April 25: Pro-hunting lobby should respect the will of the people

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From: Joe Duckworth, Chief Executive, League Against Cruel Sports.

COULD attitudes to fox hunting decide which way the polls go on May 7? When hunting a wild mammal with a pack of dogs was finally made illegal in 2005, a clear line was drawn in the sand as to what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour in a civilised society.

Ten years on, nothing has changed. The general public still consider hunting for sport unacceptable – 80 per cent of people want hunting to remain illegal and this conviction is likely to be reflected in how they vote.

Yet a small minority remain who want to return to an era when chasing and ripping apart wild animals for fun was legal. Some of them carry on hunting regardless of the law and others hope that a new Government will repeal the Act.

The pro-hunt minority attempt to keep myths alive to justify their own brutality. But the hard research repeatedly proves them wrong. Hunting is not an efficient method of population control. As one fox is killed, another will take over its territory. And it’s not natural to be chased by forty dogs while surrounded by shouting, horn-blowing hunters.

Nor is it a rural versus town issue. The majority of people (78 per cent) who live in the countryside want foxhunting to remain illegal.

Since the Hunting Act came into force, it has quickly established itself as the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation, with the highest number and rate of convictions since 2005. The only problem is not the law itself but those who flout it. Illegal hunting is unfortunately a problem across the country, with both registered hunts and individuals breaking the law and causing suffering to wildlife.

That is why we would like the Hunting Act to be made stronger. Banning the hunts’ cruel use of terriers to corner and fight foxes below ground; inserting a “reckless” provision to ensure wild mammals killed during a trail hunt cannot be passed off as an unfortunate accident; and toughening the Act by introducing prison sentences would bring it into line with other animal welfare legislation.

Introduced to end the suffering to animals caused by hunting with dogs for sport, the Hunting Act is one of this country’s proudest achievements. It must be defended against those wanting to return to crueller times. This country has moved on – and it’s time for the pro-hunt lobby to accept that.  They should respect the law, our wildlife and the will of the British people.