Hunts throughout England and Wales were congratulated on a “great start” since the Hunting Act, but warned practices must stay “squeaky clean”, at last week’s AGM of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA).
Chairman Stephen Lambert said hunts had “every reason to be proud” that 20,000 hunting days have taken place since the ban, but reminded masters not to be complacent. The highest standards must be maintained in kennels, he said, and reminded the 250 masters attending the AGM at Cheltenham Racecourse that no hunt was safe from unexpected allegations.
“[Masters and huntsmen] have used their imagination and reached deep into their reserves of stubborn determination,” he said. “We have achieved our object of maintaining our infrastructure, and to date neither the police nor the Crown Prosecution Service has charged anyone.”
The MFHA is helping to conduct independent scientific research and is compiling data on foxes since the Act and recording examples of where the Act is causing unnecessary suffering to wildlife.
Mr Lambert said the Hunting Act would continue to be challenged in the courts, and emphasised the infrastructure of hunts must be maintained — with repeal of the 16-month-old Act seen as vital.
Conservative MP and former chief whip David MacLean praised the contribution of the Vote OK organisation, where hunting people across England and Wales made a significant contribution to the Conservative campaign in the general election.
“Vote OK could be instrumental in helping to defeat Labour in local and national elections,” said Mr MacLean, urging hunts to continue to show support.
While David Cameron has stated publicly he is in favour of repeal, Mr MacLean said it was unlikely Labour would return to the Hunting Act in the near future — and if it did so, it would be to tighten, not to repeal the Act.
He told the AGM he believed the right to hunt should be part of human rights law, just as other sports such as tennis, cricket and he suggested, amid laughter, croquet.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart urged hunting people to maintain their “sensible and mature relationship” with police forces. “The press and public opinion continue to regard the Hunting Act with great disdain,” he said.