Hunts Parade on Boxing Day Despite Majority Opposition to Hunting

Opposition to legalising hunting for ‘sport’ remains at an all-time high across the country, and majority opposition to legalisation appears to be shared across every constituency in England and Wales, according to polling projections.

Polling carried out by Ipsos MORI1 commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports also found opposition to the legalisation of ‘blood sports’ – the hunting of foxes, hare and deer - remains at record levels with 84% of the public in support of keeping the ban on fox hunting - including 82% of people living in rural areas

Hunts up and down the country are preparing for their annual showcases, where through exaggerated estimations, they claim the ‘hundreds and thousands’ of people who turn out to watch them, do so in support of the hunting ban being over turned.

League Against Cruel Sports CEO, Eduardo Gonçalves said: “The polling and projections highlight just how out of touch any move to repeal the hunting ban would be. Generally only dictators would dream of pushing through a policy against that level of public opposition so we hope our government will respect the will of the people.

“The Boxing Day hunts are portrayed as a glorious pageant taking place in front of a huge number of people who support them, but the truth is very different. The fact is 84% of the public do not want fox hunting made legal.

“Just because families might venture out on Boxing Day to see the hunt, stroke the dogs or watch the horses, doesn’t mean they support repealing a law to enable the hunt to chase and kill wild animals with their dogs for sport.

“It’s more likely that most don’t realise that despite the ban, many of these hunts are still actively hunting and chasing foxes, and wouldn’t give them their support if they did. Or perhaps they just want to get outside and get some fresh air before cabin fever sets in.”

Key poll findings

  • When asked if fox hunting should be made legal again, 84% said no.
  • Opposition to legalising deer hunting (88%) and hare hunting and coursing (91%) was even stronger.

Consistent polling using the same questions over several years shows that opposition to fox hunting has risen steadily:

  • Opposition to legalising fox hunting has risen from 72% in 2008 to an all time record of 84% this year.
  • In rural areas support for the ban on fox hunting was also high, at 82%, which has risen significantly from 69% in just four years

Polling Projections Show Widespread Support of Hunting Ban

To further understand how people viewed the hunting ban in constituencies across England and Wales, pollsters Ipsos MORI used ONS data and 2015 voting patterns to produce projections from the national poll. These produce estimates of how people might think in a specific constituency, assuming that their views are similar to the views of people with similar demographic characteristics in the national poll (and not allowing for any specific local circumstances).

Projections2 indicated that the vast majority of people in all 570 constituencies across England and Wales were likely to be in favour of keeping the ban on fox hunting.

These include 81% in Andrea Leadsom’s constituency (South Northamptonshire), 80% in Theresa May’s (Maidenhead), 81% in David Cameron’s former constituency of Witney, 81% in Michael Fallon’s (Sevenoaks), 81% in Douglas Carswell’s (Clacton) as well as the constituencies of Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) 88% and Green Party joint leader Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion) 87%.

16,000 illegal hunting acts each year?

The League Against Cruel Sports has estimated that more than 200,000 illegal hunting incidents - averaging 16,000 per year – may have been committed by hunt members since the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted.   That makes illegal hunting with dogs potentially the most common wildlife crime in the UK.

The animal welfare charity believe that since hunting with dogs was outlawed, most of the hunts in England and Wales have been hunting illegally by abusing hunting exemptions and using the false alibi of trail hunting.

This number, which is just a rough estimation and could be much higher, has been calculated from the estimated number of hunting meets that have occurred and the frequency hunt monitors have reported suspicious behaviour.

Mr Gonçalves continued: “The bloodsport lobby claim that they want the hunting ban repealed on the basis of animal welfare grounds, however what we have seen this year and in previous years is that they hold no regard for animal welfare.

“Hunting has nothing to do with pest control, a myth we have continually debunked, exposing the use of artificial earths to raise foxes in order to provide a steady supply to be hunted, and the secretive training of young hounds to kill fox cubs.

“Post ban, hunts claim to now ‘trail hunt’ however this is a false alibi used to continue to hunt as they did pre-ban providing excuses for ‘accidental kills’. The Government needs to put the issue to bed once and for all and instead of repealing the Hunting Act, strengthen it to ensure it fulfils the true spirit of why it was originally passed – to protect wild animals.”

Catalogue of 2015/16 incidents

There have been numerous cases of alleged animal cruelty linked to hunts over the past year or so:

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

1.  Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally representative quota sample of 1,986 adults in Great Britain aged 15+. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing Laptops), as part of the Ipsos MORI Omnibus (Capibus). Fieldwork was conducted between 2nd and 11th August 2016. The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population.

Participants were asked the following questions:

Question 1. Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or kill them. These activities are currently illegal in Great Britain. For each one I read out, please tell me whether you think it should or should not be made legal again. Just read out the letter that applies in each case. (The order respondents were asked about each activity was rotated)

Fox Hunting; Deer Hunting; Hare Hunting and Coursing; Dog fighting; Badger baiting.

- Yes, should be made legal again         

- No, should not be made legal again

- Don’t Know

2. Projections – technical note:

Projections have been made from the national survey and other constituency-level data from the ONS and other sources to indicate the expected distribution of opinions in each constituency, given the demographic and political characteristics of that constituency, estimating the opinions of each group of the population from the answers given by similar respondents in the national survey. The projection relies only on the following characteristics of individuals and their local areas which were measured in the survey and for which reliable figures exist on the differences between constituencies:

  1. rurality: whether participants live in a rural or an urban area (as defined by ONS)
  2. how they voted at the last general election,
  3. age
  4. gender,
  5. educational attainment

The analysis makes the assumption that after weighting for these factors, correcting for other differences between constituencies would make no additional impact on people’s views.

In practical terms, the projection is calculated by weighting the dataset from the national survey to match the rural/urban profile and political and demographic characteristics of the individual constituency on those chosen variables. In other words, knowing the age, gender and educational profile of the constituency, what proportion of its adult population live in rural areas and how it voted at the 2015 general election, we calculate what we would expect opinion in that constituency to be assuming that the opinions of people there are the same as those of similar people by age, gender, education, 2015 vote and rurality, at the national level across England and Wales.  When it is necessary to weight the data, the ‘effective sample size’ (the number used to calculate the scale of the likely sampling variation) is reduced and the ‘margin of error’ is increased. Because the projections for constituencies rely on weighting the national data to the local profile, the effective base size for each projection differs, being lowest in those constituencies whose characteristics are most different from those of the country as a whole. The smallest effective base size for these projections is 154 for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and the largest is 1,528 for Stroud. 
It is important to note that the survey makes no direct measurement at constituency level, and no attempt is made to account for any specific local circumstances that may affect the state of public opinion in these projections.

3.  In June this year, the League released footage appearing to show fox cubs being delivered to the South Herefordshire Hunt kennels before being thrown to the hunt hounds by hunt members.

4.More information on the Hunting Act, trail hunting and drag hunting can be found on our website.

For further information, polling tables, comment or interview requests, please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524250 or email press@league.org.uk