A new, independent report revealing that 97 dogs were euthanised following an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) at a hunting kennel confirms that hunts are a major biosecurity risk, argues an animal protection charity.

The report, by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, also contains information which suggests both the hunt and Defra kept quiet about key aspects of the outbreak – such as claiming only 25 dogs were affected, rather than the actual total of 97.

Given that disease, not just bTB, is one of the biggest threats to the lives of farm animals and the livelihoods of farmers in the UK, this raises grave concerns about the way biosecurity across the UK is being managed.

Chris Pitt, Deputy Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“We’ve been saying for a long time that hunting is a major biosecurity threat to our countryside and this report confirms it. The 97 dogs which were destroyed because of bTB are just the tip of a diseased iceberg. This story isn’t about one kennel infected with bTB, it’s about the way hunts routinely avoid even basic biosecurity and animal welfare measures, meaning their poor dogs are often living disease carriers.

“There’s a simple truth here. When livestock dies, potentially of disease, it is given to hunts to feed raw to their hounds. These hounds are often in poor health due to kennelling conditions and lack of care, and pick up the disease. They then spread the disease back into the countryside – and the cycle continues. The government knows this is a huge risk but is either turning a blind eye or not giving people the full picture, both of which are unacceptable.”

Key concerns are:

  • The number of dogs put down was 97, not 25, as originally admitted by the hunt, which suggests a deliberate attempt to play down the outbreak. The number of recorded bTB outbreaks in the Kimblewick Hunt’s territory almost doubled to 90 in the four months after the disease was discovered in the kennels.
  • Government statements about the outbreak gave the impression that there was no real threat of disease spread by hunting hounds – while at the same time they amended regulations to restrict the feeding of offal to hunting hounds. If there was no threat – why change the regulations?
  • The condition of the Kimblewick kennels – a typical hunt – is described as ‘suboptimal’, with dogs being kept in dirty, unhygienic conditions which are a breeding ground for disease.
  • Some biosecurity measures were introduced at the kennels once the infection had been confirmed. However this backs up evidence that basic biosecurity measures at hunting kennels are generally low or non-existent.

Chris Pitt added:

“If farmers are concerned about disease on their farms, be it bTB or anything else, then they need to take a close look at any hunts in their area. There is stacks of evidence showing that disease can spread between livestock and hunting hounds, but the government seem intent on playing this down with misleading or disingenuous statements which deflect from the truth.

“They brought in new regulations last year while pretending there was no problem when clearly there was. And those regulations won’t make any significant difference - it’s a clear case of shutting the kennel door after the hounds have bolted.

“If this country wants to take disease control seriously and protect livestock, then proper biosecurity is vital – and that means stopping hunts from galloping all over farm land.”

- Ends -

 

Notes to Editors

  • The Edinburgh report can be found here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tbed.12969
  • For more information about the diseases spread between hunting hounds and livestock, see a summary here or the full study, Hunting with hounds and the spread of disease, by Professor Stephen Harris, BSc PhD DSc and Dr Jo Dorning, BSc PhD.
  • For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]
  • The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).