Opinion: Fox Hunting Vote Crucial to Lib Dems’ Reputation

Animal rights groups are reporting a planned vote re: fox hunting in the UK, with David Cameron hoping to appease hunting lobbyists by watering down the current legislation. The vote is scheduled for Wednesday 15th July leaving activists little time to fill petitions) and co-ordinate letter writing appeals to mobilise sympathetic MPs.

But how will the Lib Dems vote?

In terms of an outright repeal, the Daily Telegraph reported last month their belief that all eight remaining Lib Dems would vote to keep the law intact. But this is not a repeal, per se, but rather a set of amendments to bring existing practice in England and Wales “into line” with that in Scotland. At present, hunts in England and Wales have been allowed to ‘flush out’ foxes, along with certain other animals, under the auspice of pest control, as long as they are shot as quickly as possible. However, while hunts in England and Wales are limited to using just two hounds for such, the number of dogs that can be used in Scotland is unlimited. With pressure from rural constituencies in particular, will some of the remaining Lib Dems be convinced to vote in favour of the amendments?

Fox hunting is a particularly brutal sport. In its most pure form, the hunted animals will undergo considerable stress as they are tailed for miles before fatigue overcomes them and, unless the huntsmen intervene, they are literally torn apart by the dogs. As foxes are recognised as sentient beings – ie. they feel pain and will suffer emotional and mental stress during the hunt – it seems morally repugnant to legally allow them to be treated in this way. Although advocates of hunting claim that culling foxes is essential for pest control, critics will argue that this is only an excuse to defend what is mostly done for sport. Even advocates for pest control will cite that more humane methods are available, although animal rights activists will reject the need for any killing at all. In this sense, with the current law being already flawed, allowing some hunting in the name of pest control, diluting it further would be seen as a major step backwards, perhaps even rendering the legislation useless in many activists’ eyes; in essence, repealing it through ‘the back door’.

This is the first vote where the party has an opportunity to set their stall out since the recent devastating general election result. In my view, it would be a huge mistake, therefore, for any Lib Dems to side with the Tories as it may lead critics to assume a return to collaboration with their old coalition partners as opposed to the (re)birth of a truly liberal party concerned with social justice.

* Wayne Simmons is a journalist, novelist and dog walker from Northern Ireland, now living in Cardiff. A former Lib Dem, who co-founded the LD Animal Welfare group ((http://www.facebook.com/groups/LDAnimalWelfareGroup), he is now a member of the Animal Welfare Party (http://www.animalwelfareparty.org). Find Wayne at his blog (www.waynesimmons.org).

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87 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '15 - 11:24am

    We lost an MP in Somerset on this issue. She suffered a lot of abuse and there may have been physical risk. Not lacking courage she went off to work on women’s rights in Iran. She did not change her opinions on hunting with dogs.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '15 - 11:28am

    A New Zealander, writing in the Financial Times, reported on his experience as a tenant farmer in the UK. The hunt horses broke down his fences and trampled his crops. His landlord was a member of the hunt, but unwilling to help. The Master of Hounds refused contemptously. There was no effective redress in law.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '15 - 11:31am

    I regret I cannot source this now, but during the passage of the legislation during Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership, an employee of a hunt in Berkshire said that they were creating “cover” for foxes in Berkshire to help the hunt.

    If there is a committee stage, perhaps questions could be asked along these lines.

  • I agree with Wayne, I’m hoping the Lib Dem MPs will deliver the loudest message they can on this issue. I’ve always lived in rural communities, many farmers see hunters as one of the biggest pests around. When a whole hunt rides over your land and jumps your hedges it can cause tens of thousands of pounds of damage. As has been mentioned there are plenty of methods to control fox population, that’s clearly a poor excuse for this savage behaviour.

  • Conor McGovern 10th Jul '15 - 11:42am

    If anything the law should be stricter on this.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '15 - 11:45am

    Foxes tend to starve in the winter and, if in poor condition, get run over by cars and pecked by carrion crows.
    The exception is if they live near a MacDonalds.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Jul '15 - 11:47am

    A Liberal Democrat satirical magazine made mention of the fox departing on the Central Line and the hunt taking its horses down the escalators.

  • If foxes are really vermin that need to be culled, why is there a fox hunting season that runs from November to May? There isn’t a restriction on killing rats or cockroaches! It can only be to ensure that there is no hunting during the foxes’ breeding season to ensure a plentiful supply to be killed the next year. What hypocrisy!

  • Yes, as someone who has had the hunters riding roughshod through my property in the past, I urge all Lib Dem MPs to stand firm on this.

  • So the modern day Liberal attitude is to ban that they do not approve of. Surely it is an issue between th hunt and the owners of the land they ride over . If they ride over land to which they do not have permission to enter and cause damage , it is civil matter.

