Court rejects latest hunting ban challenge

The court of appeal has today rejected yet another challenge to the fox hunting ban, which claimed it breaches human rights and European law.

It was the latest of several attempts to overturn the Hunting Act 2004, which prohibits hunting a wild mammal with a dog, since it came into force in February last year.

The Countryside Alliance and other pro-hunting groups had argued that the ban infringed several of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and also their right to freedom of movement under the European Community treaty.

However, in a written judgment, the master of the rolls concluded that any infringement on these rights was justified on the basis that the Hunting Act was “legitimate”, “proportionate to the aim pursued”, and a “permissible” act of government.

“The state was acting within its discretion in prohibiting an activity that was seen as posing a threat to an interest of high importance,” the ruling said.

The RSPCA welcomed the judgment, saying it was a “very clear and authoritative” decision that should put an end to any further challenges to the hunting ban.

“This ruling is a total vindication of our long-held view that hunting with dogs is cruel and unacceptable,” said director of animal welfare promotion John Rolls.

“It is time for people who have spent millions of pounds challenging this law to accept it and move on. They should finally accept the will of the public majority, of parliament, and of the courts.”

However, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart, refused to accept the ruling and insisted the group would take their case to the European court.

“The judges seem to have shied away from taking a firm stance on parliament’s prejudice. We have always maintained that the legitimacy of the Hunting Act would eventually be decided in Europe,” he said.

“The court failed to engage consistently with our arguments, relying on the increased support for hunting last year in the face of the ban as an indicator of things to come.

“It ignored the conclusion of both the divisional court, and the Burns’ inquiry that the effects would be in the medium to long-term, rather than in the short term.”