The League Against Cruel Sports – an esteemed animal charity

For as long as hunting wild animals with dogs has existed, people will have been opposed to it. The League Against Cruel Sports was founded in 1924 with the aim of banning fox hunting, stag hunting, otter hunting, hare hunting and hare coursing in the UK.

Today, sadly, we are still campaigning on many of the same issues. The League is known for being instrumental in bringing about the Hunting Act 2004 which banned hunting with hounds in England and Wales, yet we are still fighting to protect foxes, hare and deer from illegal hunting which takes place far too frequently across the UK.

Another of our key campaigns is dog fighting, which despite being banned in 1835, still continues on the UK’s streets and out of sight in unused buildings. Our Project Bloodline operation aims to educate policy makers about the prevalence of dog fighting, investigate the people who take part, and protect the dogs who are used in this terrible activity.

If the League Against Cruel Sports didn’t exist, I’d have started it myself.


- Bill Oddie, OBE, President of the League Against Cruel Sports

First AGM of the League Against Cruel Sports


A brief history of The League Against Cruel Sports

  • In the late 1950s the League began investigating hunts and gathering evidence of the cruelty involved. It also purchased woods and fields in the West Country as sanctuaries for hunted animals.
  • In the 1970s the League stepped up its political campaigning and soon secured strong cross-party political support. In 1978 a vigorous campaign helped to give otters full legal protection from hunting.
  • In the 1980s the League began undercover work with investigators posing as hunters to film and photograph the cruelty inflicted on animals during hunts, something previously hidden from public view.
  • The League also carried out undercover investigations into dog fighting and badger abuse. Although already illegal, these activities were gaining ground, and the League worked closely with like minded organisations and the media to help stop them.
  • After a landmark League prosecution of badger baiters in the early 1990s, the law was changed to strengthen the law on badger protection.
  • In 2000 the League played a prominent role in assisting the Lord Burns Hunting Inquiry and informing the parliament of the brutal nature of bloodsports. This culminated in the Hunting Act 2004 and the ban on hunting with dogs.
  • Since the Act came into effect the League has played a leading role in liaising with the police to help enforce the law, in investigating hunting activities and in taking private prosecutions of hunts where necessary.
  • In just the last couple of years, we took a leading role in preventing a back-door attempt to repeal the Hunting Act in 2015; revealed the ‘dark’ side of hunting when we found 16 fox cubs in a barn being prepared for the hunting season; exposed a hunt which threw live fox cubs to its hounds; exposed the stark conditions in which pheasants and partridges are bred before they are shot for sport; persuaded travel agents to stop promoting trips to the Pamplona Bull Run, and much more.


Investigate, Educate, Protect

As an animal welfare charity, the League does everything we can to ensure that animals do not suffer for the sake of sport. Our motto sums up how we do it: Investigate, Educate, Protect.


Investigate

A lot of animal abuse and cruelty takes place out of sight, whether it be an illegal fox hunt on a windy moor, or a dog fight in an abandoned warehouse. Often the only way to expose these activities is to go undercover and up close – a dangerous business.

Our trained team of investigators, which includes ex-police officers, use a range of techniques including filming hunts from a distance to record any illegal activity. Footage taken of hunts in Scotland recently led to a review of the hunting laws there, and proved vital in stopping an attempted repeal of the Hunting Act in England and Wales.

Our unique Animal Crimewatch hotline allows anyone witnessing illegal activity in connection with cruel sports to report it to us confidentially.


Educate

Often animal cruelty takes place because people don’t recognise it for what it is. Bear baiting was common before people started to understand how cruel it was. TV programmes like Planet Earth have helped people understand that animals are sentient beings that should not be treated as objects for our pleasure. Hunting with dogs was perceived for a long time as a civilised pursuit, until organisations like the League educated the public to the true nature of what goes on – the cruelty inflicted on the prey animals and the terriers sent down fox holes, the callous treatment of the fox hounds, the myth of hunting being about ‘pest control' when hunts actually raise foxes to be hunted.

We continue to educate the public and policy makers through high profile work in the media and expert behind-the-scenes lobbying in Parliament and all the devolved nations of the UK.


Protect

The League directly protects animals on our sanctuaries and other land – covering around 3000 acres - where we have the ‘sporting rights’, meaning that no-one is allowed to hunt or shoot animals. Our sanctuaries have come under attack from those who wish to harm animals, but our team protects our borders, particularly during the stag hunting season. Baronsdown in particular is host to a huge range of birds, animals and insects, including red deer, foxes, badgers, an important population of butterflies and rare birds such as the pied flycatcher. As a result, Baronsdown is home to a huge array of thriving wildlife.

We also protect animals through our successful campaigning work, as by creating awareness of the cruelty inflicted on animals through ‘sport’, more people raise their voices leading to changes in the law.


View of the entrance of Baronsdown animal sanctuary with sign to the left of the image


The League Against Cruel Sports – Proud, Progressive and Persistent

As a campaigning animal charity, the League Against Cruel Sports must rank as one of the most successful in the UK, but there is plenty more work to do.

We believe that a civilised country should not allow animals to be killed or cruelly treated purely for ‘sport’. This is not a small problem - the number of animals involved in the UK is in the millions every year. But we shall continue to act even if just one animal is harmed for ‘fun’.
Attitudes are changing. Bullfighting and trophy hunting are now universally abhorred when not so long ago they were accepted. When the Hunting Act was introduced, just one Conservative MP voted for it; now we know that 50 or more Conservative MPs would stand up against legalising hunting.

There are those who oppose us, because there is a small but influential minority who support cruel sports such as hunting and shooting. But we know that the majority of people in the UK share our views – more than eight out of ten support a ban on hunting with dogs, for example. We are buoyed by that support, and shall continue pursuing the mission which the League Against Cruel Sports was set up to fulfil.


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