Fox hunting, which targets the European red fox, is just one of four types of hunts that take place in Britain. The others are stag hunting, which targets red deer, hare hunting (sometimes called beagling) that targets brown hares, and mink hunting. They all use a pack of dogs to find the scent of an animal, chase it and kill it.
Scientific evidence has shown that hunting with hounds is cruel. Animals targeted in hunting suffer physical and mental stress, whether they are eventually killed or not. That’s why PAL played a key role in ending the cruelty. It provided financial backing to the British Labour Party which contested the 1997 general elections with an animal-friendly manifesto that read: “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.”
The Labour Party was elected and introduced the Hunting Act of 2004, which made hunting wild mammals with a pack of dogs illegal in England and Wales.
The controversy continues
The Hunting Act is one of the most controversial laws ever passed in the UK. In fact, on the day before it was finally passed, two protesters staged the first invasion of the House of Commons − a chamber of the British Parliament − since 1641! And, as the commotion unfolded inside the House of Commons, between 8 000 and 10 000 people demonstrated in Parliament Square outside, either showing their support for, or opposition to, the Hunting Act.
Today in the UK, public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of the Hunting Act. An opinion poll conducted in May 2017 revealed that 64% of voters disagreed with the statement that “the ban on fox hunting should be reversed”, with many of them (46%) “strongly” disagreeing with the statement. Only 11% of voters support the repeal of the Act.
Yet, in spite of public opinion − and in spite of the fact that only 16% of Conservative voters want the ban overturned − the Conservative Party promised in its 2017 election manifesto that there would be a vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act. Although the government has backed away somewhat from this stance, the danger remains high.
PAL is ever vigilant, constantly monitoring the views of all British MPs on the issue of hunting with hounds. The organisation also works with other non-governmental organisations to ensure that the Hunting Act is enforced and that practices like “trail hunting” − that imitate real hunts using artificial scents − are not used as a cover to terrorise and kill foxes, deer, hares or minks.