After ten years of the fox hunting ban in England, has anything really changed? An overview.
Through an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 2004, the Hunting Act was initiated to stop the hunting of wild mammals (notably foxes, deer, hares and mink) with dogs in England and Wales. It should be noted that the Act does not cover the use of dogs in the process of flushing out an unidentified wild mammal, nor does it affect “drag hunting”, where hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent.
The Act came into force on 18th February, 2005.
Let's clear up a few of the rules first:
You can't use dogs to hunt foxes, hares or deer.
However, you can use dogs for:
Stalking and flushing out - but only to control pests, for example hares, and only if they are shot as soon as possible afterwards.
Hnting rats and rabbits.
Retrieving hares that have been shot.
Drag hunting and trail hunting.
(Drag hunting, which started in the early 19th Century, involves humans laying a scent – such as aniseed or a chemical mixed with oil and water – for hounds to chase, rather than following an animal. Trail hunting, on the other hand, did not exist until the ban. It involves laying a fox's scent, usually it's urine, for the dogs to follow. Hunt supporters say trail hunting means hounds, which are not trained by humans to hunt but pick it up from senior members of the pack, will not have forgotten to chase foxes if when the ban was ever lifted.)
The League against Cruel Sports argues that this allows old-style hunting with dogs by default. “What they are doing is trailing fox urine near where foxes are likely to be, says Michael Stephenson from the League. This means more foxes are being attacked and dying as a result of coming into close contact with hounds following the scent, he says.
Philip Mansbridge, UK director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says trail hunting is being used as a ruse to allow illegal hunts to continue. “Trail hunting was invented by the hunting community as a response to a ban on hunting. Time and again we see trail hunting used as a smokescreen – no more than a false alibi to illegally chase or kill foxes,” says Mansbridge.
In an effort to expose illegal hunting activities, IFAW and the League engage in covert efforts trying to catch hunters deliberately setting their dogs on foxes.
The cold hard truth about the Hunting Act is that -according to former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair - it is a law of “masterly British compromise” which left hunting “banned and not quite banned at the same time.”
Despite the law against fox hunting, hunters, saboteurs and camera-armed vigilantes still play cat and mouse across the countryside – and the foxes are still being killed. Arguably more than before the ban.
It comes as no surprise either, that convictions are few and far between. Police citing lack of resources – not to mention a lack of understanding about the Hunting Act and the oft repeated … we have more serious crimes to consider.
After winning the May 7, 2015 election, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he will seek a repeal of the hunting “ban”. Though, this is very unlikely as there is no political mileage to be had from this.
In fact, the only beneficiaries of the ban that is not a ban and of the ban that will probably not be repealed are the animal welfarists who, after declaring the “ban” a victory, hold their hands out for more donations.
In a great article “The Anti-Hunting Ban in the UK: A Great Business Opportunity for Animal Welfare Groups”, Gary L. Francione says: “I expressed the view – that I still hold – that to call this 'ban' a victory is beyond absurd. And this campaign, which raised millions from the public over the years, was a complete betrayal of the animals, as well as the donors.” www.abolitionistapproach.com
So, of course, with Cameron's “proposed repeal”, if it did go ahead, would give ample opportunity for the welfarists to further mine the campaign for additional donations.
Make no mistake. The Hunting Act of 2004 is a farcical failure. It is the ban you have when you are not having a ban.
Mired in politics, vested interests, hidden agendas and controversy, the ban has failed on most fronts.
To sum up:
The hunting continues (more surreptitiously) but still pushing legal boundaries at every turn.
Authorities do not have the resources, understanding, or motivation to enforce the act.
Welfarists, to the detriment of the animals and donors, have turned this “ban” debacle into a business venture – and will continue to do so.
As sure as night turns into day, change will only occur when it is advantageous to the ruling party.
- Published: 07 July 2015
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