Hunting Act 2004
Parliament of the United Kingdom
|Long title||An Act to make provision about hunting wild mammals with dogs; to prohibit hare coursing; and for connected purposes.|
|Chapter||2004 c 37|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales|
|Royal Assent||18 November 2004|
|Commencement||18 February 2005|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Hunting Act 2004 (c 37) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which bans the hunting of wild Mammals (notably foxes, deer and hares) with dogs in England and Wales; the Act does not cover the use of dogs in the process of flushing out an unidentified wild mammal, nor does it interfere with drag hunting, where hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent.
The Act came into force on 18 February 2005. The pursuit of foxes with hounds was banned in Scotland two years earlier by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. Such hunting remains legal in Northern Ireland.
Several UK laws on animal welfare, such as the Protection of Animals Act 1911, the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 contained specific exemptions for hunting activities, thereby preventing prosecutions of other hunts activities that might otherwise have been considered cruel.
Many earlier attempts had been made to ban hunting. Two private member's bills to ban, or restrict, hunting were introduced in 1949, but one was withdrawn and the other defeated on its second reading in the House of Commons. The Labour government appointed the Scott Henderson Inquiry to investigate all forms of hunting. Opponents of hunting claimed that the membership of the committee was chosen to produce a pro-hunting report. The inquiry reported its view that "Fox hunting makes a very important contribution to the control of foxes, and involves less cruelty than most other methods of controlling them. It should therefore be allowed to continue."
Twice, in 1969 and in 1975, the House of Commons voted in favour of bills to ban hare coursing, but neither bill became law. Three further private member's bills were introduced by Kevin McNamara in 1992 (Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill), by Tony Banks in 1993 (Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill), and by John McFall in 1995 (Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill)—all of which failed to go on to become law.
The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 made it illegal to chase or deliberately kill mammals with dogs in 2002 (with a number of differences between the two Acts: The Scottish Act does not place a two dog limit on the flushing of a mammal to guns in order to shoot it; with respect to flushing foxes above ground to guns to shoot them, only the Scottish Act permits this to be done to protect game birds; with respect to flushing foxes below ground to guns to shoot them, only the Scottish Act permits this to be done to protect livestock. The Scottish Act allows someone convicted to be sentenced for up to six months in prison, there is no such power in the Hunting Act 2004).
At the time of this bill fox hunting with hounds was "not practised or is largely banned" in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain Sweden, but was allowed in Australia, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the USA.
The Labour Party came to power in 1997 with a manifesto saying, "We will ensure greater protection for wildlife. We have advocated new measures to promote animal welfare, including a free vote in Parliament on whether hunting with hounds should be banned." A new private member's bill, introduced by Michael Foster MP, received a second reading with 411 MPs voting in support, but failed due to lack of parliamentary time. The Burns Report in 2000 concluded that forms of fox hunting "seriously compromise the welfare of the fox", but (in line with its remit) did not draw any conclusion on whether hunting should be banned or should continue. In a later debate in the House of Lords, the inquiry chairman, Lord Burns also stated that "Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel... The short answer to that question is no. There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty. It is a complex area." Following the Burns inquiry, the Government introduced an 'options bill' which allowed each House of Parliament to choose between a ban, licensed hunting, and self-regulation. The House of Commons voted for a banning bill and the House of Lords for self-regulation. The 2001 general election was then called and the bill ran out of parliamentary time.
In what he described as an attempt to raise animal welfare standards at the same time, and as an alternative to legislation that specifically targeted hunting, Lord Donoughue proposed the Wild Mammals (Protection) (Amendment) Bill. This would have made it the case that "any person who intentionally inflicts, or causes or procures, unnecessary suffering on or to any wild mammal shall be guilty of an offence." A matching Bill was introduced in the Commons with the support of The Middle Way Group (see below). Both bills failed to become law as they were blocked by Labour members who wanted a specific hunting ban. Animal welfare groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports criticised the Bill on two grounds. Firstly, they opposed the exemption in the Bill for activities undertaken "in accordance with an approved code of conduct". Secondly, they argued that, if an activity was inherently cruel, it should be deemed as such by Parliament, rather than prosecutors having to argue and prove cruelty in every court case.
