RSPCA Submission to the Hunting Inquiry

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The RSPCA has very grave concerns about the welfare of hunted animals during the chase and kill. The evidence indicates unacceptable levels of suffering.


RSPCA policy on hunting:

The RSPCA is opposed to any hunting of animals with dogs or other animals. Hunting is taken to include mink and otter hunting, deer hunting, coursing, hunting of hares and rabbits, and fox-hunting. The RSPCA does not believe that there is a need for control of the fox population on a national basis or that hunting is ever an effective control or culling measure (policy number 6.10.1).


A MORI poll in October1997 found that 73 per cent of those asked supported Michael Foster’s bill to ban hunting with dogs. Of those polled, 80 per cent agreed that ‘if people want to hunt they should take part in drag hunting where dogs follow an artificial scent and no animal is killed’. But perhaps even more revealing is the small number of people that actually approve of hunting. Only 8 per cent of those polled were in favour of hunting with hounds (1).

Unnecessary suffering

In legislative terms, unnecessary suffering is the benchmark by which cruelty to animals is defined. If a person is found to have caused an animal to suffer unnecessarily, whether that animal is domestic, captive or wild, that person may have committed an offence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 or the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996. Hunting is currently lawful because it is exempted in animal protection legislation.

The term ‘unnecessary suffering’ (as a result of human acts) can be used to measure what society will accept and tolerate in its relationship with animals. Unnecessary suffering has been defined by the courts as meaning cruelty (2). It is accepted that there are instances where it is necessary for an animal to experience a degree of suffering, but where an animal has suffered for no justifiable reason, this is unacceptable in both legal and social terms.

The test of whether hunting with dogs constitutes unnecessary suffering can be broken into two parts:


The RSPCA submits that:

  • the elimination of unnecessary suffering is the proper test that should be applied to determine human interactions with animals
  • hunting with dogs is unnecessary and causes suffering to the hunted animal
  • where it is unclear whether an activity is necessary or not or whether suffering occurs or not, humans should give the benefit of the doubt to the animal and for the purposes of this inquiry the onus should be on those who seek to justify hunting with dogs to try to prove that such activity does not cause unnecessary suffering.

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Question 1 What factual information do you have about hunting with dogs, including the organization of hunting activities and the way those activities are carried out?



  • The pursuit of wild mammals with dogs is often protracted with disregard for the welfare of the hunted animal.
  • Hunted wild mammals that are killed by dogs may not be killed quickly and their deaths involve unnecessary suffering.
  • Supporters of hunting claim wild mammals do not suffer when pursued and killed by dogs. There is little evidence to substantiate these claims.




About 15,000 foxes are killed by hunts with dogs every year. Foxes are usually hunted with packs of hounds and with terriers. Hounds chase the fox above ground, and terriers are used after the fox has gone to ground in an attempt to escape the hounds. Evidence shows that both types of pursuit cause unnecessary suffering, as shown in the answer to question 13.


Hunting with hounds – the chase

Foxes can be pursued by hounds for as much as an hour or more (3), and on average between 16 and 31 minutes (4). Fox-hunters, regardless of the increased suffering they are likely to cause the fox, appreciate and encourage longer hunts. Phelps et al describe ‘the ideal sort of hunt or point as far as the huntsman and followers are concerned’. It is long and the fox stays above ground:

… in an ideal fox-hunter’s world… every fox that was flushed from a covert would run fast and straight for some miles above ground before it was overtaken and killed by the hounds (5).

Hunt master Captain Wallace states clearly that he would rather chase a fox before killing it, than kill it quickly (see answer to question 6).



Hunts may be protracted with foxes being pursued by hounds for up to an hour or more.



Hunting with hounds – the kill

There is little or no evidence to support the frequently made claim that foxes caught by hounds die instantaneously. A variety of sources show that the mounted field and followers rarely see the kill (6). Claims that foxes always die instantaneous deaths are not borne out by evidence (see the answer to question 13). Death can be by disembowelment. Hounds are most likely to grab the nearest part of a fleeing fox, rather than aim for the neck, a small target furthest from their jaws. The answer to question 13 gives further details about the suffering foxes and other animals endure when killed by dogs.



Scientific evidence does not bear out the claim that foxes are killed instantaneously.



Hunting with terriers

Hunted foxes may suffer even more if they retreat underground for safety. According to Macdonald and Johnson, in 32.5 per cent of cases where a hunted fox was killed, death occurred underground, or after it had gone to ground and been flushed out.

Foxes are killed underground either with a pistol after terriers have marked them, or by the terriers themselves. Where terriers have marked the fox, it is reached by digging down to it. Phelps states that this can take anything from ten minutes to three hours (7). The underground hunt and attack by terriers must cause further distress to foxes already exhausted from the chase (see answer to question 13).

It’s clear that terriers often torment and attack the foxes underground and it can go on for hours before they are finally dug out and killed (8).



The death of foxes by terriers is likely to be protracted and painful. It also exposes terriers to the risk of injury by foxes.




Hunters call the pursuit of deer (usually red deer) ‘stag hunting’, but hinds (female red deer) are also pursued, even if they are pregnant or have calves. Chases can go on for up to six hours with average hunts taking between 164 and 187 minutes (9). Bateson shows red deer simply cannot cope with such protracted running. By the end of the chase their bodies are so damaged and exhausted that they can do no more than stop and face the dogs. They are so debilitated that they cannot flee the hunters who advance on them, who may even handle them and who then shoot them. In some instances, deer are attacked by the dogs at the end of the chase, as shown in the video evidence, A view to a kill, with this submission.


Deer – even pregnant hinds – are forced to run until they are too exhausted and damaged to flee.




The Society is concerned that hares may be inhumanely killed during coursing and hunting with hounds. The accompanying video, A view to a kill, shows a hare being pulled by two dogs.

Hare coursing

Hares are coursed over about 300 yards for as much as three and a half minutes (10), and on average for 30-45 seconds (11). During this time they run for their lives from fleet dogs which try to kill them. They are driven from surrounding fields by beaters.

Pye-Smith reports that 400-450 hares may be killed by organized coursing annually.

One in every eight hares coursed is killed (12).

Hunting hares with hounds

Hares are pursued by dogs bred for stamina rather than speed, for as long as two hours (13). Hounds are reported to kill one in four of the hares they chase (14), but descriptions of the kill are unsubstantiated (15).



Mink are hunted with packs of hounds over many hours. According to descriptions (16) mink hunts take a mean of 1 hour 46 minutes (sd=1 hour 17 minutes, range 20 minutes to five hours), whether the mink escapes or not. A hunt of 20 minutes is described as ‘quick’ (17).

Generally, about a third to a half of the mink found are killed. Claims in descriptions of hunting that the killing is humane are unsubstantiated (17, 69).

Mink hunters appreciate and encourage longer hunts, demonstrating a lack of concern for the animals’ welfare. A four-hour meet of the Culmstock hunt is described as a ‘red letter day’ (18). The Devon and Cornwall pack had what is called ‘classic’ hunts, including one of three hours. The Ytene mink hounds had a ‘beautiful hound hunt’ of two hours 18 minutes (19).

Opportunities to dispatch mink humanely that are chased up trees are intentionally missed, to prolong the hunt. In one case a treed mink was deliberately forced to leave so that it could be re-hunted (20). In the event, the mink was lost, and, apart from the welfare considerations, such observations strongly question the rationale that mink hunting is carried out to control mink numbers, an assertion made by the Countryside Alliance on its website. In fact, increases in mink numbers are welcomed by those hunting them with hounds (21).



Mink may be chased by dogs for hours and hunts protracted to prolong the ‘sport’.



Rural economy


A comprehensive study which reviews the connection between the rural economy and hunting with dogs was conducted by Dr Neil Ward of the department of geography at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1998 (22). Since his study evaluates a number of previous works on the subject, the RSPCA has relied, for the most part, on his findings in formulating its submission under questions 2 to 4. Ward suggests that supporters of hunting have a strategy of emphasizing economic arguments in the debate on hunting with dogs in order to attract support from those suffering from ‘rural frustration’.

The RSPCA does not believe that undue importance should be attributed to economic arguments when considering a ban on hunting with dogs. The Scott Henderson Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals (discussing economic considerations, in particular, employment) put it succinctly:

There is a great deal to be said on both sides, but we doubt whether … the continuance of any particular sport can be justified or condemned by reference to such arguments (23).

The negative impact on this country’s rural economy of a ban on hunting with dogs, will not, in the RSPCA’s opinion, be significant. Indeed, the Society expects many positive benefits to result from a ban (see answer to question 4).

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Question 2 What evidence is there as to the importance or otherwise of hunting with dogs to the rural economy in general and/or to particular areas of England and Wales?

Importance of hunting with dogs to the rural economy

A MORI poll conducted in October 1997 (MORI/Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals (CPHA)) found that 71 per cent of all respondents and 61 per cent of rural respondents disagreed with the statement: ‘Hunting with dogs is an important part of the rural economy’. From this it can be concluded that the majority of people do not believe hunting with dogs contributes significantly to the rural economy.

An assessment of the overall impact of hunting should take account of the cost to the economy arising from hunting. The eye-witness accounts in the appendix reveal that hunting with dogs has both a social and a financial cost for rural communities. Farm fixtures and livestock may be damaged by hunts. Rail and road links can be disrupted due to straying packs. While compensation is sometimes forthcoming, the damage itself has an economic knock-on effect and results in a cost, not just to the rural economy, but to the economy generally. For example there was an incident in Kent in January 1998 when ten hounds were electrocuted on a railway line leading to serious train delays and cancellations, including international services (see appendix, number 14).

Exmoor National Park

The study by Winter et al (24) found that:

hunting plays a relatively minor role in the economy of Devon and Somerset.

They estimated that 1.1 per cent of the economically active population of the area was employed directly or indirectly in connection with stag hunting. But they conclude that:

in comparison to the tourist economy of Devon and Somerset, the hunting economy of Exmoor almost pales into insignificance.

Disposal of fallen stock (25)

Dead or unwanted livestock in the United Kingdom are disposed of by one of four methods:

Current regulation

Animal remains may not generally be used as animal feed, but certain premises are licensed to produce stained or boiled fresh meat, (usually from horse or cow remains) for consumption by dogs/carnivores (non-domestic) or pressure-cooked meats for sale to non-domestic premises. All animal waste must be incinerated. Ruminant specified waste (SRM) must only be incinerated through a designated SRM incinerator.

