Representation Panel Chairman

William Swann Veterinary Consultant


Douglas Batchelor LACS Chairman
David Coulthread LACS Head of Public Affairs
Carol McKenna IFAW Consultant
Colin Booty RSPCA Senior Wildlife Officer
Kevin Hill IFAW Monitor
Peter White IFAW Monitor
Rachel Newman Senior Legal Officer
David Thomas Legal Officer
Mike Huskisson LACS monitor

THE CHAIRMAN: We have three topics for this afternoon; animal welfare, drag and bloodhound hunting and implementing a ban. My feeling is that we should try to give 20 minutes or so to each of them. I realise that is not very much time but, in the case of two of them, we are going to have subsequent seminars. What I would like to do this afternoon is try to map out some of the main points, which of course will be looked at in greater detail at a later stage. Do you have some introductory remarks, Mr Swann?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. I have a slightly longer introductory submission than this morning, if you will allow it, because this is our principal area of concern. Sometime ago I had the honour to serve on the Humane Killing Workshops for the International Whaling Commission, which looked at not the rights of and wrongs of killing whales but dealing with wild species; how we should or should not do it. I would like to set the scene by working out the working definition which was adopted by the International Whaling Commission as an international forum. Humane killing means causing its death without pain, stress or distress perceptible to the animal. Any humane killing technique aims, first, to render an animal insensitive to pain as swiftly as is technically possible. On a recent television debate, film was shown of a typical encounter between hounds and fox. The fox ran a short distance, stopped and used its senses to assess the danger. At that point, the fox could have been shot. The chase that follows serves no purpose other than providing spectator sport. The hounds are bred specifically for stamina. Given their superior endurance, the fox increasingly shows signs of distress. The animal suffers as a consequence of the chase, and this represents unnecessary suffering. In the case of deer, the selected animal could be shot humanely at virtually any time. The chase which causes dreadful suffering, as demonstrated by Patrick Bateson, is unnecessary. Similar conclusions may be drawn in respect of hare and mink. I would like to consider the kill, because we are asked to believe that the majority of foxes are killed by neck dislocation. Now I will dispute that, but I would like to look briefly at neck dislocation. Given an animal the size and weight of a fox, it is, in my professional opinion, virtually impossible that immediate dislocation of the neck and complete severance of the spinal cord could be achieved by a hound. As supporting evidence, I cite the Animal Protection Scientific Procedures Legislation, which does allow dislocation as a means of humane killing but only for animals less than 1 kilogram, mammals of less than 1 kilogram in weight, and that is under control of the laboratory conditions. Immediate severance of the spinal cord is achieved by a shearing action of the cervical vertebra, and even that is considered by many American scientists to be suspect because it does not guarantee the principal point of the Whaling Commission's definition that it must render the animal insensible. The tragic circumstances of Christopher Reeves have caused a lot of people to question whether spine severance does in fact cause unconsciousness because, in his case, it patently does not. In animals above 1 kilogram in weight, neck dislocation cannot usually be achieved, and is not guaranteed to kill because of the strength of the supporting ligaments. In this view, I am supported by Professor David Morton of Birmingham University, one of Britain's leading authorities on the subject. Neither man unaided nor hound can exert enough force to effect the shearing [and I stress that] Of the cervical vertebrae of an adult fox, which would be necessary to confirm instant insensibility. A dog's jaw may crush, but a crushing injury to the neck is not the same as that shearing -- and I do ask you to take this point, because it is absolutely fundamental to whether a bite to the neck could produce insensibility, crushing would not. It is important not to confuse immobility with insensibility. The fox is immobilised and restrained by the lead hound. I am not concerned what happens after that point because that is presumably at some point with a dead animal. I am concerned with what happens with the lead hounds when they first drag the fox. It is immobilised and restrained, but the time to insensibility at which point the animal stops suffering just cannot be determined, an instant neck dislocation cannot be achieved and death cannot be instantaneous. As further insult to that animal is dependent on numerous variables such as how soon other dogs become involved. The quarry animal must be given the benefit of the doubt and the protection of the law. Now, observation supports the above statements. Postmortem results on cats killed by hounds do not show neck dislocation or spinal cord severance. This is expected, as cats usually weigh more than 3 kilograms. I do not wish to read out authenticated postmortem reports, but I will quote with your permission a significant passage from a verified witness statement. "With a clear and unobstructed view, we could see two of the hunting hounds attacking one of the pet cats. One of the hounds had the cats's head in its mouth, the other was pulling at the cat's body. In that animal, there was neither evidence of severance of the spinal cord nor dislocation of the neck. The cat was alive on arrival at a veterinary surgeons premises some short time later. I also wish to comment on sample size. The Countryside Alliance have indicated that in a sample of some 75,000 foxes only about 25 instances were something shown to have gone wrong. On this basis, we are asked to believe that more than 99 per cent of foxes are instantaneously killed, principally by neck dislocation. I have 8 authenticated and detailed postmortems of cats and foxes killed by hounds, and none has a dislocated neck, nor a severed spinal cord. Given the massive sample size of 75,000, and if something goes wrong in only 25 cases, the probability of me having no case of neck dislocation in a sample of 8 is miniscule. I do accept that the fox is immobilised in many cases, most cases, but I will not accept that it is rendered insensible. Causes of death in the postmortems referred to are respiratory failure following thoracic damages and fatal haemorrhage. Time to insensibility could not be determined. The common misconception about neck dislocation has arisen because of encounters between dogs and small mammals weighing less than 1 kilogram, such as rodents. Data from a University Federation of Animal Welfare Study of 1977 running through 1979 carried out detailed postmortems on 53 hares which were seized, caught and in most cases killed by dogs. There was not one single instance of neck dislocation, and nor one single instance of severance of the spinal cord caused by dogs. The pattern of injuries was very similar to the cases I have already referred to, and in only very few cases could an estimate of the time to insensibility be made. 61 animals -- I do not know how much factual evidence I need to bring, but I believe I have made an overwhelming and irrefutable case that killing by dogs cannot be said to be humane when the quarry species weighs more than 1 kilogram. I urge you to be most critical of radiographic evidence of neck dislocation which may be presented to this Committee, if you do not also have a pathologist's report that showed that that neck dislocation took place before death. Without that certification, that evidence is worthless. In respect of deer, I reiterate my earlier statement that the chase causes dreadful cruelty; and this is our primary concern. The Committee has been presented as well with evidence that killing is unsatisfactory in a number of cases. We have here today people who will give you first-hand accounts of this should you wish. Now, I do not believe that most hunters appreciate the degree of suffering that they cause. They are indoctrinated into the sport, into the belief that the nip to the neck is humane. This is a misguided euphemism: As hunters never see a kill, they remain in ignorance. I believe that the killing of wild mammals of the species being considered with a dog pack is immoral, unethical and cruel. My view is an objective, professional one, based on observation, experience, deduction and ethical judgment, and is no way derived from animal rights philosophies to which I do not subscribe. Where control of individual animals is necessary, we recommend trapping and/or shooting with an appropriate weapon by a competent marksman. These methods are effective and selective. Where doubt exists, every piece of animal protection legislation in existence urges on the side of caution. In the specific instance of hunting with dogs, that unnecessary suffering is caused is, in my opinion, beyond doubt. I urge this committee into deliberations to keep this fundamental fact in mind. Lord Burns, thank you.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Lord Soulsby is going to lead the questions on this subject, but could I just tease out one or two of the points in relation to the arguments that you have just made? Typically, what sort of gap would you expect there to be between the hound catching the fox and death? I think my second question would be: Is it not also the case that with shooting you will often find a situation where death is not instantaneous, particularly with larger animals?