  • Sue Starkey 10th Jul '15 - 4:48pm

    I agree with Wayne. We should as a nation be seen to act with integrity and compassion toward all animals who inhabit this planet alongside us, and set an example to the world that cruelty to animals on any level will not be tolerated. The responsibility lies with our elected governments to lead the way. I believe condoning animal cruelty is not the example any leaders should be seen to do. Fox hunting is NOT a sport, its an age old ‘tradition’ which should have died with bear baiting and cock fighting. Ripping a fox to pieces by a pack of dogs is barbaric and totally unnecessary and, above all, cruel in the extreme. The ‘ceremony’ that goes with it when the hunt meets is abhorrent. To see grown men and women on huge horses with a pack of hungry dogs chase a small creature for miles is sickening. Mahatma Ghandi quoted ‘The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated’
    Before anyone thinks I am a ‘do gooder’ I have seen the devastation caused first hand on my grandfathers farm but never once did he condone fox hunting in this way.

  • David Faggiani 10th Jul '15 - 5:24pm

    Tricky timing, as we don’t really have a Leader. I would love to see Nick Clegg’s last act as ‘technical’ Leader be rallying all 8 MPs around this.

    I understand some, at least, of the arguments in favour of hunt tradition, and some of the rural politics of the situation (despite being a city boy myself) but… I will seriously consider my future in the Party if our MPs do not make a firm clear stand on this one.

  • David Faggiani 10th Jul '15 - 5:27pm

    and to Charlie above, I would say that at least some Liberal ‘do what you want, as long as it’s not harming others’ principles apply to our treatment of animals. Total Liberalism, just like Total Socialism or Total Conservatism, would be ridiculous, and nightmarish. Liberalism has it’s limits.

  • jedibeeftrix 10th Jul '15 - 7:20pm

    @ Sue – “Ripping a fox to pieces by a pack of dogs is barbaric and totally unnecessary and, above all, cruel in the extreme.”

    Unfortunately, for all the high-sentiment involved here, that was not a conclusion that the labour dominated Burns report could reach. It is a legally defined pest, and therefore a controlled species.

    It is a daft law that is entirely unenforceable and built on false premises.

    With numerous legal loop-holes fox hunting is more popular than ever, and not even the labour dominated burns report could demonstrate that death by hound was any more cruel and inhumane than slow death from poison/snare/buckshot.

    Don’t like that, then argue against the premise of controlling pest species.

  • ” for any Lib Dems to side with the Tories as it may lead critics to assume a return to collaboration with their old coalition partners as opposed to the (re)birth of a truly liberal party concerned with social justice.”

    Lib Dems should always be against this brutal practice, regardless of the politics of who they are seen to be collaborating with.

  • James Simons 10th Jul '15 - 9:20pm

    Very liberal- ban what offends your sense of morality! The argument that hunts are not welcomed by farmers is total nonsense. A hunt could not function without the consent of farmers, many of whom are owners of their land and fully in control of who has permission to enter their property. Also the National Union of Farmers fully supports hunting. This is a grassroots democratically run group that represents farmers. In my area out of 800 landowners just 3 do not permit the hunt to enter so that’s the argument about farmers not welcoming hunts totally scotched.

    I’m afraid that the science does not endorse your view (I’m assuming we are still a party that believes in reason, science and evidential proof rather than traditions and conformity!?). Lord Burns, the Chairman of the Government Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs, stood up in the House of Lords after the publication of his report and uttered the famous words: “Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel… The short answer to that question is ‘no’. There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty”, that should have signalled the end of the long and utterly futile debate over hunting. Of course however it has not.

    All of the arguments that I have had to read from so called ‘Liberals’ regarding the way hunters dress, what class the (supposedly) come from and what they enjoy doing on Saturday afternoons are an absolute disgrace- you all know what I’m talking about: “toffs” “chinless wonders” “posh tw*ts” and it goes on. I’m thinking along the lines of “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity…..”. Sadly there seems to be a lot of that here- I see plenty of things in the world that I think are whacky, weird and worrying but being liberal I choose to live and let live rather than sound like some old bigot who plays the same old boring record.

    What is proposed is however not repeal, it simply makes flushing to guns easier and quicker. It’s the same piece of legislation that many of our representatives lined up to vote for in Scotland. We as a party should be supporting farmers in places such as Wales and Cornwall- places where I’m assuming a fightback should be felt hardest.

  • James Simons. I have no truck with farmers. The only time I saw sheep on the roads was during foot and mouth. They were out all the time in the lanes by my house. Never seen since but there were a lot of new 4 x 4 and sports cars for their kids soon after the smoking pyres of death. Also who are employing gang masters to provide their cheap labour? I am sorry that you think it wrong to care about the bestiality shown by the unspeakable against the inedible. These people would probably chase peasants if they could. I am waiting for the legislation after all the Tories hate the poor and think them vermin as well. Perhaps as Cameron is so keen on aligning with Scotland we can align with free university tuition and prescriptions as well?

  • Sammy O'Neill 11th Jul '15 - 12:25am

    I naturally oppose fox hunting simply because it’s cruel and entirely needless and pointless. But let’s be realistic here, fox hunting is not going to be a big issue with voters when they go to the ballot boxes. How the liberals vote will ultimately make no difference to how the electorate votes. That said, I hope the party always opposes fox hunting simply on the basis of moral integrity/decency.

