Opposition to fox hunting remains at an all-time high

Public opposition to fox hunting remains at an all-time high, new polling figures released today reveal.

Polling carried out by Ipsos MORI1 commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports, found opposition to the legalisation of ‘blood sports’ – the hunting of foxes, hare and deer – remains high across Great Britain, with 85% of the public in support of keeping the ban on fox hunting, including 81% of people living in rural areas.

The polling figures come at the end of a turbulent year for hunting, where the Government’s announcement to offer a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act triggered a public outcry, causing the issue to become one of the most talked about during the election, and the National Trust also coming under fire for continuing to allow trail hunting on its land.

Director of Policy, Communications and Campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, Chris Luffingham, said: “With 85 per cent of the public saying they do not want fox hunting made legal again, there has never been a better time to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring an end to the illegal persecution of wildlife still going on under the guise of ‘trail’ hunting.

“The realities of trail hunting have been well and truly exposed this year and the extent to which foxes, hares and deer are still being chased and killed has really shocked people. Time and time again hunts are getting away with circumventing the law and that needs to stop.

“The Boxing Day hunt parades are portrayed as the celebration of a great tradition with huge public support, but the truth is very different. There is nothing to celebrate in the chasing and killing of wildlife in the name of ‘sport’ and the polling figures have shown us, year after year, that the majority of the public clearly do not want hunting made legal again.”

Key poll findings

  • When asked if fox hunting should be made legal again, 85% said no.
  • Opposition to legalising deer hunting (87%) and hare hunting and coursing (90%) is also high.

Consistent polling using the same questions over several years shows that opposition to fox hunting has risen steadily:

  • Opposition to legalising fox hunting has risen from 73% in 2008 to 85% this year.
  • In rural areas support for the ban on fox hunting remains high, at 81%, which has risen significantly from 69% in just five years.

The Hunting Act could help millions of animals if properly enforced

A League Against Cruel Sports study estimates that the Hunting Act 2004 has so far helped over 100,000 animals, including foxes, hares and deer, but increasing amounts of evidence suggest that since hunting with dogs was outlawed, most of the hunts in England and Wales have been hunting illegally by abusing hunting exemptions and using ‘trail’ hunting as a cover.

Trail hunting purports to mimic traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent trail, but it is laid in areas where wildlife naturally occurs and those controlling the hounds are not usually told where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds end up following a live animal scent and a fox or hare is chased and killed, this is passed off as an accident. Evidence shows that there is nothing accidental about it2. Of all those prosecuted for illegal hunting under the Hunting Act, over half claimed to be ‘trail’ hunting.

The 100,000 figure refers to the number of animals being killed, chased or disturbed by the activities of the hunts, as these are the activities that the Hunting Act 2004 banned and they suggest that if the Act had been properly enforced, it would have helped up to 2.8 million animals.

Mr Luffingham added: A mockery is being made of the very legislation put in place to try and protect wildlife. Hunts claim to be ‘trail’ hunting and when animals end up being chased and killed, they simply shrug the incidents off as ‘accidental’. All the while the bloodsport lobby do nothing to hide the fact that they’re waiting for the hunting ban to be repealed; that makes these ‘accidents’ look pretty suspicious.

“During 2017, we’ve seen the Government make some great steps in terms of its commitment to animal welfare, and as we move into 2018, we’d like to see a strengthening of the Hunting Act as part of this commitment. There is overwhelming support for the ban on hunting; now it’s time for improved legislation to put an end to wildlife suffering in the name of ‘sport’ once and for all.”

The League Against Cruel Sports is recommending four amendments to the Hunting Act in England and Wales, to ensure that animals are properly protected:

  • The use of dogs below ground should be prohibited.
  • A ‘reckless’ provision should be inserted to stop hunters using the false alibi of ‘trail’ hunting.
  • Sentencing powers should be increased.
  • The Observation and Research exemption abused by stag hunts should be removed.

As hunts parade in towns and villages up and down the country today, they do so in the shadow of fox hunting being the second most talked about election campaign issue online3, multiple reports of trespass by hunts and prosecutions for illegal hunting.

Hunt prosecutions, incidences of trespass and cases of alleged animal cruelty linked to hunts during 2016/2017

  • 11 incidents of alleged trespass by trail hunts on National Trust land have been reported since October 2017.
  • Hunts wanting to access National Trust land for hunting have to apply for a licence – none of the hunts associated with the trespass incidents have such a licence.
  • In March 2017, three members of the trail hunting Grove and Rufford Hunt were convicted of the illegal killing of a fox.
  • In December 2016, a man was arrested on suspicion of illegal hunting following the deaths of two foxes in Leicestershire whilst the Belvoir Hunt was riding in the Scalford area, near Melton.
  • In December 2016, Hunt Saboteurs released film footage of a fox being mauled by hounds from the Old Surrey Burstow & West Kent Hunt.
  • In June 2016, the League released footage appearing to show fox cubs being delivered to the South Herefordshire Hunt kennels before being thrown to the hunt hounds by hunt members. The lifeless body of a cub is then seen to be dumped into a wheelie bin, before another is taken to meet the same fate.

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

  1. Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally representative quota sample of 2,003 adults in Great Britain aged 15+. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing Laptops), as part of the Ipsos MORI Omnibus (Capibus). Fieldwork was conducted between 10th and 16th November 2017. The results have been weighted to reflect the known profile of the adult population. Urban/rural categories are based on ONS definitions used in the 2011 Census, where any respondent in a settlement with more than 10,000 residents is classified as urban.

    Participants were asked the following questions:

    Question 1. Now a question about sports where animals are set on other animals to fight or kill them. These activities are currently illegal in Great Britain. For each one I read out, please tell me whether you think it should or should not be made legal again. Just read out the letter that applies in each case. (The order respondents were asked about each activity, and the order of answers on the showcard used, was rotated)

    Fox Hunting; Deer Hunting; Hare Hunting and Coursing; Dog fighting; Badger baiting.
  • Yes, should be made legal again
  • No, should not be made legal again
  • Don’t Know

Full details available here: www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/attitudes-hunting-2017

  1. Hunt monitoring reports from over 30 hunt monitors from different organisations covering the majority of hunts in England and Wales (157), since the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted, show the hunt monitors have reported witnessing someone laying a possible trail only in an average of around 3% of the occasions they monitored hunts, but they believed that only an average of around 0.04% of the occasions they may have witnessed a genuine trail hunting event, rather than a fake one.
  2. Analysis done by Britain Thinks after the June election found that fox hunting was the second most talked about campaign issue online.

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