THE BLOG

Banning Hunting Is Bad for Animal Welfare

29/04/2015 23:31 BST | Updated 28/06/2015 10:59 BST

The recent article by Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) on this site will probably sound reasonable to anyone who, like Mr Duckworth, has little or no experience of hunting and wildlife management. But dig deeper into what he espouses and the cracks in his argument quickly become apparent.

Simply because a previous government (on the basis of no scientific evidence but a good deal of prejudice) passed a law against hunting with dogs does not preclude a future government from repealing it. Various political parties in this general election period are arguing to do just this on a variety of issues.

Furthermore, suggesting repeal of the Hunting Act would also mean the legalisation of badger baiting and dog fighting, as LACS polls have done, shows dishonesty and desperation in equal measures. Ask a straight question of the public, as a YouGov poll did in January, and that "80 per cent of people [who] want hunting to remain illegal" drops dramatically to roughly 50%.

Maybe people are finally seeing the futility of the Hunting Act, which cost some £30 million to reach the statute book and has cost the public purse goodness knows how many more millions of pounds since.

Perhaps it would have been worth the money had animal welfare been improved, but not a penny has been spent by any anti-hunting group to examine the effect this law has had on wildlife. Little wonder that legal experts, senior police officers, vets, senior civil servants and Tony Blair - Prime Minister at the time - have all criticised this flawed legislation.

Now LACS and others want a ban on drag hunting, where no animal quarry is involved, proving that it is the people involved in hunting who are their real target.

Using scenting hounds, which hunt in a similar way to wolves and other wild canines, provides a unique method of wildlife management, being selective, testing and non-wounding. The prime aim of hunting is not the numbers killed, but the health and smaller population left alive.

Numerous other people involved with LACS, including former director Jim Barrington who now advises the Alliance, have changed their minds once the facts became clear to them.

But then he came into the job on the basis of improving animal welfare, not from a highly-paid public sector role with no grounding in animal welfare. It would be more honest of Mr Duckworth to simply admit why he seeks to ban hunting with dogs which, I suspect, is far more to do with his political leanings.

If improving the welfare of wildlife is his real aim, why is it that a genuine wild mammals welfare law is rejected by him and his organisation? The answer can only be that in certain political circles clinging to a flawed Hunting Act is far more important.