What the Lord Burns Hunting Inquiry really said about Hunting with dogs.




Devon and Somerset Staghounds


By Mike Huskisson

(An eyewitness to many of the Burns Inquiry visits, oral evidence sessions and meetings)


The tests that need to be applied concerning the management of our wildlife, and in particular the killing of our wildlife, are principally is the killing necessary and does the manner of that killing cause unnecessary suffering?

If the killing is unnecessary and/or causes unnecessary suffering then the extent to which people gain fun from the killing, or employment from it, is really an irrelevance. In fact in the case of the bloodsports considered here, fortuitously, there are readily available humane replacements that provide as many, if not more, employment opportunities

The reader will note that throughout this abstract from the Burns report no animal is found to be the victim of cruelty, but plenty have their welfare “compromised”. What did Lord Burns and his team actually mean by this? It is clear to me from many hours spent in their company that like the overwhelming majority of the population they oppose cruelty to animals, and all the more so when it is unnecessary. However, beside it being outside their terms of reference to assess the cruelty, it is likely that they balked at labelling the favourite pastime of our future king as “cruel”. Hence the concept of an animal having its welfare “compromised”.

To gain an idea of the measure of suffering and therefore cruelty embraced by this term consider the following telling words used by the team to describe the occasions when pets are attacked by rioting hounds:

Page 121 : “6.76 The welfare of pets which are attacked by hounds is clearly compromised, and their owners often suffer great distress.”

Those who have had the misfortune to witness the impact of a pack of hounds on their beloved pets will know the measure of this phrase as a benchmark for cruelty.


1) Foxhunting

The welfare of the fox is seriously compromised. Some compromise to the terriers welfare when the latter are injured. In the absence of a ban consideration should be given to : banning cub hunting; introducing a closed season for foxes, allowing cub hunting only where it was clearly necessary for controlling foxes, banning “holding up” in cub hunting; banning the digging out and bolting of foxes; limiting it to those areas where it was considered necessary; making the practice subject to the general legislation on cruelty by removing the present exemptions for hunting; or improving monitoring by the hunts and by any independent monitors. In the absence of a ban consideration should be given to removing the present exemption for hunts relating to the stopping-up of badger setts; banning the stopping-up of foxes’ earths; limiting it to where it is considered necessary or limiting how or why it may be done. The active use of artificial earths is inconsistent with the stated objective of controlling fox numbers and in the absence of a ban their use should be banned or the hunts be encouraged to end their use.

2 Deerhunting

Most scientists agree that deer are likely to suffer in the final stages of hunting. The welfare of the deer is seriously compromised but they are unable to resolve the disagreement as to at which point during the hunt this occurs. Stalking is in principle the better method of culling deer from a animal welfare perspective. In the absence of a ban, action could be taken to ban the hunting of hinds running with their calves.

3 Harehunting

The Inquiry team are satisfied that the experience of being closely pursued, caught and killed by a pack of dogs seriously compromises the welfare of the hare. They are similarly satisfied that being pursued, caught and killed by dogs during coursing seriously compromises the welfare of the hare. Furthermore, contrary to all claims from apologists for coursing the Inquiry are satisfied that not all hares caught are killed quickly and there can be a significant delay in the dispatch of the hare by the “picker-up”. In the view of the Committee of Inquiry “there is a case for having a legally-prescribed closed season for killing hares.” In other words in the absence of an outright ban on hare hunting there should be a ban on hare hunting during a closed season The Committee say that consideration should be given to applying this to shooting hares as well.

4 Minkhunting

The Committee see reason to suppose that being closely pursued, caught and killed by hounds, or being dug out or bolted, seriously compromises the welfare of the mink.

Throughout the text the words in italics are direct quotes from the Burns report or some other Government source. Emphasis in bold replicates the original.


The Rt. Hon Jack Straw MP appointed the Committee of Inquiry in December 1999 to carry out an inquiry into hunting with dogs with the following terms of reference:-

Page 1 : “To inquire into:

· the practical aspects of different types of hunting with dogs and its impact on the rural economy, agriculture and pest control, the social and cultural life of the countryside, the management and conservation of wildlife, and animal welfare in particular areas of England and Wales;

· the consequences for these issues of any ban on hunting with dogs; and

· how any ban might be implemented.”

On page 1 of their report the Committee note:

“We were helped by the terms of reference, which asked us to concentrate on the factual and analytical background to hunting. We have addressed those issues and we have not attempted to answer the question of whether or not hunting should be banned. In particular, we have not sought to find a compromise solution, which we regarded as outside our terms of reference.”

On page 7 the Committee clarify their role further:-

“We were asked to focus on the hunting with dogs of foxes, deer, hares and mink. The use of dogs solely to locate or retrieve quarry was excluded from our terms of reference. We were not asked to recommend whether hunting should be banned. Nor were we asked to consider moral or ethical issues.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT: The Committee was not asked to decide whether hunting wildlife with dogs was cruel. The Committee was not asked to decide whether hunting should be banned nor to look at hunting in Scotland or Northern Ireland.



i) Is it cruel? Yes!

How many hunts kill how many foxes?

Page 7 : “There are about 200 registered packs of hounds (mainly foxhounds but also some harriers) in England and Wales which hunt foxes, plus a number of unregistered packs in Wales. Most packs have mounted followers but a number, including the Fell packs in Cumbria and the footpacks in Wales, are followed on foot only. The Welsh gunpacks use dogs to flush foxes to waiting guns.

