Jeremy Corbyn’s party has made a promise that will delight over 80% of the British public. Labour has pledged to toughen up the hunting act, closing loopholes in the legislation that mean the still common killing of wildlife often goes unpunished.
Back in 2017, in the lead-up to the general election, Theresa May threw her support behind allowing parliament to rip up the act. As a poll at the time showed, 84% of the public disagreed with her. The vast majority of Britons do not think killing animals for sport is acceptable. So Labour’s plans to strengthen the act will surely get their vote.
Speaking about Labour’s position, shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said:
The government must enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act, as Labour has pledged, closing loopholes that allow for illegal hunting of foxes and hares
In particular, campaigners argue that the practice of trail hunting – whereby hounds are meant to follow a human-laid scent trail – is a loophole that needs to close. Because they say it’s regularly used as a cover for illegal foxhunting, which hunts can then write off as ‘accidental’. As the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) states:
Monitors from [LACS] and other animal protection organisations have observed the activities of hunts for more than ten years since the ban came in and their 4,000+ reports show they witnessed a genuine trail being laid less than one per cent of the time.
LACS also notes that, “those controlling the hounds are not told where the trails have been laid, so it is very easy to claim an accident if the hounds end up chasing a live animal”.
Meanwhile, there’s another loophole that allows for the flushing out of foxes by hounds as long as they’re killed by a bird of prey on open ground. As a court case showed in April, however, one huntsman ‘pretended to use a bird of prey’ as a cover for illegal hunting.
There are also significant loopholes in the hunting act exploited by the UK’s three stag hounds packs. Recently, a “shocking” video of the Quantock Stag Hounds chasing a stag “to exhaustion” before killing him revealed what these loopholes allow in practice. As it stands, Labour’s plan doesn’t explicitly appear to tackle this.
In 2016, LACS estimated that around 16,000 illegal hunting incidents have happened every year since the ban came in. Yet, according to the Guardian, convictions for wildlife crimes are at a historic low. Clearly, as it stands, the act is not working. Especially when, as LACS says:
When it comes to hunting, there are far too many strong cases being dropped by the police or CPS where their reasoning is weak at best and dangerously flawed at worst… Too many times, crucial evidence is being misunderstood or ignored.
Closing loopholes would go a long way to making sure the act serves it’s original purpose. According to LACS:
The Hunting Act needs to be strengthened so it can achieve what was intended – an end to the killing of animals by hunts. So-called ‘trail’ hunting needs to be exposed for what it is – a deliberate conspiracy to circumvent the law.
The Countryside Alliance, which promotes rural issues, including this ‘sport’, claims that hunts are subject to “numerous spurious allegations”. It also argues that hunters “comply with the law”.
The problem is that the law contains loopholes that allow for the killing of wildlife without hunts necessarily falling foul of it. That’s what Labour has vowed to change. And over 80% of the British public will more than likely support the changes. They have, after all, probably thought that’s what this law was ensuring all along: an end to the killing of animals for ‘sport’.
– If you have information on hunt meetings, you can call the Hunt Saboteurs Association’s hotline on 07443 148426.
– Find out more with the League Against Cruel Sports.
Featured image via Edinburgh Television Festival/YouTube