In 2004 after a long and bitter parliamentary battle, hunting with dogs was banned in England and Wales. The law makes it illegal to pursue wild mammals with dogs unless certain very strict conditions are met.
However in spite of the passage of the Hunting Act the truth is that in the countryside the law is being routinely broken. Dogs are regularly set after wild mammals. What's more this is not being done as a secretive furtive activity hidden away from the public, the police and the monitor's cameras. It is done completely openly and without shame. Moreover there is nothing that can be done to stop it.
The law is regularly broken with complete impunity. It is broken to poke fun at the authorities and to bring the law into disrepute. So confident are these criminals that they write in advance to police, politicians and campaigners telling them what they are about to do and they send videos to them afterwards. High ranking politicians insist the law is well drafted and clear, senior police officers write stern letters insisting that the law is enforceable and yet still they do nothing.
I know all this with complete certainty because it is me breaking it. I live on a farm near Exmoor North Devon and I keep three dogs. The woods hedges and fields around me teem with wildlife and on a regular basis I take my dogs out seek out wild deer. If we find any the dogs flush them out and chase them. This is completely intentional on my part and it's a very simple activity which I find pleasurable.
I have done this for many years primarily because I enjoy it, but also because wild red deer if allowed to congregate in large numbers can do considerable damage to my property. I coppice woodland and deer can kill whole areas of coppiced trees. Deer fencing is impracticable for me and would completely exclude the deer which I do not wish to do because they form an important part of the woodland fauna. It is completely natural for wild deer to interact with predators, they have evolved over many millennia to cope with wolves so it is ridiculous to think that three collies are a major problem for them.
There is an exemption under the Hunting Act covering the use of dogs to flush out deer to protect woodland. However it depends on absurd conditions. Including that only two dogs are used and that reasonable steps are taken to shoot the deer.
A recent report by Natural England called for deer to be managed on a 'landscape scale'. This is because they roam across a large area. For this to happen in my area it takes the co operation of many farmers and small holders. This co operation is currently achieved by the three stag hunts who together with stalkers manage the deer population. In no other part of England outside of the lake district is there a similar herd of truly wild red deer. They are present here because of the hunts not in spite of them.
The simple fact is that for me to shoot the wild deer I flush as they flee from the woods would be bad wildlife management and it would aslo be cruel. Deer should be killed selectively and not to comply with stupid laws. Shooting freshly flushed deer is cruel because there is a high risk of wounding.
It causes far far less suffering for me to break this law rather than obey it. Indeed I cause no suffering at all and my woodland is thriving.
There is a very simple way to dissuade the League Against Cruel Sports and the police from prosecuting me for breaking the law. I just tell them if they do so I will start obeying it.