ARCHIVE: Implications for country activities
- Number of hunts, hunters and kills
- Use and disposal of dogs
- How many dogs are kept for hunting?
- What will happen to redundant hunting dogs?
- Why not allow hunting with dogs in upland areas to protect livestock?
- How can you be sure that a group of thugs cannot rely on the exemption permitting a dog to be used below ground for going fox baiting on someone's land?
- It is impossible to control what happens in an earth after a terrier is put down after a fox. Will the Government put a requirement in the code of practice for any dog used below ground to be kept under such close control that it is unable to attack the fox, and only able to flush it to guns above ground?
- Burns was concerned about deer management in the absence of deer hunting. What mechanism will be put in place to manage the deer population?
- What is the difference between deer stalking and deer hunting?
- Will the Government consider Burns' proposal that training be given to deer stalkers?
- Will not farmers become less tolerant of deer when hunting is banned?
- Why is it OK to shoot deer but not hunt them with dogs?
- Will the ban not mean that wounded deer cannot be tracked and relieved of their suffering?
- Isn't it true that it is impossible to manage deer herds without hunting?
- Fishing and shooting
- This is the thin end of the wedge. Won't shooting and fishing (which are just as cruel) be next?
- What is the Government's view of fishing?
- What statutory controls are in place for a person who wishes to use a rifle to shoot wild mammals which are pests?
- What are the criteria used to determine a competent person?
- Doesn't the Act require that any mammal flushed out must be shot?
- What implications does the Act have for people who go shooting with their dogs?
- Horse industry
- Wildlife management and biodiversity
- Alternatives to Live Quarry Hunting
Number of Hunts, Hunters and Kills
The Burns Report states that in 200 there was a total of 284 organised hunts in England and Wales, comprising 178 fox hunts, 3 deer hunts, 83 hare hunts, and 20 mink hunts.
The Burns Report estimated that these hunts involved a total of 28,000 subscribers, with a further 39,000 people belonging to supporters clubs. Of these, the majority, some 20,500 and 34,700 respectively, were involved in fox hunting.
How many mammals are currently killed each year as a result of the hunting activities the Bill will ban?
The Burns Report estimated that around 21-25,000 foxes were killed each year by organised hunts (which works out to about 5-6% of all fox deaths annually). The Burns Report also estimated that around 480 deer, 1,650 hares and some 400-1,400 mink were killed by hunts. Organised hare coursing events killed around 250 hares, while illegal events killed somewhere between 70,000 and 200,000 animals.
Use and Disposal of Dogs
The Burns Report suggests that around 20,000 dogs are kept by hunts specifically for the purpose of hunting mammals.
That is a matter for those who own the dogs. Prior to the Act, it was often the case that hunting dogs were shot when they were no longer wanted – some 3,000 hunting dogs were destroyed by their owners every year for this reason. The Government does not believe that it is necessary for any dogs to be destroyed as a result of this legislation (and the Act certainly does not require it). The Countryside Alliance has stated that many hunts are planning to carry on operating within the law, and that, therefore, no redundancy of dogs seems now to be “in prospect”. Where hunts do have surplus dogs, some, particularly younger ones, may be retrained for other activities for example in organised drag hunting. In addition, the RSPCA has offered help with re-homing hounds, based on its substantial experience over many years with a wide range of different breeds of dog. The Government is working with the RSPCA and other animal welfare bodies on this issue.
The significance of foxes to upland sheep farming has been debated at length, including during the extensive consultation exercise and the public hearings in September 2002. The Burns Report (paragraph 5.14) concluded that the best estimate of lamb predation seems to be that foxes kill less than 2% of otherwise viable lambs. Whilst accepting that foxes are not significant predators on lambs in general, the Burns Report acknowledged that individual foxes could be troublesome at a local level, and suggested that there were fewer viable alternative methods available in upland areas. The Act allows for the use of up to 2 dogs to stalk and flush out wild mammals in order to protect livestock. Proposals to allow the continuation of fox hunting on foot in upland areas were considered by the House of Lords in 2004 but rejected by a 2 to 1 majority.
How can you be sure that a group of thugs cannot rely on the exemption permitting a dog to be used below ground for going fox baiting on someone’s land?
