Ten years ago the Hunting Act came into force. It was intended to end the cruel and barbaric ‘sports’ of using trained packs of killer dogs to chase and savage wild mammals to death, for the pleasure of a minority who form themselves into gangs called hunts.

Whilst the Act was a hugely important symbolic victory for the cause of animal welfare, it has proved, in practice, to be of little real utility in restraining the bloodthirsty activities of these gangs, who continue to ride roughshod over the spirit and letter of the law, much as they promised to do before it was enacted.

This is largely because weaknesses and loopholes in the Act itself have allowed this.

What the hunters are still permitted to do looks so like traditional pursuit of quarry that it is extraordinarily hard to produce evidence to convince police and the Crown Prosecution Service, still less a court, that any observed chases are intentional, not the ‘accidents’ that hunts pretend them to be. Hares, foxes and deer continue to suffer.

Even on the rare occasions when organised hunters are convicted – just 32 in a decade – the sanctions are trifling, clearly providing no real deterrent.

No less an authority than the Chief Inspector of the CPS has told the RSPCA that flouting of the law by hunts is widespread – and senior police officers and judges have commented on how hard it is to interpret and enforce.

Eighty per cent of the public – urban and rural – want the Hunting Act retained, but also want a law that works properly. This can only be achieved if the Act is significantly toughened up, as sought by www.campaigntostrengthenthehuntingact.com.

Please support that, urge MPs and candidates to do the same – and vote for a party that will uphold and extend the welfare of wild mammals, not seek to destroy what little protection they have to please their own red-coated pals.

Alan Kirby Protect Our Wild Animals Hayle, Cornwall