MR SWANN: My Lord, to answer your first question, it is the very uncertainty at which insensibility will take place that requires, in my belief, that the animal must be given the benefit of the doubt. Some of these cases here the animals actually survived. That instance that I read out, where the cat had been the subject of a tug of war between two sets of hounds, actually survived and lived. With this degree of uncertainty, one cannot possibly say at which point an animal dies. Some of these postmortems do indicate death would be rapid. In these situations, it is by perforations of the heart. In those cases, I do believe death would be as instantaneous as it is possible to achieve in the field. But the number of cases of perforation of the heart are very small. To answer your second point, I believe here we have a situation where the welfare of every animal is potentially being compromised because there is no way that we can guarantee a humane killing of animals which are caught by dogs. The point with shooting is that we can guarantee the welfare of the vast majority. Although I very much regret suffering caused to that tiny minority of animals where they are not killed cleanly in terms of numbers and welfare benefits, the equation is firmly on the side of the shot animal.

THE CHAIRMAN: Just to press that further. I mean, some of us were reading in terms of the experience of deer, very often more than one shot is needed in a period of some seconds. And that quite a lot of seconds very often pass between the shot and the deer actually dying.

MR SWANN: Lord Burns, could I ask Carol McKenna to quote from some recent data which we have which may help clarify this point for you.

MS McKENNA: Thank you, Lord Burns. Professor Bateson in his report actually compared the welfare of deer that had been hunted and killed, with them killed by dogs or killed by the hunt, with the welfare of deer that had been stalked. His conclusion was, citing directly from the report, that 130 hunted deer that are killed each year by the hunts, and roughly a further 100 that escape, would experience unacceptable levels of suffering. Whereas only 7 or so of the 130 at present killed by hunting would have such problems if they were shot. So we --

THE CHAIRMAN: Sorry, at this stage I was not intending to do the trade-off or to make a comparison. I was just, in a sense, pressing on some facts about shooting in relation to this question of whether or not death is instantaneous.

MR SWANN: I think, Lord Burns, it would be dishonest of me to say that every animal that is shot is shot cleanly and humanely. I would repeat the point that the vast majority. The percentage of clean kills increases in direct proportion to the competence of the marksmen. In my part of the country, where deer are shot by (inaudible) I cannot bring you statistics for that, but I can say that with confidence.

LORD SOULSBY: Thank you, Chairman. I think as you will be aware that we are going to deal with the physiological pathological aspects of animal welfare later on. So, in order to save time we will not go into those today. We will have plenty of opportunity later on. Nature, in terms of hunting of animal populations is said is red in tooth and claw. I wonder to what extent would you consider hunting and coursing just another aspect of natural predation?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Soulsby. I do not accept that argument for the simple reason that people are involved. If we consider that animal cruelty has significance to people because it causes them distress, and also because it tells us perhaps something rather unpleasant about people who do carry out cruelty to animals, then a wild animal encounter may well distress people, but we have no moral judgment to make because there is no involvement with people. When hounds are put out into the field to catch and chase and kill an animal, that act is carried out by people. It is an improper act because it cannot guarantee humane killing at the end of it. So I believe a comparison with wild encounters is not valid on moral and ethical grounds.

LORD SOULSBY: Though I said I did not want to get into the physiological and the pathological aspects of this, no doubt you have read the information put forward by, I think it is, 53 veterinarians who are supporting hunting. They quite bluntly come out and say the fox is simply caught by the lead hound and killed instantaneously; the cause of death is cervical dislocation, as in Cunningham 1999. Now, do you feel that they are all wrong in making that statement?

MR SWANN: I think, Lord Soulsby, the critical point I made in this is the action of the lead hound in first seizing the animal and the point at which that fox is rendered insensible. I did make the distinction that I was not talking about what happens to the animal after the first encounter. After the first encounter, it is ripped apart because there are so many hounds involved, and damage to the structures will take place. What concerns me is the point at which the animal becomes insensible. In that respect, I do maintain they are wrong. I would like to bring in some supporting evidence, if I may, on this point from people who actually see these encounters in the field. I would like to pass this over, if I may, to Peter, who will comment on actual observations.

MR WHITE: I have 14 years' first-hand experience of fox hunts. My experience of kills is that the lead hound does indeed get to the fox first. It is always the back end first. What happens then, is that the force of that hound hitting the back end of that fox bowls it over. Therefore, you have the undercarriage exposed, and then the second, third and fourth and so on hounds come in and then basically rip the undercarriage. Those are the observations I have had. I have only seen three kills in my lifetime, and all three have been just like that.

LORD SOULSBY: If we can move on, because I am conscious of the time that the Chairman has set us to abide by. I can see that I do not think we need pursue the first question because I think we are all very much aware of your stance on this, but can we come to the next part about the welfare considerations raised by other methods of control other than hunting. Have you input on that?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Soulsby. I hope it was clear from this morning's session that Deadline 2000 do not accept that there is a need to control, and nor is it entirely practical to control, fox populations. I will deal perhaps, if I may, with foxes first, in that we, in our evidence, submitted that we accept that individual foxes may need to be controlled. We made the case in those cases for shooting. With deer, we would make the case for shooting. With mink, we would make the case for trapping and shooting. Hares, as discussed this morning, if it is necessary to ever control a hare -- which is debatable -- then that would also be by shooting.

LORD SOULSBY: But with rogue foxes, if I can call them that, you would agree that one would need to control them in one way or another.

MR SWANN: Yes, Lord Soulsby, as individuals I do accept.

LORD SOULSBY: Can we turn to some other not definitive sort of thing, but I wonder if, in terms of population behaviour of foxes and deer, for that matter, there are certain predictives that you can identify that would indicate a lowered welfare status among the population, either in hunting or the non-hunting population.

