Seven years on, has the Hunting Act ‘failed spectacularly’?

The Argus: November hails the start of the hunting season November hails the start of the hunting season

Seven years of living under a law designed to stop fox hunting has not dampened involvement in this controversial countryside pursuit.

In fact the meets are as strong as ever – with people forced to rally around to defend the tradition, reigniting interest, according to the Countryside Alliance.

“Hunting remains in good heart” and “support is strong” said the group’s executive chairman Barney White-Spunner in the latest weekly newsletter.

Under the headline ‘The Hunting Act has failed spectacularly’ he argues more people now follow hunts: 86% have the same number or more members and nearly all feel better or equally supported by the local community.

Mr White-Spunner added: “The Hunting Act was an attack on rural people rather than an attempt to improve animal welfare, which is why it has failed so spectacularly.”

The figures have reinvigorated calls from pro-hunters to scrap the “pointless” legislation.

But among the positivity and team spirit this year saw the county’s first prosecution.

Video footage led to four Crawley and Horsham Hunt members being fined after being found guilty of hunting a wild animal – a fox – with a dog.

And South Downs Hunt Sabs’ Simon Russell, said the Countryside Alliance’s figures are not reflected on the ground.

“They keep saying it’s more and more popular and more people are going out but that’s not our experience.

“It’s the same people, same faces, I don’t think the numbers have changed at all in the last ten years, it’s pretty static.”

He added: “There has been a number of prosecutions but getting one is extremely difficult.

“They constantly claim when they kill an animal that it was a mistake, it’s the default stance now.”

Disrupting hunts

The saboteurs have been attempting to disrupt hunts across the county in recent weeks, including on the Balcombe Estate, north of Haywards Heath, and in Eridge, near Crowborough.

Despite the prosecution and continued protests, meets continue across East and West Sussex.

The Countryside Alliance’s director of campaigns, Tim Bonner, said: “Currently all of the hunts in Sussex are robust.

“In some areas, especially where there remains active animal rights and anti-hunt groups, a lot of police time can be wasted on what’s a completely pointless piece of legislation.”

Conservative MP Charles Hendry, who would support a vote to reverse the law, said hunts in his Wealden constituency are still strong.

He said: “Wealden’s always had an above average level of support. I haven’t seen that diminish, but I can’t say if it’s gone up.

“The intensity of the opposition has declined. It could be because we don’t see the big demonstrations and the conflict between the two sides, so it’s easier to support it than had been the case previously. Antagonism has subsided.

“Clearly it has to be done within the confines of what is now possible but I suspect on Boxing Day we will see huge turnouts.”

Active hunts

It’s a view reflected by director Mr Bonner. He said: “I think in many ways hunting is as open and active as it has ever been.

“Some people thought the new legislation would stop hunting all together. It was a case of if you couldn’t go to the football you would play golf instead.

“But that was never going to happen.

“People are incredibly passionate about hunting and are absolutely certain that fox hunting is justifiable and humane.”

He added that the hunt supporters were more determined than ever.

He said: “People have rallied around their hunts as they have come under attack.”

He said stereotypes of “the arrogant rich riding rough-shod through the countryside” could not be further from the truth.

Mr Bonner added: “The hunting people have a huge respect for the fox which is something that can be very difficult to understand in the modern world.”

He said there were numerous new faces in hunting, with Mr White-Spunner adding it can only bode well for the future.

Saboteurs tell of violent attack by masked gang

In October 2012 anti-hunt campaigners claimed to have been attacked by a group of masked men.

The Hunt Saboteurs Association said three of its supporters had to be treated for head wounds in hospital after clashes at the Southdown and Eridge Fox Hunt in Firle near Lewes.

A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and has been bailed until December 3.

The Countryside Alliance at the time said people involved in the clash had no association with the hunt.

‘Just a waste of time’

No one was prosecuted under the laws in Sussex in 2010, sparking claims the bill was a “massive waste of police time”.

The Countryside Alliance said between 2005 when the bill was introduced and 2009 just four people were fined in Sussex – all in 2009.

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said at the time: “With the opening meets of the hunting season just around the corner, these statistics are a damning indictment of the expensive and failed Hunting Act.”

But in May 2012 Sussex saw its first convictions for breaking fox hunting laws.

Neill Millard, Rachel Holdsworth and Andrew Phillis, from the Crawley and Horsham Hunt, were found guilty of hunting a wild mammal with a dog.

Video was captured of hounds “in full cry” chasing a fox at hunt meets at Marlpost Wood, Southwater, and Shermanbury Place in January 2011.

It was the ninth prosecution under the Act involving a pack of hounds since the ban came into force in February 2005.

At the time hunt monitors said the verdict would put more pressure on local groups to abide by the law.