The European Commission (EC) is currently working on a Directive, which will provide for standards of hygiene and structure and new requirements for incinerators, which dispose of waste of animal origin.

Overview of the industry

The Licensed Animal Slaughterers and Salvage Association (LASSA) represents the 85 member establishments and licensed transport providers who service these plants. The industry has seen considerable decline in recent years, following legislation necessitated by the BSE crisis. Some areas of the country are poorly serviced and on-farm burial is more common in remote areas. LASSA believes that most members will meet the requirements of the new EC Directive.

LASSA members estimate that they dispose of more than 93 per cent of all unwanted animals or carcasses removed from farms. An unknown figure (estimated at five per cent of carcasses) is taken directly to rendering and incineration plants. The remaining two per cent are disposed of through other outlets, including hunt kennels.

The role of hunt kennels in disposal of fallen stock

Some kennels may provide facilities for the disposal of some dead or unwanted livestock from farms in the area over which the hunt operates. To cover the costs of waste disposal, hunt kennels charge farmers for their services. Most hunt kennels operations have low throughput, producing stained or boiled fresh meat for consumption by around 50-80 dogs in the kennels. None are LASSA members.


Disposal of fallen stock


Approximately 56 per cent of the 265 hunt kennels with on-site facilities have SRM incinerators (compared with 100 per cent availability to licensed knackers). A small number of kennels have licensed incinerators and also play a wider role in the disposal of dead or unwanted livestock. They are, in effect, licensed knackers and the provision of food for on-site dogs is a byproduct of a wider commercial operation. It is expected that these operations will be able to upgrade to the standards required by the EC Directive.

It is unlikely that any of the low throughput hunt kennels will meet the requirements of the EC Directive regarding structure, hygiene and incineration. It is not expected that upgrading will be economically viable.


Employment in the hunting industry

Hunt supporters have been unable to agree on the numbers of jobs that are dependent on hunting, and have made contradictory statements on the issue. For example, Baroness Mallalieu (leading spokesperson of the Countryside Alliance) at the Countryside Rally in July 1997, claimed that "16,500 jobs depend solely on hunting, 63,000 more rely in part on it" (26). Only a few months earlier, during a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Mallalieu had declared "150,000 people are engaged in work or businesses which would be adversely affected by the end of hunting" (27). Regarding the former statement, Ward comments:

The basis for her claims is unknown but they would seem … to represent a marked overstatement (23).

He points out that proponents of hunting with dogs often use figures to show hunting-related expenditure and employment which in fact encompass all countryside sports, not just hunting with dogs. For example, angling accounts for 85 per cent of the £3.8 billion annual spending on country sports quoted in the 1997 study conducted by the Cobham Resources Consultants (CRC) (28).

Ward suggests that estimates for employment (along with participation and expenditure) in hunting have shown a decline in recent years and:

even if all 910 jobs directly sustained by hunt providers were to be lost at once, this would still equate with only 1.5 per cent of the jobs lost in agriculture in the past decade.

Ward also asserts that the potential job losses from a hunting ban are equivalent to around 0.4 per cent of the 221,800 jobs lost from Britain’s coal mining industries between 1984 and 1995.

The statements made by Ward including the number of jobs directly sustained by hunts, are based on a critique of the CRC study (28). It estimated that there were the equivalent of 910 full time jobs directly employed by hunts and a further 7,600 full time job equivalents supported by the expenditure of hunt participants. Ward cast doubt on these figures for two main reasons.

Ward concludes that:

In comparison with other national trends in employment change in rural areas, the numbers employed in hunting nationally are extremely small. For the economic fortunes of Britain’s more remote and economically fragile rural areas, European reforms … are far more significant.


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Question 3 What evidence is there about the likely impact on the rural economy if hunting with dogs was banned completely?

Disposal of fallen stock (25)

Impact on hunt kennels involved in disposal of fallen stock

It is anticipated that drag hunts (see answer to question 4) could continue to provide the services involving disposal of fallen stock, currently provided by some hunts to farmers. High throughput kennels knackers plants (see discussion under question 2) should be viable as stand-alone facilities, irrespective of any hunt ban. Those with licensed incinerators should be able to adjust to EU legislation.

However, low throughput kennels are likely to close their facilities, irrespective of a hunt ban, when new EU legislation is implemented. Existing LASSA member plants and high throughput kennels plants could easily absorb the disposal of animal remains which low throughput kennels now handle.

Impact on employment in the fallen stock disposal industry

Jobs in the industry (which are generally unpopular) are likely to be sustainable and secure in that sector which complies with EU legislation. LASSA is promoting a wider role for its members in handling farm waste and there is no reason why larger hunt kennel knackers plants should not join it. The manpower in small hunt kennels dedicated to the knacker facilities is difficult to estimate. It is substantially less than the equivalent of one employee per facility given the numbers of carcasses processed.

Job creation in the industry could well be a consequence of following implementation of the EU Directive if licensed knackers assume a wider role in farm waste disposal.

Impact on the farming industry

The capacity of low throughput hunt kennels is very limited in respect of facilities and staff. This was demonstrated when large numbers of bull calves were unwanted during the 1996 calf export ban. Hunt kennels played a negligible role in disposal of this surplus. Since the number of carcasses handled at these kennels is small, the actual costs to farmers if disposal could not take place through the kennels would not be significant.


The future of the licensed knacker industry will be determined by European legislation and any domestic ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs is irrelevant to its long term future.



Employment in the hunting industry

Certain businesses rely in part on the hunting trade – such as livery yards, vets and blacksmiths – yet 92 per cent of riders state that their riding activities would not change if hunting with dogs were banned (29). This suggests that equestrian activities would continue, largely unaffected by a ban on hunting with dogs, and that as such there would be little or no negative impact on the equestrian industries that currently derive work from the hunting trade. Indeed, because recent trends support the view that the rural economy is dynamic and adaptable, the RSPCA would expect drag hunting and other countryside leisure pursuits to attract new equestrians to the sport, and create additional work for these industries (see answer to question 4).

The Society considers that only direct employment – work directly and solely connected with the hunt, such as kennel work – is relevant to this debate. There is much uncertainty about the numbers involved due to unreliable data and methods of calculation (see answer to question 2). However, the view that any lost jobs will not be replaced assumes that there will be a void in the rural community following a ban. Given the points made in the answer to question 4, the RSPCA believes this is unlikely.

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Question 4 To what extent could any detrimental consequences of a ban be offset by greater participation in drag or bloodhound hunting or other activities or by other measures?

Ward asserts that:

to claim that all those jobs currently associated with hunting with hounds will be lost [in the event of a hunting ban] is to adopt a naïve and simplistic view of economic change. The rural economy is not a static system … but changes and evolves over time … (23).

He goes on to state that (in contrast to popular conceptions of the countryside as being traditional and stable) the rural economy has changed markedly over recent decades, with emphasis moving away from production concerns (eg agricultural expansion) to consumption concerns (eg recreation/leisure activities and environmental conservation). The countryside has been robust in meeting these challenges. The rural population has grown significantly over recent decades and farmers have diversified into commercial leisure initiatives in response to the reform of agricultural policy.

Any period prior to an Act banning hunting coming into force must be used wisely to allow for hunts and related industries to diversify before the ban is in place. Hunts should cease re-stocking their packs of hounds, change over to drag hunting or disband with the minimum of disruption. Related industries will look to new markets.

Ward points to a number of:

Processes of social and demographic change and associated policy developments, [which] suggest considerable potential for the further expansion of country leisure pursuits.

The RSPCA expects several increasingly popular activities to generate growth in tourism/leisure activities and the rural economy following the implementation of a ban on hunting.

Other activities – leisure

Walking and hiking

The Society is confident that there will be growth following the government’s planned ‘Right to Roam’ legislation, which will open up the countryside to walkers and hikers. In 1996 there were almost 1.5 billion leisure day visits to the countryside, and this figure could rise significantly after legislation, leading to an increase in numbers of those employed to service visitors to the countryside.

Drag hunting and bloodhound events

A second and important area of anticipated future growth and employment is drag hunting and bloodhound events. In drag hunting followers ride after hounds trailing a scent laid over country by a horseback rider towing a scented drag. The trail includes fences and other obstacles which are more or less difficult and numerous, according to the tastes and experience of the people taking part. Bloodhound events are very similar but involve fewer hounds following the scent of a person on foot.

In the 1965/6 hunting season there were six packs of drag hounds and two of bloodhounds in Britain. In the 1997/8 season there was a combination of 28 packs listed in Baily’s Hunting Directory. The numbers have doubled in the last ten years and while there is no evidence that the rise in popularity of non-quarry hunting has a correlation with the decline in popularity of

Other activities – leisure


live quarry hunting, the RSPCA believes that many equestrians will be drawn to drag hunting following a ban.

While drag hunting and live quarry hunting are two different sports:

It is fair to say that if a ban on hunting wild mammals with hounds were to become law, then hunting with drag hounds and bloodhounds would become the nearest legal alternative for those wishing to continue to hunt with hounds (30).

Given the long-standing opposition to hunting live quarry with hounds, it might seem surprising that drag hunting as an alternative has not seen an even more spectacular rise in popularity. However a 1997 letter from the honorary secretary of the Master of Draghounds and Bloodhounds to the BFSS (now Countryside Alliance) Campaign for Hunting sheds some light on the situation:

Discussions took place to again confirm that the new MDBA fully supports the BFSS, MFHA, the Campaign for Hunting Committee and all other traditional forms of hunting with hounds in their efforts to maintain the current country field sports portfolio tradition and status quo. In stating their support the MDBA will continue unhindered to freely conduct its affairs for the continued benefit and best interest of the sport of draghunting and hunting the clean boot … We again pledge to never criticize, discredit, interfere or spoil the well being of any other country sport.

This suggests a close association between organizers of the two sports, which may be impeding the wider uptake of the sport of drag hunting. The RSPCA anticipates that this situation will change after a ban on hunting with dogs is implemented.

The RSPCA believes that drag hunting following the traditions of that sport offers a non-controversial alternative to live quarry hunting and officially supports the New Forest Draghounds. Drag hunting, as an alternative to hunting live quarry, has many advantages and should appeal widely to equestrians and countryside communities.

Advantages of drag hunting

The League Against Cruel Sports has never heard of any incident where drag hounds or bloodhounds out hunting have caused any problems to wildlife, crops, livestock, pets or road and rail traffic (32).


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Question 5 What evidence is there about the need to control the population of foxes, deer, hares and mink?