Following a series of evidence hearings in 2002, on 3 December 2002, DEFRA Minister of State for Rural Affairs Alun Michael introduced a bill which would have allowed some licensed hunting. The Commons passed an amendment proposed by Tony Banks to ban hunting entirely in July 2003 with a majority of 208 in a free vote but was then rejected by the House of Lords by a majority of 212 in October 2003.
Voting, conflict with the Lords and royal assent 
A bill identical to the one passed by the House of Commons in 2003 was reintroduced to the Commons on 9 September 2004.
On 15 September 2004, the day of the final vote (third reading) of this controversial Act, protesters staged the first invasion of the House of Commons chamber since King Charles I in 1641. It was quickly quelled by Parliamentary officials, but led to a review of parliamentary security, given that it was the second breach of the security of the chamber in four months, (Fathers 4 Justice's had thrown purple flour in the Commons four months earlier).
On 17 November, on one of the days of the Parliamentary session, the Lords again insisted on its amendments to the main Bill. In the Commons, the Government's last-ditch attempt to compromise on a delay until 31 July 2007 won the support of only 46 MPs, although the delay until 2006 was inserted in the Bill. The Lords who would have had to have accepted the Commons' other amendments (including the principle of a ban on hunting) and dues rejected the proposal by 153 to 114.
With the Lords and Commons unable to come to agreement by the end of the Parliamentary year the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin invoked the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, an infrequently used legislative device which allows the Commons to over-rule the Lords where agreement can not be reached. The Hunting Act was only the seventh statute since 1911 enacted using these provisions. The House of Lords was criticised for being undemocratic block on the legislation, however other newspapers and broadcasters condemning Tony Blair's Labour administration for giving in to what they perceived as the prejudicial views of anti-hunting Labour backbenchers.
Failed Challenges 
Challenges to the Act which questioning the legality of the Parliament Act 1949 in the High Court and Court of Appeal failed (for example Jackson v Attorney General) The House of Lords in their judicial capacity agreed with the lower courts in a judgment delivered in October 2005.
An application for judicial review made to the High Court of England and Wales which argued that the anti-hunting legislation contravenes individual human or property rights protected in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and under European Community law and on grounds of the free movement of goods and services. The application was dismissed by the High Court in July 2005, the Court of Appeal in June 2006 and the House of Lords in November 2007. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights was ruled inadmissible.
Penalties and enforcement 
To the end of 2010 there have been 181 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004, 97% of convictions relate to poaching or other casual hunting activities, with only six relating to registered hunts. Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said in a written answer to Parliament in June 2011 that "it is not possible to separately identify those specific cases proceeded against under the Hunting Act 2004 related to hunts recognised and regulated by the Council of Hunting Associations" since "statistical information available centrally does not include the circumstances of each case."
Animal welfare groups like the RSPCA, IFAW and the League Against Cruel Sports continue monitoring hunts that they believe may be breaking the law. In 2011 the League Against Cruel Sports complained that "On several occasions over the last few years, we have provided what we believed to be good evidence to Devon & Cornwall Police, but the police haven’t even moved from the starting blocks by interviewing suspects. Some cases have run out of time and sometimes the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decide to take no action.".
Police forces have said, on a number of occasions, that enforcement of the Hunting Act 2004 like much wildlife crime is a low priority for them, although they say that they will enforce the law. However, the Police's UK National Wildlife Crime Unit has said that policing of hunting should be a priority for forces in some areas of the country, most notably the South West.
Key court cases involving Registered Hunts 
Tony Wright (Exmoor Foxhounds): 2006-9 
Tony Wright, huntsman for the Exmoor Foxhounds was convicted of illegal hunting with dogs in Barnstaple magistrates court in August 2006 in a private prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports, but was then acquitted by High Court on appeal. The appeal took place at the request of the Crown Prosecution Service who wished to determine if it was is necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate that any hunting taking place was not exempt, or for the defence to prove that it was exempt; also to define what was meant by "hunting". The High Court ruled that it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that the conditions of the exemption had not been met. It also ruled that for the offence of "hunting a wild mammal" to take place there must be an identifiable mammal.
Julian Barnfield (Heythorp Hunt): 2009 
Charges of illegal hunting of a fox between November 2008 and February 2009 brought against Julian Barnfield of the Heythrop Hunt by the Crown Prosecution Service were dropped in March 2009 in response to the earlier High Court ruling in the Tony Wright case that 'searching' for a mammal was not hunting and that "hunting could only be an 'intentional' activity".
