Dodging the ban: hunts flush foxes for owls to kill

Campaigners say that hunts have been openly flouting the law in the pre-season period using hounds to chase and kill stags and foxes in open acts of defiance. Dozens of hunts are exploiting a loophole in the new law by continuing to hunt using birds of prey - outraging animal rights campaigners and professional falconers alike.

The League Against Cruel Sports said that it would quadruple its number of hunt monitors this season, equipping them with state-of-the-art recording equipment, in a bid to secure a conviction.

Despite more than 50 allegations of illegal hunting made to the police since the Hunting Act became law in February, not a single person has been charged.

Both the pro- and anti-bloodsports campaigners are arguing over what is and is not against the new law, and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says it is now up to the courts to decide.

Many believe the result will be chaos this season. Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance said he was "delighted" that so many hunts were testing the legislation. "No one has any problem with people breaking the spirit of the law which came about because of the hatred of the Labour Party backbenchers. The problem is that it is unworkable. We will push it to the limits in every way that we can," he said.

The League Against Cruel Sports says the hunting ban is being flouted in two ways. The main way is in the use of hounds to "flush out" stags and foxes that have taken refuge in a wood or thicket. A pack of dogs can lawfully follow an animal's trail, and two are allowed to flush it out to a waiting gun.

But the law gives no time limit on how long the period of the chase after the flushing out and before the animal is shot should be. This loophole has resulted in extended periods of "relay hunting" using pairs of hounds to give chase. The act also draws no distinction between deer and foxes during the flushing out.

Campaigners say that stags are clearly visible to the hunters in all but the thickest of cover and therefore should be shot without resorting to hounds to flush them out.

The second way of bypassing the law is by exploiting a loophole allowing an unlimited number of hounds to flush foxes to a bird of prey. The growing number of hunts using eagle owls or golden eagles has prompted criticism from the Hawk Board, which organises falconry in Britain. Its chairman Jim Chick has complained to Defra that the birds are not natural predators of such large mammals and would be unable to dispatch their quarry without suffering. He has accused the Countryside Alliance of "betraying" falconers who marched with hunters to oppose the ban.

Up to 30 hunts are said to have purchased birds of prey at a cost of up to £10,000 each. Some hunts have admitted the birds have never been unleashed.

Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said many hunts had converted to the "cruelty-free sports" of drag and trail hunting.

"However, it is clear that the Countryside Alliance's tactic of testing the law is going too far in some areas and a significant number of hunts are breaking the law." He added: "This season we shall be the eyes and ears of the countryside, monitoring hunts and passing on evidence to the police. Make no mistake - those who break the law will be prosecuted."

The Countryside Alliance, which has published a 44-page booklet for this season entitled How to Keep Hunting, is unabashed. "It might not be the same as it was but to those on the outside it looks, sounds and smells just like hunting before the Hunting Act," said Mr Bonner.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence