In January 2017 Northern Ireland was hurled into disarray and concern as our government collapsed when one of the Big 2 pulled out of the power sharing agreement to force a change to the status quo.  Despite the misleading concept that hunting is illegal in the UK, hunting is only illegal in Britain.  It is perfectly legal in Northern Ireland and the above scenario makes it very difficult to lobby to push for the legislation required to outlaw it. 

Even if Westminster were to implement direct rule, they cannot over-ride existing laws from a devolved government, but that is a positive as well as a negative.  The current legislation in the UK is not efficient, riddled with loopholes that are regularly exploited and when any cases do reach a courtroom, not as many are convicted as we would like to see.  Therefore, we need to ensure we get an NI legislation that is water tight.

Setting the Board

Without a government to lobby, the League NI are currently gathering support from local councils, farmers against hunting and the MLAs who are ready and waiting to get back to work when (and if) that time comes.  Getting all the players and pieces in place so we can hit the ground running.  A lack of government hasn’t stopped those with the desire to inflict pain, suffering and death on innocent animals by misusing dogs and so League NI are monitoring the information we are fed from local hunt sabs, landowners and concerned members of the public.  

League NI produced a Charter for the entire animal welfare community to sign up to; the majority have already signed up with more to keen to follow. We plan to use it to show the government that there really is minimal support for the archaic and brutal activity that hunting actually is. An IPSOS MORI poll conducted in 2015 shows that only 18% of people feel hunting foxes with dogs should be legal, only 12% for hares and 4% for stags. The public opinion is clear and we are demanding their voices are heard by leaders elected to represent the majority, not pander to a falling minority.

Muddied Waters

Some of the terrier men who will work with the hunts are known to also participate in things like lamping, badger baiting and associate with those with strong links to dog fighting, and so the hunting world in NI can be murky at times.  The mentality of these people seems to be that they just want to see blood spilt and animals hurt.  They are not concerned about the law because they can link these activities to hunting and hide behind the legality and legitimacy it brings. 

We have seen specific examples this year with Neil Pinkerton who was brought to court following a League NI investigation where we acquired video evidence of a dog and a fox being held, with the dog clamped around the jaws of the fox while onlookers cheered, neither with a realistic chance of escape.  The photos afterwards showed the dog covered in blood following the brutal encounter, yet amazingly the judge directed the jury to acquit the accused as no suffering was caused to the fox and this was “terrier work” and not an animal fight.  Also, even more disgusting and concerning was the decision to return the dog to Pinkerton so she can endure more of the same mistreatment at his hands.

Time to End Tradition

The Boxing Day and New Year hunts are another ongoing problem in NI that is wrought with misinformation and contravention of local by-laws, disregarded through complacency and sheer arrogance of the hunt who feel they are not bound by such menial regulations.  The Old Inn in Crawfordsburn is the meeting point for the North Down Hunt, and they even include the event in their Christmas and New Year Itinerary.  Every year the hunt arrive on horseback, and flaunt the laws on drinking alcohol in the street and in charge of an animal as they are served the “traditional” port from the bar staff who serve it to them on the road. 

This has brought attention from the council who state they will have a presence at the next hunt to ensure the laws are being upheld.  This hunt is met with protesters every year though they claim this is only a trail hunt, but as we know, trail hunting is rife with myth and lies and is designed to mislead anyone on the fence into thinking this is a harmless, family day out ruined by the thuggish protesters.  We wonder how this hunt would then respond if asked if an independent body could ride along on the trail hunt?  Would they jump at the chance to finally show there is nothing to worry about?  Or would they close ranks and ensure no outsiders are included or welcomed as they might not want the public to actually see what goes on?  In the absence of legislation, we wonder if this would be a valid interim measure to ensure the existing animal cruelty laws are being adhered to. 

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