Fox hunting and the general election 2024: it’s time for change

The League Against Cruel Sports' main focus is in ensuring that laws that protect animals are in place, and are as strong as they can be.

This means that throughout the year we’re meeting politicians in Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and the Senedd to campaign for change to benefit animals.

This also means that elections – whether local, devolved, or national – offer us huge opportunities to secure promises from politicians that they will do what we ask. Similarly, they are a crucial time for voters, for the public, for people who care about animals to really make their voices heard about what matters to them.

And that’s why we’ll be campaigning constantly throughout the coming weeks as we approach polling day in the general election 2024.

Our organisation’s strategic priority is to make the next general election the last election in which hunting is a matter of debate; i.e., the next party in power will have made manifesto commitments to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004, and to outlaw so-called trail hunting, in order to properly ban this cruel sport.

This is why we began the Time for Change campaign against hunting in September 2022 – to redouble our efforts to lobby all political parties to change the law, and especially commit to doing so on paper after the next general election.

We know that legislation plays such an important role in protecting animals, or potentially from failing to protect animals, and that's why this election is so important. While hunting with dogs was banned nearly 20 years ago, the law is weak and contains loopholes that allow hunts to get away with chasing and killing wildlife such as fox, deer, hare and mink.

Trail hunting was invented after the law was changed, and is used as an excuse – a smokescreen – for hunts to carry on persecuting animals without being prosecuted because it’s so hard to prove they weren’t following a trail.

We know they break the law, the public know they break the law, the police know they break the law, and the courts know they break the law. What needs to happen is the law needs to be changed. Hence, time for change.

What we’re asking for is three things:

1. Banning trail hunting, a smokescreen for illegal hunting

    The League believes that trail hunting is simply a smokescreen for illegal hunting, designed to disguise the chasing and killing of animals as accidents. We are calling for it to be banned, including by outlawing reckless hunting, so that trail hunting cannot be used to conceal the intention behind its cruel and inevitable consequences.

    2. Removing exemptions that enable illegal hunting to continue

      There are many exemptions in the Hunting Act which are routinely abused by hunts to continue traditional hunting despite the ban. These include exemptions exploited by hunts claiming to be conducting scientific research, rescuing injured wild animals or hunting rabbits rather than hares. Dogs are also used to flush foxes from below ground to protect gamebirds – which can cause terrible cruelty in itself but also provides cover for terrier men to prevent foxes escaping underground during hunts. The falconry exemption allows foxes to be flushed out towards a bird of prey but has been used to justify to disguise the telltale signs of fox cub hunting.

      3. Introducing custodial sentences for those who break the law

        Unlike other animal welfare and wildlife laws, serious and repeat offenders who are successfully prosecuted cannot be jailed. To properly deter law breaking and reflect the serious and organised cruelty involved in hunting with dogs, courts must be given the power to impose custodial sentences rather than simply handing out fines.

        We are holding a number of events and activities over the coming weeks which you can get involved in. See our special general election hub for more details.

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