Because of the brutal demise of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, there has been more global attention to the issue of animal hunting in the past month than at any time in recent memory. And, while we wait and watch to see what progress is made to undo some of the significant damage done by those who kill in the name of sport, we must remember that cruel hunting is a global problem.
I'm writing this from the Born Free Foundation office in the UK, where hunting has been the subject of a recent political firestorm nationally of late. First enacted in 2005, the Hunting Act (which applies to England and Wales) originally banned the practices of using dogs to hunt wild animals, hare coursing (the chasing of hares by greyhounds and other dog breeds), and deer hunting.
However, as we see time and again with conservation issues, this compassionate Act has been under attack by a vocal minority with an anti-animal agenda. A group called the Countryside Alliance has been leading the charge, lobbying for the repeal of the Hunting Act. The Countryside Alliance is most focused on restoring the use of dogs for the hunting of foxes: a cruel, unnecessary method of hunting that harms both foxes and dogs.
Luckily, these opponents have been unsuccessful (so far). In early July, there was a motion to amend the Hunting Act which would have removed the current limit of two dogs who can be used to "flush a wild mammal to guns," and made it easier for hunters to defend their activities, rendering the Act virtually unenforceable. But, it was withdrawn after a significant outcry from the public.
Polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of the British public is in favor of the Hunting Act and the protections it affords wild animals. For example, in the UK, a large majority of both urban and rural citizens have indicated that they are against the hunting of foxes using dogs, and an even higher percentage has consistently stood against hare coursing and the hunting of deer with dogs. These practices are inhumane and, frankly, indefensible. Fortunately, for the time being, at least, the Hunting Act remains on the statute book in Britain.
Why, then, are groups like the Countryside Alliance given any credence?
Anti-animal groups may be in the public minority, but they can have a powerful influence over legislators. And, our voice is all that the animals have. When our voice is diminished, theirs is, too. Their best interests are silenced.
Brutal fur farming, barbaric trapping with body-crushing devices, living miserably behind bars in roadside zoos ... the consequences are disastrous.
Unfortunately for us at Born Free and for all those involved in animal advocacy - and, indeed, for the animals themselves - anti-animal organizations make our work that much harder. In the US, the National Rifle Association (NRA), the trapping industry, and the fur industry (among far too many others) thwart our efforts by supporting the hunting, killing, and vicious treatment of wildlife.
Life-and-death decisions about wildlife should not be placed in the hands of a powerful, vocal few. A reckless minority cannot get away with overturning compassionate legislation like the Hunting Act. Not on our watch.
It's very clear that the struggle against the community of hunters who blithely ignore animal welfare, conservation, and human progress is not restricted to the Safari Club or NRA in America. The debate is mirrored elsewhere. And, as long as Born Free has a presence and ability to engage in the fight, we will win. The voice of the animals will be heard.
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,