British Court Rejects Latest Fox Hunting Appeal

In July, the UK’s High Court rejected a second appeal by fox hunting supporters to overturn the 2004 Hunting Act. That act banned fox hunting with dogs.

In their appeal, the Countryside Alliance argued that the Hunting Act violated the European Convention on Human Rights because it was a “sectarian measure.” Essentially, they argued that the hunting ban was an irrational, ideologically-motivated law akin to, say, a ban on a specific religious practice just because it was practiced by a minority of citizens.

Countryside Alliance’s lawyer, Richard Gordon, had argued that,

What emerges strongly, however the argument is put, is, we suggest, the very divisive nature of the legislation.

Many members of the House of Commons voting on the issue obviously objected strongly to hunting on doctrinal grounds – that is clear.

But we say strong feelings cannot be, and are not in law, a substitute for the exercise that has to be undertaken before Convention rights can be legitimately interfered with.

. . .

We say, if one takes away the strength of feeling from the furor over hunting, very little is left in terms of law, and a total ban of this kind is not justified.

The High Court soundly rejected that line of reasoning. Justices May and Moses said that there was varying opinion about whether or not foxes suffer more when hunted by dogs vs. when they are shot, but that the legislature had a legitimate reason to address this issue. They said,

We consider that there was sufficient material available to the House of Commons for them to conclude that hunting with dogs is cruel.

. . .

[It was] reasonably open to the majority of the democratically-elected House of Commons to conclude that this measure was necessary in the democratic society which had elected them.

The Countryside Alliance bemoaned the verdict, with its chairman John Jackson telling the BBC,

The judges have accepted that there is interference with some of the claimants’ rights, and that the Hunting Act will have a substantial general adverse effect on the lives of many in the rural community.

However, the court, ignoring events in the Commons and the Lords, appears to have proceeded on the assumption that Parliament had a legitimate aim and has itself then speculated on what that may have been.

Whether the court is right to have proceeded in this way is plainly a controversial question./p>

Animal rights advocates, on the other hand, were very pleased. John Cooper, chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, told The Guardian,

We welcome this recognition that there is no human right to be cruel. The Hunting Act is a popular act, the ban is being enforced and, most importantly, animals are no longer able to be abused in the name of this barbaric bloodsport. This is a resounding defeat for the hunters, who need to move forward and accept the democratic will of parliament and the majority of the general public, and learn to take non for an answer.

The Countryside Alliance is still waiting for the Law Lords in the House of Lords to rule on its appeal of the High Court’s February rejection of its argument that the Hunting Act is in violation of Great Britain’s Parliament Act.

There are likely to be further appeals, but at the moment, the odds of the fox hunting advocates actually prevailing seems pretty slim.


High court rejects hunting ban challenge. Press Association, July 29, 2005.

Hunt campaign loses court battle. The BBC, July 29, 2005.

Hunting ban ‘a sectarian measure’. Liverpool Daily Post, July 5, 2005.

British Court Rejects Appeal of Fox Hunt Ban

A British court in January rejected a legal challenge by the Countryside Alliance to Great Britain’s ban on fox hunting with hounds.

The Countryside Alliance argued that the invocation of the Parliament Act of 1949 to pass the Hunting Act was illegal. The judges hearing the case, however, ruled that the use of the Parliament Act of 1949 was legal and the ban itself was also legal under that act.

The Countryside Alliance said it expected to lose the first round of this legal battle which is ultimately expected on a third round of appeals that will wind up with the Law Lords, the highest court of law in Great Britain.

The Countryside Alliance also plan to launch an appeal with the European court of human rights arguing that the ban violates the human rights of hunters. In the mean time, the group is considering asking for an injunction to prevent the ban from going into effect until the legal appeals have been exhausted.

According to The Guardian, the British government has indicated it doesn’t have an opinion either way about an injunction. Opponents of the hunt have accused the government of trying to sidestep controversy ahead of May elections in the United Kingdom.


Court back hunting ban. Mark Oliver, The Guardian, January 28, 2005.

Hunters lose case but fight on. Western Mail (UK), January 29, 2005.

Great Britain's Ban on Fox Hunting Finally Goes Through

After years of trying and failing to force through a ban on fox hunting, the Labor government finally succeeded in passing a law that will ban fox hunting with hounds beginning in February 2005.

