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The Plumage Bill

Nature volume 92, pages 428429 (11 December 1913) | Download Citation



IN the great question of fauna preservation the newspaper-reading public is at present occupied with the section concerning birds. It is announced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds that Mr. Hobhouse will, when Parliament reassembles, bring forward a Bill for restricting the import of plumage into the United Kingdom, and that this Bill will be backed by the President of the Board of Trade and the Under Secretary for India. In its monthly journal, the aforesaid society publishes what purports to be the text of this Bill. It is a very mildly worded measure which will not satisfy root-and-branch reformers, for it exempts from supervision personal clothing worn or imported by individuals entering this country from abroad. Consequently—unless I totally misunderstand the drift of the Bill—worded, like all Bills, with as much legal obscurity as possible—a woman resolved to have headdresses and robes of forbidden plumage has only to purchase such abroad and stick it into her apparel or her hat, and she passes our Customs houses unchallenged. If my reading is correct, then the results of this Bill will be very slight in stopping the destruction of rare and beautiful wild birds in the British dominions and the colonial empires of France and Holland. But I agree with the R.S.P.B. in welcoming any legislation rather than none, as the thin end of the wedge. We must remember that the first anti-slave trade measure (fought and delayed for many years by spiritual ancestors of the type of plumage-trading firms) was a poor and ineffective thing. But as soon as its justification was grasped by the public it was reinforced by much more drastic legislation.

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