There has been a growing acceptance for some time that reducing the numbers of a species associated with a damage problem is not necessarily an appropriate or effective response. As a result there has been a change in approach in many aspects of pest control, documented in scientific literature and illustrated at two UK conferences, organized in the 1980s by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) and the Mammal Society (32).

At the 1985 UFAW symposium the director commented on the contrast with the previous (1969) symposium which had dealt with various methods of killing pest species. The emphasis now was on investigating the biological factors that cause pest problems and learning to adapt and live with the situation. Although killing, or local population control, was still necessary in some situations, there had been a move away from eliminating animals at the first suspicion that they were causing a nuisance. A more analytical approach was adopted to:

In 1986, Dr David Macdonald commented that:

Perhaps there was a time when knowledge of the behavioural and ecological processes that entwine predators and their prey was so scant that single-minded people could get away with bigotry along the lines of ‘the only good one is a dead one’. Things are better now…(33).

Recent research into Conditioned Taste Aversion (CTA) illustrates the general change in attitude (34). This discourages consumption of a food by creating an association between its taste and illness, in this case creating an aversion in foxes to gamebirds. Reynolds comments:

The CTA approach addresses individual predators whereas other methods of predation management (culling, exclosure, fertility control) clearly address much larger populations. Since many predator species are territorial and actively repel intruders, targeting the behaviour of individual territory-holding predators promises economy of effort (35).



Controlling populations is now not synonymous with damage prevention. Where a problem has been established, non-harmful alternatives to killing can and should be sought. If killing is the only solution, it should be carried out with the minimum of pain and distress to individual animals.



Understanding of the biology and ecology of the red fox has advanced enormously in recent decades, and it is simplistic merely to label it as a pest to be controlled. In fact, predation by foxes may help control populations of major agricultural and forestry pests, such as rabbits and voles. Studies in England and Wales indicate that rabbits are significantly more widespread and abundant where predators have been removed or are at low density than where they are undisturbed or at high density (36).


"Rabbits are a real pest to me, but the fox keeps down the number of rabbits and not only causes me no problems, but is a positive help to me in my work. I have asked the hunt not to ride on my property, but they keep doing it... When the fox goes across my land, I don’t know he’s been there, but when that lot [the local hunt] comes through, they cause havoc. I can tell you, a lot of tenant farmers wouldn’t have them on their land, but they’re frightened of being evicted."

Cheshire market gardener in Hunt Havoc:Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998.


A Forestry Commission (FC) paper summarizes recent research on fox predation and gives an ecological background for making decisions about their management, though it does not represent FC policy on fox control (37). On the issue of lamb losses, it concludes that:

Clearly foxes are perceived as a problem. However, some anecdotal reports and most research evidence is to the contrary.

Lamb mortality is a major source of loss to the UK sheep industry with between three and four million lost each year (38). However, the vast majority are the result of abortions and stillbirths, exposure and starvation, and infectious diseases (39). The publication Is the fox a pest? (40) concludes:

Foxes do not warrant their reputation as major pests of agriculture.

There has been some concern about the impact of fox predation on the conservation of some species (37, 41). Evidence suggests that for some species this may be a factor, but usually in association with habitat deterioration. The English Nature-commissioned review (41) looks at the issue in detail. When foxes are considered a problem however, hunting with dogs is not chosen as a control method (42).

Foxes live in social groups, which typically produce a single litter of cubs regardless of the number of females present (43). An increase in the number of foxes leads to a reduction in the number of breeding females. Practices, which remove non-breeding females, will not therefore control the population. When breeding females are removed they are quickly replaced by non-breeding subordinates, which then become breeders.


The fox is not a significant pest nationally to agriculture or wildlife and may help control other major agricultural and forestry pests. Where action is considered necessary, it should be targeted at individual animals and not directed at wider attempts to control the population.




Population dynamics in deer are obviously very different from those in foxes. While deer populations are limited naturally to some extent, they can increase to levels at which agricultural, forestry or conservation interests are impacted. But data relating population density to aspects such as forest damage are imprecise (44) or show no consistent relationship to agricultural damage (45) Different thresholds apply for different types of damage but damage levels can be only weakly related to densities of deer in woodland (46).

The Forestry Authority reports that:

There is no single recommended population level to aim for; an acceptable deer population is that which the area can sustain without unacceptable damage to local interests (47).

Fencing, tree shelters and habitat manipulation may be used to reduce deer impact in some situations, perhaps in combination with some humane culling (48).

Deer can cause damage to agriculture, forestry or conservation interests, but the relationship between population density and levels of such damage is not a simple one.



Brown hare

Once considered abundant the brown hare has declined substantially since the early 1960s to an estimated population of 817,500 (49).The pattern of recent decline has also been seen in much of Europe. In the UK it is subject to a conservation action plan intended to:

maintain and expand existing populations, doubling spring numbers in Britain by 2010 (50).

The question of controlling the population does not therefore apply.

The brown hare is considered only a minor agricultural nuisance provided numbers are not excessively high (51,52) Damage to cereals and grass is generally not noticed by farmers but can be a problem with sugar beet and some horticultural crops. Damage may also sometimes occur on vines and peas. Action to reduce damage should therefore be localised.



The brown hare is subject to a conservation action plan. It may cause minimal damage to some crops in some locations.




One of the most notable misconceptions about the American mink relates to its breeding biology and reports of plagues of mink. But in a study of its biology Dunstone observes:

They are solitary, territorial animals whose intolerance of other mink will always ensure a low population density. … Mink regulate their own numbers according to the availability of suitable habitat containing adequate prey through the mechanism of territoriality. There does not have to be a natural predator, their aggressiveness to members of their own kind is more than adequate to control the population (53).

Dunstone also reviews evidence of the impact of mink on domestic stock and native fauna. Further scientific reports have since been published. Strachan and Jefferies provide evidence for the relationship between the decline of the water vole and the spread of mink (54). But:

To blame the mink for the vole’s extinction in the lowlands may be to confuse the messenger with the message (55).

It has been suggested that agricultural intensification compelled voles to live in a narrow, fragmented ribbon of habitat where they were vulnerable to predation by mink. The water vole declined over the whole of the last century but its rate of decline has accelerated recently because of this predation. This tightrope hypothesis is elaborated in another paper (56).

In order to conserve water voles, some mink control combined with habitat restoration is necessary for particular areas (57). The water vole is the subject of a biodiversity action plan.

Again, according to Dunstone, mink can affect colonial ground nesting seabirds. Recent studies on islands off the west coast of Scotland attribute the decline or loss of various breeding colonies of terns and smaller gulls to mink (58).

Evidence indicating the effect of mink on waterfowl is mixed. Recent studies in the Upper Thames have indicated mink may, for example, have more of an effect on coots than on moorhens (59).

The recovery of the otter population may have implications for mink. Mink was not a causal factor in its decline, and it has not prevented its recolonisation. But otters show a strong antagonism towards mink and seem to cause a decrease in their numbers and site occupation wherever the two species occur together and where otter density has shown a marked recovery (eg in the south west of England). Here there has been a 50 per cent reduction in mink occupation since 1984-86 (60).



Mink have been shown to have some adverse effects on other wildlife. They regulate their own numbers through territoriality and have declined where otter density has increased.


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Question 6 What evidence is there about the advantages and disadvantages of hunting with dogs in terms of agriculture and pest control, compared with other possible forms of control?

Some aspects of this question are dealt with in the answers to questions 8 and 14.


Hunting foxes with dogs is not an effective pest control measure. According to an eminent Master of FoxHounds, it is primarily a sport:

Hunts are not glorified pest destruction societies. …I hate to see a good fox ‘chopped’... I would rather account for a fox at the end of a good run than ‘chop’ it at the beginning (61).

Fox-hunts are not generally organized in response to specific agricultural damage caused by foxes:

The meet for each day’s hunting is steeped in tradition and most meets occur at the same place at the same time of the year in each successive Season (62).

Where foxes are causing a problem it has been argued that the objective should be to limit the damage they do rather than reducing their numbers (63). Tapper points out that with this targeted approach, the period during which game predators need to be killed can be shortened considerably. Research carried out in Scotland shows that killing foxes from October to April largely affects immature or itinerant animals and does not lead to fewer breeding dens the following spring (64).

A survey of Wiltshire farmers found:

The contribution made by hunting to control of the fox was found to be negligible. Figures suggest that four per cent of foxes known to have been killed on Wiltshire farms were killed by the Hunt (approx 0.1 per sq km), while the remainder were shot (65).

Fox-hunting kills around 15,000 foxes annually, which out of a fox population estimated at 250,000 is:

insignificant in terms of population dynamics (66).

As a species in which annual mortality rates as high as 50 per cent have little subsequent effect on the population size, it is not surprising that fox-hunting has no effect.

In reviewing fox control practice Chadwick et al (37) do not discuss fox-hunting:

as it is not considered to be primarily directed at limiting fox impact …



If the function of hunting foxes with dogs is not pest control, it follows that the consequences for pest control of a ban would not be significant. The Society therefore believes fox-hunting’s demise is unlikely to have any adverse agricultural impact.




The cull levels by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and the Quantock Staghounds are relatively low and:

in neither area is hunting to hounds able to impose a high enough cull to exercise control over population number, nor is it likely that numbers taken in this way could be increased significantly (67).

The two to five per cent local mortality achieved by the hunts cannot be discounted – if maintained consistently it would probably affect the population trend – but its contribution to the total annual cull in the south west is relatively small. Alternative, humane methods are more effective (see answers to questions 8 and 14).


Hunting deer with dogs does not have a significant impact in terms of ‘pest’ control.



During a study using data provided by the Devon and Cornwall Minkhounds (68) two thirds of hunted mink escaped. The hunt covered 7.75 km of river including five complete mink territories and most of a sixth. Three residents were found and hunted. Two ran into secure rocky dens and the third was bolted from a peaty den and killed. After the death the vacant stretch of river was quickly occupied by the neighbouring resident male extending its territory. Only one adult mink was killed out of six residents, although the effect may have been greater as a litter of kits perished and the other hunted female failed to raise a litter that season, possibly because of the stress of the hunt.

By contrast, a riverside landowner trapped and shot 34 mink on his stretch of the river during the 27 months of the study. The only apparent effect of this on the resident mink monitored in the study was social instability on one territory. Transient mink appeared to bear the brunt of the campaign. Birks concludes that the number of mink killed by minkhounds was insignificant, particularly compared with the activities of the landowner.

