Hunting Act Amendments 2015

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Am I the only one left thinking that next weeks Parliamentary debate and vote on amendments to the Hunting Act 2004 is a dangerous move for the pro-hunting lobby? Already we are reading that Labour may whip their Members to vote against the amendments and what the SNP will do (on an issue that doesn’t affect Scotland) is anyone’s guess? Let’s not forget that Scotland have just legislated to introduce airgun licensing. Surely it would have been in the interest of the broader rural agenda for a Government truly wanting repeal to have waited for the right opportunity to introduce a free vote on exactly that … repeal? Not ‘amendment’. I fear that a bad result next week will push the prospect of complete repeal back by years.

Despite what LACS and the RSPCA etc would have you believe, the Hunting Act has been an abomination. A complete waste of public money and legal time. Just think about it’s basis for a moment? The main point of the Act (if you disregard the very obvious and misguided attempt at class warfare … most hunters aren’t ‘upper class’) is to stop the pursuit and killing of wild mammals by dogs. One of the most natural inclinations of the domestic dog is to track, trail and (for many breeds) kill. That’s why domestic dogs exist in our homes, descendants of the wolf hybrids used by early man to put food on the table. Every single domestic dog breed holds the genes which relate them directly back to that mighty and beautiful hunter, the wolf. Unlike the fox. The fox has no genetic link to the wolf. How many of you knew that? Legislating to curb a dogs hunting instinct is as ridiculous as bringing in a law to stop babies crying or monkeys climbing.

The absurdity of the Act has never been just in its political intention. It has also been in its legal hypocrisy. Stalking and flushing vermin or game to the gun was exempted if only two dogs were used and they didn’t make the kill. The Act then went on to exempt the killing of rabbits and rats using dogs (thankfully) but hey! Hang on? Rabbits and rats are mammals … like hares, squirrels, foxes and deer. So what legal mastermind decided that the grey squirrel enjoys a higher status in ecology than the brown rat? Or that the brown hare has a different pain threshold to a rabbit? If the law is about common sense (I know, I know) then if it’s justifiable to kill a rabbit with a dog, it should also be justifiable to kill any wild mammal with a dog, on permitted land and for the same reasons as the rabbit? Which is why I believe next weeks proposed amendments don’t go far enough. We need to get back to a point where dogs are allowed to kill (not just flush) but with respect to the Wildlife Acts, close seasons and rare species protection. Pack hunting to flush out or bring down prey is older than mankind itself, so what right do we have to call it wrong? Mankind harnessed that efficiency when it domesticated the dog. Dogs should be allowed to hunt. It’s in their nature, just like wolves and tigers and lions.

And what about cats? The RSPB themselves state that in the UK alone, domestic cats catch up to 275 million prey items a year, of which 55 million are birds. Why don’t the bunny-huggers want to legislate against allowing Puss out into the garden? Hey, now there’s an idea! If the amendment goes through I could become the first Master of the Norfolk Moggyhounds?

I was only joking … don’t waste your time with comments.

Personally, I feel let down by next weeks proposals. This isn’t what I voted for, a foppish concession to the Foxhunts which serves no purpose for the common or garden shooter / hunter.

Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, July 2015

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