New Zealand was first represented at the International Union of Hunting with Hounds IUHH in 2007 and in August this year they hosted the annual meeting at Auckland Racing Club’s Ellerslie Racecourse on August 23, 2013, chaired by Andrew Morison, President of the New Zealand Hunting Association.
We visited a number of hunt kennels as well as the famous New Zealand Bloodstock Centre and the Veterinary Associates Equine Hospital. And of course two days were devoted to hunting. We enjoyed generous hospitality every day and also had a few seminars and discussions with various hunting groups. It is a remarkable fixation we share. All the informal gatherings were seen and used as an opportunity to compare hunting in our different countries. Prevalent in our conversations with hunt followers in the host country were questions about the threat of the animal rights agenda.
The purpose of our journey was to gather representatives from countries around the world where the sport of hunting with hounds exists to discuss the ways in which we can learn from each other and support each other in protecting and developing our sport for the enjoyment of future generations. The meeting took place and lasted all day. There were delegations from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, and The United States of America. There were written submissions from Belgium and France.
Ireland was first in line and Oliver Russell, as Chairman of Face Ireland, spoke about a range of influences including the Dog Breeding Establishment Act, the Animal Health and Welfare Act and the Registration of Equine Establishments. On the positive side he reported on the Face EU Board Meeting held in Dublin in March. On the potentially negative side he mentioned the National Animal Rights Association (NARCA) protest demonstration at the RDS during the Horse Show but concluded that it did not attract either support or attention.
The UK presentation was jointly conducted by Stephen Lambert and Tim Easby, who were cautiously up-beat. The hunting community in Britain continue to show great resilience under the cloud of that unworkable and grossly undemocratic Hunting Act. The RSPCA continues to pursue a program of animal rights politics rather than animal welfare activity and continues to lose public support. Both speakers sung the praises of Sir Barney White-Spunne and his management of the hunting debate. Stephen and Tim were, of course, preaching to the choir in Auckland, but they were very encouraging and convincing.
Belgium was next to report, but was unable to be present. We had all read their report but I took the opportunity to enlighten those who were unfamiliar with the Belgian situation. Mounted hunting in Belgium is very restricted, because the country is so densely populated, but hunting with foot packs is practiced and several mounted hunts travel with their hounds each week to France and have special arrangements to hunt there.
The French Document was also discussed and we applaud our French colleagues for continuing to take a proactive stance in support of hunting. France has more mounted hunts than any other country and they are not complacent. They have very little effective opposition to the sport and they strive to keep it that way.
Canada was represented by Charlotte McDonald MFH of the London Hunt in Ontario. Her message was clearly upbeat: there is currently no impending legislation that would have an impact on hunting with hounds. Urban sprawl poses a potential problem in reducing available land to hunt, but the primary quarry is coyotes which are a problem for farmers because of predation, so the hunt is welcome. While Animal Rights groups in Canada are active (and they do target farming), their sights are set on other targets such as the culling of baby seals.
The US report was jointly presented by Ed Kelly, President of the MFHA and Tony Leahy, 2nd Vice President. Ed spoke about the efforts to introduce children to mounted hunting. He talked about awards for pony clubs that participate in hunting and the “Fairly Hunted Award” which acknowledges any child who hunts at least 5 times with a certificate, a hunting pin, and free subscribing membership for a year.
Tony gave a good account of the Professional Development Program (PDP) in which he has been personally involved for some years. The first aim of this program is to raise the level of professionalism among hunt staff. The project has been a great success.
John Goold, Vice Chairman Australian MFHA, concentrated on the regulation of mounted hunting in Australia. Although the fox which is their exclusive quarry is listed as a pest, the sport is scrutinized and hunting is only permissible under license with the obligation to adhere to a strict Code of Conduct. As with other countries, puppy farm legislation is currently being drafted and although they have been assured that “approved hunts” would be exempt, there is plenty of evidence that animal rights groups have an influence with their legislature.
Ivan Bridge delivered the New Zealand report, which discussed the structure of the individual hunts, the management within the NZHA, the effects of changes in farming and the effect of last summer’s unusual and very severe drought. He made the point that to date the animal rights movement has not targeted mounted hunting. In fact, hunting has not been under pressure from any quarter, but they keep a vigilant eye on the situation. Hunting is in good shape and relationships with the farmers are generally very good.
Dr. Virginia Williams gave a presentation “A Consultative Approach to Welfare and Ethics” in which she discussed the importance of structuring animal welfare considerations into legislature and procedures in industry, farming sport and any activity that involves our interaction or use of animals.
Lt. Col. Dennis Foster gave a presentation on the threat of the Animal Rights movement, which focused on a list of animal rights organizations currently active in New Zealand and particularly those with an agenda to influence legislators in areas that would be detrimental to field sports. They are adept at lobbying for bills that seems innocuous, but which would systematically erode the freedom to hunt. Dennis also compiled a list of corporate and other supporters of these AR organisations. It is all too easy for sportsmen to unknowingly buy the product of a company, which is enabling possible restrictions on our sport. In many instances the commercial entity may have been duped into supporting a “charity” they thought was involved in animal welfare.