MR SWANN: Yes, Lord Soulsby, I am aware of the concept, and accept that welfare indicators are useful, but I believe that it has not been demonstrated that there is a significant difference between populations of deer which are hunted and those which are not, provided all this being equal they are on similar terrain. Now, there is a vast difference between Scottish deer, which have very poor nutrition by comparison, and where the welfare of those deer in natural circumstances may not be thought to be as good as those perhaps in the South-West of England, where they are on much better territory. But if you compare like with like, I think you will find those welfare indicators are identical in populations where there is a level playing field for comparison.

LORD SOULSBY: From that answer, would I infer, or would you infer, that in terms of the welfare of the population, regardless of how it is hunted or not hunted, there is no change in its behaviour from the point of view of welfare?

MR SWANN: I think the point you are trying to make, Lord Soulsby -- and forgive me if I misunderstand -- is that you are asking us for an opinion whether, if hunting with dogs ceased, there would be a change in the welfare of that population relative to a population that is not hunted.

LORD SOULSBY: No, I am asking you if there is any evidence at present if there is a difference between hunted foxes, or hunted deer, or hunted mink for that matter, and non-hunted; that you can in fact say hunting is detrimental to the welfare of that group of animals or that herd.

MR SWANN: Thank you, I have understood the question now. I think the numbers involved in hunting are quite small compared to the overall population numbers. I am not aware of evidence on that on that side, because I do not believe that the numbers would be significant. But I know Douglas Batchelor wants to speak on this subject as well. So I will pass this one over to Douglas.

MR BATCHELOR: I will try and find the reference to it for the Committee, but I believe there is evidence, particularly with deer, in terms of what is happening in their environment, in terms of their behaviour, and where, for example, they are culled by shooting once per annum, that has relatively little effect on their overall behaviour. Where they are regularly disturbed by hunting, I believe it alters their pattern of behaviour in terms of when they will come out to feed and take water and so on. I will try and find the references to that, which I believe are German in fact. So there are impacts of animals responding to the challenges in their environment, environment in terms of their behaviour. Whether that argues for better welfare, or a change in welfare status, is more difficult to prove one way or the other, but certainly what it does is alter their behaviour if they respond to that.

LORD SOULSBY: Of course that could well reflect on their welfare too. What I am trying to get at is: Is there any indication of the welfare of the population going down by either method of hunting or not hunting?

MR BATCHELOR: I think the German experience I am quoting is where people are shooting deer from stands. In effect, if the pattern of the way in which the deer are challenged alters their feeding patterns sufficiently, then it is bound to have an effect on their welfare. There are the references I will try and get for you. If it is only once a year, as is done in the first situation, culling deer, it has a negative effect on their welfare. A continual interruption to their natural patterns does have an effect.

LORD SOULSBY: And this brings us on to the question of reproductive control, and of course reproduction is a thing which is usually a good measure of the welfare of the population of animals. If it is breeding effectively, then its welfare is usually considered to be satisfactory. If one was to go to breeding, to control reproduction by chemical means, as in Melbourne that Roger Short has produced, has this any effect on the welfare of populations of, say, deer or foxes, when, for example, a poor old male fox cannot get a female into pregnancy, for example?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Soulsby. The Melbourne study is interesting because it does indicate in urban foxes that we might be faced in this country with a need to control foxes in the urban environment. Whether this is ever going to be applicable to the rural environment at present times, we would perhaps think not. In terms of controlling an urban population, then I think the situation is different because you have additional disease considerations and additional parameters which do not apply in the rural environment. But I know that Colin Booty sits on a Committee which looks at chemical control of populations, and would like to talk to you about deer where it is perhaps more directly relevant.

MR BOOTY: Yes, Lord Soulsby. I currently sit on a Research Steering Group, which is a Forestry Commission funded project, looking at possible contraception of grey squirrels. I am also aware of the great deal of work that is being funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and the potential of this technique for rabbits. Both of which considerations are outside your Committee's consideration, but it is demonstrative of the activities in this area. Perhaps more pertinent to the question you are asking, and the remit of your Committee, these either hormonal possibilities or immuno-contraception possibilities are a subject area that has been subject to a great deal of research, particularly in America, where they have been investigating it in relation to white-tailed deer. If it would assist you in your deliberations, a few years ago the RSPCA commissioned Professor Putnam to undertake a review of chemical and immunological methods of control of deer. Conscious of time, I have brought a couple of copies of the report with me today and can make those available through the secretariat.

LORD SOULSBY: That would be helpful.

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: I wonder if I could follow up with one small question. You make quite a point that if there has to be control, then shooting is to be preferred to hunting, and you always say, you are talking about competence assured. Looking at the people who are currently hunting who would not be hunting but would then have to turn up to shoot. What I want to ask you is: are you satisfied that currently the level of shooting is competent? If you are, would you be satisfied that these people, who after all are faced with the situation in which they are looking for immediate action to protect their interests, would necessarily be competent shots in that situation?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Sir John. In my experience, most gamekeepers and farmers are pretty crack shots, they are pretty good. We talked about this this morning, there are a number of associations which do offer specific advice and can offer training. I will have to go back to two comments which we made this morning: One is the number of animals, particularly foxes, which are brought into hospitals. The point was made that people would not necessarily bring shot foxes in. I dispute that because people do bring foxes in. If people were not inclined to do so, we would not have over a thousand brought in for treatment. Many of these come in from rural areas. So I think we would start to see a pattern involved in it. The second point is we have the last comments that it is possible to shoot humanely and cleanly. If people will follow guidelines and will become competent, I believe that this is feasible in all cases, and I am convinced --

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: Thank you. You see the point was not was it feasible, but rather would it happen?

MR SWANN: I made the point this morning that we are fortunate in having what is probably the most humane farming community in Europe. I believe most of our farmers are especially humane, and pay the financial consequences of that in many aspects of the livestock industry. I do not believe that farmers, for the most part, would willfully try and do anything that was cruel. I think if there were shooting, there is a culture of trying to shoot cleanly. I think it is being done now and I think it will continue to be so.

THE CHAIRMAN: I think we should move on to the second topic draghunting, but i have one final -

LORD SOULSBY: Just one brief word about the non-quarry species.

