24th July 2015
Re: The proposed Hunting Act 2004 (Exempt Hunting) (Amendment) Order 2015, by Statutory Instrument
We think many MPs were aware, had the above (Amendment) Order been passed using an inappropriate parliamentary process, that the Hunting Act would effectively be a dead law. Being complicit in deceiving colleagues either satisfied their own personal leisure preferences, or those of others who helped them to power. We also realise that many MPs do not know much about about hunting with hounds and/or are vulnerable to peer pressure, especially if newly elected.
In English Foxes, James Gray MP (Conservative, North Wiltshire) blogged his take on recent events in his online Weekly Column. We have no problem with him voicing his opinion but we do feel that disingenuous statements must be countered. Two lines in particular caught our attention.
1. The Government was proposing a very modest little Statutory Instrument
Official documents are heavy to read, so we’ve simplified these for all to see and (hopefully) understand. The Statutory Instrument proposed five crippling amendments:
a/ Allowing an unlimited number of dogs to be used to flush wild mammals out of woods and similar places in front of people armed with guns to shoot them (rather than two, as the law currently allows).
b/ Extending the circumstances where Hunting Act exemptions permit dogs to be used underground to hunt wild mammals (so-called ‘terrier work’).
c/ Removing the need for those engaged in terrier work to carry written permission from the landowner with them whilst so engaged.
d/ Broadening exemptions to include permitting hunting of wild mammals which the hunter “believes” may be diseased; surely a gift for any defence lawyer.
e/ Permitting an unlimited number of dogs to be employed in chasing wild mammals for the purposes of “Research and Observation”. Hunting by definition requires that quarry species are observed by someone and this amendment, alongside any pseudo-scientific research that might be invented in conjunction, would open the floodgates to hunting with hounds as practiced before the Hunting Act came into force. We all know how certain nations twist R&O to fit their whale hunting bent.
2. All it effectively did was correct an anomaly and bring the practice in England more in line with that in Scotland
A lot of Government propaganda since the amendments were pulled has centred on assassinating the SNP for interfering with a law which does not affect them. This is disingenuous on two fronts.
Firstly, wild mammals do not recognise national boundaries and in the Borders may be hunted from England into Scotland, and back.
Second, the Scottish equivalent of the Hunting Act is widely acknowledged as being the weaker of the two and very difficult to enforce. So after ten years of cynical subterfuge, false alibis, much criticism but hundreds of successful prosecutions we suggest it’s no wonder that hunting apologists want to weaken English & Welsh law under the guise of becoming more like Scotland! In fact, as we hope you can see, if the amendments had been carried then in reality the Hunting Act would’ve been effectively destroyed from an enforcement perspective. This is why we (and others) have called this an attempt at “repeal by the back door.”
1. Recent Government figures show that in ten years there have been 590 prosecutions under the Hunting Act, with a success rate of 64%. By comparison, Scottish hunting legislation has had 210 prosecutions in thirteen years with a success rate of 35%. There have been no successful prosecutions of registered hunts in Scotland.
2. Interestingly, no mention was made of parity of penalties. Probably because in Scotland you can go to prison for 6 months whereas in England & Wales the worst punishment is a low fine.
3. A commitment to fully review the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 has been given by the SNP in light of recent events.
4. The Government would have lost that vote without any intervention by the SNP. It’s only certain media outlets who made it look as if the SNP stopped the castration of the Hunting Act.
© Joe Hashman
14th July 2015
Parliamentary plans to weaken the Hunting Act have been seen off – for now. Our collective roar of disapproval has been heard, loud and clear.
The means by which crippling amendments to the Hunting Act were intended to be slipped through is called a Statutory Instrument (SIs), which allows for quick and easy alterations to existing legislation. The SIs was was pulled today, twenty-four hours before MPs were due to vote, and pulled without a shadow of doubt because an irresistible coalition was built which consisted of MPs from across political parties and the Home Nations who were committed to defeating bloodsports enthusiasts on this issue.
In the first instance, respect and thanks to all those MPs and those who lobbied them; everybody who wrote, talked, tweeted, retweeted, shared, liked, favourited, pinned, posted, demonstrated, reported, advertised, sang, shouted and dreamed about defeating these amendments and the dark forces behind them. If those dark forces within and outside of Parliament thought they could undermine the Hunting Act (and democracy) quietly, unnoticed and with little resistance, they were spectacularly wrong.
Arguably, after our monumental efforts we would be in a better position if there had been a 90-minute debate then vote. Everything indicated that we would have won handsomely. The bloodsports lobby know this too, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they lost their nerve and decided to move the goalposts.
To most decent-minded folk it might seem strange that there are some people and associations whose sole mission in life seems to be to make hunting with hounds legal again, but sadly this is the case. What happens next is uncertain. Doubtless they will dust themselves down, regroup, plot and try another way.
