Comment and analysis by Leicester Green Party, and its fellow-travellers
This is a post for those sickened by Theresa May’s promise to repeal The Hunting Act 2004 on the grounds that she’s personally always been in favour of fox hunting, as if her opinion should override the rights of the foxes victimised by bloodsports as well as the 84% of the public who oppose the practice. Maybe by implying The Hunting Act 2004 is a ban only on fox hunting she intends to distract us all from the fact that it also offers some legal protection for a wide range of other wildlife – all wild mammals, in fact, except for rabbits & brown rats. The legislation itself doesn’t even mention the red fox specifically. Plenty has been said about fox hunting on this blog before (see here, here & here) so to give a little a recognition to the lesser known victims as a note for those in Leicestershire & Rutland, here’s some information on two of the most significant species to us locally that will suffer if The Hunting Act 2004 is scrapped…
Brown Hares (Lepus europaeus)
‘…hares…have of late years greatly decreased in numbers in England, Scotland, and Wales, by reason of their being inconsiderately slaughtered…’ – 20/05/1892, The Hares Preservation Act 1892.
‘VC55 Status – Uncommon in Leicestershire & Rutland’ – Brown Hare, NatureSpot.
‘Police Say Hare Coursers Still At Large In Borough’ – The Hinckley Times, 02/11/2015.
Brown hares are protected by The Hunting Act 2004 (in theory); it criminalised the use of beagle, harrier & bassett packs for hunting them as well as including extra sections specifically for hare coursing. The Westerby Bassetts are the only bassett pack in the country and operate mainly in Leicestershire & Rutland. This is the only protection they have outside of the severely outdated The Hares Preservation Act 1892. This law merely prohibits selling their meat in certain months whilst describing them as an important food item, despite the massive population decline that it acknowledges. It is worthless. The Hunting Act 2004 isn’t much better especially since most of the crimes against hares committed are ignored by the police, but a repeal still strips this meagre protection from them.
Brown hares were a national Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species, with the government plan published 15/12/2010 stating they had declined to 20% of the estimated population in 1880 (and if the 1892 law is anything to go by, they’d already started vanishing long before that). They weren’t included on the most recent 2010-2015 BAP for Leicestershire & Rutland but maybe, with a revised version due this year, they might be included as a priority species soon. Between 1996-2014 British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) data shows that the population declined by 5%.
Badgers (Meles meles)
‘… the badger may be physically crushed by the soil, especially following rain. An example of this was observed in Leicestershire in February 1995, where a badger was found trapped by the waist in a sett entrance which had been blocked by the local fox hunt. Persistent heavy rain for five days after the sett was blocked caused the soil to mass together and compact around the badger which was attempting to dig out of the sett. The badger was removed from the compacted soil, and, due to its condition, was euthanised by a veterinary surgeon. Post mortem examination revealed that the badger had a ruptured spleen and a distended bladder, and it was estimated that the badger had been trapped for two to three days.’ – The Effects On Badgers Of Hunting With Dogs, 2002, The National Federation Of Badger Groups.
Badgers are protected by The Hunting Act 2004 (in theory) as it should stop the need for blocking badger setts to stop quarry (red foxes) escaping underground. Obviously this hasn’t happened & setts are still regularly blocked. The Cottesmore Hunt (east of Leicester) have been prosecuted for blocking a badger sett. The Atherstone Hunt (west of Leicester) have been filmed blocking a badger sett. The Fernie Hunt (south of Leicester) have been prosecuted for blocking a badger sett. However, prior to The Hunting Act 2004, fox hunts had the sole legal rights for continuing to block badger setts without a license under The Protection of Badgers Act 1992. If The Hunting Act 2004 is repealed, then the parts of The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 that it removed will be restored, weakening the legal protection of badgers at a time when they need more.
There are many other wild animals subject to criminal abuse that would become more vulnerable should this law be scrapped – deer, mink & perhaps even otters – thankfully, Keith Taylor MEP, the Green Party Spokesperson for Animals, has made clear the party’s intention to fight any attempt at repealing The Hunting Act 2004…
“That Theresa May has been forced into this admission is extremely telling. The bloodthirsty plot to repeal the fox hunting ban had, until now, only been discussed behind closed doors because the Tories know 84% of the public oppose this barbaric pursuit, which is enjoyed by only a tiny privileged minority. Let’s be clear, the Conservatives did not want to be open with the public about this plan. The Party has a history of subverting our democracy when it comes to fox hunting: a vote to repeal the ban was quietly abandoned in 2015 when it became clear the Government didn’t have the numbers to push it through. Fox hunting is an abomination dressed up as a tradition, enjoyed only by a monied few. It is entirely needless and causes tremendous suffering. Yet our wannabe Prime Minister Theresa May remains a shockingly staunch advocate. Today’s leak and subsequent admission should set alarm bells ringing for animal welfare advocates across Britain. As Greens, we will continue to protect our British wildlife by fighting tooth and nail to ensure this barbaric practice remains illegal.” – Keith Taylor MEP, 09/05/2017.