THE CHAIRMAN: I was going to put one question which was about the treatment of hounds in the hunt if there was to be a ban. The point has been put to us that it would be very difficult to rehouse them; there is a big welfare issue here, if there was to be a sudden ban. What do you have to say about that?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. The RSPCA has tried for a number of years to take on hounds, to try and rehome them, to see just what practical problems, if any, there would be. We have always been refused hounds. We have never been able to get a sufficient number, well, in fact, any, in most cases, to carry out anything like a trial. There are some aspects of this that I have personal views on. One is that I do not wish to create a situation where we are trying to indicate that hunts people are cruel. I am trying deliberately to get away from that, because in the treatment of the horse, as I made the point, horse welfare is very good and in a considerable number of cases, although as with any industry there are always bad boys in it, then the majority of hounds are well looked after. Now, many of these hounds are taken out for walks; they are actually brought up with people. As young dogs, they are looked after and exercised and fed by people. They are socialised with people. I can see no earthly reason why these dogs should not socialise, given the opportunity to do so. I think, indeed, I have been given instances where people with old hounds have had favourites and taken them home and looked after them. So it is not inconceivable that hounds will rehome. There is a corollary to this as well; that I think because the hounds are well thought of, and because most of the hunting people really do enjoy working with hounds, I think many of them in the event of a ban are not just going to stop working with them; they will carry on drag hunting, because I think this is a pleasure they get, and some of these hounds go back having been bred for centuries. I just cannot get my head around the idea that people will suddenly put them down, other than as a political statement. I think there is potential for them to be used.

THE CHAIRMAN: There is an issue of course of the total numbers. I think this probably neatly takes us on to the question of drag hunting, otherwise we are going to fall very badly behind schedule. Do you have any points that you want to make by way of introductory remarks on the subject of drag hunting?

MR SWANN: I think, Lord Burns, to save time, I perhaps suggest we proceed straight with the question.

THE CHAIRMAN: The point where there seems to be some dispute concerning drag hunting is the extent to which it would be possible, and the extent to which it would act as a substitute for the conventional hunting. On the other hand, it has also been put to us that that the two are working at the moment in a complementary fashion, and it would be different if there were not a conventional hunt. Do you have anything to add to your evidence about the question of just what the scope is for drag hunting. How far it is possible to mimic conventional hunting? And the extent to which you believe it is possible this could become a substitute over the longer term?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. I am going to answer that one myself again. I am doing most of the talking this afternoon, for which I apologise. When this issue came up, I undertook to go back as far as possible into the history of drag hunting, and indeed hunting, to have a look if I could find anything that would be helpful to this Committee. The most helpful areas come from historical records of the British Army in India. One book that particularly captivated me was the history of the Peshwarvale Hunt in India. There were specific references here that periodically live quarry hunting had to cease because of the risk of rabies, and there were also occasions where army hunts were moved. One incident in that book that is recorded is that the hunt was moved to Kabul at the time that the Afghan Wars were on. At that time, there was no live quarries hunted. So it was a seamless transition between live quarry hunting and drag hunting. In the records of those hunting activities, one can read comments such as "best hunt we have had ever", "best hunt for years", because the way in which the drag was laid was quite different to the conventional way in which a drag is laid back here now in the United Kingdom. Because live quarry hunting does exist in this country and has existed, then drag hunting has gone down a totally different route; in that it has been designed for speed. There are man-made obstacles and many of the less qualified riders would not wish to take those obstacles. I would not wish to take those obstacles. It is a situation that the argument with fox hunting is that it is always easy for all different skills of rider. It is possible to duplicate this in a drag hunt. Now, in Germany, where live quarry hunting became illegal in the 1930s, the British Army again continued to drag hunt over there. This is only a small-scale sport generally, but nonetheless is carried on in a form which is quite different from drag hunting in this country. I have actually seen this in operation years ago on the Isle of Man, where foxes were absent and people were introduced. But in the days when foxes were absent, the drag hunt over there carried itself on in very much a similar way to the German experiences. So I think it is entirely feasible to have a sport which mimics the actual quarry hunting, which can carry on almost seemlessly with the existing sport, and which there is ample precedent for both in the historical literature and in current experience.

THE CHAIRMAN: Some of the Committee are going to pay a visit to Germany to see the German type of drag hunting. But I think the point that has been raised -- and I think which does need more airing -- is the extent to which there are alternative models of drag hunting. You are putting the case that the type of drag hunting that we have in this country is only one particular type. And it exists in that type because it lives alongside quarry hunting. And, therefore, the activities have become complements rather than substitutes. Do you have any other evidence of the extent to which it is possible to get closer to mimicking quarry hunting?

MR SWANN: Lord, Chairman, the only other evidence I can cite to you is one of the stag hunt packs, which in fact did stop live quarry hunting, and which is now looking at the possibility of adapting to drag hunting. Certainly the gentleman who is trying to put this together is totally convinced that it is possible to run a varied and acceptable form of drag hunting. He is having certain difficulties at the moment in trying to obtain the necessary licences and permissions. Nevertheless, I have actually interviewed him myself, and talked at great length. I came away, being a total natural sceptic, thinking that perhaps this was a viable alternative.

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: I wonder if I could follow with two points that have been put to me. One is that the actual speed of the hunt is to a degree determined by the performance of the hounds; and that, with a drag hunt, the hound becomes familiar with the route, and thereby takes short cuts, and that even speeds the whole operation up. So there is a practical issue of how do you do this, and the other point I would like you to comment on, is that it has also been put to us that, with a drag hunt, you would need substantially fewer hounds than you do with a normal quarry hunt; and, therefore, there would still be a substantial reduction in the hound population involved in this.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Sir John. I know Douglas Batchelor would like to speak on the subject of drag hunting, but, yes, drag hunts are smaller, and that is inarguable, and so, yes, there would be a demand for smaller numbers. Your first point on the behaviour of the hounds. Talking to the man who has helped me in my inquiries, I came away convinced that this is down to the competence of the huntsman. I came away quite convinced that control of the hounds is possible in creating the natural type of hunting as opposed to the high speed chase. I would like to pass this over if I may to Douglas Batchelor, please.

MR BATCHELOR: Thank you, Chairman. There are a few points I think that are worth making in this. In terms of setting out the drag hunting, we are not trying to mimic all the aspects of the normal hunt. In particular, you are trying to keep the hunt away from roads, from railways, from obstacles that are actually dangerous to the animals, be they horses or hounds, involved in the pursuit. So, from an animal welfare point of view, there is a deliberate attempt to create an event that is actually more animal welfare friendly, both from the participating animals, and certainly from the fox, or whatever, which is no longer participating. That is the first thing I would say. The second thing is that, rather like ski runs, you clearly grade the route in terms of difficulty in relation to the different types of people who are taking part. So there are opportunities in drag hunting to select by the nature of the course, and advertise it in advance, to make it a more welfare friendly pursuit. The third one is in terms of the hounds. They are actually bred for stamina and not for speed, normally. Therefore, when you talk about the hunt being of a certain speed, and drag hunting being faster, that is less in line with the nature of the current hounds and the way they are bred, and also, at least partly determined by the ease and difficulty of the scent that is laid. So you can determine the speed of the hunt by making the scent easy or difficult to follow. There are lots of alternatives to a drag hunt I think to achieve a good sporting day out for the people involves, with minimal animal welfare risk, compared with the current hunting situation, which is clearly in the evidence we have supplied on "hunt havoc" and injury very clearly spelt out, and also in the evidence that we supplied in terms of the willingness of farmers to allow drag hunts across their land, not least where the course of the hunt can be predetermined to be acceptable rather than randomly in terms of where is the wild animal going to go. So, again, manageability and acceptability are more on offer through drag hunting than they would be through any other form of hunting.  

