Hunting Act

The Hunting Act 2004 is law governing the hunting of animals with houndsFollowing years of debate, and hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate, the Hunting Act 2004 became law on 18 February 2005.

Hunts throughout England and Wales have operated under the current restrictions of the Act for more than 10 years while hunting supporters and campaigners have continued in a quest to repeal the law.

On Wednesday, 15 July, MPs were going to get the opportunity to vote on proposals put forward under a Statutory Instrument (SI) to vary the terms of exempt hunting. The proposed amendments includes flushing to guns and removing the “two dog” limit. This would mean it would become legal to manage foxes and some other wild mammals using a pack of hounds. Under these proposals traditional hunting would remain illegal.

However, on Tuesday 14 July the vote was postponed after the SNP announced their MPs would vote against the amendment.

Road to the ban

In 1949, two private members bills failed in an attempt to make it onto the statute books however following that, there was no further proposals brought forward again until 1992, where another bill was rejected by the Commons.

Throughout the 1990s, various bills pass through Parliament, some being rejected by the Lords, others not making it past the first vote in the Commons.

On 1 March 1998, 250,000 hunting supporters congregated in Hyde Park, London, to protest against the private members bill that had been put forward by Michael Foster MP in November 1997.

A bill put forward by Labour MP Gordon Prentice in May 2000 won a majority vote of 179 in the Commons in February 2001 however the House of Lords voted against it and the bill ran out of time when the general election was called.

In February 2002, the Scottish Parliament banned hunting in Scotland when the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

In September 2002, over 400,000 people joined the Liberty & Livelihood march in London to support the rural way of life however in December that year, Alun Michael — the rural affairs minister — announced the Hunting Bill which permitted foxhunting under a strict licensing system.

Further changes to the bill took place between July 2003 and October 2003 varying it between an outright ban and the licensing system.

In early September 2004 the government announced a plan for a free vote leading to an outright ban before the end of the parliamentary session in November, which got passed by MPs on 16 September.

Despite the Lords rejecting the bill, commons speaker Michael Martin invoked the Parliament Act to push the bill into law on 12 November 2004.

Various challenges and appeals against the law were put forward by pro-hunting campaigners before it came into force — including one in the High Court — however hunts started operated under the restrictions of the ban on 18 February 2005.

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