TiG poll: Gloucestershire split over future of hunting with dogs law
Opinion in Gloucestershire remains evenly divided over the future of hunting with dogs in the county, according to a poll run by ThisIsGloucestershire.
Almost 6,000 readers voted in a recent poll asking if the 2005 ban should be lifted, with just over half (51%) saying it should remain and the remaining 49% calling for a repeal.
Hunting with dogs to kill live prey has been outlawed since the Hunting Act 2004 but there are still 184 active hunts in England, Wales and Scotland.
Hunts now follow artificially laid trails but their members claim the spontaneity of live hunting is a key ingredient of the pursuit.
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Despite this, a spokesman for a hunt in Gloucestershire said the activity has never been so popular.
Meanwhile the League Against Cruel Sports, which opposes foxhunting, disputed the findings of our poll. A spokeswoman suggested the results were "skewed" and "not nationally representative".
The League claimed that national support remains firmly behind the ban on foxhunting and that a rumoured free vote for MPs to lift the ban would be unsuccessful.
Tom Whittaker is secretary of the Berkeley Hunt, which is based in Dursley and Wotton-under-Edge. He pointed to events like the Frampton-on-Severn Country Show and the Berkeley Hunt Point-to-Point, as well as the hunt's support of the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, to demonstrate the contribution hunting makes to the rural way of life.
He said: "It's incredibly important that we are allowed to continue and of course we would like to see the ban lifted.
"We have seen more people come out hunting, and more support for us locally, since the ban was imposed. People don't want to lose the local, rural, traditional way of life.
"The fox population needs to be controlled and hunting is the best way of doing it. Shooting is indiscriminate and takes out perfectly healthy, young foxes, whereas hunting targets the less healthy, older foxes.
"Most of the anti-foxhunting brigade hold pretty extreme views and once they get a bit older and wiser those opinions often change."
Joe Duckworth, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports said: "As recent prosecutions have shown, many hunts in England and Wales show a total disregard for the law and for wildlife.
"They want the Hunting Act repealed so they can to travel back to a time where hunting wild animals with dogs and ripping them apart was legal. We are glad that the majority of the public support the Act and we hope that the Government listens, and does not waste valuable Parliamentary time."
Sara Rutherford, regional director of the Countryside Alliance for the Midlands, including Gloucestershire, said: "The level of interest in this poll shows that hunting is still an issue that motivates and polarises people.
"While everyone is entitled to their view, the Countryside Alliance would urge that anyone who takes part in a poll on hunting be led by the evidence, which is firmly stacked against the Hunting Act.
"In fact leading civil servants, members of the judiciary, the media, police and Parliament have publicly expressed concerns about the Act.
"It is widely considered to be bad law and no amount of animal rights rhetoric will make it workable."