Simon Wild, who shot some of the footage of the meets that was used as evidence, said: “This has done our credibility a great deal of good with police.

“I am sure we will be able to build up the pressure on this hunt and other hunts in the area.”

But the Countryside Alliance said it was “very disappointed” at the result.

Tim Bonner said: “This was a long and complicated trial.

“We never believed |there was the evidence to sustain a conviction and we still don’t believe so.”

The Hunting Act

The Hunting Act 2004 outlawed hunting with dogs – particularly fox hunting, but also the hunting of deer, hares and mink and organised hare coursing – in England and Wales from 18 February 2005.

The Labour Party came to power in 1997 with a manifesto saying: “We will ensure greater protection for wildlife.

"We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned.”

 

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Comments (11)

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1:31pm Wed 14 Nov 12

voiceofthescoombe says...

Its the horrible in pursuit of the unedable sabotaged by the unwashed.
Well if you will enclose all the common land deny the working man any chance of hunting his own supper unlike say in france italy or germany.
dont be suprised when the urban masses take revenge. Pox on everyone involved.
Its the horrible in pursuit of the unedable sabotaged by the unwashed. Well if you will enclose all the common land deny the working man any chance of hunting his own supper unlike say in france italy or germany. dont be suprised when the urban masses take revenge. Pox on everyone involved. voiceofthescoombe

1:41pm Wed 14 Nov 12

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit says...

Given the cutbacks the last thing the police need (or needed) is more legislation to enforce. Perhaps the ideal compromise would be if the legislation remained on the statute book - but the police don't bother to enforce it. Everybody wins!
Given the cutbacks the last thing the police need (or needed) is more legislation to enforce. Perhaps the ideal compromise would be if the legislation remained on the statute book - but the police don't bother to enforce it. Everybody wins! Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit

1:44pm Wed 14 Nov 12

Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit says...

Another point: I wonder what our new PCC will make of it? An important area that deserves to have resources devoted to it? Or a complete and utter waste of time?

Would have been interesting to know what the candidates thoughts were - although I don't care enough about the hunting issue for it to make a difference to me.
Another point: I wonder what our new PCC will make of it? An important area that deserves to have resources devoted to it? Or a complete and utter waste of time? Would have been interesting to know what the candidates thoughts were - although I don't care enough about the hunting issue for it to make a difference to me. Jimmy Stewart's Imaginary Rabbit

1:56pm Wed 14 Nov 12

John Steed says...

luckily vermin control allows for foxes to be shot and mink to be trapped and killed, the hares always had more than a sporting chance. deer hunting made no sense other than a good long walk, and in any case over 300.000 a year are currently culled and the sentimental ill informed city dwellers and the great unwashed tree huggers never worried about the bunnies so they are still fair game to any old dog running around
luckily vermin control allows for foxes to be shot and mink to be trapped and killed, the hares always had more than a sporting chance. deer hunting made no sense other than a good long walk, and in any case over 300.000 a year are currently culled and the sentimental ill informed city dwellers and the great unwashed tree huggers never worried about the bunnies so they are still fair game to any old dog running around John Steed

1:58pm Wed 14 Nov 12

Dave in Hastings says...

"Mr White-Spunner added: “The Hunting Act was an attack on rural people rather than an attempt to improve animal welfare, which is why it has failed so spectacularly."

Poppycock! This statement is incorrect on several counts.

"He said stereotypes of “the arrogant rich riding rough-shod through the countryside” could not be further from the truth."

Yes of course why didn't I realise this - I know loads of people on the whitehawk estate with the surname of 'White-Spunner' - NOT!

When are these arrogant Countryside Alliance people going to get the message. The majority of people think that fox hunting is barbaric and has no place in a modern civilised society.

If they want to go riding around the fields chasing a scent, then fine; I'm sure Mr White-Spunner could outrun them for long enough to give the participants a bit of exercise. Better beware of 'accidents' though when the hounds catch up with him!
"Mr White-Spunner added: “The Hunting Act was an attack on rural people rather than an attempt to improve animal welfare, which is why it has failed so spectacularly." Poppycock! This statement is incorrect on several counts. "He said stereotypes of “the arrogant rich riding rough-shod through the countryside” could not be further from the truth." Yes of course why didn't I realise this - I know loads of people on the whitehawk estate with the surname of 'White-Spunner' - NOT! When are these arrogant Countryside Alliance people going to get the message. The majority of people think that fox hunting is barbaric and has no place in a modern civilised society. If they want to go riding around the fields chasing a scent, then fine; I'm sure Mr White-Spunner could outrun them for long enough to give the participants a bit of exercise. Better beware of 'accidents' though when the hounds catch up with him! Dave in Hastings

2:30pm Wed 14 Nov 12

RickH says...

