Countryside Alliance’s new Executive Director, Alice Bernard writes the following:
You may already have heard the disappointing result of a trial of the huntsman and terrierman of the Fernie Hunt. Huntsman Derek Hopkins and terrierman Keith Allen were yesterday convicted at Market Harborough Magistrates Court of offences under the Hunting Act and the Badger Act. This result marks the third conviction of a registered fox hunt since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005.
The case, which was heard over seven days (four before Christmas, three after) raises many questions but, whilst unpleasant for those personally involved, it should not be a blow to the hunting community’s morale. The case is another example of two men who genuinely thought they were operating within the law, but were found to be outside it. The Fernie has our support if it appeals the judgment, as we hope it does. However, this does not make life any more comfortable for hunt staff up and down the country who struggle daily to comply with an unclear Hunting Act.
We have been here before. Where the recent Sinnington trial saw the huntsman, whip and a supporter cleared, the Fernie trial went the other way. Yet this is by no means proof that the Hunting Act works, as hunting’s opponents will claim. In fact, it boosts the campaign for repeal and gives us all cause to lobby for repeal with renewed vigour. We can all see that principle, evidence and legal intentions may count for little when it comes to applying the Hunting Act. And that is because the Act doesn’t work.
With widespread Government acknowledgement that the Hunting Act is “unworkable”, we can add the names Derek Hopkins and Keith Allen to those who have sharp end experience of the difficulties of trying to work within it. To show our support for those hunt staff who live with the threat the Hunting Act poses, as well as to show our unity and determination, it is important that we all make the case for repeal to our MP. When Parliament revisits this issue, which it will, all supporters of hunting should be able to say they did all they could to communicate their views. You can lobby your MP quickly and easily by clicking here for our e-lobbying campaign.