In practice, persons relying on this exemption are likely to be trained gamekeepers and it is unlikely that anyone else would be able to make legal use of it.
The Government is satisfied the exemption is drafted in such a way that a group of thugs who are baiting foxes could not claim they were acting within the law. The exemption is tightly drawn. It relates only to the activity of preventing or reducing serious damage to game or wild birds which a person is keeping or preserving for the purpose of their being shot. The animal welfare conditions set out in Schedule 1 paragraph 2 mean that fox baiting would be clearly outside the terms of the exemption and would thus be a criminal offence under clause 1 of the Act. It is also likely to be an offence under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 which is punishable by imprisonment.
A person who relies on the exemption must have with him written evidence that he has the permission of the occupier or, where land is unoccupied, its owner. If a land occupier or owner gives permission where the land is not used for keeping birds for shooting, or if the permission is given in the knowledge that the use of the dog below ground would contravene any of the conditions of the exemption, then that person would also be committing an offence. It is also a condition of the exemption that the manner in which the dog is used below ground complies with any code of practice approved by the Secretary of State. A code of practice (PDF 163KB) has been produced by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and has been approved by the Secretary of State.
It is impossible to control what happens in an earth after a terrier is put down after a fox. Will the Government put a requirement in the code of practice for any dog used below ground to be kept under such close control that it is unable to attack the fox, and only able to flush it to guns above ground?
The exemption is only for stalking or flushing out of a wild mammal from below ground to be shot. The Act contains specific conditions requiring the wild mammal to be flushed out as soon as possible after being found and to be shot by a competent person as soon as possible after being flushed out. Only one dog may be used and it must be kept under sufficiently close control so that it does not prevent or obstruct the immediate shooting of the wild mammal, and all appropriate steps must be taken to prevent the dog being injured. Taken together, these statutory conditions should already prevent fighting and injury to either quarry or dog.
The manner in which a dog is used underground must comply with the code of practice agreed by the Secretary of State. This code has been produced by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in consultation with interested parties and includes practical safeguards to ensure the exemption is not abused, including the requirement that any dog used underground should be ‘soft’, ie it will habitually stand off and bark, rather than ‘hard’, ie it will habitually fight. The application of the code will be monitored and it will be possible to amend its provisions if it becomes clear that they need to be tightened.
The Burns Report was concerned about deer management in the absence of deer hunting. What mechanism will be put in place to manage the deer population?
Although deer management is primarily the responsibility of landowners and occupiers, it has been the Government’s policy to secure the sustainable control of deer populations through local Deer Management Groups (formed by local interests and convened by the Forestry Commission), rather than on an ad-hoc basis by individuals.
Defra’s Rural Development Service has recently undertaken a thorough review of the Deer Initiative and its wider deer management policies in order to encourage effective and sustainable deer management in the future. Defra has published a detailed national Deer Management Strategy, and has appointed a Deer Liaison Officer in the South West, who will have specific responsibility for encouraging good deer management practice in the region and for deer disease issues, such as bovine TB, nationally
Deer stalking involves a person attempting to get progressively closer to a deer until such point as he can get a clean shot which he uses to kill the deer. The deer should be unaware of the presence of the human, or any dog used for tracking. Death should be instantaneous and the deer should not have suffered. Under the Hunting Act, the use of dogs in deer stalking will continue to be permitted, subject to strict conditions (for example, that no more than two dogs may be used).
Deer hunting involves the deer being chased by a pack of dogs till the point of near exhaustion when it comes to a stand and is shot. This is prohibited by the Act for all species of deer.
The Burns Report concluded (paragraph 52) that ‘Stalking, if carried out to a high standard …. is, in principle, the better method of culling deer from an animal welfare perspective’.
Shooting activities such as deer stalking have a generally good safety record. This is supported by training courses run by responsible shooting organisations such as the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) and the British Deer Society. The Government encourages anyone involved in stalking deer to ensure that they are fully capable of doing so safely and effectively, and would similarly encourage landowners to ensure that anyone they allow to stalk deer on their land is competent.
A ban on hunting should have no effect on managing the deer population in England and Wales overall. Locally, particularly in the Quantock, Exmoor and South West Devon areas, there may be some effect. This is why the Government is keen to encourage sustainable deer management through deer management groups, and why it has appointed a Deer Liaison Officer to promote good practice in the South West.
