Fox Hunting Law
Fox Hunting is one of the oldest yet most controversial sports which dates back to the 15th Century. The sport involves chasing and then killing foxes on horseback with a pack of hounds. It has only been in recent years that the sport has been banned.
Laws such as the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Protection of Animals Act 1911 did exclude fox hunting which prevented those who participate in the sport from being prosecuted for animal cruelty.
Over the years there have been numerous attempts to outlaw fox hunting. In 1949, two private member bills were introduced to restrict or where possible ban hunting, but this was later repealed after it was heard for a second time in the House of Commons.
The Labour government initiated the Scott Henderson Inquiry which aimed to investigate all types of hunting. Individuals who strongly opposed hunting stated that committee members were chosen to develop a pro hunting report and this report concluded that fox hunting was important as a measure to control foxes. The report also outlined that the sport was less cruel than other methods of controlling the fox population and it concluded that the sport should be allowed to continue.
Following this report, in 1969 and 1975, bills were voted in to ban the coursing of hares yet it didn’t evolve into law. Several further bills were introduced in 1992 through the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill and then in 1993 through the Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill and the 1995 Wild Mammals Protection Bill. All three of these bills failed to become law.
In the following years, further laws came into being such as the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 in Scotland which made it illegal to deliberately kill or chase mammals with dogs. The Scottish legislation stated that an offence under this law can be punished with a custodial sentence of up to six months. The Hunting Act 2004 however makes no provision for a prison sentence.
After a period of intense pressure from campaigners over animal rights, in 2005 through the Hunting Act, fox hunting became illegal.
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The Hunting Act 2005 Explained
Under this legislation, any individual participating in an activity that involves hunting a wild animal with a dog will be committing an offence. The legislation clearly defines what the term ‘hunting’ relates to which includes an act that participates or engages in the pursuit of a wild mammal using one or more dogs whether the dogs are with the individual or under their control.
The definition of what is classed as a wild mammal should also be taken into consideration and refers to any mammal which lives in the wild or any wild mammal which is bred or kept in captivity before being released. Rats and rabbits are excluded from the legislation.
Although the Hunting Act 2005 is quite specific on what it covers, there are some exemptions. The Act allows up to two dogs to be used for flushing or stalking a wild mammal for certain purposes. Only one dog can be used to stalk or flush a wild mammal if the reason is to reduce or prevent significant damage to game or wild birds which are kept or preserved for shooting.
A defined purpose in the legislation relates to the protection of wild birds, crops, fisheries, livestock and game birds or it can be associated with field trials or acquiring meat.
In order for the exemptions to apply, the above activities must be carried out with permission and appropriate steps must be implemented. Once the wild mammal has been shot dead, the individual must bring the dog under control.
An individual using a dog must obtain full written permission from a land owner or provide evidence that they are the land owners if they are asked to do so by a police officer.
The sport of fox hunting does not fall within any of the allowable conditions of the Hunting Act and it is therefore classed as being a criminal offence.
If an individual is found to be fox hunting, the Hunting Act states that the individual can face a £5,000 fine. In addition, vehicles, dogs and related equipment used for hunting may be confiscated and in some instances destroyed where appropriate.
If found to be fox hunting and an individual refuses to pay a fine or meet a confiscation order, they may be liable for prosecution and custodial sentence. If an individual allows their land to be used for a hunting offence, they will be guilty of breaching the Hunting Act and liable for prosecution themselves.
Challenges to the Hunting Act
Since the implementation of the Hunting Act 2005, many supporters of Fox Hunting have stated that the Act contravenes several rights within the Human Rights Act 1998 including;
Article 8 – Relates to respect for private and family life
Article 11 – Freedom of association and assembly
Article 14 – Anti Discrimination
In addition to the above, there has also been a legal challenge to the Hunting Act 2005 because it was felt that the legislation breached many European Union legislation in relation to the free movement of goods.
These challenges have been taken to the High Court and Court of Appeal without success.
Since the introduction of the Hunting Act, there have been many campaigns against its implementation with arguments being raised that the legislation is both confusing and focused on prosecution rather than safeguarding the rights of animals. Although the sport is illegal, Fox Hunting is still a practice which is carried out in the UK, but under the strict parameters of the law.
Huntsmen can shoot foxes which is not covered under the 2005 Hunting Act legislation. Furthermore, many people have argued that policing issues such as hunting in the countryside is removing valuable police resources from other important areas such as drug use and theft.
Even with the new legislation to safeguard animals, Fox Hunting continues to be controversial and with the current laws from 2005 mean that the sport is against the law.
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