POLL: Should the fox-hunting laws in the UK be relaxed?

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A senior Liberal Democrat has called on the coalition to reconsider the fox-hunting law as it is being flouted with impunity and encourages young people in the countryside to think it is normal to break the law.

Sir Nick Harvey, a former defence minister, described the fox-hunting law as “an ass” since it is routinely ignored in large parts of the country and there is no capability to police it.

As the fox-hunting season kicks off on Boxing Day with up to 260 events across the country, the North Devon MP said the law “cannot remain where it is” for much longer as it is unenforceable.

The Beaufort Hunt’s opening meet in 2005. Nick Harvey suggests the law could be amended to make it similar to Scotland, where mounted huntsmen can chase a fox in the interests of pest control provided their dogs are muzzled. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

“We have passed a law which is an ass,” he said. “It is a law that cannot be implemented. It could only be implemented with a ridiculous distortion of policing priorities. It worries me that in very rural communities where the long arm of the law has difficulty in reaching at the best of times, young people see a well-known and quite controversial piece of law which can be and is broken with impunity. You wonder what message this sends to them about drink-driving and other law.”

Harvey said he was not fighting a crusade to repeal the hunting ban, but wants the issue to be revisited.

He suggested the law could be amended to make it similar to Scotland, where mounted huntsmen can chase a fox in the interests of pest control provided their dogs are muzzled and the fox is either shot dead or killed by a bird of prey.

He also described a sharp divide between rural and urban Britain, saying he worries that country life one day could become unviable unless something is done to bridge the divide and address the inequality in funding for schools, hospital, social services and emergency services.

Countryside campaigners have long argued the traditions of hunting are an essential part of rural tradition that are misunderstood by people who live in towns. However, surveys show the public overwhelmingly backs a ban on the controversial bloodsport.

A poll by Ipsos Mori, carried out for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, found 80% of the public believed fox hunting should remain illegal – up 4% on last year. It found little difference in views between rural and urban communities.

In October, David Cameron said he had sympathy with the idea of relaxing laws on fox-hunting, and hunt supporters were last year buoyed by a renewed commitment from within the government to hold a free vote on repealing the eight-year-old ban on hunting with dogs. However, this is now looking unlikely before 2015.

Last month, Conservative environment minister George Eustice said MPs were unlikely to use up “increasingly precious” parliamentary time to debate the issue.

Some 260 fox hunts are expected to take place across Britain today on Boxing Day – 40 fewer than last year. Despite the drop in predicted numbers, Charlotte Cooper, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, said support for hunting was “as strong, if not stronger, than it has ever been”, with the organisation expecting up to 250,000 hunt supporters to follow the packs or turn out for meets. At least 100 riders and more than a thousand supporters are likely to take part in the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase, while another 100 riders and 2,000 supporters will participate in the Surrey Union Hunt.


Ian Gilchrist, joint-master of the Surrey Union hunt, said traditions were disappearing and the support showed “people want to maintain it as much as they can”.

However, Lee Moon, spokesman for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, said 40 groups were planning to non-violently sabotage hunts on Boxing Day with hunting horns, voice calls to control the hounds and video monitoring.

“There are 300 hunts in the UK and they all hunt at least twice a week, some of them four days a week, between 1 November – the official start of the season – and March. Boxing Day is just when they have the press out and they’re on their best behaviour.

“We use the same tactics to stop them as they use to hunt animals.”

Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said he was not opposed to people enjoying the countryside on horses, but objected to “people killing and torturing our wildlife in the process”.

“The ethics and spirit of Britain now is that we don’t want to see animals treated cruelly in the name of sport,” he said. “It’s not about class – we will prosecute anybody for breaking the law. It doesn’t matter if they live in a council house or a castle.”

Duckworth praised the Isle of Wight Farmers’ Bloodhounds, who “hunt” a human runner rather than foxes.

Almost 50 people were found guilty under the Hunting Act last year, according to Ministry of Justice figures.

We invite you to vote FOR or AGAINST a relaxation of the fox-hunting laws in the UK. Even if you’re not from the UK , please vote and also leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK?

