horses and hounds used to hunt foxesSo the election is over, The Conservatives have officially shelved the fox hunting issue until further notice, and those that were rubbing their hands at the thought of hunting with dogs again are now back to trail hunting.
Unfortunately, little will change. The online support that was so strongly against a return to hunting foxes will lose momentum and hunts will continue to hunt illegally, taking advantage of the many loopholes and exemptions that seemingly went unnoticed when the bill was pushed through parliament.

What Does The Hunting Act Actually Ban?

In the simplest possible terms, the hunting act makes hunting mammals with dogs illegal, as well as knowingly permitting your land or your dog to be used for hunting mammals with dogs.

So why do we still see this? {Graphic}

Unfortunately, an activity called trail hunting falls under exempt hunting within the act. This activity involves hunt members laying a scent for the hunt to follow on horseback. The implications of this are that hunts don’t always abide by this practice, and will just simply claim they do.

This means that should a fox be killed, the hunt can simply claim they were following a scent and lost control of the hounds, or did not see the fox be killed. As well as allowing hunts to carry on killing, this makes it almost impossible for police to prove them guilty, hence why there have only been around 400 prosecutions since the ban was instated in 2005.

Foxhounds used for hunting in the UK

Main Exemptions and Loopholes in the Act

In addition to the trail hunting exemption, there a number of loopholes and exemptions that hunts regularly take advantage of in order to continue hunting. The main ones we see exploited are:

Flushing A Mammal To A Bird Of Prey 

This is one of the most absurd loopholes in any law. Under the hunting act, hunters are allowed to flush a mammal out with dogs, so long as they are doing so “for the purpose of enabling a bird of prey to hunt the wild mammal”.

Hunts will often use a golden eagle or eagle owl for this purpose, this behaviour has been branded as wildly irresponsible by experts including the Hawk Board who state that not only could a bird of prey not effectively be used to hunt a fox – but it could injure itself, horse, hounds and riders in the process.

Under this loophole, so long as the hunts bring a bird of prey with them, they can hunt as they would before the ban.

fox hunting with an eagle owl

The Gamekeepers Exemption

Another loophole which is commonly exploited is the gamekeepers exemption, under this exemption, terriermen are able to dig out foxes from below ground with 1 terrier. They can do this so long as they are doing so to protect game or wild birds on their property with the landowners permission.

Foxes should be dug out and flushed to guns to be shot as soon as safely possible, however, hunt saboteurs often witness hunts digging out foxes then continuing with the chase – something which is illegal under the act.

Is There A Reason For All The Loopholes

Since passing the hunting act, Tony Blair has confessed that he regrets bringing the legislation in. His confessions have left both sides of the debate speculating whether Mr Blair left enough loopholes in so that hunting could carry on as normal, be swept out of the public spotlight and be passed off as trail hunting.

Tony Blair UK PM 2007

In addition to this, the Government is currently stalling a Freedom Of Information request of a release of letters exchanged between Mr Blair and the pro hunt Prince Charles which “in any way referred to hunting and or a ban on hunting and or the impact of hunting and the impact of a ban on the countryside”. We are waiting to see what these letter contain as it could give a lot more insight into Tony Blair’s real intentions.

Strengthen The Act Today

After this post, it should come as no surprise that the hunting act needs a serious overhaul. Every time the issue is shelved again, we seemingly wait until it is brought up again to care. We must come together to strengthen the act and bloodsports in this country once and for all.
We cannot get stuck in a cycle where the hunting issue only matters when a repeal brought up in parliament again, particularly when the laws we currently have in place are a shambles. If you have any thoughts regarding the above, drop us a message on Facebook or in the contact form below.