THE BLOG

Opposition to Legalising Hunting Remains at All Time High

26/12/2014 00:09 GMT | Updated 24/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Ten years ago the Hunting Act was passed, making it illegal to hunt foxes, deer and hares with a pack of dogs.

That legislation is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in history with an average of one prosecution a week and a conviction rate of 65%.

But the act is not only successful - it is extremely popular.

The latest opinion polling from Ipsos MORI released this week shows that 80% of people in Britain think that fox hunting should remain illegal and the numbers are even higher for deer hunting and hare hunting. Those figures have continued to rise since the polling began in 2008 and are now at an all-time high.

Despite that, every Boxing Day the people who want to see the return of hunting with dogs put on a flamboyant and extravagant show to somehow convince everyone that tearing an innocent animal apart limb from limb in the name of sport is somehow a good thing.

In defending its actions, the hunt lobby argues that the act is wrong because it ended centuries of tradition.

It is very hard to claim that something is a tradition just because it has been around a long time.

Traditions are not just measured in years. They are measured in how much they reflect the culture, attitudes and priorities of a society.

Hunting has only ever been practised by a small proportion of the population. Nothing could be described as a tradition if the vast majority of people never engaged in that activity, have shown little interest in it as a pastime and expressed little support for its continuation as a legal activity.

Above and beyond that, whatever the pro-hunt lobby say, there is a much more genuine, compelling, enduring and strongly supported tradition that runs through the fibre of the people of this country and that is that we are a nation of animal lovers.

We detest the idea of inflicting pain and death on an innocent creature if the purpose of that cruelty is simply for pleasure.

And allied to that tradition of compassion and love of animals is the great tradition of sport as fair play - an even contest between two sides that reflects the best of British values.

There is nothing in the act of hunting with dogs that vaguely resembles an even contest and most people in this country would struggle to recognise it as anything like a fair sport.

Then there is the claim that hunting is a way of managing the countryside.

The primary purpose of hunting with dogs has never been land management, conservation or pest control.

The primary purpose is to kill for pleasure and it is very misleading of hunt supporters to claim that there is some more worthy aspiration in what they do.

That is why this Christmas the League Against Cruel Sports is releasing a film in cinemas to show just how cruel hunting with dogs is.

The film asks the question "What if this was you?" and shows the terror and cruelty of hunting from the hunted animal's perspective.

Feedback from the public so far shows they get the point that personalising the hunted prey's experience gives a unique and compelling impression of a practice that was made illegal 10 years ago.

The pro-hunt lobby will still protest that their dwindling band of followers represent something less unsavoury but to borrow a phrase, they would say that, wouldn't they?