Fox Hunting is another of those acts of extreme cruelty that try to hide under the banner of ‘tradition’. It originated in the 16th century and was practised legally in the UK until around 2004. It also takes place in other countries, including Ireland, the USA, Australia, Canada, France and Italy where it can be known under different names.
Fox hunting involves the tracking, chasing and killing of a fox by scent hounds and a group of followers (wearing a ridiculous uniform) on foot or horseback.
It was banned in its traditional form in Scotland in 2002 and England and Wales in November 2004, with the ban being supposedly enforced by law from February 2005. Modified forms of hunting foxes with hounds still remain within the law, as does shooting foxes as ‘vermin’. Traditional fox hunting remains lawful in Northern Ireland
Exempt hunting includes:
- Stalking a wild mammal, or flushing it out of cover, if the conditions in paragraph 1 of the Schedule are satisfied. The conditions include that:
- the stalking or flushing out is undertaken to prevent or reduce serious damage which the wild mammal would otherwise cause;
- it does not involve the use of more than two dogs; nor
- the use of one dog below ground otherwise than in accordance with paragraph 2.
- The conditions in paragraph 2 include that the purpose of the stalking or flushing out is to prevent or reduce serious damage to game or wild birds kept for the purpose of their being shot; and that reasonable steps are taken to shoot the wild mammal dead as soon as possible after it has been flushed out from below ground.
- Hunting rats or rabbits;
- Retrieving hares which have been shot;
- Flushing a wild mammal from cover for falconry;
- Recapturing a wild mammal which has escaped or been released from captivity or confinement provided that it was not released or permitted to escape for the purpose of being hunted;
- Rescuing an injured wild mammal using not more than two dogs above ground on condition that reasonable steps are taken as soon as possible to relieve its suffering; and
- Hunting a wild mammal for the purpose of its observation or study using not more than two dogs above ground.
There is also an exemption stated in Schedule 1 of the 2004 Act permitting some unusual forms of hunting wild mammals with dogs to continue, such as hunting using a bird of prey.
“The Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 which banned hunting with dogs in Scotland is not being enforced at present, and suspected breaches go unreported. In England and Wales the threat of repeal is real, as the Coalition Government has promised a free vote on the issue.
More recently a new threat to the hunting ban presented itself. At the beginning of March there were worrying reports in the media and rumours in parliament regarding a proposal to amend the Hunting Act 2004 which could have dramatically affected the hunting ban in England and Wales. The proposed Statutory Instrument (SI) would have amended a key clause of the Act which would allow a full pack of hounds to flush to guns, essentially lifting the hunting ban by allowing hunts to carry on hunting by simply having a firearm and claiming when questioned, to be flushing to guns.” www.league.org.uk
For more information on hunting in the UK please see the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Drag hunting involves dragging a scented object over the ground in order to lay a scent for the hounds to follow. Apart from being a humane alternative, drag hunts are also considered to be faster, with followers not having to wait while the hounds pick up a scent and they often cover an area larger than a traditional hunt.