Evidence from the League Against Cruel Sports
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
To download the entire submission select a format :
League Submission (Word97 zip)
League Submission (text zip)
League Submission (pdf)
Evidence for consideration by the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs.
The League was formed in 1924 to campaign for the abolition of cruel sports.
The League believes that hunting and killing wild mammals with dogs is cruel and barbaric and has no place in a modern society.
The League is concerned that the Inquiry may find it extremely difficult to avoid charges of bias in its work and its findings due to the links between some members of the team and organizations and individuals closely associated with the pro hunting lobby.
In submitting evidence the League does so in the hope that the Inquiry team will be able to refute, by their actions and findings, any possible charges of a pro hunting bias in the make up, work and findings of the committee.
The League believes that a ban on all forms of hunting and coursing wild mammals with dogs is essential.
The League calls on the Inquiry team to separate the culture of rural pursuits from the cruelty of animal abuse in the name of sport.
The early cessation of live mammal hunting and the development on new ‘cruelty free’ sports affords an opportunity for rural business development and for improving the quality of life in the countryside.
Executive summary of evidence presented.
The League believes that the evidence clearly shows that:
Most studies of hunting with dogs have been carried out by organisations such as the League Against Cruel Sports or the British Field Sports Society (now called the Countryside Alliance). It would be fair to view such studies as being produced from either an anti or pro hunting viewpoint. However, over the past few decades hunting has come under more scrutiny and academic study. Two of England’s leading experts on the ecology of wild mammals, David MacDonald of Oxford University and Stephen Harris of Bristol University, have produced a number of studies on the role of hunting in controlling the species they hunt. Both of these leading academics have independently concluded that hunting plays no part in controlling foxes. David MacDonald concluded that hunting should be viewed purely as a sport (1).
Recent studies into the economics of hunting, again by independent academics such as Neil Ward of Newcastle University and Douglas MacMillan of the University of Aberdeen have independently concluded that hunting is of economic insignificance to the rural economy. Significantly they also suggest that if live quarry hunting were to end there might be an increase in equine and social activities in rural communities.
Patrick Bateson, Provost of Kings College and Secretary to the Royal Society, has also carried out physiological studies of deer. His conclusion that hunted deer suffer unacceptably, which has been supported by fellow scientists, led the National Trust to ban deer hunting on their land.
The studies by independent academics throw new light on a debate that, up to recently, had been conducted by people whose views were either strongly for or strongly against hunting. The new evidence, which supports investigations and research by the League Against Cruel Sports, shows that hunting is an unnecessarily cruel sport, carried out by a small but vocal minority, which is based on a culture of killing animals. There can be no justification for the continuation of such an activity in the present day and age.
Hunting with dogs is largely irrelevant to keeping down the numbers of their quarry species. Fox hunting, the most common form of hunting with dogs, kills at most 4% of those foxes that die each year (2). Given that the remaining 96% of fox deaths are occurring regardless of foxhunting and that, according to European studies, the fox population can survive an annual mortality rate of 80%, it is extremely difficult to find any justification for hunting as a legitimate part of fox population control. Indeed, there is considerable evidence to show that foxhunts may even encourage artificially high fox populations purely to ensure they have a ready supply to hunt.
David MacDonald published his report on fox hunting, The Impact of Sport Hunting: a Case Study, in 1996. This comprehensive survey of hunting in Great Britain was conducted with the cooperation of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, which urged Masters of the hunts to reply to questionnaires, which MacDonald sent them. 80 Masters replied and some allowed him the use of their diaries. The study is arguably the best available objective survey of hunting available.
The study revealed that in each season, there was an average of 25 days cubhunting and 70 days of ‘hunting proper’. On each hunting day the hunt convenes at a particular district or ‘meet’. The average proportion of hunting days that were at meets visited only once was 47.9%, 32.3% twice, 13.1% three times, 8.1% four times. (1). There are some regional variations, but the typical hunt meets in most places only once or twice a year. In the course of a days hunting they may travel across country and revisit land over which they have previously hunted in that particular season. But most foxhunts tend to hunt over most land in their country only once or twice a year. Foxes may escape during the course of being hunted and there is no guarantee of a kill. It is therefore extremely difficult to justify hunting as an exercise in local fox population control.
David Macdonald’s study led him to conclude that "The available circumstantial evidence suggest to us that it may be more realistic, at least outside the context of upland sheep-farming areas, to think of foxhunting more of a sport than as a method of fox control (1).
Fox hunts which hunt on foot, such as the Cumbrian fell-packs, frequently justify their sport as the only means of keeping fox numbers down in the terrain they hunt over. These claims have been thoroughly discredited by the exposure of the largest artificial earth yet discovered in fell pack territory together with the admission from the huntsman of the Coniston Foxhounds that he regards hunting solely as a sport.
On February 20th 1987, in the TV programme "Face the Public", Chris Ogilvie, huntsman of the Coniston Foxhounds, a fell pack, was asked about his foxhunting activities. He stated ‘I don’t hunt foxes to control them and neither does any hunting person’. At this the programme’s host interjected with a series of short questions.
Host: "So what do you hunt them for?"
Chris Ogilvie: "We hunt them for sport"
Chris Ogilvie: "Yes"
Host: "For pleasure?"
Chris Ogilvie: "Yes….for pleasure"
Master of fox-hounds, Captain RE Wallace stated that ‘As I have said, we are not a pest destruction society. I would rather account for a fox at the end of a good run than ‘chop’ it at the beginning.’(3)
‘If the real purpose of hunting was to kill the fox, then a huntsman would draw coverts according to a technique more or less the opposite of that used.’(4)
The fox has frequently been portrayed as a major killer of farm livestock. Claims made by hunting organisations have even included claims that foxes attack cows. Professor Harris has concluded that foxes can actually be of net benefit to farmers. "Foxes do not warrant their reputation as major pests of agriculture. Losses of lambs, piglets and poultry to foxes are insignificant relative to other causes of mortality. Vastly greater improvements in lamb survival can be made by improving husbandry than by fox control. Local problems with fox predation of livestock can be prevented by electric fencing and secure housing. Foxes can be beneficial by consuming rabbits and other pests of agricultural crops." (5)
Harris points out that of the land used for agriculture in the UK, 25% is under crops and much of the remaining land is used for dairy and beef production (6). Foxes are not a pest on arable, dairy or beef farms, which use the majority of the land used for agriculture in the UK.
The argument that farmers support hunting due to universal agreement that foxes are a pest that need controlling do not bear up to farmers’ actual views. When asked about their views: 70% of all farmers did not believe the number of foxes on their farms was harmful; 64% suffered no financial loss from damage proven to have been caused by foxes; 2% claimed losses of more than £100 per year (in 1974) from damage that was attributed to foxes; and, 46% considered foxes to be useful in controlling rabbits and rodents. (7).
The main argument put forward for keeping fox numbers down is their predation on sheep, pigs and poultry. Around one fifth of lambs die shortly after birth (8) of which 0.5%, and at most, 3% of otherwise viable lambs may be taken by foxes (9). Foxes are sometimes seen on fields where ewes are giving birth but they are more likely to be looking for lamb carcasses and afterbirth. The small number of newly born lambs which may be taken by foxes represents a very small economic loss to sheep farmers compared with other causes of death. One study of lamb deaths gave the following causes: abortion and stillbirth, 40%; exposure and starvation, 30%; disease, 20%; congenital defect, 5%; misadventure and predation (including dogs and foxes), 5%. (10). The death rate of one in five new born lambs is high and may be due in part to the upland areas where many lambs are farmed, but given the small number of those that die due to fox predation, it would make better economic sense for sheep farmers to look at ways of reducing mortality from the main causes of lamb deaths. There is evidence that increasing winter feed available to ewes reduces the number of lambs reportedly killed by foxes. (11)
‘Considering the number of foxes in most areas, if most of them killed lambs habitually the losses would be astronomical. Since they are not, I presume most foxes rarely or never kill a lamb’ (12)
Pig losses are less easy to quantify due to the lack of scientific studies. Foxes are less likely to take newborn pigs than lambs because sows are better able to defend their offspring. Outdoor pig herds are most likely to be victim to fox predation. A telephone survey of pig farmers, carried out by Bristol University found that: 69% of outdoor pig farmers reported no problems with foxes; 25% reported minor problems with less than 1% of piglets thought to be lost to foxes; and, 6% had major problems with foxes reputedly taking more than 1% of piglets (5). Outdoor pig herds suffer higher levels of natural mortality. Harris reports that between £5.3million and £6.8million may be lost to outdoor pig farmers losing piglets to natural causes, of which less than £150,000 is due to fox predation. Once again any losses due to foxes are only a very small part of overall mortality.
MacDonald endorses this view: "Existing evidence is that the general economic impact of fox predation on lambs and piglets is small, although particular cases can doubtless be severe." (1) The hunting season is no more than half a year and, as MacDonald shows, hunts usually meet at most venues only once in each season. There is no guarantee that the hounds will pick up the scent of a particular fox. Farmers are therefore extremely unlikely to rely on the hunt to deal with problem foxes. The most likely solution will be to shoot the animal.
The overwhelming majority of laying hens in the UK are kept indoors out of the reach of foxes. Of 43 million laying hens in 1993 only 2.5 million were free-range (6). Harris found that the top 30% most profitable free-range poultry units may not have suffered any loss to foxes at all. These units will tend to be the larger ones, which are in a better position to provide electric fencing. In 1993, 50 free-range units, representing 200,000 laying hens, had electric fencing protecting their flocks and none reported any losses to predators (13) Smaller units should be able to remedy problems from predators by better husbandry and ensuring their hens are securely locked in at night.
A Master of Foxhounds stated in a British Field Sports Society leaflet: ‘The staple diet of a fox is not, as so many people apparently imagine, hens and ducks. Indeed it is probably true to say that not five per cent of all the foxes in Christendom ever taste domestic poultry at all.... The majority of foxes live largely upon beetles, frogs, rabbits and wild birds: carrion does not come amiss to their diet, while they are the biggest destroyers of rats and mice in the world, far excelling the domestic cat in this useful art.’(14)
Deer hunting only takes part in a small part of Britain although deer are common throughout the UK. Indeed, there are more deer than foxes. Even where deer hunting does take place the number they kill is a very small part of the overall number culled by shooting. Annually across the UK at least 80,000 deer are killed by shooting. In the areas where deer hunting takes place an annual cull, mostly by shooting, of at least 1,000 takes place each year. Hunt records claim that around 150 deer are killed through hunting, but League monitors who regularly follow the deer hunts calculate that this figure is nearer to eighty. Given the small number of deer that they kill, deer hunts can only claim to be a minor part of deer population control in one small part of the UK. The key to the proper management of the deer in these areas is the Deer Initiative. The Deer Initiative proposes a responsible attitude to deer management and has the support of all major organisations involved apart from those organisations that represent hunts. The League is a member of the Deer Initiative.
The League owns 2,000 acres of land in the West Country which are managed as wildlife and deer sanctuaries. The League’s deer and wildlife management strategy is attached at appendix 8. It is possible for such sanctuaries to exist close to farm land and farmers can benefit from their proximity to League sanctuaries. Our practice of providing grazing land for deer has led to deer moving from farmland onto League land.
Dr Jochen Lanbein of the University of Southampton believes that deer hunting has a neutral effect on the conservation of red deer: ‘The current, relatively small contribution of hunting-to-hounds to the total annual cull does not suggest that hunting threatens the continued conservation of this species in the region. However, neither is the red deer distribution in the West Country limited by any means to those areas where hunting of deer continues to be practised: significant and increasing herds are present also throughout most other areas of west Somerset, north Devon and south into Cornwall. As such, ... the present impact of hunting on red deer should probably be viewed as being neutral with regard to conservation to the species in this region. The continuing controversy in this country surrounding hunting-to-hounds as a legal means of culling deer will thus need to be decided largely on the grounds of ethics, animal welfare and social considerations, rather than on the basis of the overall effect of hunting on the deer populations concerned’.(15)
Patrick Bateson’s report to the Council of the National Trust found that: "Lengthy hunts with hounds impose extreme stress on red deer and are likely to cause them great suffering. The hunts force them to experience conditions far outside the normal limits for their species. These stresses are at least at the same level as for severely injured deer and usually last for hours in the case of deer which are killed and much longer in those that escape. We could not judge, for the latter group, the likely extent of recovery but this does not efface the reality of the suffering caused. Moreover, the potential for such suffering occurs with every hunt." (16)
Sometimes even hinds in calf are hunted: ‘A hind, hunted and killed by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds in the River Exe just below Hele Bridge, near the deer sanctuary , owned by the League Against Cruel Sports, on Saturday, was found to be in calf. Replying to allegations made by the League, Col. I.M.Murphy, the master, said yesterday: ‘Of course it was in calf. They always are at this time of year, and of course it was exhausted – we do not catch them unless they are.’ He added that the hind-hunting season did not finish until the middle of March, and that it was perfectly normal to hunt hinds in calf at this time of year.’ (17)
Deer are a grazing animal whose main defence is short, rapid flight. Hunters claim their pursuit is natural and that they are substituting hounds for wolf packs. Deer are not designed for the chase imposed on them by the hunt. West Country hunters also claim that the deer are only tolerated because they provide sport for the hunters. This argument does not explain why healthy deer herds exist throughout the British Isles when hunting only occurs in parts of Devon and Somerset. The majority of Exmoor residents are opposed to deer hunting. A poll taken in 1985 found that only 17% approved of hunting deer with hounds whereas 58% opposed or had no view on hunting. (18). Many of the red deer population live on land where they are protected, such as National Trust owned land and League Against Cruel Sports’ wildlife sanctuaries. Even if a few hunters seek to demonstrate the ‘folly’ of banning hunting by shooting those deer which enter their land (see press cutting in appendix 8), there is enough land on which the deer are protected to ensure the continuation of a healthy red deer population.
