The hunting bans have been a disaster for wild animal welfare

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:

8 November 2023