Hunting law abolition call after ‘handful’ of successful actions

The Countryside Alliance has attacked the Hunting Act
The Countryside Alliance has attacked the Hunting Act
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LAWS brought in to regulate the hunting of animals have yielded just a handful of successful prosecutions, statistics reveal today.

At the start of the foxhunting season figures released by the Countryside Alliance show that just one caution and 20 fines were issued in the region, with proceedings brought against 26 people.

This comes against a national figure of just 11 cautions and 33 fines, leading commentators to claim that police time is being wasted by the Hunting Act since it came into force in 2005.

Elsewhere the alliance’s report showed that 97 per cent of convictions since the Hunting Act came into force relate to poaching or other casual hunting activities, including at least seven people convicted of hunting rats.

It also showed that last year while six police forces cautioned 11 individuals under the Hunting Act, not one was for an individual associated with a registered hunt.

Of the 33 people fined under the Act by local courts only one was associated with a registered hunt.

The Countryside Alliance also claimed that since the Act was introduced six years ago a total of 12 police forces covering popular hunt areas have not issued a single caution or fine, nor have they convicted any individual associated with a registered hunt.

It also states that Humberside, alongside Merseyside, is the region where most convictions have been secured under the Hunting Act.

The chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, Alice Barnard, said: “With the opening meets of the hunting season just around the corner, these statistics are a damning indictment of the expensive and failed Hunting Act.

“As a piece of legislation it is has been condemned widely – including by those who created it, yet law-abiding hunts are still forced to go about their daily lives under the threat of harassment and intimidation from saboteurs who then waste police time pursuing cases that never see the light of day.

“The evidence is now overwhelming: the Hunting Act must be repealed.”

In all, less than 10 per cent of people who have been dealt with by the authorities under the Act have been associated with a hunt registered with the Council of Hunting Associations.

A spokesman for the organisation said the statistics reinforced the fact that the Hunting Act was unworkable.

The Prime Minister at the time of the Act being passed, Tony Blair, said in his autobiography last year he considered the Act to be one of his greatest regrets from his time in office. A repeal was part of the Conservative Party’s election manifesto and the coalition Government have pledged to hold a free vote on the issue.

The legislation has faced much criticism for being too vague in certain areas, for instance it is legal to hunt a rabbit, but not a hare unless it has been shot.

It is also legal to use a terrier to flush a fox from below ground to be shot in order to protect game birds or wild birds that are kept or preserved for shooting, but illegal to use the same method to protect poultry, livestock or other vulnerable wildlife.