" 'Legislation is a failure' says opponents to that legislation in shock horror (not) headline"
" 'Legislation is a failure' says opponents to that legislation in shock horror (not) headline" RickH

2:30pm Wed 14 Nov 12

mazthegob says...

An open letter to police and crime commissioner candidates

Tony Armstrong - UKIP
Katy Elizabeth Bourne - The Conservative Party Candidate
Ian Chisnall - Independent
Godfrey Daniel - Labour Party Candidate
David Rogers - Liberal Democrat

to Sussex police Chief Constable Martin Richards

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the South East Area (Sussex)Roger Coe-Salazar

I write to you today to ask for clarity and confirmation with regard the police roles concerning fox hunting meets in the county of Sussex,

I understand the police cannot be at every single hunt that happens in Sussex and nor would i expect them to. That is why Hunt Monitors attend these events every Saturday and sometimes weekdays, to collect evidence of illeagal hunting to help the police prosecute hunts that are breaking the law. But what we do expect is an even and fair policing when the need to have the police attend is warranted.

With this in mind, can to confirm or deny that yourselves or senior collogues or members of your staff investigating a crime etc have any kind of membership of hunts in Sussex both East and West, that you do not attend events held by such hunts and yourselves are totally impartial and will up hold the law concerning illegal hunting (Hunting Act 2004) and acts of crime against monitors.

The reason for asking for this clarity is that there seems a very big difference of policing for the hunting community and the policing for hunt monitors, for example three weeks ago hunt monitors where attacked savagely and £400 pounds of equipment was stolen by 10 supporters of a local hunt who wore masked, the police where called (and a ambulance for the injured who had to go to hospital) the perpetrators where pointed out to the officers (who still had the stolen items on themselves, a pair of glasses and a video camera). But the officers refused to search these persons or arrest them and stated that they could not and the injured and witnesses had to go to a police station and give formal complaints. Because of this monitors where again attack with injuries to more monitors and this police had to attend again. Because of the actions of the first attending officers evidence was lost (finger prints on equipment, possible blood on hands etc ans monitors where attacked again. (the equipment where not recovered)

I find this very strange and troubling on many points. If this had happened the other way round, a monitor would be arrested on the spot, a member of the hunting community only has to point a finger at a monitor and state that something had happened and said monitor is arrested,

also why do the police seem to turn a blind eye to other criminal behaviour such as driving on the highway unlicensed or tax and uninsured quad bikes and 4x4 etc young people driving horse box's on a 3.50 ton license instead of a 7 ton licence, non matching number plates etc and even on occasion above the drink drive level, why is this so when monitor vehicles are regularly stopped and expected with a fine tooth comb etc

Why do Sussex police give a totally different kind of service for each parties, are the police protecting the hunting folk and support them are Sussex police bias for the hunting community and against the monitors, why did Sussex police officers help fifty hired hunt supporter with sticks, remove monitors from public footpaths who where behaving completely legally and civilised and why did the same police officers turn a blind eye when the monitors where being focibly remove from these footpaths they where being verbaly abused threatend, kicked at the back of the legs and hit about the head, the officers just stud by,

hunt monitors over the last 10 years have had broken arms,ribs, nose's, massive rounds to the head, black eyes, broken jaws nerve damage, being knocked unconsciousness, have car windows smashed, tyres slashed, dead animal left on doorsteps, vehicle rammed at speed etc.

We feel sooner than later a monitor will loose their life, were telling you this because if it happens, it will be because Sussex police have left thing as they are and will not stop the violence to monitors, it will be Sussex polices fault someone has died.
An open letter to police and crime commissioner candidates Tony Armstrong - UKIP Katy Elizabeth Bourne - The Conservative Party Candidate Ian Chisnall - Independent Godfrey Daniel - Labour Party Candidate David Rogers - Liberal Democrat to Sussex police Chief Constable Martin Richards Chief Crown Prosecutor for the South East Area (Sussex)Roger Coe-Salazar I write to you today to ask for clarity and confirmation with regard the police roles concerning fox hunting meets in the county of Sussex, I understand the police cannot be at every single hunt that happens in Sussex and nor would i expect them to. That is why Hunt Monitors attend these events every Saturday and sometimes weekdays, to collect evidence of illeagal hunting to help the police prosecute hunts that are breaking the law. But what we do expect is an even and fair policing when the need to have the police attend is warranted. With this in mind, can to confirm or deny that yourselves or senior collogues or members of your staff investigating a crime etc have any kind of membership of hunts in Sussex both East and West, that you do not attend events held by such hunts and yourselves are totally impartial and will up hold the law concerning illegal hunting (Hunting Act 2004) and acts of crime against monitors. The reason for asking for this clarity is that there seems a very big difference of policing for the hunting community and the policing for hunt monitors, for example three weeks ago hunt monitors where attacked savagely and £400 pounds of equipment was stolen by 10 supporters of a local hunt who wore masked, the police where called (and a ambulance for the injured who had to go to hospital) the perpetrators where pointed out to the officers (who still had the stolen items on themselves, a pair of glasses and a video camera). But the officers refused to search these persons or arrest them and stated that they could not and the injured and witnesses had to go to a police station and give formal complaints. Because of this monitors where again attack with injuries to more monitors and this police had to attend again. Because of the actions of the first attending officers evidence was lost (finger prints on equipment, possible blood on hands etc ans monitors where attacked again. (the equipment where not recovered) I find this very strange and troubling on many points. If this had happened the other way round, a monitor would be arrested on the spot, a member of the hunting community only has to point a finger at a monitor and state that something had happened and said monitor is arrested, also why do the police seem to turn a blind eye to other criminal behaviour such as driving on the highway unlicensed or tax and uninsured quad bikes and 4x4 etc young people driving horse box's on a 3.50 ton license instead of a 7 ton licence, non matching number plates etc and even on occasion above the drink drive level, why is this so when monitor vehicles are regularly stopped and expected with a fine tooth comb etc Why do Sussex police give a totally different kind of service for each parties, are the police protecting the hunting folk and support them are Sussex police bias for the hunting community and against the monitors, why did Sussex police officers help fifty hired hunt supporter with sticks, remove monitors from public footpaths who where behaving completely legally and civilised and why did the same police officers turn a blind eye when the monitors where being focibly remove from these footpaths they where being verbaly abused threatend, kicked at the back of the legs and hit about the head, the officers just stud by, hunt monitors over the last 10 years have had broken arms,ribs, nose's, massive rounds to the head, black eyes, broken jaws nerve damage, being knocked unconsciousness, have car windows smashed, tyres slashed, dead animal left on doorsteps, vehicle rammed at speed etc. We feel sooner than later a monitor will loose their life, were telling you this because if it happens, it will be because Sussex police have left thing as they are and will not stop the violence to monitors, it will be Sussex polices fault someone has died. mazthegob

7:07pm Wed 14 Nov 12

SuzieB says...

Spot on Mazthegob - but you forgot to add that 2 hunt saboteurs have been killed and one seriously injured over the last 16 or so years.
However, when the Countryside Alliance say that numbers have increased since the Hunting Act was passed they fail to realise that this could be BECAUSE there shouldn't be a kill. But we should never take the hunt's word for these figures. I was out monitoring my local hunt in West Sussex last Saturday and the numbers on the hunt were very depleted. Loads were out on the opening meet the week before but that's just a social occasion on the calendar.
And one last point - this isn't a rural versus townie issue. I have many good friends born and brought up in mid Sussex villages and not one of them supports hunting. Many of those on hunts are nouveau riche wannabees from towns.
Keep the Act but close the loopholes. Just because some choose to break the law doesn't mean we scrap it.
Spot on Mazthegob - but you forgot to add that 2 hunt saboteurs have been killed and one seriously injured over the last 16 or so years. However, when the Countryside Alliance say that numbers have increased since the Hunting Act was passed they fail to realise that this could be BECAUSE there shouldn't be a kill. But we should never take the hunt's word for these figures. I was out monitoring my local hunt in West Sussex last Saturday and the numbers on the hunt were very depleted. Loads were out on the opening meet the week before but that's just a social occasion on the calendar. And one last point - this isn't a rural versus townie issue. I have many good friends born and brought up in mid Sussex villages and not one of them supports hunting. Many of those on hunts are nouveau riche wannabees from towns. Keep the Act but close the loopholes. Just because some choose to break the law doesn't mean we scrap it. SuzieB

9:09pm Wed 14 Nov 12

MIDNIGHT COWBOY says...

People opposed to fox hunting are because of the extreme cruelty inflicted on a fox for maybe upto 90 minutes and over long distances by twisted individuals.
People opposed to fox hunting are because of the extreme cruelty inflicted on a fox for maybe upto 90 minutes and over long distances by twisted individuals. MIDNIGHT COWBOY

10:33am Thu 15 Nov 12

Heathen Earth says...

Excellent letter mazthegob, please keep us informed of any responses you may receive.
Excellent letter mazthegob, please keep us informed of any responses you may receive. Heathen Earth

11:41am Thu 15 Nov 12

Cash Bull says...

My good lady wife and I went along to my first hunt 6 years a ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. My wife and now 2 children now attend some 4 hunts, including Boxing Day every year and it is part of our traditional Christmas.
Tall Ho!
My good lady wife and I went along to my first hunt 6 years a ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. My wife and now 2 children now attend some 4 hunts, including Boxing Day every year and it is part of our traditional Christmas. Tall Ho! Cash Bull

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