History of Fox Hunting

From King Canute to David Cameron, hunting has taken place worldwide for hundreds of years. It's purpose was to provide food and protect livestock. The practice of using dogs with a keen sense of smell to track prey has been traced back to ancient Egypt and many Greek and Roman influenced countries. 

It is believed that the custom for a fox to be tracked, chased and often killed by trained hunting hounds, known as "scent hounds", and followed by the Master

of the Foxhounds and his team on foot and horseback, originated from a Norfolk farmer’s attempt to catch a fox using farm dogs in 1534.

985 -1035

King Canute the Dane said that all greyhounds kept within ten miles of a royal forest should have their knees mutilated to prevent them chasing the deer. However, the same king ordered that every man should be entitled to hunt in wood and field in his own possession.

1003 - 1066

Edward the Confessor took great delight in hunting and, says William of Malmesbury, "loved to follow a pack of swift hounds in pursuit of game and to cheer them with his voice."

1066

The Normans, who were keen deer hunters, came and conquered England and brought their tradition with them.

1100

John Salisbury, a Monk, writes, "By hunting, the nobility become as savage as the very beasts they hunt."

1230

Bradgate Park in Charnwood Forest sets enclosed areas for deer hunting. Leicestershire now has 40 medieval deer parks. Hunting boar, wolves, wildcats, and hares is still popular and foxes are hunted on foot.

1490

English wolves were exterminated in England by the reign of Henry VII. Wild boar declined until becoming extinct in the time of James I. Red deer, the most popular of all quarry, were plentiful in the days of Henry VIII but by the time of Charles I they were becoming scarce in most parts of England, except in the wilder regions such as Exmoor, Dartmoor and the Lakeland Fells. The Civil War contributed towards the further downfall of wild deer. There was incessant poaching all over the country; even at Windsor, which was under the control of the Parliament, the wild animals were greatly reduced in numbers.

1542

There are records of foxhounds at Belvoir, the home of the Duke of Rutland. These are still known as the Duke of Rutland Hounds and still have the same bloodline.

1591

This short “Treatise of hunting" by Sir Thomas Cockaine, Knight covers otters, fox, deer, pine marten and hares amongst others. It states that it is “Compiled for the delight of Noble Men and Gentlemen." It describes hunting a fox and chasing it for fourteen miles.

1600s

Deer are still the most hunted. Duke of Rutland estate records shows he is bull-baiting, bear-baiting and cock-fighting. Bull-baiting was the beginning of bullfighting. He is also hunting deer, hare, otters and foxes on the beloved estate.

1612

King James 1 hunts deer in Leicester Forest near Desford.

The act of "blooding" was introduced by King James 1 in the sixteenth century and involved the Huntmaster rubbing the blood of the prey onto the cheeks of the newly initiated member of the hunt.

Many Greek- and Roman-influenced countries have long traditions of hunting with hounds. Hunting with Agassi hounds was popular in Celtic Britain, even before the Romans arrived, introducing the Castorian and Fulpine hound breeds which they used to hunt. Norman hunting traditions were brought to Britain when William the Conqueror arrived, along with the Gascon and Talbot hounds.

1660

Deer had become so scarce, and squires and great landlords began to look for a better substitute than the hare “which after all, excellent and interesting chase, is never very fond of quitting its own confined piece of country and never gives the long straight and stirring runs enjoyed with red deer and fox.”

1668

During Charles I's reign, hounds were first trained specifically to hunt foxes. For those hunters who had previously tracked deer, which required large areas of open land, foxes and hares became the prey of choice in the seventeenth century, with packs of hounds being trained specifically to hunt.  England’s oldest fox hunt, which is still running today, is the Bilsdale Hunt in Yorkshire, established by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham.

1696

The first known kennel for foxhounds was established at Wardour Castle.

1698

Thomas Boothby of Tooley Park in Leicestershire is said to have hunted "the first pack of foxhounds in England" over part of the Quorn Country, but this is now disputed.