Derek Hopkins and Kevin Allen (Fernie Hunt): 2011 
Huntsman Derek Hopkins and terrierman Kevin Allen, employees of the Fernie Hunt from Great Bowden were convicted of illegal hunting in October 2011. They also lost their appeal, partly based on video evidence collected by the League Against Cruel Sports. It was the third successful prosecution for illegal fox hunting using the 2004 Act.
Crawley and Horsham Hunt: 2012 
Officials of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt were found guilty of five counts of illegal hunting under the Act in May 2012. The case followed a failed attempted by the hunt in 2009 to convict local hunt monitors of trespass, nuisance, and harassment.
RSPCA vs Heythrop Hunt: 2012 
The RSPCA took out a private prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt, Julian Barnfield and a third individuals in 2011 who pleaded guilty to four charges of 'hunting a wild fox with dogs' at Oxford magistrates court in December 2012. Barnfield, a former huntsman with the Heythrop and one of those convicted said that the case had been politically motivated with its links with David Cameron's constituency. The presiding magistrate called the RSPCA's £327,000 costs "staggering", however Gavin Grant, the chief executive of the RSPCA said that the organisation would prevent cruelty to animals by all lawful means and had prosecuted 1,341 individuals and secured 3,114 convictions past year with a success rate of more than 98%.
Other cases 
Subsequently three pending prosecutions against hunts, including one brought privately by the League Against Cruel Sports, were dropped and a further two cases which did reach court were thrown out at the conclusion of the prosecution cases when the District Judges ruled that there was no case to answer.
Public opinion 
Public opinion has consistently been in favour of the ban on fox hunting:
- A survey commissioned by The Daily Telegraph in 2002 indicated that a majority of people (57%) agreed with the statement that 'hunting with dogs is never acceptable'.
- A survey by MORI for the BBC carried out in February 2005 found that there was a plurality of support for the new legislation, but not an absolute majority (47% supporting, 26% opposed).
- In 2009 ipsos MORI found that a total of 75% supported the ban on fox hunting.
- In 2010 the figure was almost identical, with 76% being opposed to repealing the Hunting Act, including with 71% of rural residents. There was 18% support for repeal.
- A poll by MORI in December 2012 showed no change on fox hunting, with 76% being opposed to moves to make it legal, rising to 81% in respect to deer hunting.
Supporters of the bill 
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- League Against Cruel Sports
- Conservatives against fox hunting (the 'Blue foxes')
Opponents of the bill 
- Conservative Party
- Countryside Alliance
- Prince Charles allegedly commented that 'if hunting was banned, he might as well leave the country and spend the rest of his life skiing'.
Proposed Coalition government review 
The Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement, agreed by the new government following the 2010 general election aimed to give MPs a free vote "to express its view" on repealing the Hunting Act 2004 when parliamentary time allowed, possibly in 'early 2012'. The prime minister explained in January 2012 "I always thought the hunting ban was a pretty bizarre piece of legislation ... I think there should be a free vote in the House of Commons. I think the Commons should make its mind up about this. My problem has always been that it was just taking the criminal law into an area of activity where it didn’t really belong". but in December 2012 Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary said that there was no immediate likelihood of winning a Commons vote to make hunting legal again and that supporters of hunting would need to do "more work" to win around sceptical MPs.
Applicability and exemptions 
The Countryside Alliance note that "The Act makes it an offence to hunt a mouse with a dog but not a rat, you can legally hunt a rabbit but not a hare. You can flush a fox to guns with two dogs legally but if you use three it's an offence. You can flush a fox to a bird of prey with as many dogs as you like."
Hare coursing 
In a private prosecution under the Act brought by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who had observed two hare coursing events in villages near Malton, North Yorkshire in March 2007 organised by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club, the District Judge in Scarborough magistrates court clarified that the club was mistaken in believing that because the dogs they had been using were muzzled, the practice was legal.
Flushing wild mammals to guns 
Traditionally, in some upland areas, foxes were flushed by packs of dogs to be shot. This activity is still permitted in Scotland under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. However MPs, in making law for England and Wales, decided that this activity did result in unnecessary suffering, not least because it is more difficult to control a large number of hounds in dense woodland where this activity used to take place.