This contrasts with the view given on the Countryside Alliance website that ‘since mink are territorial, the river has at least a year left in peace from these predators’, after a hunt has gone through.

Birks reported that most hunts killed 40-50 mink a season and a reliable estimate of the annual nationwide total was 700-800 (69). This should be compared with the estimated pre-breeding population of at least 110,000 (70).


If the aim is to kill mink, hunting with dogs is not an efficient or effective method of achieving it. Banning it is unlikely to have any significant impact in terms of ‘pest’ control.


A MORI poll conducted in October 1997 (Source MORI/CPHA) found that 74 per cent of the British public generally and 64 per cent of rural people disagreed with the statement: ‘hunting with dogs is necessary to control animal numbers, such as foxes’

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Question 7 What evidence is there about the consequences for agriculture and pest control if hunting with dogs was banned completely?

This question is covered in the answers to questions 3 and 6.

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Question 8 What other measures, if any, would need to be taken to protect agricultural interests and to control foxes, deer, mink and hares?


Measures other than hunting with dogs are already commonly used to limit the damage, real or perceived, caused by foxes. MAFF advises poultry owners that:

The only reliable solution is to protect poultry with effective fencing, and this is likely to be cheapest if included at the planning stage (71).

The use of electric fencing for poultry is discussed by McDonald et al (40) and also has a role to play in minimizing losses of piglets (72).

To resolve problems and reduce numbers by killing foxes, shooting with rifles is the main method used. Compared with 15,000 foxes taken in hunting, gamekeepers shoot around 70,000-80,000 a year. This is considered:

efficient, selective and more humane than other methods (73).

Chadwick et al comment that:

The use of rifle and spotlight at night is usually considered to be the most acceptable method of killing foxes as it is positive, selective, quick and humane (37).

The survey of Wiltshire farmers previously quoted found:

Shooting was considered to be both more humane and effective by more farmers than was hunting. When the fox was considered a pest, farmers shot more foxes, whereas there was no increase in the number hunted (65).


Much more effective methods than hunting with dogs are already in use to limit the agricultural damage foxes can sometimes cause – they could replace hunting completely.



Throughout the country deer are culled by shooting. Organized hunting with dogs is practised in only a small area of south-west England, where its contribution is relatively minor. A hunting ban would not require a major increase in the total cull taken by shooting. Hunting with dogs has been illegal in Scotland since 1955.

Some Deer Management Groups (DMGs) already exist in the south-west and are organizing censuses. Elsewhere DMGs work co-operatively to monitor deer populations and damage and to set cull levels. As the main aim of the Deer Initiative – a Forestry Authority-led partnership of a wide range of organizations – DMGs are encouraged by government (74). A recent study of the behaviour and impact of deer on Exmoor and the Quantocks recommends forming a network of small DMGs to co-ordinate local deer management regionally (75).


Effective, organized alternative methods to manage deer humanely are already used in many areas of the UK. These methods could replace hunting with dogs completely.




Hare hunting is not usually undertaken as a means of protecting agricultural interests. Their impact on agriculture being generally fairly minor, they are usually culled for sport and sold to game dealers (76). Where they are considered a pest however:

Organized hare shoots are most common on areas of farmland where hares are believed to cause substantial damage(77) .

An estimated 400,000 (species not specified) were shot in 1992. In 1997 the estimates were 200,000-300,000 brown hare and 40,000-100,000 mountain hare (78).


Agricultural interests are not protected by hare hunting. Where the hare is considered a pest, shooting is commonly used. This method of control could replace hunting completely.



Mink are extensively trapped by gamekeepers and riverside landowners. Some claim because the mink usually feeds off prey it has killed itself that trapping is difficult (79). But numerous publications note the effectiveness of trapping and give advice on the use of traps:

Fortunately trapping with wire cage traps can be highly effective against mink. They do not appear to be particularly trap-shy and strong cage traps designed especially for mink are very successful (80).

... highly effective using wire cage traps. If covered to look like a tunnel, curiosity leads mink to enter cage traps readily (81).

Mink are best caught using cage traps (82).

Mink control can be carried out easily, humanely and efficiently using live capture cage traps. This method is specific as non-target species can be released unharmed (83).

Mink, being inquisitive, are readily trapped using cage traps…(84).


Humane live capture cage traps are already widely-used as an effective means of controlling mink. This method could replace hunting completely.


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Question 9 In what ways, and to what extent, does the existence of hunting with dogs contribute to or impair the social and cultural life of the countryside?

Question 10 What evidence is there as to its importance generally or in particular areas?

These two questions are answered together below.

The RSPCA has gathered evidence from the experiences of rural dwellers which gives a clear picture of the negative impact of hunting with dogs on the social and cultural life of the countryside. Their words are a testament to the distress and damage that can be caused by hunts in local communities. The case studies in the appendix clearly show that hunting with dogs can damage community spirit, distressing and isolating many rural dwellers. The Society believes the examples submitted are the tip of the iceberg – many more such instances are likely to be happening that are not reported to the Society.

There are many distressing reports of trauma, injury and death caused to companion animals during hunts (appendix case studies 1,2, 3, 4 and 6), with owners powerless to protect their pets. The short and long-term effects on the owners can only be guessed at, but anyone who has suffered bereavement of a pet will understand the distress this can cause.

Farm animals are also affected, with farmers reporting cases of pregnant ewes dying and lambs being trampled by frightened ewes (case studies 19, 21and 30).

It is not just domestic and farm animals that suffer when hunts lose control of their packs. The dogs themselves are sometimes injured and killed as they stray onto roads and railway lines, uncontrolled by the hunters responsible for their safety (case studies 7, 8, 9 ,10,14, 16 and 32).

Many instances are cited of trespass by hunts where they are not welcome – including gardens, graveyards, farms and schools – or disturbances often causing distress and damage to property (case studies 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31).

Accounts of unsatisfactory responses to requests or legitimate complaints abound (case studies 5, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26, 28 and 30) and many people report feelings of fear and intimidation (case studies 8, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26 and 27).

The common thread that links all of the examples is that the packs of dogs were out of control. Packs are trained to follow a scent, and a wild animal running for its life will lead them into inappropriate areas. Because, as is clear from the examples quoted, hunts may not stop a chase once it has begun, rural communities are at the mercy of where the quarry goes, whether it is private land, roads, railway lines, schools or graveyards.

By removing the unpredictable quarry from the equation this can be avoided, as in drag hunting where the route is planned in advance (see answer to question 4).


The route taken during hunting live quarry with dogs is unpredictable and can be disruptive. Many people, including landowners, suffer distress and trauma when hunts trespass where they are not welcome.



Questions 9 and 10


Much has been made of the split between town and country with regard to their putatively differing opinions on the role of fox hunting as a control method. In fact, rural people's reactions echo those of the nation as a whole – 60 per cent of rural, and 74 per cent of the nation as a whole, disagree with the statement: ‘Hunting with dogs is an important part of the British way of life’, according to a MORI poll conducted in October 1997 (MORI/CPHA).

A MORI poll conducted between 17-28 October 1997 (MORI/CPHA) on ‘the most important issues...[for]...countryside areas and communities’ found that hunting was at the bottom of the list.


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Question 11 What evidence is there about the present effect of hunting with dogs on preserving or damaging habitats and on the management and conservation of wildlife, including the quarry species?

Question 12 What would be the impact on these matters of a ban?

These two questions are answered together below.


In a 1996 study (85) of the role of hunting in wildlife and habitat conservation, participation by farmers in hunting was not associated with the retention of coverts or field corner spinneys. The proportion of farmers retaining or encouraging these features does not differ between hunting and non-hunting farmers. Only 45.5 per cent of hunt masters responding to the survey said their hunts maintain a fox covert, so the role of hunts in maintaining such small woodland areas appears insignificant.

This is supported by a survey of members of the Timber Growers’Association (86), which indicates that providing fox coverts ranks bottom of the list as a motive for retaining or planting small woods.

The situation regarding hedgerows may, however, have been different. Macdonald and

Johnson indicate that farmers who participate in hunting said they removed less hedgerow than other farmers in the decade before the survey was undertaken in1980. At that time about an extra 200 m of hedgerow per km² may have been kept on the third of farms controlled by hunting farmers. Set against the scale of losses – around 130,000 km between 1946 and 1963 – the retention attributed to hunting is relatively small but may have had an impact locally.

However, as Macdonald and Johnson remark the impact of hunting farmers may have been greater then than now. Nowadays hunting is far from being the only motive for fostering hedgerows. Instead of having incentive schemes funding the destruction of hedgerows, the government now backs their restoration and maintenance. New legislation protects important hedgerows in England and Wales (Hedgerows Regulations 1997).

There are also controls over felling woodland and a variety of schemes for planting new woodlands – such as the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme – and managing existing woodland – such as the Woodland Improvement Grant. Government spending is switching from production support to schemes that encourage environmentally beneficial farming practices (87).

A study into the possible effect of a hunting ban on the fox population (88) concludes that there is no evidence that it will lead to a significant increase in the number being killed.


A hunting ban is unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on woodland and hedgerow conservation, or on the fox population.




A National Trust-commissioned report (89) considered that the response of landowners in Exmoor and the Quantocks to a ban on deer hunting is likely to vary widely:

... if a general ban were to be introduced, numbers [of deer] might decline in certain areas, while increases are equally likely to be seen in others, producing a more patchy distribution across the Moor than is presently the case.

However, red deer in the West Country are distributed well beyond the areas where they are hunted, and have continued to expand their range over recent years. This negates the notion of no hunting – no deer.


The population of deer is unlikely to be adversely affected by a ban on hunting with dogs.




The numbers of hare killed in organized coursing or hunting are relatively small and have little conservation impact on overall numbers, although Harris and McLaren do sound a cautionary note (90).

Coursing at unofficial meets and by poachers is widespread, however. It is not known how many hares are killed by the large number of informal participants associated with 70,000 lurcher and ‘long-dog’ owners (91), but they could have a substantial impact on the hare population. This may explain the decline in hare numbers in some parts of East Anglia.

It is sometimes argued that landowners supportive of hare coursing/hunting encourage hares and provide good habitat. But during the national hare survey a number of farmers and landowners in eastern England reported large numbers being caught and moved to coursing areas to ensure a good meet (92). This, along with another example noted of a major coursing area being stocked, apparently unsuccessfully, undermines the conservation argument and suggests that some areas have too few hares to sustain coursing meetings.


Some areas do not have enough hares to support coursing, and hares are therefore brought in from other areas. Unofficial coursing and poaching using dogs may have a substantial impact on the hare population.




