Posts Tagged ‘Burns Report’

Everyone is no doubt fully aware of the political turmoil currently taking place in the UK. With the Brexit vote and the subsequent resignation of David Cameron we are left with the back biting and scheming which usually follows in the wake of the various leadership challenges. Personally I feel this is a massive missed opportunity by the opposition party to really put some serious pressure on the Government but it would seem they are too wrapped up in their own arguments and leadership squabbles to mount anything of substance.

So who are the current options for PM and their stance on wildlife?

The two main protagonists in the tory leadership contest are Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom. It would seem that the main Tory media has come out strongly in favour of May and Leadsom’s recent gaff regarding motherhood making her a better option for Prime Minister has put a serious dent in her leadership campaign and she is no doubt feeling the pressure if her recent outbursts in her defence are any guide. So realistically speaking it would appear that May is pretty much going to be our next PM.

Initially this would appear to be a good thing, Leadsom is a supporter of the Grafton Hunt, a notoriously violent and racist bunch who like to attack monitors and describes foxes as “vermin that need to be controlled”. She also tries to justify her stance by misquoting the Burns Report or just singularly failing to understand the basics of ecology and the scientific facts contained therein. For some inexplicable reason she seems to think that fox hunting is good for animal welfare. I’m fairly sure being savagely ripped apart by a group of hounds couldn’t be classed as a welfare improvement but then again I’m not mentally deranged. Even if we ignore her militant Christian views on gay marriage, her hatred towards single parent & unmarried families and her proposed reduction in workers rights we are still left with a right wing, wildlife hating nut job who could pass for Nigel Farage in a dress.


So it would seem Theresa May is better of the two options, it certainly couldn’t get any worse. Or could it?

The thing with self serving politicians is that they’re always keen to give a sound bite or quote, they can pander to their lobby group chums in high places in return for promises of votes. It came as no surprise then that my friends over at Stop the Cull produced this little snippet.


So once again we can see that May is openly in favour of a return to the cruelty which hunting with hounds, without question, commits. Like Leadsom she also seems ignorant of the facts and I wonder, given the recent expose of hunts rearing foxes and throwing cubs to the hounds, would she like to reconsider her statement?

I have no doubt both contenders would support the further expansion of the pointless and cruel badger cull as they want to court the NFU vote, an unelected corporate identity so deeply entrenched within Defra they virtually dictate Government environmental policy and have strong ties with the Countryside Alliance, another insidious organisation with too much power and influence for the benefit of a small minority.

And herein lies the problem with these people and politics in general. In a democratic society we vote for the person we believe will represent our best interests. The Prime Minister has not only his or her constituents to consider but also that of the whole nation. Personal opinion shouldn’t come into it, they should listen to the people and do what they want. We’ve been forced by referendum to leave the EU. Whatever your views on the subject you have to respect that the decision was democratic (even if a large percentage of the electorate didn’t seem to know that they were voting for) and we have to accept that.

Perhaps we should have a referendum on hunting, I’d bet my mortgage that the result in favour of a complete ban would be more than 52/48.

UPDATE: It would seem that Leadsom is now no longer going to challenge for the Tory leadership so we can safely assume May will be the next PM and fast tracked into number 10.


Not in a literal sense of course (although home security is an important issue) but in regards to the law and the legislation in place that took decades of hard work from animal welfare groups like the League Against Cruel Sports to make a reality. I’m of course referring the Hunting with Dogs Act 2004. I’ll readily admit it’s not the best piece of legislation ever written and it’s certainly open to interpretation and somewhat difficult (it would seem) to prosecute under largely due, I’d suggest, to the disinterest or just downright incompetence of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service. However it is in place, it works and with prosecutions running at roughly 1 a week under its provisions with a 66% success rate it’s clearly a necessity in the fight against cruelty to animals. As I write this I note that two Joint Masters of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds have been charged following an alleged incident at a hunt meet at Warren’s Farm, Simonsbath, on September 14 2013 . (More on that here).

