Hunting with Dogs: Dispelling the Myths

Posted on December 8, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

My colleague and Green Party MLA Brian Wilson has put forward a Private Members Bill to the Assembly to ban the hunting of wild mammals with dogs.  Three in four people support the ban in England and many in Northern Ireland are unaware that the ban is not in place here.  It is time to put this right.

Of course the hunting lobby is up in arms claiming that this is a necessary activity, but ultimately people hunt because they enjoy it and all other arguments are just smokescreens. Let there be no mistake, there is only one question to answer: Do we as a society believe it is acceptable for people to take pleasure in cruelty to animals?

There is no distinction to be made between lamping, badger baiting and the hunting of foxes with dogs.  These are unsavoury activities where people set dogs on other animals to chase and kill other animals for human pleasure.  As Oscar Wilde put “it is the unspeakable chasing the uneatable”.  Putting on a red coat and mounting a horse may make you look gentrified but clearly it does not make you act so.

Let’s put to bed some of the myths. 

Myth One: Fox hunting is part of countryside management and pest control.

 Fox hunting is a spectator bloodsport.  If this was simply about pest control why the need for all the pomp and ceremony, and why do so many people come to watch?  When you have a rat in your house you don’t invite your friends and family to watch it being killed.  The reason why people watch a fox hunt and the reason why people take part in fox hunting is because they enjoy it.

Myth Two:  That this is an attack on rural culture 

The Green Party understands the important of culture to rural communities and that is why we advocate drag hunting as an alternative.  With a drag hunt the dogs follow an artificial scent rather than an actual fox.  All the trappings of the culture can be maintained.  In fact many hunts are already taking part drag hunts as opposed to fox hunting.  Those who insist that hunting cannot continue without a fox being killed again expose themselves as taking pleasure in the killing of an innocent animal. 

Myth Three:  That a ban would cost jobs in the rural community

Research shows that the ban in England has actually led to an increased number of people taking part in drag hunting meaning an increase in economic activity in rural communities.  So to suggest that the Green Party proposal to ban hunting would cost jobs is misleading. 

Myth Four:  That all rural people support hunting

Another advantage of drag hunting is that you can plan the route of the hunt.  When you chase a fox it can go anywhere including onto land where the hunters do not have permission to be.  People’s fences and hedges often get damaged and there was incident this year where a family pet was ripped apart by uncontrollable hounds.  If that was your pet would you support hunting?

Myth Five:  That the ban is unenforceable

The ban acts as a deterrent from hunting but if necessary it is enforceable by law.  Since the ban was introduced in England the number of people convicted of hunting has increased.  However there are loopholes in the English legislation and I have worked with Brian Wilson on this Bill and we have closed those loopholes.  The PSNI already have a responsibility to police wildlife crimes such as badger baiting and the like so again it is a myth that this will have an impact on police resources.  In fact we consulted with the PSNI on our Bill and they raised no concerns. 

Myth Six:  That there are already laws to protect animals from “unnecessary cruelty”

It is true that the Animal Welfare Act 1972 legislates against “unnecessary cruelty” but it specifically states that hunting is exempt from this and the Agriculture Minister has confirmed that there are no provisions to change this within the new Animal Welfare Bill.  The hunting lobby are at best ignorant of this fact but it seems much more likely that they are well aware of this and are deliberately misleading the public.  Every objection letter that we received referred to this piece of legislation to justify their position.  We did not receive a single letter that stated a genuine reason to oppose the ban.

Fox hunting is anachronism which has no place in the 21st century.  It’s time it came to an end.

N.B. This article appeared in the Belfast Newsletter on 8th December 2010.

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