By Melissa Reitz
Fox hunting is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales, but hunters have found a way to get around this with trail hunting which mimics traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent trail. Now leaked webinars reveal longstanding suspicions that hunters use trail hunting to cover up illegal fox hunting.
British TV channel, ITV News, captured hunt organizers openly explaining to other hunters how the law could be broken using trail hunting as a “smokescreen”.
While police investigations take place, some of the UK’s biggest landowners, including the National Trust, Forestry England, the Lake District national park, United Utilities, the Malvern Hills Trust and Natural Resources Wales, are prohibiting trail hunting on their land.
Although still legal in Northern Ireland, fox hunting was banned by the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales, and the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 in Scotland. But ongoing evidence, including from eyewitnesses, suggests exemptions in this law - which allows trail hunting and the use of dogs to flush out mammals for birds of prey to catch - creates loopholes which hunters use to cover up chasing and killing foxes.
Traditionally, horse and hound hunting involve the chasing and killing of foxes. Scientific evidence shows that hunted foxes suffer extreme physical and mental stress when chased. Hunters are known to block badger dens to prevent the foxes hiding underground, further impacting on other wildlife species. If the foxes do manage to hide in holes, terriers are sent after them, causing immense suffering as the dogs tear at their face, head and neck. The dogs are often injured in this process too.
Citizens and animal welfare groups continue to put pressure on the British government to ban all hunting with the use of dogs.
“This blatant disregard for the law is a disgrace and yet another reason why parliament needs to fully outlaw trail hunting,” says Adrienne West, Chief Campaigner at Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby). “We will continue to rally public support to put an end to this sport once and for all.”