The Hunting Act 2004 came into effect on 18th February 2005. This is a ban that makes it illegal to hunt wild animals with dogs in England and Wales. The most common of these animals to be hunted are fox, mink, hare, badger and deer.
A person convicted and found guilty by a magistrate of offending under this act, will receive a maximum fine of £5,000, a penalty which I feel is nowhere near what a punishment should be. Bearing in mind, this is the maximum penalty a person can receive for ordering a pack of dogs to tear apart another animal which must suffer extreme agony before eventual death. This penalty is something I believe is not much of a deterrent, which is possibly the reason that many hunters are still breaking the law. I also find it quite confusing when compared to the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This act states a £20,000 maximum fine and/or prison sentence for the mistreatment/cruelty of animals. I’m unsure what exactly separates these two acts in regards to their ‘Animal Welfare’, for their penalties to differ. After all, hunting in such a way that causes extreme pain and suffering to an animal is cruel isn’t it?
The most common animal to be hunted, that you’re most likely to hear of via the media, is the fox. If you’re not familiar with fox hunting, I have copied this piece of information from the league.org.uk website to illustrate just what a fox is put through, during a hunt.
During a foxhunt a hunted fox will naturally run to the nearest holes familiar to it, however they are likely to be blocked with materials such as sacks of rubble the night before the hunt. The fox is therefore forced to run as far and as fast as it can. However, as the fox is a predator and has not evolved for long, sustained chases, it can’t compete with the superior stamina of the slower-running but persistent hounds. If a fox manages to find refuge in an open hole, the huntsman calls for the ‘terriermen’ to enter their dogs into the hole in an attempt to either drive it out for further hunting, or to keep it under attack until it can be dug out.
Hunting enthusiasts claim that the first hound to reach the fox gives it a ‘nip to the back of the neck’ to kill it instantly. However, dogs which hunt in packs tend to bring down their prey by a series of bites and tears to the quarry’s sides and hind quarters. This claim of a humane, quick death also ignores the suffering brought about by the deliberately prolonged chase.
When the fox is dead, most hunts cut off the tail (‘brush’), the feet (‘pads’) and the head (‘mask’) as trophies. The carcass is then thrown to the hounds. Some hunts also indulge in the practice of ‘blooding’ – the smearing of fresh fox blood on the faces of those, usually children, who have witnessed their first kill.
Fox hunting also takes place below ground, and is called ‘terrier work’ or ‘fox baiting’. Most hunts have terriermen who send small dogs down holes in pursuit of foxes which seek refuge underground from the hunt. The terrified foxes often end up in a battle with the terriers, while the terriermen listen to the animals’ growls and dig the foxes out. Once dragged above ground, foxes may be shot, clubbed to death by the terriermens’ shovels, or thrown to the hunts’ hounds.
Before the start of the official hunting season in November, ‘cub hunting’, in which fox cubs are flushed out and ripped to pieces, takes place to train the hounds.”
As you can imagine, the fox must first go through a phase of absolute fear and panic before being mauled and torn by hounds until eventual death.
Many Pro hunters will use the same old excuses for their actions. You will hear the majority of them say “it is to protect livestock” and/or “fox are a PEST”. But isn’t it THEIR responsibility to ensure that the livestock are protected in such a way that no ‘pest’ can harm them? Who gives them the right and power to decide what wildlife should be killed and in what way?.
The fact that fox hunting is well known (by PRO hunters as well as anti hunters) as a blood SPORT, suggests that it isn’t a way of controlling ‘pests’ at all. The word sport typically describes a game which is enjoyable and entertaining, both for the participator and the spectator. Many hunters have been known to describe hunting as ‘FUN’, to which I have witnessed myself, so that throws their typical excuses right out the window!
It is FACT that fox hunting is cruel and damn right unnecessary, in which there is no place for in this day and age.
Fortunately, the majority of the public agree that this is an act of cruelty that has no place in such modernised civilization. But, there are still a small percentage of people who are PRO hunting and are appealing for the act to be overturned. Our current Prime Minister David Cameron, has criticised the eight year legislation and has apparently pledged to allow a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in this Parliament. Although I don’t think he will achieve much by attempting to drop the ban (due to the amount of us who are against hunting), I think it’s important that we keep up to date with such information and do what we can to stop him in his tracks. Sign every petition you come across, state your opinions and beliefs publicly, even donate to organisations such as the league.org.uk (these guys are fab) if you can afford to. Just make your voices heard at least!
If you have witnessed or know of illegal hunting happening near you, please report it via the link below. There is also much more information on the site in regards to illegal hunting and other forms of animal cruelty.