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BASC Statement on the Hunting Act

BASC strongly opposes a ban on hunting with dogs, and believes land owners and managers should be able to choose the most effective methods of pest and predator control for their circumstances. BASC equally strongly opposes unlawful protest action because it is morally wrong and likely to be counterproductive.

Efforts to challenge the ban are being coordinated by the Countryside Alliance. To visit the C.A. website for details please click here . (external link)

BASC’s assessment of the ban and its immediate consequences for shooting are outlined below:

Should we defy the ban and break the law?

BASC expects its members to obey the law. BASC opposes unlawful actions and warns that they could be counterproductive. A decision to join unlawful protests must be an individual one, but BASC warns that arrest and prosecution could affect retention and renewal of firearm and shotgun certificates.

How will the Hunting Act affect shooting?

The Act is drafted to prevent most hunting with dogs in England and Wales. BASC’s brief is to promote and defend shooting sports on behalf of its members. To that end we have worked hard to try to ensure that this Act does not have a major effect on shooting sports. There have been four significant amendments designed to protect shooting. These include changes to exempt the use of dogs in field trials, to allow dogs to be used to protect birds intended for shooting and to protect the use of dogs in stalking.  The main offence outlined in the Act is the hunting of wild mammals with dogs. This means that the use of dogs to flush birds, such as in the beating line on a driven shoot, will not be affected.

What will not be banned?

In some circumstances, dogs can be used to stalk or flush a wild mammal without falling inside the scope of the Act.

1. Permitted stalking and flushing using dogs

Dogs can be used to stalk or flush mammals above ground to prevent or reduce serious damage to game and wild birds kept or preserved for shooting, or to livestock, food for livestock, crops (including fruit and vegetables), timber, fisheries, other property or the biological diversity of an area. They can also be used to stalk or flush mammals to obtain meat for human consumption. The above exemptions apply as long as no more than two dogs are used and the activity takes place on land owned by the person involved, or on land where the person involved has permission to carry out that activity.

2. The Beating Line

A beating line on any driven bird shoot which includes dogs will not be affected by the Act. Defra have confirmed to BASC that if a hare or fox is unintentionally flushed by the line that this does not come under the definition of hunting in the Act. The hare or fox may be shot if your shoot allows the taking of ground game and the shot is safe.

3. Use of terriers underground

Terriers may be used underground to flush foxes for the purpose of shooting them in order to protect game birds. However you may only have one dog below ground at any one time.  Individuals carrying this out must have permission from the landowner and act in accordance with a code of practice approved by the Secretary of State. A copy of the code together with BASC advice on the use of terriers can be found here.  In England and Wales it is no longer be possible to use a terrier to dispatch orphaned cubs underground, or to hold a fox at bay while a terrier man digs down to dispatch the fox. It is possible to dig down to rescue a terrier stuck underground.

4. Ratting and Rabbitting

Using dogs to hunt rats or rabbits is exempt under the Act as long as it is carried out by the owner of the land where it takes place, or by people with the landowner’s permission,

5. Hare shooting

When stalking and flushing hares to be shot you cannot use more than two dogs.  However you may use more than two dogs when finding and retrieving hares which have been shot, where permission has been granted by the landowner.

6. Field trials

Dogs may be used to stalk and flush wild mammals during a gun dog field trial as long as the following conditions are met: not more than two dogs are used for the stalking and flushing of any mammal; the intention must be that any flushed mammal will be shot as soon as possible after being flushed.

7. Falconry

Dogs may be used to flush a wild mammal from cover for a bird of prey to hunt, provided permission has been granted by the landowner.  There is no limit on the number of dogs that can be used for this activity.

8. Recapture of a wild mammal

Dogs may be used to find an animal which has been released or escaped from captivity, providing the animal was not released for the purpose of hunting. Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure the animal is recaptured or shot as soon as possible after being found.  There is no limit on the number of dogs that can be used for this activity.

9. Rescue of a wild mammal

Dogs may be used to find an animal believed to be injured or diseased in order to relieve its suffering or treat the disease. The animal must not have been deliberately harmed in order to allow it to be hunted. This exception applies on the following conditions: dogs must not be used under ground; the hunters must have permission from the landowner; not more than two dogs are used for the stalking and flushing of any mammal; reasonable steps are taken so that as soon as the wild animal is found appropriate action is taken to end its suffering.

What has BASC done to fight the ban?

BASC has been fully involved in the campaign against the Act and participates in discussion and planning with other organisations. We have attended a number of high profile events opposing the Act, and many thousands of BASC members attended the national rallies, including the most recent countryside march in London. At the invitation of the Countryside Alliance, BASC’s Chief Executive John Swift spoke at a demonstration in Parliament Square in July 2003 where he said:

“Through a fog of argument hundreds of thousands of shooters stand full square with hunting.  Thousands of our banners marched with you last September, thousands more will be with you in the fight ahead. BASC stands full square in support of hunting.  Shooters are opposed to the Hunting Bill.  It is an attack on the rights of minorities and on liberty. We unequivocally support you, “Back off Blair.”

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