Second time lucky? Why the time is right for a hunting ban in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has made some great strides for animals over the years, but with some notable gaps. Change is in the air once again, and this time there’s a very real chance of ending hunting with dogs.

Looking back a decade, 2011 was a landmark year to be an animal welfare campaigner in Northern Ireland. This was the year that saw the introduction of three important and progressive Acts which provided significant legal protection for wild, farmed and domestic animals.

The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 and the Dogs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 were significant for the League for a number of reasons, but most notably because from 17th August of that year, Stormont introduced a permanent ban on hare coursing with dogs.

Hare coursing is arguably one of the worst forms of animal cruelty as it is purely about the ‘sport’ and nothing else. Proponents of blood sports generally come up with a plethora of excuses for why their sport is so important to rural life, but with hare coursing there are no excuses!

The League campaigned long and hard to ensure the new legislation was robust and effective. The results were celebrated among many Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and policy makers but in others there was a view that things were moving too fast. Rural life was changing and what might be coming next...

Northern Ireland still allows fox hunting and is the only country in the UK where this sport is legal. Its future was being fiercely protected by a pro hunting lobby not prepared to lose their tradition and way of life.

In tandem with the new legislation passing through Stormont, a Green MLA introduced a Private Members Bill on fox hunting. Unfortunately this was a step too far for the old school who felt they were losing their hold on their country sports, and the Bill failed spectacularly.

However, move on ten years and Alliance MLA John Blair decided it was time to revisit the issue. This time, with far more success. At the tail end of 2020 Mr Blair launched a public consultation which generated overwhelming support for a long overdue ban. This is testament to how politics have changed in the last decade and the appetite for such a Bill has been hugely encouraging.

As we watch on while the power sharing agreement in Northern Ireland is tested once again, we can only hope things will remain stable to allow this Bill to be played out in full and brought before the Assembly. Fox hunting is cruel, outdated and has no place in modern society. We salute John Blair for tackling the issue head on bringing forward this important Bill. You can rest assured the League will be doing everything in its power to ensure fox hunting is finally a thing of the past for Northern Ireland, as it is everywhere else in the UK.

Together, we end this cruelty for good. Please sign the petition to ban hunting with dogs in Northern Ireland completely and for good.

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