1700s

The deer population declines due to the woodland loss for farming land. Fox hunting increases in popularity.

1730

The first record of a pack of hounds being sold.

1750s

Hugo Meynell buys Quorn Hall and begins "hunting to a system". He is master of the Quorn Hunt for almost 50 years. He is regarded as the true father of modern fox hunting. He hunted what is now known as the Quorn country from 1753 to 1800, and undoubtedly evolved the present style of hunting. Enclosed groups of open fields in Leicestershire makes the countryside especially attractive for fox hunting.

William Hogarth the English painter, printmaker, satirist and editorial cartoonist publishes a series of prints condemning "cruel sports". 

Fox Hunting spreads across the UK. The decline in the deer population and, subsequently, the sport of deer hunting, or stalking as it is also known, occurred as a consequence of the Inclosure Acts passed between 1750 –1860, particularly the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act of 1801, which was passed to clarify previous acts of inclosure.

These acts meant that open fields and common land where deer bred were fenced off into separate, smaller fields to cope with the increase in the demand for farmland. The birth of the Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of new roads, railways and canal paths which further reduced the amount of rural land in the United Kingdom although conversely this improvement in transport links also made fox hunting more popular and easily accessible for those living in towns and cities who aspired to the life of the country gentleman.

1760

The fox hounds were now registered in Lord Middleton's private kennel stud book through which the pedigrees of hounds can be traced back to this year.

1772

“Tally-ho” dates from around 1772 and is probably derived from the French “taïaut”, a cry used to excite hounds when hunting deer which, in turn, derives from “taille haut” meaning raise swords used by French commanders during battle.

1781

Peter Beckford's celebrated book on hunting was considered “one of the wisest, most comprehensive and most delightful on this subject”, and had an immense influence among fox hunters.

1800

Foxhound Kennel Studbook begins. It is maintained today by the Master of Foxhounds Association. Melton Mowbray is known as the "pride of the Shires" – the “it” place for English fox hunting.

1824

RSPCA founded in London.

1835

Bull and bear baiting banned in the UK.

1836

First Waterloo Cup, a hare coursing festival, is held at Great Altcar in Lancashire.

1837

The first law against cruelty to horses and cattle passed. Queen Victoria comes to the throne while the popularity of fox hunting continues to spread throughout the Commonwealth.

1840s

The number of hunters continues to increase. Railways make it easier for people to get to the country to hunt, and wealthy industrialists now start to take up hunting.

1849

Animal Protection Act passed. Applies only to domesticated animals. Cockfighting becomes illegal in the UK.

1880s

The Empress of Austria makes hunting fashionable for women.

1890s

Master of Foxhounds Association formed to regulate the sport and resolve disputes. Humanitarian League begins to campaign against hunting with dogs.

1896

First standards set for breeding foxhounds at the first Hound Show in Peterborough.

1914-18

World War I – The popularity of hunting declines as many young men and horses are taken for the war effort.

1920s

Agricultural and economic depression in the UK see hunts providing funds to compensate farmers in the rural areas where they hunt.

1928

Mink are introduced to the UK from North America to be farmed for fur. They later escape and establish themselves across most of Britain.

1924

League Against Cruel Sports founded.

1930

British Field Sports Society founded, later to become the Countryside Alliance

1934

Despite the banning of the sport in Germany and other European countries from 1934, fox hunting in the United Kingdom remained popular. In fact, a shortage of foxes in England led to a demand for foxes to be imported from France, Germany, Holland and Sweden.

1939-45

World War II – Hound numbers and hunt days reduced as part of the war effort.

1949

Two private members' bills to ban, or restrict, hunting fail to make it onto the statute books. One is withdrawn, and the other is defeated on its second reading in the Commons. The Labour government appoints a committee of inquiry to investigate all forms of hunting. The committee concludes: "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."

1959

Deer hunting with dogs is banned in Scotland

1970

The House of Commons votes for legislation to ban hare coursing. However, the bill runs out of time when the general election is called.