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The editorial content of this article was written by Rowena Mason and Natalie Gil for the Guardian.

 

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Caroline Millard

No it definitely should not be relaxed. It is cruel and unnecessary.

ziggypop
ziggypop

Ripping part an living breathing animal, that feels pain and suffering, just like humans do, is barbaric, and utterly hateful. NO animal should be treated like this.

Lyndon Rowland
Lyndon Rowland

Since the ban there are fewer foxes around in the country,as they are not being hunted they are then dug and shot in large numbers far in excess than the hunts would have killed,
I personally have killed over 200 in the last 2 seasons many that have been released by antis and wander into the country from towns where there fed like dogs,because there over populated and looking for territory they are easy prey.

ziggypop
ziggypop

BS

Maria Bourne

fox hunting should have been made illegal all together it is cruel chasing a terrified fox with a pack of dogs and then letting the dogs rip the fox to pieces is the reason it is cruel also many fox hunters don't give a shit what they kill many let their hounds kill peoples pets and don't even apologize to the owner not only that fox hunters trespass on other peoples land and attack hunt saboteurs

Chris Lloyd

Lift the ban foxes in town and city's aren't right foxes aren't killed for fun it's done to keep numbers down to prevent other wildlife from becoming rare also to reduce the number of lambs being killed as the fox doesn't just kill what it needs a fox will get in a chicken pen kill all the chickens and take just one

Dianne Huddle

You Toffs with cold cruel hearts are a dying breed. It is the rest of us that are the back bone of this country. SABS rule

Elizabeth Aldam

The ones who like fox hunting so much could volunteer to take up the role of the fox…

Maire Wesley

These jerks influence others as well. Look at the trash from America who go to Africa to shoot animals who are becoming endangered, take pictures of themselves smiling over dead lions and think that gives some kind of status.

Jake Griffiths

Quite an angry fucker u are as well!

Jake Griffiths

Hahaha Megan great argument u got going there The problem about it all is that the uneducated public like urself have no clue to what goes on at a hunt or before hand or anything to do with it really. U just see a picture of a fox and go Awwww that's cute. So if anyone should pipe down that would be you!!!

Rebecca Clifforde

As the number of urban foxes is thriving are hunts intending to parade around our streets and gardens chasing foxes. I don't think so – that would be no fun at all!

Alan Thomson

Check this out on youtube. Sabs being ploughed into by riders – Just go to youtube and search The Curre and Llangibby Hunt 11/01/2014

Michelle Tilley

What next? Should we relax the law on badger bating or dog fighting because the perpetrators flout the law? Fox hunting is no different from these bloody vicious pursuits. If foxes are a threat to the rural community shoot them humanely! We have made so many advances in animal rights, this would be a vast set back. Why should we choose NOT to protect foxes but insist people treat dogs or cats or our farm animals well? As the great Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Hunts are well… Read more »

Fi Goldsmith

What a stupid thing to say..Get rid of the law because "it is routinely ignored". So if criminal breaks a law, we shouldn't enforce it but get rid of the law???? Thankfully most of us have evolved beyond 'Hunter gatherer' mentality.

James Winfrey

Being a shepherd I fully support hunting, a fox will go out and rip my newborn lambs to shreds just for the hell of it, if you can handle the deaths of hundreds of innocent little lambs on your conscience then fine support the ban, if you can't, stop poking your nose where it doesn't belong

Leigh Robertson

It should be banned altogether. I hate it.

Chris Curran

Of course Nick Harvey would like the law to be relaxed – because he's a hunter.

Karen Louise Forsdike

Any blood sport is barbaric , enough is enough !

Carole Anne Lewis

Should be outlawed. It's disgusting, vicious and cruel. No animal should suffer for the amusement of sick heartless humans.

Sandy Richardson

Sod David Cameron, British tradition and all the Hooray Henrys out there. This barbaric and inhumane 'sport' should have been abolished years ago as it has no place in civilized society. I abhor it and the people resonsible are elitist, toffee-nosed cretins.

