What is the law in the UK in relation to fox hunting?

What is meant by fox hunting?

Fox hunting in the UK dates as far back as the 15th century and involves the chasing and killing of a fox by horseman with a pack of hounds.

Is fox hunting illegal?

In 2005, following pressure from animal rights campaigners, fox hunting was made illegal in England and Wales by the creation of the Hunting Act 2004 (HA 2004). A ban on hunting in Scotland was passed in 2002 by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002; hunting in Northern Ireland, however, still remains legal.

The Hunting Act 2004

What does the law say?

Under HA 2004, a person will commit an offence if s/he hunts a wild mammal. Rats and rabbits are excluded from the remit of the legislation, and a hare may be hunted by any number of dogs if it has been shot.

What is meant by hunting?

A person will be deemed to be hunting if s/he engages or participates in the pursuit of a wild mammal and one or more dogs are employed in that pursuit – whether the dogs are employed by him/her or whether or not they are under his/her control is an issue which needs to be examined.

What is meant by mammal?

Under HA 2004, a wild mammal is defined as any mammal living in the wild and any wild mammal bred or kept in captivity and then released.

Exceptions under HA 2004

What are the possible exceptions for hunting under HA 2004?

Exemptions include:

  • Up to two dogs may be used to stalk or flush a wild mammal from cover for defined purposes.
  • One dog at a time only, may be used below ground to stalk or flush a wild mammal for the sole purpose of preventing or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds being kept or preserved for shooting.

Defined Purposes

What is meant by defined purposes?

Defined purposes include:

  • The protection of game birds, wild birds, fisheries, crops and livestock.
  • Obtaining meat.
  • Field trials.

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For more information on:

  • Will I be liable to prosecution if caught fox hunting?
  • Will I be liable under HA 2004 if I allow fox hunting to happen on my land?
  • Have there been any challenges against the legality of the hunting act?
  • Has HA 2004 been a success in preventing fox hunting in the UK?