1978

Otter hunting becomes illegal in England and Wales. Otterhound packs switch to hunting mink.

1992

A private members' bill to make hunting with dogs illegal is rejected by the Commons. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill, proposed by Labour MP Kevin McNamara, is defeated on its second reading. It becomes illegal to hunt badgers in England, Scotland and Wales.

1993

Labour MP Tony Banks attempts to get Parliament to pass his Fox Hunting (Abolition) Bill.The bill fails.

1995

Labour MP John McFall is unsuccessful with his private members' bill to ban hunting with hounds. The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill passes its second reading in the Commons, but is heavily amended before it fails in the Lords.

1996

RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and IFAW join forces to ban hunting with dogs under the "Deadline 2000" initiative that later becomes known as "Campaigning to Protect Hunted Animals" (CPHA).

May 1997

The Labour Party wins the general election. In its manifesto it promises: "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.” The National Trust bans deer hunting on its land. 

10th July 1997

Countryside Alliance was formed by the amalgamation of the British Field Sports Society, the Countryside Business Group and the Countryside Movement.

November 1997

Labour MP Michael Foster publishes a private members' bill to ban hunting with dogs. The Labour government delivers a blow to the chances of the bill becoming law by refusing to grant the legislation any of its Parliamentary time.

1st March 1998

After the Foster bill passes its second reading in the Commons, the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance organises a protest rally in London. An estimated 250,000 people join the countryside march to protest against the bill.

13th March 1998

Hunt supporters celebrate as the Foster bill runs out of time during its report stage in the Commons.The bill is talked out by hunt-supporting MPs who table hundreds of amendments to block the legislation's progress. Undeterred, Mr Foster pledges to fight on.

3rd July 1998

Mr Foster withdraws his bill citing the "cynical tactics" of his opponents. He insists that to carry on would deprive other valuable legislation, such as a law on puppy farms, of valuable Parliamentary time. He predicts that fox hunting will still be banned during this Parliament but he says it is now up to the government to see the job through.

8th July 1999

Speaking on BBC Question Time, Prime Minister Tony Blair says hunting with dogs “will be banned”.

12th July 1999

Labour denies that Mr Blair's pledge is connected to a £100,000 donation it had received from anti-hunt pressure group, PAL (The Political Animal Lobby). The group had previously donated £1m to the party before the 1997 election and had also made donations to the Tories, Green Party and the Liberal Democrats.

21st July 1999

Labour MSP Mike Watson announces plans to put forward a private members' bill in the Scottish Parliament to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland. He predicts the bill could come into force by Spring 2000.

15th September 1999

Hunt supporters set up a national body, the Independent Supervisory for Hunting, to ensure hunting is carried out in a "proper and humane manner".

30th September 1999

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “I am opposed to hunting... Parliament will have a chance to see this through.”

14th November 1999

Home Secretary Jack Straw announces the Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs, to be led by Lord Burns.

1st October 1999

Tony Blair insists that he can deliver his promise to ban fox hunting before the next election despite claims that it will have to wait until the House of Lords is reformed.

11th November 1999

The government announces it will support a backbenchers' bill on fox hunting.

14th November 1999

Home Secretary Jack Straw announces an inquiry into the effect of a fox hunting ban on the rural economy. The enquiry is led by Lord Burns.

October 1999

IFAW’s hunt monitors discover manmade fox earths on land used by the high profile Beaufort Hunt.

March 2000

MSP Mike Watson's bill to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland starts its passage through the Scottish Parliament.

April 2000

Jack Straw looks into producing a bill where MPs choose between the three options: an outright ban, no change or stricter regulation of hunting.

May 2000

Labour backbenchers urge the government to put its weight behind a hunting ban or risk losing voters, and Labour MP Gordon Prentice proposes an amendment to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill to ban the sport.

