Thank you to everyone who has been in touch to raise ongoing concerns about fox hunting.
I believe this cruel blood sport has no place in our country and should be consigned to the history books. I am committed to enhancing and strengthening the Hunting Act, closing loopholes that allow for the illegal hunting of foxes, deer and hares.
I want to see tough action against those who continue to conduct illegal fox hunts. I therefore support a review of penalties under the Hunting Act 2004 to ensure it is an effective deterrent, including a consultation on the introduction of custodial sentences, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.
I am aware that a director of the Master of Foxhounds Association has recently been found guilty of encouraging and assisting others to evade the ban on fox hunting.
The UK Government believes that the Hunting Act is sufficient and that it is for individual landowners to choose whether they would like hunts to take place on their land.
I am aware that many landowners including Forestry England and Natural Resources Wales have suspended trail hunting on their land. I know that National Trust members voted to ban trail hunting recently, and that the Trust had suspended its issuing of licences to partake in such hunts in 2020.
I believe there is an opportunity within the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to investigate possibilities for strengthening the fox hunting ban, and I understand the Opposition will raise this subject during the Bill’s parliamentary scrutiny.
I can assure you that I fully support the bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing and will continue to press at every possible opportunity for the existing legislation to be strengthened.