Reading Time: 3 minutes Fox hunting with dogs has been illegal for 17 years, yet many of the wild animals still fall victim to gruesome deaths Credit: Julian Gazzard/Adobe
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Vegan environmentalist and presenter Chris Packham is making a plea ahead of Boxing Day this year. He’s calling for members of the public to end the ongoing barbaric practice of fox hunting despite it being outlawed in 2004.

This in partnership with the anti-hunting organization, Keep The Ban.

While most of us kick back and relax to enjoy the ongoing Christmas festivities today, foxes across the country forgo such luxuries.

In a “sick and sordid pastime,” Keep The Ban’s founder Rob Pownall explains, hunts take place every year to present a “romanticized” image to the public. 

But a curated animation is set to provide a stark reminder of the atrocities this “gang of wildlife abusers” really get up to…

Why does illegal fox hunting still take place?

“How do we really know what goes on during these hunts?”

Chris Packham

Yes, fox hunting is illegal and has been for 17 years. This is part of the Hunting Act, which prohibits the hunting of wild mammals with dogs – including foxes, deer, hares, and mink.

But in its place, trail hunting takes place. The activity is understood to involve the traditions of the great British fox hunt but without the chasing and killing of foxes.

Here, huntspeople lay and follow a fake fox scent trail either on foot or horseback with hounds in tow. This is designed to mimic historical fox hunting.

But campaigners argue that it is in fact a “smokescreen” for illegal fox hunting. They say that trail hunting is inherently flawed because hounds are bred and trained to hunt foxes. And, as they run across fox habitat it is only natural for them to come across the real scents of foxes. 

Here, only the huntspeople can call them away. But as Packham asks: “How do we really know what goes on during these hunts?”

Anti-fox hunting

To tighten the microscope on the issue, Keep The Ban released an animated video narrated by Chris Packham. 

Keep The Ban and Chris Packham illustrate the truth behind trail hunting

In the video, Packham strains: “They know it will happen…They know they can get away with a real kill.

“The fox’s only hope is the find refuge underground. Whilst this may seem like safety, the arrival of the hunt’s last act confirms they were never intending to hunt a trail.”

Here, the activists refer to “terrier-men,” where groups arrive on quad bikes with terriers to “flush out” terrified foxes.

According to Keep The Ban, “terrier-men” are present at 78 percent of hunts.

This year’s biggest hunting stories

It illustrates the torrid truth in a year that has seen some huge strides towards exposing controversial hunting stories.

Perhaps the largest story was when top huntsman Mark Hankinson was found to have incited illegal hunting across three webinars last year. 

As the director of the Master of Foxhounds, he represents 170 registered foxhound packs in the UK. The 60-year-old was fined after he knowingly encouraged the hunting community to help create “smokescreens” by having multiple trail layers in force.

The news circulated the very same time that activists filmed the killings of hounds at the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt in Gloucestershire. This is one of the oldest and largest packs in England.

And, it was dubbed as being the first time footage of a hunt shooting its own hounds had been shown publicly.

Boxing Day

Every Boxing Day, on December 26, fox hunts take place across rural Britain. This festive season, they are set to take place on Monday, December 27.

Last year, despite varying COVID-19 restrictions being in place nationwide. This received major criticism and left many questioning why the UK government allowed the hunting to take place. 

But research revealed by the Labour Party indicates that the Conservatives and their leader Boris Johnson have taken over £1 million from donors “linked” to hunting.

MP Luke Pollard highlighted the hypocrisy in allowing those with a “passion in hunting” to enjoy a “festive-free-for-all.”

“We need to close the loopholes so fox hunting can be consigned to the history books where it belongs,” he added.

Ending illegal fox hunting: a call to action

So, what can we do to end illegal fox hunting?

Keep The Ban is calling for people to support its petition which is aimed at ending all hunting licenses given out by landowners. At the time of writing, it sits at more than 88,400 signatures.

The organization hopes more people can engage with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to outlaw hunting on its land – which stretches a staggering 233,000 hectares.

Across the 2021/2022 season alone, the MoD has already given out 11 licenses, according to Keep The Ban. 

“It’s time for decision-makers to make a stand,” Chris Packham explains. He adds: “The Ministry of Defence and other complicit organizations to wake up to the ‘trail hunt lies’ and ban the hunts for good. Please take action and sign the petition to end this madness.”

Other organizations that campaign against fox hunting include the Hunt Saboteurs Association and the League Against Cruel Sports. 

You can also support the cause by adopting a fox via Keep The Ban here

Emily is a News and Features Writer for Plant Based News. She has previously worked as a journalist in Devon, UK, reporting on local issues from politics to the environment.