PROFESSOR MICHAEL WINTER: Can I follow up that last point about the exact route to farmers and land owners. I mean, the survey evidence seems to be very unclear on these different messages which come from different surveys, but it seems to me clearly the case that farmers and land owners in the main are prepared to allow hunting of live quarry because -- whether you consider it misguided or not -- they consider it something desirable. That motive would be removed, which leads to the scenario of farmers probably having to be paid in some instances to allow drag hunting. Indeed, in some of your evidence it has been put as a possible form of diversification; that would clearly raise the cost to participants. It is also the case that certainly in some parts of the country, especially in small farm areas, getting enough farmers contiguous to allow drag hunting might be difficult with that motivation lost. So the point I am putting to you is: Would you accept those factors taking into consideration the extent of drag hunting which is likely -- although it may be important, is likely to be considerably less than the extent of existing live quarry hunting?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Professor Winter. I think one of the major benefits that came out of looking at the modified form of drag hunting is that its land requirement is less. You will be told quite correctly that drag hunting, as it is presently carried out in this country, requires quite long tracks of land to support the chase. To link up land to give that length is not always possible, but the type of drag hunting that we are talking about in this modified form does not require substantially more land, if indeed any more land, than a traditional live quarry hunt. I know on this point that David Coulthread wishes to speak particularly on the economic side. So I will pass this over to him.

MR COULTHREAD: Thank you very much. The evidence that the League Against Cruel Sports has put to defend, or to advance on a claim that there would indeed be enough land available, was based on an NOP poll of a 1,000 freeholding farmers, carried out in March of 1996. The point I would like to make about that is: it was quite important for us to put up polls of freeholding farmers simply because they are farmers who have a choice. One of the arguments frequently put up to say that drag hunting is not feasible or even to defend fox hunting is to say: well, in some parts of the country the vast majority of farmers welcome hunts on to their lands. We would actually like to see more justification made of that claim, because we do believe that in the vast majority of those areas these are not freeholding farmers; they are tenant farmers who really do not have much choice. That said, the evidence we had from that poll certainly means that there is considerable land available for drag hunting. Although the claim is often made that drag hunting is a very different sport to fox hunting, and it does by necessity cover a much larger area of land. The fact is that the course that the drag hunt follows is actually dictated by the trail that can be laid. I believe there is no reason whatsoever why a professionally, skilfully laid trail need cover massive areas of land. They can, in fact, duplicate fox hunts which take place over very small periods. Certainly with regard to the contiguity of land -- excuse my mispronunciation -- I do believe that the evidence certainly says that there is enough land available beforehand, and we do not see that being a problem.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL WINTER: Could you just be a little clearer as to what you mean by "small and large areas of land". You seem to be implying it follows that a fox hunt takes place over a small area of land, and that can be reproduced. In small farm countries, in areas where the average farm size is 100 to 200 acres, you would be talking about dozens of farmers whose land is likely to be run over in a day's fox hunting. It seems to me that it does present certain potential operational difficulties with drag hunting.

MR COULTHREAD: You are quite correct that if a day's drag hunting did take place over a vast track of land it would cover a number of farms. The argument we are putting forward is that if a drag hunt wishes to duplicate fox hunting, then we are talking about much smaller chases, as has actually happened in the course of fox hunting. The only thing that is going to come away, the only bar to drag hunting making a duplication, is the skill of the person laying the trail. There are many hunts, for example, in the East Anglia, in the South-East of England, where hunt country is actually enormous as well, and the land available to hunting, drag hunting in that area will be very large. So, yes, it is true that there may be a number of farmers in the area of particular existing hunts who no longer wish to see the hunts on their area, but it is equally true that there will be other farms who do wish to see the drag hunt on their land. A skillfully laid trail can actually have quite a considerable distance within the area of a farm.

DR VICTORIA EDWARDS: I would like to turn your attention to the habitat management side of drag hunting. I have two questions which are related on that theme. One is the extent to which drag hunting is going to provide an incentive for farmers to manage habitat areas that are beneficial to non-quarry species, and I suppose quarry species as well, in the absence of hunting. The second is that something that we consistently heard on our visits was the attraction of the unpredictability of hunting as being a motivating force for the followers. It seems that in order to make drag hunting similarly unpredictable it has to follow fairly unpredictable patterns on the land; so that the riders and, in the case of bloodhound hunting, the foot-followers do not know where they are about to go. Is there not a contradiction there with trying to satisfy land owners; that you are not going to take people in vulnerable areas, and that you are going to keep them to the edges of field boundaries and bridleways and so forth?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Dr Edwards. Douglas Batchelor has indicated he would like to speak.

MR BATCHELOR: My experience is primarily in managing farm land and extensively farmed areas; so rather than intensive production, extensive production. In terms of hunting across that land, you can appreciate that, where the land is extensively managed, there is much less risk of accidental collision between the hunt and the livestock which may be on some or all of that land. So, from an animal welfare point of view of the non-quarry species, drag hunting across extensively farmed areas is much less challenging than it would be across intensively farmed areas, whether that is livestock or cropping. When you come also to talking about landholding sizes in areas where the agriculture is extensive, the average size of holding is considerably larger. So I think we are perhaps oversimplifying here what typical holding sizes are. When you then get down to, "Can you or can you not predict the course of the hunt?", if you are going to hunt across extensive cropping, or extensive land, when we are talking about grazing such as Exmoor you have quite a lot of land to play with, and you can in fact lay a trail away from roads, railways, across land which farmers would find more acceptable to be ridden across. In fact, therefore, I believe more land might become available to the hunt than is currently the case when you simply have to accept it on an all or nothing basis. So I believe that, in a way, when the opportunity for more extensive use of land for diversification can be managed, diversification rather than random diversification, there may well be land owners who do not currently allow hunting who would allow it on that basis.

LORD SOULSBY: We have been talking about drag hunting with respect to fox hunting, as a diversion from fox hunting. But what about the other quarried species; can drag hunting be applied to them in the same way as you are saying that fox hunting is converted to drag hunting?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Soulsby. Kevin Hill would like to speak on that.