There is tremendous economic potential to be gained from the continued presence of red deer herds on Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, where much deer hunting takes place, mainly arising from the growth in eco-tourism.
Hare hunting and coursing
Hare numbers are now so low that there can be no justification for the continued persecution of this indigenous species. According to a Joint Nature Conservation Committee report published in 1996 "The hare population today is probably at best only 20 per cent of that present just over a hundred years ago." This depressing view on hare numbers was confirmed by the UK Biodiversity Steering Group report of 1996 that included the brown hare in its list of 115 species in decline or under threat. The Countryside Alliance has defended hare coursing by claiming that coursing estates maintain healthy hare populations, yet the League has filmed hares being netted in East Anglia. When challenged by the media the people involved confirmed that the hares were being captured for coursing estates. This may explain why some coursing estates manage to produce abundant hares for coursing events. The hare is in danger in this country and if they are to be netted and transported it must be for repopulating areas where their numbers are low, not for killing for sport.
Hares are far more agile and quicker than rabbits and provide much better spectator sports. In coursing the aim is to assess the ability of greyhounds in turning the hare. Rabbits would not be able to provide this test of the greyhounds’ skills because they would be caught and killed in a matter of seconds. Hares are hunted for the same reasons; they provide a good chase.
Hare coursers and hunters claim that they are concerned about preserving hare numbers. But the same justification was used to defend otter hunting. It is extremely difficult to estimate the impact of coursing and hunting on the population levels of the hare. However we do know that the brown hare is a species in decline and under continuing threat. They are no longer generally considered to be a pest. The League has spoken to farmers in East Anglia who inform us that they are now pleased to see the hare who they previously considered a pest due to their practice of flattening crops to provide runs. Modern agricultural practices now provide runs for the hare along the ‘tram’ lines used by tractors.
Hare hunting and coursing are not concerned with controlling a pest but with providing human entertainment. However at its current population level the brown hare may not be able to survive continued persecution. Whilst they continue to be killed it is difficult to conduct scientific studies into their true population levels. It is in everyone’s interests to see a moratorium on the persecution of the hare. The League believes that as the UK Biodiversity Steering Group currently lists the hare, it should be a protected species.
Mink hunts often justify their activity because of the, frequently unjust, image of the mink as a ferocious predator. However, hunting is far less effective than trapping and far more disruptive of the waterways on which they hunt. The mink is a highly territorial animal and itinerant animals are constantly looking out for new territory of their own. The main effect of mink hunting is to remove the occasional mink and allow others to take up residence in the newly vacant territory. All evidence shows that trapping mink is a far more effective means of control than hunting.
Dr J Birks, of English Nature offers the following view on the effectiveness of mink hunting. ‘The suggestion that mink hunting controls mink is laughable. The number killed by hounds is insignificant. In five years one man trapped and shot 119 mink on a short stretch of Devon river; over the same period…the Devon and Cornwall Minkhunts killed only four mink, and only 84 mink in their entire hunting country – a tiny proportion of the mink culled naturally by the subtle influence of their territorial system.’ (19)
Mink hunting developed when otter hunting had to stop due to the protected status of the otter. Mink tend to reside in stretches of water previously occupied by otters. It is to these areas that conservationists are encouraging otters to return. The disruption caused by mink hunting has caused many organisations concerned with reintroducing otters to criticise mink hunting. The Otter Trust has said "We condemn mink hunting as it frequently disturbs otters and otter habitats." (20) The Royal Society for Nature Conservation states: "We are against mink hunting if it might cause disturbance to otters…if mink do need to be controlled, trapping, so long as it is part of a co-ordinated programme of control and research, is a better method than hunting which is very inefficient" (21).
‘Otter hunting with packs of hounds was banned in the UK in 1975. At least six of these packs switched to hunting mink… there have been a considerable number of reports of damage to river banks and their vegetation caused by hunt servants in attempting to dislodge mink from their dens.’ (22)
Answers to questions raised by the Inquiry
Back to top
Facts about hunting with dogs
The hunting of wild prey with hounds is not a fully controllable activity. While the hunters can control where they start to hunt, the evidence clearly shows that the wild animal chooses the course of the hunt, often leading the hunt onto land where horses, hounds and followers as well as innocent bystanders are at risk and on occasion in grave danger.
The evidence clearly shows that hounds often get well away from the huntsmen and the field and can cause havoc whilst not under close control.
The literature on hunting clearly shows that the event is primarily organised to provide a thrilling and unpredictable ride in the countryside.
Hunting frequently leads to hounds, huntsmen and followers trespassing on land where they are not welcome.
Hunting is neither kind nor harmonious with nature as the hunters claim.
Society no longer finds it acceptable that people should take their entertainment from the persecution of animals. The majority of rural dwellers, far from supporting hunting, oppose it and want it banned
Hounds hunting as a pack frequently run riot over fields with livestock, on roads and railways and onto school land in their pursuit of their prey. In so doing they cause unnecessary disruption, damage and trauma. Appendix 4a and 4b clearly shows that such incidents are a common feature of hunting.
Most factual information about hunting has been produced by hunters to promote their activities. In earlier years, when the hunters were less guarded about what they said, many appalling practices were admitted to such as the sawing off of foxes jaws to train young hounds to kill as part of a pack (23). As the campaign against hunting has gained pace in recent years and public opinion against hunting has grown, the hunting lobby have become far more guarded about both what they say and allow people to see.
All hunting with hounds is concerned with the observation and following of hounds bred specifically for the purpose. They may vary in size according to the terrain or species they hunt but they have all been bred to have tremendous stamina.
Hunts may last for many hours and the hounds are required to hunt to peak performance throughout the day’s sport. Followers, either on horseback, foot or vehicle, follow the hounds rather than the quarry. Indeed most followers do not see the kill. In the case of foxes, deer and hares the quarry is faster than the hounds, who gradually catch up due to their vastly superior stamina. If hounds were bred for speed there would be no chase and hunting would lose its value as a participatory sport.
In fox hunting the hounds are sent into coverts – usually areas of woodland where foxes are known to live – where they may pick up the scent of a fox and flush it out. If they do not succeed at the first covert they will move to another one until a fox is found. The night before the hunt, hunt servants will have blocked up boltholes such as fox earths, badger setts and drains down which foxes may attempt to escape in the area being hunted. The fox’s first instinct will be to seek refuge underground but it will have no alternative but to run as far and as fast as it can in order to escape the pack of around thirty hounds chasing after it. The fox, although initially faster than the hounds, has not evolved for long sustained chases. The hounds will continue to chase the fox until it either escapes, usually by finding refuge underground, or they catch up with and kill the exhausted animal.
Hunters claim that the lead hound dispatches the fox with a ‘nip to the back of the neck’ which kills it instantly. This claim does not stand up to scrutiny. In February 1999 a fox hunted by the Chiddingford, Leconfield and Cowdray hunt escaped down a hole and was rescued after the intervention of a police officer. The fox was subsequently taken to vet Richard Edwards, MRCVS, of the Alphabet Clinic, West Meads, who found that the animal was so severely stressed from the ordeal of being hunted that it would have died without treatment. Mr Edwards also recorded that the cub had bite marks to the back of its legs and rump. The fox had been caught up with by the pack, bitten from behind, and subsequently escaped. Had it not found refuge the pack would undoubtedly have overtaken and then killed it. There can be little doubt that it would not have been quickly dispatched in the way claimed by the hunt. A copy of the vet’s report is attached in appendix 2.
The hunters’ reliance on their claim that the lead hound dispatches the fox by a nip to the back of the neck was repeated in a video made by the British Field Sports Society to promote hunting. The footage shows a fox hunted by the Blencathra Fox Hunt being caught and killed by the hounds chasing it. The commentary stated that the fox was killed instantly by a bite to the back of the neck. The original unedited film, released by the Blencathra Foxhunt, shows the fox being savaged in the stomach by the leading hound and still struggling as the pack catches up and attacks it.
In fox hunting the fox is usually overwhelmed and savaged by the pack of hounds. It is difficult to confirm the cause of death in most cases. The League has obtained a number of corpses of foxes killed by foxhunts which were subsequently examined by independent vets. The post mortems show that a large number of fox corpses do not have any bites on the necks and that it is not uncommon for foxes killed in hunting to die from multiple wounds. Extracts from post mortems on foxes are attached in appendix 2.
The conclusions from the post mortem examinations show that packs of hounds kill in much the same way as other packs of canids which tend to bring their prey down by a series of bites to the most vulnerable parts of the body of their prey.
The hunted fox may also find refuge in an unblocked hole. Huntsmen term these foxes ‘unsporting’. At this stage terrier men are called in to enter their dogs into the hole either to bolt the fox for further hunting or to keep it in place while it is dug out.
Terrier work is closely associated with foxhunting and most hunts will have terrier men out with them on the hunt. Their purpose is to deal with foxes that have escaped by finding refuge, usually underground. Terriers are entered into the earth either to bolt the fox or to ensure it stays in place whilst the terrier men dig it out and kill it. Terrier men claim that their dogs hold the fox at bay but the instinct of the terrier is to attack the fox. There is considerable anecdotal, video and photographic evidence of terriers and foxes suffering injury as a result of the underground dogfights, which happen when terriers are entered after foxes. Hounds and foxes are members of the dog family and there is little doubt that terriers and foxes fight as a result of human actions. ‘Dogfights’ are currently illegal – unless they are conducted as part of digging out.
In September 1991, the League Against Cruel Sports successfully prosecuted a terrier man of the New Forest Foxhounds for cruelty to his terrier. He had entered the dog into a fox earth during a hunt and it had emerged injured, with blood streaming from its muzzle. Despite these injuries, the dog was encouraged to re-enter the hole instead of being removed for veterinary treatment. Magistrates considered this to be an offence under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act by causing unnecessary suffering to the dog. The fox has no protection if such activities are carried out in the name of ‘pest control’.
The process by which hounds are entered into the hunting is known as cub-hunting. Most hunt followers are probably not aware of this little publicised activity. In spite of the claim by hunters that hounds hunt by inherited instinct it is, nevertheless, necessary to train them by hunting with more experienced hounds.
In the three months leading up to the start of the main hunting season, usually early in the morning, hunt followers surround small areas of woodland where foxes are known to be living. The pack is entered into the covert to find and kill any foxes they find. By this means young hounds gain experience of killing foxes. Older experienced foxes are most likely to escape the hounds and avoid being driven back into the woodland by the hunt followers whose job it is to keep as many foxes as they can in the area to be killed by the hounds. Cub-hunting has since been renamed Autumn hunting in an attempt to disguise its true purpose, claiming that most foxes killed are nearly adult. However, it was the hunters themselves who called this activity cub-hunting. Vixens can give birth up to March and later and cub-hunting begins in August. Many of the foxes hunted and killed will be as young as four to five months.
Young hounds with little experience of killing foxes will not be efficient killers and many foxes must die agonising deaths. Cub-hunting is also the process by which older unfit hounds and younger hounds, which do not hunt to form, are identified. Hounds which are no longer part of the pack, or are not to be entered into it, will be shot.
There is common agreement, even among hunting’s supporters that cubhunting is one of the least acceptable elements of hunting:
‘Cubbing’ is an unsporting part of the sport in which hounds, including fresh young ones, are put into coverts containing foxes while the riders ring the wood to keep the foxes in. It is done to kill some of the cubs and to ‘introduce’ the new hounds to hunting
"There is a harder purpose to cubhunting that from the education of young hounds, for implicit in that education is learning to kill foxes and "…its primary object is to make hounds that will provide fun later on" (24)
"Never lose sight of the fact that one really well-beaten cub killed fair and square is worth half a dozen fresh ones killed the moment they are found without hounds having to set themselves to the task. It is essential that hounds should have their blood up and learn to be savage with their fox before he is killed."(25).
The Masters of Fox-Hounds Association claims that hunting is a self-regulating activity but there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence to show that they cannot keep within their own regulations. It is extremely difficult to control a group of dogs hunting as a pack. Wild animals fleeing for their lives will run wherever they can and this inevitably leads to trespass, pet and livestock killings and the death of the quarry before horrified observers. In drag hunting the hounds follow an artificial scent, which ensures that the pack goes where it is welcome. Appendix 4 illustrates the high degree of trespass associated with hunting.
‘Robin Page (one of fox hunting’s most vocal advocates) claims that foxhunting is the most humane way of controlling foxes. However he also admits it is "… the most inefficient"’(38).
There are proven links between hunting ‘people’ and illegal persecution of animals. League Against Cruel Sports records show that between 1986 and 1994 18 members of official working terrier clubs, and 11 officials and employees of registered Fox hunts were convicted of badger digging or other offences under badger protection legislation.
Back to top
Economic studies show that hunting is not of significant benefit to the rural economy. At most it provides 1,000 full time jobs many of which would continue if hunts converted to drag hunting.
The current close association between hunting and access to land for riding in the countryside is acting as a brake on the development of alternative countryside equine pursuits that could bring significant employment benefits to hard pressed rural areas.
The traditional fallen stock disposal service provided by hunts leads to the disposal of livestock and dead stock that is not subject to veterinary inspection prior to disposal. At a time of increasing public concern over production methods and farm animal welfare, the uninspected disposal of farmed animals without veterinary inspection is no longer appropriate. In cases where the animals disposed of may be used as hound food, the process should be subject to all the regulations that currently apply in licensed abattoirs.
Independent reports tend to support the view that hunting makes a minimal contribution to the rural economy. Douglas MacMillan of the University of Aberdeen concludes that in Scotland ‘a ban would have very little impact on either employment or expenditure in rural areas’ (27). Neil Ward of the University of Newcastle believes that claims that thousands of jobs will be lost are based on poor economic assumptions and that fewer than one thousand jobs will be lost, even assuming that employment provided by drag hunting does not increase after a ban on live quarry hunting (28).
The defenders of hunting have made a number of claims about the number of jobs provided by hunting. The Standing Conference on Countryside Sports figure in 1983 was 3,000. ‘Employment provided directly by the organisers of the [hunting] – 3,000’,‘…fox hunting and hare hunting collectively employed some 750 full-time staff who work in stables and kennels’ (29). However, by 1992 the Campaign for hunting were claiming a figure of 16,500, ‘So the direct employment generated by hunting is 16,500’ (30).
Neil Ward has looked at the economic claims made by the hunting lobby and concluded that their estimates are made on poor economic calculations and false assumptions. The main economic arguments used to support hunting have been drawn from figures from a 1997 study by Cobham Resource Consultants (CRC) which was commissioned by the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports. He points out that their estimates of expenditure by hunt organisers is based on a study carried out by the British Field Sports Society, but that the source was not referenced. Their figure for expenditure by those who participated in hunting was based on a fifteen year old survey of a 0.05% sample which had been subsequently adjusted by applying inflation indices at least twice. CRC calculated indirect employment provided by hunting by the using of multipliers, which ‘… are notoriously imprecise, contain a host of assumptions, and are strongly influenced by the quality of the data they rely on’ (28).
One of the main assumptions made by CRC appears to be that the majority of horses used in hunting will no longer be required in the event of a ban on hunting. Estimates on the number of horses used for hunting vary, but it is highly unlikely that any more than a small proportion will be used exclusively for hunting. David Macdonald’s report shows that mounted hunting only takes place on 70 days over a five month period. Most mounted hunt followers will be unable to participate in the three hunts per week which take place over this period. Few studies have been made of how regularly the average mounted follower goes hunting, but even assuming that horse owners go hunting every available weekend they will still only hunt 21 days from November to March. Horse owners would need to be extremely wealthy to afford to pay the livery, vets and feeding costs of horses they only use occasionally.
Ward points out that the 1996 National Equestrian Survey (British Equestrian Trade Association, 1996) found that a total of 60,000 horses had been used for hunting at least once in the previous 12 months. The survey calculated that of these, 35,000 horses were kept for dual purposes including hunting and the remaining 25,000 were kept for multiple purposes including hunting, riding for pleasure and at least one other specified purpose.
Most people who hunt do so as a part of their general riding activities. Hunting takes place during the coldest part of the year and horse owners may even increase their riding out of the hunting season. They will continue to use all the services associated with the maintenance of horses regardless of whether hunting is banned. Ward points out that most of the expenditure and employment figures in the CRC report are based on grossly inflated assumptions about the number of horses used exclusively for hunting.
There are around 300 hunts, which employ an average of 3 people (31). Masters’ responses to Macdonald also support this figure (2) and the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports estimated that fox and hare hunting employed some 750 full-time staff (29) . There are thus no more than one thousand jobs directly dependent on hunting. There is very little indirect employment provided by hunting because hunting is spread throughout the UK and its contribution to local village economies is also thinly spread.
In the months approaching the second reading of Michael Foster’s Bill to ban hunting in November 1997 one report estimated the loss of 1,000 jobs in the pub business. The Macdonald report shows that most hunts meet at each venue once and occasionally twice a year. No public house will close because the hunt fails to turn up to its annual meet. However, if the sums spent throughout the hunt season by every hunt are then applied to the costs of employing pub staff it could be argued that they spend the equivalent of a number of pub jobs. This is not the same as providing the employment which the report claimed.
The Rural and Agricultural Workers (RAAW) section of the Transport and General Workers Union supports a ban on hunting and is on record as stating that there will be no significant job losses. RAAW are the union which represents rural workers. They are far more concerned with the job losses which have occurred in agriculture due to changes in farming methods and technology and the shift to larger farms. The Union of Country Sports Workers (UCSW) is a new organisation formed in recent years specifically to defend hunting. RAAW has been in existence for many more years than UCSW. UCSW will be submitting evidence to the inquiry. Members of the Inquiry should be aware that RAAW, which has a legitimate claim to represent all agricultural workers, believes that hunting should be banned.
Many of the arguments made in defence of hunting rely on a static view of the rural economy. The assumption that a job, once lost, will not be replaced does not bear up to economic reality. Ward points out that any potential job losses from a hunting ban will be spread nationally throughout the rural economy, in marked contrast to some of the job losses which have occurred with the closure of large plants, such as rural factories or coal mines. There may be a few areas where employment provided by hunting is higher than elsewhere but even in these few pockets the employment provided is comparatively small and, as MacMillan points out, there is potential for alternative employment in the event of a hunting ban. ‘Data for West and Mid-Lothian, the former territory of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt, reveals that, since 1991 when the hunt was disbanded, horse numbers have increased faster than in any other area of Scotland’ (32).
There is undoubtedly an increase in the concern of the British public for animal welfare, which is demonstrated in all independent opinion polls which show that the public, from all parts of the UK, overwhelmingly oppose hunting. Many people who wish to take up equine activities may feel barred from doing so because of associations with hunting. It is notable that when the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt closed, the rate of increase in horse numbers grew faster than anywhere else in Scotland, suggesting that the existence of the hunt may have discouraged horse ownership and the jobs associated with it.
The hunting lobby have placed great emphasis on the jobs associated with hunting and have warned of thousands of job losses in the event of a ban on hunting. A number of hunts have closed or merged with neighbouring hunts over the past few decades. The New Forest BuckHounds closed after the Foster Bill was introduced. There have been a number of opportunities to study the effects of the closure of a hunt and it would be reasonable to assume that the British Field Sports Society, now called the Countryside Alliance, would have commissioned, and published, such a study if they were duly concerned.
Hunts also provide a service to farmers in the collection of fallen stock. Hunt kennels dispose of around 100,000 tonnes of animal waste every year in Wiltshire (33). If this figure is extrapolated nationally hunts may be collecting millions of tonnes of fallen stock. Macdonald believes that the current amount of fallen stock being collected by kennels is a recent development resulting from problems in the rendering industry. Whereas renderers previously paid farmers for animal waste they removed they are now having to charge them for the service. Kennels which use some of the fallen stock to feed their hounds, are able to collect some of the fallen stock previously collected by the renderers but they are not able to provide a collection service to farmers at a price they are happy to accept (33).
It is likely that the estimates of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste are high, but even so the League is concerned that hunt kennels may not be equipped, and will not able, to cope with the additional fallen stock they may be collecting within legal food and hygiene legislation. A number of hunt officials have been successfully prosecuted for failing to dispose of fallen stock properly, in some cases blood from carcasses drained into rivers (see appendix 4d). It is very doubtful that they will be able to process the significant increase in fallen stock and meet and fully comply with health and safety regulations.
This submission has already made reference to the low predation of foxes on farmed livestock. MAFF evidence supports this argument ‘In a study carried out in an upland/hill area of Powys stocked with 3,500 lambing ewes, lamb losses were found to be unaffected by foxes in the area.’ (34). Lambs born and living in exposed areas will be more vulnerable to disease and cold. There has been a tendency to blame foxes for losses which can be explained. Ray Hewson of the University of Aberdeen refers to an observation by a gamekeeper in the Scottish Highland that "It will be a bad day for the shepherd when the last fox goes from the hills". The gamekeeper, according to Hewson, was referring to the ‘black loss’, the lambs which disappear from the hills due to a variety of unknown causes. ‘It is convenient to blame foxes for a large part of the black loss, and it is an excuse that is seldom disputed’ (35).
Post mortem examinations have revealed that many lambs showing signs of fox predation were in fact dead prior to attack, and the fox had been scavenging rather than hunting (36). Increasing winter feed available to ewes reduces the number of lambs reportedly killed by foxes, implying that foxes are blamed for lambs lost because of poor husbandry. Harris argues that better husbandry results in much lower lamb mortality and can therefore result in relatively great economic benefits compared to reducing fox predation (5).
The presence of hunting may have a detrimental effect on the local economy. Exford in the Exmoor national park is often offered as an example of a village which is dependent on hunting. There is undeniably a concentration of hunting in Exford and some believe that it has forced locals to move out of the area due to high property prices resulting from wealthy hunters buying up local properties for country homes.
A recent study carried out to investigate the impact of hunting with hounds in West Somerset and Exmoor concluded: ‘In the small, rural communities where hunting plays a disproportionately larger role in providing employment and recreation, a ban would pose a severe challenge.’ (37).However, the report acknowledged that the effects of a ban would be uneven and variable in their impact, even within the heavily hunted areas of the two case studies covered. In fact these areas are regarded as including the centre for hunting in the South West, housing the kennels of the Devon & Somerset Staghounds - one of only three remaining deer hunting packs in Britain. The well known hunting village of Stogursey was also covered by the report, and a similar report commissioned for the National Trust in 1993 stated: ‘The smaller villages at the heart of the hunting country are clearly reliant on hunting to a much greater degree than those on the fringes, where it scarcely signifies at all’. It concluded: ‘Our survey shows that hunting plays a relatively minor role in the economy of Devon & Somerset’ (38)
The 1999 report estimates that 197 full-time equivalent jobs are directly generated by hunts in the study areas, with a further 217 full-time equivalent jobs associated with the direct employment generated by hunting. However, the method for calculating the indirect employment total adopted a higher multiplier than the 1993 study, and neither is able to estimate the number of jobs which would disappear in the event of a ban. As the 1993 study points out:, a hunt supporter’s economic contribution to the local area would disappear only if he: ‘invested in a building society all his monies previously devoted to hunting, and devoted his leisure time entirely to sitting in armchairs watching television’(38).
In 1999 the Centre for Rural Studies concluded that a hunting ban "could well impact upon tourism", and yet in 1993 the same unit stated: "Without a full-blown visitor survey and indeed a national household survey, it is impossible to make any comment upon these claims". In 1999 the Centre for Rural Studies had done neither.
It is clear that findings of reports concerned exclusively with small communities at the centre of a heavily hunted region cannot be applied to rural communities in general. In areas such as Exmoor the tourist industry is of far higher economic significance than hunting. Most hunting does not coincide with the tourist season and well known ‘hunting’ villages such as Exford get considerably more economic benefits from summer visitors than from hunters.
Macmillan has shown that where hunting has finished horse numbers have increased. Moves towards eco-tourism could bring considerable benefits to villages like Exford. However, as long as they are associated with hunting they are unlikely to benefit from an influx of tourists who wish to observe animals and do not wish to be associated with people involved in killing them for sport.
Ward and Macmillan have both concluded that a switch to drag hunting will ensure that no jobs are lost as a result of a ban on hunting live quarry. There is tremendous potential for horse based activities such as trekking and hacks which give access to the countryside without harassing wild animals.
Back to top
Hunting does not make a contribution of any significance to the economy. Any losses, should hunters fail to convert to drag hunting, will be small compared to the much greater losses, which have already happened in agriculture.
Most of the economic claims made by the hunting lobby have depended on rounding up all hunting activity and assuming that they are the equivalent of a number of jobs which will therefore be dependent on hunting. However, hunting activity is spread very thinly across the UK with one or two pockets where there may a higher than average concentration of hunting.
In 1997 during the debate on Michael Foster’s bill to abolish hunting with hounds, the British Field Sports Society (BFSS) paid for an advertising hoarding on a River Thames barge proclaiming that country sports contribute "£3.8billion a year" to the economy. The figure was derived from Standing Conference on Countryside Sports commissioned research carried out by Cobham Resource Consultants (CRC). In fact this research found that just 4.6% of the estimated £3.6 billion was connected with hunting (the only country sport directly under threat) – 85% was attributable to angling.
If hunting were to disappear overnight it would therefore have a very limited effect on the rural economy both locally and in general. Indeed, when the New Forest Buckhounds closed only 2 people, the professional huntsman and the kennelman, where laid off as a result (39).
In Scotland the impact of a ban on hunting on jobs has been investigated by the Scottish Parliament. Using a combination of British Field Sports Society estimates and results of research carried out by Cobham Resource Consultants (CRC), the study estimated that between 1,200 and 1,400 FTE jobs are directly and indirectly associated with hunting in Scotland:
‘The figures shown rely heavily on those generated by CRC which are subject to extensive criticism by some authors who suggest that the multiplier ratio is not properly accounted for and that some of the indirect employment may be double counted. There are also weaknesses in the direct employment figure attributable to hunt participants since many use their horses for other activities as well as hunting. Finally, the conversion rate from GB to Scottish figures may also be subject to some inaccuracies.
Nonetheless between 1,200 and 1,400 FTEs represents the best possible approximation of direct and indirect employment by mounted and foot based fox hunts in Scotland. This employment is predominantly focused in rural areas and should be compared with the 570,000 currently in direct employment throughout rural Scotland’
Hunting is concentrated however in particular areas so a ban on fox hunting may have a particular impact on employment in some parts of Scotland. Even where fox hunting is most heavily concentrated in the rural parts of South Scotland the proportion employed directly and indirectly by fox hunting is small when compared to the total in employment of 177,000.’ (40)
There has been an increase in the number of drag hunts (see appendix 7). Their numbers are currently small but most people who currently ride to hounds following the scent of a live animal do so for recreation and will be equally happy riding to hounds following an artificial scent. The hunting season lasts for less than half a year and horse owners who hunt will continue to use their horses as they always have done in that part of the year when hunting was not taking place.
Horses currently used in hunting are, typically, used for other equine activities and they will continue to be used as such. The ending of hunting, which has prevented many members of the public from participating in equine events, has the potential to see a rapid rise in horse numbers throughout the UK. The example of West and Mid-Lothian given by Macmillan is not isolated. There has been a significant rise in horse numbers on urban fringes and the green belt where hunting is uncommon. There is no reason why horse ownership should not continue to rise.
Back to top
4. To what extent could any detrimental consequences of a ban be offset by greater participation in drag hunting or other activities?
The League does not accept that there would be any detrimental consequences of a ban on hunting. The League believes that a ban would greatly enhance the moral, cultural and economic well being of all who live, work and play in the countryside.
The elimination of cruel sports in the countryside would facilitate the introduction of new activities, which can utilize parts of the knowledge and skills of people currently directly, or indirectly engaged in hunting. The development of equine country pursuits such as trekking, eco-tourism, to see and photograph deer and other wild life in their natural habitats provide employment opportunities not limited by current hunting seasons.
The evidence clearly shows that while leisure time and spending has increased, as has horse ownership, hunting as a popular activity has declined. Groups such as the pony club which has been traditionally associated with hunting have declined in membership while readership of magazines like My Pony have increased.
Uptake of horse related activities are likely to increase if there is no association with hunting.
Drag hunting would, at a stroke, remove all the main objections the majority of people have against live quarry hunting. It is, as David Macdonald says, benign. It will ensure that hunts and hounds only go where they are welcome and the hunt can be custom-made according to the skill of the riders. As MacMillan shows, horse numbers rise where hunting no longer takes place. With a hunting ban, drag hunting will no longer have an association with the persecution of a wild animal. It has the potential to replace and attract a far higher level of participation than current hunting.
A common claim from the hunting lobby is that drag hunting is a completely different sport to live quarry chasing. They claim that drag hunting is fast and furious and cannot be enjoyed by nervous or novice riders. Live quarry hunting, and fox hunting in particular, is a stop/go affair. Riders rarely see the fox and spend most of their time waiting for the hounds to locate a scent. Either they then ride off in pursuit of the hounds or they move on to a new area in the hope that the hounds will be luckier that time. For most riders hunting is about riding into the countryside, chasing across a few fields or woodland for a couple of miles, resting and waiting and socialising. This process goes on for several hours, often with no kill, but with plenty of opportunity to ride at speed, stop, recover, chat and repeat the process. It is a very social sport and there is no reason why drag hunting should not duplicate this.
A skilled drag trailer will be able to duplicate the kind of day experienced by most foxhunts, but without the cruelty. An article which appeared in Countryman’s Weekly gave an account of an artificial scent laid for an unsuspecting foxhunt by a terrier man. His account of the day’s hunt concluded: ‘It had been the hunt of the season. Later that evening there was a knock on my door. Opening it revealed the master clutching a bottle of whisky. "What a marvelous hunt!" he enthused. "He (the imagined fox) was a cunning old devil, wasn’t he?" "Yes," I agreed.’ The article is reproduced as Appendix 9 to this submission.
The decline in the number of hunts has, to an extent, been offset by the increase in drag hunts. There is evidence to show that some quarry hunters are resisting moves to drag hunting. Following the closing down of the New Forest Buck-Hounds an attempt was made to establish a drag hunt. The new hunt would hunt over the hunt country formerly used by the buck-hounds and would employ the former buck-hounds. Officials of the former buck hounds managed to home a number of their hounds with other hunts but still had a few dogs they were unable to pass on. Rather than allow the hounds to become part of the new drag hunt they chose to shoot them. The automatic move to shoot hounds is part of the general culture of abuse which pervades hunting.
Most hunters are perfectly aware of the potential for drag hunting and many are privately investigating the way to convert from quarry to drag hunting. The parliamentary timetable means that a hunt ban is most likely to be introduced after the close of most hunting seasons. Live quarry hunters would therefore have enough time to contact local farmers and arrange to follow an artificial scent. Drag hunting does not require as large an area as quarry hunting as a trail can be laid only on land agreed in advance with the landowner. There is enough land available for drag and many farmers who currently do not permit hunting on their land are prepared to permit a drag hunt on their land (41).
Macdonald clearly sees great potential for drag hunting. ‘With the opportunities offered by modern odour chemistry to synthesize scents of particular qualities, the opportunities for farmers to profit by diversifying the use of their land, and the great desire of ever-more people to participate in benign country pursuits, there would seem to be very strong incentives, both cultural and economic, to explore with the greatest zeal and ingenuity ways of making drag-hunting attractive. This would seem the only course that is likely to preserve, and indeed potentially to enhance greatly, the traditions, skills, social infra-structure and employment associated with foxhunting.’(5). Neil Ward believes that ‘perhaps of most significance among the economic costs and benefits associated with such a switch (to drag hunting) would be the reduction in the social costs that conventional hunting imposes on non-participants’ (28).
Drag hunts use less hounds than in live quarry hunting. If hunts continue their current practices then a number of hounds will be shot. Hunts have consistently refused to allow their hounds to be homed, claiming that they would not be happy. Young hounds live their first months with ‘walkers’ who may treat them as pets. Many of these hounds will not ‘make the grade’ during cub hunting and will be shot even though they may make perfectly acceptable pets. The National Canine Defence League does not believe that any working dog should be killed purely because it has come to the end of its working life. Many League and RSPCA members have offered to rehome fox hounds no longer required by the hunt but their offers have been rejected. Many breeds of dogs widely kept as pets were originally bred to be hunting animals. There is no reason why hunts should continue their unacceptable and cruel practice of killing hounds because they no longer have a use for them. Thousands of hounds with years of life left in them are shot by hunts every year. It is hypocritical of them to claim that hounds will necessarily be killed if hunts convert to drag hunting. Hounds from fell packs spend the summer back in the homes of their walkers and are returned to kennels for the start of the season.
The hunting lobby claim that hunting is intrinsically linked with many, if not most, forms of horse use. This fails to explain why horse numbers have increased faster in areas where there is no or little hunting. National hunt racing and point-to-point may have been linked to hunting, but both these activities have now developed to the point where they can function independently of hunting. Indeed, public disapproval of hunting suggests that they would benefit if they cut off all links. Point-to-point is used to raise funds for local hunts. Most would benefit financially if the association with hunting were finished. This view is shared by experts on point to point ‘The sport has outgrown the hunting field and hunts should regard their virtual monopoly of organising it as a privilege not a right… The current necessity for each hunt to earn as much money as possible from its point-to-point is having a detrimental effect on the sport… In complete contradiction to the propaganda, if hunting were abolished amateur racing would get a shot in the arm’ (42). ‘It is no longer accurate to say that without hunting there would be no point-to-points… those who participate in point-to-points are more and more interested first in racing and secondly in foxhunting’ (31).
Pony Club membership has declined over the past nine years. Membership which stood at 50,000 in the 1980s is down to 34,000 with a particular shortfall in the over 15s. The Pony Club is closely identified with hunting, to the extent of having Hunt branches. Over 15s (the age limit is 21) are more aware of the morality of hunting and will be less inclined to wish to be associated with it. All scientifically conducted independent opinion polls consistently show that the younger the age group the more likely you are to be opposed to hunting. The Pony Club would also benefit from the abolition of hunting.
Agriculture and pest control
Back to top
Recent environmental research contains many examples of cases where interference by man in the natural environmental balance of nature has proved disastrous.
The population of wild animals is by their nature free to roam and to take up residence where there is available feed and territory. In many areas where one farmer might regard the fox as a pest another farmer will regard the fox as nature’s solution to the rabbit problem. The same is true of deer. Where a Forrester may seek to cull deer to reduce young tree damage a landowner promoting eco-tourism will regard the wild deer as an asset that must be protected.
Only a few problem foxes need controlling and they are usually taken out by shooting.
It makes no economic sense for farmers to rely on the hunt that may not meet in their area for months or even find the scent of a fox which may be a particular problem. Foxes tend to regulate their own numbers with only the dominant vixen producing offspring. Research by Professor Stephen Harris shows that the availability of food has far greater impact on the fox population than current levels of culling. He concludes that "Current levels of fox control are not effective in reducing overall fox numbers. Fox numbers can be temporarily reduced locally by intensive culling. However, it is unlikely that culling levels will ever again be sufficiently high to lead to a significant reduction in the total number of foxes in Britain, since they disperse over large areas to replace any local losses’ (43).
A report commissioned by Wiltshire County Council found that farmers believe rabbits, pigeons, badgers and ‘the public’ are all more expensive pests than foxes, and that only 4% of foxes killed on Wiltshire farms were killed by hunts. Shooting was considered to be both humane and effective by more farmers than was hunting, and the main reason cited by farmers for hunting was recreation rather than pest control (33).
The League believes that culling is not an effective part of fox population control. The British fox population recovers every spring. Those involved in culling may argue that the effectiveness of their work has been demonstrated by the fact that the fox population is not any higher. However, there is considerable evidence to show that where culling does not take place the fox population remains the same. Foxes tend to regulate their own numbers and the size of their territories is determined by the availability of food (43).
In 1987 the League Against Cruel Sports funded a three-year experiment in Eriboll in north-west Scotland, where the effect on predation on lambs when no foxes were killed was measured. Between March 1987 and March 1990 no foxes were killed on the Eriboll estate. Fox control continued as usual on the nearby Balnakeil estate which acted as a control. The study, carried out by Ray Hewson of the University of Aberdeen, concluded that ‘There was no evidence of an increase in fox predation on lambs, in the number of foxes or of breeding dens in the absence of control at Eriboll between 1987 and 1990’ (35).
The Eriboll study also looked at other areas such as the island of Mull where there are no foxes, but where the production of lambs was no better than on similar ground on the mainland. Hewson concluded that ‘predation by foxes was part of, rather than in addition to, the normal scale of lamb losses’ (35).
Culling has no effect on the overall fox population but intensive culling may temporarily reduce local populations. Farmers who engage in the culling of foxes may be removing a valuable ally. In the early 1980s MAFF estimated rabbit may cost the nation’s farmers between £90million and £120million each year. Harris points out that as rabbit numbers are increasing dramatically this figure may now have more than doubled. Rabbits form a major part of the diet of foxes across the country. Some studies have shown that rabbits are more abundant in areas where predators, including foxes, are removed or controlled. Harris concluded that ‘foxes can be beneficial by consuming rabbits and other pests of agricultural crops’ (5).
‘The Scottish Naturalist James Lockie estimated that one fox will eat a thousand field voles in the winter months and each vole consumes 23 pounds of grass – a fair quantity if your livelihood depends on sheep rearing...Another study concluded that the diet of foxes consisted of 57% agriculturally harmful animals, 27% agriculturally useful animals and 16% vegetable food.
"If farmers and other landowners were presented with, and showed willing to accept, the scientific facts, they might come to see the continuing persecution of foxes as unnecessary’.(44)
The weight of independent scientific evidence shows that culling foxes does not work and that foxes can be of economic benefit to farmers. Some farmers will continue to cull the local fox population or may even have a problem with the occasional fox. Culling should be carried out by the most efficient and humane means available. In practice we believe this means the use of high velocity rifles by users who have passed a competency test or by humane trapping.
Nationally each year some 80,000 deer are culled by shooting. In the West Country, the only part of the UK where deer hunting continues, the deer population of around 7-800 requires a cull in excess of 1000 to maintain a stable population. Hunts may kill as few as 80 of these deer. The main purpose to culling deer is to maintain a stable and healthy population. Deer hunting is a remarkably inefficient means of culling. Deer suffer unnecessarily, both during and after the chase. There is no guarantee of a kill and farms and private property may be trespassed on during the course of the hunt.
Some defenders of deer hunting claim that the terrain on Exmoor and the Quantocks makes shooting a non-viable method. However, shooting is the method used in the Scottish highlands where the terrain is even more difficult. Modern high velocity rifles with sights ensure a clean kill from a considerable distance. The Deer Initiative, whose aim is the proper management of deer in the West Country, exclude hunting as a proper form of deer control population control. A copy of the Deer Initiative Accord is attached at appendix 8.
The overwhelming majority of deer in the West Country are culled by shooting. The League accepts that deer will continue to be culled but believes that all culling should be by individuals who have passed a competency test using a high velocity rifle.
Hare numbers are down to 20% of their levels 100 years ago. The UK Biodiversity Steering Group report of 1996 includes the hare of its list of species in decline or under threat. Dr T E Tew, Senior Vertebrate Ecologist at the Joint nature Conservation Committee stated in 1995 that ‘There has been a serious decline in hare numbers over the course of this century and we must now find the best way of reversing that trend’.
In spite of the serious concerns about the future of the Brown hare in Britain some 150 packs of hare hounds kill around 6,000 hares each year. ‘In addition there are some 70,000 lurchers and other long-dogs used for informal coursing. No one knows how many hares they kill, but with a winter hare population of only 817,500 hares, it would not need every lurcher to kill many hares to have a very substantial impact on the hare population. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that coursing was found to be having a major impact on hare numbers in parts of East Anglia.’ (45)
There is no need to control the population of hares. There should be a national programme for repopulating the British countryside with hares.
In 1997 the League Against Cruel Sports filmed hares being netted on an estate in East Anglia. One of the people supervising the exercise was the chairman of the Waterloo Cup, hare coursing’s premier event, which took place two weeks later. Although he denied that the hares were being netted for the Waterloo Cup he did admit that they were being transported to a coursing estate in order to restock it. Hares continue to be coursed and hunted. When coursing estates run out of hares they capture them in areas where they are available for netting. This is irresponsible behaviour. Hare should be a protected species and netting should only be carried out as part of a re-population programme.
Mink are a solitary territorial species that chases other mink away. Where one mink is removed another mink quickly occupies the vacant territory. The mink is now firmly established as a part of our riverside wildlife. It would be extremely difficult to remove them. It is debatable, therefore, that culling mink has any significant effects on their population. There have been numerous studies by experts such as Paul Chanin and John Birks that support this.
Hunting is far less effective than trapping and causes unacceptable levels of disruption, which may be a threat to the return of otters. Mink hunting is totally ineffective as a means of population control.
There is no evidence that mink cause significant damage to agriculture, but where mink may be a problem, trapping is a far more effective means of control. Good farm husbandry is effective in preventing mink from predating on livestock.
Back to top
6. What evidence is there about the advantages and disadvantages of hunting with dogs in terms of agriculture and pest control?
The League does not accept that there is any need to hunt animals with dogs.
The evidence clearly shows that in most areas hunting has no significant impact on the population of the hunted animals, although it causes considerable damage to farms and livestock. If the alleged objective is to control pests, hunting, is an inefficient and cruel method of pest control that does not keep numbers down.
Hunting is a sport that is designed to produce a long drawn-out chase for the benefit of riders and followers. It plays an insignificant part in the overall population control which takes place in the UK. The animals it kills are not significant pests and foxes are of positive help in controlling rabbits and other small mammals that can cause significant damage to farm crops. Foxes and other hunted animals run as far and as fast as they can away from the hounds. This often means that the pack is led on to farms with livestock and crops. Rural roads and railways are frequently trespassed and cars are often held up by mounted followers. Every year sheep are killed and livestock panicked by trespassing hounds in pursuit of their prey. Appendix 4a shows that hunt trespass on farms and the resulting damage is a common feature of the hunting season.
Hounds may also present a health risk. Virtually all of the 20,000 or so hunting hounds in Britain are fed on meat and offal from fallen livestock. The hounds can ingest Taenia Hydatigena tape-worms from these casualty animals and then defecate the tape-worm eggs back into pasture while out hunting. Sheep and lambs in particular ingest the eggs while grazing. The Meat and Livestock Commission claims that: tape-worms cause ‘considerable harm to the production of sheep’; and that ‘about a fifth of lambs slaughtered in Great Britain are infected with cysts. This loss is caused solely by tape-worms in dogs and is avoidable…Never feed raw meat, offal or sheep heads; feed only cooked meat…Working dogs and hounds are the main reservoir of dog tapeworms affecting sheep, foxes and pet dogs much less so’(46).
The Taenia Hydatigena tape-worm, if swallowed by humans and livestock, hatches in the intestine and ends up in the liver where it develops into a cyst. Cysts can also form in the lungs, bones and brain. A letter to the League Against Cruel Sports dated 17th February 1987 states, ‘Undoubtedly hounds, or hunting dogs, are also sources of tapeworm infection…studies by the Ministry’s veterinary officers have demonstrated that hounds are frequently infected with a variety of tapeworms, including Taenia Hydatigena and they may contaminate pastures over which they roam’. (46)
Many hunts actively encourage high fox populations by the provision of artificial earths. League investigators have also found evidence of foxes being fed at these sites (appendix 1). The main determining factor in local fox populations is the availability of food, if additional food is being provided then claims by the hunt to be engaged in pest control do not stand up to scrutiny. Nevertheless the main purpose of hunting is to provide human entertainment by the killing of animals and foxes are undoubtedly killed. The existence of artificial earths shows that hunting has no advantage to agriculture because it is mainly concerned about producing a chase for the hunt followers, even if this means producing foxes for the purpose.
Many hunts also maintain artificial earths and ‘stickpiles’ to encourage foxes for hunting. A report on behalf of Wiltshire County Council in 1995 discovered that Wiltshire hunts encourage foxes with the provision of artificial earths. The South & West Wiltshire Hunt admitted 25 such ‘earths’ and the Royal Artillery Hunt even has four built on military land. (33)
In his book "Fox-hunting" published in 1980 the late Duke of Beaufort stated "In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs: in other words for breeding purposes" (25). League investigators have found at least 31 artificial earths on land hunted by the Thurlow Foxhunt near Newmarket and proof of artificial earths on many more. These are described in detail in appendix1.
The construction of artificial earths is not restricted to mounted packs. One of the largest artificial earths in the UK is located in Blencathra hunt country at Millbeck, not far from the hunt kennels. ‘Porter’s Parlour, "…the largest man-made borran ever known, built about 30 years ago by Ronnie Porter"(47). When League investigators visited Porter’s Parlour in the autumn of 1996 and again in the spring of 1997 they found a maze of tunnels and chambers extending over an area of 150 yards by 50 yards. The ‘earth’ included tunnels carefully constructed using the stone from fallen walls, glazed pipes and brick-built chambers.
The contribution to pest control of deer hunting is minimal if non-existent. The three remaining deer packs in England hunt over the Quantock Hills in Somerset and the Exmoor national park. Much of the land is owned by the National Trust who have banned deer hunting on their land. There is general agreement on the number of deer which need to be culled. It is more efficient to cull the agreed number of deer efficiently and humanely by high velocity rifle than by hunting. The small number of deer culled by hunting could be dealt with very easily by the agencies that currently cull through shooting. The deer herds in the West Country would continue to live at the same population level as they do now.
Claims that the deer are only tolerated because they provide hunting and that farmers would shoot them in the event of a ban are ridiculous. Deer exist in large numbers throughout the UK even though they are not hunted. A poll taken in the area of Exmoor by NOP Market Research Ltd. in February 1985, found that 58% of people involved in farming either opposed or had no view on deer hunting. The same poll showed that the clear majority of Exmoor residents opposed deer hunting.
Even if deer hunting plays a part in population control it can no longer be justified. Hunted deer have been shown by Patrick Bateson to suffer unacceptably as a result of the chase. His conclusions led the National Trust to ban deer hunting on their land. There can be no argument in defence of chasing an animal in terror of its life for hours at a time. More recently, more than a dozen academics supported Bateson. Their comments, in a submission to the National Trust, included the following statements:
‘My own interpretation is that, in the great majority of cases, Professor Bateson’s scientific interpretation of the data stand up, and that the conclusions he draws from those interpretations are valid’. Professor N.J. Mackintosh, FRS, Chairman of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Cambridge.
‘The investigation by Pat Bateson and Elizabeth Bradshaw on the behaviour and physiology of hunted deer, was, and remains, a major breakthrough in the scientific investigation of the welfare of a wild mammal. It provides the best objective evidence that is available on the degree of suffering by deer during hunts…’ Professor Morris Gosling, Department of Psychology, University of Newcastle (former Scientific Director, Institute of Zooloogy, Zoological Society of London.
‘I judge Professor Bateson’s paper, The stag-hunting debate, to be an eminently fair analysis of the points of agreement and disagreement between his report and the Joint Universities Study (commissioned by the Countryside Alliance). The findings of the Bateson Report have not been discredited or even weakened by the later report; indeed, they have been confirmed in many important respects.’ Professor R. McNeill Alexander, FRS, School of Biology, University of Leeds.
Deer hunters argue that deer hounds are valuable in tracking wounded deer. However, the hounds are not used to locate the deer which are hunted. That is the role of tufters and harbourers (i.e. humans). There is little evidence that deer hounds have value as trackers.
Hare numbers are now so small that there are few areas where they can be considered to be an agricultural pest. Hare coursers have admitted that they capture and transport hares in order to repopulate coursing estates. Clearly they regard the hare as being in short supply. Professor Stephen Harris’ report on the brown hare in Britain shows that hares can cause damage when they are present in large numbers. However, any losses are generally small, and farmers do not consider hares to be a serious economic pest.
‘Hares can only be considered a minor agricultural nuisance unless numbers are excessively high. Damage to cereal and grass crops is so low as generally not to be noticed by farmers. In rare instances, the damage might be more severe, particularly to crops such as peas, sugar beet and vines, but this is on a small scale and, in general, farmers are not concerned by damage to crops caused by hares. Their impact on commercial forestry is negligible, and any reduction in growth of young conifers is generally quickly recouped’ (45).
Trapping mink is considerably more effective than hunting. In practice mink hunting merely frees up territory for new mink to move into. Mink may predate on farmed livestock but good husbandry by farmers will prevent this. Mink hunting is viewed by many people as an obstacle to the reintroduction of otters to our riverbanks.
Where pest control is exercised the League Against Cruel Sports recommends that only trained, licenced individuals be permitted to cull wild mammals. In Germany, for example, hunters (shooters as opposed to the British form of hunting) have to meet strict criteria, including the passing of examinations in rural ecology, and marksmanship, before being granted a licence.
Back to top
7. What evidence is there about the consequences for agriculture and pest control if hunting with dogs was banned completely?
There is no evidence that a ban on hunting with dogs would of itself have any adverse effect on agriculture or pest control.
Recent estimates of the damage done to agriculture by rabbits being in the order of £200 million per annum suggest that any reduction in the fox population by hunting is counter productive.
The evidence suggests that in most cases the impact of hunting on the numbers of alleged "pests" is de-minimis and that a ban would have no impact. In the case of a rare species such as otters a ban would have a beneficial impact by reducing the threat of aggressive invasion of its habitat by hunters.
The inefficiency of hunting as a controlling mechanism is well established. However, one immediate advantage to farmers of a complete ban would be that foxes would no longer be dispersed outside of their territories. Consequently foxes will not be pushed into new areas where they could be a problem. It is always better, from a management aspect, for farmers and landowners to know where the local foxes live. Driving foxes into new areas means that migrant foxes may take up residence without the farmer being aware. If the migrant fox is driven out, by the existing fox population defending their territory, it may be unable to catch food in the normal way and become more likely to risk raiding hen-houses. Some farmers may discover what many already know, that the fox is of benefit to many farmers by their predation on rabbits and other crop eating mammals.
In many hunt ‘countries’ foxes would no longer be fed and housed in artificial earths. As the main controlling factor on the fox population is the availability of food, local fox populations will return to their natural levels.
The economic impact of mink as an agricultural pest has not been studied or quantified. The recent release of thousands of mink is not a valid example, as the presence of thousands of any mammal in a small area would cause severe disruption. However, the mink is a strongly territorial animal and once an area is populated the mink themselves prevent new mink from coming in. Hunting has done nothing to keep mink numbers down although it has caused enough disruption for a number of experts to condemn it as preventing the return of otters. A ban on mink hunting would make no difference to agriculture or pest control.
The most immediate benefit to farmers from a ban would be that hunts would no longer trespass on land where they are not welcome or harass and kill livestock. Appendix 4a shows that trespass on farms is widespread. Many farmers would welcome a ban on hunting. One group of farmers that would especially benefit from this is the tenant farmer who often has no say about whether hunt is allowed on his or her land. They tend to be small-scale farmers who can ill afford the consequences often associated with trespass from packs of hounds and mounted followers. Some tenant farmers are required to keep access clear to hunts when they would otherwise be working. The insistence by hunts on going on tenant farmers’ land is an abusive use of the law and of the civil liberties of the farmer.
A ban on deer hunting would only effect a small number of farmers. Shooting is the main controlling mechanism on their local deer population. If a ban were introduced the number of deer culled by shooting would increase only by a marginal amount. Former deer hunting areas would then control their deer in the same way as the rest of the country.
Hare are now scarce throughout the UK. In most parts of the country people would welcome their return. It is difficult to assess the impact that hunting and coursing is having on the hare population but, whereas it has little effect on high stable populations such as foxes and deer, the declining hare population may not be able to cope with the additional pressure which hunting and coursing places on it.
There are pockets where hare populations have returned to sustainable levels, such as in East Anglia. Even here the hare are not considered a pest due mainly to changes in agricultural practice. The League has spoken to farmers in East Anglia who state that the previous pest factor of hares was that they flattened crops in order to create runs. Modern agricultural practices create runs for hares in the long ‘tram lines’ used by tractors in crop spraying.
Back to top
8. What other measures, if any, would need to be taken to protect agricultural interests and to control foxes, deer, mink and hares?
Agricultural and forestry interests are best protected by environmentally sound management practices and good livestock and crop husbandry. The hunting of most quarry species has little or no overall impact on numbers and is therefore not a sensible solution to an alleged pest problem. The League does not believe that the routine elimination of wild life is either environmentally necessary or economically justifiable.
Hunting plays an insignificant part in population control and its abolition would not lead to a significant increase in other methods. Those seeking to justify hunting have claimed that a ban on hunting will lead to an increase in the cruelest forms of animal control. This is not a justification for an activity which is itself unacceptably cruel.
Hunters are on record as stating that a ban on hunting would lead to a massive increase in the shooting of foxes, resulting in thousands of animals suffering lingering deaths from gunshot wounds. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation strongly refute these allegations. Many more foxes are shot than are killed by hunting and it would be reasonable to assume that there would be a considerable body of evidence of foxes suffering from the shooting which occurs throughout the year.
Professor Stephen Harris has looked at this claim. ‘At present at least 80,000 foxes are shot in Britain each year. If this routinely left wounded animals, these would already be a common sight. Yet foxes are rarely found suffering from gunshot wounds. In Britain there are over a thousand wildlife hospitals receiving at least 250,000 wildlife casualties each year. Whilst the exact number of casualty foxes received is unknown, the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council’s monitoring scheme shows that foxes are the second most common mammal casualty, behind hedgehogs. So these wildlife casualties provide a good basis for estimating the current level of wounding foxes with guns.
The biggest wildlife hospital in Europe is St Tiggywinkles; it receives large numbers of injured foxes. However, during the last twenty years this hospital has never received a fox suffering from gunshot wounds. Similarly, of the RSPCA’s three wildlife hospitals, in the last few years they have received 512 injured foxes. Only one of these was suffering from gunshot wounds. Thus there is no evidence that shooting at least 80,000 foxes a year leads to large numbers of wounded animals, and so it is hard to find any evidence to support the claim that, as a consequence of an increase in shooting of foxes, the countryside will soon be littered with foxes dying from gunshot wounds’ (43)
The provision of artificial earths by hunts will disappear. Where they have produced artificially high fox populations numbers will go down and there will be a reduced need to use controlling mechanisms.
Any control methods used should be humane. The League opposes the use of snares, which are indiscriminate and cruel. We would recommend the use of trapping where animals are controlled. The most recent large scale control exercise, badgers in the West Country, uses traps as they are the only guaranteed way of targeting specific species for humane disposal. Traps have been proven to be one of the most effective means of controlling mink who share their territories with other mammals who can be released when the traps are inspected.
Anyone involved in controlling animals should first be issued with a licence on the basis of a proven need to cull specified animals after they have met competency criteria. There should be no open licence to kill any unprotected animal.
Social and cultural life of the countryside
Back to top
Polling data shows very clearly that the majority of people who live, work and play in the countryside are against hunting with dogs.
Hunting is a practiced by a small minority of people who routinely abuse and intimidate anyone who opposes hunting.
The routine pursuit of prey across the countryside leads to deep divisions in the countryside. People who object to hunting feel, and often are, intimidated. People who live and work in the countryside who are tenants but do not own sporting rights object to being hunted over, but can do nothing about it. People who live side by side, but have different views of the hunting issue, find the issue deeply divisive.
People who come to the countryside for a peaceful day out are often deeply shocked when they encounter the hunt and their followers. The impression given is that the rambler has no right to roam and they are obliged to get out of the way of the hunter who has an absolute right to go whosesoever he or she wishes.
The close association between hunting and some social events and "pillars of the establishment", creates a feeling of exclusion amongst those who do not support hunting and do not wish to be associated with it.
Hunting is practiced by a tiny minority, who often do not interact with the real rural population. They ride across people’s property and their hounds kill pets. The League has been informed of public houses where known terrier men have been asked not to drink because people found their presence offensive.
Many of the social and cultural events associated with hunting were originally established to provide funds for the local hunt. In most cases these events, such as point-to-point, have developed to the extent that they are essentially independent of hunting. In many cases they would benefit from a break from any association with hunting as this would produce greater participation from the majority of rural dwellers and horse users who oppose hunting.
The ending of hunting will have positive effects on the social and cultural life of the countryside. The argument used by the hunting lobby that rural dwellers who oppose hunting are not ‘real country-folk’ is divisive and illustrates how alienated they often are from the majority of people who live in the countryside. In fact many hunters are actually city dwellers who play in the countryside at the weekend.
There is no doubt that in a very few areas much of the social life is organised to raise money for the local hunt. But this is purely an historical situation. Most people living in the countryside are strongly opposed to hunting and they want nothing to do with events organised to support something they so dislike. Many of these people will suffer from trespass and injury to livestock and pets. They would regard their lives as enhanced if hunting were to be banned. The main contribution to rural life by hunting is negative. Trespass by hounds onto private property, roads blocked by hunt followers and hounds as well as routine intimidation of those who oppose hunting are all too common. In addition, railway lines are frequently blocked and roads closed by trespassing or injured hounds. Thousands of journey hours are lost every year due to hunt trespass. The League is frequently contacted by people who live in the countryside who claim that they dare not express their opposition to hunting because of the way they would be treated by people involved in hunting.
Where hunting provides social occasions it is mainly to raise money for hunting. Such activities would continue even if hunting were to be banned. When the Wigtownshire Hunt was disbanded in the early 1990s, members expressed a desire to continue the hunt’s social life by organising dinners and a hunt ball (32). There is no reason why social activities currently associated with local hunts should not continue. After a ban on hunting is introduced many more rural dwellers will feel able to become involved in activities from which they had previously barred themselves. The insistence by many hunts that they should run social events, to raise hunt funds, excludes many people living in the countryside
With the growth of non-hunt based activities, following a ban, participation by the wider community will greatly increase. With no emphasis on raising money for the hunt these events will be cheaper to run and will be able to raise money for local activities and charities, thus greatly aiding the local community. The fact is that people who organise whist drives do so because they love whist and will continue to ensure these events take place.
People who are openly anti-hunt are frequently shunned and abused by those who are involved in hunting. It is the hunters who do not respect others’ views. Many League members have received threats and have even had dead animals left in their gardens. The Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Standard reported in November 1998 that: ‘A shot fox was placed outside the gate of land belonging to an anti-hunt farmer. The lady farmer described the incident as a ‘common gesture’ of hunting areas and commented that the tactic was a ‘veiled threat’ used to upset and deter opponents of hunting’. The League is frequently contacted by rural dwellers telling us they oppose hunting but that life would be made difficult for them if they were open about their views.
‘It can be argued that the Devon & Somerset Staghounds and Quantock Staghounds act as cohesive integrating forces within the rural communities. Conversely, it could be argued the fact that some people who live in the countryside are against staghunting is an illustration of its divisiveness.’ (38)
‘Hunters regularly argue rural residents must understand that hunting is a part of country life which should be accepted. For example, after a hunted stag was chased into the grounds of a primary school, Mal Treharne, regional Public Relations Officer for the Countryside Alliance, was quoted as saying: "We would offer our apologies for any inconvenience or disturbance to people in the village, but not necessarily an automatic apology that the children witnessed something that is normal in the countryside and has been for many years"’ (48)
Back to top
10. What evidence is there as to its importance generally or in particular areas?
There is no evidence to support the claim that a live wildlife quarry is essential to the activity of "hunting" in the countryside. Drag hunting and other similar activities are capable of utilizing the same staff and skills as live quarry hunting, with the exception of such skills as a terrierman may have in live quarry baiting and digging out.
Economically live quarry hunting is of little significance and the evidence clearly suggests that the keeping of horses and riding in the country may well increase with the cessation of live quarry hunting.
In areas where there is a concentration of hunting activity such as around Cirencester and on Exmoor, the economic importance of hunting is insignificant when compared to the income from tourism, agriculture and other rural activities in what are sometimes mistakenly seen as "hunting country".
Socially, hunt run activities are divisive. Environmentally, hunting damages wildlife habitats.
In areas such as Exmoor the tourist and hunting seasons do not coincide. Tourism is a far greater source of income than hunting. Given the universal antipathy that there is towards hunting, tourists will not see hunting as an attraction and will be less likely to visit the area if they have to witness hunting activities. There is a general growth in eco-tourism such as the expansion of ‘safari’ trips on Exmoor to witness wild deer and other wildlife. The deer have tremendous economic potential as a tourist attraction. Exford is one village often cited as an example of the importance of hunting to the rural economy. Even here tourism is of far greater economic significance. It is notable that there are very few villages such as Exford. Hunting is spread thinly across the UK and has very little local importance.
Most rural dwellers are opposed to hunting. They are not neutral. They are fully aware of the realities of hunting which is why they tend to feel strongly about the issue. The continuing viability of rural communities depends on the fullest participation of residents in village life. It is particularly important in village life that social events have the support of most of the village. Hunt linked activities are currently an obstacle to viable rural communities.
The League shares the concerns of those who feel that locals may be priced out of their communities by city based hunters buying weekend homes.
The main threats to rural life have not come from the campaign to ban hunting but from closures to the infrastructure and job losses. Losses in agriculture, the closure of village schools, post offices and rural bus services along with a reduction in the building of social housing were the main features in rural life in the eighties. The recent agricultural crises have added to the situation. It is ridiculous to argue that the preservation of hunting will ease the current situation. Graham Harvey argued in an article in the Observer in 1998 that the 16,000 jobs, which the hunting lobby claimed depended on hunting, was the average number of jobs lost each year in the countryside since the war. No one protesting about the abolition of hunting had voiced their concern about the hundreds of thousands of jobs which had already been lost. Mr Harvey speculated that the defence of jobs and claims about the importance of hunting to rural life was a cynical attempt to exploit the jobs issue at a time when there was an overwhelming Labour majority in parliament.
The real answer to the current problems facing rural Britain lie in a sustained, consistent rural policy which includes programmes designed to involve all rural dwellers regardless of their background. Rural life, as with all other communities, evolves and its continued and future viability depends on maintaining inclusive involved communities. The preservation of one deeply detested practice is a backward step.
Hunters have tended to stress the ‘wealth’ of literature and music surrounding hunting, but that this is a reflection of history not current reality. Historically, literary figures may have referred to hunting or even have written about it but that was because it was a feature of the lives of the people they were writing about. Hunting is no longer a part of animal control, if it ever was. It is now deeply detested by the majority of people who are increasingly concerned about animal welfare issues. Contemporary writing reflects modern life and consequently little reference is made to hunting.
Management and conservation of wildlife
Back to top
11. What evidence is there about the present effect of hunting with dogs on the preservation of habitats and the management and conservation of wildlife?
Hunting by its very nature is not a ‘natural activity’. Because wild animals are pursued through the countryside in an unplanned and unpredictable direction, wildlife habitats and rare flora and fauna can be and often are damaged or destroyed
It is widely acknowledged that the landscape has been under threat for years, with diminishing hedgerows, bigger fields, reclamation of moorland, and overgrazing leading to loss of heather and sedge cover. The presence of large groups of hunters and followers in environmentally challenged and sensitive areas is a threat to those areas. Accidental damage can and often does endanger and can destroy habitats.
The League and other organisations with an interest in wildlife provide natural habitats for hunted animals and other wildlife. Incursions onto this land by hunters and hunt followers is a threat to the wildlife and to the wildlife habitats.
The evidence shows that the level of public and private funds invested in wildlife habitats through the environmentally sensitive area schemes and other land management grant aided schemes is considerable, while there is little evidence of investment in land management for the primary purpose of promoting and facilitating hunting with hounds.
Hunt activity can actually lead to the destruction of wildlife habitats. Massed riders and motorised followers, sometimes on motorbikes and quad-bikes, on and off the road, can cause considerable damage. The fleeing fox or deer running as far and as fast as it can to escape the pursuing hounds will lead the hounds and their followers through fields, onto private property and across environmentally sensitive areas. There can be no doubt that thirty or so riders and mechanised vehicles will cause damage. The chase is not concerned about preserving wildlife habitats but about pursuing the fleeing quarry.
One defence of hunting is that farmers preserve wildlife habitats in order to hunt the animals that live within them. Conservation is not about killing animals for sport. Many copses spread across the British countryside may have originally been planted to provide shelter and homes for foxes but that is a reflection of the past. The current fox population is secure and may be increasing. The large scale creation and preservation of wildlife habitats is a costly business and in earlier times only the landed gentry would have been in a position to afford to pay for large-scale tree planting. Now, however, the majority of wildlife preservation is paid for through grants from Westminster and Brussels. We have all paid for the preservation work which is going on. The small amount of work carried out by hunts on copses they own is far outweighed by the grant aided work done by landowners and farmers.
Ward and Macdonald both argue that any previous preservation of quarry species has been superceded by moves towards conservation at a Government level. Macdonald argues that farmers are now seen less as owners of land with the exclusive rights to everything on it, than as custodians of the land on behalf of us all. This democratic attitude is a reflection of the way people think and has resulted in farmers receiving grants to make if economically viable for them to do so. With this change in attitude we have seen moves towards greater access to the land for the general population, who are now in effect paying for it to be maintained for wildlife on their behalf.
‘I think it’s not really a conservation issue, I don’t really think it’s an economic issue, I think it’s an issue to do with ethics - do we think, as a society, that it’s right or wrong... if you consider it as a conservation issue, then in terms of either British problems with loss of habitat, or worldwide problems, it’s a non-starter in terms of significance.’ (49)
Hunters argue that many hedgerows would disappear without the incentive of providing habitat for hunted species. In spite of this 140,000 miles of hedgerow have been destroyed since the last war and during the 1980s were still being destroyed at a rate of 3,000 km per year. Hunters’ claims do not bear up to the economics of farming. Hedgerows virtually disappeared from sections of East Anglia because of the shift to large crop fields. Hunting has continued throughout this area.
Initiatives such as the Countryside Stewardship scheme and the influence of Farming and Wildlife Advisory Groups, typify sweeping cultural change which not only recognises farmland as the arena for much conservation, but acknowledges the farmer as custodian of nature and pays him for discharging that role. Any role hunts may have previously had in conservation is now far outweighed by the general move towards conservation internationally along with incentives from the European and UK Governments. Farmers are now more commonly seen as custodians of the land on behalf of the population as a whole (1).
A survey of 100 occupiers of small woods and 3,700 members of the timber Growers Organisation with small woods revealed that 92% did not plant woods as ‘fox coverts’ and that 88% did not retain woods for such a purpose. The survey placed ‘fox covert’ as the lowest of nine motives for the retention or planting of small woods (50).
Hunting plays a dubious role in wildlife conservation. Most wildlife trusts have banned hunting from their land because of the disruption and damage they cause. They clearly do not believe that hunting is a part of wildlife conservation.
A number of hunt officials have been prosecuted for environmental damage.
Appendix 4d lists further examples of the environmental damage caused by hunts.
Back to top
12. What would be the impact of a ban?
Hunting does not play a significant part in population control or wildlife conservation. The impact of a ban would be minimal. Overall the environment would benefit, as damage resulting from hunting trespass will disappear.
Most conservation work is not connected with hunting and will continue.
Village life will also benefit as the most divisive activity in rural Britain will no longer be a bar to full participation in social and cultural activities.
The main immediate effect of a hunting ban would be the removal from the countryside of packs of hunting dogs following a fleeing animal into fields of livestock and into private lands where they are not welcome. Rural roads will no longer be blocked by car and mounted followers and travelers on main roads and railway lines will no longer be involved in the unnecessary death of hounds.
Any conservation elements provided by hunters are largely historical and have been replaced and superceded by the general move towards conservation, often grant aided. Those hunts, which own land, may wish to apply for grants to aid conservation work. However, they will need to change their current practice of producing an imbalance in the local fox population in order to create a surplus for hunting. Many existing hunts will come under pressure from subscribers who currently ride to hounds to convert to drag hunting. Hunt owned coverts will become a valuable part of the land ‘hunted’ by drag hunts. There will therefore be a strong incentive to preserve these copses and areas of woodland for their aesthetic value.
There may a decrease in some local fox populations where artificial earths fall into disrepair as they are no longer maintained by hunts. In these cases the fox population will return to its natural levels.
Hunters often claim that in the absence of their sport other means will be used to kill foxes. Macdonald argues that this may not be particularly important to conservation as fox populations do not seem to be threatened even by intensive control (1).
In spite of arguments that drag hunting is an entirely different sport to live quarry, many hunts will convert to drag hunting due to pressure from their own subscribers who will wish to continue riding through the countryside. Drag hunts follow an artificial scent which can be laid to avoid areas where hunts are not welcome or will cause environmental damage. They can also be laid to ensure that riders enjoy the most scenic countryside available to them.
The absence of hunting will remove one of the most divisive activities in the countryside. Macmillan has demonstrated that social activities associated with hunting continue in the absence of hunting where enough people wish them to do so. Point-to-point is largely independent of hunting and will benefit financially as they will no longer be required to raise money for the local hunt. People opposed to hunting who wish to ride will be more likely to become involved. Horse numbers have risen in areas where hunting has closed down. The abolition of hunting could see a substantial rise in horse related activity resulting in increased horse numbers and increased jobs.
Back to top
Hunted animals suffer stress and trauma and may die later even where they are not killed by hounds.
The evidence also shows that hounds, horses and domestic animals are regularly killed and injured during the activity of hunting.
The evidence shows that the quarry animal is often injured before it is killed , that it can be severely shocked before it is killed and that when it is killed, it is often killed by mauling by hounds
The only substantial study into the effects of hunting on the quarry was carried out by Professor Patrick Bateson. Bateson’s conclusion that hunted deer suffer so severely that deer hunting should be banned was immediately repudiated by the Countryside Alliance who have adamantly refuse to accept Professor Bateson’s findings even though they have been widely endorsed by fellow scientists.
The refusal by the hunting lobby to accept solid scientific research is typical of their claims in defence of hunting. They claim that deer and foxes would, in the natural world, be killed by wolves and that they are simply using the most natural means available to kill their prey. However, it is extremely unlikely that a wolf pack would bother to expend valuable energy chasing a fox as it is small animal and the return would not be worth the hunt. Deer would have been chased by wolves but hounds do not hunt in the same way. A wolf pack would not continue to chase a deer over many miles for many hours. Their hunting strategy is to identify a target and to bring it down as quickly as possible. If the intended prey escapes they stop the hunt.
Hounds are designed for stamina. In deer, fox and hare hunting the quarry is worn down by the relentless pursuit of a pack of hounds specifically bred for superior stamina and tracking skills. Hunting is not a reflection of nature. The quarry’s main defence is short, rapid escape. They are not designed for a long drawn out chase and it is inevitable that each species will suffer exhaustion and severe stress as a result of the unnaturally long drawn-out chase they are subjected to.
The League has obtained post mortem evidence of foxes killed during hunting which shows that they do not die by a ‘nip to the back of the neck’ as is claimed in defence of hunting. The most common means of death are multiple wounds to the foxes’ most vulnerable quarters and disemboweling. See appendix 2.
In 1999 ‘Copper’ a young fox saved from the Chiddingford, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt escaped down a hole having been caught up by the pack of hounds. The vet examining Copper found that he had multiple puncture wounds on his rear and hind quarters. This fox had been hunted and attacked from behind - in marked contrast to the killing method described by the hunters. The examination also concluded that Copper would have die from his experience had he not received medical treatment when he did. The bites were not life threatening but the fox would have died even if he had escaped from the hounds. The vet’s report is attached at appendix 2.
A report of a day’s hunting with the Vine and Craven Foxhounds included the following: "Just short of the wood he [the fox] was put up in a pit and pulled down by the lead hound short of the covert side, but he managed to escape into the wood..’ (51)
Hunts also claim that they take out old and injured foxes. Again this claim does not stand up to scrutiny. Hunts are not interested in sick and injured foxes because they do not provide the chase which is so essential to a good days hunting. Stephen Harris has looked at the claim about hunting older foxes: ‘One frequent claim made by hunts is that it is the old, sick and weak foxes that tend to be caught by the hounds, and that hunting therefore maintains a healthy fox population. There are a number of reasons why this argument is flawed. First, most of the foxes they kill are less than a year old. Secondly, very few foxes live long enough to reach old age. The maximum life expectancy in the wild is ten or eleven years. With 65% of the fox population dying each year, only five out of every thousand cubs see their fifth birthday (half their maximum life expectancy), less than one in a thousand see their seventh birthday, and only three in every 100,000 cubs born reach their natural life span and see their tenth birthday. There are just no old foes for the foxhunts to kill.’ (43)
The fact is that the best fox for hunting purposes is fit and healthy as they produce the best chase.
There is also considerable cruelty involved in digging out foxes when they seek refuge underground from the hounds. In some regions, Wales and the West for example, the proportion of kills made by hunts after foxes had gone to ground is estimated to be over half, but there appears to be considerable variation between hunts. MacDonald & Johnson examined the diaries of 36 hunts and out of 2,062 kills, 1,408 (67%) were above ground. The rest went to ground and were either dug out and shot, killed underground by terriers, or flushed out by terriers and subsequently caught by hunt hounds. (1)
The Countryside Alliance claims that the purpose of using terrier to dig out foxes isn’t to create a fight between the animals:
‘In many pest control situations, the terrier is the most humane method available. The terrier's role is not to fight with its quarry, but to locate it underground and to bark at it continuously, either causing it to leave the earth or alternatively to indicate where in the earth the quarry is located – in order that it can be dug to and dispatched.’ (52)
However, there is considerable doubt amongst hunt enthusiasts about just how humane terrierwork actually is :
‘We hold that hunting is humane, because the hounds either kill the fox immediately or it gets away. But there is much cruelty involved in the way these men and their dogs try to despatch them... the practice of sending down terriers to dig out the foxes and then battering or shooting them, often without making a kill, was akin to bear baiting.’ (53)
‘Clearly the burgeoning of the [hunt supporters] clubs has produced a considerable growth in the ‘terrier and spade brigade’ and in many (hunt) countries, when a fox goes to ground, there is often a race to see who can get their terriers first into the earth.... The result in most countries is a great deal more digging. This is very often done in the twilight or by torchlight when hounds have returned to kennels and is rarely carried out in accordance with Masters of Fox Hounds Association guidelines, let alone in a humane way.’ (54)
‘If a mangy fox is put to ground, the best thing to do is to leave the second whipper-in and the terriers to get him out, but never keep the field standing about after regular hunting begins...
A fresh fox is easy to bolt. A tired, hunted fox will endure any amount of punishment if end on, or if face to the dog, will more often than not fight to the death, rather than face the seventeen and a half couple outside.’ (55)
‘First it is arguable that a large proportion of the cruelty associated with fox hunting occurs when, having gone to ground, foxes are dug out using terriers. Banning the use of terriers would radically reduce, although certainly not eliminate, the cruelty in hunting.’(1)
‘...how many times have we seen the situation where we have dug down to a terrier to find that the fox has, the whole time, been ‘brush on’ to the dog with its head facing away, the terrier having the freedom to inflict severe damage.’(56)
‘Our next day with Toss was a week later, New Year’s Day 1997. The first hole we tried, Toss disappeared almost immediately and we knew Foxy was home. After about 5 minutes, Toss was bleeped at about 5 feet, so we gave him a while and started to dig. Clunk – solid rock. We could hear the dog baying away, not too plainly though. After a couple of hours digging the baying stopped, but we were picking up the dog up in the same spot, so we decided to carry on.
After three hours hard digging we broke through. Foxy was very much dead. But so was Toss. He had squeezed in too tight and through taking so long to dig him, we lost him’. (57)
Foxes are often repeatedly bolted to extend the chase when they could easily have been ‘humanely’ shot. This is particularly true with fell packs where earth stopping dos not take place.
Professor Bateson found that his study ‘produced clear-cut scientific results. These show that lengthy hunts with hounds impose extreme stress on red deer and are likely to cause them great suffering. The hunts force them to experience conditions far outside the normal limits for their species. These stresses are at least at the same level as for severely injured deer and usually last for hours in the case of deer which are killed and much longer in those that escape…I conclude that the level of total suffering would be markedly reduced if hunting with hounds were ended. Hunting with hounds can no longer be justified on welfare grounds, taking into account the standards applied in other field of animal welfare.’ (16)
Bateson could not judge the extent of recovery in deer that escape but he concluded that they suffered extreme stress for many hours. Deer may have been soaked with rain or run through rivers before they escape. By the end of the day they may succumb to hypothermia or pneumonia. They may also suffer a painful death from myopathy. This is a condition brought on by the stress and over-exertion of a long pursuit. A build up of lactic acid in the deer cause muscle tissue to break down. Death comes as a result of kidney failure. Lactic acid is a natural by-product of exertion and normally the kidneys can clean this out of the bloodstream. Excessive and unnatural levels of exertion results in massive doses of lactic acid breaking down the muscle tissue, causing extreme pain. In spite of the denial by hunters of myopathy there is scientific research to confirm its existence as a condition afflicting hunted deer. RM Barlow in his 1986 report Capture Myopathy. In Management and Diseases of Deer, (veterinary Deer Society Publication) stated that ‘the condition may be prevented by avoiding prolonged pursuit and stressful forms of restraint.’
‘On 9th September 1996 a stag was shot in the head (with a shortened shotgun) from a distance of about 10m, again after lying down in bracken following a hunt of over 10km. The stag did not get to its feet but was still moving, and we believe that a humane killer was then used. The stag was immediately bled out, with blood samples being collected in the usual way. The stag then tried to get to its feet, but was held down by three men. It struggled and bleated intermittently, and responded to touches on the eyeball by jerking away sharply until its death 5 minutes after the first shot.’ (16)
Numerous eye-witness accounts exists of the cruelty involved in stag-hunting, as well as considerable amounts of video evidence of hounds savaging the deer (available from the League Against Cruel Sports), despite hunt supporters’ denials that this happens. For example, one account of a hunted stag chased by the Devon & Somerset Staghounds into the grounds of a primary school quoted a local resident: ‘Beverley Powell, a housewife who lives opposite the school, witnessed the incident after she heard a commotion. She said: "There were about five staghounds snapping and biting and jumping up at the stag, which was trying to get into the school through a closed door.’ (58)
Hare should not be persecuted if only to protect their numbers. As in fox hunting’ hare hunting involves the chasing of an initially faster quarry by slower moving hounds with vastly superior stamina. The hare will eventually succumb to the hounds when it is too exhausted to run any further. The chase inflicts an unnatural chase on an animal which is not designed for the relentless chase inflicted on it by the hunt.
Hare coursing is one of the most demonstrably cruel activities involving setting dogs onto animals. Coursers make no claims to be involved in keeping a pest down. Legal coursing often takes place on coursing estates and hare which escape run the risk of being coursed again as long as it remains in the area. It is no surprise that coursers need to net hares and transport them to restock coursing estates. Coursing has no role in either the welfare or conservation of the hare. Instead hares are chased by two greyhound, often becoming a living rope in a tug of war between the dogs. The purpose is to test the skill of the dogs. The fate of the hare is incidental. Coursing estates, are not the centres of high hare population claim by the coursers, instead they are restocked from the few areas where hare are common.
League film of hare being netted was shown to Stephen Harris who concluded that the method by which they were being netted, and the cages into which they were being put for transportation, were highly likely to stress the hares. If this declining native species is to be netted and transported it should be for repopulating only and under the supervision of a vet.
The League has been monitoring hunt activity for a number of years but our monitors have met with obstruction and intimidation as they have followed and filmed hunts in action. Our monitors have experienced increasing levels of violence in recent years. Two hunt followers were given custodial sentences in 1999 for assaults on League monitors. The level of intimidation means that we have found it increasingly difficult to gather evidence. Some of our evidence is a few years old but it remains an accurate reflection of what goes on in the course of hunting. If we were able to monitor all hunts openly, without interference, we believe that we would be able to record unnecessary cruelty on virtually every day of the hunting. Appendix 4d gives details of prosecutions of hunt followers for violence.
It is not just the quarry species which suffer in hunting.
Hounds are kept in cramped kennels in spaces which would be unacceptable in a zoo. They are fed on casualty meat and constantly contract worms. There is a culture of killing animals as a part of the management practices of hunting. Hounds rarely live beyond the age of 7 or 8 as they are usually destroyed after their sixth hunting season. Many offers have been made to hunts offering to rehome hounds but these are always refused.
Kennels should be regularly inspected. In 1991 the League Against Cruel Sports revealed video and photographic evidence taken at the Tegryn Fox Hound kennels in Pembrokeshire. Hounds were kept in a ramshackle hut and pen which they shared with the carcasses of sheep, cattle and ponies ‘donated’ by farmer. Exposure led to these kennels being closed down. Where kennels keep hounds in these conditions they can act as reservoirs for re-infection of pasture by hounds (in the case of Taenia Hydatigena) livestock and people. Work carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1991 on the brains of 444 dead hounds suggested that some had developed the first symptoms of BSE. The abnormalities, fibrils, in the hounds’ brains were similar to those found in sheep with scrapie. The evidence was reported verbally to the Government’s Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which decided no further action was necessary.
According to Robin Mackenzie, an official of the British Field sports Society and master of Fox Hounds, the average hunt breeds six litters with six pups in each year (Shooting Times, June 21-27, 1984). There are 300 hunts, so over 10,000 pups may be produced every year. The hound population remains stable each year. Many hounds die every year on roads and railway lines and may older hounds will be replaced because they are unable to keep up with the pack. The average hunting life of a hound is around six years so around 3,400 young hounds will be required to replace the ‘retired’ hounds in addition to those replacing deaths incurred whilst hunting. Older hounds are retired by being shot. The same fate awaits the thousands of younger hounds who fail to enter the pack. Thousands of hounds are shot every year. This is a substantial animal welfare problem.
Before the Second Reading debate of the Foster Bill in1997 some hunters suggested that hounds be shot in Downing Street and left outside the Prime Minister’s official residence. These people were persuaded that it would not be a good publicity move. Nevertheless it is a good demonstration of the attitude many hunts have towards their dogs.
Terriers used in digging out often suffer from the underground dogfights they are entered into. The following account of what happened after a fox had been hunted into a rocky refuge by the Blencathra Fox Hounds (a fell pack), and a terrier had been entered in, appeared in the Sunday Telegraph magazine (17th August 1997, journalist Adam Nicolson):
"From above ground we could hear terrible fighting below us. The screaming of dog and fox was only partly muffled by the layers of earth and rock that separated us from it. The noise moved for about ten minutes around different parts of the earth and then went quiet. The huntsman, the whipper-in and the followers stood listening in silence as the lark rose from the moorland grasses round us.
