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Countryside criminals must be tackled head on

28 May 2010

Almost two-thirds of hunts in England and Wales are continuing to hunt foxes and other wild mammals, despite the activity having been banned over five years ago, according to new research published today.

The League Against Cruel Sports’ annual report into the hunting season, which ended in the last few weeks, found that 62% of hunts were “acting in a manner consistent with traditional hunting practices” commonplace before the Hunting Act 2004 came into force. The charity, which runs a ‘Hunt Crimewatch’ service through which members of the public can report hunt related crime, says that over 130 convictions shows the legislation is effective.

“The hunters will tell you that the Hunting Act doesn’t work because people break it. But they don’t say the Theft Act doesn’t work because people steal. We always said that there would be a determined bunch of bloodsports enthusiasts who would continue hunting in spite of the ban, and the focus now needs to be on enforcement of the law,” said John Cooper QC, chairman of the League. “At the end of the day, disagreement with the law isn’t justification to break it.”

The Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday that there would be a free vote on a parliamentary motion on repeal of the Hunting Act. But polling by YouGov on behalf of the League over the past eleven months has shown public opinion to be firmly opposed to a repeal of the Hunting Act. On average, less than a quarter of respondents to the polls said they thought the Act should be repealed, whilst two thirds said they thought it shouldn’t.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League, said this latest report demonstrated that police forces have a “major challenge” to face in tackling illegal hunting. “They have come a long way in the last five years,” he said, “but there is a long way to go. Wildlife crime is being taken seriously by forces across the country, and we must remind them that terrorising wildlife for ‘sport’ is a crime and it must be tackled head on.”

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