Iain Gibson

Reading through all these comments I'd say that although there are some loopy ideas on both sides, the anti-hunt campaigners hold the intellectual and moral high ground. Strange though that scientists remain remarkably quiet on the subject, and the basic premise of the fox being a significant agricultural pest is rarely challenged. People know how to secure chickens and ducks these days, so it is usually the fox's alleged taking of lambs which is used to justify its continued persecution. Quite simply, no matter how loudly the hunting lobby shouts, there is no scientific evidence that foxes do any significant… Read more »

Deborah Heapy

We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers. This 'sport' is animal cruelty.

TIM lee
TIM lee

All said and done its about choice something which is disappearing fast in this once great country

Mort Brandon
Mort Brandon

There is no justification for having a choice to undertake acts of animal cruelty. Foxhunting is cruel and barbaric and serves no purpose other than to gratify the blood lust of a minority.

Gem Hall

fox hunting is barbaric. These stuck up cruel toffs and other low lives that hunt not only make me ashamed to be human they make me ashamed to be British. Bollocks to tradition, its a blood'sport' ban it all together. If people are that bored they need to kill animals maybe they should get a job and a life

Jake Griffiths

Vicky there has and always will be plenty of food for the fox in the countryside

Anna Johnston

Do you not realise that it's only drag hunting now? Haha a lot of you are making a huge deal over it, we don't chase foxes anymore 😉 didn't you notice a change in law? Weather it's shooting them or hunting them, they need to be controlled so I am for hunting to be properly brought back

Mike Jones

I don't doubt Anna that riding your horse is a lot of fun and you have a good day with your friends etc but why can't you just have this fun without the need to rip an animal to pieces at the end of the chase ? Some hunts do this and stay within the law and some have taken if upon themselves to break the law, laws are there for a reason because the plp in the 21at century have decided it was wrong to control the fox population

Brian Caldwell
Brian Caldwell

Ray Bird, Defra do not actually classify foxes as vermin, as they do rabbits and rats and mice, so get your facts right ! foxes diets include those creatures above and also fruits,slugs, snails and birds. They actually help the agricultural economy by helping to keep vermin numbers down !

Gill Roberts
Gill Roberts

Sarah Mac Unfortunately, your attitude to animals makes everyone else justifiably angry and prone to making rude remarks. Once pro-hunters stop making stupid statements about hunting not being cruel, it being good for the countryside, that it's supported by most country folk, and townies should keep their noses out, then I suspect that us antis will be able to stop making personal remarks back to you all. It's very difficult to respect people who have such little regard for other people's opinions, animal welfare or the amount of pain they cause. Once you have regained some semblance of humanity, then… Read more »

Vicky Barker

Or maybe they moved into towns cause they were and still are forced out of their natural homes by people moving into it which reduced their food supply too !!!!!

Mike Jones

I don't doub

Anna Johnston

That's incredibly stereotypical Gill, and I believe without the hunt poaching is an increased threat, which will destroy and endanger species. I am proud to be a hunt member and I shall thoroughly enjoy going for a good gallop with them tomorrow!

Vicky Barker

Not if you can shoot accurately !!!!!

Gill Roberts
Gill Roberts

Anna Johnston Not foxhunting clubs who ride roughshod over other people's land in the name of 'sport' and think that they have an inalienable right to do so. Several farmers and landowners where I live do not want hunting on their land and are ignored. It's time that these criminal fox/deer hunters and their supporters are taken to court and suitably punished in my opinion. If I were to state on here that I supported criminal activities then I'd be justifiably criticised, what makes hunters think that they can flout, and encourage the flouting of, the law and get away… Read more »

Barbara Harfield

Helen Wood Very well done to your Mum, for both her compassion and very quick thinking..!!

Gill Roberts
Gill Roberts

Shelby Jackson-Register – only a dedicated supporter of the hunt could talk such a load of rubbish. I live near several hunts and know for a fact that there are no ex-hunt horses or dogs that are kept in happy retirement. Certainly there are horses that have been used for things other than the hunt that are sold on for riding but I don't know of any of the dogs that are kept. And as for hunts being respectable or respected, well they are all criminals and breaking the law so absolutely not either. Unless, of course, you subscribe to… Read more »

Joseph Patkai

Did you write this jake or have you just copied and pasted it??

