Rural body hits out at ‘desperate’ hunting law claims

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A NEW report claiming to show rises in the number of incidents of “suspicious activity” surrounding organised hunting has been condemned as “desperate”.

The League Against Cruel Sports has published a document which it claims shows that the controversial Hunting Act is working well and denouncing attempts to scrap it.

It claims that a total of 295 reports of “suspicious behaviour consistent with traditional hunting practices” having been reported to the league this hunting season, compared with 133 the year before.

The figure is a 121 per cent increase on the previous season but the league says that only 42 per cent of these alleged incidents were reported to the police.

It goes on to state that of this total, only 63 per cent of incidents involving acts of violence and 82 per cent of incidents involving firearms were reported to authorities.

It said: “The Hunting Act has outperformed other wildlife protection pieces of legislation three years in a row.

“The problem with wildlife crime is that it is a hidden shame, as it is under-reported and not recorded.”

One of the examples of anti-social behaviour caused by hunts cited by the league is the case of Les and Margaret Atkinson in Goathland, North Yorkshire, whose cat was killed by 27 hunting dogs in December last year.

The league has also invested £1m in a team of 10 investigators around the country who will carry out operations over the next three years.

However the Countryside Alliance, one of several groups which have opposed the ban since it was introduced in 2005 by Labour, claimed the league report should be “taken with a heavy pinch of salt”.

Campaign director Tim Bonner said: “This report is a classic case of creative accounting, designed to reach conclusions that simply don’t exist.

“The Act has failed; it is a huge waste of police time and resources that puts undue pressure on people doing their utmost to stay within the law.

“With the evidence stacked against them, the League Against Cruel Sports is getting desperate.”

Numerous doubts have been cast over the effectiveness of the Hunting Act since it was instituted.

Official figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 97 per cent of convictions relate to poaching or other casual hunting activities.

In total, 260 people have been prosecuted and 183 found guilty. Of this figure, six involved employees of registered hunts.

The coalition Government agreement contained a pledge to allow a free vote on the issue, with the Tories having pledged to do so in their manifesto.

A Defra spokeswoman last night told the Yorkshire Post that this “will take place at an appropriate time”.

“If Parliament were to vote in favour of repeal, the Government would introduce a Repeal Bill in the House of Parliament in due course,” she added.