The registered packs are estimated to kill some 21,000-25,000 foxes a year. About 40% of the foxes killed by the registered packs are killed in the autumn/cub hunting season. In Wales and other upland areas, a high proportion of foxes are dug out, using terriers, and shot. Outside the registered packs, many more foxes are dug out and shot or are killed by people using lurchers or other “long dogs”. Some of these activities are carried out by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers. Others involve trespass.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Foxes are also killed by the terriers themselves below ground, in all areas. This is particularly true during cubhunting either in the late Summer and Autumn or when newborn cubs are encountered when foxes are hunted in March, April and May. Terrierwork is not confined to Wales and other upland areas. The registered packs in lowland areas also use terriers to kill foxes, either directly or by digging them out and shooting them. Foxes may also be bolted into nets by terriers and then shot.

The terrierwork that is carried out outside the registered packs frequently involves the foxes being bolted into nets and shot, or bolted into the open and shot.

Terrierwork takes time and by no means always results in a kill! When the terriermen give up and remove their dogs the foxes that are left alive are usually injured in one way or another. Many will die a protracted and painful death as a result.

What about cubhunting?

Page 148 : “9.11 The MFHA and the Countryside Alliance, in their evidence to us, argued that autumn/cub hunting serves a number of useful purposes. They pointed out that a survey of hunts carried out in January 2000 showed that some 40% of the foxes killed by the registered packs were killed during autumn/cub hunting and that it takes place at a time when the fox population is at its highest and most concentrated.

9.12 It is also argued by the hunts concerned that autumn/cub hunting is useful in dispersing the fox population, thus reducing their concentration in any one area.

9.13 The third purpose served by autumn/cub hunting, in the view of the MFHA and the Countryside Alliance, is that it serves a very useful means of introducing young hounds to hunting. Autumn/cub hunting takes place in a comparatively confined area and with fewer riders and other followers around to distract them.

9.14 It does not seem to us, from the evidence we received, that these arguments are wholly persuasive. As we noted in paragraph 5.36, there is little evidence that, in spite of the numbers killed, this activity is particularly effective in reducing fox populations or that dispersal has the benefits which the MFHA claim. It is clear too that it is not necessary to practise autumn/cub hunting in order to train young hounds. A number of packs, including the Fell Packs and the Welsh gun packs, use other methods.

9.16 In the absence of a ban, consideration could be given to a number of options for responding to the concerns about autumn/cub hunting. These options include: prohibiting the practice entirely; introducing a closed season for hunting foxes, so that hunting would start at a later date than it does at present; permitting it only in those areas where it was clearly necessary as a means of controlling fox numbers; and prohibiting the practice of “holding up”.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : It is clear, even given the diplomatic language used, that the Inquiry team did not altogether believe the apologists for hunting on this issue! Doubtless if they had had the opportunity for themselves to witness at first hand the cruelty inherent in cubhunting they would have been even more horrified.

What happens when foxes are caught by the hounds above ground?

Page 117 : “6.49 The evidence which we have seen suggests that, in the case of the killing of a fox by hounds above ground, death is not always effected by a single bite to the neck or shoulders by the leading hound resulting in the dislocation of the cervical vertebrae. In a proportion of cases it results from massive injuries to the chest and vital organs, although insensibility and death will normally follow within a matter of seconds once the fox is caught. There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the effect on the welfare of a fox of being closely pursued, caught and killed above ground by hounds. We are satisfied, nevertheless, that this experience seriously compromises the welfare of the fox.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : There actually was little evidence that for a fox caught above ground death was ever effected by a single bite to the neck. There was no assessment of the numbers of hounds present when the fox was caught. It is my belief that it is more common for the fox to be caught by a single hound first than by the full pack at once (the pack is usually strung out). The evidence of hunting literature is that there can be some fight between a fox and a lone hound.

What did the post mortems carried out for the Inquiry by the University of Bristol reveal about the manner of death of foxes caught above ground by the hounds. Was it the “quick nip to the back of the neck”? [Extracts from CD Rom follow]

“Fox 3 (Royal Artillery Foxhounds, Salisbury Plain, 3rd April 2000)

This animal was hunted with hounds for approximately 15 minutes. The fox was killed on the surface by the hounds.

Cause of death

Profound trauma by repeated dog bite. Post mortem examination revealed little tissue damage in the head, neck and shoulder region, pronounced damage to the ribcage and thoracic organs, and profound damage to the abdomen. It is probable that trauma to the abdomen, hindquarters or chest were the cause of death in this animal.

Fox 4 (Royal Artillery Foxhounds, Salisbury Plain, 8th April 2000)

This animal was hunted with hounds for less than 2 minutes. The fox was killed on the surface by the hounds.

Cause of death

Profound trauma by repeated dog bite. Post mortem examination revealed little tissue damage in the head, neck and shoulder region, pronounced damage to the ribcage and the thoracic organs, and profound damage to the abdomen. It is probable that trauma to the abdomen, hindquarters or chest were the cause of death in this animal. It is not possible to determine the time period from first bite to death from this post mortem material

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Neither fox was stated to have been killed by the “quick nip to the back of the neck”.

What happens when foxes are run to ground and then terrierwork takes place?

