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Public opposition to Boxing Day hunts at all-time high

Opposition to hunting for sport is at a record high across England and Wales, with a strong majority saying they would be against the re-legalisation of fox hunting, a new report reveals.  

The Ipsos MORI survey shows that 84% of the public are in support of keeping the ban on fox hunting, including 82% from rural areas. The public feeling against legalising hare hunting is even stronger, with 91% of the public against legalisation. The opposition to hunting for sport has risen steadily in the last four years.

Eduardo Gonçalves, CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The polling and projections highlight just how out of touch any move to repeal the hunting ban would be. Generally only dictators would dream of pushing through a policy against that level of public opposition, so we hope our government will respect the will of the people.”

The Hunting Act, a law set out to ban hunting with dogs, was introduced in 2004. The law covers all mammals, with the exception of rats and rabbits in some circumstances. However, the League Against Cruel Sports claims that illegal hunts are still happening in vast numbers, estimating that 200,000 illegal hunting incidents may have been committed since the act came into force.

Jordi Casamitjana, head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The hunters are beginning to exploit the exemptions in order to continue what they were doing. The wording was not strict enough in the exemptions.”

He added that trail hunting developed following the introduction of the Hunting Act in 2004, and is being used as a way around the legislation: “We believe trail hunting is just a false alibi to try to avoid prosecution, because it looks like drag hunting in some respects.

“In trail hunting they use a fox’s scent, so the dogs can easily become confused with a real fox’s scent. They lay this trail in an area known to have foxes in it, whereas drag hunts never do that. The huntsman [who leads the hunt] doesn’t know at all where this trail is, whereas in drag hunting he always knows. Trail hunting is forcing an accident, and even an alibi.’”

Boxing Day hunts will be taking place again this year across the country.

Eduardo said: “The Boxing Day hunts are portrayed as a glorious pageant taking place in front of a huge number of people who support them, but the truth is very different. The fact is 84% of the public do not want fox hunting made legal. Just because families might venture out on Boxing Day to see the hunt, stroke the dogs or watch the horses, doesn’t mean they support repealing a law to enable the hunt to chase and kill wild animals with their dogs for sport.”

If illegal hunts are still taking place, what can be done? Speaking to Charlie Moores for Lush Radio, the CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports suggests that there need to be tougher sentences, as well as better enforcement of the law.

He addresses the notion that fox hunting is a traditional Boxing Day activity, saying: “Traditions change. It used to be a tradition in Britain to bear-bait. It used to be a tradition in Britain to have dog fights. We’ve moved on. We now believe these things belong in the dark and distant past. It’s time to enforce the law, and to strengthen the law. It’s certainly not the time to weaken animal protection in this country.”

26th December 2016

Hear more from Eduardo speaking to Charlie on Lush Radio.

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