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Wales sees increase in suspected illegal hunting incidents

18 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Fox hunting. Image: League Against Cruel Sports

Martin Shipton

An increase in suspected illegal hunting incidents in Wales during the last fox hunting season has been reported to national animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports.

The new figures show 121 incidents, comprising 43 reports relating to suspected illegal hunting and 78 reports of “hunt havoc”, were recorded in the League’s end of hunting season report covering November 2023 to March 2024.

It compares with 109 incidents recorded during the same period the season before, comprising 36 reports of suspected illegal hunting and 73 reports of hunt havoc.

Campaigners say the scale of suspected law-breaking highlights yet again how important it is for the next UK Government to commit to strengthen hunting laws.

Ignoring the law

Emma Judd, the League’s head of campaigns, said: “What these figures show is that hunts in Wales are unashamedly ignoring the law. Where they are seen chasing or killing foxes, or even being where pre-laid trails simply can’t be, it’s clear only stronger laws will deter the hunts, or at least allow the police to properly enforce them.

“It’s time for change. Pressure is building for the next UK Government to strengthen fox hunting laws and consign old fashioned fox hunting to the history books where it belongs.”

The report comprises 35 incidents in which a fox was seen being chased by a hunt in Wales, alongside other incidents including the involvement of “terrier men” who are employed by hunts to dig up foxes that have bolted underground.

The hunt havoc incidents included hunts running amok on roads; trespassing on private land; chasing livestock and people’s pets; chasing other wildlife such as deer; damaging badger setts to prevent foxes fleeing underground; horses and hounds being mistreated; threatening and irresponsible behaviour; and members of the public being caused mental distress.

The figures are collated from reports into the League’s Animal Crimewatch service and other monitors.

Hunt havoc

Across England and Wales, figures showed nearly 1,400 incidents, comprising 526 reports of suspected illegal hunting and 870 reports of hunt havoc. There were 549 separate fox hunt meets at which suspected illegal hunting or hunt havoc took place, across 46 different counties and involving 107 fox hunts.

The worst offending hunt in Wales is the Flint and Denbigh Hunt, with 64 incidents comprising 23 reports of suspected illegal hunting and 41 reports of hunt havoc.

The second worst hunt in Wales is the Wynnstay Hunt, with 52 incidents comprising 22 reports of suspected illegal hunting and 30 reports of hunt havoc, and whose huntsman was convicted of illegal hunting in December.

Members of the Senedd joined animal welfare campaigners from the League at the Welsh Parliament last week to back calls for the next UK Government to strengthen fox hunting laws.

Ms Judd added: “We are calling for political parties to commit to strengthening the law by closing its loopholes, banning trail hunting, and introducing custodial sentences for those convicted of illegal hunting.”

Polling

Recent polling commissioned by the League shows nearly eight out of 10 (78%) of voters in Wales were in favour of strengthening the Hunting Act with 57% saying they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the strengthening of hunting laws.

The polling was carried out independently by FindOutNow with further analysis by Electoral Calculus in March and April this year.

Find Out Now interviewed 5,379 GB adults online from March 26 to April 2 2024. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns.

Trail hunting, the excuse often used by fox hunts, has been described by Chief Superintendent Matt Longman, the most senior police officer in Wales and England with responsibility for fox hunting crime, as a “smokescreen for illegal fox hunting”. He also described illegal hunting as “prolific”.

Trail hunting was banned in Scotland in 2023 when the Scottish Parliament strengthened its own fox hunting laws. Fox hunting laws in Wales are not devolved and are determined by the UK Government.

The campaign to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004 and ban trail hunting is backed by the Time for Change Coalition Against Hunting representing 34 animal welfare and environmental organisations.

In December 2023 Andrew Osborne, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), announced a review of his members’ activities, saying it would consider the potential for a new governing body to “have authority and effective jurisdiction over its members, and ensure that the rules are appropriate, acceptable and enforceable”.

He added: “I believe there will always be a role for the MFHA and the other hunting associations, but the new body should be separate from them. I believe that all hunts should be accredited members of this new organisation, as well as the masters and other hunt officials. I also think it is time to bring hunt staff into such a membership, so they are stakeholders too. One of hunting’s biggest assets is the many thousands of people who participate in our sport from all walks of life — it is time that we all played a part in the future of hunting with hounds.

“Hunting with hounds has always held a key role within the countryside and the management of that countryside, especially in the modern world. It is essential we do not lose sight of this core principle, and the review will look at how the hunting community can better explain and promote all the good it does in the countryside.”

 

 


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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
26 days ago

People who hunt, harm and kill animals for “sport” and fun are scum, and deserve to be on the receiving end of what they inflict!

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