Page 117 : “6.51 We are aware that terrierwork is better regulated than it used to be and we accept that some of the reports of fights and injuries pre-date those changes. It seems clear, nevertheless, that fights do sometimes occur during digging-out or bolting and we have no doubt that this is more frequent in unofficial terrierwork than in that linked with the registered packs. One of the four foxes post mortemed for us by the University of Bristol, which had been dug out, had suffered injuries to its face, head, neck and eye.

6.52 Although there is no firm scientific evidence, we are satisfied that the activity of digging out and shooting a fox involves a serious compromise of its welfare, bearing in mind the often protracted nature of the process and the fact that the fox is prevented from escaping.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : There is firm scientific evidence in the previous sentence! There is no consideration given to the occasions when the fox is killed by the terrier and the exact manner in which that kill might be accomplished. Nor is any consideration given to the frequent occasions when the fox and terrier(s) are injured by adverse circumstances such as the collapsing of tunnels. There is no evidence as to why fights between terrier and fox should be more common in unofficial terrierwork than in that linked with the registered packs. The terriers are usually of the same breed and indeed they are often the same dog and the same man handling them!

It is naive to accept without question the claim that terrierwork is “better regulated”. Whether the terriermen have licences and the numbers watching is almost an irrelevance to the fox. Where it counts, the interface between fox and terrier, in the dark several feet below ground, has changed little since the pastime of foxhunting was first conceived many decades ago. Terriers cannot read and are notoriously difficult to control, even above ground on a lead, let alone out of sight below ground!

What did those post mortems actually reveal?

“Post Mortem findings.

Fox 1. (Cotswold Foxhounds, Miserden Park, Nr. Cirencester 1st April 2000)

This animal was hunted by the hounds for approximately 31 minutes. The fox went to ground and a terrier was sent down. After 9 minutes, the fox left the earth and was shot as it left the hole.

Apparent Pre-death trauma

Haemorrhage in the soft tissues of the lateral aspect of the proximal right antebrachium (the upper outside region of the forearm) provide evidence of some trauma before death.

Cause of death

Death was caused by a free bullet shot to the head with a .22 calibre single shot pistol”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : So it is clear that this fox was bitten before death. Not the “instant kill” that we are told.

“Fox 2 (Royal Artillery Foxhounds, Salisbury Plain 3rd April 2000)

This animal was hunted with hounds for approximately 7 minutes. The fox then went to ground and a terrier equipped with a radio collar was sent down. After approximately 25 minutes of digging, the fox was revealed, the terrier removed, and the fox shot in the hole with a .22 calibre single shot pistol. Two shots were required.

Apparent Pre-death trauma.

1) Pre hunt

a) Presence of shotgun pellets in the left side of the head, the left forelimb, the abdomen and the left hindlimb. These pellets are from a past shooting, from the left side of the animal. Dissection of individual pellets showed them to be walled off in fibrous tissue indicating healing of the pellet wounds.

2) Post commencement of hunt

b) Multiple bite wounds on the face and the top of the head.

c) Damage to the right eye.

d) Bite wounds, haemorrhage and oedema in the region of the larynx and lower neck.

e) A .22 calibre bullet in the muscle tissue of the left shoulder region and some radiographic evidence of damage to the vertebra of the neck in the region of the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae. The shooting of this fox was observed, and it was apparent that this first bullet did not kill the animal.

Cause of death

A second shot with a .22 calibre bullet caused death.

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : This fox met a particularly squalid and brutal end. Having survived an earlier shooting it was hunted by the hounds then savaged below ground by the terrier. Being trapped and mauled in this manner surely amounts to fox baiting. It was then wounded by a shot in the shoulder/neck region. The pistol was reloaded (how long did that take?) and then it was eventually killed.

[It should be noted from these post mortems than one additional fox was caught but was not presented by the hunt for examination]

What about injuries suffered by the hunt terriers?

Page 123 : “6.84 We have received evidence of injuries to terriers during terrierwork. This clearly involves some compromise of the terrier’s welfare when it occurs.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : No consideration is given to recent legal judgement that would appear to make it illegal to expose a terrier to the risk of putting it to ground against a trapped quarry.

What about other activities carried out by terriermen, for instance the stopping up of refuges?

Page 149 : “9.21 Another practice which gives rise to particular concern is that of stopping up foxes’ earths, badger setts and other possible refuges before a foxhunt begins......we received a good deal of evidence about this activity, especially from badger watch groups. They argue that there are still far too many instances in which hunts and others are illegally stopping-up badger setts by using hard material or soil cut back from the sett itself.

9.22 The Countryside Alliance argued that there was no evidence of any malpractice. Whilst we accept that there is a lack of firm evidence linking malpractice to the hunts, we do not think we can disregard entirely the written and oral evidence we received from badger protection groups and their supporters on this issue.

Page 150 : “9.24 There have been many suggestions put to us that, at times, hunts and others contravene the law relating to the stopping-up of badger setts. One option, in the absence of a ban on hunting, would be to remove the present exemption for hunts. In the case of stopping-up of foxes’ earths, there are a number of possible options which could be considered in the absence of a ban. These include: prohibiting the practice entirely; confining it to those areas where it is considered necessary in the interests of controlling fox numbers; or otherwise limiting the circumstances in which it may be done or the way in which it can be carried out.”

And what about artificial earths?

