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New report analyses the claims of a scientific case to ban hunting with dogs

A report produced jointly by the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group and the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management has demolished the claims that there is any valid scientific evidence to justify the hunting ban. The report The Use, Misuse and Abuse of Science in support of the Hunting Act 2004, will be launched on Friday 27th July in the House of Commons.

This document provides the first opportunity to scrutinise the reports, submissions and statements made by anti hunting groups, some scientists and others during the process which led to the passing of the Hunting Act 2004. It shows that the “large body of scientific evidence”, a claim made by the RSPCA, simply does not exist.

The report is given significant weight by the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management, which represents over 550 veterinary surgeons. Dr Lewis Thomas for VAWM says, “This carefully compiled document comprehensively puts the scientific record straight in respect of the hunting debate and demonstrates that there are not and never were any scientific grounds for banning hunting on the grounds of cruelty.”

The Co-chairs of the Middle Way Group, (Baroness Golding -Labour, Peter Luff MP -Conservative and Lembit Öpik MP - Liberal Democrat) say, “Parliament does not make judgements based purely on science, but science can guide and inform those who create our laws. To invent, deliberately misinterpret or ignore evidence, the results of which are then fed into the legislative process, is a serious charge. This examination of the so-called science put forward to justify the Hunting Act, demonstrates that Parliament, the media and the public were deceived.” Ends

Notes for Editor:

  1. 1. a summary of key points is attached.
  2. 2. The Use, Misuse, and Abuse of Science in support of the Hunting Act 2004, is launched at 11am on Friday 27th July in Room N, Portcullis House, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

Summary of the Report on “The use, misuse and abuse of science in support of the Hunting Act 2004.”

The Report exposes:

  • Three prime examples of research and expert opinion being ignored;
  • Seven examples of opinion and non-validated data posing as science;
  • At least ten examples of research being deliberately mis-interpreted.

Key Points.

  • The Burns Report was incorrectly and frequently cited as justifying a ban on hunting with dogs on the grounds of cruelty, despite the authors’ denial of this conclusion.
  • The only peer-reviewed scientific study into wounding in shot foxes was ignored by the majority of MPs during the hunting debates.
  • A study designed to counter the results of this research, which was commissioned by an anti-hunting group and which is based on flawed methodology, has not passed the peer-review test, yet was used in Parliament and by the media.
  • The bio-diversity benefits of hunting with dogs and the possible conflict with the European Union’s Biodiversity Conservation and Habitats Directive were ignored by MPs.
  • The authoritative Veterinary Opinion on Hunting with Hounds, representing some 550 veterinary surgeons, was largely overlooked by both the Burns Inquiry and the Portcullis House hearings.
  • In submissions and statements to both the Burns Inquiry and the Portcullis House Hearings, evidence was given that could not be validated and was no more than opinion. Philosophical and moral views that were irrelevant to science were allowed to be made and placed on record.
  • There is now a large body of cognitive neuroscience, much of it generated since the Burns Inquiry that gainsays the precautionary principle and the notion of critical anthropomorphism advocated at the Portcullis House hearings.
  • The automatic assumption was made throughout the Burns Inquiry and Portcullis House Hearings that the chasing of a wild mammal caused distress and unacceptable suffering, whereas an emerging scientific view is that such an experience could be beneficial in terms of survival in the wild.
  • In numerous campaigning reports and documents from animal rights/welfare groups, genuine scientific research was presented side-by side with non-scientific opinions and views, thereby leaving the reader unsure of what can be regarded as scientifically validated and what cannot.
  • Two scientific studies in North America by the same researcher were grossly misinterpreted and described as one piece of work. The false conclusions were then reported in the national media and used in various submissions to the Burns Inquiry and the Portcullis House Hearings, despite a strong denial of these conclusions by the researcher.
  • Two studies into the effects of hunting deer with dogs produced findings that were essentially similar. However, the second study by scientists specialising in the relevant subjects of physiology and pathology interpreted the findings differently and concluded that they were normal for a strenuously exercised animal. Despite this, the minister in charge of the hunting issue regarded the evidence in support of a ban as being “incontrovertible”.
  • Flawed methods to monitor the fox population, which were commissioned by anti-hunting groups, were used at various times, including during the Foot and Mouth epidemic in 2001, in an attempt to prove hunting plays no part in population control. The results and conclusions were presented to Parliament and the media in the period running up to the passing of the Hunting Act 2004.
  • The claim that there is “…a large body of scientific and technical evidence…” to justify a ban on the use of dogs in wildlife management cannot be substantiated.

Conclusions.
The carefully compiled document comprehensively puts the scientific record straight in respect of the hunting debate and demonstrates that there are not, and never were, any scientific grounds for banning hunting on the grounds of cruelty.

For decades, groups opposed to hunting have produced documents that appear to be authoritative, often quoting scientists and their work in support of a ban. Yet, despite claims of scientific backing, not a single study showing excessive suffering resulting from hunting with dogs could be provided when requested.

Nevertheless, chasing wild animals with dogs is automatically regarded as an act which causes suffering and the coincidental fact that it is also regarded by followers of the hunt as a sport only serves to attract further condemnation. The Report challenges both of these perceptions.

Clearly, the anti-hunting propaganda circulated to the media and Parliamentarians was welcomed by those whose agenda was to ban hunting at any cost. However, for those who may honestly have felt that a ban would improve animal welfare, the Report sets the record straight.

To invent, deliberately misinterpret or ignore evidence, the results of which are then fed into the legislative process, is a serious charge. The Report demonstrates that the so-called science put forward to justify the Hunting Act deceived politicians, the media and the public alike.

Copies of the full Report are available from the Middle Way Group, c/o Lembit Opik’s Office, House of Commons, London. SW1A 0AA. @ £2.50 inc p & p. Cheques to Middle Way Group.

© 2017 The Middle Way Group