People and places

The hunting bans have been a disaster for wild animal welfare

, 8 November 2023

This is the headline finding of Rural Wrongs: Hunting and the Unintended Consequences of Bad Law by Charlie Pye-Smith. The book describes the findings of the first major investigation into the animal welfare and conservation effects of the bans on hunting with dogs.

Over a period of two years the Rural Wrongs project has investigated what has happened to the species that were previously hunted. The conclusions are stark and depressing. Instead of making life better for the fox, brown hare and red deer, the exact opposite has occurred. They are now being killed in greater numbers. There is now more suffering, not less.

Published by the RS Surtees Society, Rural Wrongs is based on the testimony of people at the sharp end of countryside management –  farmers, gamekeepers, conservationists, hunters, scientists. It tells the story of how the 2004 Hunting Act in England and Wales, and its equivalent in Scotland, have failed.

The animal rights organisations who spent tens of millions of pounds campaigning for a ban now argue that the laws are not strict enough. The Labour Party is threatening, if it comes to power, to introduce new measures which would even outlaw trail hunting. Rural Wrongs argues that this would not only be deeply illiberal, but would make matters worse still for the quarry species.

This is not just a story of political incompetence and unremitting ecological gloom. The book also suggests how the current legislation could be replaced by a law which will effectively protect wild animals from unnecessary suffering and cruelty, and at the same time help to create a healthier countryside and a less censorious attitude towards a cultural minority .

A summary of the findings was presented on 25th October at a meeting hosted by Baroness Mallalieu in the House of Lords. The main findings were described by Jim Barrington, who had travelled round the country with Charlie Pye-Smith, author of Rural Wrongs. Speakers also included the journalist Lord (Charles) Moore, who wrote the foreword for Rural Wrongs, master and huntsman Claire Bellamy, Wiltshire farmer Joe Collingborn and Charlie Pye-Smith. The book launch took place the same evening at the Farmers Club.

“Rural Wrongs is the first serious work of its kind. It contains a wealth of good evidence, but it is not a dry work of reference. It is a vivid and heartfelt tale about what happens to animal and human landscapes when people meddle with them for the wrong reasons. It should serve as a handbook for all those seeking to show why bad law must be replaced by rules that truly address animal welfare.”

Charles Moore


Copies can be obtained from the RS Surtees Society:

What the reviewers said about ‘Land of Plenty’

London , 6 December 2017


“Charlie Pye-Smith’s Land of Plenty… captures the spirit of the English countryside. This is no sentimental journey, but a real reflection of rural life by a formidably well-informed commentator, yet it’s the easiest of reads, with memorable characters, surprising statistics and incisive reflections. Even those of us steeped in agriculture will find new insights in every chapter.”John Deben, Country Life 

“A brilliantly well observed story of the British countryside, its history and its future … a Rural Rides for the 21st century”Western Morning News

“We need to take where our food comes from seriously. Pye-Smith’s investigation is thorough and at times remarkable”Clive Aslet, The Times

“Thoughtful … the story he tells is both full of hope and trepidation”Tom Fort, Literary Review

“It’s not just recommended reading for all those who have a special affinity with rural Britain, warts and all, but it should be top of the summer reading list for every Cabinet minister”Yorkshire Evening Post

“Personal and passionate … Its great strength is that it is neither a manifesto or a jeremiad”The National

“Pye-Smith’s writing… will be enjoyed just as much by someone who has been farming all their life as somebody who knows little about agriculture but is looking for an enjoyable non-fiction read”Ben Eagle,

Land of Plenty is a must-read… a nuanced account of the countryside that is neither romantic or damning but refreshingly balanced”  Farmdrop, the ethical grocers

New book: Land of Plenty: A Journey through the Fields & Foods of Modern Britain

London, 27 July 2017

The idea for this book came to me in Africa several years ago. Whenever taxi drivers in cities like Nairobi or Accra or Kigali asked me what I was doing I would explain that I was in their country to write about issues related to farming and land use. I was always struck by how knowledgeable most were. Some would tell me about the best ways of feeding dairy cows; others would discuss ways of tackling pests and diseases. Perhaps this is not surprising. Many city-dwellers in Africa were brought up on farms and most have relatives in the countryside who still make a living from the land. [read full article]

Is this the future of conservation?