  • James Simons 11th Jul '15 - 12:39am

    Sammy with all due respect you talk about “moral integrity/decency”- that is your moral integrity and decency, not that of others. I can imagine that same line being used by opponents of many of the things that were legalised under Roy Jenkins’ tenure as Home Secretary in the 1960’s. The day I oppose things and want them banned on the grounds of moral integrity and decency is the day I cease to be liberal.

  • Sammy O'Neill 11th Jul '15 - 1:58am

    @James Simons

    Actually I was referring to the morals/integrity of the individual MP’s in question, not mine. My hope (which I do not believe is unreasonable) is that anyone believing themselves to be appropriate to sit as a Lib Dem MP would oppose fox hunting due to it conflicting with their beliefs be they moral or otherwise.

    The reference to homosexuality is bizarre and irrelevant. I also find it slightly offensive.

    As for claiming to never want things banned for those reasons, sorry I don’t buy it. Everyone at some point in their lives adopts a view because it so greatly offends their sense of morality. If you’re human, you do it just as the rest of us do.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Jul '15 - 8:10am

    I think that there is an interesting discussion developing between James and Sammy. I haven’t entirely settled in my own mind the difference between social liberalism and libertarianism.

    We all have boundaries. The liberalisation that took place under Roy Jenkins was about freeing people to be , instead of trying to suppress or repress or marginalise them. The Fox hunting discussion seems to be of a different order, it is about whether our freedoms should extend to causing pain, suffering and death to a sentient creature.

    Would you describe yourself as a liberal, a libertarian or maybe just someone who believes in moral relativism, James? What are your boundaries? Same with you Sammy. I am truly interested.

  • I live in the country. I dont hunt and I dont ride. Anyone who works with animals, which are raised and slaughtered for our delectation on the dining table, should pause before condemning foxhunting as immoral. Foxes in general have a great life. A natural life. And there is nothing unnatural about getting torn to pieces at the end of it. Thats what happens to the rabbits being chased by the foxes for lunch, and I welcome every one they catch. Thats a little more cereal for our dinner tables.

    The alternative to letting nature take its course is to get really serious about pests and exterminate every last one of them. Then no issue about how they might die, because there would be no more to die. If we ever had a reasoned debate with a fox about whether he wanted all foxes exterminated, whether he wanted to live his life in a cage and then be euthenased once he had grown to an adult, or whether he wanted to live wild and risk whatever happened at the end, I bet he would choose the last option.

    Its no good pretending foxes have some wild heaven where they can get on with life. Countryside in this country is all managed by humans. In the end, we only allow things to happen which are financially beneficial to us. Fox hunting gives people a reason to want foxes to continue existing. Most of the outrage against it is pretty hypocritical, perhaps because most people have no experience of nature.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Jul '15 - 10:34am

    What wrong with foxes they do a damn good job of controlling the rabbit and rat population .good farmers can discourage unwanted wildlife by the right type of fencing and keeping food waste that attracts vermin under control .We need to learn to live with other species we share this planet with rather than see them as competition .
    Getting a perverse pleasure from mutilating other species still shows me the human race has still got a long way to go on the evolutionary scale.

  • Contacted my “Tory” MP yesterday asking how he would vote on the amendment. He replied within 30 mins and told me he would be either be voting against the amendment or abstain. Said there had been a lot of pressure put on him to support it, but he had resisted. A Tory MP doing the right thing – that’s a rarity. I’ll have to be careful I might end up liking him!

  • George Carpenter 11th Jul '15 - 11:35am

    I support fox hunting but lib dems should oppose this amendment to ensure we show ourselves to be the real opposition to this horrendous tory government. It will pass anyway, after all.

  • George Carpenter

    Whether it will pass will largely depend on the SNP, does anyone know if they have decided to vote?

  • James Simons 11th Jul ’15 – 12:39am……………..Sammy with all due respect you talk about “moral integrity/decency”- that is your moral integrity and decency, not that of others…………….

    Do you have an opinion in the ‘morality’ of keeping 16 fox cubs in a barn within 200 metres of the Middleton Hunt kennels? It is, of course, pure coincidence because the hunt has firmly denied any connection and says that “it has been advised against making any further statement.”….

  • Wayne Simmons

    Thanks. Reference the LibDems I’m not sure how they will vote. Going back to the Hunting Ban, I think the majority supported the ban, but a fair few – well into double figures – were against it.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '15 - 2:23pm

    Comment from Times journalist Robert Crampton (magazine page 74) is that it should be a fair fight.
    He appears not to know that in Africa young men are sent out at night to hunt crocodiles , but all the big ones are gone and the small ones are inadequate for the family breakfast.

  • Hate foxhunting and loathe the prats who practise it. Its totally cruel and a sick way to get your kicks. If you want to kill foxes shoot them humanely. Its a blatant lie to suggest its more cost effective to keep a pack of hounds for this purpose. These people claim to love the countryside but invariably they trash fields with their 4x4s and damage hedges and fences on horseback . I have lived in the countryside, this is not a town vs country thing. Foxhunting is massively disruptive and damaging.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '15 - 5:47pm

    Most of the prey are foxes, not used to being a prey species.
    Other types of hunt exist and other prey species, so the legislation is described as hunting with hounds.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 11th Jul '15 - 6:00pm

    I have to say that I’m not wild about the headline here. The idea that this fox hunting vote is crucial to the Party’s reputation is hyperbolic, to say the least. By comparison to our stance on civil liberties, on public services or on the economy, it is of minor import.

