THE GOVERNMENT ban on hunting with hounds has increased the suffering of foxes, according to research published this month.
The study, which appears in the May issue of Animal Welfare, the journal of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), undermines claims by the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports that hunting, until it was banned, caused more suffering than shooting.
The study showed that up to 50 per cent of foxes shot with shotguns were wounded, not killed. It also looked at wounding rates under other conditions, using different weapons, ammunition and at different distances and skill levels.
The study was commissioned by the Middle Way Group of MPs - who favour allowing hunting to continue under licence - in 2002 after shooting was mooted by pro-ban organisations as the ‘humane’ alternative to hunting with dogs. The study has only just been peer reviewed and accepted as valid scientific research – but comes six months after Parliament voted the Hunting Act onto the statute books.
Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP and co-founder of the group, said: “The research proves conclusively that the pro-ban groups were plain wrong. In many cases guns don't kill the fox outright, leading to large numbers of wounded animals. Many end up dying over hours, days or even weeks. We've long suspected that shooting does not reduce suffering. After all, with dogs it's all or nothing.
“The ban has guaranteed that the time and money invested by the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA has increased animal suffering. We told them this would happen. This is the cost of ignoring that warning.”
Peter Luff, a Conservative and fellow co-founder of the group, said: “Anti-hunting MPs were given this information before the Hunting Act came into force, yet they chose to ignore it.”
Lady Golding, the Labour peer who is co-chairman of the group, said: “The next Government must look again at the Hunting Act and replace it with genuine animal welfare measures.”