The Tories have always traditionally been on the side of hunting and made noises prior to the last election about repealing the Hunting Act should they come into power. Of course this was largely to gain the votes from those who like to indulge is this cruel and criminal behaviour, most notably the Countryside Alliance and some elements of the farming community, however with such a huge percentage of the population (80%) against such a repeal they knew these were empty promises and something they would never get through a house of commons vote regardless of the pressure applied by the lobby groups. We should expect that to be the end of the story but it seems now a group called the Federation of Welsh Farmers are calling for a modification of the act to allow more than 2 dogs to flush a fox to a gun claiming lamb losses to foxes since the hunting ban have become excessive and more dogs are needed to be successful in flushing a fox.

Let’s take a look at what that would mean.

Firstly, the limitation in the number of dogs allowed to be used to flush a fox is the most important aspect of the act. By removing this limitation it would enable hunts to hunt foxes unmolested in the traditional (and disgusting) manner provided they had someone in the vicinity with a gun. Of course they’re currently doing that right now however the law is not on their side. By having someone with a firearms license and a suitable gun for purpose attached to the hunt they can claim to be abiding by the law. There is currently a similar loop hole and that involves flushing to a large bird of prey, usually an Eagle or Eagle Owl however it’s largely an unrealistic option as I’d imagine many falconers who care for the welfare of their birds wouldn’t want to associate themselves with fox hunting or indeed have ownership of a capable enough species of raptor.

Demonized and persecuted for no reason.

Demonized and persecuted for no reason.

So who are the Federation of Welsh Farmers?

A little digging will show their true colours. They have their own pack of hounds and are clearly another organisation with deep rooted links to the Countryside Alliance. They clearly have a vested interest so any data they claim to have for their justification has to be taken with a pinch of salt. They go to great lengths to produce a report with lots of lovely tables and graphs which are largely meaningless without any independent peer review process. Any old fool with a computer and Microsoft Office can bung a report together and make it look vaguely professional but labelling it as “The Facts” is clearly to be viewed with deep suspicion.

The claim: “The Federation of Welsh Farmers Packs has undertaken research which justifies its original concerns that the Hunting Act currently makes it extremely difficult to effectively manage the fox population. In most practical circumstances and especially in the uplands due to terrain restrictions, dogs are heavily relied upon to manage the fox population rather than alternative methods such as snares, traps and rifles which are not as effective”.

Also from secretary David Thomas: ““Since the Hunting Act came in, we’ve had an ever-increasing number of lambs lost to fox predation. The whole object of our form of pest control/hunting was to have the least number of foxes in the countryside at lambing time.” 

Firstly why do you need to manage a fox population?

Defras own findings show that predation by foxes on lambs to be negligible at best. The most common form of lamb mortality is disease, malnutrition and exposure. Current data (The Burns Report) derived over a four year trial period for two hill farms in Scotland shows the average loss due to predation by foxes to be just 1.8% of the total of lambs lost to all causes. Hardly a massive impact and simple changes in animal husbandry could reduce that to practically zero. Also the gathering of data connected to fox predation is largely anecdotal. A large majority of the mortalities linked to foxes are quite likely to be scavenged carcases of lambs which succumbed to other causes. The general prejudice of livestock farmers makes it’s very easy for them to blame a fox in killing lambs when the actual causes are unclear. There is no evidence at all that reducing fox populations leads to reductions in lamb predation. Of course the upside of having foxes is the reduction in prey species such as rabbits. It is estimated that the reduction in arable crop losses and competition for grazing could amount to £100m. So we can clearly see the justifications so far are nothing more than totally spurious data and deep rooted prejudice against a single species.

Is hunting with hounds an effective form of population control?

Simple to answer this one – No. It never was, and never will be. Once again the Burns Report, after exhaustive study, found that foxhunting “Seriously compromises the welfare of the fox” and “Foxhunting with dogs had little impact on the fox population but for individual foxes caught up in the game caused immense suffering”. Indeed many hunts encouraged foxes by feeding them and building homes, (artificial earths), for foxes to breed in. This clearly undermines their vocal justification for pest control, even though we’ve already shown that controlling foxes is unnecessary.

So far from modifying the current law as it stands we need to strengthen it. Take out the loopholes and get it policed vigorously. Make prosecution easier and the police themselves truly impartial as they should be instead of the pro-hunt organisation they consistently display themselves as being. This back door approach by the hunting lobby is nothing more than an underhand and devious tactic to justify a return to bad old days when they could satisfy their gratuitous bloodlust without fear of incrimination.

Let make sure that doesn’t happen.