In order to do so, however, the government had to invoke the Parliament Act for only the fourth time since 1949. The Parliament Act allows the House of Commons to override opposition from the House of Lords. With the House of Lords again opposing the ban on fox hunting by a vote of 153-114, invoking the Parliament Act was the only way the ban was ever going to happen.

Since 1949, the Parliament Act had only been used to pass the War Crimes Act of 1991, the European Parliamentary Elections Act of 1999, and the Sexual Offences Act of 2000 (to lower the age of consensual sex for homosexuals). Apparently, the Labor government find fox hunting to be an issue on the same scale as war crimes and sexual offences.

Royal Society for the Prevent of Cruelty to Animals’ John Rolls called the bill,

. . . a watershed in the development of a more civilized society for people and animals.

But many of those involved in the act — including supporters — see the bill as being not so much about animals, but rather being about British class warfare.

On November 21, for example, Labor MP Peter Bradley — a strong proponent of the ban — penned an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph headlined, “Yes, this is about class war” which read, in part,

Now that hunting has been banned, we ought at last to own up to it: the struggle over the Bill was not just about animal welfare and personal freedom, it was class war.

Labour governments have come and gone and left little impression on the gentry. But a ban on hunting touches them. It threatens their inalienable right to do as they please on their land. For the first time, a decision of a Parliament they don’t control has breached the lodge gates.

The placards of the Countryside Alliance plead “Listen to Us”, but what they mean is “Do What We Say” – as for centuries we have. That old order no longer prevails. Deference has been eroded by a new, universal prosperity. It’s the recognition of that irrevocable change that has made the campaign for hunting so fierce and yet so futile.

The landowners have come to realize that although they still own the country, they no longer run it. That does not make them the victimized minority they claim to be, but it does make them very angry.

So the minority which for centuries ran this country from the manor houses of rural England now rails against the hegemony of an elected majority in Parliament. And, covertly encouraged by some peers and Tory grandees, those who today threaten to defy the laws they do not like bear the names of the legislators who for generations kept the rest of us in our place.

But the problem the landowners face is not theirs alone. It is shared by the Conservatives with whom, to their mutual disadvantage, they are so closely associated.

. . .

The old order is going, but its values continue to dominate the Tory belief system. In a culture that now demands equality of opportunity, too many Conservatives can only properly enjoy what others do not have.

That is why they have an ideological commitment to private health and public schools. It’s why they oppose the right to roam and a ban on hunting. For them it’s ownership of property, especially land, and not citizenship that confers privilege. It’s why they believe that the rights of minorities – or at least their minority – should prevail over those of majorities. But in an age in which we are all aspirational and few are deferential, that is an increasingly unappealing philosophy. The tide is against the Tories as it is against the hunters and, now more than ever, the House of Lords.

Fox hunting supporters, for their part, vowed to defy the ban. Countryside Alliance chairman John Jackson told the Associated Press,

True civil disobedience is now on the horizon.

In fact, several hundred hunt supporters protested outside a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for visiting French President Jacques Chirac.


Yes, this is about class war. Peter Bradley, Sunday Telegraph, November 21, 2004.

Queen approves hunting ban. ic Croydon, November 18, 2004.

Brits outlaw fox hunting. Associated Press, November 18, 2004.

Hunt Ban Opponents Threaten Illegal Actions

Some individuals in favor of fox hunting in Great Britain are threatening a campaign of illegal actions in response to the recently passed ban on fox hunting that will likely phase out the practice by 2005.

The Observer cites former Countryside Alliance executive Edward Duke who is now at the helm of the Real Countryside Alliance, a breakaway group of the Countryside Alliance, which is threatening such actions.

The Observer quotes Duke as saying,

It will be spectacular. We will target backbench MPs, block in their cars, chant in their surgeries and heckle them wherever they go. We will target government offices, county halls and Parliament. There will be transportation blockages — we have all learnt from the French lorry drivers.

As if there isn’t already enough extremism centered around animal issues in the UK.

Credit goes to Countryside Action Network head Janet George, however, who tells The Observer that her group wants no part of any acts of violence,

There is quite a serious risk that a few hotheaded individuals are going to do something damn stupid. People are so angry. But I think it would be a disaster for the hunting cause if it were to happen.

According to The Observer, however, her group is likely to engage in traffic stoppages.


Hunt activists to hound ministers . Stuart Millar, The Guardian, July 5, 2003.

Pro-hunt extremists threaten to wreck reservoirs and railways. Anushka Asthana and Paul Harris, The Observer, July 6, 2003.