Page 150 : “9.26 The Countryside Alliance told us that, given that the purpose of hunting in many areas was to preserve a sustainable and healthy fox population, they did not consider that the practice of providing artificial earths was objectionable if the particular locality did not already offer suitable habitat. They argued that this balance between preservation and control was seen in other contexts such as game shooting and fishing. It was also put to us that artificial earths could be useful in helping to ensure that foxes’ earths were in suitable places: for example, away from chicken runs. We consider, however, that it is hard to reconcile any use of artificial earths by the hunts with the argument that foxes are a pest and that their numbers need to be controlled through hunting.

9.27 The active use of artificial earths, with a view to hunting, is inconsistent with the stated objective of controlling fox numbers through hunting. In the absence of a ban, hunts could be required, or encouraged, to end this practice.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : It is clear that the Inquiry team simply do not believe the apologists for hunting on this point. Most hunting countries in England have artificial earths. Their purpose, as a former Duke of Beaufort revealed, is for breeding foxes.

What about the future for terrierwork if hunting itself is not banned?

Page 149 : “9.20 Digging-out and bolting foxes is a complex issue because of the perceived needs in different parts of England and Wales. In the absence of a ban, serious considerationcould be given as to whether this practice should be allowed to continue and, if so, under what conditions. Possible options would be to ban it altogether; confine it to those areas where it is considered necessary as a means of controlling fox numbers or in the interests of animal welfare; make the practice subject to the general legislation on cruelty by removing the present exemptions for hunting; or improve monitoring by the hunts and by any independent monitors.”

ii) Is foxhunting necessary? No!

Just how much of a pest are foxes really?

Page 83 : “5.10 Although foxes are widely perceived as a pest, two studies suggested that rabbits, rather than foxes, were viewed as a more significant problem.”

Page 84 : “5.11 The majority of farmers and landowners who do control foxes give several reasons for doing so. Of these, reducing fox abundance is the most frequently mentioned, generally to reduce predation on livestock and game. Foxes are also considered a pest because they are thought to transmit disease. There are considerable regional differences in the reasons for control............Surveys indicate that farmers in the Midlands often cite sport as a reason for killing foxes.

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : There is no reference to the many farmers and landowners who do not control foxes and their reasons for so acting.

What about fox predation on lambs?

Page 85 : “5.14 The best estimate seems to be that a low percentage (less than 2%) of otherwise viable lambs are killed by foxes in England and Wales.

5.15 It is clear that only a small proportion of foxes kill lambs; otherwise, lamb losses would be much higher.

What about other means of control?

Page 88 : “5.29 The use of snares is unpopular in sheep-rearing country during the lambing season because of the risk of lambs being caught and is not advisable near footpaths because of dogs. About half of the captures made by snares are of non-target species, but

these are generally released alive.

Page 118 : “6.54 Serious concerns have been voiced about the welfare implications of snaring. Indeed, the UK is one of a minority of countries in Europe which permits snaring. The concerns include the stress of being restrained and the dangers of starvation, dehydration and hyperthermia or hypothermia. There is also the additional stress which the animal may experience at the point at which a human being approaches it and dispatches it.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : It was the forerunner to the Countryside Alliance, the British Field Sports Society that fought hard in Parliament and succeeded in retaining snaring against the wishes of the animal welfare lobby.

What about non-lethal methods of fox control?

Page 89 : “5.33 Potential non-lethal methods of controlling foxes fall into three main categories:

· the use of contraceptives and abortifacients

· the use of conditioned taste aversion, repellents or diversionary feeding

· the use of methods such as fencing in order to protect livestock

5.34 The evidence we have received indicates that the first two of these methods are still essentially experimental and subject to a substantial number of practical difficulties. These include the problem of ensuring that a sufficiently high proportion of the target population is reached.

5.35 The use of physical barriers such as fencing, especially electric fencing, can be effective in small areas but is not practicable on a wider scale.

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : There is no reference to reducing the food supply available to foxes by improving standards of farm hygiene. For instance the practice of dumping large heaps of dead sheep and lambs in pits in upland areas is effectively feeding the foxes and thereby raising their population. There is no mention of the measures taken by hunt supporters in all areas of the country to encourage foxes by building artificial earths for the foxes to breed in, constructing log piles for the foxes to shelter in and by providing food and water for the foxes.

Is there any comparison of the effectiveness of the different methods of fox control:

Page 89 : “5.36

· Killing with dogs, in its various forms, accounts for a substantial proportion of the numbers of foxes killed

· shooting, however, has a much greater capacity to reduce fox populations

· the overall contribution of traditional foxhunting, within the overall total of control techniques involving dogs, is almost certainly insignificant in terms of the management of the fox population as a whole

· but there are clear regional variations in the importance of the different culling methods, and hunting by the registered and unregistered packs may have an effect in some locations, especially in sheep-rearing upland areas

· population modelling indicates that the main impact on population stems from culling adults and sub-adults, rather than cubs

· culling cubs has no significant effect on the longer-term population unless it reaches very high levels

· culling foxes does not necessarily have a pro rata effect on the problem or perceived problem

Page 118 : “6.56 In the case of shooting, it seems to be generally agreed that lamping with a high powered rifle, if carried out properly and in appropriate circumstances, is the most humane way of killing a fox. But as we noted in paragraph 5.24, there are a number of situations in which lamping is not practicable or safe. In particular, because of the need for vehicular access, it is not usually suitable in more remote, upland areas.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Deer are stalked in some of the remotest parts of Scotland. Vehicular access is needed there both to allow access for the guns and to enable the removal of the carcase to be eaten. It seems unlikely that there would ever be a need to lamp foxes in a more inaccessible environment and what is feasible for deer must be likewise for foxes, particularly given that there is no requirement to remove the body of the fox for food.