The Burns Report noted (para 5.48) that there is virtually unanimous agreement that deer populations need to be managed, because of the damage that they can do to agricultural, forestry and conservation interests, and the fact that the size and health of the herds need to be controlled. Of the two methods of culling, shooting and hunting, The Burns Report concluded that shooting is “by far the most important method used to reduce red deer numbers”. He also concluded that “stalking, if carried out to a high standard, and with the availability of a dog or dogs to help find any wounded deer that escape, is in principle the better method of culling deer from an animal welfare perspective” (para 6.39).
No. There is an exemption for the rescue of wounded animals. This allows up to 2 dogs to be used to rescue a wild mammal if:
- The hunter reasonably believes that the wild mammal is or may be injured;
- The hunting is undertaken for the purpose of relieving the wild mammal’s suffering;
- The hunting does not involve the use of a dog below ground;
- Reasonable steps are taken to ensure that as soon as possible after being found appropriate action is taken to relieve the wild mammal’s suffering; and
- The wild mammal was not harmed so that it could be hunted under this exemption.
Not at all. There are numerous herds of deer in England and Wales, but hunting only takes place in three areas of the South West. The Burns Report concluded (para 5.67) that hunting makes only a relatively small contribution to deer management even there. Lord Burns reported that hunting contributed only 15% to the total cull required in these 3 areas; that it was inherently inefficient (deer were killed on only about half the days on which hunting took place); and that any secondary benefit derived from the dispersal of the herd was only temporary.
The Report said that there was a strong “community of interest” in these areas which the hunts helped to foster in deer management and that a ban could affect this unless it was replaced by an effective deer management strategy. This is precisely what Defra’s national Deer Management Strategy is intended to achieve.
Organised hare coursing events do not fall within the ordinary meaning of hunting (as the people participating in the event are not themselves hunting the hares but rather are watching dogs compete with each other to turn hares). In addition, if hare coursing events were not mentioned specifically in the Act, it would not be clear who would be committing an offence – the organiser of the event, the dogs’ handlers, the dog owners or landowners. The Act puts that beyond doubt by outlawing all hare coursing, including both organised and unregulated events, and all participation in or attendance at such events.
The separate activity of hunting a hare with dogs is sometimes referred to as “hare coursing”, which has in the past given rise to confusion. This activity clearly falls within the ban on hunting with dogs.
Since all hare coursing by definition will be illegal, it will be easier for the police to identify any offences and take enforcement action. Previously, the need to determine whether hare coursing was taking place with the landowner’s permission, and then to prove the elements of the civil offence of trespass, greatly complicated the police’s job in preventing illegal hare coursing.
Rabbits are a pest in most parts of the country. Rabbit populations grow very rapidly during the breeding season and farmers wish to control them to prevent serious damage to their crops. Many rabbits are shot, rather than taken with dogs, but the use of dogs provides a relatively humane means of controlling them – more humane and efficient than other methods which can result in greater suffering. Rabbit hunting does not involve the use of large packs of dogs or a significant or prolonged chase element (the rabbit is either caught and dispatched quickly by the much larger dog, through a single bite to the neck, or it goes to ground immediately in a hole which the dog cannot enter). Hunting rabbits is also a traditional means of gathering food. The animal welfare agencies have accepted that there is a case for hunting rabbits and have not pressed for its inclusion in the ban.
By contrast, hares are seldom a significant pest, and where they are shooting is used to a large extent to deal with them. Lord Burns found that an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 hares are shot in Britain each year (paragraph 5.85), while hunts killed in the region of 1,650 hares in a season (paragraph and official hare coursing accounted for around 250 animals. (paragraph 5.90).
The Act has no implications for falconry. Paragraph 6 of Schedule 1 makes it clear that the incidental use of dogs to flush a wild mammal from cover in falconry is exempt hunting (provided that the prior permission of the occupier, or in the case of unoccupied land, the owner of the land is obtained).
Rats are a health hazard and a pest and dogs are an effective and relatively humane means of keeping numbers down.
The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 places an obligation on both local authorities and occupiers of land to take steps to ensure, as far as practicable, that land is kept free from rats. On the basis of the evidence available, it is considered that the use of dogs to control rat populations is an appropriate method of controlling the population which does not cause unnecessary suffering Since shooting rats is impractical, the alternatives to using dogs such as poisoning and trapping are likely to cause more suffering to rats and other animals. For this reason, the use of dogs is regarded as humane and the Act includes ratting as a class of exempt hunting (provided that the prior permission of the occupier of the land is obtained).
The Government does not believe that the Act will have a significant effect on the control of mink. Lord Burns estimated that there were about 18,000 mink in England and Wales and that mink hunts accounted for somewhere between 400-1400 animals per year (2.2%-7.7%). Trapping is recognised as the main means of controlling mink and is widely used by gamekeepers. Mink are also shot on an ad hoc basis. Packs of dogs catch an average of less than one mink per hunting day and the majority of mink found escape. Lord Burns noted that the Master of Minkhounds Association recognised that hunting alone was not a sufficient means of controlling mink. He also states that “It is clear that the contribution made by mink hunts to the control of mink populations nationally is insignificant” (paras 5.96-5.122).
Fishing and Shooting
No. The Government made it absolutely clear in its 2005 Rural Maniefsto that it has no intention of placing restrictions on the sports of angling and shooting. The Act also includes exemptions to facilitate shooting. Steps to promote shooting and fishing have been taken jointly by the Ministers for Sport and Rural Affairs.
Lord Whitty underlined this in the House of Lords on 30 November 2004 when he stated: “My Lords, the Labour Party manifesto made it clear that we have no intention whatsoever of placing restrictions on the sports of angling and shooting, and we stand by that completely. The Government recognises the significant contribution that shooting can make to the social and economic well-being of rural areas as well as bringing environmental and conservation benefits”.
The Government supports fishing. It is aware of the recent findings of research into the experience of pain by fish, and it is clear that great care must be taken in attributing to fish sensations which are similar to those experienced by humans or other mammals. Nevertheless, those involved in angling are generally aware of the need to avoid unnecessary harm and to minimise any stress caused by pain. The Government has no plans whatsoever to place restrictions on the sport of angling.
What statutory controls are in place for a person who wishes to use a rifle to shoot wild mammals which are pests?
Anyone wishing to own a rifle for pest control must obtain a firearm certificate which is issued by the local police. The police will issue a certificate if they are satisfied that the applicant has a 'good reason' to possess the firearms concerned and can be trusted to do so without danger to public safety or to the peace.
The police may revoke a certificate if they are no longer satisfied that a person can be trusted to use firearms safely. This may include accidental as well as deliberate misuse.
The Act requires that reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that any wild mammal which is shot during the course of certain exempt hunting (stalking and flushing out, use of a dog below ground, and recapture of a wild mammal) must be shot by a competent person. Competence is a matter to be determined on the facts of each individual case and will reflect the appropriateness of the experience, skill and qualifications of the person to the difficulty of the shooting being carried out. As that difficulty will vary depending on which species is being hunted and as a result of local factors, the Act does not prescribe a single standard of what is competent.
No. The Act includes a specific exemption for hunting with dogs involving stalking and flushing out. This requires that anyone relying on this exemption when hunting with dogs must take steps to ensure that any wild mammal being hunted and flushed out is shot as soon as possible. This requirement is to prevent abuse of the exemption by the persistant flushing out of the same animal. The Act does not, however, require that any wild mammal flushed out by a human being must be shot, nor does it require that any wild mammal accidentally flushed out by a dog must be shot. Hunting, including stalking and flushing out, is an intentional activity. There can be no accidental hunting, and the Act cannot make anyone break the law unintentionally.
In particular, the Hunting Act does not require that a deer should be shot when this would be in contravention of the Deer Act. It is a condition of the stalking and flushing out exemption in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Hunting Act that “reasonable steps are taken for the purpose of ensuring that as soon as possible after being found or flushed out the wild mammal is shot dead by a competent person". If when a deer is flushed out it would be unlawful, dangerous or ineffective to shoot it then to do so would not be a reasonable step and as such would not be required by the Hunting Act.
