Fox hunting in the UK
The hunting of foxes has long been the topic of popular and controversial debate; stirring heated emotions within animal welfare and hunting groups. Hunting a wild mammal with dogs was banned in 2004 after the Hunting Act was passed – hundreds of years after the first fox is believed to have been tracked and chased to kill it by a Norfolk farmer in 1534. A tradition was born. Thankfully, as a result of a relentless effort from members of the public and a coalition of animal welfare groups, such as Team Fox from the Save Me Trust, the hunting ban remains, promoting the view that “fox hunting is not a “tradition” that needs to be protected.”
Despite the ban, growing evidence continues to emerge into the public domain gathered by dedicated animal activist groups that present a startling and concerning reality – fox hunting is continuing, illegally.
Barbaric illegal trail hunts exposed
On November 24, ITV News broadcasted “disturbing” footage released by Britain’s leading charity, League Against Cruel Sports. The footage exposed fox hunts from the Duke of Beaufort’s, South Gloucestershire hunt, chasing a fox on horseback with a pack of hounds. A fox is filmed running for its life through a barbed wire fence with no attempt from the hunting group to call them off. As a result, the hunting office are being accused of illegally killing foxes and are currently being investigated by the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This footage clearly shows that fox hunting is still taking place in the English countryside despite being banned 15 years ago.” Landowners are being urged to ban hunting on their land, and made aware that the “trail hunting excuse” often used by hunts has been exposed to be a smoke screen to hide what they are really doing – chasing and killing foxes.
Under the Hunting Act, trail hunting is permitted. Hunts are allowed to use hounds to follow an artificial scent trail to mimic traditional hunting, however, none of the sort was seen. It seems to be more common that foxes are claimed to be “accidentally killed” when their dog picks up its scent. It is an offence to deliberately use dogs to chase or kill a wild mammal.
Animal welfare groups have been witnessing for a long time the intentional use of hounds to chase and kill a fox. Members of the hunting group observed to strategically block exits of small areas of woodland to scare the fox back into the path of the dogs. Mr Luffingham purports, “if trail hunting was real, foxes wouldn’t be pursued by baying hounds and that fox hunting is a cruel blood sport, which involves hunt hounds chasing and literally tearing apart the body of the live fox when they catch it.”
The hunters become the hunted
Animal welfare organisations and outraged members of the public, demand that landowners, such as the government and land-owning estates, act now to “end this barbaric behavior.” 677 reports have been produced by the League which show illegal fox hunting is happening; witnessed by members of the public across England and Wales. The Beaufort Hunt is based on the Badminton Estate and is the West Country’s oldest and largest fox hunt, the League reports.
An urgent call for change
According to a public opinion survey taken on November 9 2020 by Yougov.co.uk, on whether hunting foxes with dogs should remain illegal, 80% agreed yes and 9% said no, out of a sample of 1661 people.
As a result of this pending police investigation regarding the Hunting office, the National Trust, Forestry England, National Resources Wales, United Utilities and Lake District National Park, have since suspended trail hunts on their land, with others such as the Crown Estate being urged to follow suit.
Foxes may have been referred to in Medieval or modern times as “the beasts of the chase”, “pests” or “vermin”, but it strongly seems that the only mammal to fit such a description are members of the hunting office, who evidently trample through our sacred natural spaces, literally tear apart our wildlife causing devastation in their wake. It is time they are finally brought to justice.
It seems that now, more than ever, animal welfare groups and the public are taking a stand to make their outrage and disgust known regarding these cruel and barbaric acts. that they will not be tolerated. aking an active and relentless role to protect and stand firmly as fox and wildlife guardians.