An article in the papers on Tuesday related to a claim by the Countryside Alliance (CA) that support for fox hunting is a strong as ever and that more than 90% of 300 hunts surveyed claimed they hunted at least the same number of days as before the ban on hunting. The allegation by the CA is that the hunting law is ‘in tatters.’
Unless the fox is driven towards guns with the intention that it be shot, hunting with dogs is illegal across the UK. I have no truck with this type of hunting. If the hounds are following a drag scent or genuinely used to drive a fox to guns , as it is done in Scotland as part of pest control by folks on foot rather than on horseback and dressed to kill, I have no complaint.
In the article the CA’s chief executive is quoted as stating, “(The Act) was never about foxes or animal welfare but rather as an attempt to eradicate hunts and the communities that surround them.” This may have been partly true but there is no question that animal welfare was paramount. Claims that the objective of mounted hunts is fox control is garbage. Further proof of this is the discovery in June this year of captive fox cubs in a shed used by a fox hunt, (see my post Captive fox and missing hen harriers on 13 June) and the discovery by the League against Cruel Sports (LACS) in the middle of this month of a fox held captive in an unused brick building on the Buckminster Estate near to where the Belvoir Hunt meet. LACS informed the police and monitored the building. On 16 December, the day before the hunt was due to meet, they saw a man coming to the building and checking on the fox. LACS then removed the fox and watched on the day of the hunt. They saw the same man return with a sack and a pole with a net attached. You would need to be daft to fail to realise what was going on there, and all of this is hardly fox control.
So if the Acts (if we include the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales and the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002) are indeed in tatters they need repairing. I know little of the Hunting Act but the Scottish legislation was a private member’s bill and done in a bit of a rush. For a start why not limit the hunting of foxes with dogs to people on foot; no need for horses and fancy dress. If that doesn’t work and drag hunting is used as a cover to hunt foxes then I’m sure there are ways of guaranteeing that activity stays within the law by ensuring there are independent observers. I’m confident if this is required it could all be achieved in Scotland, though there seem to be fewer problems here. It may be too much to ask of a government in England and Wales more sympathetic to fox hunters running rings round the law than to animal welfare.