Farmers in Wales fear for the welfare of lambs next spring. The terms of the Hunting Act 2004 have rendered them incapable of controlling the ever-increasing fox population.
“Livestock losses will increase dramatically,” says David Thomas of the Federation of Welsh Packs. “The welfare implications are great and there will be a huge effect on the livestock industry.
“The population density of foxes always causes a predation problem in the spring but next year it will be worse,” Thomas continues, adding that in 10 years the problem could have increased 10 fold.
“The provisions of the Act are insufficient,” he states. Under the Hunting Act, only two hounds can be used to flush a fox to hounds in England and Wales.
Government owned forests cover up to 40% of upland Wales. According to Thomas the “two hound” rule is “absolutely hopeless” for flushing out foxes in woods.
“We have huge difficulties flushing with two dogs rather than 40 – there is a greater problem with dispatching wounded foxes,” he explains. “It is equivalent to a deep sea trawler going out to sea with two fishing rods rather than a mile of net.”
Game birds are protected by an exemption in the Hunting Act, but there is no such exception for livestock. The exemption rules that terriers can be used to flush a fox if it is predating a game bird. Welsh farmers are enraged that the Act protects pheasants and not lambs.
“To safeguard our flocks and the future of our farming, we need the law to be amended to allow the use of terriers below ground and allow a greater number of dogs to be used to flush foxes to guns,” said Adrian Simpson, South Wales regional director of the Countryside Alliance, at last week”s Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
“All of Wales’ hunts are still operating within the law. However there is great concern that within the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, hunts and farmers will be unable to protect newborn lambs from foxes”.
Welsh farmers feel Wales to have the same rules as Scotland, where there is no limit on the number of hounds used. The Welsh Assembly Government has asked for evidence illustrating effective pest control is impossible within the terms of the Hunting Act 2004.
“We will do all we can and continue as long as is necessary to prove this law is not working,” Simpson added.