Labour to consider prison sentences for people taking part in illegal fox hunts

Labour to consider prison sentences for people taking part in illegal fox hunts

People found guilty of illegal fox hunting could be jailed under new plans put forward by Labour.

Ahead of the annual Boxing Day hunts, the party said it would seek to strengthen the Hunting Act to further clamp down on the use of dogs to hunt wild animals.

The controversial practice was banned in 2004 but animal rights charities have warned that illegal hunts are still taking place.

Labour said it would strengthen laws and consult on introducing prison sentences for illegal hunting to bring punishments in line with those for other wildlife crimes.

The party would also look at removing a legal exemption that currently allows dogs to be used “below ground” to hunt animals that prey on the type of game birds kept for shooting.

And it would consider introducing a new “recklessness” clause to stop trail hunts being used as cover for the illegal hunting of wild mammals.

Trail hunts are legal and use an animal-based scent such as fox urine as the lure instead of actual animals. However, they often take place in areas where real foxes live, meaning hounds can end up chasing live wild animals rather than the artificial lure. 

More than half of people prosecuted under the Hunting Act claimed they were trail hunting and did not know their dogs were chasing an actual animal.

Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act was a key milestone in banning this cruel blood sport, but since then new practices have developed to exploit loopholes in the legislation.

“While Theresa May proposed scrapping the Hunting Act altogether, Labour is today calling time on those who defy the law by announcing several measures that would clamp down on illegal hunting.

“Labour is the true party of animal welfare. These new proposals form part of the next chapter in striving to ensure our laws and regulations on animal welfare are up to date and fit for purpose.”

A new survey revealed that people living in rural areas do not believe that fox hunting is a reflection of “the values of the countryside”.

The poll, carried out by Survation for the League Against Cruel Sports, found that just 16 per cent of rural residents believe hunting with dogs is a reflection of countryside values, while 67 per cent do not. Only 4 per cent of people living in the countryside ever take part in hunting with hounds.

In contrast, 91 per cent said they thought observing nature was a reflection of countryside values.

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