This exemption was claimed by one stag hound packs in the Exmoor area. In an appeal judgment following the conviction of two stag hunt officials, the judge said that such hunting conducted primarily for recreation was illegal.
Flushing a fox to a bird of prey 
Many traditional hunts have bought birds of prey and say that they are using hounds to flush foxes so that the bird of prey can hunt them. The Act requires that the intention must be "for the purpose of enabling a bird of prey to hunt the wild mammal." Many experts, such as the Hawk Board, deny that any bird of prey can reasonably be used in the British countryside to kill a fox which has been flushed by (and is being chased by) a pack of hounds. If this view proves to be correct, then it is unlikely that such a use of dogs is lawful.
Expert opinion on the limitations of flushing foxes to birds of prey will be available to advise courts considering such cases, when they are litigated. For now, the question of what is lawful remains to be determined.
Hunting below ground 
Hunting below ground takes place with terriers. The Act outlaws hunting with terriers (also known as terrier work) with a narrowly drawn exemption, described by the Minister, Alun Michael MP as existing "for gamekeepers". The Act requires that any hunting below ground must comply with a number of conditions:
- The activity must be carried out "for the purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to gamebirds or wild birds which a person is keeping or preserving for the purpose of their being shot."
- The person using the dog must have with them written evidence that the land used belongs to them or that they have been given permission to use the land by the occupier. This permission must be shown immediately to a police officer on request.
- Only one dog may be used underground at any one time.
- Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that:
- the mammal is flushed as soon as found
- the mammal is shot as soon as flushed,
- the manner in which the dog is used complies with a code of practice, and the dog must be under sufficient control so as not to prevent this, and
- the dog is not injured.
Despite this, many fox hunts continue to use terriers on a regular basis. Three people, not associated with hunts, have pleaded guilty to offences under the Hunting Act 2004 for hunting with terriers and a fourth was found guilty after a trial.
Hunting mice, rats and rabbits 
The Hunting Act 2004 bans some hunting but permits some activities believed to be necessary for land managers. Parliament accepted the view that the hunting of pests such as rats and rabbits was legitimate. MPs did not believe that there was any necessity to use dogs to hunt mice.
See also 
- The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 16 of this Act.
- The Hunting Act 2004, section 17
- The Hunting Act 2004, section 15
- "Director of Public Prosecutions (Crown Prosecution Service CCU South West) v Anthony Wright; The Queen on the Application of Maurice Scott, Peter Heard & Donald Summersgill v Taunton Deane Magistrates' Court  EWHC 105 (Admin)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 4 February 2009. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
- "Official Report, Commons". House of Commons. 25 February 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
- Tichelar, M. (2006). "'Putting Animals into Politics: The Labour Party and Hunting in the First Half of the Twentieth Century". Rural History 17 (2): 213–234. doi:10.1017/S0956793306001889.
- Scott Henderson (1951). Report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals
- "Timeline: Hunting row". BBC. 17 February 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- Fletcher, J. "Executive Sovereignty in our Constitution" (PDF). Justice. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act". HMSO. 2002. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
- "The Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales". Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 9 June 2000. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
- "Fox hunting worldwide". BBC News. 16 September 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-05.
- "The Labour Party's Manifesto 1997". BBC. 1997. Archived from the original on 20 December 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "How hunting ban went to the dogs". BBC. 9 July 1999. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- Burns, T. (12 March 2001). "Official Report, Lords". House of Lords. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Hunt battle set to return". BBC. 17 June 2001. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Hunting Hearings". Defra. 10 December 2002. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Hunting vote sparks angry scenes". BBC. 17 December 2002. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Lords rejects hunting ban". BBC. 12 October 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Fox hunting ban looks inevitable". BBC. 17 November 2004. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "8 April 2010". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) (House of Lords). col. 462–463. 8 April 2010
- Bremner, Charles; Robertson, David (28 January 2005). "High Court upholds Hunting ban". London: The Times. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Hunters fall prey to Parliament". BBC. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- The Interpretation Act 1978, section 5 and Schedule 1
- Hare v Gocher  2 QB 641,  2 All ER 673; Trow v Ind Coope (West Midlands) Ltd  2 QB 899 at 909,  2 All ER 900, CA.