June 2000

The government’s Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales, chaired by Lord Burns, concludes that hunting with dogs “seriously compromises the welfare” of foxes, deer, hares and mink. It also says said that between 6,000 and 8,000 jobs would be lost if hunting was banned - half the number suggested by some pro-hunt groups. IFAW’s hunt monitors film the Beaufort Hunt’s official terrier man leaving pheasants and chickens outside manmade fox earths.

October 2000

The Countryside Alliance announces a pro-hunt demonstration for the following March and says it expects to attract up to 600,000 protesters.

December 2000

The government introduces its first hunting bill.

17th January 2001

During Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Tony Blair says, “I have made it quite clear and my position has not changed, I am opposed to fox hunting for the reasons that I have given on many occasions. I think that it is absolutely certain that the will of this place will be made very clear.”

February 2001

Hunting suspended because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

26th February 2001

MPs vote by a majority of 179 for an outright ban as the hunting bill clears the Commons. The House of Lords later votes against the ban and the bill runs out of time when the General Election is called.

28th February 2001

The Countryside Alliance call off their demonstration after the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

9th March 2001

Lord Donahugue argues an alternative to the hunting act in the House of Lords.

11th March 2001

Two Labour MPs are found to be on a "hit list" of anti-hunt extremists a month after a suspicious fire broke out in pro-hunt MP Jeff Rooker's Commons office.

27th March 2001

The House of Lords throws out the Labour government's favoured option of licensed hunting (202 to 122) and also a total ban (317 to 68), while voting to keep the status quo (249 to 108).The bill is lost as a result since the general election prevents further progress.

May 2001

Labour wins the General Election.

16th May 2001

Labour's election manifesto promises a free vote for MPs that will allow Parliament to reach a conclusion on hunting.

20th June 2001

A commitment to introduce the bill is included in the Queen's speech.

October 2001

More than 200 MPs back a Commons motion calling on the government to honour its pledge to ban hunting.

17th December 2001

Hunting with hounds resumes after a 10 month ban that had been enforced due to foot-and-mouth disease.

30th January 2002

Blair sidesteps the issue at Prime Minister's Questions when asked to honour his election manifesto commitment and reintroduce the hunting bill. In response, the anti-hunt lobby threaten to launch a campaign against the prime minister.

13th February 2002

The Scottish parliament votes to ban fox hunting but pro-hunt campaigners immediately threaten court action to overturn the new law.

17th February 2002

Margaret Beckett, Minister for Rural Affairs, repeats the government's promise to hold a free vote on hunting in the current Parliament but does not say when it will take place.

27th February 2002

At Prime Minister's Questions, Tony Blair confirms that there will be a vote on hunting. The next day's papers set out the government's plans to hold a vote before the Easter recess. The move is seen as a reward to Labour MPs for their support for the transport minister Stephen Byers.

18th March 2002

The government delays other legislation to make time for a Commons vote on a hunting bill. MPs once more have three options - a full ban, restrictions on hunting or no change. The government signals that it now backs the middle way; a sign that ministers will attempt to persuade the House of Lords to back the legislation. In the vote, MPs - including the prime minister, voting on the issue for the first time since the general election - back a full ban on hunting by 386 to 175 votes. Support for the middle way falls - Mr Blair abstains - but the government makes it clear that this is now its favoured option.

19th March 2002

The debate moves to the House of Lords, where peers back the middle way option - continuing hunting under license - by 366 to 59 votes. This overturns the proposal's heavy defeat in 2001. The Lords again reject the move to ban hunting fully - this year by 331 to 74 votes. Meanwhile senior backbencher Gerald Kaufman threatens to withdraw the Labour party whip if the will of the Commons is not upheld and a ban not introduced.

21st March 2002

Rural affairs minister Alun Michael announces the government is willing to use the Parliament Act to override opposition to a ban in the House of Lords. This placates Mr Kaufman but provokes fury among peers. Labour backbenchers and animal rights groups are also angered by government plans for a six-month consultation period aimed at reaching a compromise between both Houses before a ban could be pushed through.

30th March 2002

Ministers are still working on a compromise over fox hunting despite the huge majority of MPs voting that it should be banned.

