Above – Dave Spikey as part of the ‘No Joke. Campaign.
‘Boxing Day’, or 26th December each year, is a recognised day when the blood lust hunts take to the local towns and villages in order to parade themselves and the hunting hounds.
Although the Boxing Day hunt parades take place up and down the UK, especially in England; it is also a day for those opposed to hunting to take to the streets and villages also to make their voices heard. Naturally, with pro hunt supporters and anti hunt demonstrators in the same vicinity, conflict is virtually guaranteed.
The vast majority of the British public (around 85-90%) are opposed to all hunting – and so the passing of a long fought campaign resulting in the ‘Hunting Act’ of 2004 was widely welcomed by the vast majority.
The Hunting Act 2004
The Hunting Act 2004 is the official law (legislation) law which bans chasing wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales – this basically means that fox hunting, deer hunting, hare hunting, hare coursing and mink hunting are all illegal, as they all are cruel sports based on dogs chasing wild mammals.
The introduction of the Hunting Act followed an extensive and often exhausting campaign spanning 80 years, with the League Against Cruel Sports and our supporters at the forefront since 1924. In Scotland, hunting with dogs was banned earlier by a different law, the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
Securing the Hunting Act was a key moment in the history of animal protection legislation in the UK and public polling consistently shows it is a popular law. Yet, since its introduction, the Hunting Act has been the target of considerable attack from the pro-hunt lobby which has waged an on-going campaign to try and undermine the Act with the aim of getting it scrapped or weakened, and defied the Act by developing and promoting methods to circumvent it in the form of false alibies or illicit exploitations of its exemptions.
This sabotage of the law continues today.
- ‘Trail hunting’ is an entirely new invention which purports to mimic traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent trail (using fox urine, according to the hunters) which has been laid in areas where foxes or hares are likely to be.
- Crucially, those laying the trail are not meant to tell those controlling the hounds where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds end up following a live animal scent the hunt can claim that they did not know, and so ‘this is why they did not try to stop them’.
- In drag hunting the trail doesn’t contains animal-based scent, is never laid in areas likely to have foxes, and those controlling the hounds always know where the trail was laid.
- This is why in drag hunting, ‘accidents’ when live animals are chased are very rare, while in trail hunting they are very common.
The Case Against Trail Hunting
- Of all those prosecuted for illegal hunting under the Hunting Act, over half claimed to be trail hunting. (Around a quarter of prosecuted hunts claimed to ‘exempt hunting’ – see below).
- If the hunts really wanted to avoid chasing and killing animals, they would have converted to genuine drag hunting or to ‘clean boot’ hunting, which is similar.
- The hunts operate in exactly the same locations they used prior to the ban – areas which are known to contain foxes (or hares, deer or mink).
- Trail hunts are always accompanied by ‘terrier men’ – contractors who follow the hunt on quadbikes and with terrier dogs. In traditional hunting these dogs were sent underground to find a fox if it had escaped the hunt by, for example, hiding in a hole underground. Terrier men would place the terrier in the hole to force the fox out so the chase could continue. If trail hunts genuinely don’t try to catch foxes – then why are they always accompanied by terrier men?
- Trail hunts very rarely even bother laying a trail. Having looked at over 4,000 hunt monitoring reports of over 30 hunt monitors from different organisations covering the majority of hunts in England and Wales (157), since the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted, these hunt monitors have reported witnessing someone laying a possible trail only in an average of around 3% of the occasions they monitored hunts, but they believed that only an average of around 0.04% of the occasions they may have witnessed a genuine trail hunting event, rather than a fake one.
- So, we think that trail hunting is not a genuine sport but a cover for illegal hunting, designed to deceive the authorities and make the prosecution of illegal hunters very difficult.
Fox hunting is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales. It is still legal in Northern Ireland.
Fox hunting was banned by the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales, and the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 in Scotland. But while these were both welcome and hard-fought pieces of legislation, overwhelming evidence suggests that both are being ignored or exploited by hunts on a regular basis.
Hunts in England and Wales invented the activity of ‘trail’ hunting after the fox hunting ban came in. This claims to be a non-lethal sport where the hunt simply follows a pre-laid trail rather than searching for and chasing a fox. However, years of evidence shows that hunts are using trail hunting as a cover for illegal hunting by claiming to be following a trail but still carrying on and hunting foxes the way they did before the hunting ban.
Hunts in England and Wales also use ‘exemptions’ in the Hunting Act. These were designed to allow certain types of ‘pest’ control or scientific research, but are being exploited by the hunts to give them an excuse to carry on hunting.
In Scotland, an exemption in the law allows foxes to be killed by ‘flushing to guns’, where a pack of hounds is allowed to be used to chase a fox from cover where it can be shot. However, evidence from League investigators shows hunts claiming to be flushing to guns – but without having any guns present in the right place.
Some argue that ‘hunting’ should continue because it’s a grand old British tradition. However, bear baiting and bull baiting were also traditions hundreds of years ago, and they were rightfully consigned to the history books. Traditions are measured in more than years. They have to reflect the values and attitudes of a society, and the vast majority of the British people oppose hunting with dogs.
There was a (2019) General Election in the UK just a few weeks ago. In the past, the ‘Conservative Party’ were always regarded as the party which supported hunting. They were elected as the government a few weeks ago; but things have now changed very much. Many Conservative Members of Parliament (MP’s) are now also opposed to hunting with hounds; and they view animal welfare as a big issue, and vote winner !
The Conservative Party now has a ‘Blue Fox’, or Conservatives against fox hunting section; of which many MPs are supportive. Here is a link to the site they operate:
Very recently – November 2019, the Blue Fox made a Press Release in support of the omission of a free vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 in the new Conservative Manifesto.
With the omission of a ‘free vote’ in Parliament; which if successful could have seen the Hunting Act removed and a return to hunting; the Conservatives have largely stated that they are fully in support of the hunting ban that has been in force since 2004 – good news for anti blood sport campaigners and even better news for the animals which could have been allowed to be hunted once again.
So – end of 2019 – we feel very confident that there will be no return to the old days and the mass hunting of animals such as fox, deer, hare and mink. Now with cross party support in Parliament, it is time for the pitfalls in the current legislation; and as described above; to be fully reviewed by Parliament and the law changed to clean up all the pitfalls which hunts currently use as excuses to allow them to continue to hunt wild animals in a law by passing way. Only when the law is changed to fully implement all the pitfalls which currently exist to allow hunting to continue in some form, can we unite in saying that for the UK, hunting has finally been recorded in history books as something which happened in the past; like cock fighting and Bull baiting.
We have now moved on and most citizens want this issue confined simply to the history books. It is now time for the political parties to combine and do what the vast majority of people want – a revised Hunting Act which gives complete and utter protection to all animals which have suffered at the hands of the hunts – bring it on !!
With big thanks to the ‘League Against Cruel Sports’ (LACS) who have provided invaluable assistance in the compilation of this WAV post.
Join the League; support them and become a member by visiting:
Founded in 1924 – https://www.league.org.uk/about-us
Animals the LACS protects – https://www.league.org.uk/Pages/Category/animals-we-protect
How to Donate – https://www.league.org.uk/Pages/Category/how-to-donate
I took this picture many, many years ago; before the Hunting Act was passed, to kill the myth that foxes killed by hunting hounds die by a simple bite at the back of the neck. NOT TRUE, they are ripped to pieces and suffer immensely as a result. There is not need for this, and no need for the hunts all dressed up in their ‘Pinks’, or redcoats.