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Suffolk and Essex hunters and activists react to Theresa May’s fox hunting vote pledge

PUBLISHED: 17:37 10 May 2017

The Bury Boxing Day Hunt sets off from Hawstead, Pinford End. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The Bury Boxing Day Hunt sets off from Hawstead, Pinford End. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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The revelation that Prime Minister Theresa May supports fox hunting has been met with a mixed reaction by the hunts in Suffolk and Essex, who agree the current situation is unworkable.

Boxing Day Hunt at Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. December 1984 Boxing Day Hunt at Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds. December 1984

The revelation that Prime Minister Theresa May supports fox hunting has been met with a mixed reaction by the hunts in Suffolk and Essex, who agree the current situation is unworkable.

Anti animal cruelty organisations have criticised the Conservative party leader, with many confused as to why Mrs May thinks it could be a General Election vote winner.

James Buckle, master of the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, said: “It is a complete fiasco at the moment. I think people on both sides of the argument would be able to agree on that.”

Mrs May revealed she was in favour of fox hunting in an interview on Monday. She said she would hold a free vote on the issue.

Under the current law, the use of dogs to kill foxes and other mammals is illegal. However, dogs can be used to “flush” out foxes, which are then killed by a bird of prey. Foxes are ‘accidentally’ killed by dogs during some hunts.

Mr Buckle added: “I have lost count of the hours I have spent at a police station watching footage of us hunting where members of the public have said it was illegal, only to explain that it clearly is not.

“It is a waste of police time and more than that it makes a joke out of the law when you have a situation like this. No one understands what the law actually is, they just hear that fox hunting is banned.”

Mr Buckle said a return to old rules and situation around fox hunting would not necessarily work, with the prospect of regular protests and hunt saboteurs returning.

He said a new framework would be needed, with the possibility of a regulatory body being set up. “The vote on fox hunting has been in the Tory manifesto for years,” he said. “Theresa May has upset some of her supporters, those that put leaflets through the doors and the farmers who put signs in their fields, with her more liberal ideas. This is probably just to make those people happier.”

Jon Evans, from Suffolk, is a hunt monitor and committee member of the Hare Preservation Trust. He said Mrs May’s comments smacked of “elitism”.

“This past season we witnessed six incidents where dogs killed and tore apart these animals. The law as it stands is not a ban, it needs changing to make it harder for these people to get away it,” he said.

“It is nothing to do with trying to win votes, something like 86% of people are against fox hunting and more than 90% are against hare hunting.”

The Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds hunt move off at Hadleigh Market Place
Photograph: KEITH MINDHAM


BOXING DAY HUNT
HUNTING
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EADT 10 09 04 The Essex and Suffolk Foxhounds hunt move off at Hadleigh Market Place Photograph: KEITH MINDHAM BOXING DAY HUNT HUNTING EADT 26 12 03 fox EADT 20 03 04 EADT 10 09 04

Is fox hunting illegal?

The Hunting Act 2004, brought in under Tony Blair’s Labour, is the law often referred to as “the fox hunting ban”.

However, in reality it is a series of rules regarding the hunting of wild mammals in England and Wales.

The act bans the hunting of foxes, deer, hares, mink and others with dogs. However, it only applies if the dogs are being used to kill the animals.

It does not ban the “flushing” of foxes and other animals by dogs, who are then killed by another legal method. If hunters use guns or birds of prey, only two dogs may be used. If hunting on a man-made scent trail, many more hounds are used and they are not allowed to kill any animals.

If dogs do kill the foxes while being used to flush or on a scent trail, it is not illegal if it is considered to be accidental.

This is why the hunts still take place, which has given rise to a lot of public confusion over what is legal and illegal. Hare coursing is specifically outlawed.

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