Labour promises to toughen up law on illegal fox hunting
Blood sport fans who accidentally kill foxes while staging fake hunts could be thrown in jail under a Labour government, the party has announced.
Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman has laid out fresh proposals to crack down on illegal hunting as traditional Boxing Day hunts get under way.
Using dogs to kill animals like foxes, hares and deer for fun in the UK was banned in 2004 - but activities which mimic the act of hunting are still enjoyed by enthusiasts.
Sometimes trail hunts - where hounds follow an artificially-laid animal scent - end in animals getting accidentally killed. Campaigners argue trail hunts are sometimes used as a cover for real hunts.
The League Against Cruel Sports claims to have received more than 100 reports of hunters allegedly training dogs to hunt foxes since this summer.
Labour said it would add a ‘recklessness clause’ to the 2004 Hunting Act to force hunters to take more care and crackdown on illegitimate kills.
It said that over half of the people prosecuted for illegal hunting since the law came into force claimed to be trail hunting.
The party added that it would review sentencing and ensure custodial sentences are in line with other wildlife crimes, as well as boost the criteria for licences.
Ms Hayman said: “Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act was a key milestone in banning this cruel blood sport, but since then new practices have developed to exploit loopholes in the legislation.
“While Theresa May proposed scrapping the Hunting Act all together, Labour is today calling time on those who defy the law by announcing several measures that would clampdown on illegal hunting.
“Labour is the true party of animal welfare. These new proposals form part of the next chapter in striving to ensure our laws and regulations on animal welfare are up to date and fit for purpose.”
But the Countryside Alliance, which defends hunting, argued Labour under Jeremy Corbyn was struggling to connect with rural voters.
Chief executive Tim Bonner said: "Labour’s obsessive pursuit of hunting, and now shooting, looks increasingly bizarre to people in the countryside, as well as to those in towns and cities.
"Politicians who prioritise issues that do not matter to the vast majority of the electorate are very likely to be perceived as out of touch and ignorant of people’s real concerns."
The Government was forced to U-turn on a promise to give MPs a free vote on fox hunting after the issue became toxic at the 2017 snap general election.