An incredible 18,424 people have responded to an open survey launched by the Alliance Party regarding a bill which would see all hunting with dogs banned in Northern Ireland. The survey showed that 78% of respondents were in favour of the proposed law seeking to protect wild mammals from hunts. While fox hunting is illegal in England, Wales and Scotland it is shockingly still legal in Northern Ireland. Anti-hunting campaigners have been pushing for Northern Ireland to outlaw fox hunting for several years and this recent public consultation demonstrates that the public are firmly on side.

 

The proposed Bill (Hunting Wild Mammals with Dogs Bill) at a glance:

55% of respondents also stated that they would back imprisonment as a punishment for persons found guilty of offences under the proposed bill

John Blair MLA told ITV News: “This is not an attack per se, on country sports. It's a deliberate attempt to stop the practice, which most people see as barbaric and totally socially unacceptable.

"What we want to do is put an end to that properly and finally.”

The ramifications of the bill and the future for hunting

The proposed bill looks to go further than the current legislation in place throughout the rest of the UK. While placing a blanket ban on all hunting with dogs, it may also lead to the banning of terrier work, making landowners liable for allowing access to hunts and prosecutions for those who let their dogs to be used. These measures would serve as a greater deterrent to hunts thinking about breaking the law and there is even potential for the legislation to be so tight that it prohibits“accidental kills”. Of course the issue with the existing ban on hunting in place in England and Wales is the fact that there are so many loopholes and exemptions which the hunts continually exploit.

The main defence being that of“trail hunting” and the issues of proving intent when it comes to the prosecution phase. It is hoped that these weaknesses will be eliminated from the new legislation set to be implemented in Northern Ireland and this could have huge ramifications for the future of hunting. Not only will the ban send out a clear message that the people of Northern Ireland wish to see hunting consigned to the dustbin of history, but it will pressure decision makers across the whole of the UK to rethink the current legislation in place.

An appetite for change – time is up for the hunts

Time is well and truly running out for the hunts. For too long they have continued to use the lie that is “trail hunting” to chase and kill wildlife in the thousands but the net is beginning to close in. The public are tired of seeing the cruel persecution of animals take place week in week out. Something needs to change and this bill could prove to be yet another nail in the hunting coffin. It will make it much more difficult for those intent on fulfilling their bloodlust and will be yet another small step towards securing a cruelty free countryside. Only a few weeks ago Keep The Ban released the outcome of an independent survey that showed only 18% of respondents thought “trail hunting” should not be permanently suspended by landowners.

2021 Survation Poll regarding whether landowners should permanently ban trail hunting from their land

We must continue to put pressure on not only decision makers and MPs but on landowners who continue to hide behind the “trail hunt lies. You can find out more about our campaign to strengthen the Hunting Act here where you can send off our pre-written email template to your local MP in a matter of seconds. You can also read more about the lie that is “trail hunting” here and utilise our email template function to ask major landowners to permanently ban hunting on their land.

We thank the Alliance Party and John Blair MLA for proposing the Bill and for putting in the groundwork to make the banning of hunting in Northern Ireland a possible reality.

We look forward to seeing the bill progress and for this cruel and outdated pastime to be consigned to the history books where it belongs.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban