Repeal of the Hunting Act – by Edward Leigh MP

I recently received an extremely interesting letter from James Barrington an Animal Welfare Consultant and former Executive Director of the League Against Cruel Sports which brought to light an important view of the hunting ban and what effect it has had. Hunting itself is far from a simple issue of people acting in a barbaric way solely for their sport. The accusation of “bringing back cruelty” will no doubt be widely used in various debates by certain animal groups who would like the public, media and politicians to see hunting as a simple “cruelty – for or against” matter. The reality is very different.

Mr Barrington points out that with the benefit of being involved with some scientific research and working with the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, the use of dogs in wildlife management is, in his view, vital. The Hunting Act rather than improving animal welfare, has actually made it worse and a detailed analysis of this law reveals illogical and unprincipled conditions that in no way can be argued as welfare- friendly. A method that is selective and non wounding has been curbed and simply because most people do witness the results it does not mean that the wildlife is not been damaged.

I believe that we must look at hunting with hounds in this light and discount those other factors – the humans, their motives, the sporting elements and the red coats – that are all completely irrelevant to this natural animal – to – animal process. Opponents of hunting now seem to argue that taking part in this activity is morally wrong. This is nonsense, as the animal welfare benefits of using scenting hounds in wildlife management should be obvious to the objective observer. Further, the “sporting” element for riders and followers funds the “management” element (the hunting element) hunting being a combination of the two.

A recent public opinion poll commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports and IFAW, which shows a fairly high degree of support for the Hunting Act, has been strongly condemned for the way in which the questions were framed. Questions about legalising badger baiting and dog fighting led into the main part of the poll, thereby setting the tone of the survey by asking about “sports where animals are set upon other animals to fight or kill them.” Yet scenting hounds are not “set on” their wild quarry, which is free running and in its natural environment. They find their quarry through their scenting ability. This is not so in the “baiting” sports which involve a captive animal and are conducted purely for the sadistic pleasure of the spectators. There is no wildlife management or control benefit in such activities. Mr Barrington points out that despite being an advocate of hunting with scenting hounds he has proudly prosecuted badger baiters.

Mankind has developed the countryside and has a duty to manage it and the wildlife populations it supports. In doing so we should certainly not exclude the perfect tool that nature has provided in the dog. The Hunting Act should be repealed.

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