County Down farmers say no to hunting with dogs

Thursday, February 13, 2020

County Down farmers met local councillors at an event yesterday evening to try and find a way to deal with the impact trespassing hunts and their hounds have been having on their land.

The event was organised by the League Against Cruel Sports and held at the Downshire Civic Centre, with help from Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown, for local farmers concerned at the havoc hunts are causing in the countryside.

Hunts have been accused of damaging property, worrying livestock and engaging in anti-social behaviour as they chase wild animals. Research shows that hunting with hounds also presents a significant biosecurity threat to livestock when hunts trample across farmland.

The farmers are growing increasingly concerned about individual terrier men and men with lurchers terrorising the countryside as they seek to hunt foxes and hares. Similarly, the farmers have reported these men to the police for making threats and behaving in an abusive manner.

Terrier work is an activity in which dogs are put underground to attack and potentially kill a wild animal while lurchers are used to chase hares and foxes at night-time.

Speaking after the event, Janice Watt, senior public affairs officer for Northern Ireland at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“The farming community reached out to us due to the overwhelming amount of harassment they were experiencing from local mounted hunts, and also lurcher or terrier men trespassing on their land.

“We provided each farmer with a support pack that contained legal fact sheets regarding hunt trespass, anti-social behaviour and public order offences along with supporting materials to assist them to gather evidence efficiently, whilst also ensuring each incident is properly reported to the police.

“The reception has helped forge stronger working links between farmers and their local councillors which will enable them to work together to overcome the threat to the farming community associated with hunt havoc.”

Farmers suffering from trespass or damage to their farms were also encouraged to log any incidents and report these confidentially to the League.

Councillor Patrick Brown, Alliance Party, said:

‘I am pleased to support this event that provided farmers with a greater understanding of their rights regarding access to their land by hunts, and to empower them to take action, if necessary, to protect their land and livestock.

“Indeed, over the holiday period, there were a number of incidents of hunts being involved in anti-social behaviour including an arrest made of a hunt participant, so the need for this sort of event is clearer than ever. I would like to thank the League for organising it.”

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom without a ban on hunting with dogs.

According to polling commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports, an overwhelming majority of the public want hunting with dogs to be made illegal in Northern Ireland.

In a poll of 1,016 people living in Northern Ireland, 84 per cent of respondents believe it should be made illegal to hunt deer with dogs, compared to eight per cent who believe it should remain legal.

The same polling found 76 per cent of respondents believe it should be made illegal to hunt foxes, compared to 15 per cent who think it should remain legal.

More than half – 54 per cent – of respondents believe hunting with dogs is already banned in Northern Ireland as it is in England, Wales and Scotland.

The polling also looked at terrier work and 76 per cent thought it should be made illegal and only 13 per cent thought it should remain legal.

The League works with local politicians and councillors to highlight the cruelty and the damaging effect hunting has on rural communities.

Janice Watt added:

“Farmers are the backbone of Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector, yet their efforts to protect their farms and livestock from hunt trespass, damage and intimidation are not being heard by anyone – we hope that tonight’s event will act as a catalyst to help their plight.

“Hunters often claim they are helping farmers with ‘pest control’, but the farming community clearly don’t want the hunters on their land. Hunting live mammals with dogs is horrifically cruel and no longer has a place in our modern-day society, as our Northern Ireland polling figures clearly demonstrate.

“Our politicians need to listen to the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland who support the introduction of a ban on hunting with dogs.”

To contact the League and get involved with the campaign email [email protected]

ENDS

Notes to Editors

The polling took place between September 16 and October 3 2019, with a sample size of 1,016 people aged over 18 living in Northern Ireland.

All percentages used in this release have been checked and verified by Survation.

Full details and tables available here.

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports press office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected].

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).