Sunday, 12 July 2015

No More Hunting with Dogs - Letter to my MP

Dear Mr Rees-Mogg

Thank you for meeting with me on 3 July 2015, to give your views on hunting with dogs and your letter dated 8 July 2015.

I appreciate your time and effort to explain your views so carefully.

From our meeting, I understand that you will be voting for a repeal of the Hunting with Dogs Act.  As you will be aware, there is a vote next Wednesday for an amendment to the Act which in effect brings back hunting with dogs through the back door.

I understand that the amendment has been tabled as a ‘Henry VIII Power’ and only needs a short process to be passed.  The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, expressed concerns relating to ‘Henry VIII powers’, cautioning that by “allowing [Henry VIII Clauses] to become a habit, was to risk the inevitable consequences of yet further damaging the sovereignty of Parliament and increasing yet further the authority of the executive over the legislature.” I consider this kind of amendment, even though technically legal, to be undemocratic and damaging to the rule of law.  If you and your colleagues want to bring back hunting with dogs, then I believe it should be debated fully in an open manner, based on proper research, with a full review of the facts and evidence?  I would therefore ask you to vote against this amendment and ask for a proper Act of Parliament to be proposed, discussed in a democratic manner before being voted on.

In relation to our meeting, you told me that you supported foxes being killed by hunting with dogs for the following reasons:

That the Burns Report into hunting with dogs, which came out before the Hunting with Dogs Act was brought  in, was inconclusive on the issue of whether when a fox is being chased by dogs it understands fear above a flight or fight instinct.  That based on this report, you could not say that chasing a fox with dogs was cruel. I have looked at the report.  It found that “death was not always affected by a single bite to the neck or shoulders by the leading hound”, which was not what you thought.  It also said that it was satisfied that “this experience seriously compromises the welfare of the fox”.  The report also stated that lamping, the use of torches and rifles at night “had the fewer adverse welfare implications”.

You stated that fox numbers had to be kept under control as they killed farmers’ chickens and lambs, saying that there were four methods for killing foxes:

  • Poison – this was a risky method as other animals might eat the poison and the fox would die slowly in its den.
  • Trapping – this was a cruel way of killing.  I completely agree with you here but why is using traps still legal?
  • Shooting – that the marksman had to be extremely good to be able to shoot a fast running fox and hit it on target, killing it in one shot.  That you needed to be an accurate shot otherwise the fox would die a slow death.  However, farmers are able to employ excellent marksmen to kill foxed for them.  I think that people should need licences to shoot animals based on shooting ability.  Shooting happens at night when foxes are active.  Lamping, with the use of a spotlight can be used on a fox, freezing them, so that they can be shot easily.  This was demonstrated on a recent BBC programme on foxes.  The Burns report said that this was the quickest and most humane method of killing wild animals.
  • Hunting with dogs – you said that if you disregard the chase, the fox was killed very quickly by the dogs  with a bite to the neck and were only ripped apart after they were already dead.  You said that this method was quick and always certain.  However, prior to the hunting with Dogs Act being passed, scientific research was carried out on dead foxes by vets doing autopsies.  This is set out in the following article with the conclusion being that trauma was found in the animals before death and that the death was not quick. Post-mortems showed no evidence that foxes are killed by a 'quick nip to the back of the neck' and found that in many cases foxes are disemboweled first. 

I then asked you if there was a fox in the area of a farm did you think the farmer was entitled to kill the fox straight away or should the farmer wait and see if anything was killed by the fox?

You said that we were talking about a wild animal with wild instincts.  If a fox with lambs then it would try to kill the animal as it is wild, it needed food for its cubs and so if a farmer saw a fox in his field, he would have to kill it. You also said that with the rise of free range chickens, these were at higher risk to being killed by foxes.  However, the statistics show that only 1% of lambs that died were killed by foxes.  Foxes are scavengers and so they are far more likely to take a dead lamb then kill one.  Based on the statistics, the risk to lambs from foxes is tiny. In relation to chickens, there is quite a lot that can be done to protect them like high electricity fences buried underground.  At most times of year foxes kill at night and so chickens should be locked securely away even if free ranging.

At our meeting, I talked to you about a recent case where 16 fox cubs were being reared by a hunt.   I made the point that case proved that rather than having high numbers and needing to be controlled, that there were actually low fox numbers and too few even to be hunted.  You said that you would absolutely condemn any hunt rearing cubs for hunting.  This is good to know, as it something that seems to have been uncovered quite a few times before. The same article reported that The International Fund for Animal Welfare had discovered that the Royal Beaufort Hunt - used by Prince Charles, his sons and Princess Anne – had been filmed rearing fox cubs for hunting.   There have been many cases of this over the years since.

When we discussed whether it was democratic for you to vote for repeal that 80% of your constituents oppose.   You said that when he stood for election, you set out a number of policies that you stood for and that people voted for that package and so you had the mandate to vote for the issues that you had told voters about.  However, I think that most people who voted for you voted for Conservative Party economic policies, especially on the economy/NHS/Schools etc.  I think you would agree (based on what you said at our meeting) that almost no one would have voted for you because of your policy on Hunting with Dogs.  As our MP, you represent the all people living in your constituency.  80% of them oppose hunting with dogs and therefore I think that it would be wrong for you to vote for something that 80% of your constituents oppose. 

I hope you will reconsider your view based on the scientific evidence and the fact that the most humane way to kill a problematic fox is to shoot it at night using a spotlight.

Yours sincerely

Mya-Rose Craig

David Cameron MP with a hunt

About the writer

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig on Scilly
Photograph taken by and copyright Chris Craig 

Mya-Rose Craig is a 13 year old young birder, conservationist, writer and speaker.    She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world.  She is looking forward to Mountain Gorilla trekking this summer and watching penguins in Antarctica at Christmas, which will be her 7th continent.  She has been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people.  Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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