Monday, 21 June 2010

Sussex Police pledge to stamp out illegal hunting once and for all

There has been much public debate about the future of the Hunting Act, the legislation which bans the barbaric practice of hunting foxes with hounds.

Although most people agree that the law really must remain on the statute books, some Tory MPs believe it should be repealed, and that hunting should be allowed once again.

I'm delighted that both Brighton MPs Caroline Lucas and Simon Kirby have pledged opposition to blood sports, and will oppose repealing the legislation when David Cameron eventually allows a 'free vote' on the matter in parliament, which he has promised to do.

But all this is fairly academic - the law is riddled with loopholes and has never been properly used anyway. Not a single hunter has ever been prosecuted under the act in Sussex, despite ample evidence that illegal fox hunting continues.

Part of the problem has been the police, who have viewed their role as one of preserving public order (that is preventing the hunters and the hunt monitors from beating each other up) rather than one of stopping the hunts.

But all that could be about to change. After I raised my concerns about the way hunts were being policed at a meeting of the Sussex-wide Neighbourhood Policing Scrutiny Committee last year, the police have adopted a new policy on hunting.

In short, they promise to fully investigate the five hunts operating in the county, and to prioritise stopping all wildlife crime.

A Chief Inspector will head the work, and more than 70 officers have already been trained up in how to prevent and detect wildlife crime, including spotting - and stopping - illegal hunting.

The new policy was presented to the Neighbourhood Policing Scrtuiny Committee last week. You can see the report here, and view a webcast of the debate here (about 1 hour 27 minutes in - follow the link from the 'index points' menu).

The proof of the new policy will, of course, be in the eating. I hope we see a complete end to the illegal hunting of foxes here in Sussex, any hunters who persist prosecuted, and the hunt monitors who selflessly give up their free time in support of the law and our wildlife afforded the repect they are due.

None of this is before time: it comes as a new hunting season is due to get under way next month or so, and just weeks after the Tory government appointed the bloodthirsty and enthusiastic hunter Nick Herbert to the job of policing minister.

Mr Herbert, who used to work for the British Field Sports Society and reportedly set up his own hunt while a student at Oxford will have to decide whether, in his new job, to back the law - and the police's decision to take it seriously - or not.

1 comment:

  1. There will be a viewing of A Minority Pastime documentary at Coachwerks on Saturday 31st July at 6PM. This documentary proves that hunting is unwanted in rural communities and that the majority of the country are still against this cruel and barbaric tradition. It proves that the behaviour of the hunters is unreasonable and that they more than often believe that they are above the law. It would be brilliant if you would attend this screening. The website for the documentary is