    That said, the way we treat animals is an indicator of how we respect the world around us. Is it really decent to allow dogs to tear foxes to pieces because you can? As a country-dweller, I remain to be convinced. Should we ban it? Well, to take James’s point, rather a libertarian one rather than a liberal one, perhaps, we do have animal welfare laws in this country, which protect animals that we utilise for economic advantage. Applying his logic, we would still have veal crates and battery hens. We don’t. because the community has decided that these are cruel and unnecessary. Fox hunting is no different.

    And yes, farmers can, and should, cull foxes if their numbers are out of balance, although the ecosystem would probably achieve the same effect naturally over time. It is the same for any animal in our natural environment. But, given that it is almost certainly the fault of humans that our ecosystem, and particularly our fauna, has become distorted, I do wonder if we wouldn’t be better off leaving it to adjust itself naturally, rather than interfere as we are prone to do.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '15 - 6:24pm

    The reality is that MPs of any party will listen to their constituents. Suppose they represent an upland area in Wales where farmers are on low incomes and foxes are thought to be taking taking new-born lambs …

  • I hope that Liberal Democrat MP’s vote against this.

    I wished that all MP’s would vote against such a bill.

    Fox hunting is cruel and barbaric and has no place in a civilized society.

    I see some argue that a fox being hunted by a pack of hounds and torn to shreds is no different to a rabbit being hunted by a fox and torn to shreds, the 2 are not the same at all.

    In the wild a fox would not chase a rabbit for anymore than a couple of minutes, a chase is over very quickly and it is probably 30 seconds that decides the fate of the rabbit.

    The same can not be said for the poor fox who is chased for miles on end and sometimes for hours on end by a pack of hounds and a group of men and women on horseback. This is not death by natural selection it is just cruel and barbaric.

    If fox numbers numbers need controlling then it should be done late in the evenings, using spot lights and a rifle quickly and humanly .

    There is no need for this kind of barbarism, just because a few toffs who can’t let go of the past and who want to dress up and behave like savages all in the name of tradition

  • Well said Matt !

  • And to those of you calling Fox Vermin, how arrogant
    This Planet does not belong to us, We belong to the planet.
    Now who are the real Vermin? A fox that kills to survive or a human that kills for Pleasure?
    An animal that is in check with the environment or humans who contaminate and destroy there environment every day of the week?
    A Peaceful fox who only kills to eat or a race of people who are killing each other and everything else as fast as it can be arranged?
    The real Vermin are those who says it’s ok to hunt and kill something for self gratification whilst fooling themselves with a lame excuse that they are somehow ‘Vermin’ as if that is somehow an Acceptable Excuse in the first place.
    I understand that Foxes nee to be culled if there Population gets too large but it should be done humanely not as a sport and certainly not for Pleasure.

  • jedibeeftrix 11th Jul '15 - 10:28pm

    @ Mark and Matt –

    and yet your point about the cruelty is null, as I mentioned above; not even the labour dominated burns report could demonstrate that hunting foxes with hounds was more cruel or inhumane than shooting, trapping, or posioning…

    unless, you point about cruelty really refers to humans doing it, rather than animal welfare. that might certainly be the case for matt, who puts out the same nonsense about “toffs”. i’m less sure that mark holds that prejudice, but in consequence more perplexed as to why he won’t just say its human behaviour he wants to control rather than animal welfare.

    on the subject of toffs, my extremely limited experience is that it is very much a working class country activity. the people i have met that do it it are not rich, and in many cases would fit the type of the rural poor.

    comparing it with cock fighting and bear baiting is a canard; it is simply a method of pest control that is not demonstrably more cruel than any other method.

  • James Simons 12th Jul '15 - 2:35am

    @ matt

    “There is no need for this kind of barbarism, just because a few toffs who can’t let go of the past and who want to dress up and behave like savages all in the name of tradition”

    I like any liberal believes that none shall be enslaved by conformity or ignorance- thanks for your class based outburst and your clear issue with what people wear- very liberal of you!

  • James Simons 12th Jul '15 - 2:54am

    @ Alistair

    “Hate foxhunting and loathe the prats who practise it. Its totally cruel and a sick way to get your kicks. If you want to kill foxes shoot them humanely. Its a blatant lie to suggest its more cost effective to keep a pack of hounds for this purpose. These people claim to love the countryside but invariably they trash fields with their 4x4s and damage hedges and fences on horseback . I have lived in the countryside, this is not a town vs country thing. Foxhunting is massively disruptive and damaging.”

    Personally I don’t start out calling people who oppose my view “prats”. Secondly have you any data to back up the “humane” method of shooting at night? Many foxes are shot but unfortunately wounded despite the skill of the marksman. Allowing the amendment would allow foxes to be flushed to a line of guns using more than 2 hounds- far more realistic when flushing an area of woodland. This would allow for more quicker kills rather than a fox being wounded at night and creaping back to its earth to die of gangrene/thirst over the next week.

