It seems to have skipped the notice of many of the UK’s many fox/stag/hare hunters that in 2002 Scotland passed the ‘Protection Of Wild Mammals Act‘ and that England and Wales passed the ‘Hunting Act 2004‘ (which came into force in early 2005). Perhaps there wasn’t enough publicity at the time – or every year since. Or perhaps the language is a touch opaque for the good folk who like to chase small mammals illegally – after all, the Hunting Act opens, to quote, with “An Act to make provision about hunting wild mammals with dogs; to prohibit hare coursing; and for connected purposes“.
Admittedly that’s not the contorted (or ‘legally precise’) English that many of us speak, but there are literally hundreds of ‘translations’ online, and thousands of articles, reports, summaries, and explanations. We’ve even got some fairly easy-to-understand information right here on The War on Wildlife Project: try National Trust and Trail Hunting 101, where we state (and haven’t been contradicted yet, because we’re absolutely correct) that “the passing of the Hunting Act 2004 …outlawed the hunting of wild animals (including foxes, deer, and hares) with dogs“.
In fact, while both laws were riddled with exemptions as they made their tortuous way through the various legislatures, they’re really not that difficult to understand at all. It is against the law to chase wild mammals with hounds. There, how hard was that…
Yet, as many of us know, hunts are still going out every week doing exactly that – yodelling and yelling, angering home-owners and churchgoers, blocking lanes and assaulting monitors, and killing wild animals. It’s not normal behaviour really (in fact we even (jokingly, m’lud) wondered how the average fox hunter might score on a checklist devised to reveal psycopathy by an expert working in the criminal system).
Map of Cruel Sports
So hunting is still wreaking havoc in the countryside. But what many people may not realise is just how many hunts are still operating fifteen years after the Hunting Act came into force.
Fortunately the League Against Cruel Sports has devised an interactive ‘Map of Cruel Sports‘ which puts all the relevant information in one place. And, blow me down, there does seem to be a lot of lawbreakers out there (yes, we know all about so-called ‘trail hunting’, we just don’t believe that all hunts are ‘trail hunting’ all the time – which they should be if they were operating within the law).
Monitors and Hunt Saboteurs (who are out recording illegality every week) will know all about every hunt listed on the new maps, of course, but there is more to producing the map than just showing where the hunts are. It will enable the public to more easily contact their local council to insist that wildlife crime is stopped and hunting is banned on publically-owned land. As the League says:
This innovative tool shows how many hare, deer and fox hunts continue to operate across Britain today.
Using your postcode, you can identify all of the hunts in your area, the territory in which they hunt and what uniform they wear. Click on ‘fox hunts’, ‘hare hunts’ or ‘staghounds’ to see the various types of hunting with dogs.
This map also enables you to contact your council, calling on them to ban hunting activity on public land. If there is no land, there is no hunting. Make your council’s land a sanctuary from hunts and help protect wildlife from suffering in the name of ‘sport’.
You will only need to complete the form once in order to contact your council to ban fox, hare and stag hunting activity.
Let’s be clear, nobody has an issue with people riding horses, enjoying a day out in the countryside, or even playing dress-up and riding horses while enjoying a day out etc etc. What we do care about is them killing wild animals while they do it. It’s illegal, and it’s neither justifiable ethically nor morally. There are even alternatives – the well-established sport of drag hunting for example, where no animals are chased but a pack of hounds follow an artificially laid scent or the scent of a human over a pre-determined route instead.
The key to stopping hunts should be enforcement, but police forces are overstretched and under-resourced (and in some cases appear not to be interested in stopping illegal hunting). In reality, the only way to stop the more die-hard hunter – who has no qualms about setting a pack of dogs on an animal, and doesn’t care that what they do is repugnant to the majority of people – is to remove their ability to hunt by having then banned them from as much land as possible (which is of course why the National Trust’s facilitation of so-called ‘trail hunting’ on their large estates causes so much friction).
This new map from the League is intended to help us do just that. It’s up to us now to use it.