This weekend marks twelve years since the Hunting Act came into force and who would have thought that virtually every pack of hounds that existed before the Hunting Act 2004 was enforced would still be going strong? At the time, those involved in organising the first day of hunting under the new regime – including hunt staff – were facing the unknown. What had been legal on 17th February 2005 – when most hunts in England and Wales held a meet of unity ahead of the impending ban – was going to become illegal overnight.
Faced with this adversity, the hunting community came out fighting and during the past 12 years has continued to prove that the Act is an unworkable and bad piece of legislation based on bigotry and prejudice.
This has not happened by accident. The law has been tested at every opportunity and the Alliance has worked with hunts to ensure that they have a future and the law is exposed as a pointless and wasteful failure. There have been no prosecutions involving registered hunts over the last two years so we must be doing something right.
One thing that has certainly not benefitted from the ban is animal welfare and it is very telling that the anti-hunting groups that spent £30m to push the Hunting Act 2004 through have not spent a penny on trying to show that it has actually had any benefit.
Meanwhile the actions of anti-hunting extremists who wear face coverings to intimidate and harass hunt supporters while hiding their own identity has brought them little public support. Cases of extreme violence where nobody has been brought to charge have helped convince the Government that the time has come to change the law regarding the removal of face coverings.
Senior police officers will soon have the authority to give immediate oral authorisation to remove face coverings where written permission is impractical. We will be highlighting this to Chief Constables ahead of next season once the changes come into force later this spring.
Not content with being unable to prove that the law is being broken, hunting’s opponents have more recently taken to dirty tricks campaigns using social media to attack businesses that support hunt events or pubs that kindly host meets. This form of sabotage will not deter our tight-knit community, it will only strengthen their resolve to overcome what has become one of the worst ever laws to reach the statute books.
Hunting may still be thriving 12 years on, but continuing under this badly drafted and unfair law is not a long-term option so we must all continue to pull together until the Hunting Act 2004 is consigned to the history books. In the meantime, hunting must continue to evolve to ensure there is a positive future ahead.
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