Blood sports opponents welcome landmark court decision

Adams, a former huntsman with the Fitzwilliam Hunt, lost his appeal at Cambridge Crown Court today. The Judge rejected his attempts to use what is known as the ‘falconry exemption’ to persuade them to overturn his earlier conviction.

Evidence for the prosecution came from Beds and Bucks Hunt Sabs and South Cambridgeshire Hunt Sabs who should both be congratulated for ensuring justice was done.

The Hunting Act 2004 contains a clause which was designed to ensure falconers did not get prosecuted if their birds killed a mammal that had been flushed out of cover by dogs – which has led to some hunts exploiting this loophole and having birds of prey accompany them on the day of their hunt.

Adams argued that because his hunt carried a golden eagle with it on the day, the hunt activity was legal despite a fox being viciously killed by dogs.

This is the first instance of a fox hunt being successfully prosecuted while using the ‘falconry exemption’, which does not allow the dogs to pursue or kill the wild mammal. 

Martin Sims, director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“Hunts are using exemptions and loopholes in the law to cover up their fox hunting and we welcome the judge’s decision today to uphold the original conviction of George Adams from the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

“The decision to reject the hunt’s appeal shows how farcical the falconry exemption is, and sends a message to hunts across the country that the falconry exemption loophole will no longer wash.

“It is simply ludicrous anyway to believe that a falconer would release a valuable bird of prey to chase a fox when it too could be torn to pieces by the pursuing hounds.”

When convicted, Adams was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £930 costs. In today’s appeal judgement, further costs of £11,323 were awarded.

The high-profile case comes 14 years after hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales with the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, which came into force in February 2005.

Late last year the Fitzwilliam Hunt tried to stop people from observing their activities by securing a temporary injunction in the High Court against Saboteur Groups.

Martin Sims added:

“We need a proper deterrent to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts and we also need to close the loopholes that allow hunts to get around the law. We are calling for the hunting ban to be strengthened with the introduction of prison sentences for those caught illegally hunting.

“Hunts have a history of exploiting a variety of exemptions in the Hunting Act, which is against the spirit of the law. We hope that today’s decision will put a stop to the use of the falconry exemption as a cover for illegal hunting.”

The League also expressed its disappointment that an administrative error had prevented a veterinary expert, a key witness for the prosecution, being called to the original trial.

Charges against bird of prey handler John Mease of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal were dropped as a result of this error.

Mease had supplied video evidence to the police of himself skewering a fox through the eye with a sharpened implement to kill it.


Notes to Editors

A huntsman is employed by the hunt and is responsible for directing the pack during the day’s hunting.

Sign up for our newsletter

We'd love to keep in touch. With your permission we'll let you know the very latest news on our fast-moving campaigns, as well as appeals and other actions (such as petitions) so you can continue to help protect animals.

If you would like to know more about your data protection rights, please read our privacy policy.

© 2023 The League Against Cruel Sports. Registered charity in England and Wales (1095234) and Scotland (SC045533).
Registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 04037610.
Registered office: New Sparling House, Holloway Hill, Godalming, GU7 1QZ, United Kingdom.