The Environment Agency considers mink hunting:

an ineffective method of control… and ... wishes to discourage mink hunting where otters and other wildlife may be disturbed (93).

Mink hunting is carried out from April to September with dogs used to search riverbanks and pursue any mink discovered. Dunstone remarks that:

There have been a considerable number of reports of damage to river banks and their vegetation caused by hunt servants in attempting to dislodge mink from their dens (53).

In its report to the National Trust the working party chaired by Sir John Quicke stated that:

There are two aspects of mink hunting with an obvious potential for disturbance; its association with habitat suitable for otters and the fact that it takes place during the summer. Mink hunting should not be permitted on any properties where otters are known to exist, or those to which otters may reasonably be expected to migrate from nearby water. Access should be denied before July to minimize disturbance to bankside vegetation and nesting birds (94).

Concerns about such risks are raised in the Environment Agency leaflet and elsewhere (95,96). The Water Vole Conservation Handbook states that:

Calling on mink hounds to hunt a watercourse should be avoided as the disturbance caused has been shown to be highly detrimental to the recovering otter population….



Mink hunting causes major disturbance to habitats suitable for otters and other riverside wildlife. It has been shown to be detrimental to the recovering otter population.


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Question 13 What evidence is there about the effect of hunting with dogs on the welfare of the quarry species or on the welfare of other animals, including those used in hunting activities and domestic pets and farm animals which may be affected accidentally?

Foxes – the chase

Nearly fifty years ago the Scott Henderson report (97) concluded hunted animals suffer from acute fear and terror and that a certain amount of suffering was inevitable in all field sports. The aim of hunting with dogs bred for stamina which hunt by scent is to keep with the hunted animal and wear it out. For hunt followers a successful hunt involves the longest possible chase. According to accounts of some hunts, and noted by Phelps (98), they can last for an hour or more. Phelps accepts that a chased fox becomes stressed and in turn distressed, but claims the duration of each phase is open to question.

The publication How will a ban on hunting affect the British fox population? (99) cites a North American study showing that hunting a fox for five minutes in a ten acre enclosure causes as much physiological suffering as catching one in a leg-hold trap. On post-mortem the foxes showed haemorrhage of heart and lungs and congestion of adrenal glands and kidneys. Blood analyses showed high levels of enzymes reflecting tissue damage.

The study concluded:

Red foxes caught in foothold traps developed ‘classical’ stress responses characterised by increased HR [heart rate], increased HPA [hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical] hormones, elevations of serum chemicals, and neutrophilia…(100).

During the studies physiological indices were transmitted using radiotelemetry. In relation to the inquiry it is noteworthy that the heart rate of foxes chased by dogs was significantly higher than that of foxes running. Body temperatures were also higher, reflecting the additional exertion required (101).

The researchers also remarked:

We have viewed situations in which the outward appearance of a fox was quite unremarkable, but its elevated heart rate indicated quite a different internal state....

This observation should serve as a cautionary note in relation to such anecdotal observations that foxes during the chase behave ‘with great calm, almost to the point of indifference’ (102).

It also counters Phelps’ view (103) that after the initial ‘fright and flight’, the fox will ‘settle down quite quickly to the more even and balanced rhythm associated with steady running’.

Although caution is needed in translating the results from one species to another it is worth noting that American researchers have studied the effect of repeated hunting on cougars, another carnivore (104). Some states allow non-kill pursuit seasons during which trained dogs are used to trail and tree them. The study found cougars subjected to non-kill chases:

…had a lowered plasma cortisol profile after the simulated pursuit season, indicating an altered physiological response of the adrenals to the stress of repeated chases.


Foxes – the kill

Hunt followers often claim foxes are killed by a quick bite from the lead hound in the pack. However, this assertion is questionable:

...very few people indeed actually witness the death of a fox (105).

Foxhounds are pack-hunting domestic dogs. Published scientific material shows species such as wolves, dingoes, African wild dog and dhole all display the same inherent behaviour of pursuing a prey animal co-operatively as a pack until it is weakened by exhaustion, then biting at any part of its body they can until it falls to the ground. All members of the pack then bite and tear its body. This behaviour is not seriously disputed in scientific literature.

Video evidence of a fox-hunt is consistent with this. The video Hunting – The Facts (British Field Sports Society Campaign for Hunting/National Hunting Club) shows a fox being attacked by a pack of hounds. It is introduced with the words, ‘The fox is killed instantly by a bite to the back or the neck from the first hound to reach it’. The same sequence extended by a few seconds was also used in a promotional video for the Blencathra Hunt, Todhunter and the Fox. Both were analysed in a League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) video, The Things They do to Foxes.

Slowed-down, enlarged footage shows the lead hound grabbing the fox by the abdomen, shaking it and bringing it down, before the others arrive and grab it wherever they can.


Post mortem evidence (Hansard (106))

  • In short, the fox died a painful and unpleasant death, which probably was not quick, as evidenced by the areas of haemorrhage seen at many sites (fox killed by Cottesmore foxhounds).
  • There are no bite marks on the neck. I am not convinced that it has been bitten on the neck or killed in that way. Personally, you’ve got to be very suspicious that it’s just been killed by being ripped apart….(fox killed by foxhounds in Cheshire).
  • I could detect no external damage to the neck or throat areas but there were extensive wounds to the abdomen and thorax. In fact the abdomen was ripped open and the intestines were hanging out. The wounds were consistent with the fox having been severely bitten by another animal or animals (fox killed by hounds on the Isle of Wight).



Foxes – the kill


A fox rescued from pursuing hounds by hunt saboteurs in 1999 was taken to a veterinary surgeon for treatment. The veterinary surgeon recorded (107):

multiple bite wounds to both hind legs.

If the fox escapes the hounds by going to earth its ordeal does not necessarily end there. Analysis of hunt diaries from 36 hunts reveals that 67.5 per cent of kills for which sufficient data was recorded were by hounds catching a fox in a chase above ground. For the rest the foxes went to ground, and were either dug out and shot, killed underground by terriers, or flushed out by terriers and again chased and caught by hounds (108). Some hunts made most of their kills underground, with one recording 74.8 per cent carried out in this way.

Around 50,000 foxes are killed annually by terriermen who operate outside organized hunts and a further 10,000 are killed by people using lurchers (109). This can result in appalling injuries for both animals and in some cases fox and terrier fight it out underground. Descriptions can be found in some of the magazines and books catering for people interested in such activities.

The suffering that can be involved in the use of terriers against foxes is described in a book by Plummer (110). He writes of foxes slugging it out with terriers, ‘savage battles’ between fox and terrier, terriers mauled or ‘torn up’ by foxes, and foxes mauled by ‘hard’ dogs.



The RSPCA prosecuted a man who unleashed dogs on a trapped fox and watched them tear it apart. It was held up by its brush while the dogs savaged it. After initially being found guilty, the defendant’s conviction was quashed on appeal because it was ruled that the law did not protect foxes in this situation. The appeal judge said it was one of the most distasteful cases he had ever had to deal with but its crude and despicable nature could not be taken into account when interpreting the law.




  • Evidence indicates that foxes can be killed by disembowelment and that there is little to substantiate the claim that the kill is instantaneous.
  • The use of terriers underground against foxes can result in unnecessary suffering for both fox and dog.



Deer – the chase

The results of two investigations into deer hunting were considered in detail by the National Trust (NT) and the Forestry Commission (FC), leading both organizations to decide not to licence the hunting of deer with dogs on their land.

Work carried out by Professor Bateson and Dr Bradshaw for the NT was published as a report to the Trust (111) and in the scientific literature (112). The second study was carried out by Professor Roger Harris and colleagues for the Countryside Alliance and West Country stag-hunts (113).

Bateson and Bradshaw’s work is more extensive in terms of both the number of deer covered and the parameters investigated. However, Harris and colleagues cover some aspects not covered by Bateson such as body temperature and muscle damage.

James Kirkwood, scientific director of UFAW, has said:

We cannot be sure that deer have pleasant or unpleasant feelings about anything, but if, as is quite reasonable to believe, they do, then the present findings are consistent with the plausible interpretation that hounds induce unpleasant feelings intense enough to motivate deer to run to exhaustion. If managing deer populations with minimal suffering is the goal here, then, where culling is necessary, shooting with very careful attention to procedure to minimize the risk of mis-shots, still appears likely to be the most humane route to pursue (114).

Harris produced similar results to Bateson’s study, but the data is analysed and interpreted differently. Harris relies heavily on univariate statistics although these are known to give misleading results. The application of multivariate statistical tests is standard procedure for analysis of the sort of data collected by both Bateson and Harris.

Harris records temperatures in some hunted deer so high that they were off the scale of the thermometer (over 43°C), but dismisses this alarming result with the statement that, ‘There is no reason to believe that even the highest temperatures recorded would have been detrimental to the deer’. This is in spite of the fact that Harris lists high temperature as one of the factors that can trigger exercise-induced damage. Hyperthermia is also associated with capture myopathy (renal and muscle injury). Temperatures above 40°C are regarded as a cause of concern in deer during capture and handling and the Nature Conservancy Council advised cooling them down in such circumstances (115).


Pupils at a North Devon primary school were horrified to see a stag chased into their school playground moments before they were due to go home. The stag was clearly distressed and the dogs chasing it were "just biting away and barking at it". Steve Chope, headmaster of the school, said, "It was really quite horrific. In all my years of teaching I’ve never seen or experienced anything quite like it. For the children it must have been a truly traumatic experience".

The Daily Mail 31/1/98, also covered by BBC TV News



Deer – the chase


There are other areas where Bateson concludes that the welfare of deer is compromised while Harris draws different conclusions. The break-up of blood corpuscles is dismissed by Harris as unimportant. The damage to muscle fibres is also dismissed, although Harris acknowledges that the effects might be more apparent several days after hunting. It is suggested that the cortisol levels might have been low until just before the kill.

In an examination of the Bateson and Bradshaw study, Mason noted (116) that the high cortisol levels reported resembled the maximum seen in studies of the response of red deer to experimental administration of adrenocorticotrophic hormone. They are also higher than those seen in deer being transported by lorry for slaughter at abattoirs. She pointed out that, although the release of creatine kinase from leaking myofibrils may be common in humans doing physical exercise, high levels can be a manifestation of actual pathology. Some of the deer studied had levels greater than those indicating muscle damage in exercising horses. Together with the high levels of lactate dehydrogenase they are also symptomatic of capture myopathy.

