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Hunt ban threat to 20,000 dogs


MORE THAN 20,000 hunting dogs and 15,000 horses would be destroyed if a ban on hunting in England and Wales was imposed, according to a far-reaching study. Miles Cooper, a former researcher and undercover operative for the League Against Cruel Sports, said that ‘the prospects for hunting dogs following a ban looks bleak to say the least’.

Mr Cooper is one of at least six former senior League Against Cruel Sports members, including two former chief executives, a director and a treasurer, who have left the League because they now believe a hunting ban would inflict cruelty on a greater number of animals than a continuation of hunting. He said: ‘It can be safely assumed that upwards of 20,000 hunting dogs would be destroyed, with that figure most likely rising by many thousands more.

‘The RSPCA says that hounds need not be destroyed and that they could be retrained or rehabilitated before being placed in domestic environments. It is difficult to take such claims seriously.

‘Rescue and rehoming centres already run at capacity with many organisations operating a waiting list system and some operating a seven-day euthanasia policy for problem dogs.

‘Given that hunting hounds represent a far stiffer challenge than domestic dogs, it is reasonable to assume that a rehoming system already under considerable pressure would be unable to cope with the numbers and demanding nature of thousands of new arrivals.’

In a study that has been sent to every MP and submitted to the Government’s consultation on hunting, Mr Cooper found that as well as 20,000 hunt hounds, the future of 70,000 Lurchers and long dogs, and 100,000 terriers could be at stake.

Several canine charities are understood to be extremely concerned about the effect a hunt ban would have on the numbers of dogs needing rehoming, but they are unable to voice their concerns publicly because most of their donations come from animal welfare activists who oppose hunting.

Peter Luff, Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire, said: ‘You only have to do the arithmetic to see that the RSPCA’s numbers do not add up. The RSPCA have told the British people that 200,000 dogs could be rehoused. It’s clear that they simply cannot be.’

A ban would also ‘result in a glut of unwanted, low-value horses that are likely to become welfare cases’, James Cretney, chairman of the National Equine Welfare Council (NEWC), told the Middle Way Group, which describes itself as anti-ban but not pro-hunting, yesterday.

Horse welfare charities had little spare capacity to take in unwanted animals and up to 15,000 horses would need to be put down within a year of a ban becoming effective, he said.

‘A sudden increase in the number of horses requiring euthanasia would overwhelm the current incineration capacity,’ he added. ‘A large number of horses being openly slaughtered so soon after foot and mouth could be unacceptable to the public.’

The NEWC study estimated that a hunting ban would result in 19,000 quality horses being released immediately on to the market, which in turn would create a glut of 15,000 unwanted lower value animals needing disposal.

‘The NEWC feels strongly that, should hunting be banned, there will be major implications for horse welfare,’ Mr Cretney said.

In a separate presentation, Mr Cooper said that “hunting would seem to be more consistently humane than any of the other methods currently available” for controlling fox, hare and deer numbers.

‘Hunting creates no wounded survivors and allows the quarry species respite during the breeding season,’ he said.