What did the Inquiry team conclude about the control of foxes?

Page 119 : “6.59 None of the legal methods of fox control is without difficulty from an animal welfare perspective. Both snaring and shooting can have serious adverse welfare implications.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Clearly they mean killing rather than control as stopping the many measures currently taken by hunt supporters to artificially increase the number of foxes would obviously be a humane way of reducing fox numbers.

What of the best means of killing foxes?

Page 119 : “6.60 Our tentative conclusion is that lamping using rifles, if carried out properly and in appropriate circumstances, has fewer adverse welfare implications than hunting, including digging-out. However, in areas where lamping is not feasible or safe, there would be a greater use of other methods. We are less confident that the use of shotguns, particularly in daylight, is preferable to hunting from a welfare perspective. We consider that the use of snaring is a particular cause for concern.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Given the areas where lamping using rifles currently takes place there is no reason at all why it should not take place in every area of the UK, other than the preference by some in some areas for killing foxes by more enjoyable means. The Inquiry should have considered the situation in other countries where the use of packs of hounds for the pastime of controlling foxes is not an option.

What about the claim that in the absence of hunting there would be no countryside?

Page 127 : “7.16 Hunts and their supporters’ clubs clearly do carry out important conservation work. For example, some of the woodlands which they manage are “ancient woodlands” and therefore of high conservation value. However, a much greater amount of conservation work and land management is carried out by other landholders and dedicated conservation bodies.”

Hunting now plays little part in the rural landscape.

Page 133 : “7.42 Hunting has clearly played a very significant role in the past in the formation of the rural landscape and in the creation and management of areas of nature conservation. Nowadays, however, hunting with dogs is likely to form only a relatively minor factor in determining farmers’ and landowners’ land management practices. It still plays a role, though, in certain localities in respect of woodland planting and management.

7.43 Hunting exerts much less influence than agricultural market and policy trends, the management of game for shooting or incentives under agri-environment schemes. With the possible exception of hare conservation, a ban on hunting with dogs would be unlikely to have a major impact from a conservation perspective.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT :The legal pastime of coursing hares with dogs nurtures and to an extent shields the illegal variety of the same pastime that is illegal only because it involves trespass. There is an abundance of evidence that to ward off illegal hare coursers farmers and landowners eliminate the hares on their land.


i) Is it cruel? Yes!

How many hunts kill how many deer?

Page 7 : “There are three registered staghound packs in the Devon and Somerset area. They kill about 160 red deer a year in total, excluding injured deer which they dispatch. This probably represents about 15% of the numbers which need to be culled in the area to maintain a stable population.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Such staghunting with dogs is already illegal in Scotland.

What about the cruelty of hunting deer with packs of dogs?

Page 109 : “6.14 In the light of the controversy surrounding deer hunting in Exmoor and the Quantocks the National Trust commissioned Professor Patrick Bateson to undertake some research into the welfare of deer hunted by hounds. The report was based on a study of 64 hunted red deer. Bateson and Bradshaw concluded that the hunts cause red deer to experience conditions that lie far outside those that would normally be experienced by the species living in a natural environment. In the light of the report the National Trust decided to ban the hunting of red deer on its land.

6.15 There were subsequently some criticisms of certain aspects of the report and the Countryside Alliance and the Devon & Somerset Staghounds funded further research by Professor Roger Harris and others, known as the Joint Universities Study on Deerhunting.

(Page 110)This sought to replicate, and to extend in some respects, the work carried out by Bateson and Bradshaw. The report, which was published in 1999, broadly confirmed the metabolic measurements undertaken in the earlier study but drew different conclusions about the animal welfare implications. In particular, it concluded that the changes found were similar to those which occurred in horses and humans which had exercised intensively. The report suggested that deer might suffer for only the last 20 minutes or so of a hunt.”

Page 112 : “6.31 There seems to be a large measure of agreement among the scientists that, at least during the last 20 minutes or so of the hunt, the deer is likely to suffer as glycogen depletion sets in.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : So, even the apologists for hunting concede that there are some 20 minutes of suffering for deer in hunting them with packs of dogs.

What happens when the hounds catch up with the deer?

Page 39 : “2.41 ....The hounds will surround the stag until the Huntsman and gun carrier arrive. The hounds are trained not to attack the deer but biting occasionally occurs.”

Page 40 : “2.42 Since the last war, the preferred method of ensuring a quick kill has been a 12 bore shotgun. A shot to the head is always used, and the marksman will get as close to the deer as possible. The recommended maximum distance is seven yards in order to ensure an “instant knockdown”. A second shot is occasionally required. Each hunt will also have several members who carry, and are trained in, the use of firearms known as a “humane killer” (normally a .32 pistol). The nearest available gun carrier will be expected to shoot the quarry if, for example, it is known to be lying down or otherwise concealing itself in such a manner that the marksman does not have a clean shot. On occasion, the deer may be held by the antlers or neck.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : It seems that no consideration has been given to the many occasions when the deer is unable, through circumstance, to stand at bay. It may be swimming in a deep pool, may be caught up in barbed wire or some other entanglements. What is the average time from first standing at bay to death? What of the occasions when the deer are whipped on to run further and thereby provide more amusement? How often is a second shot required? or a third? or a fourth? What is the time lag between the shots?