Other animals affected by hunting

There are many recorded instances of foxhounds attacking domestic pets and farm animals, inflicting terrible injuries on them (see appendix for examples).

In September 1998 a post mortem on a domestic cat in Pembroke revealed that it had ‘suffered massive internal injuries consistent with being killed by a number of dogs’. The cause of death was attributed to ‘multiple dog bite wounds with the fatal wound across the chest and abdomen’. The vet went on to say that the cat suffered a ‘horrible death’.

Post mortem conducted by Dr J A O’Connor 29/9/98

Hounds themselves, out of control and without proper supervision from the hunt, are often hurt or killed.

Ten hounds, belonging to the South Pembrokeshire Hunt, were killed after the pack strayed onto a railway line and was hit by a train. Ten hounds were also killed on a railway line in Kent in early 1998, an accident which also delayed 43 trains a total of ten hours.

CPHA press release 05/10/98


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Question 14 What evidence is there about the impact on the welfare of animals of other means of control which might be used if hunting with dogs was banned?



Shooting is widely held to be a humane method of control in skilled hands (see answer to question 8). Some animals could be wounded but there is no quantitative scientific information about the likely extent of wounding. According to Baker and Harris (117), very large numbers of foxes are already shot, though they are rarely found suffering from gunshot wounds. Wildlife rescue services and hospitals do not record it as a common reason for admission. The RSPCA’s three wildlife hospitals – in Cheshire, Norfolk and Somerset – have data of 1,028 foxes admitted for treatment. In only one case was shooting the reason for admission.


Shooting foxes is widely regarded as a humane, more effective alternative to hunting. Evidence of wounding caused by shooting is minimal.




Snares are still widely used against foxes, although reports indicate that gamekeepers have shifted away from them in favour of night shooting with a rifle and spotlight (118). Incidents dealt with by the RSPCA illustrate the indiscriminate method of operation and the suffering snares can inflict. Recent RSPCA data are summarized in Baker and Harris. This shows that only 57 of 246 animals caught in snares were foxes, compared to 103 badgers and 67 cats. An earlier survey was reported in BBC Wildlife (119). Of 360 snaring reports dealt with by RSPCA inspectors during their routine work during two periods in 1983 and 1984, 110 related to foxes, 150 to cats, 52 to badgers, 29 to dogs and the remainder to various animals including rabbits, hedgehogs, a deer, squirrel, stoat, polecat and a partridge. Chadwick et al (120) cite a MAFF trial in which 155 foxes and 132 non-target animals were caught. Bodies of otters killed in snares have been reported during the Vincent Wildlife Trust otter surveys and subsequently.

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of all snares and has urged successive governments to ban them. Though the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 did not ban the use of all snares, it did prohibit the use of self-locking snares and the setting of snares in circumstances where they were likely to kill or injure protected species. It also required any snares that are set to be inspected at least once a day. However, the Society remains concerned about the welfare problems that arise from the use of snares. Some organizations have produced codes of practice regarding the snaring of foxes (121). Adherence to such guidelines could reduce some of the problems but such codes are voluntary with no legal status and failure to follow them is not necessarily an offence.


Snares operate indiscriminately. There is no evidence however that their use would increase after a hunting ban, since hunting is not an effective control method.




Professor Bateson’s study compares the welfare aspects of hunting red deer with hounds with other culling methods. Its clear conclusion is that:

All the available evidence strongly suggests that hunting with hounds poses a greater welfare problem for individual deer than stalking.

Stalking is also found to raise a number of welfare issues, of which wounding is regarded as the most important. The evidence suggests that the proportion of deer escaping after being wounded by stalkers is two per cent. Careful management of stalking is therefore essential.

However, stalking appears to have fewer welfare costs for deer than hunting, and reducing the welfare costs associated with stalking appears more viable than reducing those associated with hunting (122).

A variety of organizations, such as the British Deer Society and the St Hubert Club, have for many years been running deer management training courses and stalker certification schemes. A Deer Stalking Certificate, based on criteria used in the government’s vocational qualifications, sets common standards of competence throughout the UK for the efficient and humane culling of deer. This is supported by a wide range of organizations and administered by a company – Deer Management Qualifications Ltd – set up by participating organizations in the industry.



There are already well-managed practices in place for stalking deer. Careful management of stalking is essential to guard against unnecessary wounding.


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Question 15 What form(s) might a ban take and what would be the implications?

Legal form of a ban on hunting with dogs

Legislation or self-regulation?

Hunting wild mammals with dogs must be banned by way of legislation, as any compromise solution or attempt at self-regulation would inevitably be open to abuse or legal challenge. Further, any form of self-regulation implies the possible continuation of hunting, which would perpetuate the unnecessary suffering of animals. This would not be acceptable to the Society.

Some codes of practice and forms of self-regulation are already in existence in relation to countryside sports. The National Working Terrier Federation has a code of conduct and the National Coursing Club has rules regulating its sport. But the organizations themselves admit that some participants flout these rules.

People involved in hunting wild mammals with dogs have been aware that they have been in the spotlight for several years. But reports of hunt trespass, domestic animals killed by hounds, the death of hounds on railway tracks and cruelty to dogs used in terrier work continue (see appendix case studies and the answer to question 13). It is therefore reasonable to conclude that some individuals will ignore all attempts at self-regulation, so the only alternative is the threat, and ultimately the imposition, of legal sanction.

Creating criminal offences

A ban could be achieved by a simple Act that would make it a criminal offence to hunt a wild mammal intentionally with a dog. It would need to be clear and categorical, with any exemptions worded so as not to allow hunting to continue by default.

The commencement provisions in the Act should provide for it to come into force at the expiration of a single specified period, beginning with the day on which it is passed. The period specified should be kept to the minimum consistent with an orderly changeover from the current practice of hunting wild mammals with dogs.

Definition of wild mammal

The term ‘wild mammal’ includes any mammal not defined as domestic or captive under the Protection of Animals Act 1911.

The RSPCA recognizes that this inquiry is limited to the hunting with dogs of deer, foxes, hares and mink. However, it is the Society’s belief and policy that only a total ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs would be effective. The Badgers Act 1992 is difficult to enforce for example, as unless offenders are apprehended in the act of committing an offence

(eg destroying a sett or in possession of badger parts), the prosecution cannot disprove the frequent defence claim that they were hunting for foxes.

If only certain mammals are protected, similar evidential difficulties will arise in this legislation. Any exemptions must be narrowly worded to ensure that they are only used where there is a genuine need. The Society's policy against hunting with dogs does not discriminate between species of wild mammal. Nevertheless, in order to promote any measure that would take this policy forward, the RSPCA has also supported anti-hunting legislation proposals that contain limited exceptions, such as for the control of wild rabbits and rodents.


Legal form of a ban on hunting with dogs


Definition of hunting

Consideration will need to be given to whether the legislation defines hunting or leaves it to its common usage meaning. It must be clear that the act of hunting is wide and encompasses many activities. The hunt begins when the outing starts, before the scent of the mammal is picked up, and hunting does not have to result in injury or death of a wild mammal. It must be made clear that to hunt includes intentionally to course, search for, pursue, chase, bait, harry (to corner the wild mammal), attack, injure or kill irrespective of whether or not injury is caused by the dog. The use of dogs below ground or in confined areas such as drain pipes and tunnels to either attack or locate wild mammals must be understood to fall within the meaning of ‘to hunt’.

Primary offence

The RSPCA believes intention is important in this legislation. Unintentional hunting, for example if a dog runs off and chases a wild mammal, should not be an offence. It is arguable that intention is already implicit in the activity of hunting but for certainty the word should be included in the offence. While the requirement of mens rea will create a higher burden of proof for the prosecution, it will usually be possible to infer intent. Magistrate’s courts are used to dealing with questions of intent, usually under the Theft and Criminal Damage Acts. Defendants equipped with dogs, spades and nets are unlikely to be able to defend themselves with any credibility by saying they were simply walking their dogs, which ran off. Similarly, a person whose dog runs off and chases a protected wild mammal will be convicted only if the prosecution can prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the dog had a known propensity to chase wild mammals and the owner did nothing to stop it. Intention will protect the genuine person who loses control of a dog.

Related offences

If the primary offence were intentionally hunting a wild mammal with a dog, it would be advisable to include in the legislation other related offences such as:

The RSPCA recognizes that there will inevitably be a need for exemptions to allow the use of dogs for certain limited purposes, and it is for those with a genuine need to put forward their justification for an exemption.

Implications of a legal ban on hunting


The implications for the perpetrator of committing an offence under the legislation would be the same as under other animal welfare legislation – a maximum six months’ imprisonment and £5,000 fine with the court having the option to impose confiscation and disqualification orders. Banning other, previously lawful, activities such as cockfighting and badger baiting, have been implemented through similar legislation with the same penalties. If, as the RSPCA suggests, the proposed legislation to ban hunting requires mens rea or intention, this will create more serious offences than in all other animal welfare legislation except the Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996.

Other sanctions, such as forfeiting items used in committing an offence, are discussed in the answer to question 16.


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Question 16 How might such a ban be applied and enforced?


A ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs must be applied by way of clear and unequivocal legislation as discussed in response to question 15.

Nature of powers of enforcement

The powers of enforcement should all be vested with the police. As they already attend hunt meetings to protect against breaches of the peace, it is unlikely that this will be a burden, provided they have sufficient powers to enforce. RSPCA inspectors investigate complaints of cruelty to animals and while there will inevitably be an overlap, this would be no different from other aspects of animal welfare investigation. The RSPCA does not seek any specific powers of enforcement for itself.

The police will need not only sufficient powers to enforce the ban, but the powers must also be available to police constables immediately, without the need to apply for authority or warrants.

Police will need powers to act where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that someone has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offence, in order to:

A power of arrest would be necessary. The power to stop and search, if there is reason to believe that evidence of an offence might be found, would allow police to search for nets, spades, transmitters, lamps and other paraphernalia connected with hunting with dogs. In addition, there would need to be powers to search or examine and to seize and detain any object or animal believed to be evidence of an offence. To exercise these powers the police would need a right to enter land, other than a dwelling house.

The type of police power used will vary depending on the form the hunting takes. In the case of a traditional hunt with hounds – perhaps one that sets out flagrantly to flout the law – police powers should be immediate, and relate to the people and objects found at the scene.

