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Hunt Bill tests ‘could be extended’ - Fishing and
farming would fail ‘utility’ test claims leading vet


FISHING AND shooting, as well as commercial farming to produce meat, poultry, fish or eggs would have to be banned if the tests enshrined in the Government's Hunting With Dogs Bill were applied to other activities, a leading vet has told MPs.

In a paper sent to MPs and peers for the second day of the Hunting Bill's committee stage last week, Dr Douglas Wise, a lecturer from Cambridge University, criticised the Bill's tests of "utility" and "least suffering" as likely to create legal precedents for other activities.

Dr Wise gave evidence to the Burns inquiry into hunting and as well as to the televised hearings chaired by Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, in September.

He said that the Bill's test of "utility" - whether hunting served a useful purpose - excluded economic, environmental, social or cultural reasons why hunting might usefully be conducted.

"Were the new definition to be applied generally, farming to produce meat, poultry, fish or eggs, not to mention fishing or shooting, would have insufficient utilitarian value to be justified," he said.

Dr Wise criticised those drafting the Bill for the "misconception" that hunting could never be justified as a recreational activity and should only be conducted for purposes of pest control rather than population management. Dr Wise said: "This approach is only appropriate if one starts with the presumption that hunting unquestionably causes more animal suffering than other activities or, alternatively, is more morally corrupting.

Inconsistent

"The Government's presumption that it is wrong to take the lives of wild animals for recreation or entertainment is inconsistent with its declared commitment not to interfere with other field sports. It is impossible to legislate where recreation begins and ends".

An example was used where, it was argued, a gamekeeper controlling foxes with a terrier would, reasonably, experience pleasure for a job well done. The ratio of "sport" to "work" would vary with the seasons.

The Bill as it stands says that hunting should only be allowed where killing foxes is necessary and hunting is the least cruel way of achieving this.

Peter Luff, the Tory MP for Mid Worcestershire, said the tests should operate in a different way, and that hunting should be allowed if the utility arguments outweighed the cruelty ones.

"Unless we get these tests right, there will be those who will take the tests and seek to apply them to other types of animal and other types of activity," he said.

He said that, as they stood, the tests could be used to ban angling and racing events such as the Grand National.