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Shropshire hunt season starts with call for change

North Shropshire | News | Published:

The Hunting Act is not fit for purpose and should be "consigned to history", it has been claimed.

Eleven years on from the legislation coming into force, the Countryside Alliance said the hunting community is determined to continue, under the law, to help farmers and landowners manage the fox, hare and deer population.

It comes ahead of the official start of the new hunting season tomorrow.

Supporters had hoped to secure some amendments to the act ahead of the new hunting season to ease some of the restrictions on packs and horsemen. But no changes have been made.

Under the terms of the act, hounds now follow trails rather than foxes. Many hunts still work with farmers to managed wildlife under exemptions to the legislation.

There are 289 registered packs of hounds across Britain including at least nine in Shropshire, its borders and Mid Wales.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance say the hunts can lawfully managing the population of foxes, hare and deer with the exemptions to the Hunting Act.

"We had hoped that the new season would have been marked by small amendments to the Hunting Act which would have varied the number of hounds allowed to be used by hunts when flushing mammals out to be shot.

"There is no justification for the Hunting Act and it will be consigned to history. So the hunting community is determined to continue hunting, under the law, and fighting for repeal."

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The pro-hunt lobby has an ardent supporter in the shape of North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson.

The former Environment Secretary called for the Hunting Act to be repealed on its 10th anniversary last year, describing it as a badly-drawn piece of legislation.

"It's a complete muddle, that has been driven more by class warfare than animal welfare," he said at the time.

"Since the act came into force, it has been widely documented that there has been a significant increase in the shooting of foxes, which have died in great misery.

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"I sat on the committees when the legislation was drawn up, and there was a lot of ignorance about.

"I made a clear commitment to repealing the ban, and I would very much hope and expect that we will do that as soon as we can."

Group hits out at cruel practice

Campaigners opposed to fox hunting insist it is a cruel practice that has no place in modern society.

They insist the Hunting Act places essential restrictions on the activities of hunts to protect animals, and dispute claims that such hunts carry out a vital role for the countryside.

But the League Against Cruel Sports says some hunts are treating the spirit of the ban with disdain are defying the law.

It says that any suggestion that fox hunting is necessary for wildlife management is nonsense, and has urged people opposed to the practice to write to their local MP over the issue.

A spokesman for the group said: "A new report from Professor Stephen Harris from the University of Bristol shows that hunting does not reduce fox populations and killing foxes can in fact increase their numbers in a given area as more turn up to compete for the vacant territory.

"He also shows that fox predation does not have a significant impact on farmers and that farmers can benefit because of the number of rabbits taken by foxes.

"But despite all the evidence that fox hunting is pointless and cruel – not to mention illegal – we believe some hunts are still defying the anti-hunting law and treating the spirit of the ban with disdain.

"The Government tried to weaken the Hunting Act earlier this year but gave up due to the public outcry at such a move.

"Now is the time to ensure the law is respected and upheld. Animal cruelty like foxhunting has no place in modern Britain."

Professor Harris's report into fox numbers, behaviour, effects of 'pest control' and welfare issues revealed that since fox hunting was outlawed in Scotland in 2002 and England and Wales in 2005, fox numbers have gone down.

It also claims killing a fox during the hunting season is counter-productive as it can lead to an increase in fox numbers and higher livestock losses.

The report also concluded that foxes can be a benefit and worth between £156 and £886 to farmers due to the animal's efficient rabbit predation, that the fox is not a significant predator of livestock and it is wrong to treat this animal as a pest.

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