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Dozens of hunting parties, known as ‘meets’, are taking place across the UK today, December 26, nearly 15 years after the bloodsport was banned.
The Hunting Act 2004 came into effect on February 18, 2005, and banned the cruel practice of hunting wild mammals – including foxes, deer, and horses – with dogs.
However, the ban has failed to prevent hunts meeting to carry out legal drag or trail hunts, which campaigners claim are a ‘cover’ for foxes to continue to be mauled to death by packs of hounds.
Since the season began in late October, there have been 184 reports of suspected illegal fox hunting, with the League Against Cruel Sports demanding the removal of loopholes the charity claims allow hunts to continue killing foxes.
The charity’s director of campaigns Chris Luffingham said, as per the Mirror:
As they parade today in their gaudy finery, fox hunts will be facing the fact that, with their political support gone, hunting is history.
Their 14-year campaign to repeal the fox hunting ban hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of success. There has been a sea change in the way the fox hunting debate is being framed and with the ban now secure, our emphasis has shifted towards the strengthening of the Hunting Act.
Conservative governments have tried, and failed, twice to overturn the ban. Boris Johnson was forced to rule out making any changes to the law during the general election campaign, more than two years after his predecessor Theresa May was said to have blundered during the 2017 election race by supporting fox hunting.
More than 80 Boxing Day hunt meets are reportedly taking place across the UK today, with the majority being held in England, according to the Countryside Alliance. Drag hunting – where hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent – is permitted under the legislation.
A recent poll showed 85% of people support keeping the ban on hunting, and the League Against Cruel Sports wants jail terms for those convicted of illegal hunting.
Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister, said:
Fox hunting is cruel, unnecessary and unpopular. It should be consigned to the history books. The Prime Minister must ensure his majority is not used to allow the return of fox hunting.
Labour will use every opportunity to enhance and strengthen the Hunting Act, reviewing penalties to make sure there is an effective deterrent for illegal hunting, and introducing a ‘recklessness’ clause to stop trail hunts being used to kill foxes.
However, the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance has called on its supporters to attend meets today, stating, via their website: ‘Boxing Day meets offer hunts the perfect opportunity to showcase their legal hunting activities to the public. We need to give the world the chance to understand what makes us all so passionate about following hounds.’
Queen star Brian May said he will support a humane bloodhound hunt on Boxing Day, the Three Counties Bloodhounds, to highlight the cruelty-free side of recreational hunting.
The event will see riders on horseback and their team of hounds chasing a human runner instead of a fox.
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