The Countryside Alliance said more than a quarter of a million people participated in over 300 such events.
http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/article.aspx?cp-documentid=12242977 Boxing Day Hunts 2008. More people than ever!
Hunting Act "fatally weakened" Updated 3/9/2009
Yesterday the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced that he would not be challenging the High Court judgment of last month that rejected his appeal in Tony Wright’s case. This means that the High Court’s ruling on the definition of the offence of hunting and the burden of evidence in exempt hunting cases will stand as a legal precedent.
The court ruled that to commit the offence of ‘hunting’ a person must be in pursuit of an identifiable mammal by sight, or possibly by scent. It also confirmed that "hunting is by definition intentional", and that "any prosecution would have to prove to the criminal standard what the defendant’s intention was". Hunting, in terms of the Act, is therefore defined as the intentional pursuit of an identifiable mammal.
For those engaged in exempt hunting, the High Court ruled that there is an ‘evidential burden’ which means that defendants will have to state which exemption they were using and how they were fulfilling its conditions. After that it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant had not fulfilled the conditions of the exemption.
The judgment will make it less likely that hunts will face vindictive prosecutions based on allegations by animal rights activists. There have only been three successful prosecutions against hunts since the Act came into force and this judgment will make prosecutions even less likely.
The High Court may have ruled that "the ban (on hunting) is no means absolute", but it is considerable. However much the Act has been damaged by this judgment it is still the law and as such an insult to liberty and good governance. The High Court’s ruling, and the decision of the DPP to accept it, is another reason to get rid of the Act, not an excuse for ignoring it. As I have said before, for those readers whose interest is in shooting, fishing or broader rural activity, repeal is as important as for those who hunt. It removes from the Statute Book a piece of legislation that was passed for reasons of political expedience and without the justification or either evidence or principle.
The London Evening Standard, not a renowned supporter of hunting, reported the DPP decision and added an editorial, ‘The hunt goes on’, that is well worth repeating here (its only error is to say that there are 18 cases pending against hunts – there are just four):
Five years after the divisive hunting bill was passed, the legislation increasingly looks like a waste of time. As we report today, the Crown Prosecution Service, the CPS, will not be challenging a recent court judgement that established that the burden of proof on whether a hunt is acting illegally lies squarely with the prosecution. It also reinforced the principle that it is perfectly legal to stalk or flush out foxes or other mammals using dogs in order for them then to be shot. At the time the CPS argued that such a ruling would make the act "wholly unworkable". Indeed, 18 cases pending against hunts must now be reconsidered.
The ruling bears out the reality that hunting still flourishes. It is however questionable whether its intended effect, to ensure that foxes are shot rather than killed by dogs, has advanced animal welfare. Rather, it seems clear that it was a waste of political energy which served only to alienate rural communities. David Cameron, the Tory leader, cannot be seen actually to support hunting but he can certainly allow a free vote to repeal the Act if he wins the election. And that is what he should do.
1. Hunting fatality
Many of you will already be aware of the horrific incident at Long Marston airfield in Warwickshire on Monday. Trevor Morse, a passionate and committed supporter of the Warwickshire Hunt and the Alliance, was killed by a gyrocopter that had been used by anti hunt monitors to follow the hunt for some weeks.
This is not the time or place to discuss details of what happened, or why. The truth will emerge from the various inquiries already in play. It is a time to think about Trevor’s family and friends. One of those friends, Warwickshire Joint-Master Sam Butler, paid him a fitting tribute: "Trevor was a very great supporter, a passionate believer in country sports and hunting and the tribute I pay is not only to him but to his family. This man was the most loyal and most high quality supporter of hunting you will ever find. Outside his family, it was the most important thing to him."
A police investigation is ongoing and two people who we believe are linked to a local animal rights group called Protect Our Wild Animals (POWA) are being questioned on suspicion of murder. The legal process will continue, and along side that we will be restating our concerns to the police and other bodies about the behaviour of animal rights activists (who frequently masquerade as monitors) in relation to hunts.
There is one basic truth that still seems to escape anti-hunt groups: it is the role of the police, and no-one else, to uphold the law. Animal rights activists cannot appoint themselves to police hunting any more than any other activist can appoint themselves to police any other law. No-one could ever have predicted that the behaviour of the anti-hunting groups could have led to an incident as horrific as that on Monday, but it was always bound to cause conflict and concern, and raise tensions.
Ironically, yesterday we also received news that would have delighted Trevor Morse as much as it has everybody else in the countryside. In the wake of the recent High Court ruling on the Hunting Act, and the Director of Public Prosecution’s decision not to appeal, the Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all charges against Julian Barnfield, Huntsman of the Heythrop Hunt. His prosecution was the result of a concerted campaign waged by POWA, with help from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and its collapse reveals as a complete nonsense the anti-hunting response to the High Court judgment. The Hunting Act is a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation and it is now even less likely, although not impossible, that hunts will be prosecuted.
There are no reasonable arguments left for retaining the Hunting Act, so getting rid of it need not be complicated or time consuming. Bad laws should be repealed, and this is a very bad law. Legal progress is important but it is another reason for repeal, not a substitute for it. The Act has failed completely and for the sake of Trevor, and everyone else affected by a law which promotes so much conflict and confusion, it cannot be allowed to remain in force.
The collapse of the Hunting Act case against Ullswater huntsman John Harrison in Penrith Magistrates Court last week marks the end of any serious efforts by the anti-hunt movement to show that the Act works. It reinforces the need for repeal, a measure that we believe has important and positive consequences as a whole, as well as wider and significant libertarian benefits.
For the first time since Tony Wright of the Exmoor Foxhounds was summonsed to face a private prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) in November 2005 no huntsman, member of hunt staff, master or anyone else connected to a hunt is currently facing prosecution.
In the last four years nine different hunts have faced prosecution under the Act. Three resulted in convictions, three collapsed before they got to court and three resulted in all defendants being acquitted. There were no successful prosecutions of hunts in either the 2008/09 or 2009/10 hunting seasons.
A small band of professional animal rights activists have been employed by LACS and IFAW to collect evidence of illegal hunting since the Act came into force. They have spent thousands of hours filming dozens of hunts yet the end result is negligible. There have been over 40,000 days hunting since February 2005 and less than a handful of convictions. During that time however dozens of huntsman have had to answer pointless, vindictive allegations and thousands of hours of police time have been wasted. However, none of this is an excuse for complacency, or lack of a political resolution.
As I have said before the case for repeal is distinct from the case for hunting. There was never any justification for the ban, but the case for getting rid of the Hunting Act is stronger even than the argument for hunting. However uncomfortable anyone is with hunting itself, defending this law is now impossible, as can be seen from the growing number of anti-hunting activists and MPs who are conceding that the law does not work. It has failed at every level and as there can be no reason for allowing such a bad law to remain on the Statute Book. Repealing the Hunting Act would be a public service and one that the next Government must address as soon as it possibly can. Then the police can return to policing real crime and the courts can get back to trying real criminals.