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Judges dismiss high court hunting appeal

PRO-HUNTING CAMPAIGNERS have lost their second High Court challenge to the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales, although a further appeal has been lodged.

Last week, two senior judges ruled against them in a case that raised questions of human rights and European law.

Dismissing the challenge, Lord Justice May and Mr Justice Moses concluded that "it was within the rational, proportionate and democratic competence of Parliament to make [the Hunting Act 2004] and that the court should not intervene".

Giving evidence at an earlier hearing, the Countryside Alliance’s lawyer said that the legislation was "a sectarian measure" which also breached the European Convention on Human Rights.
Alliance lawyers argued that the ban was ruining the livelihoods of thousands who earned their living from hunting and infringed EU trading and employment laws.

But the judges concluded that "there was sufficient material available to the House of Commons for them to conclude that hunting with dogs is cruel" and that there was "a reasonable basis" for concluding that, "taken as a whole, hunting foxes with dogs causes more suffering than shooting them".

It was, argued the Judges, rational for Parliament to conclude that the balance between the "legitimate legislative aim and the interference with rights and freedoms which it would engender fell on the side of enacting the Hunting Act".

The Judges added that it was, therefore, "reasonably open to the majority of the democratically elected House of Commons to conclude that this measure was necessary in the democratic society which had elected them".

The Act was "proportionate" under European Community law for the same reasons as it was proportionate under the Human Rights Act, the judges added.

The League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the court’s ruling saying: "Fox hunting in Britain is now dead. It is time its supporters accepted that."

But John Jackson, chairman of the Countryside Alliance, vowed that the battle would continue. "The judges have accepted that there is interference with some of the claimants rights, and that the Hunting Act will have a substantial general adverse effect on the lives of many in the rural community," said Mr Jackson.

"However, the Court, ignoring events in the Commons and the Lords, appears to have proceeded on the assumption that Parliament had a legitimate aim and has itself then speculated on what that may have been. Whether the Court is right to have proceeded in this way is plainly a controversial question."

The Judges granted the Alliance permission to take this case to the Court of Appeal, so the challenge is far from finished.

A separate legal challenge against the Hunting Act on the basis that it was passed by use of the Parliament Act 1949, which the Alliance argues is illegal, will be determined in September.