So, foxy lover, be ready for anything. Stay informed and keen. Hounds Off, and others, will keep you fully up to speed via mail-outs, e-alerts or (in our case) blogs and social media. But for a moment, as you rest and take stock, reflect on the fact that within the space of seven days the latest bloodthirsty intentions of hunters were scuppered. Through wholly peaceful means, we have sent dark forces into retreat.
Hounds Off is proud to be part of Team Fox, which is itself a coalition of animal welfare organisations from across the political and campaigning spectrum who are united in their wish to see the Hunting Act reinforced not repealed. These organisations comprise the staff, volunteers, members and supporters who make impossible things possible. That’s what Team Fox is – people like you and me; decent, compassionate individuals who have the collective energy to move mountains.
© Joe Hashman
13th July 2015
In between cutting his first courgettes and tending the sheep, our Hounds Off poet-in-residence Mick Spreader has been pondering on the latest cynical attempts at creeping repeal of the Hunting Act. He wrote the following especially for SNP MPs, hoping they’ll see that we’re the same side in our opposition to David Cameron’s furthering the narrow interests of “Privilege” and that they’ll vote accordingly.
THE YEAR OF THE SHEEP revisited
At night they came with torch and noise
men mounted all on horse.
They drove you from your Highland croft
by brutal use of force.
Ancestral homes put to the torch
lit up the darkness deep
That year they cleared you off your land
is called “Year of the Sheep”.
And into towns they drove you
or forced to emigrate
You shipped off to a distant land
to an uncertain fate.
No longer did your homeland ring
with gaelic voice or pipe
The only sound that could be heard
– the bleating of the sheep.
In England it was different
the result was much the same
“Privilege” stole our common land
and did so without shame.
The choices for the labouring man,
when they were narrowed down, were,
Stay upon the land and starve
or slave away in town.
And so, my Scottish brother,
the enemy’s the same.
He’s endured all down the ages
and “Privilege” is his name.
Again he rears his monstrous head
his foul intentions plain
Send Cameron’s red-coat “Privilege” mates
“hameward to think again.”
© Mick Spreader
12 July 2015
12th July 2015
Dear SNP MP,
I write regarding the Hunting Act 2004 amendments which are being voted upon in the Commons on Weds 15 July 2015:
Please vote against them. I’m aware that it has been said that these amendments simply bring English & Welsh legislation in line with your Scottish equivalent, The Protection Of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. I’m also aware that by pitching the amendments this way, pro-bloodsport Tories seek to compromise you and your SNP colleagues by claiming that voting against them would be hypocritical. This is not true. Actually, they need you to abstain in order to push their amendments through.
There are many details within the amendments which, if passed, will make the English & Welsh Hunting Act far weaker than its Scottish counterpart. For example, hunting wild mammals with a full pack of hounds will be exempt if conducted under the guise of “research and observation”. Laws which control the use of terriers to dig out quarry which has found sanctuary underground will be relaxed. Also, the amendments being put forward to MPs refer to all “mammals”, not just foxes as your 2002 Act does.
We all know that these amendments are a cynical and calculated attempt at creeping repeal which has been a long time in plotting. However, you cannot be accused rightly or wrongly of hypocrisy if you vote against because what you’re voting on is beyond comparison with the laws you have at home.
So please, please, please do the right thing. Attend the House of Commons on July 15. Vote against the Hunting Act amendments. Earn massive thanks and respect from us lot down here and join forces with the vast majority of English and Welsh people who believe in compassion not cruelty.
P.O. Box 162
10th July 2015
Nobody of a reasonable disposition can be in any doubt about the motives behind government moves to amend the Hunting Act so as to allow unlimited numbers of hounds to ‘flush foxes to guns’. Why? Well, because in practically every debate about foxhunting as pest control for over ten years now we’ve been told, by the hunters themselves, that shooting equals inevitable wounding and consequent suffering. We’ve been consistently fed the line that shooting foxes is cruel while being torn apart by dogs is humane. Yet now MPs are being presented with, and encouraged to vote for, an amendment which they say will make shooting foxes easier.
Without a clear majority of pro hunt MPs to be certain of success if outright repeal was tabled, motives behind the proposed Hunting Act amendments are to cynically subvert legislation which needs strengthening not weakening.
From the beginning of their hunting careers, bloodsports participants are told to disassociate with the quarry and connect with hounds instead. As children, hunt-related activities which are far removed from the realities of killing for fun are designed to convert young hearts and minds.
Hunting fox, deer, hare and mink (formerly badgers and otters too) with hounds are bloodsports which depend on people who take part developing blind spots to cruelty in their minds and an indifference to animal suffering in the recess of their hearts. Slowly slowly they’re converted to a place where they actually enjoy it so much that they’ll do and say whatever needs to be done or said to justify this animal abuse to themselves and those they seek to persuade.