MR HILL: Lord Soulsby, I have been on, what do you call it, a drag hunt, sorry, coursing event in the West Country. This virtually mimics live hare coursing, except of course at the end of the day there are no dead hares. Now, basically the mechanics of this are pretty much identical to live hare coursing. You have a coursing field; you have all the people; you have a judge and you have stewards. The only difference is that at the end of the day there is no dead animal. Basically, what the dogs chase is a plastic bag, which is wound fairly swiftly across the course; and the dogs will chase that. This also does have welfare benefits for the dogs because they do not go chasing that bag any further than the end of the course; they stop. In other words, they do not go three fields away, running through hedges or fences and getting injured. It is much fairer, dog owners have told me, because each dog will run the same distance. So, when it goes into the next round, it has run 300 or 400 yards; the same as the dog which is next to it. With live hare coursing now, you could have a situation where one dog runs three or four fields away, and one field stops. So it is becoming very, very popular.

LORD SOULSBY: What about the red deer?

MR SWANN: Lord Soulsby, I know that the instance I spoke of before, down in the South of England, is drying to mimic the deer hunting type of experience. I do not know whether that would be specific to red deer, but all I can really do is repeat those comments made at that time; that the chap trying to organise it is quite convinced that what he can put together is a suitable replacement for that type of activity. But that is the only evidence I have on that particular point. I do not know if any others -- yes, Mike Huskisson would like to say a brief word.

MR HUSKISSON: Yes, Lord Soulsby, it is not actually on deer, but I know that the hunting literature refers to an instance in the past where people have set up drag hunts with beagles. So they have actually been hunting the humane scent on foot, so that is a mimic, a replacement for the hunting of the hare with packs of beagles. If I can say something on the matter of the unpredictability of drag hunting, many is the time when I have been out with quarry hunts and the hounds have been put into the wood; the quarry has come out; and they have cursed because it has gone the wrong way. They have said "If only it had gone that way, we would have had a beautiful bit of open country to jump over." But, instead of doing that, the fox has nipped around the back of someone's farm, and it has gone off across the main road where we cannot get near it. There is an unpredictability in that quarry hunting but it is not always welcome. Sometimes, the knowledge you are going to get a good ride over open country, with plenty of good jumps, is not unwelcome.

THE CHAIRMAN: Presumably, with drag coursing -- and again we have not yet seen it, although we are hoping to see it before the Inquiry is over -- this runs in a straight line. Unless there is something I have missed, I do not quite see how you can mimic the process of the hare turning and the greyhounds actually turning the hare. Presumably, it is more akin to stadium racing, except that it is in a straight line rather than around a track.

MR SWANN: Lord Burns, Kevin will answer that one again.

MR HILL: Yes, your observations are right, Lord Burns. Basically, the course that I have seen is along a 350 to 400 yards long track. It is on a slight incline. There are some deviations to the path that the actual plastic bag takes. So there is some movement from right to left with the dogs, but, basically, it is the first dog to the end of the track which actually wins.

THE CHAIRMAN: Is there any experience in Germany of this? Have they done anything that is any more sophisticated in terms of drag coursing?

MR SWANN: Sorry, Lord Burns, I do not have any actual information on that type of activity. I know that Douglas Bachelor is itching to say something on the subject of drag hunting, if you will permit that.

MR BATCHELOR: I think it is only to point out that, if you were listening to this debate, you would believe that hunting was the only equine pursuit in the countryside. I think 93 per cent of the horses are not actually engaged in hunting. There are all sorts of, if you like, equine pursuits and trekking, orienteering, anything else you care to name, on horseback in the countryside. I think there is a danger here of losing the focus of what horses are actually used for in the countryside.

THE CHAIRMAN: That, however, I may say, is our terms of reference. If people wish to pursue those other activities, then they are already free to do so. What we are pressing is the question of the substitutes, really, for quarry hunting. I think Professor Marsh has a question. I think we had better move on to the issue of implementation.

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: I just wanted to go back to the point we did not really cover, which was why, in a sense, farmers could allow drag hunting to take place over their land. If we are told at the moment I believe, perhaps mistakenly, that they get some pest control benefit of it, that that ceases to be the case, it has been suggested that they might be paid to do this. Now, from whom is the money coming to pay them?

MR SWANN: Thank you, Sir John. I think David Coulthread will want to speak brief only on this, but I would like to make just a general point. In drag hunting, looking at it as a viable alternative, we are trying to present you with an overview of the possibilities that exist, not in such a way that it is something that we try to design for our own purposes, but we are looking at the alternatives as to what is possible and what can be done. Obviously, as drag hunting progresses, in trial and error and with experience, then the sport will evolve into something that probably none of us, sat around here, will have the wisdom to predict exactly in what form that sport will take place, but that it will continue is the point that we probably wish to make stronger than any other. I think David Coulthread would like to answer your specific point.

MR COULTHREAD: I think one of the points to be made is: it was suggested that with the potential for charging farmers for people to race across their lands, it could have the consequence of increasing the running costs of the drag hunts as opposed to the fox hunts. The one point I would make, initially, is that of course the costs of running a drag hunt are rather less than from running fox hunt, simply because there are less hounds involved in the first place. So to an extent, the costs are offset. So, really, a lot of the source for the day's hunt probably comes from the same -- in exactly the same way as it does already today, which is from the CAP, and from the subscription which hunters pay. The other point I would like to add is that if farmers are likely to derive an income from drag hunts on the land, then of course the potential land available for people to drag hunt across does become that much greater. One of the things I would point to is an NOP poll that I referred to earlier, where a number of farmers who currently do not allow fox hunting on their land will allow drag hunting on their land. So there are a number of farmers who actually feel that drag hunting is rather more attractive to them than life quarry hunting.

LORD SOULSBY: Just a very quick question. You have given a number of examples where drag hunting does actually take place. This happens for the whole range of reasons, not just because the chase of the foxes is illegal -- North America it is, because they do not want to disperse foxes because of rabies in New England. But I do not get an idea that there is a lot of drag hunting for deer going on anywhere in the world. If that is so, is that because it is not a popular or applicable alternative, whereas with foxes it could be an applicable alternative?

MR SWANN: Lord Soulsby, the only evidence I have managed to try and forage up on this one was related to woodland hunting in some parts of Europe, where historically there appears to have been a certain type of forested drag hunt which took place, which I cannot decide whether it is more applicable to deer hunting or whether it is perhaps more applicable to other large quarry. But the circumstances of this was to lay a drag through what was quite dense woodland, and it was a different category of sport altogether. It has evidently died out. I actually asked one of these organisations with an office in Germany to trawl throughout the country to find any evidence of it still being in existence, but it is not. So all I can go back to is the historical text. That is only the reference I have been able to find of drag hunting regarding stags or deer.

LORD SOULSBY: So it is not really an ultimate that other people have adopted. I am not saying it happens in this country, but elsewhere, it is not applicable?

