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A fox caught in a snare set on a fence. The overwhelming majority of snares are used, not to protect farm animals or catch rabbits for the pot, but to kill predators around 'game' birds like pheasants and grouse. Photo: Leage Against Cruel Sports.
A fox caught in a snare set on a fence. The overwhelming majority of snares are used, not to protect farm animals or catch rabbits for the pot, but to kill predators around 'game' birds like pheasants and grouse. Photo: Leage Against Cruel Sports.
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Making our votes count for wildlife and animals!

Joe Duckworth

21st April 2015

If you care about the wildlife in our countryside and the welfare of animals, then make your vote count in the general election, writes Joe Duckworth. Backed by Cameron himself, 'country sports' enthusiasts are getting organised to support pro-killing candidates. We must be even more effective in opposing them.

77% of the public think snares should be banned, 68% of MPs think they should be banned; all but five countries in the EU have already made their use illegal ... yet we haven't banned them. Why not? In a word: 'politics'.

If foxes were actually 'cunning', as they are often portrayed in popular culture, then you'd think perhaps they'd actually planned this. But they're not cunning, they are just wild animals, going about their daily business of survival.

But somehow, foxes and some of their furry friends might just be playing a crucial role in the upcoming election. No, they will not have the same influence as the NHS, the economy or education, and rightfully so.

But as the focus of the election has moved from 'majority' to 'coalition', then so the focus moves away from the bigger issues to other areas but where passions are equally high - areas which could come into play as small margins will make all the difference.

Foxes, badgers and grouse, oh my...

Most people probably assumed that hunting foxes with hounds in the UK stopped ten years or so ago, when the Hunting Act (and similar Scottish legislation) was brought in.

It's probably been a shock therefore to be reading that David Cameron is pledging to hold a free vote in Parliament on repealing the Act if the Conservatives have a majority.

That fact hides a decade of unrest among hunters, many of whom have long believed that the Hunting Act is only temporary and that normal service will be resumed soon enough. Some have been hunting illegally, and there have been many prosecutions under the Act. This also explains why myself and my colleagues have been continually busy in that period!

The point of this is that hunting is not dead yet, so those opposed to it better start paying attention. In the last few days and weeks, we've heard about Vote OK, the campaign group which is offering support to Conservative candidates, if they will vote against the Hunting Act given the chance.

David Cameron's personal support for hunting and other blood sports was revealed in a Countryside Alliance article in which he wrote: "I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government "

And this weekend the Daily Mirror revealed how the PM (allegedly) took part in a game shoot by 'beating' - causing the birds to fly up into the sight of the guns, describing the episode as a "bloody escapade". Any thoughts that the love, or persecution of, wildlife is not a political issue should be dispelled right there.

It's not just foxes. The badger cull that has been taking place in Somerset and Gloucestershire over the last couple of years prompted over 25 local protests, and became the fifth most commonly raised issue with MPs.

Another issue that has been stirring emotions, rightfully so, is the 'persecution of raptors' - basically meaning birds of prey which are being killed so that they don't kill the game birds (before the shooters get the chance). These organised shoots, therefore, must take centre stage.

Shot in the dark

The full story of these organised shoots is too long to go into here, but let's be clear, around 50 million game birds are bred to be shot each year, and most aren't for 'the pot' - it's just for 'fun'. It's not much of a leap to understand how much money is involved in these kinds of events, and as soon as money comes into the equation, it becomes political.

The impact on birds of prey is just one example, but another is snares. Wire snares have been used for centuries, and certainly at one time would have been the best and only way for some people to catch their food.

Time has moved on, and snares are still being used - enough to catch 1.7 million animals every year. But here's the difference - snares are only used on around 5% of land in this country, with most of that land being used for game shoots. The snares are set to kill foxes so they don't kill the game birds (before the shooters ... you get the idea.)

An unpleasant side-effect, other than the slow, painful death that many of the victims will suffer, is that only a third or so of the victims are actually foxes and rabbits - badgers, hares, cats and dogs are also snared.

77% of the public think snares should be banned, 68% of MPs think they should be banned; all but five countries in the EU have already made their use illegal ... yet we haven't banned them. Why not? In a word: 'politics'.

League Against Cruel Sports Election Manifesto

You might not agree with everything the League Against Cruel Sports campaigns on, but everything we campaign on is being done for a reason. We set our own Election Manifesto recently, and are surveying parties and candidates to see where they agree with us (or not). In brief, here are five issues we are currently focussing on:

1. Hunting. The Hunting Act is working well, and repealing it would be a backward step and a disaster for a caring nation. We believe it can become more effective with some small improvements, including prohibiting the use of dogs below ground; inserting a 'recklessness' provision to ensure the killing of wild mammals during a 'trail' hunt cannot be passed off as an accident; and increasing the punishments available to the courts for those breaking the law.

2. Snares. As above, around 1.7m animals are caught by snares each year. We believe snares are unnecessary, indiscriminate and inhumane and should be banned.

3. Shooting. Shooting for sport is on the rise. We are calling for an inquiry into these commercial shoots, focussing on the animal welfare, economic and ecological impacts surrounding them.

4. Dog Fighting. Despite being illegal, dog fighting is on the increase. This includes a range of 'fights' from organised, big-money bouts through to dog-owners meeting in the park for a 'rumble'. What they have in common is the cruelty inflicted on the dogs throughout their lives. The League is calling for action from the next Government to toughen the penalties for dog fighting and to give more support to police forces, local authorities and schools to help tackle this growing problem.

5. Greyhound Racing. We're a nation of dog lovers but we are allowing an industry to control the fate of thousands of dogs without proper regulation or monitoring. We want a series of measures brought in to remedy the many serious issues.

'Votes for Animals'

Over the next two weeks, we are teaming up with the retailer Lush on a campaign called Votes for Animals. The campaign recalls the Suffragette Votes for Women campaign of the early 20th century, but this time calling for the rights of animals to be respected.

No, we're not asking for foxes to get the vote. But we, plus our campaign partners Common Decency (created by Brian May), Animal Aid and Lush, believe that enough people in this country care about animals for them to be playing a significant part in the election.



Action: On Thursday 23rd April, there will be a march on Parliament from the flagship new Lush store on Oxford Street featuring 'animals' dressed in Edwardian costume. Then in the afternoon we are hosting a political 'hustings' event at the Lush store, featuring top animal welfare spokespeople from each party.

Find out what your election candidates think about the key animal welfare issues, by going to the League Against Cruel Sports General Election Survey.

Watch 'Death Pit in the Countryside': The League's new video exposing the cruelty of snaring. Be warned, graphic images.

Joe Duckworth is Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports.


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