‘Smithers, DON’T release the hounds’

Photo by: Wikicommons

If Fox & The Hound or Bambi broke your heart, you can understand the importance of the Hunting Act of 2004. This act was recently brought into the public spot-light again after claims David Cameron and Nigel Farage are against the ban and may repeal it if their respective parties got into power. The ban has already been in effect for 10 years and has successfully convicted those of whom who ignored it, so why do politicians want that to change now? Does this call for change reflect the current views of the public or is it a last chance hook for voters from the competing parties?

The Hunting Ban came into effect on 18th February 2005 after an endless debate in Parliament. As the Commons passed the act up, the Lords pushed it back down; arguably in favour of preserving certain class’ traditions. The act bans the hunting of wild mammals, including foxes, deer and mink, with dogs in England and Wales. Despite there being over 180 successful convictions under the Hunting Act there is growing concern with the RSPCA and IFAW (International Fund For Animal Welfare) that there are still illegal hunts being carried out across the UK.

In 2011 the LACS (League Against Cruel Sports) reported violations of the ban to Devon & Cornwall Police with good evidence to support their claims but nothing more was done. Some cases brought to police attention have run out of time and in others the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) have decided to take no action. Police have said enforcing the Hunting Act is a ‘low-priority’ for them despite the fact the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit insists hunting still remains an issue, especially in the South West.

One East Kent Sab (short for sabotage) Beth said: “Sabs do what they do because there’s no police action. The ban was voted in democratically but the police aren’t taking that law seriously, especially when people contacting the police are often being threatened and attacked by huntsmen themselves.” These groups of Sabs monitor and follow hunts peacefully in order to protect the wildlife and ensure people aren’t hunting illegally. Beth continued, “There are always videos, photos and witnesses but it’s seen as a waste of time even when people are being hurt doing the job police should have been doing in the first place.”

Even though a small minority continue the hunt, the current law does accurately reflect public opinion. Polls across the last 6 years have shown an increase from 75% supporting the ban in 2009 to results in 2014 that show 80% thought fox hunting should remain illegal as well as deer hunting at 86%; dog fighting at 98% and badger baiting at 95%. These surveys directly contradict the repeal of the ban put forward by the UKIP and Conservative leaders, so may give weight to the idea that both parties may be appealing to the far right for extra votes this May.

However despite this tactic, political parties should represent the real feelings and concerns of the public despite their own personal views or gains. The data shows the opinion and treatment of wild mammals has improved in the last 10 years in the UK and is set to increase. With more people seeing animal welfare as an important issue it seems more appropriate to keep the ban in place and properly policed. These polls bode well for the urban street fox and rural fox alike though maybe not for some of the sly ones in the upcoming May elections.


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