It is not only red deer stags that are hunted, hinds are hunted also. What about the clear and obvious cruelty caused by making a pastime of hunting hinds running with their calves?

Page 151 : “9.34 Concern was expressed to us about the practice of hunting hinds with calves. It was argued that, at the start of the season, hinds may have a totally dependent calf at foot; that calves have great difficult [sic] in keeping up with the chase; and that eventually the hind is forced to abandon it. The MDHA [Masters of Deerhounds Association] argued, on the other hand, that by November last year’s calves are able to thrive without their mother and said that any hind with a late-born calf would not be hunted. We simply record that, whatever the precise degree of dependence, a number of people clearly find it distressing to see a hind and calf being chased and to observe the apparent dilemma of the hind about whether to stay with the calf or to pick up speed and leave it behind.

Page 152 : “9.35 Hunting hinds with a calf gives rise to understandable concern. It puts the hind in a position of having to choose between saving itself and staying with the calf. We are not able to say how often this situation occurs but action could be taken to end this practice in the absence of a ban.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Hind hunting takes place from November to the end of February. As to whether or not calves are dependent when hunted refer to the following from the Burns report concerning red deer breeding:

Page 92 : “5.47.....Mating occurs between September and October, with births from late May to early June. Calves (nearly always one) are weaned at 6-10 months.”

In other words calves are weaned some time from late November to early April. Calves that are weaned at anything other that the shortest period, and from an early birth, are clearly liable to be hunted.

ii) Is deerhunting with packs of dogs necessary? No!

What about the effectiveness of hunting with dogs as a means of control?

Page 95 : “5.62 Practical considerations such as the available number of days for hunting, and its inherent inefficiency - kills are made on only about half the days on which hunting takes place - make it unlikely that hunting’s contribution to the overall cull could increase substantially. Another difficulty with relying on hunting as a population management strategy is that it is not sufficiently biased towards culling hinds and calves to achieve the desired reduction in overall numbers.

5.63 It is also commonly argued that a secondary contribution made by the hunts to deer management is in dispersing groups of red deer which may be causing particular problems to a farmer or landowner. However, census work and observation of deer suggest that any dispersal effect is only very temporary, although this may be affected by the frequency of disturbance and the extent of nearby cover.

Page 96 “5.64 As already noted, shooting/stalking is by far the most important method used to reduce deer numbers in England and Wales, as in the rest of Europe, and accounts for the great majority of deer killed in the staghunting area.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : In fact virtually all the deer killed in the staghunting area are shot. Even those hunted with hounds first are eventually shot. The point to be determined is whether it is right for a small minority of deer to be terrified with hounds before being killed, in order to provide amusement.

How does hunting deer with dogs compare with other means of culling the species?

Page 113 : “6.34 Even if one accepted that hunting deer with dogs involves an appreciable degree of suffering, it would be necessary to compare this with the suffering involved in other culling methods, in particular shooting. This is because virtually everyone accepts that there is a need to cull some of the deer population in Exmoor and the Quantocks.

6.35 An essential piece of information, therefore, is the accuracy of stalkers when shooting deer, since injured animals may escape, leading possibly to a long and painful death. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of reliable information about the accuracy of stalking and the figures which were quoted to us range from less than 2% of deer being wounded and then escaping to 15% or more.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Perhaps the stalking fraternity are unwilling to sell their hunting chums down the river, fearful no doubt of putting themselves in the frontline? It is always hunting fanatics who highlight the cruelty they believe exists in shooting.

What did the Inquiry team conclude?

Page 114 : “6.39 Stalking, if carried out to a high standard and with the availability of a dog or dogs to help find any wounded deer that escape, is in principle the better method of culling deer from an animal welfare perspective. In particular, it obviates the need to chase the deer in the way which occurs in hunting.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : That is a clear enough condemnation of hunting deer with packs of dogs. The tendency by all concerned to always compare the best of hunting with the worst of stalking perhaps indicates a subconscious admission that there is a comparable level of cruelty. But what of the many occasions when things go wrong at the end of a hunt? There is abundant evidence of mishaps occurring with the kill at the end of a hunt, perhaps on a comparable level with the mishaps that occur in stalking.

The admission by apologists for hunting that there is suffering during the last 20 minutes of a hunt is telling. 20 minutes is a long while. There is no consideration to the kills, often of young calves, that take place when hounds break away from the main pack. These deer are killed not by guns but by bite injuries from the hounds.

What about the hunting of other species of deer with packs of dogs for fun?

Page 40 : “2.44 Roe deer are also hunted by at least two unregistered buckhound packs in parts of the staghound countries. The hounds used to hunt roe deer are usually either basset/harrier crosses or beagles......The main purpose of roe deer hunting is to provide sport. It is estimated that about 30-40 roe deer in total are killed each year by the two packs.”


1. With packs of dogs.

i) Is it cruel? Yes!

How many hunts kill how many hares?

