Monday, 26 December 2016

Call Off The Dogs

On this Boxing Day, raise a glass to the worst hunting hound ever.

I did not support the hunting ban at the time.

Tony Blair and my then MP, the then Government Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong, used it to cajole disgraceful Labour MPs to vote in favour of the Iraq War.

Neither Blair nor Armstrong ended up voting for the hunting ban. But it did become the law.

And it remains so, supported by huge majorities both in the country at large and in the countryside in particular. 

If the RSPCA is no longer prepared to bring private prosecutions, then it is over to the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, whose non-enforcement of this law is now downright scandalous. 

The Police routinely act as escorts to hunts, arresting, if anyone, the people who object to that organised crime. 

The CPS almost never prosecutes anyone, and even then it allows the matter to be dealt with by a local magistracy that contains a wildly disproportionate number of participants in hunting. 

As does the judiciary in general. 

The vindictive check-off ban has been ruled unlawful. But the vicious Trade Union Bill has become the vicious Trade Union Act.

Until such time as the Hunting Act is enforced, then nor should be the Trade Union Act, never mind yet another one.

And nor should anyone be in any way sanctioned for non-payment of the television license fee.


  1. If you are opposed to hunting, then you are in the majority. More than eight out of ten people are opposed to hunting. This includes more than eight out of ten people in rural areas – which shows that people who truly understand and experience what hunts do want to see it remain illegal.

    Hunting is not a town vs country issue, and it is not a ‘class’ issue. More than seven out of 10 Conservative voters want hunting to remain illegal. Hunting is an issue of animal cruelty, nothing else.

    Some argue that ‘hunting’ should continue because it’s a grand old British tradition. However, bear baiting and bull baiting were also traditions, and they were rightfully consigned to the history books. Traditions are measured in more than years. They have to reflect the values and attitudes of a society, and the vast majority of the British people oppose hunting with dogs.

    Official figures demonstrate that the Hunting Act has protected animals, with people being convicted for crimes covered by the law. However, far too many allegations of illegal hunting have not been properly investigated and far too many illegal hunters have got away with it unpunished, which means that the Act has a serious enforcement problem. Because of the weak enforcement by the authorities the successful prosecution of registered hunts was spearheaded by the League when we took private prosecutions against illegal hunters.

    While many people have been convicted under the Hunting Act, most of these are in fact poachers rather than hunters. Unfortunately we believe that illegal hunting with dogs by organised hunts is very common across the country, while there are very few prosecutions. The problem is that considering the defiance of the hunting fraternity and how they have created sophisticated alibis and illicitly exploited the exemptions of the Act, it is often hard to catch hunts in the act of chasing and killing a fox, and even if they are caught, it is hard to prove in court.

    The Act contains ‘exemptions’ built into its Schedule, which were designed to prevent the ban affecting activities which Parliament did not intend to prohibit. Unfortunately, hunts often use these exemptions as an excuse if they are caught hunting. For example, staghunts use the ‘Research and Observation’ exemption that was designed for researchers and not hunters, and some fox hunts carry birds of prey in order to claim that they use the ‘falconry’ exemption, which was designed for falconers.

  2. However, the most common way illegal fox hunters use to avoid prosecution is with ‘trail hunting’. Most registered fox and hare hunts now claim to be trail hunting – an activity that was not in existence or envisaged when the Hunting Act was drafted, and which should not be confused with ‘drag’ hunting.

    Trail hunting is an entirely new invention which purports to mimic traditional hunting by following a scent trail (using fox urine, according to the hunters) which has been laid in areas where foxes are likely to be. Those laying the trail are not meant to tell those controlling the hounds where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds end up following a live animal scent the hunt can claim that they did not know.

    A report by IFAW in 2015, Trail of Lies, monitored over 440 alleged trail hunts over 10 years. In 99% of the monitors’ reports, the investigators reported not having witnessed anyone laying any potential genuine trail.

    Trail hunting is not the same as drag hunting, a legitimate sport created in the 1800s which is not intended to mimic animal hunting, but instead is a sport using hounds to search for a non-animal scent without the pursuit or killing of wild animals. In drag hunting, or in bloodhounds hunting (or hunting the ‘clean boot’ as it is also known) where the scent of a human runner is followed instead of a drag, the trail never contains animal scent, is never laid in areas likely to have foxes, and those controlling the hounds always know where the trail was laid.

    This is why in drag hunting, ‘accidents’ when live animals are chased are very rare, while in trail hunting they are very common.

    The League believes there is no such a thing as the ‘sport of trail hunting’ and it is simply a temporary, false alibi to cover for illegal hunting while the hunting fraternity hopes for the hunting ban to be repealed or weakened.