Skip to content

Tim Bonner: Labour commits to banning trail hunting

Labour has put hunting back on the political agenda with a commitment to “ban trail hunting” in its manifesto, which was published this morning (13 June 2024).

This is confirmation that the commitment the party has made to revisit the Hunting Act is a political priority. It is sad, but unfortunately not surprising, that despite all the claims that the Labour Party has changed it cannot move on from an issue which is both irrelevant to most of the population and so hugely divisive for those of us who care deeply about hounds, hunts and the countryside.

It is also completely illogical. Trail hunting was exactly what the Labour government told hunts to do 20 years ago when they banned traditional hunting. Now they are saying that they want to ban trail hunting too. If Labour was truly interested in animal welfare and the effectiveness of the law it would have committed to review the Hunting Act. Its reluctance to do that suggests that Labour politicians know as well as we do that the impacts of its hunting ban on animal welfare and the rural community have been entirely negative. Instead, it is pledging further pointless legislation that will waste hours of parliamentary time and criminalise people for a totally benign activity.

As our colleagues at the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) have said: “Trail hunting is a legal, legitimate and well-regulated sport that does not need state interference. It provides employment and community cohesion for rural communities. The Labour Party would have been well advised to leave it alone to avoid the potential welfare crisis in the countryside, both human and animal.”

The question now becomes what Labour’s commitment to end trail hunting actually means. Shadow Ministers have already shown confusion over their understanding of what trail hunting is and briefings have suggested that it is considering expanding the offence of hunting a wild mammal and reviewing sentencing. Our view is obviously that any legislation is unnecessary, but if it forms the next government and must legislate, what Labour cannot reasonably do is to propose measures that prohibit exactly the activities it promoted when it passed the original Hunting Act in 2004.

Labour has fired the starting gun on another pointless and wasteful debate over hunting. If it takes power in July it will still, however, have a choice. It could address so called ‘loopholes’ and leave those who are using hounds for legitimate wildlife management and to hunt an artificial scent alone. Alternatively, as many on the left of the party would clearly prefer, it could seek to eliminate hunts entirely by introducing legislation so draconian that almost any use of hounds in the countryside would become impossible.

We have two vital jobs to do. The first is to make it absolutely clear at every opportunity that hunts are operating legally and legitimately. The BHSA is organising a trail hunting day on 14 September which the Alliance will be supporting and that will mark the start of a new approach to promoting trail hunting. Then we must take that message to politicians of every party that trail hunting is a legal, legitimate and benign activity. The challenge has been laid down, but we know what we have to do.

Please play your part in making the rural voice heard by taking action. Our lobbying tool allows you to contact all the candidates in your constituency with just one click!

Become a member

Join the Countryside Alliance

We are the most effective campaigning organisation in the countryside.

  • life Protect our way of life
  • news Access our latest news
  • insurance Benefit from insurance cover
  • magazine Receive our magazine