Today one of the UK’s foremost animal welfare charities is officially launching a bid to see fox hunting finally consigned to history.
The League Against Cruel Sports says that loopholes in the Hunting Act have allowed hunts to get away with killing foxes and now, 14 years after the ban was made law, political parties should commit to strengthening it.
The charity says recent figures show the majority of British people want tougher hunting laws, backed up by prison sentences, to prevent fox hunts from killing wildlife.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “How many times do we need to show pictures and film of foxes being ripped apart by dogs before the politicians realise the Hunting Act is not doing what it’s there to do – protect the lives of wild animals?
“In the next fortnight there are two separate hunts in court, and we know if the law was strengthened there would be a lot more. It’s time police and the courts were given the power they need – and that the public wants – to bring prosecutions, and the only way to do that is if politicians unite against hunting and commit to strengthen it.”
The League has commissioned polling, run independently by YouGov, that shows a cross-party consensus for the introduction of jail sentences for illegal hunting with dogs. A fine is the only option currently available to courts. 74 per cent of respondents who expressed a view support prison sentences for illegal hunting.
The polling also showed that 79 per cent of respondents who expressed a view think the Hunting Act should be amended to ensure foxes are not killed by hunts, whether intentionally or otherwise, when they claim to be following trails or so-called ‘trail’ hunting.
“Animal welfare and the strengthening of fox hunting legislation are issues which unite people of all political colours in Great Britain, and we are calling for parties and candidates to commit to keeping the Hunting Act and to strengthen it by closing its many loopholes.
“Fox hunting is a barbaric activity which has no place in a modern, compassionate society of animal lovers and yet it is still taking place. Tougher legislation, coupled with the introduction of prison sentences for illegal hunting will help to end the brutal killing of our wildlife.”
Trail hunting, which was invented after the fox hunting ban was implemented in 2005, has been widely dismissed as a fraudulent activity that is used as a cover-up for the illegal pursuit of foxes.
Of those who expressed a view, illegal hunting being punishable by custodial sentences got the backing of 84 per cent of people intending to vote for the Labour Party, 75 per cent of Brexit Party supporters, 71 per cent of Liberal Democrats supporters, and 67 per cent of Conservative Party supporters.
Of those who expressed a view, support for strengthening the Hunting Act to prevent the killing of foxes had the backing of 89 per cent of people intending to vote for the Labour Party, 82 per cent of Liberal Democrats supporters, 71 per cent of Brexit Party supporters, and 68 per cent of Conservatives.
“The Hunting Act has been threatened with weakening and repeal by successive governments but both attempts were thwarted thanks to League Against Cruel Sports opposition. It’s now time for political parties to adopt tougher fox hunting laws that reflect the wishes of the general public who are united against hunting.”
The League will be running a series of roadshows across England and Wales during the general election campaign to highlight why the Hunting Act needs strengthening and why any weakening of the hunting ban should be ruled out.
The first event will be held in Cardiff’s Queen Street tomorrow [Saturday, November 16], between 10am and 3pm.
Notes to editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,639 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th – 30th October 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Despite hunting being made illegal in 2004, hunting packs still go ‘trail’ hunting, which often results in foxes being ‘accidentally’ killed. There are 191 fox hunts operating in Great Britain today, 14 years after the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted that outlawed the practice. In total, hunts can go out almost 10,700 times a year – and each time a fox’s life is put at risk.
- Strengthening the Hunting Act would include:
- The introduction of a recklessness clause, to prevent the use of ‘trail’ hunting as an excuse when animals are accidentally killed by hunts
- Remove exemptions from the Hunting Act so they cannot be abused and used as excuses to continue to hunt with hounds
- Introduce prison sentences for people who are convicted of illegal hunting