Working for change
Change often comes by many steps, big and small.
Each of these are vital on the road towards our ultimate goal of ending cruelty inflicted in the name of ‘sport’ once and for all, and should not be underestimated.
It should also be no surprise that these steps do not happen on their own. They are a result of the collective efforts of many people, in exposing the truth of illegal hunting, demonstrating that people should and do care, and showing the imperative for and route to change.
With a new year in full swing there have been all too many demonstrations already of the brutality still taking place in the British countryside and the work left to do. But the future is looking that little bit brighter for animals still at risk of suffering and death.
For example, the last year or so has been a significant one for policy on hunting with dogs in England and Wales. Along the way, the League has played an important role not just in public campaigning but in providing the detailed briefing and expertise required to support it.
Looking back to last January, the Prime Minister made a welcome - if long overdue - move by dropping her pledge for a vote to repeal the Hunting Act in this Parliament. This was a big moment in the fight to protect this vital legislation, finally conceding that the people had made their voice heard in the General Election that hunting with dogs is unacceptable and there should be no return to the dark days of such legalised cruelty. That voice was also reflected in the record levels of support for the hunting ban recorded by polling commissioned by the League for Boxing Day 2017.
Fast forward to Boxing Day 2018, and the Labour Party announced important details of how it plans to strengthen the Hunting Act. It’s an announcement we welcomed wholeheartedly. It includes vital and specific measures the League is campaigning for – such as introducing a ‘recklessness’ clause to the law to prevent the use of ‘trail’ hunting as a cover for illegal hunting, bringing in prison sentences for law breakers, and stopping the use of dogs below ground to ‘flush out’ foxes and other animals.
It is in no small part down to the work of the League, its supporters, and the collective anti-hunting movement that an announcement such as this is made possible and contains the detail required for meaningful change.
And so we are proud at the League to have played our part in making it happen.
Speaking from my role in public affairs, some of the work we do in the political sphere may not make for scintillating reading or take place in the spotlight, but Boxing Day was a demonstration of the fact that it does make a difference. We have built positive working relationships with politicians of all stripes wishing to improve animal welfare, including those on the opposition front bench, and contributed to the detailed policy work and briefing necessary to move towards concrete legislative change. We have also helped to shape the public debate and narrative which supports and allows for these announcements. For example, the latest Boxing Day polling we commissioned showed how few rural dwellers take part in hunting and how many disagree that it reflects the values of the countryside. This formed an integral part of much of the media coverage across the festive season, neatly sitting alongside the Labour Party’s announcement and demonstrating its alignment with public sentiment.
Changes such as a major political party committing to strengthen the Hunting Act also wouldn’t come without the work of our supporters and other committed activists, creating the necessary momentum and getting invaluable information out to the public and those in power.
The 100,000+ who signed our petition to end the killing of animals by hunts. The independent groups routinely risking their safety to expose the killing still happening in the countryside. The 85% of the public our polling shows support the hunting ban. The countless people telling their MPs of their concerns for animals and that they expect something to be done. It all adds up.
This year we will continue to advocate for animals with your support, including by engaging in detailed consultation and policy work as well as public-facing campaigning, so that we can celebrate many more collective successes to come.