Doubtless in other walks of life your average hunt supporter is a half decent individual. Alas, when it comes to defending the leisure activity of foxhunting they will do and say whatever it takes to circumvent any opposition.
Please contact your MP as a matter of urgency. Point out the hypocrisy of the amendments in terms of animal welfare and that if they vote for them on July 15 they’re either being complicit in the ongoing lie or duped by others who’s intentions are wholly dishonest.
Joe Hashman, July 10th 2015
10th July 2015
Now’s the time to write to your MP. If you’ve not done this before don’t worry – it’s really easy. We will help you here.
1. Firstly, click on this link: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Type your post code into the green box then tap or click the ‘Go’ button. This will take you straight to the Contact page for your MP with options to write a letter, email or phone plus social media details.
2. To email, just tap or click their email address and then it’s like sending a normal email.
Here’s what I said to mine:
Dear “Name Of MP”,
Regarding amendments to the Hunting Act which will be put to the Commons on July 15; I am urging you to represent my views (and the view of many others) on this occasion by voting against the amendments.
I hope that you are savvy enough to realise that in truth the proposed changes will completely undermine the Hunting Act. They are being sold to MPs as being in the interests of ‘pest control’ but in actual fact they are being brought forward as an alternative to full repeal of the Hunting Act. This was the preferred option of your Government but numbers are such that it could not be guaranteed so what we have is effectively repeal ‘by the back door’.
Please attend on July 15 and vote against the Hunting Act amendments.
3. Please also write an old-fashioned letter by post!
Just make sure you do it in time to arrive before the vote takes place on Wednesday July 15. Polite, concise and from your heart is good!
Don’t underestimate the power of contacting your MP, whoever they are.
If you know they’re wise enough to have clocked that foxhunting with hounds is not a pest control service but actually a form of entertainment which abuses animals, remind them that this is not enough – they need to attend and vote.
If you know they support hunting then ask them to change their minds or, if that’s a step too far, to put aside personal prejudice and represent your views on this occasion.
If they’re undecided, they need to be enlightened to the fact that pro hunting forces within and outside of government are playing political games to get their way and conning MPs with cynical subterfuge.
The real question is to your MP is this: are you compassionate, complicit or being duped? Use your own words and always keep them polite!
© Joe Hashman, July 10th 2015
9th July 2015
The Government is attempting to seek approval for an amendment to the Hunting Act which will permit a pack of dogs to be used to chase foxes into range of waiting guns for shooting. Their justification? Pest control, of course!
The effect of this amendment, if it is passed, would be to render the Hunting Act virtually impossible to apply and open to abuse. The process by which this change will be made is simple and quick. It has begun this week and comes to a head on Wednesday July 15 in the House Of Commons when it will be voted upon by MPs. If passed, it’ll go straight to the House Of Lords and that will be that.
In a nutshell, this is what we know: pro hunt forces within Government have realised that the number of compassionate MPs is such that they may lose a vote on full repeal of the Hunting Act. So they are using what’s called a Statutory Instrument to seek what is effectively repeal by the back door.
The proposed amendment was discussed in a Commons back room yesterday by the so-called 1922 Committee. ‘Flushing to guns’ with two hounds is currently permitted by the Hunting Act in England and Wales but is unsatisfactory to the hunting fraternity because it fails to satisfy their desire for a prolonged chase (i.e., ‘sport’).
Cameron & Co tried something similar in the spring of 2014 but were scuppered in large part by their LibDem partners. Now, as we all know, the shackles of coalition have been lifted. We do still have many friends in all parties though.
In Scotland, where legislation is different, a pack of hounds may be used for flushing to guns. So their tactic is to bring England and Wales in line with Scotland and snooker the SNP (who as far as we know may still vote on this issue) because opposition to these proposed changes will make them look like hypocrites. However, the fresh intake of SNP MPs have acknowledged that their law is being widely flouted by Scottish hunts and are already committed to properly scrutinising it.
So, we have only seven days to go and the outcome rests entirely in the hands of our elected members.
Our job in this time is to contact our MPs and ask them two things:
- To oppose this attempt to repeal the Hunting Act by the back door.
- Crucially, to attend the Commons on Wednesday July 15 and vote against the amendment.
The hunting fraternity and their politician allies are taking the mick out of the rest of us here. They know full well that their sneaky plan is to scupper the Hunting Act by underhand political means. In doing so, they are making fools out of MPs who buy into this stuff and sticking two fingers up at the rest of us who don’t.
Remember, every single vote counts and is important. Yes, this has been scheduled for the very end of a long week just as MPs are about to go on their summer holidays. But lip service means nothing here, actions (meaning being there and voting) are everything.
Please everyone, sign petitions yes, but for fox sake we must ALL write to and email our MPs, regardless of previously stated intentions or political persuasions. If you do nothing else today, do this!
Find out who your MP is and how to contact them here www.writetothem.com
© Joe Hashman July 9th 2015