31st July 2002

Scottish pro-hunting campaigners lose their legal battle to block the ban on fox hunting north of the border but immediately vow to fight on "in every court in the land”. The court of session ruling clears the way for the introduction of the Scottish ban on August 1st.

9th September 2002

A three-day public consultation begins at Westminster, organised with the cooperation of pro- and anti-hunting pressure groups. The rural affairs minister, Alun Michael, dismisses fears that the government has already made up its mind to introduce a ban and says the hearing should provide a "rational approach" to future legislation.

September 2002

A scientific study carried out by The Mammal Society shows that the fox population did not rise significantly during the foot-an-mouth crisis, when hunting was banned, providing scientific proof that hunting does not control fox numbers. 

16th September 2002

Rural affairs minister Alun Michael insists that legislation on hunting would be on the statute book by the next general election, despite the fact that the Lords are expected to reject a total ban during the bill's committee stage.

22nd September 2002

The Countryside Alliance announces they are planning the Liberty and Livelihood March the following spring.

3rd October 2002

The Labour party conference backs a call for the government to force through a ban on fox hunting even if the House of Lords rejects it.

9th October 2002

A Conservative government would give MPs a chance to reverse any ban on fox hunting, says Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

12th November 2002

A rapper whose song was claimed as the anthem by the Countryside Alliance condemns bloodsports and accuses the campaign group of exploiting him.

13th November 2002

The government paves the way for a fresh parliamentary clash over fox hunting with the promise of legislation but no confirmation of a ban.

14th November 2002

More than 160 MPs sign a Commons motion backing an outright ban on fox hunting, amid growing confidence from campaigners that they will be able to get the measure onto the statute book by early 2004.

3rd December 2002

The government try to reconcile the highly polarised public debate over hunting with dogs by offering MPs and peers a compromise that recognises both cruelty to animals and the utility of life in the countryside.

16th December 2002

While police and pro-hunt protesters clash outside Westminster, the government introduces its second hunting bill. MPs inside the House vote 368 to 155 in favour of the "third way" - banning stag hunting and hare coursing, but allowing fox hunting in some areas.

December 2002

Prince Charles is quoted in the Daily Mirror as telling Tony Blair “If the Labour government ever gets round to banning hunting I might as well leave this country and spend the rest of my life skiing."

26th December 2002

Tony Blair indicates he will listen to Labour rebels arguing for a complete ban and allow amendments that would make it all but impossible to continue hunting for sport.

16th January 2003

Labour MPs vote to amend the hunting bill so that hunts will only be allowed if needed to control pests.

27th February 2003

The hunting bill leaves the committee stage with the so-called "utility" and "cruelty" tests toughened up. Pro-hunt campaigners claim the bill will, in effect, amount to a ban by the back door.

February 2003

MPs amend the bill to include hare hunting under the ban.

June 2003

IFAW Hunt monitors film a hunt kennel man and his assistant putting two young fox cubs into a manmade fox earth on land used by the Cottesmore Hunt in Leicestershire. The kennel man later admits moving the cubs and a vixen into the earth – a practice that is forbidden by hunting rules.

18th June 2003

Downing Street succumbs to backbench Labour pressure and agrees to give MPs the chance to reinstate an outright ban in the government's fox hunting legislation.

29th June 2003

Environment secretary Margaret Beckett tells Labour opponents of fox-hunting that they will lose the chance to outlaw most hunts if they support an amendment calling for a total ban. Once again, the Commons votes overwhelmingly for a total ban on hunting, causing further embarrassment to Tony Blair. Procedural wrangling means that MPs only vote on Tony Banks' rebel amendment to introduce a total ban after the government motion on licensing hunts is withdrawn at the last minute. Seven cabinet members joined over 300 Labour MPs to vote in favour of the ban. The bill returns to committee.

1st July 2003

After five hours of intense Commons debate, MPs vote to turn the hunting bill into an outright ban on hunting with dogs by 362 votes to 154.

