Countryfile

countryfile

League Chairman John Cooper being interviewed by John Craven for BBC Countryfile

Tonight – 7pm on BBC1 – the BBC’s flagship rural affairs programme Countryfile turns its attention once again to hunting. This is timed to coincide with the start of the traditional fox hunting season.

The programme producers asked us for evidence of the Hunting Act being broken, as they wanted to examine the hunters’ claim that the law doesn’t work. We supplied two pieces of film: the first of the Quantock Staghounds taken in September, and the second of the Mid-Devon Foxhounds trying to unearth a fox earlier this year.

But the wider issue surrounds this notion that the Hunting Act doesn’t work, is unenforceable, and that the police either don’t want to enforce the law or won’t. All of this is nonsense.

No Act of Parliament will ever work if no-one enforces it. As our Chairman said in his interview for Countryfile, you can’t claim a spanner doesn’t work if you don’t pick it up and try it. It is the role of our Hunt Observers, freelance monitors, and members of the public to report illegal hunting to the police. It is the job of the police to investigate and pass files to the Crown Prosecution Service, and the job of that Service to bring offenders to justice.

Our Hunt Observers have had even more training this year to ready them for the new season, and they’re kitted out with new equipment. Our Police Liaison Officer – himself a retired police officer – has delivered lots of training to police forces up and down the country and, crucially, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is about to publish a policing manual on dealing with hunting offences.

So it’s clear that we’re prepared, and the police are prepared. As we start this new season, it’s essential that the CPS gets up to speed and starts taking hunting prosecutions seriously. The Hunting Act is passed by a democratically elected House of Commons and it is the law of the land. Every arm of the criminal justice system must be geared to enforcing and upholding that law.

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