished those operations, he put some bitter food on the tongue of the dog, and hallooed into his ear. The dog repudiated the food, and was insensible to the sound. This surgical butcher, or butchering surgeon—for he deserved both names—then turned round to the spectators, and said, "I have now finished my operations on one side of this dog's head; as it costs so much money to get an animal of this description. I shall reserve the other side till to-morrow. If the servant takes care of him for the night, according to the directions I have given him, I am of opinion that I shall be able to continue my operations upon him to-morrow, with quite as much satisfaction to us all as I have done to-day; but if not, though he may have lost the vivacity he has shown to-day, I shall have the opportunity of cutting him up alive, and showing you the peristaltic motion of the heart and viscera." [Great disgust at the statement of this cruel experiment was manifested by the House.] He was aware of the necessity of making some experiments on living animals; but then they should be performed in such a manner as to cause as little suffering as possible. That was the opinion of the most eminent professors. He held in his hand the written declarations of Mr. Abernethy, of sir Everard Home, of the professors of medicine at Cambridge and Oxford, and of several other respectable medical gentlemen, to that effect. They all, he believed, united in condemnation of such excessive and protracted cruelty as had been practised by this Frenchman. He had heard that this fellow was again coming to this country to repeat his experiment. He therefore had mentioned it to the House, in the hope that it would gain publicity, and excite against the perpetrator of such unnecessary cruelty the odium he merited. He trusted that when it was known, the fellow would not find persons to attend his lectures, and would thus be compelled to wing his way back to his own country, to find in it a theatre for such abominable atrocities. After some further observations, he concluded by moving for leave to bring in the bill.
Sir M. W. Ridley could not but express his horror at the incidents narrated; but he thought the hon. member had introduced matter which was not applicable on the present occasion. It was true, the Mary-la-bonne act rendered the practices alluded to, misdemeanors; but they came, in his opinion, under the cognizance of the magistrates, in all cases where they operated as a nuisance. He should oppose this bill, because he considered legislation on such paltry subjects both unnecessary and uncalled for.
Mr. Martin said, that all the magistrates of the metropolis called for a law to put down these practices as a nuisance. Was not their call entitled to some respect? It was discreditable to any member, to rise and say, not that he would negative the bill when it was brought in, but that he would not permit it to be canvassed at all in parliament. Would any man get up and boldly say, "I am such an amateur of cruelty, that I will not even allow a measure to be discussed which tends to abolish it?" Such language no man would dare to utter; and yet, what had been said that evening approximated to it. He was afraid he should be defeated upon this bill; but if he was, the glory would be with him, and the disgrace with those who vanquished him. He was, however, confident that at some future period it would be passed into law. He would not say that it would meet with that success whilst under his direction; but if the gentlemen opposite would take it up, as they had done his bill for giving counsel to prisoners accused of felony, he would willingly surrender it into their hands.
Mr. Gordon said, he must consider this a degree of petty legislation, when questions of so much more importance were before the House.
Mr. F. Buxton did not think the subject so insignificant as not to deserve the notice of the House. The hon. mover had conferred an essential benefit upon the community by his continued exertions in the cause of humanity. His former bill had already produced a beneficial change in the manners of the lower orders, and was far from having produced that unnecessary litigation which some gentlemen had anticipated. The prosecutions which had been instituted under it were 71 in number; and in 69 cases convictions had been obtained. He had heard from those who attended Smithfield-market, that a great revolution had taken place in it, owing to the exertions of the hon. member. Even those who were the first subjects of his attacks, had recently come forward to subscribe to the society for preventing Cruelty to Animals.
Alderman bridges supported the bill, and gave his concurrence to the statements of the hon. mover.
Mr. Butterworth hoped the lion. member for Galway would extend the powers of his bill to the savage, abominable, and unchristian practice of prize-fighting, which had led in many recent instances to the loss of life.
The House divided: Ayes 41. Noes 29.
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