London, 22 May 2015

In the harsh environment of northern Kenya, communities struggle with frequent droughts, poor health care, sparse or irregular government services and the threats posed by cattle rustling and ivory poaching. Ethnic rivalries dating back many centuries continue to disturb peace and undermine development. However, all this is beginning to change, thanks to a new movement based on community conservation. [read full article]

On field sports, death and moderation

Rutundu, Mt Kenya, 18 February 2015

We had come to Rutundu, some 10,200 ft above sea level on the northern flanks of Mt Kenya, to enjoy the mountain scenery and the pleasure of staying in log cabins where wood fires and hurricane lamps were the sole source of heat and light. We had also come to fish, and as soon as dawn broke on our first morning Jo Harrison – a serious fisherwoman with a trout stream of her own in Hampshire – and I clambered down a steep gorge in the company of Cosmas, one of the Rutundu staff. [read full article]

I remember, I remember

Almondbury, Huddersfield, 5 October 2014

If you listened to the Today programme on Radio 4 last Thursday, which was National Poetry Day, you might have heard Alan Bennett talking about Philip Larkin. Larkin’s childhood, he said, was characterised as ‘a forgotten boredom’. To illustrate the point, Bennett read the poem I Remember, I Remember, in which Larkin describes his thoughts as his train passes through Coventry, the town where he was brought up. [read full article]

If I were a pig…

London, 24 February 2014

Last week, the Danish government introduced a ban on the religious slaughter of animals. “Animal rights come before religion,” said the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Dan Jørgensen. The ban has upset Jews and Muslims as it proscribes their traditional methods of killing animals. Instead of having their throats slit while fully conscious, Danish livestock must now be stunned before they are killed. [read full article]

Kites and cleanliness

Kigali, Rwanda, 11 November 2013

Late one afternoon, some 35 years ago, Richard North and I walked through the gates of St Anthony’s monastery in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. Among the cowled monks we eventually found one who spoke English. Richard explained that he was writing a book about monastic life, Fools for God. I was retracing a journey I had made in the mid-1970s, a story told in the The Other Nile. [read full article]

Tearing the heart out of the Midi

Capestang, France, 17 August 2013

I have talked to half-Amerindian peasants in Brazil whose forests were being felled, mostly against their will, for high-value timber. I have wandered among the smoking ruins of forests in Sumatra, set alight by companies who wanted to plant lucrative oil palm. I have spent time in Cameroon interviewing Baka pygmies about the impact of illegal logging, which was leading not just to the loss of trees and wildlife but the hunter-gatherer way of life. [read full article]

Miraa, Meru and Mrs May

Meru, Kenya, 13 July 2013

“We are very angry with you British,” said the man I’d come to see at the Ministry of Agriculture in Nairobi. “We’re trying to work out how we can retaliate.” [read full article]

Crime in the Caribbean: no laughing matter?

Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, 25 May 2013

‘SCARFACE’ SHOT DEAD was the front-page headline in last weekend’s edition of Searchlight, a twice-weekly newspaper serving St Vincent and the Grenadines. Anthony ‘Scarface’ Hamilton had been shot dead by police near the washrooms in the courthouse in Kingstown. According to the police, he had been attempting to escape. [read full article]

What’s in a name?

Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines, 22 May 2013

It’s so long since I have read Anthony Trollope that I would be hard pressed to tell you what Barchester Towers or any of his other novels are about. But I do remember the names: the obnoxious Obadiah Slope; the proud and vulgar bishop’s wife, Mrs Proudie; Mr Quiverful, impoverished vicar and father of 14 children. Thomas Hardy was another writer who used names as a proxy for character: you know, as soon as you come across Gabriel Oak in the first pages of Far from the Madding Crowd, that he possesses all the solid virtues of the best sort of country folk. [read full article]

Import-export: the dream shattered

Iquitos, Peru, and London, 1 April 2013

I used to think I’d like to have another occupation besides writing. Ideally, it would be farming, perhaps rearing sheep or pigs. But that wouldn’t work, not least because I live in London and spend much of my time travelling. Another possibility would be to find some exotic plant of great potential – for example, as a health food or aphrodisiac – import it to London, and make some serious money. In short: import-export. [read full article]

I need a drink

Lima, Peru, 17 March 2013

We were in some out of the way places during the past few days, and we ate surprisingly well. I hadn’t been expecting much in the way of classy food in Pucallpa, a sprawling town in the Peruvian Amazon largely devoted to logging and other forms of resource exploitation on a tributary of the Amazon. But dinner was a revelation: [read full article]