- "Jackson and others v. Her Majesty's Attorney General UKHL 56". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Legal challenges update" (PDF). Countryside Alliance. 19 July 2005.
- "The Countryside Alliance and others v. H.M. Attorney General and others  EWHC 1677 (Admin)". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 29 July 2005. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "R. (oao The Countryside Alliance; oao Derwin and others) v. Her Majesty's Attorney General and Secretary of State of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  EWCA Civ 817". British and Irish Legal Information Institute. 23 June 2006. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "R (oao Countryside Alliance and others (Appellants)) v Her Majesty's Attorney General and another (Respondents)  UKHL 52". House of Lords. 2007-12. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Press release issued by the Registrar". ECHR. 15 December 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
- "The Hunting Act 2004, section 6".
- Bingham, John (24 August 2011). "Hunting ban put to test as four face court in landmark case". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "The Hunting Act "now about poaching, not about hunting"". Countryside Alliance. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Convictions: Hunting". Hansard. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "RSPCA to prosecute Heythrop huntsman". Horse and Hound. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "We'll provide evidence to show some hunts are breaking the law". Western Morning News. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Report: The 2010/2011 Hunting Season". League Against Cruel Sports. 18 May 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Man found guilty of illegal fox hunting".
- "David Cameron's friend escapes hunting trial as High Court rules 'searching' for mammals is legal".
- "Two Fernie Hunt employees are found guilty of digging fox out of sett".
- "Hunt appeal dismissed, with VIDEO". Lutterworth Mail. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Hunt members found guilty of illegally pursuing fox with hounds".
- "Sussex hunt drops court case against activists".
- "Cameron's embarrassment as Chipping Norton Set's favourite huntsman faces court over illegal hunting".
- "David Cameron's local hunt convicted after RSPCA prosecution".
- "Heythrop Hunt members admit illegal fox hunting".
- "Why the RSPCA pursued a Heythrop Hunt prosecution".
- Butcher, A. (14 April 2009). "Case dropped against hunting men arrested in dawn raids in 2007". Horse and Hound. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- "Cleared huntsman criticises waste of money". Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald. 21 September 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- "Poll" (PDF). Yougov.
- "Attitudes to the Hunting Ban". Ipsos Mori. 16 February 2005. Archived from the original on 31 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Public Opinion on Hunting".
- "Public Opinion on Hunting". Ipsos MORI. 26 December 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- "Most Britons support fox hunting ban, survey finds". "Poll before Boxing Day meets shows 76% are against moves to make fox hunting legal, rising to 81% for deer hunting"
- Guardian. 17/10/2012 http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/oct/17/prince-charles-policy-britain-run
|url=missing title (help).
- "Policy-by-policy: The coalition government's plans". BBC News Online. 21 May 2010.
- Sinclair, Andres (4 November 2010). "No plans for hunting ban vote before 2012, MPs say". BBC News Online.
- "I will drop 'bizarre' hunt ban, vows PM".
- "Hunting ban will not be repealed, Tories admit". The Daily Telegraph.
- Edwards, Adam (5 November 2010). "The Rise and Fall of Mr. Fox". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
- "TV chef admits hunting offences". BBC News. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- Jones, K. (2000). "Federation of Welsh Packs submission to Burns Inquiry". Defra. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Official Report, Commons". House of Commons. 4 February 2003. Retrieved 25 February 2008.
- Williams, Judge W. (2 October 2007). "League Against Cruel Sports vs. Down & Pillivant" (PDF). League Against Cruel Sports.
- "Hunting Act 2004". HMSO. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
- McLeod, I. (2005). "Birds of prey and the Hunting Act 2004". Justice of the Peace, 169: 774–775
- "Official Report, Commons". House of Commons. 30 June 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Hunting Act convictions". League Against Cruel Sports. 2008-01. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Official Report, Commons". House of Commons. 16 December 2002. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
- "Official Report, Lords". 28 October 2004. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
- Timeline: Labour and hunting Guardian Special report:Attempts to ban hunting
- Defra Q&A on the Hunting Act
- BBC In depth analysis
- Countryside Alliance 'Case for repeal'
- League Against Cruel Sports: How we got hunting banned
UK Legislation 
- Explanatory notes to the Hunting Act 2004.