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