Rural campaigners have criticised a survey linked to a controversial review into hunting in North Wales for containing ‘glaring deficiencies’, after it made incorrect claims about hunting law in the UK, despite being approved for publication by the Police Crime Commissioner for North Wales.
The Countryside Alliance has written to North Wales’s Police Crime Commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, expressing serious concerns over the transparency and format of the survey, which is running online via the commissioner’s own website.
The Alliance has raised questions about the ‘Easy Read’ survey, which offers participants an explanation on what ‘difficult words’ mean. Tim Bonner, the Alliance Chief Executive claimed the questions “misrepresent the law regarding hunting” as one incorrectly claims “Since 2004 fox hunting with more than 2 dogs is against the law in England and Wales.” It is illegal to hunt with any number of dogs. Two dogs may be used only to flush to guns.
Additionally, the survey does not ask participants to provide any information as to where they are from, or whether they have ever been to North Wales, sparking fears the survey could be hijacked by animal rights activists and in turn influence local policing policy and priorities.
Apart from participants who have police incident numbers, there is also no way in which the evidence provided by those taking part in the survey can be verified.
The survey comes after the Labour PCC invited tender bids of up to £20,000 in taxpayers’ money from contractors to undertake an independent review of hunting in the region.
Members of Cyfiawnder, the Social Inclusion Research Institute at Wrexham Glyndwr University successfully bid to undertake the review on Mr. Dunbobbin’s behalf. They will look at how the police have responded to recorded, investigated and prosecuted crimes linked with hunting. Among the team members carrying out the research is Dr. Caroline Gorden, who sits on the Research Advisory Committee of the Vegan Society, an organisation which advocates for an end to meat and dairy consumption.
Mr. Bonner said: “The survey would suggest that those conducting the research have little knowledge of hunting before or after the Hunting Act was enforced, or indeed the law in this area.”
“Whatever the results of the survey, they cannot be considered as a robust and reliable reflection of the situation in the North Wales Police Force area, as the data cannot be properly verified and assessed. Consequently, it is hard to see how any recommendations based on flawed research can be well founded. To add insult to injury, it is the already hard-pressed taxpayer who is funding this project.”
He added: “In a country where we enjoy policing by consent, it is astonishing that such a divisive review, the deficiencies of which are all too evident, should have been approved. Far from uniting communities and improving relations between the police and rural communities, it serves only to divide. Perhaps resources would be better directed at assessing the very real problem of rural crime in North Wales”.
The Countryside Alliance confirmed that the hunting community, and the rural community more widely, would “happily participate in objective and open research” but not “with an exercise as deeply flawed as this”.
The plans to hold a review into the way hunts are policed in North Wales, announced in March this year, were previously slammed by the Alliance as an "unnecessary political vanity project". They accused Mr. Dunbobbin of having "prejudices against rural people" and called for him to spend taxpayers' money elsewhere.
Mr. Dunbobbin also attracted criticism from his Plaid Cymru predecessor Arfon Jones, who said the issue fell outside his remit.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “He’s naive to get involved in an operational policing issue, which he shouldn’t do anyway.
He added: “If he was that concerned about the way hunts are policed then he should’ve asked for advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on how to go about it and whether they could assist with a review.
“You can’t have just anybody coming in to do a review of operational police matters because there’s police procedures and confidentiality involved.”
The Countryside Alliance is committed to calling out misinformation in the media and defending the rural way of life. Become a member today and be a part of one of the most effective and influential campaigning forces in the country.
Image by Hattie Austin Photography