Great Britain's Rural Ministry Likely to Propose Compromise Bill on Fox Hunting

Great Britain’s rural affairs minister, Alun Michael, will likely soon propose a compromise bill on the contentious issue of hunting foxes with dogs that would bring such activities under national anti-cruelty statutes, but leave the details up to local tribunals.

Under the compromise proposal that appeared to be shaping up after three days of hearings conducted by the rural minstry, what constitutes cruel fox hunting would be established nationwide, but enforcement and delineation of acceptable hunting practices would be left to local tribunals. Any infractions against such laws would be outside of the criminal law and those violating them would not have criminal records.

The other proposal that was advanced by laywer Gordon Nardell would institute a Scottish-style ban on all fox hunting with dogs, with some exemptions for using dogs to flush out foxes so they can be shot.

During the last legislative session, the House of Commons voted for a complete ban on all fox hunting with hounds, while the House of Lords voted for an alternative bill that would allow fox hunting ot continue but under greater regulatory oversight.

As many as one million sporters of fox hunting are expected to turn out later this month to protest in favor of continued fox hunting with hounds.

Sources:

Compromise bill on hunting ‘within weeks’. The Daily Telegraph (London), September 12, 2002.

Hunt tribunal plan. Charles Clover, The Daily Telegraph (London), September 12, 2002.

Scottish Judge Upholds Ban on Fox Hunting with Dogs

A Scottish Judge this month upheld the Protection of Wild Mammals Act which makes it illegal to hunt foxes with dogs. The new law went into effect August 1.

Hunters had challenged the new law on the grounds that parliament had overstepped its bounds. But Lord Nimmo Smith at the Court of Session issued a 122-page decision in which he held that banning foxhunting with dogs was well within the power of the legislative body.

Smith wrote in his decision,

To regulate the way in which animals may be hunted and killed appears to me to be far more within the constitutional responsibility of the parliament as the elected legislature than within the constitutional responsibility of the courts.

In that the parliament took it upon itself to form judgments as to whether mounted foxhunting with dogs is a sport, whether it can be described as cruel, whether it can be distinguished from other methods of controlling fox numbers in terms of efficiency, the relative suffering of the fox and so on, all appear to me to fall within the discretionary area of judgment to which the court should defer.

Proponents of foxhunting plan to appeal the decision to a three-judge panel at the Court of Session, and could ultimately take their case to European Union courts.

Hunting foxes with dogs will continue, but under the new law the foxes must be killed with guns rather than by the hounds.

Opponents of fox hunting, such as the League Against Cruel Sports, hoped the judge’s decision would spur England to ban foxhunting with dogs as well. Mike Hobday of the LACS said, “This decision will add further pressure on the Government to bring forward legislation that will clearly bring an end to the gratuitous cruelty of hunting with dogs in England and Wales.”

Sources:

Hunting lobby to challenge ruling. Bruce Mckain and Frances Horsbrugh, The Herald (Glasgow), August 1, 2002.

Court upholds fox-hunting ban. Hamish Macdonell and John Robertson, The Scotsman, August 1, 2002.

Scottish Court case decision. League Against Cruel Sports, Press Release, July 31, 2002.

Land Trust that Banned Hunting Brings in Sharpshooters to Kill Foxes

The Essex Wildlife Trust owns almost 8,000 acres of land in 93 nature preserves in Great Britain. A few years ago, the Trust banned all hunting on land it owns, but got more than it bargained for in the process.

On the 600-acre Tollesbury Wick reserve, the past few years have scene the fox population increase dramatically with an attendant decline in the population of ground-nesting lapwings. Five years ago there were only 4-5 foxes on the reserve, whereas today there are about 20. While there were 38 pairs of ground-nesting lapwings five years ago, today there are only three. There have also been increases in fox attacks on other animals in the reserve.

The solution to deal with the problem? Hunting, of course. The Trust hired sharpshooters to cull the foxes, resulting in predictable outrage among animal rights activists in Great Britain.

Graham Game, the Trust’s development manager, told The Daily Telegraph,

We are getting the worst of both worldsWe are getting lots of flak for deciding to cull the foxes, but it looks as if not a single predator will have been shot. He said the decision to kill the foxes was only taken after much heart-searching and research. We have now reached the situation where these predators are making the future of endangered species unsustainable.

Of course the animal rights activists aren’t buying that argument at all. “When we tell them that we have seen foxes killing lambs and ground-nesting birds,” Game said, “they simply do not accept it.”

Do these activists think that foxes are herbivores?

Source:

Hunting ban trust faces protests over fox cull. David Sapsted, The Daily Telegraph, February 22, 2002.

Scotland Bans Fox Hunting, But with Plenty of Twists

Yesterday Scotland’s Parliament voted 67 to 37 to ban the hunting of foxes with dogs, but the bizarre finale to a process that began in 2000 left numerous questions as to whether or not the law would survive legal appeals and whether or not it is enforceable as written.