MR SWANN: Not to my knowledge, Lord Soulsby, although I think it does not detract at all from the argument that it is a possibility, in that the fact it is not done elsewhere does not really take away from the fact that it could perhaps be done.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. Shall we move on to the final issue of implementing a ban, which we have been asked to comment on. Could I first put the question to seek confirmation from you of what you would see as the scope of a ban, and any possible exceptions to that ban.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. Rachel Newman and David Thomas will handle legal questions. I think Rachel has indicated she will take this one.

MS NEWMAN: We would like to see a very simple and clear ban that simply bans the intentional hunting of wild mammals with dogs. That would be a very limited scope, it would not have any impact on drag hunting, on shooting, on the dog walker whose dog runs off and accidentally attacks a mammal. We believe that an outright ban would need consideration of three simple concepts: what is hunting; and then you need to look at the issue of intention; and then, as you rightly say, look at the question of exemptions. I do not know whether you want me to deal with the issues of hunting and intention.


MS NEWMAN: Okay. Before I go on, could I simply say those are the three issues that would need to be considered. The other powers that are needed, such as police powers, the important measures, and the powers that are given to the courts are already found throughout animal welfare legislation anyway, and there is no need, probably, to re-invent the wheel on those. You would only need to turn to look at the Protection of Animals 1911, the Badger's Act 1992 or the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996, which has ample enforcement provisions in it. Turning to the issue which I raised; which was what is hunting and whether or not that needs to be defined, I think there will be an issue for drafters at the time. There was a definition of hunting in Mike Foster's bill. That came out during the Committee stage, and the Home Office Minister at the time made a statement that the common English language ordinary usage meaning was all that is necessary; people know what is meant by hunt and hunting. I think there is further evidence of that, in that in order to exempt hunting, the terms "hunt" and "hunting" appear quite regularly through animal welfare legislation. There are no definitions in that. It has not caused, or required detailed case law or lengthy analysis. It seems to be accepted that "hunting" has its normal English usage meaning. I think it is quite clear that "hunting" means the initial pursuit before the search, before the scent has been picked up; the pursuit of the animal; the attack; and any injury and any kill. I think it is fairly common ground that that is what it involves, hunting. As I said, we would very much like to see a simple offence of intentional hunting. We raise the issue of intention ourselves because it has been heard. We have seen the arguments and recognised the problem of non-intentional hunting. It is the example that is often cited of the dog walker whose dog runs off and attacks another animal: are they hunting or not? If you were to accept our primary offence of intentional hunting a wild mammal with a dog, they would not be guilty; they have not committed an offence. It is for that reason that we would suggest that the word "intentional hunting" would be incorporated into any legislation. As for exemptions, again, we recognise that there will need to be exemptions. It is a difficult one for the welfare organisations because it is argued that those that perceive they have a need to continue hunting, which need to make out their own case. It is very difficult for us to make the case for them, but we would recognise there was likely to be exemptions for legitimate pest control, for food for human consumption, for needs of a single dog to track or retrieve animals from above ground; they are the sort of exemptions that we would anticipate somebody making a case of.

THE CHAIRMAN: The issue of intent is clearly a difficult one. In some areas it may be easier than others. I can envisage circumstances of people going out with greyhounds in the evening, and walking over a field where they know there is a reasonable chance that there might be hares. A hare is put up, and the greyhound goes after it. How do you demonstrate intent in this? I mean, you are into a world of probabilities. If I go and do something where there is a reasonable chance that some event might happen, does that signify intent? I see it in other issues I have been I engaged in, financial services, et cetera, where demonstrating intent proves to be enormously difficult.

MR SWANN: Before I pass that over to our legal people over there, I will just make the point that similar comparison could be drawn to livestock chasing. If I were to walk out with my dog, and my dog was not under suitable control in a field where there were livestock, and it ran off, chased and did actual damage to sheep, then I would be liable in law because I had not kept my dog under control, knowing that there was a likelihood that it would inflict damage in those circumstances. So I guess there are precedents in other fields in which this could be looked at. I am waffling off my subject. I am going to pass this over to David Thomas.

MR THOMAS: Lord Burns, the issue of intent, as you have touched on, is of course one that is endemic to the whole criminal law. Most criminal offences the prosecution has to prove intent. Of course, in this particular context, that gives protection to the sort of people that you alluded to; people out walking their dogs and so forth. Unless the prosecution, the Crown Prosecution Service, feels confident that it can establish beyond all reasonable doubt that the person has not only done the thing which is prohibited by the Act but also has the requisite intention, then no prosecution is going to be brought. Indeed, I take it a stage further back, no arrest will take place in the first place. So we see that as an important protection, as Rachel has said, very deliberately; any legislation will, it is hoped, make it clear that this is only dealing with intentional hunting. Therefore, if that requisite degree of intent is not there, then simply no prosecution will get off the ground. The other way of looking at this of course is that there are difficulties of establishing intent in all sorts of areas of the criminal law because, essentially, what one has to do is to get inside the defendant's mind. But the way that the criminal justice system deals with that is to rely on the good sense of magistrates, or the Crown Court juries, to decide, looking at the evidence as a whole: can we say with the requisite degree of certainty that there is the intent? If not, then there will be no conviction.

THE CHAIRMAN: Could I move on and ask a question about whether you see any case for a phasing in period, if there were to be a ban? It has been suggested that, in many cases, there may be some quite substantial effects upon individuals, upon businesses and indeed upon the dogs themselves. The issue arises as to whether this would be better achieved by having a process which was phased in, rather than something which came in overnight. Is this an issue that you have any views on? Obviously, I qualify all my remarks with if there were to be a ban.

MR SWANN: My legal colleagues indicate to me that they do not wish to comment on this, but I think in general principle we believe that there is not a substantial need proven for a lead period, given that we expect that most people will carry on riding their horses and most people will find alternative activities. I think this, with respect, Lord Burns, would be a recommendation coming from your committee if you saw an actual need. I think it would be frivolous of us to make recommendation on topics that we do not yet have the relevant information to hand.

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: Can I ask you a question of the actual implementation of the legislation, in the sense that it is something that takes place in areas remote from close supervision by authorities; and it would take place in some instances at least probably without the necessary consent of the local community. How do you visualise this as representing problems in enforcement, and if you like in the evenness of enforcement across the country as a whole?

MR SWANN: Rachel Newman will answer that, Sir John.

MS NEWMAN: I think it is a very difficult question. Simply because a matter may be hard to enforce does not mean that it should not be bought in as the law. One would hope that, once an activity has been made illegal, it would die out. One thought does occur to me is that hunts I think -- because hunting is in the spotlight at the moment -- is quite well-policed as it stands for fear of public order offences. So it may be that this would not cause any additional burden anyway; that is already being policed. But there are a lot of incidents which the RSPCA is involved in which do require covert surveillance, such as digging for badgers and things that are in rural places, undercover, often in the middle of the night. They are difficult to enforce, but we will find a way of doing it.

