Ten years ago, the hunting world stood united as the ban was pushed through parliament and a decade later they are “still here and still hunting”.
In 2004, the Labour government used the Parliament Act to ensure opposition in the House of Lords could not scupper the 2004 Hunting Bill, backed in a free vote of the House of Commons.
However, despite concerns, the resilience of the hunting community has ensured that the sport has not only continued but also grown in support.
“We’ve had a very strong 10 years since the ban,” the Berkeley’s joint-master Henry Berkeley told H&H. “Numbers have increased as people have wanted to understand what hunting is about, have sympathised with our plight and enjoyed it enough to continue.”
“There is no doubt that support for hunting is as strong as it has ever been,” West Norfolk joint-master Charles Carter added.
“Hunting has a potentially bright future as we have a huge number of the younger generation getting involved with the sport and the lifestyle.”
Growing public support
There is evidence showing that the general public’s opinion on the ban is changing.
An impartial poll carried out by YouGov revealed that there has been a 10% drop in support for the ban from 61% to 51% in the past 10 years.
The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner argues that this shift has been created as people understand the impracticality of the Act.
“The law has proved just as unworkable, pointless and wasteful as we predicted, and it seems the public is realising this fact,” said Mr Bonner.
“Nearly half of the people polled by YouGov do not support the Hunting Act, which gives us hope that repeal of this illiberal and illogical piece of legislation will happen.”
Figures released by the CA show that 341 people were convicted of Hunting Act offences between 2005 and 2013, but that only 21 of those are involved with registered hunts.
There has been heavy criticism of the cost to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of cases being brought to trial.
The RSPCA has also come under fire for using public donations to fund prosecutions. In July, it was announced that the charity had seen a £7million drop in donations, but it denied this was related to its political activities.
No time for complacency
Despite the positive signs, hunt supporters are being urged not to be complacent and that the need for repeal is still vital and urgent.
“It would be a mistake to think that just because we have survived the past 10 years, we will be safe for the next decade. The legislation must be reworked if hunting is to survive,” Mr Carter added.
The Masters of Foxhounds Association’s (MFHA) Tim Easby told H&H: “Hunts are nothing short of outstanding in their determination to beat this ban. We must get this wretched ban repealed or replaced and get hunting back where it belongs, without further meddling from parliamentarians who know nothing and care very little about it.”
Ref: H&H 19 February, 2015