10th July 2003

Hunting bill clears the House of Commons to go to the Lords after MPs give the measure, which makes no provision for compensation, a third reading by 317 votes to 145.

28th July 2003

A year on from a ban on fox hunting in Scotland and life continues as normal for many in the countryside. The ban's effects resonate only for a minority.

6th August 2003

Staffordshire farmer, Peter Brady, urges a "rural army" of pro-hunting countryside campaigners to join the Labour party in an attempt to beat a ban on hunting.

21st October 2003

The House of Lords rejects an outright ban on hunting and reinstates proposals allowing regulated hunts. Environment minister, Lord Whitty, warns peers that if they persist in defying MPs and insisting the ban be overturned, the Commons would "decide where to take it”. A cross-party amendment to the hunting bill allowing registered hunting to continue is passed by 261 votes to 49. The legislation subsequently runs out of parliamentary time.

November 2003

The Bill runs out of parliamentary time after the House of Lords opposes it.

November 2003

In a MORI poll, 76% of the public say they want to see hunting with dogs banned )82% say deer hunting should be illegal, 77% say hare hunting and coursing should be illegal, and 69% think fox-hunting should be illegal).

2nd November 2003

Peter Hain MP, Leader of the House of Commons, says on Sky News, “We will have to find a way of ensuring a ban on cruelty to animals. That is what the House of Commons voted for overwhelmingly and what the people supported in two general elections”

26th November 2003

During the Queen’s Speech debate, Prime Minster Tony Blair says, “We have said that we will resolve the issue during this Parliament and so we will resolve the issue during this Parliament.”

8th September 2004

The Government announces plans to give MPs a free vote on the hunting bill by the end of the parliamentary session in November. The bill is similar to the one originally proposed, and would lead to an outright ban on fox hunting.

15th September 2004

MPs once again vote for a complete ban with the bill given a second reading by 356 votes to 166. Outside, a Countryside Alliance demonstration in Parliament Square turns violent, while five protesters manage to break into the Commons chamber.

20th September 2004

The Countryside Alliance responds to Tony Blair's signals that a compromise might yet be reached which would see licensed hunts allowed if there is an environmental case for them going ahead.

September 2004

Vote OK, a pro-hunt campaign group, is formed to lobby MPs. They start by canvassing Conservative, mainly pro-hunt, MPs.

12th October 2004

Peers allow the bill's second reading through unopposed, meaning that it passes to the committee stage where it can be amended. Lord Burns, who headed the government's inquiry into hunting, argues that it would be a misuse of the Parliament Act to push through a ban.

26th October 2004

The House of Lords once again raises the prospect of the Parliament Act being invoked by rejecting a total ban and voting 322 to 72 for the 'third way' compromise.

15th November 2004

The Countryside Alliance calls on Labour MPs to back the compromise.

16th November 2004

MPs reject the last-ditch deal, voting 343 votes to 175 against the Lords' position, and by 321 to 204 against Tony Blair's preferred compromise. The Countryside Alliance pledges to challenge the validity of the Parliament Act in the courts.

18th November 2004

After the "ping-pong" session between the Commons and the Lords where a ban is rejected, the Speaker of the House of Commons invokes the Parliament Act. The legislation is passed into law and receives royal assent.

December 2004

The Countryside Alliance and the Council of Hunting Associations publishes the Hunting Handbook advising hunters how to continue hunting within the law.

23rd Dec 2004

The Countryside Alliance launches a legal challenge to the government over the use of the 1949 Parliament Act to pass the Hunting Act. The Government responds that it would not oppose a Countryside Alliance request for an injunction to delay the ban pending the result of the court case regarding the legality of the Parliament Act 1949.

7th January 2005

The League Against Cruel Sports formally register an interest in the Countryside Alliance case seeking to defend the Hunting Act against the challenge and to ensure that the ban will still come into effect on February 18th 2005. Separately, the Countryside Alliance mount a challenge to the Hunting Act 2004 on Human Rights grounds.