Investigations of other types of hunting are more complex. Lamping, for example, only takes place at night. Similarly, terrier work is carried out in isolated places and suspects will rarely be caught in the act. Investigations are likely to be conducted over a period of time. For this type of offence, the ability to apply for a warrant to enter and search any premises, in particular a residence, would be required. The search would be for evidence such as mud on clothes which might match samples taken from the scene of the suspected hunt, injury to any dogs, diary entries or items such as spades and boots to see if they match imprints left at the




scene of the offence. A warrant could only be exercised where the police have reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed and that evidence of the offence

may be found on the premises. An example of such a provision is to be found at section 19(3) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.


In addition to the sanctions discussed above, courts may need to consider whether to order the forfeit of any objects or dogs that were used to commit the offence, or any object designed to be used for hunting, such as transmitters, locators and nets. Courts will require such powers to ensure these items are not returned and used to hunt protected wild mammals. Courts should also be provided with the power to disqualify a person from having custody of any dog.

Forfeiture and disqualification orders would need to be accompanied by practical provisions such as a procedure for appeal, a procedure for forfeiture of items not owned by the offender and the handing over of items either not seized by the police or returned to the offender. Such provisions are commonplace in animal welfare legislation and would follow similar lines to those included in, for example, the Badgers Act 1992 and the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and 1954 Amendment Order.

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Question 17 Would a ban need to be supported by any other action?

Form of a ban and supporting action

As set out in the answer to question 15, the RSPCA seeks a total ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs, implemented by an Act of Parliament. The commencement provisions in the Act should provide for it to come into force at the expiration of a single specified period, beginning with the day on which it is passed. The period specified should be kept to the minimum consistent with an orderly changeover from the current practice of hunting wild mammals with dogs. The RSPCA proposes the ban should be supported by the measures set out below, with a view to ensuring and enhancing the welfare of animals, in particular animals currently used to hunt live quarry. It would be highly desirable for supporting action or preparatory measures to be put in hand at the earliest possible moment

Hounds and horses

The hounds used by hunts must be the focus of these measures. Significant numbers are used in hunting – the RSPCA estimates a national population of around 20,000. Unlike the terriers and lurchers used for hunting, which are companion animals, hounds are kept in packs and have limited human contact.

Equestrian activities are likely to continue and the impact of a ban on horses will be minimal (see answer to question 3), so supporting action for them is unnecessary.

Current treatment of hounds

The current practice of hunts is to kill hounds once they are considered too old to hunt – at six years old on average (less than half their normal life expectancy). Younger dogs that are not useful members of the pack are also killed. Thousands are destroyed by hunt kennel staff every year. As birth control measures are not diligently applied, packs are continually re-stocked (or even over-stocked) through breeding.

Winding down of populations of dogs used for hunting

The RSPCA is against the wasteful practice of culling and re-stocking hounds and advocates a natural winding down of the number of dogs used for hunting, starting at the earliest possible moment. Hunts should modify husbandry of their hounds in preparation for the advent of the Act. This should include complete cessation of the practice of re-stocking. Chemical birth control can now be administered relatively cheaply, simply and safely by means of a prescribed dosage every five months.

Alternative activities

Drag hunting

Even after sensible stock management, a number of dogs will need to be retrained. After some, not extensive, retraining they may be used in drag hunting (see answer to question 4). The RSPCA would endorse initiatives to encourage horse riders and others who want to pursue drag hunting following the traditions of that sport. Recognized drag hunts do not involve the death of foxes. Due regard should be paid by drag hunts to the conditions of kennels and animals used in the sport, environmental and conservation issues (liaison with competent authorities would be advisable), and the wishes of landowners.


Alternative activities



Hounds that are not converted to drag hunting which, as pups, were placed with families for ‘puppy walking’ can and should be retrained as companion animals. The Society is willing to help rehome them and, if necessary, terriers and lurchers – though the majority of these are likely to stay with their owners as companion animals.


Provided the measures outlined above are implemented, and wise and early preparations made, there will be no need for financial compensation. Questions of compensation in related issues have been addressed narrowly by the legislature, usually in reference to any loss in value of affected land.

Loss of land value

The RSPCA is of the opinion that hunting ban in the terms proposed would not engender any loss in the value of land currently used by hunts.

Job losses

A ban on hunting with dogs would bring about relatively few job losses in the countryside (see anwers to questions 2 to 4). It is not for the RSPCA to make a case for government intervention and/or compensation over and above the statutory redundancy provisions.

Loss of hounds

It is for the government to assess whether any removal or destruction of hounds used for hunting should give rise to payments, as with handguns under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. If compensation is to be paid for the loss of hounds, then any compensation should take into account failure to take steps to end re-stocking of dogs.

Fallen stock

As recounted under the answer to question 2, the removal and disposal of dead and unwanted stock on farms is sometimes carried out by hunts/hunt kennels. For the reasons given in the answer to question 3, in particular that the licensed knacker industry's future will, in any event, be determined in the short term by European Community legislation, a ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs will be of little or no impact on the industry. In the context of a ban on hunting with dogs, the issue of financial compensation for those involved in the disposal of fallen stock, does not, therefore, arise.

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Appendix: case studies

No 1 In January 2000 a Dalmatian suffered horrific injuries when its owners were unable to stop a pack of dogs attacking it. They were walking in Woodburn Forest in Country Antrim when the pack of fox-hunting hounds attacked them. The other dogs were able to evade the pack, but the Dalmatian, which was deaf, could not. It sustained wounds that required 45 stitches, had numerous puncture bites all over its body, had to have part of its vulva repaired and had to undergo a ten day course of antibiotics and painkillers. The dog’s owner writes, ‘we hope that our pet will recover from her physical wounds. However we are uncertain of what psychological damage she, the other two dogs or indeed ourselves have suffered. The whole experience was traumatic and horrific, and should never have happened, because the hunt should never have been in the area’. Photos attached.

(Letter to the RSPCA 25/1/00)

No 2 In September 1998 a post mortem on a domestic cat in Pembroke revealed that it had ‘suffered massive internal injuries consistent with being killed by a number of dogs’. The cause of death was attributed to ‘multiple dog bite wounds with the fatal wound across the chest and abdomen’. The vet went on to say that the cat suffered a ‘horrible death’.

(Post mortem conducted by Dr J A O’Connor 29/9/98).

No 3 In December 1997 60-year-old Moira Lamb was walking her dog, Candy, near her home when hounds from the local hunt attacked. In an attempt to protect her pet, Ms Lamb covered Candy with her body. She said, "the hounds were all around us and on top of me. I thought I was going to have a heart attack but I held on tightly because I knew that if they got hold of her they would rip her apart…The whole incident lasted for at least five minutes…Eventually a hunter arrived and the dogs were called off. I demanded that they take me to a vet. They seemed reluctant and asked if I had a car myself". Despite the efforts of Ms Lamb, and a brave battle by Candy, a week later the dog had to be put down.

(Daily Mail 13/12/97)

No 4 On Boxing Day 1998 a pet cat was killed in its owner’s garden in Kirkby, North Yorkshire. At the time of the attack the cat was cowering in a shrubbery.

(Daily Mail 29/1/99)

No 5 Three newly-spayed kittens were attacked and chased in their owners’ garden near Aylesbury. Luckily the kittens survived the ordeal. However when the owners complained to the local hunt they were visited by a representative who said that in future they would inform them when a hunt was to take place, so that their domestic animals could be taken indoors. The owner replied "in effect you are saying that it is incumbent on us to keep our animals indoors when your hunt is in the area in case they trespass on our property – to which he replied ‘no, but I am giving you that option’".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 6 A cat was torn apart by hounds from the Pychley Hunt in Northamptonshire in January 1998. The cat’s owner, Elizabeth Moss, who was heavily pregnant at the time, watched, unable to help, as the pack killed her pet. The hunt later admitted responsibility and offered her a kitten as way of compensation, an offer Ms Moss declined.

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)


No 7 In January 1998 RSPCA Inspector Barry Williams witnessed an incident when the North Shropshire Fox Hunt lost control of its pack of hounds, and caused chaos on the A5 at Shrawardine. Because of the panic caused by the pack a lorry had to slam on its brakes and by the time the Hunt Master, John Davies, arrived there was a mile-long tailback. At least one animal died.

(CPHA press release 08/01/98)

No 8 An anonymous writer (‘I do not want to give my name as I live and work in the vicinity…and have a good relationship with many of the surrounding farmers, most of whom support the hunt. I would not want to jeopardise this relationship’) wrote to the RSPCA about an incident he had witnessed, during which two hounds from the North East Hunt died when a pack was involved in a road accident. The pack, out of control in the opinion of the witness, strayed onto the road and was hit by a Tetleys wagon. The police were not called.

(Anonymous letter to the RSPCA following an article in the Northern Echo)

No 9 In November 1998 hounds of the York and Ainsty South Hunt were involved in an accident on the York ring road.

(Havoc in the North, League Against Cruel Sports October 1999)

No 10 In 1997 a pack of hounds strayed onto the A505, a busy dual carriageway in Hertfordshire. Four dogs were killed. According to a witness "the hunters on their horses stood back at the top of the verge. They were totally aware of what had happened, but could not be bothered to take responsibility and help resolve the situation. They did not make any attempt to round up their dogs away from the scene".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 11 Parish councillors in East Staffordshire felt the need to write to the Meynell and South Staffordshire hunt after villagers complained that hunt supporters parked their vehicles on grass verges and caused nuisance and disruption around hunt meets. In one incident the local bus was held up for three quarters of an hour.

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 12 Ivor Caplin MP, was forced to write to the Secretary of State after a hunt trespassed onto the railway line between Appledore and Dungeness in Kent. The railway line, which is used to transport nuclear waste, is the property of Railtrack.

(CPHA press release 21/12/97)

No 13 Railtrack made a statement in October 1996 to the League Against Cruel Sports that any trespass on a line threatened the safety of passengers and staff and constituted criminal trespass which can result in prosecution. Despite numerous incidents of trespass no prosecutions have been brought by Railtrack.

(CPHA press release 21/12/97)

No 14 Ten hounds, belonging to the South Pembrokeshire Hunt, were killed after the pack strayed onto a railway line and was hit by a train. Ten hounds were also killed on a railway line in Kent in early 1998, an accident which also delayed 43 trains a total of ten hours.

(CPHA press release 05/10/98)

No 15 In 1990 the master of the Cleveland Hunt was killed after hounds strayed onto the Middlesborough – Whitby line.

