Hunting’s Rural Problem

North Cots hounds on road

And why the next Government needs to get a grip on illegal hunting.

Unless you’re doing a very good job of hiding from the news, you’ll know that there’s a General Election on the horizon. Maybe not in the next few months, but likely within the next twelve.

And once again, the hunting lobby is grinding into gear in an attempt to salvage what they can of their barbaric pastime.

This is something we have seen at every recent election, with ‘Vote OK’ bussing hunt supporters into marginal constituencies to canvass for Conservative candidates, in the hope of getting the Hunting Act (which essentially banned fox and hare hunting with hounds) repealed in exchange.

But this time around dreams of repeal are merely a distant memory. The recent own goals that hunting has scored, from the leaked ‘smokescreen’ webinars to the self-filmed footage of the Avon Vale digging out and throwing foxes to hounds, have meant it’s now about one thing only: salvaging what they currently have and keeping the Hunting Act exactly as it is.

The Avon Vale Hunt throwing a live fox to the hounds
The Avon Vale Hunt throw a live fox to the hounds

If you saw our social media post on the Countryside Alliance’s ‘Campaign for Hunting’ document circulated to members, you’ll know that they’re very worried that a change in Government will see a strengthening of the Hunting Ban, with Labour suggesting they will close the loopholes that allow hunts to continue hunting and killing animals as they did before the hunting ban.

They’re basing their defence of so-called ‘trail hunting’ on a few infirm foundations:

  • That ‘trail hunting’ is a squeaky clean and perfectly legal activity
  • The belief that it has the support of everyone in the countryside
  • The insinuation that any changes to the Hunting Act (that don’t go their way) is tantamount to declaring ‘war on the countryside,’ meaning if Labour dare to do this then they can’t win rural seats. This is what they have dubbed ‘Labour’s rural problem.’

But in reality, none of this stands up to scrutiny.

Hunts are using the thin veneer of ‘trail hunting’ to continue chasing and killing wild animals for fun. Hunt sabs see it every week, and the public has seen this on their TV screens many times over the past year.

Fox killed by Bicester Hunt.
Fox killed by the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase. Image: West Midlands Hunt Sabs

Indeed, the Countryside Alliance’s very own polling last month showed that the majority of people think that Hunts are still hunting foxes.

And YouGov’s long running poll has consistently shown that around 80% of people think hunting should remain illegal, (with 10% unsure and 10% against), with this number remaining the same in rural areas according to Ipsos MORI polling.

And then there’s the fact that in this week’s by-election in the rural North Yorkshire seat of Selby & Ainsty, Labour overturned a Tory majority of 20,137 votes – the biggest it has ever overcome at a by-election. The party that banned hunting during its last spell in Government. That doesn’t sound like much of a ‘rural problem’ to us.

West Norfolk Hunt have invaded the garden of an elderly woman and killed a fox on her patio
The West Norfolk Hunt invade a resident’s garden and kill a fox on the patio

Knowing that they’re hard pressed to defend hunting to the public, the hunting lobby’s strategy for the coming election is simple – keep it out of the news and keep it off the political agenda. The less said about it the better.

They’re banking on not making a fuss about hunting, hoping that if the next Government can be pointed to other rural issues (issues that any new Government would be stupid to ignore, such as jobs and the rural economy, access to essential services like doctors & dentists, good internet, public transport, poor housing), then they won’t touch the Hunting Act.

But why wouldn’t they do that as well?

Whether in town or country, people care about animal cruelty. People care about pets being killed on their patios by out of control dogs. People care about accidents caused by hunt chaos on roads and railways. People care about the public purse subsidising a cruel and exclusive hobby. People care that police repeatedly have to deal with gangs of wildlife criminals who think they are above the law.

North Cots hounds on road
North Cotswold Hunt cause road chaos. Image: Three Counties Sabs

We need a Hunting Act that works. We know it, you know it, the hunts know it, the Police know it – and the next Government would do a good job to know it too.

The loopholes of the Hunting Act need to be closed, and the law needs to act as a deterrent to stop wildlife crime gangs from repeatedly and systematically breaking it.

This isn’t declaring ‘war on the countryside’ as the hunting lobby would have you believe – it’s making an existing law (that has been in place since 2005) fit for purpose, to work as it was intended.

Write to your MP and tell them why we need a proper ban on hunting to stop the out of control, criminal hunts. Keep it polite, to the point, and use personal experiences and recent incidents published here to help you. Write to your MP!

Sign up the the Hunt Saboteurs Association email list to find out more about our campaigning in the coming weeks.

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