Policy and Information Papers
The Hunting Act 2004
- The Hunting Act is designed to prevent one specific activity out of a range of control/management methods.
- It does not address the issue of improving wild mammal welfare. The alternative legal methods – shooting and snaring – can cause equal or greater suffering over a longer period. New scientific evidence has shown that wounding rates in shot foxes are much higher than those claimed by anti-hunting groups.
- It is clear that the motivation behind the Act has more to do with preventing the mounted, ‘red coat’ type of hunting with dogs than genuinely addressing the various ways in which wild mammals are killed.
- The problem is that the term ‘hunting with dogs’ involves a much wider range of actions. The Hunting Act 2004 affects every dog owner in the country.
Wild Mammal Protection
Cruelty and wild mammals
Domestic animals and captive wild animals have been protected from unnecessary suffering (the legal definition of cruelty) since the beginning of the last century, when the Protection of Animal Act 1911 was introduced. Yet wild animals in the wild were not included in this legislation.
Fear in the Wild
One of the most common views put forward in the various arguments against hunting with dogs is that it is wrong to cause a wild animal to suffer by chasing it. The level of fear that is created, so the argument goes, is often likened to human terror. Further, it is argued that such ‘terror’ is avoided by the alternative methods of control, mainly shooting.
‘Sport’ is also often linked to this argument, but as the human motive has no direct effect on the animals concerned, that aspect is not addressed here.
So the question is does the animal being hunted feel fear as human beings would understand it? And if so, is it fear during the chase itself or is it the fear of what could happen if caught? Or both?
Wildlife Management and Hunting with Dogs
The use of dogs is a unique and vital method of wildlife management. Dogs, unlike the other control methods, will:
- selectively remove the old, weak, ailing, injured and parasitic-burdened animals
- utilise a ‘search and find’ capability through their extraordinary scenting faculty
- either catch or lose the quarry animal, there is no wounding
- keep populations alert, thereby retaining fitness and health of the quarry populations
- disperse populations, thereby helping to avoid a build up of disease reservoirs
- be self-limiting in that, for practical reasons, hunts spend less time in areas of low populations
- give indication of low populations
- manage wildlife through natural means