The Hunting Act: the most successful wild animal welfare legislation
February 18th 2015 marks the ten year anniversary of the Hunting Act being brought into force, which prohibits chasing wild mammals with dogs for sport. This victory against animal cruelty followed an extensive and often exhausting campaign spanning eight decades, with the League Against Cruel Sports and our supporters at the forefront since 1924.
In the ten years since the Act was passed, it has proven to be an effective and popular piece of legislation. 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 and concerted campaign of disinformation about the Act. Our new report sets the record straight.
Ministry of Justice figures demonstrate that the Hunting Act out-performs all other wild mammal legislation in England and Wales, having both the highest number of convictions since it was introduced (341 from 2005 to 2013) and conviction rate (65% of charges laid under the Act have resulted in convictions). The successful prosecution of registered hunts was spearheaded by the League when we took private prosecutions against illegal hunters. Subsequently, evidence gathered by our team of professional investigators has been used to convict 18 people associated with registered hunts, with more cases still proceeding through the courts.
While public support for the prohibition of hunting has always been high, it has increased substantially in the past ten years. The latest polling from Ipsos MORI, conducted in 2015 on behalf of the League, shows:
- 83% of people think fox hunting should remain illegal
- 85% think stag hunting should remain illegal and
- 87% think hare hunting and coursing should remain illegal
Some of those pushing for repeal of the Act point out that illegal hunting still takes place. Unfortunately this is true, and like everything from drug laws to speed limits - the problem lies not with the Act, but with those who flout the law. So, ten years on, the Act is working well and with a few simple improvements in some specific areas it can be even more effective. We are recommending:
- Prohibiting the use of dogs below ground - this is arguably where the worst cruelty occurs in hunting, not only to wild mammals pursued underground with limited opportunity to escape (usually foxes and badgers), but also to the dogs sent below ground to find these animals and either flush them out or hold them at bay.
- Inserting a ‘reckless’ provision to ensure the killing of wild mammals during a trail hunt cannot be passed off as an ‘unfortunate accident’.
- Increasing the punishments available to the courts so that the Act is brought in line with other animal protection legislation.
It is time to build on the successes of first ten years and strengthen the Hunting Act to ensure the spirit of the Act is fulfilled. We urge all political parties to support our call to strengthen the Act and commit to these three changes in their election manifestos.
How you can help: