Foxes are still being hunted and killed 15 years to the day after the bloodsport was banned, activists have claimed.
The Hunting Act came into force on February 18, 2005, putting an end to a centuries-old tradition of hunting foxes with hounds.
But protesters and hunt saboteurs up and down the country claim foxes are still being chased and mauled to death by packs of dogs, while police forces have failed to crackdown on alleged illegal hunting.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association said there was a reduction in their numbers after the ban as ‘everybody thought hunting had been abolished’.
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But there was a ‘massive upsurge’ in activists once people ‘realised it had not gone away’, spokesperson Lee Moon told Metro.co.uk.
He said: ‘As hunt saboteurs, we see widespread law-breaking every time we go out in the countryside.
‘Almost all hunts flout the law. It’s not the exception we see them hunting. It’s what they do every time they go out.
‘Even if you do have a police force that is keen on enforcing the hunting act, it’s such a challenging piece of legislation.
‘It’s very difficult for the police forces to know what they are looking at and to do anything about it.’
Mr Moon claims hunters have become ‘emboldened’ since Boris Johnson’s victory in the general election, adding: ‘They know they have a Conservative government that doesn’t care about hunting, and is never going to enforce the act.’
Outside of politics, Mr Moon said there has been a big shift in society, with many Brits choosing a vegan lifestyle.
He added: ‘People are becoming generally more compassionate and the majority know fox hunting has no place in a modern society, and it will gradually die out.
Alec Holland, a hunt saboteur based in Manchester, said hunts are a ‘lot more cloak and dagger about their activities now’.
‘But other than that they still continue to hunt as before.
‘I think public opinion and the constant presence of saboteurs and monitors has forced them underground in a sense.
‘The hunting act is rarely enforced, and police are not trained on it, so aside from the presence of saboteurs, there is no real need for them to change their behaviour to fall in line with the hunting act.’
Meanwhile, the Countryside Alliance hailed the ‘survival’ of hunting, while claiming the Hunting Act has contributed towards the Labour Party’s decline in the countryside.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the pro-hunting organisation, said the Hunting Act came into force following ‘700 hours of mainly farcical parliamentary debate and a series of the largest civil liberty demonstrations in British history’.
In a statement, Mr Bonner claimed the ban was not about animal welfare, but an ‘obsessive and ideological pursuit’ of the hunting community by Labour MPs ‘who bizarrely saw a ban on hunting as part of their class war agenda’.
He said: ‘But 15 years later hunting has survived, operating within the law.
‘The intention of the Hunting Act was to frustrate rural communities; yet today hundreds of registered hunts continue to operate across the UK and enjoy support from a wide range of people.
‘Meets continue to be attended by thousands of people and remain a signature part of Christmas and New Year festivities.
‘Registered hunts continue to work within the law and within their communities, contributing to charities and local action projects including conservation and litter picking.
‘Hunting was never going to bring down a government, but in the five General Elections since the Hunting Act came into force, the Labour party has been routed from the countryside culminating in its defeats in rural constituencies across the country in 2019.
‘Even if the difficulties and frustrations of the Act remain, hunts will continue to meet up and down the land.
‘The Countryside Alliance will continue to make the case for robust, evidence based approach to wildlife management.
‘There was never any valid arguments for banning hunting and the Hunting Act is almost unique in that it brings no benefits.
‘Not to the countryside, not to rural communities, not to wildlife and not even to those who spent so long promoting it.’