Page 41 : “2.47 There are 72 registered packs of beagles in England and Wales, 10 packs of bassets and 20 packs of harriers. (Seven of the harrier packs hunt mainly foxes and two hunt foxes and hares).......The packs have an average income of £17,000 a year and, on average, hunt over some 50 days a year at an average cost of £325 per day. Typically, there are reported to be about 30 followers present at weekend meets. The packs kill about 1,650 brown hares in total or, on average, less than 20 hares per pack.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : By these figures it seems that a mere 3,060 follow these hare hunts at a weekend meet (the most popular!). The hunts kill on average some 17 hares a season at an average cost of some £955 per hare!!! But they have a lot of fun for their money.

Page 99 : “5.78 Hares breed from February through to October and occasionally in winter.”

“5.82 In some parts of England, especially East Anglia, hare numbers are maintained at high levels for organised shooting.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : It is clear that hares are hunted for sport when they are pregnant, heavily pregnant or nursing.

How long do the hunts last?

Page 119 : “6.63 In the case of hunting, chases generally last from about half an hour to a hour and a half. For a good part of the time, however, the hare may not be aware that it is being pursued. It seems likely that, if the hare is caught by the pack, insensibility and death follow very swiftly.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Just because the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles claim that “the hare may not be aware that it is being pursued” doesn’t make the claim true. They would say that wouldn’t they? Why else would the hare run? What is overlooked is that the hounds are bred for the pace that ensures the long run, and thereby the fun that the followers seek. If the shooters were to use lightweight pellets so that they could have more than one shot at their fleeing victim the nation would be rightly horrified. Wouldn’t it?

What did the Inquiry conclude about this game of hunting hares?

Page 120 : “6.67 There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the effect on the welfare of a hare of being closely pursued, caught and killed by hounds during hunting. We are satisfied, nevertheless, that although death and insensibility will normally follow within a matter of seconds, this experience seriously compromises the welfare of the hare.”

2 Hare Coursing

i) Is it cruel? Yes!

Does post mortem evidence prove the suffering involved?

Page 119 : “6.64 We arranged post mortems on the carcasses of twelve hares which had been killed during organised coursing events. These were carried out by the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge. There were difficulties, however, in determining the cause of death in some cases because the neck of the hare is almost invariably broken by the “picker-up” as soon as the hare is retrieved from the dogs. The findings were that the cause of death in one case was probably fatal injuries caused by the dogs. In six other cases it was not clear whether the actions of the dogs, or the picker-up, had led to the hare’s death. In the remaining five cases the picker-up was judged to have been the cause of death.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Hare coursers have always claimed that their dogs always kill the hare instantly. These post mortems expose such claims to be downright lies. But, if we look at the actual post mortem evidence the cruelty is even worse, if that were possible:- [Extracts, in italics, from the CD Rom follow]

Of the 12 hares examined 8 were female and 4 were male. Of the 8 females 5 were pregnant and of these 3 were lactating. Two of the pregnant hares were assessed as being in “early” pregnancy, 2 in “mid term” pregnancy and 1 was described as “full term” pregnant. Three were found to contain 2 foetuses each and 2 contained 3 foetuses.

It was hare reference number 5 that was assessed as “full term” pregnant. Her reproductive status was described thus : “Mature Female. Advanced late pregnancy (two large fully-haired foetuses, weighing 176 and 162g resp. located one in each uterine horn). Milk in mammary glands.”

Her state was summarised : “This heavily pregnant female hare was in good condition. The large size of the foetuses and presence of milk in the mammary glands suggests she was close to giving birth. Recent severe traumatic damage with local haemorrhage was present, involving mainly the right side of the thorax. Some of the injury to the left hindleg was not associated with haemorrhage and may have occurred after death.”

For this hare it was not possible to assess whether the hare was killed by the dogs or by the picker-up.

One of the females killed, that was not pregnant, was judged to be recovering from a previous non-lethal, shooting episode as she had shotgun pellets beneath her skin.

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Note the coursing and killing of these pregnant hares was not done as some means of pest control, it was purely for fun. Note also that whilst the animals involved could obviously not relate the manner of death the “picker-up” presumably could but appears simply not to be rated as credible.

What of the condition of the males post mortemed?

Hare number 2 had “Nostril and genital lesions suggestive of hare syphilis”. Hare number 6 had “Genital lesions suggestive of hare syphilis”. Hare number 8 had “Area of corneal opacity in the right eye”. Finally, hare number 10 had “Nostril lesions suggestive of hare syphilis”.

One of these 4 hares, 1 had been killed by the “picker-up” and for the remainder it was unclear whether they were killed by the “picker-up” or by the dogs.

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Of the 12 hares post mortemed 10 were either pregnant, injured by shot, suffering from syphilis or had impaired vision. Yet they call it “sport”.

What did the Inquiry conclude about hare coursing?

Page 120 : “6.68 We are similarly satisfied that being pursued, caught and killed by dogs during coursing seriously compromises the welfare of the hare. It is clear, moreover, that, if the dog or dogs catch the hare, they do not always kill it quickly. There can also sometimes be a significant delay, in “driven” coursing, before the “picker up” reaches the hare and dispatches it (if it is not already dead). In the case of “walked up” coursing, the delay is likely to be even longer.”

It is interesting to refer back half a century to the Scott Henderson report of the Committee on Cruelty to Wild Animals. They gave the following view on coursing where hare numbers were artificially high : “at for example Altcar, where hares are far more numerous than they would be if their numbers were controlled by ordinary methods, and the same is probably true in varying degrees in other places. Consequently, the suffering which is caused to hares at such meetings comes within the definition of cruelty which we have adopted.” [Scott Henderson report page 75]That definition would cover not only the Waterloo Cup and other coursing at Altcar but also, most likely, the Greyhound 2000 event staged near Newmarket in December 2000.

ii) Are hare hunting and hare coursing necessary? No!

