PHILIP Beaven criticises me for not stating that I am an animal welfare consultant to the Countryside Alliance (SA, February 22), as if somehow that destroys my argument about the failure of the Hunting Act.
As he is more interested in denigrating a reputable veterinary organisation and concentrating on my background, rather than debating details of this flawed law, I can inform him that I am one of four former executive directors of the League Against Cruel Sports who now say that the ban on hunting is wrong for animal welfare reasons. Surely a sensible response should be to ask why such people who once headed an anti-hunting organisation changed their views.
Perhaps the following examples will help. Consider for a moment exactly what the Hunting Act does. It is now legal to chase wild mammals out of cover using dogs as long as only two dogs are used and “reasonable steps” are taken to ensure the animal is shot. Yet it is illegal to use three hounds to flush out an animal and a second offence is committed if there is no intention to shoot it. It’s legal to use a terrier underground to flush out a fox and kill it in order to protect birds to be shot for sport – eg pheasants. Yet it is illegal to use exactly the same method to protect farm livestock or a rare species. It is legal to hunt a rabbit with dogs, yet illegal to hunt a hare. However, it is legal to hunt a hare that has already been shot and wounded, but illegal to hunt a fox that has been shot and wounded. It is legal to hunt a rat with dogs, but not a mouse. This cannot be regarded as a principled law by any stretch of the imagination.
It is no good to simply keep repeating in a dogmatic way that repeal of the Hunting Act would “bring back the killing of deer, hares and foxes for fun”. These animals are still being killed, but now in an unselective and possible wounding manner, something that does not happen in the use of scenting hounds.
I would suggest that members of the public, and in particular MPs, wait to see exactly what will be put forward by the Government in the coming months before making their views known. I believe most reasonable people will realise that there is a better way forward for animal welfare.
JAMES BARRINGTON Animal Welfare Consultant London