New report into fox hunting reveals hundreds of cases
The 2020-21 fox hunting season was shorter than usual. This ‘sport’ is distinctly seasonal, typically taking place between November and April, excluding the cub hunts which often meet as early as August. However, on and off lockdowns in the UK between October 2020 and March 2021 meant there were fewer opportunities than usual for fox hunts to take place.
However, despite the restrictions, the League recorded more than 200 reports of fox hunting during this season, proving that the practice is, sadly, alive and well.
The League is aware of 266 incidents relating to fox hunting that occurred during the 2020-2021 season. Hunt activity appeared to peak in December 2020, when we recorded 117 reports, before declining to 26 reports in March 2021.
What was the content of these reports?
Not all of these reports concerned illegal hunting. In fact, a fox hunting report can look like many different things.
These were the most common types of report received in the 2020-2021 season:
- Reports of a hunt: We received 63 reports that hunting was taking place. Such incidents were commonly reported at the time the hunt was in progress, or after the event.
- Meets: There were 51 reports of hunting ‘meets’: groups of hunters gathered in preparation for the hunt. The majority of these were recorded in late November and December; in between lockdowns, when the hunts were able to resume; and also near the beginning of the season.
- Illegal hunting: We received 11 reports of illegal hunting this season. This may mean the hunters were seen chasing a fox, or the hounds were out of control.
- Hunt havoc: This label applies to instances where meets have caused disruption for the local community; for example, by allowing hounds to harass domestic animals or run through people’s gardens.
Where do these figures come from?
Animal Crimewatch, the League’s wildlife crime reporting hotline, continues to be the most common way reports of hunting are received.
Email continues to be the most common method for contacting Animal Crimewatch, and the South West and the Cotswolds were the regions from which our Animal Crimewatch team received the most reports.
In addition to Animal Crimewatch, we also receive reports from our professional investigators, who are at times stationed all across the UK.
Where is fox hunting taking place?
The map below shows a breakdown of the 266 intelligence reports we received this season.
Overall there were peaks in reports of fox hunting in the following areas:
- The South West, Wales and North Yorkshire: These areas have a high density of hunts, so it is unsurprising that many incidents took place here this season.
- Scotland: Scotland has seen an increase in reporting due to activity by our League professional investigators in the country, with differing COVID restrictions allowing for this investigation work to continue.
Illegal hunting, by comparison, was most prevalent in the Cotswolds and on the border between England and Wales.
How many ‘fox packs’ are operating?
There is currently a total of 195 fox packs (the groups that hunt foxes) across the UK. Broken down by country, the figures are:
- 145 in England
- 10 in Scotland
- 32 in Wales
- 8 in Northern Ireland.
During the last season several fox packs disbanded or merged. One closed down permanently and another two pairs either merged or began the process of doing so.
While it is good to see that one of these groups has ceased to exist, it is disturbing to note that the vast majority have survived and continued to operate despite the COVID restrictions.
Are the perpetrators being prosecuted?
Over this season the League has been involved in several prosecutions against fox hunters, and there have also been a number of non-League prosecutions.
Six of the 16 investigations recorded are against a hunt or members of the hunting community but are not Hunting Act offences; these are a mix of assaults, dogs not under control and a breach of COVID regulations.
Commonly, when prosecutions do not result in success, it is because they have been closed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) due to insufficient evidence. It is an incredible achievement to be able to bring prosecutions at all given the standard of evidence required to do so. We owe this to the brave animal lovers who stand up for animals by making reports to Animal Crimewatch in the first place.
How you can help
Clearly, fox hunting remains a serious issue across the UK. While the pandemic has slowed the hunts down, this reprieve is not going to last. We have every reason to believe the hunts will be back with full force next season.
To end this abuse, our investigators need your help. Please make a note of the phone number and email address for Animal Crimewatch, so you can contact us if you ever witness hunting.