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It’s time for change

Andy Knott MBE, Chief Executive

Andy Knott MBE, Chief Executive | League Against Cruel Sports

3 min read Partner content

The countryside is at risk of being used as a pawn in the next general election, by those intent on living in the past

Promoting animal welfare is an “attack” on the countryside.

This is the proposition touted by those intent on sowing the cultural division that will help them see the UK become an anachronism; a warped caricature of a rose-tinted past. It’s the language being used to further polarise an already fractured electorate, to fan the flames of a fiercely contested general election.

It needn’t be that way. Those who speak of a battle for the countryside ignore the truth. We are a nation of animal lovers; one of the ever-diminishing characteristics that still unite us as a nation. Another is fair play, embodied in our collective belief that the law must bring justice.

Take polling conducted in 2022 by FindOutNow with further analysis by ElectoralCalculus. It found that 76 percent of voters living in rural areas support strengthening hunting laws so they can be properly enforced by rural crime officers and the Crown Prosecution Service. A similar 78 percent of those that live in urban areas think the same thing. There’s no divide.

Take too the countryside charity CPRE, which describes the issues facing rural communities as housing, climate change, access to transport, litter and “farming that puts back habitats for wildlife, provides fresh air and clean water, stores carbon and looks after the landscapes that make our countryside so special”1.  

None of these issues include defending behaviours that see wildlife habitats destroyed and landscapes polluted by those who insist on hunting animals with hounds for kicks. Indeed, the dwindling numbers of those involved in hunting – 13 fox hunts have closed, amalgamated, or moved away from so-called ‘trail’ hunting in England and Wales since 2022 – show the true direction of travel is towards a kinder future. The few still clinging on to the past are out of arguments. Tall tales are all that remain as they screech in desperation at their ‘cultural’ victimhood.

One of their favourite tales is to claim accident or exemption to avoid being prosecuted, as yet another wild mammal slips through the intentionally leaky sieve that is the Hunting Act 2004; usually to meet its grisly end.

Sadly, these narratives work. As Chief Super Intendent Matt Longman, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on foxhunting crime, stated at a gathering of leading wildlife and environmental NGOs last year: “The simplest reason for the lack of prosecution is that the law needs revisiting. Hunts are frequently found in natural fox habitats, with hounds trained to locate and kill foxes2.”

That gathering was the launch of our Time for Change Coalition Against Hunting. Led by the League it is perhaps the largest ever brought in the UK to campaign on any issue, counting many millions of voters in our joint supporter base.

Our objective? To ensure that this unrepresentative excuse for a hobby is finally consigned to the dustbin of history, and with it the needless imagined cultural divisions that those who want to keep it are so keen to stoke. It’s time for change.



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