Hunting is ‘huge’

FEARS that a ban on hunting would lead to job losses and hounds being slaughtered have proved groundless, according to new findings.

The Countryside Alliance surveyed UK hunts and found nearly a third have more followers now.

Buccleuch Hunt chairman Allan Murray said support locally for hunting remained strong since the ban 10 years ago, and that generally there had been a “huge upturn” in interest.

He said: “I think the community here welcomes the hunt for a variety of reasons – community spirit, the social gathering, as well as what it brings to the local economy.”

The local hunt goes out three times a week during the winter and offers a fox control service to farmers.

Of the 320 UK hunts, 123 responded to the Countryside Alliance questionnaire – four from Scotland, including the Border and Jed Forest hunts. Nearly 60 per cent of hunts thought they had the same supporters on horseback and on foot, while 30 per cent said they had more. Over 80 per cent did the same amount of hunting and 10 per cent, more. Over 60 per cent of hunts felt better supported by their local communities, while a third said support had remained the same.

Most hunts (over 85 per cent) still assist land owners and farmers culling foxes. Just two of the hunts which replied are always followed by animal rights activists, while more than a quarter were never targeted.

Over 80 per cent of hunts keep the same number of hounds since the ban, with five per cent keeping more and over 14 per cent, less.

Onekind’s (formerly Advocates for Animals) Libby Anderson said: “When the Scottish Act came into law 10 years ago, the hunting lobby made dire predictions of job losses and the wholesale destruction of horses and hounds, but in fact hunts are still active north of the border.

“It is still possible to hunt, if people want to, without subjecting a sentient mammal to a prolonged chase and a cruel death in the jaws of the hounds. That is a wildlife crime, and rightly so. However, foxes can be flushed and shot, although we do have concerns that this is not always done as quickly as possible.

“From our perspective, the Scottish debate was only ever about animal welfare.”