Section 2 of the Deer Act makes it an offence intentionally to kill a deer during the close season for that species. But by section 7 the close season does not apply where the deer is shot on any cultivated land, pasture or enclosed woodland by an authorised person who had reasonable grounds for believing that his action was necessary to prevent deer of that species causing serious damage to crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber or any other form of property on the land. This means that where both section 7 applies and up to two dogs are used to flush out a deer, in reliance on the stalking and flushing out exemption in the Hunting Act, it will be lawful to shoot that deer even during the close season for its species. This may apply quite often.
The Government believes that the effect will be minimal. A beating line on a driven bird shoot which includes dogs will not be affected by the Act provided that none of the dogs is used to hunt wild mammals. If a person does not intend to use a dog to search for, chase or pursue a wild mammal, he or she will not be hunting with dogs for the purposes of the Act. There is also nothing in the Act which prevents the shooting of foxes or other wild mammals. It follows, therefore, that if a beater's dog accidentally flushes out a fox or hare on a driven bird shoot then this will not constitute hunting with dogs and so no offence will be committed either at that point or when the fox or hare is subsequently shot.
Where it is known that a fox or other wild mammal is present in a particular place near a beating line, dogs should not be used to flush it out of cover unless this is done in accordance with the requirements of the exemption for stalking and flushing out in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Act. However, if the dogs are kept under control and are not used to flush out the fox, no hunting with dogs will take place and so no offence will be committed. If the fox is flushed out by human action or by the mere presence of people with dogs nearby, this again will not constitute hunting with dogs.
As is normal with new legislation, a definitive interpretation can only be provided by the courts, and the Government, therefore, recommends that anyone worried about the precise implications for their particular planned shooting activities should obtain independent legal advice.
The Government is working with the horse industry, through the British Horse Industry Confederation, to identify ways of increasing its contribution to rural economies and communities. The Government wants to maximise opportunities for the industry, for example in the field of tourism and recreation. The Government recognises the importance of the horse industry and its significant place in the rural economy (it is worth over £3bn a year and supports around 200,000 jobs), and is working closely with the industry to develop a long term Strategy to promote and enhance its future. Two of the strands included in this strategy will involve the promotion of horse-based tourism, and the improvement in off-road riding opportunities in England. The final strategy for the horse industry will be published in autumn 2005. The Government expects that the vast majority of people who have previously hunted will maintain their interest in riding and continue to contribute to the success of the industry. The Government remains happy to work with all parties to achieve this goal.
The Government does not believe that a ban on hunting will have an adverse effect on the Horse Industry as a whole. Only 6-10% of horses in this country are involved in hunting, and the vast majority of people who currently hunt will continue to use their horses for business or recreational purposes. The Industry is currently worth over £3bn a year and in generally good health. It does not rely significantly on hunting for its revenue. Defra has been working with the industry for some time to develop a joint strategy to promote and enhance its future: this may include the promotion of horse-based tourism, which will in turn provide opportunities for individuals and businesses affected by a ban.
The Government does not believe that any horses will have to be destroyed as a result of this Act. There are no powers in the Act for the courts to order the forfeiture or destruction of horses, and decisions on whether or not to retain horses will be for their owners. It is possible that some individuals may choose to destroy their animals rather than ride them for non-hunting purposes – and a few extremists have threatened to kill their animals publicly in protest at the ban - but this would rather undermine any claim they had to be animal lovers. Of more realistic concern is the risk that some horses no longer required for hunting might be used for activities to which they are not well-suited. There is no evidence of this up to now, but the Government is in contact with the leading equine welfare organisations to monitor the situation.
Wildlife management and biodiversity
Why has the Government resisted proposals to include “wildlife management” as justification for exempt hunting?
The Government offered those who support hunting the opportunity to provide evidence that hunting serves an effective purpose in the management of wildlife in 2002, but no conclusive evidence was brought forward.
The principal wildlife management issues arising with regard to foxes, mink and hares relate to pest control , which is included in the Act as a justification for exempt hunting.
The Government accepts that deer populations do need to be managed, but as Lord Burns noted (para 5.75) the three existing registered deer hunts accounted for only around 15% of the annual cull needed to maintain a stable population in those areas. Overall, hunting makes only a marginal contribution to biodiversity and wildlife preservation, and hare-coursing almost none. Biodiversity and wildlife management are helped far more by the substantial funding given to farmers through agri-environment schemes.