Abi Wagstaff Elliott

Sarah Mac if the hunt was not participating in cruelty their would be no Sab's, Hunting is banned and the horses and hounds are just used for artificially laid sent hunts where no animal is chased or killed, If these people want to gallop across the country side and do no harm then that is fine but illegal hunts still hunt foxes and that is where we have the problem if they just obeyed the law there would not be this debate and we could all just get along.

Jacqueline Baker

If foxes really are causing 'problems' then they should be humanely trapped and moved or put to sleep – for people to chase them until exhaustion and then see them ripped to pieces for fun is appalling – and yes contrary to what people think this is what they still do – I live in a hunt area so does my daughter and nothing has changed . In my area it is arable farming so the hunt encourages foxes to breed by feeding them so they have foxes to hunt. We are told of the need to protect pheasants but… Read more »

Ray Bird

Rosalyn Cullen – Of course you would say that because both the LACS and antis in general were left grasping at straws at the departure of such a high profile member and so tried all sorts of tactics to disgrace him after, particularly when he became a pro-hunter. The reality was he had the brains to go and see for himself and learn what fox-hunting was really about and decided hunting was best long term for both the fox and it's habitat. Ironically many other animal welfare experts came to the same decision . While I don't class myself as… Read more »

Sarah Mac

** Hounds not Dogs

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams

You are all twats

Sarah Mac

Brian Caldwell I am sorry but making a comment about someone' sister is out of the question yet again Anti's stooping to disgusting lows just to try and get one "up" how immature .That comment about Rodgers sister (if he even has one!) need not have been said, I have seen too many anti's make god awful comments getting very personal! it is not on! for example I saw one comment on a forum when a woman wished the person riding her horse and falling off over a wall to be " confined to a wheelchair next time and have… Read more »

Rosalyn Cullan
Rosalyn Cullan

Ray Bird Enough most certainly has not been said. He was nothing but a bloody quisling who got his 30,000 pieces of silver and a car, then went after a better paid job after causing mayhem at the LACS. Read what John Bryant who worked with him had to say, then take a look at Clifford Pellow's account of hunting. Mr Pellow was a hunter who was sickened by the cruelty. He wrote for Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue and it will take a strong stomach to read his accounts of the barbarity

Julia
Julia

Ripping an animal to shreds cannot be called anything but cruel, sadistic, and horrific. How anyone can actually enjoy this form of “sport” is beyond my comprehension. The fact that people who hunt don’t want to just follow a laid scent trail, that nothing but a live animal will do, shows that its all about the blood, the death, and the suffering for them – their enjoyment. Laws need to be tightened, not relaxed.

Karen Berry

Well said, blood sports have never been a good thing, what ever there reasons are, good or bad.

Rosalyn Cullan
Rosalyn Cullan

Sarah Mac I would have thought that was obvious. They are still hunting because they are breaking the law, the same as those who are still burgling and raping and murdering. The law is clear and so re the punishments, what isn't working are those who are supposed to uphold the law. illegal hunting is a summary offense that means there is a ceiling on the fines. However, hunters can have their horses and dogs confiscated too and hunts can be prosecuted as corporate bodies and the whole hunt fined and animals removed. What doesn't work are those in the… Read more »

Sarah Mac

Rosalyn Cullan, So if hunters kill 3 in 100 foxes what the hell is the problem they obviously aren't't mass "murdering" there are still more that survive and I know that those 3 will either be old or have some other problems as a fox knows its land better why do you think packs of Hounds are so big to catch 1 fox? Shooting can be a lot worse! you put a gun in someone who doesn't know how to shoot properlys hands and lets see what mess they make and then that animal walks off and dies painfully and… Read more »

Sarah Mac

Rosalyn Cullan IIf it was working well then why are people still hunting? Why is there still 260 hunts in the UK if it is illegal surely if it was working well there would only be a handful then it would be "working well"