Hunting season came to an end recently. Temporarily. Thankfully, wildlife has a small reprieve until later this year when it will start all over again (traditionally, hunting season runs from November until April). But why are there even hunting seasons when hunting wild mammals with dogs is banned in Great Britain? One reason is because there are some exemptions under which hunting does continue, but moreover, because since hunting legislation came in more than 16 years ago in Scotland and more than 13 years ago across England and Wales, hunts have pretty much carried on in the same way as they did before the ban. And that’s not just our claim, that’s something the hunts themselves demonstrate time and time again in what they do and what they say. Here’s some examples.
When hunting legislation was first brought in, disclaimers were quick to come in from the pro-hunt community, who said it would be easy for hunts to ‘accidentally’ break the law and for their hounds to kill an animal. Hunts invented ‘trail’ hunting – an activity not in existence before the ban. They claim that it’s a legal activity, but hunt monitor evidence usually blows these claims clear out of the water. Hounds are seen trespassing across railways lines, busy roads and through people’s gardens and they push their noses to the ground through ridiculously dense undergrowth and woodland. It’s hard to see how a genuine trail could have been laid in any of these places. But then that’s because they haven’t. Trail hunting is a deception and genuine trails are hardly ever laid.
An all too common occurrence during hunting season is that not only wildlife, but also people and their pets, become the innocent victims of hunting. When a pack of hounds trespassed through an alpaca farm, distressing pregnant female animals as they ran amok, the excuse from the bloodsports lobby was that the trail had ‘drifted’. Drifted all the way through private property? Hmmm.
Prior to the ban and still today, hunts claim that foxes need regulating and cite pest control as a reason to overturn the ban on hunting. That’s a complete myth. In March of this year, a gamekeeper was convicted under the Animal Welfare Act, having kept a fox in a shed in cruel conditions – the League believes the animal was being held to be chased and killed by a local hunt. Five people are currently facing animal cruelty charges as part of a police investigation into footage that appears to show fox cubs being taken into a hunting kennel. Figures from the recently released 2017 Breeding Bird Survey show that the UK’s red fox population declined by 41% in the ten years up to 2016. Shall I go on?
And what of terrier men? Or ‘countrymen’ as they have been rebranded by the pro-hunt lobby – in vain attempts to try and hide the truth about them. Traditionally, terrier men were employed by hunts to dig out foxes that had gone to ground and to block up badger setts and fox earths, so foxes couldn’t hide, and the cruel chase could continue. That tradition hasn’t changed, and they are still regularly seen with hunts – at one hunt in Cheshire earlier this year no fewer than eight terrier men on quad bikes were photographed. When questioned on why terrier men are present at supposed ‘trail’ hunts, a pro-hunt representative said their job was to repair fences. Have you ever known terriers in boxes to be helpful tools for fence repairs?
Hunting enthusiasts don’t try and hide the fact that they see the ban as something temporary and are simply waiting for the day they can resume hunting. They say it all the time. And when the excuses of trail hunting, pest control and terrier men with their fence repairs don’t stick, then they cry prejudice – apparently, it’s hate for people and not love for animals that fuels the anti-hunt movement. There is huge opposition to one of the cruellest of all cruel sports, with 85% of the public in support of the ban on fox hunting. This includes 81% of people living in rural areas. So, there is no class war. There is no town versus countryside. But there is still cruelty being inflicted on wildlife in the name of fun – something most people find completely unacceptable.
We’re working hard to strengthen existing hunting legislation and with your help we’re confident we can succeed. In the meantime, the hunts can make all the excuses they want – for those who know the truth about hunting – their claims speak volumes.
If you want to see an end to the killing of animals by hunts in the UK, please sign the League’s petition. Full details can be found here.