    Secondly why do the National Farmers Union ( a grassroots democratic agricultural organisation) back hunting if it’s supporters “trash fields with their 4x4s”and smash hedges to bits. If you had learnt anything from your time in the countryside you would have learnt that 4x4s are certainly not permitted to drive over fields during hunting, horses cannot cope with soft soil planted fields- they dig in and break their legs, the mounted followers must stick close to a field master who leads them around the headlands (field edges), hunts often build their own smooth topped jumps into existing hedges and fencing (with farmers’ permission) to avoid hedge damage and on a Sunday morning you will fencing the hunt’s fencing man out repairing any bit of damage done. If all of these steps were not followed their would be no farmer permission. No farmer permission = no hunting. I’m not sure which part of the countryside you lived in but it sounds like you were not particularly well tapped in with your farming neighbours and gained little experience of farmer/hunt interaction prior to voicing your opinions. The whole “farmers hate hunting” thing is nonsense- hunting could not exist without farmer support and the people you refer to as “prats” are often farmers on horseback and not blue bloods.

  • James Simons 12th Jul '15 - 2:58am

    @ Neil Sandison

    “Getting a perverse pleasure from mutilating other species still shows me the human race has still got a long way to go on the evolutionary scale.”

    How would you define a pest controller who enjoys his job catching vermin?

  • James Simons 12th Jul '15 - 3:05am

    Sorry to say folks I see a lot of posturing here and factually incorrect misinformation which I have tried to put right. Call it old fashioned but unless I have read well on a subject or experienced it directly I tend not to for a strong view on it. Also no one has yet commented on the Burns Report (as drawn up by the Blair Government ) which could not produce determinable results on cruelty. A report led by a judge and backed by science- Something that I would have thought was a benchmark for liberal thought on a topic.

  • James Simons 12th Jul ’15 – 3:05am …………..Sorry to say folks I see a lot of posturing here and factually incorrect misinformation which I have tried to put right………..

    Perhaps on “information” you might comment on the “Middleton Hunt/16 Fox cubs” issue….

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '15 - 9:16am

    @ James Simmons,

    What exactly did the Burns report say about fox hunting and cruelty compared to lamping , the use of torches and shooting at night?

    Nime hundren hours of parliamentary time given over to debate on whether Fox Hunting should be banned? .I believe that when polled, 80% of the population were opposed to Fox hunting. Do you believe that using a Statutary instrument to undermine the force of the Act is democratic?

    If this move is about pest control, what evidence is there that the fox population has increased since hunting was banned?

    I agree with you that it is wrong to call people prats ( under any circumstances), but when my husband and I took our first holiday together in Devon in 1970, staying at farms, at the invitation of the family, we followed a hunt ‘on foot’ (actually in a car). We had no strong feelings about hunts one way or the other. At the end of the hunt someone took it upon themselves to blood me along with a child? I am not sure what term one gives to people who smear the blood of dead animals on the faces of others, but it made me look into the practice more closely when I returned home. There was nothing about my single experience that led me to think that the practice was about pest control.

    We are told that this is an amendment. What did David Cameron promise in his manifesto and do you beli

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '15 - 9:26am

    Con’t
    believe him?

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 12th Jul '15 - 10:12am

    @ Jedi,

    Bless… Firstly, very few people will have read the Burns Report, and second, most people’s view is coloured by their own perception.

    And I admit, if it was a choice between being shot in the head and being torn to pieces by dogs, my choice would be an easy one.

    Is that scientific and rational? Possibly not, but then I’m not keen on poisoning or trapping either – both are somewhat random and potentially untargeted.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jul '15 - 10:16am

    @James Simons “Also no one has yet commented on the Burns Report (as drawn up by the Blair Government ) which could not produce determinable results on cruelty.”
    From what I can tell, the Burns report makes no judgements about the relative “cruelty” of different methods but suggests that removing exemptions for hunting in the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 would allow it to be tested in the courts. Cruelty seems to be defined in terms of ethical and moral judgements about the person who is treating/mistreating an animal. Burns said, “There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty. It is a complex area”. I would disagree with your conclusion from this that it “should have signalled the end of the long and utterly futile debate over hunting”. If anything it suggests that more research is needed, and/or as Burns suggested, testing in the courts.

    The situation is different when it comes to animal welfare which is defined in terms of the effect of that treatment on the animal. With regards to the hunting of deer the report concludes, “Stalking, if carried out to a high standard and with the availability of a dog or dogs to help find any wounded deer that escape, is in principle the better method of culling deer from an animal welfare perspective.”. With regards to foxes, where there is less scientific evidence ,the report concluded:

    “There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the effect on the welfare of a fox of being closely pursued, caught and killed above ground by hounds. We are satisfied, nevertheless, that this experience seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.”
    “we are satisfied that the activity of digging out and shooting a fox involves a serious compromise of its welfare, bearing in mind the often protracted nature of the process and the fact that the fox is prevented from escaping”
    “Our tentative conclusion is that lamping using rifles, if carried out properly and in appropriate circumstances, has fewer adverse welfare implications than hunting, including digging-out.”

