The human rights challenge to the Hunting Act drew to a close in the Appeal Court yesterday.

The case, which argues that the Hunting Act breaches human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, was being heard in conjunction with a challenge under EU law. The “Irish horse-trader case” contests that the Hunting Act breaches trade law and restricts employment and trade possibilities between EU states.

The claimants, represented by Richard Gordon, argued that as a result of the Hunting Act, they may lose their homes, their jobs and their livelihoods. They also said that it threatens their lifestyle and their right to develop relationships with others. It also deprives individuals of their property or controls it in such a way as to render it virtually useless.

The Government disagreed and claimed that, to date, there has been little, if any adverse effect on the lives of those involved in hunting. However Richard Gordon responded by pointing out: “If Mr Sales (on behalf of the Government) were right, we would have to wait until irreversible damage is done for any claim to be legitimate.”

A major aspect of the Appeal hearing related to the aim of the Hunting Act. The human rights claimants say there is no justification for the ban and, along with the EU claimants, argue that in any case it was not a proportionate measure if its aim really was animal welfare.

Richard Gordon argued: “The Hunting Act has a series of disparate and inconsistent aims…. so that even the ethical opposition to killing for sport cannot apply.” The Government, supported by the RSPCA, argue that it was better to have a ban than a piecemeal registration system.

No date for a judgement has yet been given, but is expected to be in the next few months.

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