PROFESSOR SIR JOHN MARSH: Could I just follow that with a slight supplementary, which is what was in the back of my mind is that there might be, if you like, a transition towards other forms of pursuit of animals other than the official ones, which might actually, in terms of the welfare of the animals, be certainly undesirable. I am concerned in a sense about the effect of monitoring this, which is a much more diffused activity than, as it were, the organised hunting structures which you see at the moment.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Sir John. I am going to give David Thomas the opportunity to talk on this one as well, but I am reminded of comments that were made to me by one of my family not so long ago; that there is no longer anywhere to hide in the countryside. David, thank you.

MR THOMAS: Of course, evidence is necessary for any question of enforcement as Rachel said. The mere fact that in some situations enforcement might be difficult is no reason not to legislate. If that were the case, then all sorts of crimes, child abuse and so forth, which take place within the privacy of people's homes, would not be criminalised, and clearly they are. As far as the organised end of hunting with dogs is concerned, I think it would be necessary to build in any legislation that the power not to be used routinely, but a power to be available to the courts to forfeit dogs, or objects that are used in hunting, where someone is convicted if the court believes that the defendant has been convicted is intent on carrying on the activity, irrespective of the law, or of the fact of the conviction. Of course, the result of that would be that whatever that person may in future wish to do, they will not have the wherewithal to do it. I accept that does not deal with all the problems because some of the activities in relation to hunting are not organised in the same sense, and are surreptitious. But, as Rachel has said, that goes for all sorts of other animal welfare legislation, and all sorts of other legislation generally. The mere fact that it may be difficult in some cases, not insuperable difficulties but the fact that there may be difficulties, is no reason not to legislate in the way that clearly reflects the whole community.

THE CHAIRMAN: I think one of my concerns about this, and I am simply referring to some of the material I have read, is that some types of what we have been categorising here as hunting with dogs will be much easier to enforce than others. I mean, it will clearly be easier to enforce a large pack of fox hounds or deer hounds. Terrier work, coursing, people using lurchers at night, or using them when foxes have been bolted, are going to be much more difficult to identify and to track. Is there not a danger of stopping those activities which are regulated and ending up with activity being transferred into areas which are unregulated? Although that may itself be reason for not legislating, as we know from other areas, this can be a process which does bring the law into disrepute. And it causes a good deal of unhappiness about uneven treatment of different activities.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. I think these are concerns that most people who deal with animal welfare would have in regard to a vast range of animal-related activities, because there is always the risk of driving things underground. Although experience would show, over the years that, as legislation has come in, I am not aware of any covert bull baiting that goes on, or really to any great extent that activities such as cock fighting, which may just flare up sporadically, but are very quickly recognised and are very quickly dealt with. I think there are precedents to indicate that previous bans on sporting activities have not resulted in an extensive undercover extent of illegal activity. I am going to pass this one to Douglas Batchelor, who I think may have some additional comments.

MR BATCHELOR: I think just two comments for the benefit of the Committee. In terms of page 7 of the evidence, we submitted a poll in 1985, showed that only 17 per cent of the residents of Somerset, the area of polling, were actually in favour of hunting and 58 per cent were against. All the other opinion polling dates that we have shows the majority of people who live in the countryside are against hunting. There are, in effect, a lot of monitors out there, in addition to our own members, who are very keen to see hunting banned, and who will be watching this very carefully. We regularly get piles of information about the activities of hunts, both legal and illegal, as do the RSPCA. So I believe, in terms of the enforceability of a ban, where there is a public desire for a ban and public support for a ban, the information will be able to force it into law and order to enable them to carry out that ban.

THE CHAIRMAN: One last question. I cannot in a sense avoid saying that the one group of people who do, however, appear to be substantially in favour of hunting are farmers whose land it is that the activity actually takes place on.

MR BATCHELOR: I think the only comment I would add to that is that the polling data suggests that, while some farmers are in favour, the majority of the people who live in the rural areas are against. Even the majority of farmers on the basis of the survey data appeared to be against hunting.

THE CHAIRMAN: I am not sure that is -- but we must rapidly move on.

DR VICTORIA EDWARDS: I wonder if I might return to -- I think I heard you right in saying that you would favour a clear ban but with some exceptions policy. Which leads me to other suggestions that you have made, that Britain needs a sensible management plan policy for the whole of mammals. I think it is recognised that we do not have that at the moment. With relation to, for example, exceptions policy, I wondered if you could just expand very briefly on the detail that might be given to that work; who might be in charge of administering it; what sort of work is involved.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Dr Edwards. I think David Thomas is going to answer that, but perhaps as a supplementary comment.

MR THOMAS: All I was going to say, Dr Edwards, is that there may be arguments for all sorts of things that need to take place to improve life in the country for people, or for wildlife. But this particular measure, if it became law, is a limited, self-contained measure. The fact that other things may need to happen in the countryside, which may need to happen in relation to wildlife in particular, is no reason I think to make a necessary link between those two. In other words, one could have this limited targeted proportion of measure and not do anything else. One could certainly want to do other things, but it is not a necessary consequence of this particular measure which is put by you. I am not sure if I understood your question properly.

DR VICTORIA EDWARDS: If I could follow up on that, I thought I understood you to mean that in some cases you would recognise existing quarry species as pests, and that there might be a case in some cases for exceptions in terms of a ban. I just wondered -- if I am right, and that is what you were suggesting -- then who would make a decision as to what those exceptions should be and when.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Dr Edwards. I think our view on that would be that it would be up to the people who wished to apply for an exemption to make a case based on circumstances, and to show that there was a just need to have a particular type of exemption. I do not feel that we could possibly predict any and every type of situation that might result in an exemption being asked for. I think in this respect the one thing that we will state quite categorically is that exemptions would not include hunting with dogs, that we would want a total ban on. But exemptions to control certain species at certain times, it would be on the basis of there being a shown need; there would be a need to show a natural requirement that this had to be done.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much. I think we had better bring this session to a close. There is just one issue. Douglas Batchelor has indicated to me that he would like to make a statement about the composition of the committee. This puts me in a difficult position. It is not an issue for the Committee; it is an issue for the Home Secretary. It is also not a matter for the agenda of this Committee today. I think I have to say that I would seek to disuade him from making a statement I would not be able to inlcude it in the record for this session because we will not have the opportunity to respond. I hope that if there are issues you can do this on another occasion.

MR SWANN: Thank you, Lord Burns. Can I also say we are pleased you have gone into the issues in the detail you have. We feel we have had an opportunity to present our primary case. Thank you.

THE CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much.

(Short break).  

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Date uploaded to site 13 April 2000