Is it true that a ban on hunting would have serious repercussions for the UK’s ability to meet its international obligations?
No. There is no international obligation to allow the continuation of hunting. The UK remains fully committed to abiding by the principles set out in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Neither of these, nor any other international agreement to which the UK is party, contain anything which would prevent the adoption of measures which would restrict or ban hunting with dogs. This issue has already been tested in the Scottish Courts, which rejected the argument.
It has been suggested that the ban on hunting will cause damage to the environment and to wildlife by removing an incentive for farmers and landowners to maintain and manage habitats in a way which encourages biodiversity. It is clear that the behaviour of land owners and managers is affected far more by their own attitude towards wildlife and by the substantial amount of funding they receive from the Government to maintain their land to a high standard, through agri-environment programmes, than by activities such as hunting. There is nothing in the Act which prevents or limits their ability to behave in an environmentally responsible manner.
Alternatives to Live Quarry Hunting
The Act does not specify what hunts can do: it makes some very specific activities, such as the deliberate pursuit of a wild mammal using dogs, illegal. There is no restriction of hunts undertaking legal pest control activities (and the Act specifically provides for this, by allowing the use of up to 2 dogs to stalk and flush pest mammals to waiting guns). There is also no restriction on the hunts continuing to meet and ride with their hounds within the law. This could include drag hunting, trail hunting or hound exercise. All of the other activities that hunts have traditionally engaged in – dog walking, puppy shows, hunt balls, point-to-point racing, fallen stock collection etc – are equally unaffected.
Strictly speaking, drag hunting is not an alternative to live quarry hunting. It is an established equestrian sport which has been in existence for over 100 years. The Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association (MDBA) is the lead body in this country for drag hunting (which uses fox hounds) and “hunting the clean boot” (which uses bloodhounds). Both involve the laying of an artificially –derived scent (usually aniseed based) which the dogs and mounted participants follow over a variety of jumps, including both hunt-built fences and natural obstacles such as stone walls, hedges, ditches and farmers’ fences.
The essence of the sport is, in the words of the MDBA’s constitution, that it “involves the use of hounds to provide pleasure and sport without the pursuit or killing of wild mammals”. A Countryside Alliance leaflet describes drag hunting as “an exciting, competitive cross-country equestrian sport, guaranteed to provide a lot of galloping and jumping”. The sport has a reputation for being vigorous and requiring a high level of fitness and equestrian skill. However, this is not necessarily the case, as the course can be tailored to the skill levels of the participants, and routes around the more challenging obstacles can be provided.
More information about the sport and how to take part can be obtained from the MDBA website.
The Countryside Alliance’s Hunting Handbook recommends trail hunting as an alternative activity to live quarry hunting (pending repeal of the Hunting Act). It describes trail hunting as “the hunting of an artificial scent” and recommends that hunts “use the scent of a fox, hare, deer or mink as appropriate”. The Handbook adds that “There is no reason why huntsman or followers should know in advance the route hounds will take when following a trail, thus closely matching hunting in it’s current form”.
Trail hunting is perfectly legal, as long as animal welfare and other laws are not broken in the process of obtaining the scent. Many hunts have adopted some form of trail hunting in place of live quarry hunting. The Government has said that it welcomes this, provided that the hunts are genuinely intending to stay within the law and not trying to use the practice as a subterfuge for engaging in illegal hunting activities.
Both the MoD and the Forestry Commission have now reached agreements with the Masters of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) to allow trail hunting on their land. Any hunts wishing to use MoD or Forestry Commission land will have to be members of the MFHA and apply individually for permission. They will be required to operate on the same terms as currently apply to drag hunts operating under the MDBA, eg the artficial scent used may be chemical or animal based, but should not be easily confused by the hounds with the scent of a live mammal. Under no circumstances should a carcass or part of one be used as the scent. A fundamental issue is the hunt’s ability to control the hounds should they leave the laid scent, and a failure to do so could result in a termination of the permission.
Page last modified:
21 February, 2011
Page published: 13 September, 2004