  • Peter Watson 12th Jul '15 - 10:21am

    The class aspects of hunting always seem to be at or near the surface when fox-hunting is being debated.
    I often wonder if views would be different if we were talking about gangs of inner-city youths demanding the right to chase down urban foxes (or feral cats and dogs) and kick them to death.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '15 - 11:11am

    @ Mark Valladares,
    You may be interested in a BBC report that can be found on the internet:-
    ‘The Burns Enquiry: Key Points’.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul '15 - 11:20am

    @ Peter Watson,
    I don’t think that people who care about animals or people, turn a blind eye or excuse the sort of sadistic behaviour you describe.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jul '15 - 11:52am

    @Jayne Mansfield “I don’t think that people who care about animals or people, turn a blind eye or excuse the sort of sadistic behaviour you describe.”
    I would certainly hope so. I was trying to draw attention to the way that some people excuse similar behaviour when it is the hobby of wealthier people on horseback.

  • @Jedi

    When a Fox is shot by spot light and a riffle it is simply the case of driving straight over to the fox to ensure it was a clean shot and the animal is dead.
    No prolonged suffering either physically or mentally as that takes place in a fox hunt with horses and hounds.

    It is no different to the culling of the kangaroo’s in Australia.
    Farmers should be issued with a permit to remove “x” amount of animals from their property. Each animal should be killed quickly and humanely by use of spotlights and riffles. Each animal should be accounted for and tagged when shot.

    Anyone caught shooting more than their quota or failing to follow the standards should face severe penalties.

    Admittedly there are still people in Australia who will go Roo shooting just for fun with the use of 4*4’s dogs and shotguns and it is just as barbaric.
    Thankfully a lot of farmers are beginning to refuse access to their properties for these purposes as the consequences are so severe.

    There is no need for this kind of barbaric sport

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Jul ’15 – 11:22am …………………@ Mark – “And I admit, if it was a choice between being shot in the head and being torn to pieces by dogs, my choice would be an easy one. ”…One rather imagines your gold standard of pest control involving; a wall, a firing squad ten yards distant, and an obligingly statue-like fox for a target (that has perhaps been pre-euthanized)…….If your choice was being being shot in the hip, with the bullet lodged deep in the pelvis and causing a horrendously painful infection which vies for a week with starvation as the eventual cause of death, you might choose otherwise…………

    Perhaps then, instead of ‘shooting’, hunting with dogs should have been the ‘approved method’ for the badger cull…..
    Deer cause much damage and yet there appears no ‘clamour’ for the re-introduction of hunting them with dogs…and, as for otters, “The resurgence of otters, once threatened with extinction, is causing a headache for anglers amid claims the predators are emptying rivers and lakes of fish”…..

    Why don’t hunt supporters just admit that “The HUNT” has little to do with ‘effective control’ and much to do with a rural ‘sport’….

  • Patrick C Smith 12th Jul '15 - 1:23pm

    `A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist,and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.Example is not the main thing in influencing others.It is the only thing’.

    Albert Schwietzer (1875-1965)

  • @Peter Watson

    >I often wonder if views would be different if we were talking about gangs
    >of inner-city youths demanding the right to chase down urban foxes (or
    > feral cats and dogs) and kick them to death.

    Completely agree, I think we can be pretty certain that people would be outraged by this. Great point, well made. 🙂

  • @Charlie

    >So the modern day Liberal attitude is to ban that they do not approve of

    Stopping hunting is completely consistent with the harm principle and a natural extension of liberal values. Over the past hundred years we’ve learnt much about how we’re related to other animals and we know many of them exhibit signs/c-fibres firing, that suggest they feel pain in much the same way as us. We as liberals seek to curtail anything that harms others directly, so it’s not surprising, given the evidence, that many of us now hold the view that some basic rights should be extended to other animals. It would be most illiberal to ignore the facts and keep treating animals like inanimate objects when we now know they’re our distant relatives!

    > If they ride over land to which they do not have permission
    > to enter and cause damage , it is civil matter.

    The hunts are organised by large, wealthy and powerful clubs that often bully their neighbours into a position of fear. If you live in the sticks they can make your life a living hell – when the nearest police station is 30-40 miles away it becomes fairly unimportant what court jurisdiction a case would be heard in and more a matter of how many guns and people you have. None of this will repair a 500 year old hedgerow that served as a habitat to dozens of species.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jul '15 - 6:41pm

    The Guardian’s Nick Watt said on TV that the vote is not about hunting foxes, it is about Scottish Nationalists.

    The proposal to bring the law in England and Wales into line with the law in Scotland could be ignored by the SNP MPs with their self-denying ordinance to abstain on English and Welsh Votes for English and Welsh Laws.

    Maybe this should be followed up on the EVEL thread. The mathematics of the vote in the Commons are affected.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Jul ’15 – 1:39pm ………expats
    I am totally umoved by any arguments based on:
    1. The desire to stop people ‘enjoying’ blood sports
    2. The relative ineffectiveness of a given method culling……………..

    Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant”

  • David Murray 13th Jul '15 - 3:13pm

    he argument would be solved if the SNP were persuaded to bring Scottish law on hunting in line with that of England and Wales. There would then be no need for any amendments at Westminster using the excuse of legal equivalence.