Then the huntsman said, "All right, that’s us then", and headed back downhill. It was just before nine in the morning. "But what about your dog?" I said to the terrier man as we walked down. "Oh," he said, "that’s all right. It’ll either be dead and the fox will be eating it, or the fox’ll be dead and she’ll be eating the fox. Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll be back in a couple of days, once she’s slept the whole thing off."
Further proof of the injuries inflicted on terriers appeared in D B Plummer’s book The Working Terrier: ‘Few working terriers go through their lives without being bitten by their quarry… Fox bites, being another source of infection, almost invariably ‘go wrong’. Slashes usually cause little trouble, and as a result respond to simple salt-water washes, put punctures, as I have stated, are another matter. These need great care if they are not to lead to massive infections of staphylococcus.’ (59)
Farm livestock are regularly harassed by packs of hounds and mounted followers trespassing on land where they are not welcome. ADAS has advised that during lambing pregnant ewes should not be exposed to dogs. Appendix 4a shows that such incidents are commonplace
Domestic pets are killed as a result of hunting each season. The typical response for the hunt is to offer financial compensation. Many owners complain that the hunt treats them with arrogance, frequently ignoring their reasonable requests to leave land on which they are not welcome. Appendix 4b shows that pet killings are a feature of most hunting seasons.
Police are frequently unable to arrest or prosecute people found digging for badgers as they claim they are digging for foxes. This loophole must be removed to help reduce badger baiting
Back to top
14. What evidence is there about the impact on the welfare of animals of other means of control which might be used if hunting with dogs was banned?
Shooting is the most common method of control for most animals. A ban on hunting with hounds will not effect this situation.
The main means of control used by man is shooting and it will continue to be so. Gassing is effectively illegal. The League believes that snaring should also be made illegal.
Harris believes that a minimum of.100,000 foxes are shot each year compared with 15-20,000 that are hunted. Some estimates of the number of foxes killed by hunts are lower. In some areas the local fox population will fall with the decline in the use of artificial earths and stick piles and fox control measures may even fall as a result of the ending of fox hunting.
Shooting is the most common form of fox control apart from roads and illness and it will remain in this position whether or not hunting is banned. Claims about a substantial increase in foxes wounded in shooting do not stand up to scrutiny. Farmers shoot foxes they consider to be a problem and are unlikely to wait for the hunt which may only visit their farm once per year.
‘The alternative of shooting red deer, already accounting for most culling on Exmoor and the Quantocks, produces on average much lower levels of individual suffering. Thus I estimate that 130 hunted deer that are killed each year by the hunts and roughly a further 100 that escape will experience unacceptable levels of suffering whereas only seven or so of the 130 at present killed by hunting would have such problems if shot.’ (16)
There will be no need for increased culling after hunting is banned, but where it does take place it should be done under licence to prevent it from being used as a sport or recreational activity. All culling should be done in the most humane way. Any form of culling of live animals should be subject to strict controls and should be carried out humanely by trained individuals.
The League is concerned that some landowners may persecute animals they previously hunted in order to ‘prove’ the need for hunting. Such behaviour will be the responsibility of the individuals concerned. We believe that a few misguided individuals will be faced with strong public indignation at their activities and that they will stop their actions when they realise that they are having no effect.
Implementing a ban
Back to top
The League believes that anything other than a complete ban on live mammal quarry hunting would prove unworkable and would be legally, morally and ethically indefensible.
A complete national ban should be implemented as soon as a bill to ban hunting with hounds receives Royal Assent.
Regular incidents of trespass on private property, roads and railways, kills in front of school children, pet deaths and livestock panicking are an element of each hunt season. Hunts frequently escape prosecution because many of the offences are civil. A ban would prevent these incursions into illegality.
Legislation to ban hunting, provided that there is a willingness amongst hunters to convert to other forms of equine sport, would have a negligible negative impact on people directly engaged in hunting and related activities.
A ban on the hunting of live animals with dogs of any description should be framed in such a way that it includes any intent to course and to pursue one or more wild mammals with a dog or dogs, save only in the exceptional circumstances where an officer of the law or RSPCA inspector has specifically requested that an animal be tracked and found for humane treatment or, where necessary, humane dispatch.
Back to top
16. How might such a ban be applied and enforced?
The ban should be total and immediate and would be enforced in the same way as the law is enforced with regard to other forms of cruelty to animals.
Members of the public will bring to the attention of the authorities or to the RSPCA any evident breaches of the law or intended breaches of the law
Enforcement should be through the law of the land, with an equivalence of penalty to other types of cruelty to animals.
The use of dogs to flush foxes out for shooting should only permitted under licence where there is a proven need. In such cases the number of dogs used should be restricted to reduce the risk of the dogs hunting as a pack.
The ban can only come into force as an Act of Parliament. The hunting lobby have consistently refused to accept scientific findings such as the Bateson report. In spite of that fact that the Bateson report has been endorsed by fellow scientists, the hunting lobby have continually sought to undermine it. It is clear to the League that hunts will continue to operate until banned from doing so by an Act of Parliament.
Enforcement would come from the police. Many police forces are currently engaged in monitoring and supervising hunts at present. A ban on hunting would greatly reduce their workload even if they are occasionally called out to investigate reports of illegal hunting. The majority of people who live in the countryside oppose hunting and there will be a large pool of people willing to report breaches of the law. There exists a nationwide network of RSPCA Inspectors who will also play a role in monitoring and implementing the new law and they may even bring prosecutions.
The time it takes for the Bill to pass through Parliament means that the hunts will have plenty of time to decide whether to disband or convert to drag hunting.
In the period between passing a bill in parliament and it becoming law, there will be the opportunity to make a managed transition to the post ban era.
The League believes that hunts should be positively encouraged to reduce the number of hounds bred and that alternative homes should be sought for redundant hounds.
Back to top
17. Would a ban need to be supported by any other action?
The League believes that there is no pressing need for the government to take further action to support a ban on hunting after it has become law. That said, however, there would clearly be a benefit to the agricultural and forestry industries and to rural communities if the government, through its agencies, were to provide advice on wildlife management and the development of eco-tourism and new income generation in the countryside.
The League also believes that the government should give urgent consideration to the whole issue of fallen stock, paying particular regard to the closer regulation of the health and welfare of farmed animals and the proper veterinary inspection and assessment of animals that die on farm. The disposal of farmed animals to knackers and to hunt kennels should be more closely regulated and should prevent the use of any material not passing veterinary inspection from being fed to hounds or disposed of where it could enter the animal or human food chain.
The new law will have the strong support of most people living in the countryside and in practice it will need little additional action. The League and the public would expect people found to be involved in illegal hunting to be prosecuted.
The League believes that the Government an assist the process of transition to a new cruelty-free era for hunting by encouraging an orderly transition to alternative activities or a winding down of those hunts with no hunting future.
The League believes that existing Government assistance, through the environmental aid and alternative employment creation schemes, can be used to help fund the process of transition without placing an additional burden on the public purse.
Burn's Inquiry - references
|1.||MacDonald, D.W. and Johnson, P.J. (1996). The Impact of Sport Hunting - a Case Study. Chapman and Hall|
|2.||Pye-Smith, C. (1997). Fox-Hunting - beyond the propoganda. Wildlife Network, Oakham, Rutland.|
|3.||Wallcae, R.E. (1993). Why Stop Earths? Countryweek Hunting p32-33, April 1993|
|4.||Sykes, C. (1960). In Praise of Hunting (Duke of Beaufort ed) 5.|
|5.||Harris, S., McDonald, R. and Baker, P. (1997). Is the Fox a Pest?. Electra Publishing|
|6.||MAFF (1994) Agriculture in the UK. 1993 HMSO, London|
|7.||NOP Market Research (1974). Facts about foxes and farming|
|8.||MAFF (1983) Reducing lamb mortaility. HMSO, London|
|9.||Hewson, R. (1984) Scavaging and predation upon sheep and lambs in west Scotland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 21, 843-868|
|10.||Henderson, D. (pers. comm.) Moredom Institute|
|11.||Burrows, R.(1970) Wild Fox, David and Charles, Newton Abbot|
|12.||MacDonald, D. (1987) Running with the Fox. Unwin Hyman, London|
|13.||Bowler, J. (pers. comm.) John Bowler (Agriculture) Ltd|
|14.||Brock DWE (1973) Fox hunting. A British Field Sports Society. BFSS, London|
|15.||Langbein, J and Putman, R. (1996) Studies of English Red Deer Populations Subject to Hunting-to-Hounds. In Taylor, V and Dunstone, N (eds) (1996) The Exploitation of Mammal Populations. Chapman and Hall, London|
|16.||Bateson, P. (1996) The Behavioural and Physiological Effects of Culling Red Deer. Report to the Council of the National Trust|
|17.||Western Morning News, 22nd February 1960|
|18.||NOP Market Research (1985) Poll of Exmoor Residents|
|19.||Birks, J. English Nature (26th September 1991) 'in Country Life'|
|20.||Letter 19th October 1983|
|21.||Letter 15th April 1987|
|22.||Nigel, T. and AD (1993) The Mink, Dustone, Posyer Ltd.|
|23.||Gilbey, W. (1979) Hounds in Old Days, Spur Publications|
|24.||Poole, R.W.F. (1988) Hunting, an introductory handbook, (P97 and 101) David and Charles Publishers PLC|
|25.||The Duke of Beaufort (1980) Fox-Hunting, David and Charles|
|26.||Page, R. (1977) The Hunter and the Hunted, (P51), Readers Union Ltd, Newton Abbot|
|27.||Macmillan, D. (1999) The Economic impact of a ban on fox-hunting with dogs in Scotland, Environmental and Rural Resource Economics Group, University of Aberdeen. Research Paper 99/3|
|28.||Ward, N. (1999) Foxing the Nation: economic (in)significance of hunting with dogs in Britain, Journal of Rural Studies (1999) 389-403|
|29.||Country Sports - Their Economic Significance. The Standing Conference on Country Sports, March 1983|
|30.||Campaign for Hunting, January 1992|
|31.||Matson, R. (1991) The Hypothetical Consequences of Closing Down a Large Pack of Foxhounds. Geoffrey Cragghill Memorial Scholarship|
|32.||Macmillan, D. (1999) After Fox-hunting: the potential for alternative employment, Environmental and Rural Resource Economics Group, University of Aberdeen. Research Paper 99/4|
|33.||Baines, R., Baker, S., Hallett, J. and Macdonald, D. (1995) The Impact of Foxes and Fox Hunting on the Management of Wiltshire County Farms Estate, Report to Wiltshire County Council, Centre for Rural Studies, occassional paper No. 22|
|34.||MAFF (1983) Mammals and Bird Pests, MAFF Research and Development Report 255|
|35.||Hewson, R. (1990), Victim of Myth, a study of predation upon lambs by foxes in absence of control, LACS|
|36.||Bygrave, A.C., Veterinary Investigation Officer, MAFF, November 1997|
|37.||Manley, W., Hallett, J., Nixon, J. and Baines, R. Economic, Sociail and Environmental Aspects of Hunting with Hounds in West Somerset and Exmoor (1999) Report to the Rural Economy Working Group of West Somerset District Council. Centre for Rural Studies, Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.|
|38.||Winter, M., Hellett, J., Nixon, J. et al. (1993) The Economic and Social Aspects of Deer Hunting on Exmoor and the Quantocks. Report to the National Trust. Centre for Rural Studies Occasional Paper No. 20, Cirencester|
|39.||Fresco, A. (1997) 'Modern llifebrings buckhounds to heel', The Times, 29th June 1997|
|40.||Scottish Parliament Information Centre (1999) Foxhunting in Scotland. Research Note 99/17 28th July 1999|
|41.||NOP Poll of 1000 free-holding farmers, March 1996|
|42.||Point-to-Pointers and Hunter Chasers (1985) Mackenzie and Selby|
|43.||Harris, S. and Baker, P. (1997) How willl a ban on hunting affect the British Fox Population? Electra Pubishing|
|44.||Smith, M. (1984) New Scientist, 8th March 1984|
|45.||Harris, S. and McLaren, G. (1998) The Brown Hare in Britain, Electra Publishing|
|46.||Skinned (1993) League Against Cruel Sports|
|47.||Spring Hunting in the Cumbrian Fells (November 1993) Horse and Hound|
|48.||Fresco, A. (1999) Hounds corner stag in school playground. The Times, 31st March 1999|
|49.||David Macdonald, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University, speaking on a BBC documentary '21st Century Fox', October 1996|
|50.||Country Sports - Their Economic and Conservation Significance. The Standing Conference on Countryside Sports, 1992|
|51.||Hunting Report. Horse and Hound, 27th January 1994|
|52.||Countryside Alliance (2000): Their is Terrierwork. http://www.countryside-alliance.org/country/terrierwork.htm|
|53.||Newspaper interview with Jack Clarke, Master of the South durham Fox Hounds, in the 'Middlesborough Evening Gazette', 2 January 1970|
|54.||Letter to 'The Field', 27 October 1982, from JNP Watson, former Master and Huntsman of a pack of beagles, whipper-in to a fox hunt and author of the book, 'The Book of Foxhunting', Batsford 1977|
|55.||McNeil C (1945) The Hunt Terrier, in: Foxhunting (The Earl of Lonsdale and E Parker ed.) p130. Seeley, Service and C Ltd London|
|56.||Chapman E (1992) Earth Dog - Running Dog, July 1992|
|57.||Orr, T (May 1998) The Story of Toss, Terrier, Earth Dog -Running Dog|
|58.||Fresco, A. (1999) Hounds corner stag in school playground. The Times, 31st March 1999|
|59.||Plummer,D.B. (1978) The Working Terrier (P198), The Boydon Press, Ipswich|
Back to top
Date uploaded to site 28 Feb 2000