(Daily Mail 28/6/99)

No 16 British Transport Police cautioned Roddy Bailey, the then master of the York and Ainsty North Hunt, after the hunt trespassed onto the Leeds -York railway line. One hound was killed and it was the fourth trespass incident on Yorkshire’s railways within eight weeks.

(Yorkshire Post 21/1/95)

No 17 A grandmother, who had just collected her grandchildren from school, watched as a pack of hounds "just tore into the fox ripping it apart in front of us"; she noticed that no one from the hunt was at the scene and that the dogs were "running riot through people’s gardens and through a children’s play area. Many of them were covered in blood. Local residents were screaming and the poor school children were fending off the dogs with their satchels. The poor kids were terrified. We even had to stop the traffic as they were careering around all over the road". She states that it was over half an hour before a representative from the hunt arrived, and he was dismissive of the havoc and distress caused.

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 18 A landowner in the Cotswolds complained to the hunt after a pack of hounds strayed onto his land and asked a huntsman to remove the dogs. The huntsman waved the landowner away. The landowner stated that "I was so stressed by the incident that within hours my hands and wrists were covered with a horrible rash which lasted for days".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 19 One sheep farmer in Gloucestershire says, "Over 20 years I have suffered more damage through the activities of the hunt than ever from those of the fox". He lists a litany of trespass and damage caused by the local hunt including damage to gates, the death of pregnant ewes and the trampling of lambs by ewes. He clearly describes the fear that landowners feel. "It may be hard to understand but, intimidated by events and fearful of reprisals from the hunting set, it was only after all these incidents that I plucked up the courage to complain to them. I asked them to let me know when they would be in the area – they refused."

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 20 A market gardener from Cheshire speaks of his experiences. "I’m a market gardener and rabbits are a real pest to me, but the fox keeps down the number of rabbits and not only causes me no problems, but is a positive help to me in my work. I have asked the hunt not to ride on my property but they keep doing it….When the fox goes across my land, I don’t know he’s been there, but when that lot [the local hunt] comes through, they cause havoc. I can tell you, a lot of tenant farmers wouldn’t have them on their land, but they’re frightened of being evicted".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 21 A sheep farmer in the West Midlands tells of the thoughtlessness of the Warwickshire Hunt, which allowed its pack to terrorize a flock of pregnant sheep. The farmer, concerned that his sheep would miscarry, complained to the huntmaster, and has since heard nothing, "no apology, no excuses. It’s almost as if they think that they’re above the law".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 22 In Hertfordshire, a livery yard owner expresses the frustration felt by many rural landowners. He says, "we received a card from the hunt which stated that, unless they received notification to the contrary, they would be hunting across our land the following day. We had to go straight round to the house of the master of the hunt, tell him we did not wish the hunt to cross our land, and produce drawings of the land to prove our ownership. But that didn’t stop them…The hunt people get away with murder. The sad thing is that there are a great many people round here who don’t support them but are too frightened to speak out".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 23 For arable farmers foxes are not seen as a pest as this Cheshire farmer reports, "These sort of people [hunters] think they are doing me a favour – that I should be grateful they are trampling over my crops at all hours killing animals which even I don’t regard as a pest. If there are foxes on my land, then I’m glad they are there, as they keep the pigeon population down",

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 24 Residents of a housing estate in Suffolk were horrified when the hunt ran through their gardens in pursuit of a fox, before killing it in the garden of 75-year-old Lilian Salkind. Ms Salkind explained afterwards, "I looked out of the front window and could not believe it – the carcass was left on my front garden. The hounds were everywhere and seemed to me to be out of control. The upsetting thing was the smell of death".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 25 Dogs from the Pennine Fox Hounds rampaged though the grounds of Wharncliffe Side School – a nursery school in Sheffield – minutes after 38 under-five-year-olds had been playing outside. The dogs then carried on through neighbouring gardens before catching the fox and killing it in front of terrified residents. No one from the hunt was present at the time.

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 26 Children walking home from school in Byley near Middlewich were forced to walk in the middle of the road, dodging oncoming traffic, in an attempt to keep away from a pack of hounds which had followed a scent onto the road. Huntsmen did not try to resolve the situation until they were informed that the police had been called. One mother said "some children were surrounded by loose hounds and must have been absolutely terrified. They were hysterical".

(Hunt Havoc: Taking Liberties in the Countryside, Countryside Protection Group 1998)

No 27 Pupils at a North Devon primary school were horrified to see a stag chased into their school playground moments before they were due to go home. The stag was clearly distressed and the dogs chasing it were "just biting away and barking at it". Steve Chope, headmaster of the school, said, "It was really quite horrific. In all my years of teaching I’ve never seen or experienced anything quite like it. For the children it must have been a truly traumatic experience".

(The Daily Mail 31/1/98, also covered by BBC TV News)

No 28 A pensioner who has lived in a Yorkshire village for 40 years was distressed when damage done to her property by the local Sinnington Hunt went unrepaired. The incident, started in February 1998 when a wall on her property was demolished. The woman contacted the local police who traced the horse and rider responsible for the damage. The rider returned to the property and, "he told me that he would attend to it but that he was very busy at that time". No repair work was forthcoming and although the woman repeatedly called the rider she did not get her wall repaired. Eventually she contacted the Sinnington Hunt and received a brief reply saying that no one from the Hunt had been responsible for the damage. She was ultimately forced to repair the wall herself and, "the whole episode cost me a much needed holiday…I had saved travelling expenses out of my basic pension…but instead I had to employ someone to repair my wall, at a cost of almost £100. The Hunt members are completely insensitive to any financial hardship or mental distress they cause". In her letter to the RSPCA the woman goes on to say, "I now feel that the name of Sinnington has been contaminated by a bloodthirsty, extremely arrogant bunch of louts and vandals, I am not the only one to have suffered damage over the years, farmers in the area have always been refused compensation for broken fences etc…".

(Letter to the RSPCA 29/12/98)

No 29 Huntsmen of the Heythrop Hunt offended many residents of the village of Bladon, and the country, when they trampled through the graveyard where Winston Churchill is buried, leaving a trail of damage to the graveyard, gardens and the area around the local school.

(Numerous newspapers 6/2/99)

No 30 Wendy Leavesley has been the victim of the disruption that hunts can cause farmers. She has suffered repeated trespass on her land causing damage and distress to her sheep, with ewes at times pregnant and at risk of aborting. She spoke to Janet George, the former spokesperson for the pro-hunting lobby, and was told, "that getting a legal injunction against the hunt would be futile. Ms George also said that unless the hunt gives a ten mile exclusion zone to property they cannot guarantee avoiding trespass". Ms Leavesley goes on to say, "the hunts disrupt the lives of working farmers, they trespass and they damage property…I have had no written apology from the hunt, nor payment for damage incurred to a fence. On one particular occasion, in November 1996, the hunt, horses and hounds galloped across my field of newly-seeded grass, and their excuse was that they had to follow hounds which had run along a nearby railway track – which is in itself a civil offence…On the same day the hounds also invaded my neighbour’s wildlife sanctuary and scattered her birds in all directions causing enormous distress". Ms Leavesley describes the distress caused by hunts "when the Warwickshire Hunt gallop down the road, the feeling is one of being ambushed and the trespass is like a physical violation…the fact is that I cannot prevent them from killing a fox on my property, nor can I prevent them from invading my land. I have sent them maps, I have telephoned them, written to them by recorded delivery and yet my civil rights are violated. I have to be home on the day of the hunt in order to protect my beloved countryside from being invaded by individuals and animals whose activity I find repulsive and abhorrent. I have chosen not to be part of it, and they still force it down my throat".

(Testimony given to the RSPCA)

No 31 In March 1999 the RSPCA received a letter from a woman who tells of an afternoon’s walk in the countryside ruined by the local hunt. She and her husband were hiking through Singleton Forest when they realised that a hunt was taking place around them. She says, "it was distressing and offensive. We continually had to get out of the way of their packs of hounds and landrovers driving on public bridleways".

(Letter to the RSPCA 21/3/99)

No 32 Hounds were hit, resulting in death and injury, in March 1999 on the B390 in Wiltshire. The land on which the hunt had been taking place is owned by the Ministry of Defence – leading to calls for licences on MoD land to be revoked.

(CPHA press release 11/3/99

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1 MORI telephone poll of 3,010 people compiled between 17 and 28 October 1997 weighted to the national profile.

2 Barnard -v- Evans, 1925

3 Phelps, R., Allen, W R and Harrop, S R (1997) Report of a review of hunting with hounds. The report of a review of the findings of the 1951 report by Mr. Scott Henderson QC in relation to the conduct and management of hunting with hounds

4 Macdonald, D. W. and Johnson, P J (1996) The impact of sport hunting: a case study. In: The exploitation of mammal populations. Eds Taylor, V J and Dunstone, N.,. Chapman and Hall, London.

Pye-Smith, C. (1997) Fox-hunting. Beyond the propaganda. Wildlife Network, UK.

5 Phelps et al (1997)

6 Countryside Alliance website; Pye-Smith, 1997 Phelps et al, 1997

7 Phelps et al (1997) The information on the length of time digging out takes is unclear and contradictory – varying from ten to 90 minutes (page 18) to ten minutes to three hours

8 Pye-Smith (1997)

9 Bateson, P. and Bradshaw, E. L. (1999) Physiological effects of hunting red deer (Cervus elaphus). Proc. R. Soc. Lond. 264: 1707-1714.

Harris, R. C., Helliwell, T. R., Shingleton, W., Stickland, N. and Naylor, J. R. J. (1999) The physiological response of red deer (Cervus elaphus) to prolonged exercise undertaken during hunting. Joint universities study on deer hunting. R&W Publications (Newmarket) Limited, UK.

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19 The Countryman’s Weekly, 24 December 1999

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23 Scott Henderson Report (1951), para. 135 Cmnd 8266. HMSO

24 Winter et al (1993) Economic and Social Aspects of Deer Hunting on Exmoor and the Quantocks Centre of Rural Studies report for the National Trust on the rural communities of hunting countries covered by Devon and Somerset Staghounds and the Quantocks Staghounds

25 Extracted from Disposal of dead and unwanted farm livestock by William J Swann, BVM&S, MRCVS , former assistant chief veterinary officer, RSPCA .22 February 2000 [paper produced by author for RSPCA].

26 Countryside Alliance 1997

27 Hansard 12/03/97 col 380-381.

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29 MORI poll conducted for IFAW in June and July 1999

30 Ward, quoting Kidd, 1978

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50 Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report Vols 1 & 2. HMSO. 1995

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Date uploaded to site 29 February 2000