Wednesday, 8 July 2015

No more hunting with dogs – Meeting with my conservative MP

I recently contacted my conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg (JRM), asking for a meeting to discuss with him why he wanted to repeal the Hunting with Dogs Act. I said that I wanted to put the interview onto my blog.  I heard straight back from his constituency secretary who booked me into a slot within a few days.

I’ve decided it’s a lot harder to be rude about a person when you’ve actually met them!  So rather than be rude about him, I’ll disagree with him maturely.

PM with hunt

A meeting was arranged for Friday 3 July 2015 after school.  When we arrived, I had to fill in a form with my details and say what I wanted to discuss.  I wrote on my form that I wanted to discuss with JRM why he wanted to repeal the hunting with dogs act when 80% of the people in his constituency are against the repeal.

I asked him to explain why he backed the repeal of the Hunting with Dogs Act.

He spoke quietly, in a reasoned way and clearly knew the subject.  He said that prior to the Hunting with Dogs Act being made law (in about 2000) the Labour government commissioned the Burns Report.  He said that the report was inconclusive on the point of whether when a fox is being chased by dogs it understands fear above a flight or fight instinct.  JRM said that based on this report, you could not say that chasing a fox with dogs was cruel and this is still legal.  He said this then had to be set aside.

Dogs killing a fox

JRM then said that fox numbers had to be kept under control as they killed farmers’ chickens and lambs.  He said that there were four methods for killing foxes:

  • Poison – but this was a risky method as other animals might eat the poison and the fox would die slowly in its den.
  • Trapping – he said that this was a cruel way of killing.  He said that he had seen a fox that was so badly injured they had to get the RSPCA out to kill it humanely.  He said that foxes were known to try and gnaw their legs off to get away.
  • Shooting – he said that the marks person had to be extremely good to be able to shoot a fast running fox and hit it on target, killing it in one shot.  You needed to be an accurate shot otherwise the fox would die a slow death going back to it’s den if it could make it
  • Hunting with dogs – he said that if you disregard the chase, the fox was killed very quickly by the dogs and were only ripped apart after they were already dead.  He said that this method was quick and always certain.

I said going back to the need that his was talking about to kill foxes, I asked him if there was a fox in the area of a farm did he 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?

JRM said that we were talking about a wild animal with wild instincts.  He said that if a dog on a lead goes into a field with lambs, the factors that reduce the likelihood of killing are that the dog is on a lead, it is trained not to kill and is a pet in a house.  A fox however in the same circumstance would try to kill the animal as it is wild, it needed food for its cubs and so if a farmer saw in it his field, he would have to kill it. With free range chickens there is more risk for farmers.

I referred to the recent case where a hunt was looking after fox cubs, to rear them to be hunted.  I asked whether surely this showed that there are not enough foxes for hunting not too many.  JRM did not know about this case and said that he would condemn any hunt rearing cubs for hunting.

Mum then clarified my point for me; she explained that a hunt had been caught with 16 fox cubs taken from 4 vixen in a barn being fed by someone linked to the hunt.  She said the barn was 200 metres from kennels and the land owner had confirmed that both were leased to the hunt.  She said that the point I was make was that did this not prove that foxes no longer need to be hunted as there are too few and not too many.  She suggested that he looked up the case which is with the police.

JRM again said that he would absolutely condemn any hunt rearing cubs for hunting.

I then said that most of the people in his constituency opposed the repeal and should not there be a referendum on this issue in his constituency before he voted for a repeal?  I asked how it could be democratic for him to vote for a repeal when so many people opposed it.

JRM said that when he stood for election, he set out a number of things that he stood for.  People voted for that package and so he had the mandate to vote for the issues that he had told voters about.  He said actually most people didn’t care much with a very small number on each side feeling passionately about it.


He then asked me what I thought and I said that I did not agree with hunting with dogs being brought back as I thought it was cruel.  I said that I would come back to him if I had more questions or points once I had considered what he had said.

JRM said that I should get involved in politics through hustings and had seen my Column in the Chew Valley Gazette.

My thoughts following the meeting

Obviously, I don’t agree that there is any sensible reason for bringing back hunting with dogs, except the enjoyment of the hunt.  However, I want to try and break down JRM’s arguments in the systematic way.

The Burns Report – what did it say about whether foxes feel real fear whilst being chased by dogs?

Has there been other research on the topic of whether wild animals feel fear whilst chased (e.g. raised adrenaline)?

Surely, there is no point simply saying that no foxes need to killed to keep down the population?  The law says that farmers can kill foxes.  Farmers will kill foxes.

If a farmer thinks that a fox is going to kill his animals (chickens as I think foxes rarely kill lambs – is that true – what are the stats) and wants to kill one and/or vixen/cubs, which method is least cruel?
Poison – is there really a risk to other animals (apart from rats)?
Traps – I think these should be banned as cruel
Shooting – One of the reasons for the badger cull being deemed cruel is that the badgers are shot and sometimes are not killed straight out and die slowly.  If we think shooting is cruel for badgers surely it is cruel for foxes?  Can we have excellent marksmen with licences to kill foxes rather than anyone being able to do it?
Hunting with dogs – I think the chase is cruel, I don’t think the kill is instant (can I have some info on this) and I don’t think people should be allowed to get enjoyment from causing this much distress to an animal

Was this really quick?

I think simply saying that foxes don’t need to be killed is unreasonable, as it does not deal with the concerns of farmers or the law (even though I don’t agree with either).

Can anyone help to answer my questions urgently so that I can go back to JRM straight away??

About the Writer

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

Mya-Rose Craig is a 12 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 going Mountain Gorilla Trekking in East Africa in the summer and watching Penguins in Antarctica in December 2015, which will be her 7th continent. She has recently 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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