  • Neil Sandison 13th Jul '15 - 3:16pm

    Wildlife populations only expand if there is an abundance of food stuffs on which they can feed to support the feeding of their young .Most young fox cubs sadly starve to death in the winter where they are unable to find a food source . if there is a surplus of small rodents or food waste to scavenge upon then the population of both prey and predators expands .This explains the growth of the urban fox population and why other predators are moving closer to human habitation as our urban areas continue to grow .
    Hunting with packs of dogs in open countryside is therefore an inefficient method of controlling the fox population .We would be better served if we controlled the food source ie the rodent population and stopped wasting so much food that encourages them to come into conflict with man.

  • Neil Sandison 13th Jul ’15 – 3:16pm………………..Wildlife populations only expand if there is an abundance of food stuffs on which they can feed to support the feeding of their young .Most young fox cubs sadly starve to death in the winter where they are unable to find a food source ………………

    Hence the 16 fox cubs being reared in a barn….After all, if there aren’t enough ‘wild’ foxes the numbers need to be increased artificially or there’s no point in hunting…

  • “… but it made me look into the practice more closely when I returned home. There was nothing about my single experience that led me to think that the practice was about pest control.” (Jayne Mansfield 12th Jul ’15 – 9:16am)

    From my experience I agree fox hunting these days, isn’t so much about controlling vermin but more about a day out in the country with hounds and horses and all of the excitement of “the hunt” and it’s ‘traditions’. With Foxes having been regarded as vermin for hundreds of years, they form a natural ‘quarry’ for the chase. If you don’t own an estate (and who does these days?), the hunt is probably the only opportunity many people will get to really ride a horse (ie. outside of a field, ring, or a cautious plod along a road or track…)

    I think many are very confused in their thinking about “the hunt”, the sorts of people who ride with “the hunt” these days and what happens when “the hunt” actually gets to a fox. I know that the majority of people who ride with my local hunt are normal people and particularly women (not really surprising really once you think about it), because it does provide a ‘safe’environment for rough riding, which you cannot do in other ways.

    Aside: Given the seeming growth in deer numbers this year (this year has been bad for cars being written off due to collisions with deer), I do wonder when these will be categorised as vermin. No I’m not talking about Red or Fallow deer who are largely constrained to specific areas, but Muntjac and Chinese water deer.

  • The SNP have decided to vote against the proposed changes to the hunting with dogs act. Well done to them and lets hope that’s enough to see off Cameron’s amendment.

  • Malc: Thank goodness for the SNP !

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '15 - 6:42am

    @ Roland, why do you think supporters of the hunt use different excuses for what boils down to their idea of ‘sport’ ?

    The RSPCA has released a video which can leave people in no doubt what happens to the fox during fox hunting. It is available on the internet.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Jul '15 - 12:17pm

    EXPATS agree which is why we should ban the breeding of wildlife for sport as an amendment to the current legislation .Wildlife should only be bred where it is clearly in the interests of nature conservation or scientific research for its protection where it is endangered by man or climate change .

  • @Jayne – I think you are missing my point. I’m suggesting that we should separate the control of foxes (and hence the killing of foxes) from the hunt/chase – or do people really want to see the end of this style of horse riding, with all the resulting employment and economic impact?

    As I intimated, the chase requires a quarry (and who does not like a good chase, even those who like to remain on their sofa’s and watch Miss Marple), it has traditionally been the fox because it is seen as a vermin and because of it’s natural attributes, however as we have seen in recent times there are alternatives (although only aspiring tri-athletes & ironmen are advised to apply). The existing hunting act largely recognised this and so focused on the humane pursuit and killing of the fox or other animal. My understanding of the proposed amendment is that it is concerned with the practicalities of conducting a chase involving hounds when an animal is pursued deliberately or accidentally and cornered by the hounds. Now I agree such an amendment could potentially give a lot of wiggle room, particularly to those who are set on ‘traditional’ hunting and hence it does need to be approached with some care.

    Now I accept that separating the chase from the control of foxes is difficult, as Wayne Simmons notes, farmers regard foxes as vermin, hence what former Lib Dem MP Roger Williams says is totally correct. However, the issue is the method of control, currently many farmers effectively get free fox control by simply allowing a hunt over their land (win-win), remove this option and farmers will, rightly, expect the government to step in and fund whatever method of fox control they (the government) deem to be appropriate. But I think we need to put the issue apart so that we really understand what is going on and hence the true costs and implications of change; however desirable that change might be to some.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 1:42pm

    The government’s retreat on the debate about hunting with hounds is to be welcomed, but is probaly only temporary.
    Tory MP Owen Patterson wants something more extensive after EVEL.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Jul '15 - 2:31pm

    Has Cameron just had his tuition fee moment .A pledge he made which he cannot deliver on ?

  • jedibeeftrix 14th Jul '15 - 2:55pm

    @Neil – I’m not at all sure how you derive any equivalence between tories and fox hunting and libdems and tuition fees. There is none.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 6:07pm

    The Tory manifesto is still available online.
    http://issuu.com/conservativeparty/docs/ge_manifesto_low_res_bdecb3a47a0faf?e=16696947/12362115
    Page 21 says
    “We will protect hunting, shooting and fishing for all the benefits to individuals and the rural economy that these activities bring.
    A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote with a government bill in government time.”

