Burns Inquiry

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Fox hunting had long been a controversial issue in the UK.

The Burns Inquiry (or Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales) was a Government committee set up to examine the facts in the debate in the United Kingdom about hunting with hounds.


In December 1999, the then Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, announced the establishment of a Government inquiry into hunting with dogs, to be chaired by the retired senior civil servant Lord Burns. Its terms of reference were:

"To inquire into:
  • the practical aspects of different types of hunting with dogs and its impact on the rural economy, agriculture and pest control, the social and cultural life of the countryside, the management and conservation of wildlife, and animal welfare in particular areas of England and Wales;
  • the consequences for these issues of any ban on hunting with dogs; and
  • how any ban might be implemented.
To report the findings to the Secretary of State for the Home Department"[1]

The committee commissioned a range of scientific research, undertook a series of visits to hunting events[2] and held a number of evidence hearings. The committee did not seek "to address the ethical aspects of the subject".[3][4]


Following consultation with Lord Burns, Jack Straw MP appointed the following to membership of the committee:[5]

The League Against Cruel Sports criticised the appointment of several members with backgrounds related to hunting.[5]


The inquiry found that foxes suffer during hunting.

The committee's most reported conclusion was that hunting with dogs "seriously compromises" the welfare of the quarry species.[6] In line with its remit, the committee did not, however, draw any conclusion on whether hunting should be banned or should continue.[3] 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."[7]

In a highly controversial subject area, the Burns Inquiry report was welcomed by both hunters[8] and anti-hunting campaigners.[9]


Following the publication of the Burns Inquiry report, 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. After further inquiries, the Government introduced a further Bill, which was amended to become the Hunting Act 2004.[third-party source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs (1999). "Background to the Inquiry". Archived from the original on 2008-07-26. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  2. ^ O,Brien, M. (23 May 2000). "Hansard, Commons Written Answers". House of Commons. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  3. ^ a b Clover, C. (2001). "'MPs will rule if hunting is cruel'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 February 2008.[dead link]
  4. ^ "R (oao Countryside Alliance and others and others (Appellants)) v Her Majesty's Attorney General and another (Respondents); R (oao Countryside Alliance and others (Appellants) and others) v Her Majesty's Attorney General and another (Respondents) [2007] UKHL 52". House of Lords. December 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2008.
  5. ^ a b Hencke, D. (2000-01-04). "Row over hunting inquiry 'bias'". Guardian. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  6. ^ Lord Burns; Dr Victoria Edwards; Professor Sir John Marsh; Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior; Professor Michael Winter (2000-06-09). "The Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales". Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Archived from the original on 2008-07-26. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  7. ^ Burns, T. (12 March 2001). "Lords Hansard". House of Lords. Retrieved 29 February 2008.
  8. ^ "Our hunting campaign". Countryside Alliance. 2004. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  9. ^ "The Burns Inquiry". League Against Cruel Sports. Archived from the original on 27 October 2007. Retrieved 16 July 2015.

External links[edit]