Politicians urged to strengthen Hunting Act as public support prison sentences for those who break the law

15 November 2019, 08:57

Hunts now take place but dogs are no longer allowed to kill foxes
Hunts now take place but dogs are no longer allowed to kill foxes. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Politicians have been urged to go further in strengthening the Hunting Act as a new poll suggests the public support tougher rules on fox hunting backed up by prison sentences for those who break the law.

The League Against Cruel Sports says that loopholes in the Hunting Act have" allowed hunts to get away with killing foxes" and now, 14 years after the ban was made law, political parties should commit to strengthening it.

Though hunting with dogs was made illegal in 2004, groups can still go "trail" hunting, in which a trail is laid for hounds to follow, but during such events they can also pick up a real scent, leading to foxes being killed.

The League Against Cruel Sports wants to see the Hunting Act strengthened to introduce a "recklessness" clause to prevent the use of trail hunting as a reason for the accidental killing of foxes by hunts.

The League said during the last hunting season they recorded 284 reports of illegal hunting activity across the UK.

Strengthening the Act would also include measures to remove exemptions and introduce prison sentences for people who are convicted of illegal hunting, the animal welfare group said.

A survey for the League by YouGov found six in 10 people (60%) thought that illegal hunting should be punishable by a prison sentence as well as, or instead of, the current fines that can be levied.

That compares to just a fifth (21%) of people who thought prison sentences should not be introduced, and 19% who said they did not know.

Some 61% of the 1,639 people quizzed thought that it should be made illegal to hunt a fox during trail hunting as a result of reckless behaviour, while only 16% disagreed and 23% said they did not know.

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said the Hunting Act had been threatened with weakening and repeal by successive governments.

In 2017, the Conservatives promised a free vote on the Act in their general election manifesto.