25th January 2005

The Countryside Alliance goes to the High Court to contest the legality of the Parliament Act used to pass the Hunting Act.

28th January 2005

The High Court judges reject the Countryside Alliance’s challenge to the 1949 Parliament Act. The Countryside Alliance appeals the decision.

8th February 2005

The Countryside Alliance mounts a last-ditch legal bid to impede the hunting ban going to the court of appeal to ask if the implementation of the bill through the use of the Parliament Act, is invalid.

14th February 2005

The Waterloo Cup, Britain’s biggest annual hare coursing even,t is brought forward to avoid the ban that is coming into force on 18th February.

16th February 2005

The Countryside Alliance loses its appeal contesting the legality of the Hunting Act in the High Court. The Countryside Alliance lawyers request an injunction to delay the implementation of the Hunting Act. This too is denied.The CA is granted leave to appeal to the House of Lords (the House of Lords has agreed to hear the appeal on the Parliament Act challenge on 13th and 14th July before the end of the summer term. Nine law lords will hear the case over two days).The court of appeal confirms its January 28th ruling that the Countryside Alliance has no case, leaving the ban free to come into force on Friday February 18th, 2005.

18th February 2005

The Hunting Act comes into force making hunting foxes, hare, deer and mink with dogs illegal in England and Wales.

7th October 2007

The Countryside Alliance and the Union of Country Sports Workers are using European legislation to challenge the 2004 Hunting Act. The legal battle is being waged along with various individuals who claim their livelihoods have been affected by the hunting laws.

29th October 2007

The Law Lords have upheld the government's ban on fox hunting after ruling it is not a human right. In a legal challenge brought by the Countryside Alliance the Lords accepted many of the pro-hunting arguments but said they could not go against the will of Parliament. The ban on hunting with dogs was finally achieved in 2004 after Tony Blair's government used the Parliament Act to overrule a pro-hunting contingent in the House of Lords. Law Lords today unanimously back the ban, ruling that the democratic purpose would be subverted if critics succeed in overturning a law passed in parliament.

20th June 2009

Deputy Tory leader, William Hague, states that a Conservative government will find time to repeal the Hunting Act: "A Conservative government will give parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote and in government time. This has been our position and it will remain our position.” He continued, “The passage of the Hunting Act revealed that Labour MPs' respect for the views of minorities only extended to those minorities whose views they could readily agree with. The result was a piece of legislation, so deeply prejudiced and so ridiculously unworkable, that its existence weakens and discredits the laws of the land. This is a bad law and bad laws should be repealed, not ignored." Mr Hague was addressing over 400 members of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and received a standing ovation for his promise.

10th October 2009

Countryside campaigners have warned of a “firestorm” if the Conservatives fail to force through a flagship government bill to overthrow the controversial ban. They fear that David Cameron is close to reneging on a promise he made last year to throw the full weight of a future Tory Government behind the repeal of the Hunting Act which makes it illegal to hunt with dogs. Senior Tory figures have told the Sunday Telegraph that a major change in party policy is under active consideration by the shadow cabinet. They fear that a new Conservative government could find itself bogged down in parliament if it tried to force through the legislation. But the suggestion of a change in policy has caused deep concern among countryside and hunting campaigners. One leading hunt supporter said, “There will be a firestorm if it is not a government bill.”

17th October 2009

Nick Herbert, the shadow environment secretary, moved to allay fears in the hunting community over the Tories’ intentions by spelling out publicly for the first time that the Tories would use a government bill in government time to repeal the Hunting Act. Mr Herbert said: “Some argue that the Hunting Act is so ineffective that it might as well be left on the Statute Book. But this is bad law, and bad laws should be repealed. While prosecutions have so far mainly failed, it is the professional hunt staff, whose livelihoods depend on their employment, who have found themselves in the dock and who still fear arrest, with all the worry and opprobrium that very public and drawn out prosecutions entail."

26th December 2009

A ‘Back the Ban’ campaign is being launched on Boxing Day – the old centre of the fox hunting calendar - by Hilary Benn and a host of celebrities including Tony Robinson and Patrick Stewart.

