I believe this cruel blood sport has no place in our country and should be consigned to the history books. I am committed to enhancing and strengthening the Hunting Act, including closing loopholes that allow for the illegal hunting of foxes, deer and hares.
I want to see tough action taken against those who continue to conduct illegal fox hunts. I also support the introduction of a new ‘recklessness’ clause to prevent trail hunts being used as cover for the illegal hunting of wild mammals.
I support a review of penalties under the Hunting Act 2004 to ensure it is an effective deterrent, including a consultation on the introduction of custodial sentences, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.
I am aware of news reports stating that webinars hosted by The Hunting Office are being examined by police officers in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to see if any criminal offences have taken place. Whilst it would not be appropriate for me to comment on a specific ongoing legal matter, I can assure you that I will be monitoring developments closely.
The UK Government believes that the Hunting Act is sufficient and that it is for individual landowners to choose whether they would like hunts to take place on their land. There are a number of prominent landowners that have suspended trail hunting on their land, including the National Trust, Forestry England and Natural Resources Wales.
I encourage other landowners to ban hunts on their land too, however, I do not believe that this issue should be left to the discretion of landowners. Therefore, I can assure you that in addition to fully supporting the current bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing, I will continue to press at every possible opportunity for the existing legislation to be strengthened.