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26th Dec 2018

Labour announces plans to strengthen hunting ban

Kyle Picknell

Ahead of the Boxing Day hunts, Labour has announced its support for new measures to strengthen the hunting act

The Labour party are preparing to bring forward amendments to the Hunting Act 2004 over concerns that the Act is not being properly enforced and loopholes are exploited to continue with illegal hunting.

The Hunting Act was issued in 2004 and banned the hunting of wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales.

It does not, however, cover the flushing out of wild animals using dogs, or trail hunting (also known as drag hunting), which involves the laying of an artificial scent that hounds follow.

Over half of those prosecuted for illegal hunting claimed to have been trail hunting.

It means that hunters, whilst ostensibly on a legal trail hunt, can allow their dogs to pick up other live scents of wild animals and claim they didn’t know.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act was a key milestone in banning this cruel blood sport, but since then new practices have developed to exploit loopholes in the legislation.

“While Theresa May proposed scrapping the Hunting Act all together, Labour is today calling time on those who defy the law by announcing several measures that would clampdown on illegal hunting.

“Labour is the true party of animal welfare. These new proposals form part of the next chapter in striving to ensure our laws and regulations on animal welfare are up to date and fit for purpose.”

The proposed amendments are as follows:

  1. Review sentencing to ensure effective deterrence includes the use of custodial sentences in line with other wildlife crimes.
  2. Strengthening the criteria on which research licenses are issued.
  3. The removal of the exemption “Use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting”, as it risks fights between dogs and wild mammals.
  4. The introduction of a ‘recklessness clause’ to prevent trail hunting from being used as a cover for the illegal hunting of live wild animals.