27th December 2009

David Cameron's closest friends and relatives yesterday spearheaded a campaign to overturn the ban on cruel fox hunting. William Astor, stepfather of the Tory leader's wife Samantha, and his close friend and fellow MP Ed Vaizey, called for hunting to be legalised immediately if the Tories win the next general election. Viscount Astor, chairman of the Old Berkshire Hunt, and Wantage MP Mr Vaizey, demanded the repeal of the ban at yesterday's Boxing Day hunt at Faringdon, near Mr Cameron's country home in Oxfordshire. Their calls to axe the Labour-introduced ban on hunting with hounds are supported by Conservative Party headquarters. Mr Cameron says he believes the ban "doesn't work" and "doesn't make sense".

22nd December 2009

“Finally, for a case that could qualify as one of the funniest of the year, as a kind of Christmas treat from Strasbourg, I can recommend the admissibility decision the Countryside Alliance and others; (Appl.nos 16072/06 and 27809/08). In this decision, the Court dismissed the complaints of a group of hunters and others about the British ban on hunting with hounds (on foxes and other animals). The Court held in this decision that a person's hunting grounds do not fall within the concept of home nor can the hunting community be seen as an ethnic community. The Court was not of the view (para. 44) "that hunting amounts to a particular lifestyle which is so inextricably linked to the identity of those who practise it that to impose a ban on hunting would be to jeopardise the very essence of their identity."

5th May 2010

Nick Clegg the Liberal Democrat leader was asked, “How would you vote on repealing the fox hunting ban?” He said, “If I were PM, as I hope to be, I wouldn’t seek to table another vote on this. I think the matter is settled. I wouldn’t seek to reopen it. If David Cameron wants to reopen the issue, he wants to basically repeal it, he wants to bring back fox hunting. I know it provokes very strong emotion amongst people who live particularly in rural areas. But in my view we shouldn’t turn the clock back anymore. I don’t want to see the Conservatives turn the clock back as they want to on so many other issues. If there is another vote on it. I will vote to keep the legislation as it is.”

6th January 2011

Spare a thought for the scarlet-clad tally-ho brigade. Not only were over half the Boxing Day fox hunts called off due to heavy snow and ice, but it looks increasingly like it's game-over for a repeal of the hunting ban too. As DEFRA officials recently admitted, David Cameron has now abandoned his oft-repeated commitment to facilitate an early overturning of the ban. A free House of Commons vote has been kicked firmly into the long grass. Indeed, with a bit of luck, it may not even take place at all.

11th October 2011

David Cameron appears to be toying with the idea of reneging on his promise to introduce a government bill repealing the Hunting Act, which makes it an offence to go hunting with dogs. "We can understand the arguments in favour of that move but the country faces a terrible fiscal crisis that must be the government's first priority; there is a desperate need to unstitch incompetent or mistaken Labour policies on vital matters such as defence, health and the welfare system." The out of touch Cameron team is desperate to avoid giving ammunition to those who label its members "Tory toffs”.

Yet to listen to these siren voices would be a grievous error. It is not just that the Hunting Act was a thoroughly bad measure, motivated by class envy, which has proved utterly unworkable in practice. It is not even because those living in the country are strongly against the measure, which they rightly regard as a symbol of the neglect and hostility towards the countryside prevalent on the Labour benches (overwhelmingly populated by urbanites). It is that the ban is one of the most egregious examples of Labour's authoritarian determination to prevent ordinary people from living their lives in the ways they choose. For the Tory leadership to break its pledge would send a signal that the new administration was happy to live with a far greater degree of meddling in the private lives of ordinary citizens than millions of us find tolerable. Indeed, it will be in the hope of electing a more tolerant, less restrictive government that many people will vote Conservative at the next election. They will feel profoundly let down if the hunting ban is consigned to the lottery of the private members' ballot. Mr Cameron should keep his promise to have a Government Bill in Government time.

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