Renewed claims by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) that hunting is a “cruel barbaric game” have been dismissed as propaganda.
The league claims that new video material provides “compelling visual evidence of a fox hunt repeatedly breaching core guidelines laid down by its regulatory body, the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA)”.
Nicky Driver, the community and liaison officer for the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt, which was the focus of the league’s claims, was adamant that the hunt had behaved strictly in keeping with the MFHA’s codes of conduct.
Ms Driver told HHO: “The footage shows that the hunt followed the rules to the letter. The terriermen were totally professional and fully licensed. Yes, a fox was killed, but it was a mangy fox that was shot at point blank range using a licensed firearm.
“The only issue that arises from the league’s footage is that there is an urgent need to communicate to the wider world that there is no deep dark secret about artificial earths. They are not used to breed foxes in captivity. On the contrary, they are a valuable method of providing a habitat for, and sustaining, the fox population.”
A Countryside Alliance spokesman also expressed concern that edited footage can allow “entirely legal acts which are carried out humanely, and wholly in keeping with the regulations governing hunting, to be entirely misrepresented.”
No representative from the league was available for comment.
Meanwhile, rumours have been flying that the government intends to bring back a hunting bill this summer. As yet, there has been no confirmation of these rumours, and hunt supporters remain defiant.
Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, explains that this is not the first time that opponents of hunting have voiced their belief that a ban on hunting is imminent.
“First [our opponents] were confident that a Bill would be announced in the Queen’s Speech. Then, in January, the Independent newspaper reported that a Bill banning hunting would be introduced before Easter,” he explained.
“At Labour’s Spring conference, Gerald Kaufmann stated that a Bill banning all hunting would be introduced sometime in late May, and last week, anti-hunting MPs were claiming ‘assurances’ that a Bill would be brought back in the summer.”
But supporters are not complacent, since hunting remains vulnerable to the use of the Parliament Act until the end of this session. If the Parliament Act were to be implemented, a ban could, in theory, be in place by the end of February 2005. However, many are of the opinion that the Government’s commitments lie elsewhere, particularly in light of the unresolved situation in Iraq, as well as concerns about schools and hospitals on the home front.
“They know that the media will condemn ‘one of the most hypocritical Bills of modern times’ [the Observer] and question the priorities of a government which claims to be concentrating on issues that really matter to people,” stressed Simon Hart.
“They know that they will face a fight in the courts where we will challenge the use of the Parliament Act and the attack on Human Rights.” He continued.