Page 119 : “6.62 Similarly, in the case of hares, there is little direct information about the welfare during hunting or coursing or how this compares with other legal methods that are used, in particular shooting and trapping.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : This presupposes that hare hunting and coursing are necessary means of pest control to be compared with shooting or trapping. They are not.

How are hares controlled where hare control is needed?

Page 100 : “5.85 Hare shooting is the means most frequently used by farmers in arable areas for pest control. It is estimated that some 200,000-300,000 hares are shot in Britain each year.”

Does such killing threaten the hare population?

Page 100-101 : “5.88 One piece of research estimated that hare shoots on four farms reduced hare numbers by an average of 50%. Population modelling suggests, however, that, because of the hare’s reproductive potential, even killing a large proportion of adults or sub-adults would not have a long-term effect on hare populations.

Is either hare hunting with packs of dogs, or hare coursing, a pest control measure?

Page 101 : “5.89 No-one argues that legal hunting or coursing has an appreciable effect on hare numbers.”

“5.90 Similarly, legal hare coursing has a negligible impact on hare numbers. The average number killed at official hare coursing events are reported as being some 250 a year. As we noted in paragraph 2.56, however, many more hares are killed through other forms of coursing.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : There is confusion here between legal organised (i.e. National Coursing Club) coursing, legal coursing (where individuals course with permission), and illegal coursing. The latter is only illegal because it involves trespass.

What would be the effect of banning hare hunting and coursing on hare numbers?

Page 101 : “5.93 There is no doubt that, in some areas at present, hare numbers are maintained at high levels for shooting and hunting/coursing purposes. It seems likely, in our view, that, in some of those areas at least, the hare population, in the event of a ban, would be lower than it is now.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Where hare numbers are boosted, like pheasants, for the fun of killing them it would probably be better to return to the natural, wild, population levels.

What did the Inquiry conclude?

Page 102 : “5.94 Hare hunting and coursing are essentially carried out for recreational purposes and have a relatively small direct impact on hare numbers. A ban would therefore have little effect in practice on agriculture or other interests.

5.95 Because hare numbers tend to be maintained at high levels in areas where hunting/coursing occurs, the impact of a ban might well be that, in the absence of other changes, the population would decline in those areas. This would partly result from a loss of suitable habitat but also, in a few areas, from the shooting of hares to deter poaching and illegal coursing. However, in comparison with the impact of organised shooting on hare numbers, a ban on hunting and coursing would have a negligible effect.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Just how negligible can be seen from taking the lowest estimate of hares shot, 200,000. Set against that the 1,900 hares claimed to be killed by hunting with packs of dogs and organised coursing is less than 1%!! How many of the 200,000 hares shot are shot for fun rather than pest control is not made clear but what is clear is that with hare numbers being maintained at artificially high levels for the sport of shooting the loss of the exquisite cruelty that is hare hunting with dogs will have no effect on overall hare numbers.

What about a closed season for all killing of hares?

Page 151 : “9.31 : We noted in paragraphs 2.48 and 2.54 that there is no legally-prescribed closed season for hunting and coursing hares but that the rules of the relevant associations forbid hunting after the end of March and coursing after 10 March.

9.32 : We also noted in paragraph 5.78 that hares breed from February onwards - and, indeed, we understand that hares sometimes produce leverets in January. In our view there is a case for having a legally-prescribed closed season for killing hares. This ought, logically, to apply to all forms of killing, including shooting.

9.33 There is understandable concern that the seasons for hare coursing and hunting are too long in relation to the hare’s breeding season. In the absence of a ban on hunting, an option would be to introduce a closed season. Consideration would also need to be given to whether a closed season should apply to shooting.”


i) Is it cruel? Yes!

What did the Inquiry team conclude?

Page 120 : “6.71 There is a lack of firm scientific evidence about the welfare implications of hunting mink. There seems reason to suppose, however, that being closely pursued, caught and killed by hounds, or being dug out or bolted, seriously compromises the welfare of the mink. The kill, by the hounds or by shooting, is normally quick once the mink is caught. In the absence of hunting, more mink would probably be killed by shooting and, mainly, trapping. These methods involve welfare implications but we do not have sufficient evidence to conclude how they compare with those raised by hunting.”

AUTHOR’S COMMENT : Members of the Inquiry team were only able to visit one mink hunt but they didn’t even see a mink let alone a mink hunted, dug out, bolted or killed. Accordingly it is hard to see why they should accept the claim by apologists for this pastime that the kill is “normally quick”. In my experience of witnessing many kills the end game is usually protracted and gruesome as the small mink is particularly elusive in the maelstrom of murky water.

ii) Is minkhunting necessary? No!

Page 106 : “5.117 It is clear that the contribution made by mink hunts to the control of mink populations nationally is insignificant. The numbers killed are far too low to make an impact on population numbers, especially given the high fecundity of mink. Moreover, hunting does not target the pre-breeding population of mink: those mink killed from mid-summer onwards are mainly pre-dispersal juveniles, many of whom would not have become adult territory-holders.”

Mike Huskisson