In a flurry of legislative maneuvering, the Scottish Parliament considered no less than 107 amendments to the bill, adopting some and rejecting others in what the Glasgow Herald described as a last minute legislative scramble. The various amendments — and lack of a specific set of amendments — will likely leave the ban in legal limbo for several years.

The Protection of Wild Mammals Act provides for up to six months in jail and a 5,000 pound fine for anyone who takes part in a fox-hunt using dogs, engages in hare coursing, or participates in fox-baiting, Subcommittee on FOrests and Forests Health

Supporters of fox hunting are expected to mount a number of legal challenges to the bill, including one over the compensation that is to be given to people whose businesses and jobs will be lost due to the ban. Three amendments designed to offer compensation to such people were offered and all three were rejected. This is in contrast to Scotland’s ban on fur farms where it included a compensation package to fur farmers put out of work, even though there were no operating fur farms in Scotland.

The lack of any compensation opens the possibility that the ban violates the European Convention on Human Rights which forbids the government taking of property without compensation.

About 3,000 people are employed in jobs relating to mounted hunts in Scotland.

The bigger problem, though, is that the law has so many exceptions and loopholes that it is questionable whether or not it can be meaningfully enforced. There are exemptions for pest control, the bill requires prosecutors to prove an “intent to kill” a fox beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are plenty of similar legal ambiguities. As one British newspaper put it, the entire bill is one big gift to lawyers.

Which did not stop supporters of the ban from proclaiming this one of the most important acts in human history. Consider anti-hunting activist Graham Isdale’s comments to The Guardian about the ban,

This is one of those defining moments in the history of UK parliaments. It is a momentous occasion because Scotland is taking a lead in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and possibly in the rest of the world.

There is no denying, however, that the passage of the ban will put new pressure on Tony Blair and the Labor Party to follow-through on Blair’s 1999 promise to ban fox hunting posthaste. Labor, however, keeps finding excuses not to reintroduce a ban on hunting and is apparently wary of further alienating rural voters.

Sources:

Edinburgh ban on blood sport raises pressure on Blair. Nigel Morris, The Independent (London), February 14, 2002.

Scotland bans fox-hunting. Kirsty Scott, The Guardian (London), February 14, 2002

Only the lawyers will benefit from this sorry mess. Alan Cochrane, The Daily Telegraph (London), February 13, 2002.

Sportsmen outfoxed as hunting ban is passed. Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2002.

Final scramble kills compensation; Struggle to deal with 107 amendments produces a shock. Frances Horsburgh, The Herald (Glasgow), February 14, 2002.

The ban on fox-hunting; Executive must intervene with compensation. The Herald (Glasgow), February 14, 2002.

Police in Great Britain Investigate Anti-Hunt Group

Police in Great Britain are investigating the Surrey Anti-Hunt Campaign after it allegedly sent letters that could be interpreted as attempts at intimidation and/or blackmail.

There has been an active and very violent campaign against hunting in Surrey County. In 2001, for example, activists set fire to two vehicles that belonged to a Dr. Richard Cockerill. Cockerill was not a hunter, but his name ended up on a list of fox hunters that was circulated by Surrey Anti-Hunt Campaign. In October, a hunting supporters jeep was fire bombed. In October 2000, an incendiary device was detonated in a van owned by a hunt supporter, and another device was found in the car of another hunt supporter (though the device was discovered before it went off).

Recently hunting supporters received letters in the mail which were clearly a veiled threat. Signed by Andrew Batchelor of the Surrey Anti-Hunt Campaign, the letter read, in part,

We are led to understand that a number of supporters [of hunting] are intending not to renew their subscriptions to the hunt or be involved with them in any way. If you are on of those people we commend you (sic) decision to dissociate yourself from the history of trouble this hunt has been connected with. To prevent misunderstandings, we are requesting that you detach and return the slip below, stating whether you have severed your connections with the Old Surrey and Burstow with West Kent Hunt or whether you will be continuing as a supporter.

Several hunt supporters turned the letters over to police who are investigating the matter.

Source:

Hunt saboteurs are accused of blackmail over ‘amnesty’ offer. Charles Clover, The Daily Telegraph, January 17, 2002.

Labour Party Backs Off Hunt Ban, Angering Anti-Hunt Members of Parliament

After an overwhelming victory in recent elections, the Labour Party recently surprised many observers by omitting the long-promised ban on fox Hunting from the Queen’s Speech.

The Queen’s Speech is part of the ceremonies that surround the opening of Parliament. Although the Queen reads it, the speech is in fact written by leaders of whatever party is in power and outlines the legislation which the government sees as most important in the coming session.

Many people on both sides of the hunting debate had expected the proposed ban to be featured in the speech, bug instead it was omitted. The best the Labour Party is willing to do now, apparently, is guarantee that at some point Parliament will be able to have a free vote on the matter.

The upshot is that this will effectively delay any work on a hunting ban, if not kill the whole idea outright for the near future.

Source:

MPs anger as hunt bill is axed. Charles Reiss, ThisIsLondon.Com, June 20, 2001.

Hunt opponents scenting blood. Alex Kirby, The BBC, June 19, 2001.