THE law banning fox hunting is in “tatters”, the Countryside Alliance has claimed, as research suggested four in five hunts have either retained or gained new supporters since it came into force.
The organisation said support was “as strong as ever” more than a decade after the Hunting Act was passed and estimated around a quarter of a million people would turn out for the annual Boxing Day meetings across the UK.
A survey of more than 300 registered hunts found 91% now hunted the same number of days or more and 85% had as many, or more, hounds than at the time of the ban.
And it said figures from the Ministry of Justice showed just 24 members of registered hunts had been among 378 convicted of an offence under the Hunting Act, with no public prosecutions brought this year.
The alliance’s chief executive Tim Bonner said: “It’s clear that the Hunting Act is in tatters. It was never about foxes or animal welfare but rather an attempt to eradicate hunts and the communities that surround them. After 11 years of the act, support for hunts is as strong as ever and the Hunting Act is mostly being used to prosecute poaching offences.
“The last case to be brought under the Hunting Act collapsed earlier this month. Those opposed to hunting are getting more and more desperate and resorting to ever more drastic measures to try to secure a conviction.
“But just because a bad law is also ineffective is no excuse for leaving it in place. Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and thousands of hours of court time have been wasted on spurious accusations under the Hunting Act - this situation cannot be allowed to continue.”
Traditional fox hunting with dogs is illegal across Britain - in England and Wales, only two dogs can be used to flush out a fox so that a farmer or landowner can shoot it, while in Scotland an unlimited number of dogs can be used for the practice.
The findings come after the Government was forced to postpone a vote to bring the law in England and Wales in line with that in Scotland this summer after failing to gather enough support from MPs.
There are 289 registered packs of hunting dogs in England and Wales, 10 in Scotland and 22 packs of draghounds and bloodhounds set up before the ban to hunt a trail or runner, according to the CA.