It's been 10 years since the Hunting Act came into force. The 18 February 2005, for charities like the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), was indeed a day to celebrate - it had not been an easy ride getting the Act through Parliament (to say the least) and our work, and that of our allies, in the halls of power, in the media and in the field over so many years seemed to have finally paid off.
IFAW has continued to work just as hard on the vital issue of hunting though; by monitoring hunts to gather evidence of illegal activity as well as campaigning for protection of the Act and better enforcement. Ten years later, it seems a naturally good time to reflect.
Whilst this Act was initially presented by fox hunters as some kind of rural human rights issue (because surely it's anyone's right to hunt down a fox with a pack of hounds then let the hounds rip it to death just for a bit of fun, isn't it?), by others, the vast majority, it was seen as a progressive move for the UK, finally putting its money where its mouth is when it came to good animal welfare legislation.
It's fair to say the Act isn't perfect, but what law is? Otherwise there would be no crime. Pro-hunters will be quick to say that the Hunting Act simply doesn't work so it should go, but I'd be quick to rebut this with the fact it is one of the most successful pieces of wildlife crime legislation ever passed with hundreds of convictions over the last decade - and quite apart from this it's pretty illogical to axe a law because some people break it (some people commit burglary but does that mean there should be a repeal of the Theft Act?).
Pro-hunters were quick to say that the law is hard to enforce and makes criminals out of 'good' and 'honest' country folk just trying to go about their business. While I have concerns about lack of enforcement, I'd also be quick to add that the new concept of trail hunting - something that was invented after the ban by the hunting fraternity, seems to be nothing more than a false alibi designed to give hunters with bloodlust a way to flout the law, so I guess it depends on one's interpretation of 'good' and 'honest' in this case!
In honesty, I truly don't know why we are still even having the debate. There's talk of a free vote on repeal still, there's propaganda coming left, right and centre from pro-hunt heavyweights like the Countryside Alliance that it's just a temporary ban (note - it's an actual law not some kind of two-match ban for being naughty) and just last year David Cameron tried to rather sneakily weaken the Act by bringing in a loophole that would have made enforcement all but impossible, but we managed to put that to bed quite quickly.
So, rather than continually trying to appease rural voters by dangling the rather strange incentive of giving carte blanche to kill anything that moves in any way you want without consequence, how about having some actual guts and just accepting that the ban is here to stay, that there is no more place here in the UK for such barbaric sports as those involving hunting with hounds, than there is for other rather embarrassing previous British past-times like bear baiting, dog fighting or shooting tigers in India.
Ten years on is a good time to reflect - but let's hope that in 10 years from now British people, from all walks of life, can together hold our heads up high and say that we respect our laws and know the difference between right and wrong.
Let's not have a return to cruelty, let's have a return to morality and common sense. Keep the ban, enforce the Act and let's all do our bit to protect British wildlife.
You can learn more about fox hunting at ifaw.org