    Hunting with dogs is usually a collective action, for humans, horses and dogs. The prey might be individual.
    They did not promise to amend the Act, they promised an opportunity to repeal it, but they did not say when, so they still have time in this parliament and a free vote permits nay-sayers. which has happened.

    The Salisbury Convention may also become relevant, because their Lordships do not overturn legislation deriving from a government’s manifesto.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '15 - 9:14pm

    @ Roland,
    I think that it has been shown that the economic and social impact of banning fox hunting was overstated of one reads the conclusions of the Burns report and the view of other economists.

    People can still hunt, and indeed if one looks at the figures of the number of people who have been on hunts since the ban, hunting has prospered. What the law stops, is the ripping to pieces of a fox by a pack of hounds. And contrary to what is stated, as far as I know, foxes have never been categorised as ‘vermin’ by DEFRA.

    You may categorise the people who hunt as normal people, some, I am afraid, are arrogant law breakers who have defied the law.

    Not all farmers do welcome the hunt. Indeed in Ireland there is an organisation ‘Farmers against Hunting’. Some farmers really would not see a return to fox hunting as win-win situation, they are no longer cap doffers who want someone trespassing on their land and damaging their property.

    All credit to those who were intending to oppose the sneaky amendment, including the tory minister for sport, Tracy Crouch.

  • @Jayne Mansfield
    >”I think that it has been shown that the economic and social impact of banning fox hunting was overstated ”
    What a surprise not! 🙂 I would hope they weren’t in the HS2 league of hyperbole…
    I was thinking more in the ‘small’ where the presence of a ‘hunt’ could make a difference between having locally skilled crafts and trades people around and having to rely on a much smaller group of people serving a much larger area, which carries with it the issue of skills transfer.

    >”as far as I know, foxes have never been categorised as ‘vermin’ by DEFRA.”
    Interesting point that we perhaps should confirm, I did however use the word ‘regarded’, because. I’m not convinced foxes actually are vermin given their normal diet and the currently plentiful supply of small mammals in our fields and hedgerows (these last few years we’ve also seen an increase in the Red Kite and Owl populations); although this isn’t to say they can’t be a problem, but then that’s why you have Jack Russell’s – much better ratter’s than cats!

    >”You may categorise the people who hunt as normal people, some, I am afraid, are arrogant law breakers who have defied the law.”
    From protesting at hunts in the 70’s, I would tend to agree with you. However, having attended several different hunts over the last 10 years (and been forced to wait whilst the dogs and horses occupy the lanes), I have noticed a distinct difference in attitudes; but I accept that might just be the hunts in my area.

    >”All credit to those who were intending to oppose the sneaky amendment”
    Agree we can’t afford to be complacent – to me fox hunting and the emotions it generates has parallels with the abortion debate and in both cases there will be those who will wish to amend the current status quo for their own purposes by whatever means they can.

  • I hunt and have done for years. I hunt with a bloodhound pack – who chase a human fell runner. There are all sorts of people who hunt with us from a postman and a nurse to a high court judge and a peer, as well as plenty of children. No one is arrogant or a ‘toff’. Most people are just ordinary people from all walks of live who love riding and the countryside.

    We go nowhere without permission and to the best of my knowledge no foxhound pack does either. In the week before a meet the people laying on the day will spend a considerable amount of time visiting farmers and agreeing where they can and can’t go, what fields to avoid on a given farm which have stock in etc. ‘no go’ fields will be marked with tape. There is absolutely no going where we shouldn’t and any member of the field who, for example, rode over crops instead of over headland would get a serious shouting at. Any fences which get broken being jumped are mended by the hunt. If we didn’t do this we certainly wouldn’t be invited back next time.

    In terms of the amendment being put forward I’m slightly baffled as to what the opposition is. It’s a minor amendment to allow more effective flushing of a fox to a waiting gun in order to help upland farmers. It’s not repeal. It’s not a return to hunting ‘by the back door’. It’s just helping sheep farmers with pest control. I don’t think in most cases there would even be a mounted field out for this activity – no ‘toffs in pink coats’. It’s something upland sheep farmers have been asking for since the hunting act became law, as I understand it.

    I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and as I say, I hunt with a bloodhound pack who have never hunted live animal quarry. However it saddens me that people are so irrational when it comes to fox hunting. I wish everyone could take a more evidence based approach. Where’s the outrage when it comes to some of the more questionable practices of intensive farming or halal slaughter? To be perfectly honest I would rather go fox hunting than eat cheap chicken from Tescos. The fox has led a far happier life than an intensively reared chicken and as someone else pointed out, it’s a pretty natural end.

    I would vote in favour of this amendment. It’s not bad just because it’s connected with hunting. It’s something of genuine value to famers for pest control and allows a necessary job to be done more effectively.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Aug '15 - 11:01pm

    You GOV reports ” In politics, this month we published new research from YouGov Profiles which suggested that majorities in every region of Great Britain supported the ban on fox hunting.
    (Days later, the government abandoned its attempt to water down the law).”

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