The Hunting Act: 10 years on

  • Ten years ago today (18 November 2004), the hunting world was facing a very different future for their sport following the forcing of the Hunting Act 2004 through Parliament.

    After many years of debate in both the House of Commons and the Lords, no outright decision on the future of hunting was made. On this day in 2004, Commons Speaker Michael Martin invoked the use of the Parliament Act to push the bill into law. The Hunting Act 2004 came into force three months later on 18 February 2005.

    At the time, Horse & Hound recorded the anxiety of its readership over the prospective ban and talked to those involved with hunting about how they believed hunting would continue under the new law (pictured top). Despite the changes, the hunting fraternity remained upbeat and vowed to fight for repeal of the act while working within the law in the meantime.

    Since the ban was enforced on 18 February 2005, registered hunts in England and Wales have carried out more than 150,000 days hunting.

    Data from the Ministry of Justice from 2005-2013 shows that although 341 people have been convicted of Hunting Act offences, just 21 of those people were involved with registered hunts.

    Tim Bonner, director of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “The determination of hunts, and the continued support of the wider rural community, has ensured that hunting is still thriving 10 years after the Hunting Act was passed, but the law has proved just as unworkable, pointless and wasteful as we predicted.

    “A law which was passed because of MPs’ obsession with fox hunting has been used almost exclusively to prosecute poachers. A law which was supposed to be about animal welfare has not reduced suffering or stopped foxes being killed. A law which was supposed to be ‘straightforward and enforceable’ has continued to create confusion in the courts and waste hundreds of hours of police time.”

    Those opposed to hunting thought the ban would force those involved to pack up and do something else with their time. Yet a decade on, the sport remains as well-supported as ever with more than 300 hunts still going strong. There remains a determination from those involved to overturn what is deemed to be an illogical, badly drafted and unfair law. Who knows what lies ahead in the next 10 years?

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