Amend the Hunting Act? Nargh...
'By all manner o' means let the otter be set up, and let un be given pride of place again' the wainscot; for if ever wild crittur deserved the honour, this one do, if only for the good he's done the landlord.' - Page 150, The Life Story of an Otter by J. C. Tregarthen.
The honour that the otter is given here is the honour of NOT being dismembered for the purpose of trophies (the pads, mask and rudder; the rest, of course, goes to the hounds that shook and ripped him to death). I offer this as an introduction to the reality of hunting with dogs which was banned from England & Wales in 2004 (The Hunting Act).
This post concerns the red fox, the deers and the hares of the United Kingdom, and specifically their future should the Act be amended or repealed entirely.
As it stands, the Hunting Act allows the flushing of certain mammals (not, for example, the otter, which is fortunately protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act) from cover with the use of no more than two dogs in order to shoot them.
The amount of dogs that can be legally used is viewed as the main issue; the Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Packs (FWFP) compared the effectiveness of two hounds to ‘full’ packs in Scotland. The results showed that larger packs were more efficient; but then, I could have guessed that without a trial.
As a result, the countryside alliance (the self-proclaimed voice of the countryside) call not just for an amendment of the clause concerning the amount of dogs, but a full blown repeal of the entire Act so that they can manage foxes in the same way as Scotland where full pack hunting remains legal.
Strangely, though, amending the clause in question would allow them to do just that, whereas a full repeal of the Hunting Act would allow once more the legal hunting of hares.
While foxes are an understandable cause of distress to poultry farmers and to a lesser extent sheep farmers as they will, although rarely, predate newborn lambs in exceptional circumstances such as famine, it is a stretch of the imagination to dislike hares for the same reason (problems limited to the rare grazing of crops), so I can only look on calls for a repeal rather than an amendment with suspicion. Today, both species of hare in the UK are in decline.
Deer would also fall prey to this amendment/repeal. Whilst it is lamentably necessary to control the numbers of deer in Britain since the wolf and the lynx were eradicated, thus removing the natural control factors, and since an additional four species have been introduced over time (the fallow, sika, Reeve’s muntjac and Chinese water deer), the method of killing them with dogs is among other things inefficient, drawn out and brutally inhumane.
And then we come to the fox, and a plea from the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). An understanding of the ecology of red fox has led to humane alternatives for the protection of farm animals; certain products act as deterrents by mimicking the territorial scents of foxes, keeping them away from farm boundaries. These can be purchased from The Fox Project in Kent and other suppliers. With these in place it may not even be necessary to harm foxes at all (and cheaper!). The LACS have launched their campaign to secure the future of the Hunting Act, backed by a scientific report which proves the following claims of the FWFP are not true.
* That foxes have increased since the implementation of the Hunting Act.
- In fact, since 2004, the population of the red fox has remained stable if it hasn’t declined (by 20% in one separate study by the European Journal of Wildlife Research, which is summarised in the Telegraph article below).
* That hunting to protect livestock actually achieves a decrease in the population.
- If anything, it makes the problem worse for the landowner. Killing foxes in the area only serves to open up the potential for other foxes to move in, a sort of vacuum effect.
* That the financial impact of the red fox due to lamb predation is significant.
- Several studies prove this not to be true, which can be found in the references of the report commissioned by the League.
Finally, I end by saying outright that I fully support the League Against Cruel Sports in their campaign to preserve the Hunting Act….though, admittedly, my stance may have been obvious all along. Whilst the calls to amend it to protect livestock may be genuine (if misguided, as evidence proves), the assault on the Hunting Act is clearly for more than agricultural gain.
If you, like myself, do not wish to see a return to the days when wild creatures were the mere toys of so-called sportsmen then watch this video, but please bear in mind you may find the footage distressing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7AQVXt7qVI&feature=youtu.be
If you feel despondent after watching it, then don’t worry; you can join the campaign to keep the ban in place by writing to your MP or by joining the LACS.
1) Countryside Alliance Call for Repeal: http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/campaigns-hunting/barney-explains-why-changing-the-hunting-act-is-no-substitute-for-repeal
2) League Against Cruel Sports Homepage: http://www.league.org.uk/
3) Response to Hunting Act Amendment of The League Against Cruel Sports: http://www.league.org.uk/uploads/media/17/11619.pdf
4) Hunting Act of 2004: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/37/contents
5) The Fox Project Humane Deterrence: http://www.foxproject.org.uk/deterrence/
6) Telegraph Report on Declining Hares and Foxes: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/10405933/Deer-numbers-soaring-while-rabbit-hare-and-fox-fall.html
7) The Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/species-factsheets/Brown%20hare
8) The Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/species-factsheets/Mountain%20hare
9) The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/species-factsheets/Fox
10) The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/reddeer
11) The Sika Deer (Cervus nippon) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/species-factsheets/Sika
12) The Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/roedeer
13) The Fallow Deer (Dama dama) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/species-factsheets/Fallow%20deer
14) The Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/chinesewaterdeer
15) The Reeve’s Muntjac Deer (Muntiacus reevesi) Factfile: http://www.mammal.org.uk/muntjac
16) Photos Freely Offered by Maggie Bruce. Visit Her Excellent Photography Page Here: https://www.facebook.com/MyBeautifulFoxes