Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Steve Dube, Western Mail

A GROUP of MPs has said the conviction of Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright under the Hunting Act will worsen animal welfare in a number of real-life scenarios in the countryside.

A survey commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group showed that more foxes are already being wounded since the Act came into force, and the group says the judgement will further jeopardise welfare.

Wright is appealing against his conviction, which was a private prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports. The all party group's co-chairman, Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik, said a series of points arising from the case will compound the welfare difficulties inherent in the Hunting Act:

Why are only two hounds permitted to flush out an animal? In large areas of forestry it means that the chase, which the Hunting Act is supposed to prevent, will actually be longer.

Shooting ground game is different from shooting birds. There is a greater safety risk, as well as a wounding issue.

To prevent dogs from following their quarry during a flush, as the Judge said, will confuse them and affect their searching ability.

Why were "flushing", "cover" and "hunting" not properly defined in the Hunting Act? The Judge was, in effect, being asked to define these words when those parliamentarians supporting the Hunting Act could not.

Why did the Judge conclude that foxes found only in woodland could be "flushed out"? Foxes are found in a wide variety of countryside and indeed in towns. Was this a view promoted by the anti-hunting lobby to severely limit the areas in which even exempt hunting could take place?

Mr Opik said, "The Hunting Act was never about improving animal welfare - it was intended to hurt a specific group of people.

"Had better animal welfare been the aim, the Act would have been drafted to reflect this and provide clear definitions."

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