For foxes' sake: Don't let the bloody tradition of the Boxing Day hunt return

If some Tory MPs got their way then foxes being ripped apart for fun could soon become legal once again

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The Independent Online

The holidays are supposed to be about peace and goodwill, but every Boxing Day, one small group of people seems to forget that and invades the countryside with packs of dogs to chase down, terrify and violently kill foxes.

The Boxing Day hunts that take place every year make a mockery of the 2004 Hunting Act, and they are horrifically cruel. Foxes stand little chance against riders on horseback and packs of hounds who have been bred to sniff out animals and chase them for hours on end. When the foxes become exhausted or cornered and are unable to escape, the dogs often rip them apart – an excruciating and slow death.

It's illegal to hunt foxes with packs of dogs under the Hunting Act, and more than 500 individuals have been prosecuted under the act from the time the legislation took effect in February 2005 to the end of last year. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice in July revealed that hunting prosecutions in 2013 were at an all-time high. One person, on average, is prosecuted under the act every week, and around two-thirds are found guilty.

The vast majority of the British public opposes releasing packs of dogs to chase down and tear apart terrified foxes, and in the 10 years since the Hunting Act was passed, support for it remains robust.

Yet in spite of overwhelming public support and a decade of successes, the Hunting Act is in danger of being overturned. Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has called for the act to be repealed, and has promised to put the issue to a free vote when she feels there will be enough MPs in office who will vote in favour of overturning the ban.

 

The RSPCA – which has led the charge in prosecuting people who openly flout the law – has recently come under intense criticism and scrutiny for the amount of resources it must devote to pursuing cases of illegal fox hunting.

It shouldn't be up to a charity to enforce the law, but because the RSPCA has been so successful at prosecuting cruelty cases, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) leave the majority of crimes against animals to the RSPCA to handle. Last year, the RSPCA investigated 153,770 complaints of alleged cruelty and secured almost 4,000 convictions in the magistrates' court, with a tremendous prosecution success rate of 98 per cent.

But amidst intense criticism last summer, the charity said it may give up prosecuting fox hunters altogether. This would almost certainly cause more foxes to be ripped to bits by dogs, and more lawbreaking fox hunters would go unpunished unless police and CPS pick up the slack.

And it couldn't come at a worse time. Hunters were recently filmed intentionally feeding foxes in areas where foxes are hunted – apparently to encourage the animals to breed and remain there so hunters can kill them.

Fox hunters want the ban overturned because they enjoy the bloody “pastime” of terrorising and killing animals. But chasing down and killing foxes is as abhorrent as chasing down and killing dogs, and we won't stand for it. Hunting of any kind has no place in modern Britain.

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