Legislation Note: The Hunting Act 2004- Cruelty, Countryside, Conservation, Culture or a Class Act?

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THE BACKGROUND

Variants of the practice of hunting with hounds can be discovered interlaced within history, mythology and literature in this world and in others. Hunting is carried out in many countries notably in France where the diversity of forms of hunting and linked traditions eclipses and outshines the efforts of all other countries put together. Undoubtedly it will take a great deal more than a mere rumour of a Hunting Act in the United Kingdom to shake the foundations of French practices which stand alone in the French enclave. Many, but not all, countries that carry out hunting do so, however, as a feature of the spread of tradition through the British influence (whether past or present). Thus countries within the British Commonwealth may carry out the sport to a degree and in parts of the United States that had a greater historical link with the British than other nations there is still a manifestation of a British form of hunting with hounds. Indeed hunting with hounds in the New World has out-lived the old world form.

For the last hundred years or so the legislative history of animal welfare has demonstrated a reluctance to protect wild animals from cruelty. This reluctance derives from a trench war between the anti-hunting and the pro-hunting lobbies. The Protection of Animals Act 1911 (1912 in Scotland) advanced a sophisticated system of animal welfare protection restricted to domestic and captive animals. Wild animals were surgically removed from the text unless they were captive and, the hunting lobby, just to make absolutely sure of the position, ensured that the Act also contained a possibly superfluous exemption to exclude hunting with hounds from the threat of a cruelty prosecution. For some time thereafter, the potential inroads into regulating hunting were explored often by private prosecutions. Thus, within the limited scope permitted by the 1911 Act, efforts were made to expand the meaning of captive to include animals involved in the hunting process

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