League Against Cruel Sports wins first Hunting Act foxhunting conviction

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:

DEVON, U.K.–The League Against Cruel
Sports on August 3, 2006 won the first
conviction for fox hunting under the Hunting Act
of 2004, which banned fox hunting throughout
England and Wales. Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court
District Judge Paul Palmer fined Exmoor Foxhounds
huntsman Tony Wright, 52, £500 plus prosecution
costs of £250 after an intensely publicized
week-long hearing. Wright allegedly hunted a fox
with dogs on April 29, 2004.
“The League brought the case at a total
cost of more than £100,000 after Avon and
Somerset Police declined to take the case,”
reported BBC News.

“The findings of the court have
demonstrated a benchmark for what constitutes a
breach of the Hunting Act,” said a police
The only previous conviction under the
Hunting Act was of a Mersey-side rabbit hunter.
The Wright conviction came a week after
Conservative Animal Welfare Group chair and
veterinary surgeon Roger Baker asked Minister for
Nature Conservation & Fisheries Ben Bradshaw, of
the ruling Labour Party, to expand the State
Veterinary Service to replace the Royal SPCA as
the lead agency investigating and prosecuting
animal welfare cases.
Baker proposed “a newly created and
fully-trained inspectorate to be operated under
the auspices of each local authority. It is
surely incongruous in this day and age,” Baker
wrote to Bradshaw, “that the responsibility for
the enforcement of animal welfare law has been
placed upon an animal welfare and rights charity
funded by public subscription and not accountable
to the electorate.”
Humane law enforcement was, however,
the original function of the Royal SPCA, formed
as the London SPCA in 1824, two years after
passage of the first British humane law and five
years before Sir William Peel formed the first
London police force. The London SPCA received a
Royal charter to do humane law enforcement
throughout the British Empire from Queen Victoria
in 1840.
The London SPCA won 150 convictions in
1824. The Royal SPCA, still operating under an
amended version of the 1822 law that was last
generally updated in 1911, won 1,732 convictions
in 2004, investigating about 70,000 cases.
About 20,000 of those cases, Royal SPCA director
general Jackie Ballard told news media, involved
animals who were left without water, an offense
usually handled with a warning.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Group
proposal to take the Royal SPCA off the cruelty
law enforcement beat was denounced from some
directions as an attempt to weaken enforcement of
the Hunting Act. However, Conservative Animal
Welfare Act founder Roger Gale is among the most
outspoken opponents of fox hunting in Parliament,
and was among just five Conservative members who
voted for the Hunting Act.
The Labour Party commitment on behalf of
animals and habitat came under scrutiny in July
2006 after Natural England chair Sir Michael
Doughty warned Environment Secretary David
Miliband that budget cuts jeopardize the new
agency’s ability to fulfill its mandate as the
successor to English Nature. Natural England,
incorporating the English Nature duties, is to
officially debut in October 2006.
“These cuts will put back the recovery
prospects for a whole range of species for
years,” Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds director of conservation Mark Avery told
Independent environment editor Michael McCarthy.
Natural England will inherit from English
Nature a management portfolio including 213
national nature reserves and more than 4,000
sites of “special scientific interest,” most of
them privately owned, and has responsibility for
helping threatened and endangered species to

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