Fourteen years after the introduction of the Hunting Act, a key accomplishment of the last Labour government, the Labour Party is campaigning for the eradication of loopholes, such as ‘trail hunting’.
Trail hunting has arisen since the ban on hunting was introduced, and is an entirely different practice to drag hunting, which is a traditional and legitimate pursuit that does not use animal scent or involve the killing or chasing of wild animals.
To address some of the loopholes currently open to exploitation, Labour announced last year that in government they would consult on bringing forward the following amendments to the Hunting Act 2004:
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.
A recent poll by Survation found that only 16% of those living in rural areas believe hunting with dogs is a reflection of countryside values, while 67% do not. It also showed that a mere 4% of people living in the countryside ever take part in hunting with hounds. In contrast, 91% said they thought observing nature was a greater reflection of countryside values.
I know from my postbag that Animal welfare is something my constituents feel very strongly. On the 14th anniversary of the introduction of Labour’s Hunting Act, we must look again to ensure that any loopholes currently open to exploitation through newly developed practices are closed. The next Labour Government will be committed not just to maintaining the hunting ban, but to strengthening it.