RSPCA MUST RETAIN ITS POWERS TO PROSECUTE HUNTERS WHO BREAK THE LAW
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Support the RSPCA in their stand against fox hunting.
Pro hunting MPs are trying to destroy the ability of the RSPCA to prosecute illegal fox hunting. We must all stand behind the RSPCA to show they have huge public support.
Over 700 hours of Parliamentary time was spent discussing hunting with hounds. Lord Burns was commissioned to produce a report on whether or not hunting is cruel. The findings of The Burns report show that hunting with hounds is indeed cruel and seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.
Foxes have evolved for speed over short distances, fox hounds are slower, having been bred for stamina in order to make the chase last as long as possible to give the riders a fun day out. The unlucky fox will run his heart out, and then one of three things will happen. He may escape, although it has been shown that animals that are hunted to exhaustion may often die of shock and stress even if they manage to get away from the dogs. They can suffer from multi-organ failure due to the stress of the chase. If the fox doesn’t manage to evade the dogs, he may go to ground in a badger sett or a den. The sett is sometimes blocked to prevent the poor animal from trying to hide, but those that do go to ground are surrounded and the terrier men get to work. Underground battles between terriers and foxes can be protracted and can cause horrific injuries to both animals as the fox fights for his life. A fox that is caught out in the open by the hounds is not quickly dispatched by a quick nip to the back of the neck, as is stated in the pro hunting literature. The animal is literally torn apart. It has no chance against the number and the size of the dogs, and it is quickly rolled onto its back and usually disembowelled.
In December 2012, the RSPCA successfully prosecuted the Heythrop Hunt for illegally hunting foxes. Richard Sumner and Julian Barnfield, both members of the Heythrop Hunt, each pleaded guilty at Oxford magistrate’s court to four charges of unlawfully hunting a wild fox with dogs. The prosecution followed footage taken by anti-hunt monitors over four days during the 2011-12 season.
The Judge Tim Pattinson, fined the Heythrop hunt and its members £6,800, but then, although it wasn’t his remit to do so, he criticised the amount of money spent in bringing the case.
“It is not for me to express an opinion," he said,"but I merely flag it up, but I do find it to be a quite staggering figure.”
The case cost the RSPCA over £300.000 and one reason that the RSPCA costs were so high was because the Heythrop vigorously denied all charges until late in the day, announcing they would plead guilty to 12 counts of hunting outside the Law. By maintaining 'not guilty' pleas for so long, they avoided racking up huge legal fees for the preparation of cases they actually had no intention of defending while forcing the RSPCA into prosecuting almost to the last minute.
Since the successful prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt by the RSPCA, and the subsequent furore over the cost of the case, a media war has been raging between the pros and the antis. All kinds of stories have appeared in the pro hunting press, from stories aimed at discrediting the RSPCA, to stories that demonise and vilify foxes in order to sway public opinion in favour of repealing the ban.
Hunters have claimed that foxes are over running our countryside and cities. The hunting fraternity are desperate to get us to believe that their services are vital if we are to save Britain from a plague of demon foxes. In truth, foxes are not pests and hunters do not kill enough of them to be termed pest controllers. ( More are actullay killed on the roads than hunting and shooting together)
Rendering the RSPCA unable to prosecute their law breaking activites, is vital if they are to succeed in continuing to hunt in spite of the Law against it.
An interview on radio 4 in the Today programme also criticised the RSPCA for spending their money prosecuting the fox hunters, missing the point entirely, that the RSPCA should not need to do this if the law of this land was being properly upheld by the prosecution services.
The Countryside Alliance, formerly The British Field Sports Society, had this to say on its webpage about the RSPCA.
“The Countryside Alliance's view is that The RSPCA’s decision to bring such a huge prosecution is a blatant political attack on hunting and an abuse of the court system. It is no accident that the RSPCA, which was a major part of the campaign to ban hunting, only brings private prosecutions against hunts in the Prime Minister’s constituency.”
However, let us remember that it is not political to prosecute law breakers, and the RSPCA acted within their remit in taking out the prosecution.
Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, himself an ardent fan of hunting foxes with dogs, complained to the Charity Commission about the money spent on the Heythrop prosecution, although the Charity Commission stated on several occasions that the RSPCA had no case to answer, and The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC, speaking for the Government, told MPs that the RSPCA had the right to bring private prosecutions and that it performed a ‘valuable role’ in bringing cruelty cases which might otherwise go unprosecuted.
Mr Grieve also said the Crown Prosecution Service had the power to take over RSPCA cases, or stop them if they do not meet standards for evidence or public interest. He went on to explain that this had happened in only four of the thousands of cases the charity has brought to Court.
Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, accused Mr Hart of representing the ‘hunting lobby’ and trying to help ‘rich, powerful Tories’ break the law. He went on to refer to the hunting fraternity as Apostles of cruelty.
The charity has undertaken private prosecutions for cruelty to animals since its was founded in 1824, before the formation of the police force or the Crown Prosecution Service. Of 159,759 complaints of alleged cruelty investigated by the RSPCA in 2011, it reported 2,018 to its prosecution department. This resulted in 3,114 convictions for adults and 24 for juveniles. To date, the charity has secured 54 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004.
Over three quarters of the UK population do not want the Hunting Act repealed, but in spite of this overwhelming support to keep the ban, hunts have deliberately colluded to chase and kill foxes. The RSPCA is a threat to the unlawful continuation of this barbaric pastime, and because of the successful test case against the Heythrop Hunt, the Charity has been unfairly criticised by the hunting fraternity, and smeared and vilified at every opportunity in the Press. These spiteful and vicious campaigners have deliberately set out to render the RSPCA powerless to bring prosecutions against the hunters who intentionally break the hunting Law.
The RSPCA must continue in its present form and we must show our support for an organisation which works tirelessly to prevent cruelty to animals. Please sign this petition and show your support for the RSPCA
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