Author – Charlie Pye-Smith
Published by the RS Surtees Society 2023
Hardback 95 pages price £20-0
Order from http://www.rssurtees.com/product/ruralwrongs/
Launched on 24th October 2023, Rural Wrongs – Hunting and the Unintended Consequences of Bad Law is the authors follow up to his book Rural Rites – Hunting and the Politics of Prejudice which showed how the Hunting Act 2004 in England & Wales was motivated less by animal welfare than by perpetuating the class war.
In Rural Wrongs, the author (often accompanied by Jim Barrington) travelled the UK to do something that no other person has done – gather first hand evidence of the actual impact of the Hunting Act and similar punitive legislation in Scotland, upon the populations and welfare of quarry species (foxes, red deer, and brown hares). The findings are presented in a series of chapters that present the information in engaging, accessible language instead of the dry, hard-to-read tone of many scientific papers. That doesn’t stop it from being uncomfortable reading for those who want to see hunting with hounds permanently banned in all forms as the evidence reveals that instead of making life better for the fox, brown hare, and red deer, the emotion driven regulations have in many cases made it so much worse for those species impacted this book shines a new bright light on the whole picture.
The evidence they collected revealed that, since the Act ‘respect’ for the fox as a species has declined, with instances of all out vulpicide in some areas.
In addition the ban has indirectly contributed to an increase in rural crime linked to illegal hare coursing. The ban has also had a noticeable impact This includes highlighting that the obsessive focus on banning hunting with hounds has overlooked the wider implications for other wildlife – a prime example of this, to which the author returns several times in the book, is how ground-nesting birds are rapidly disappearing in areas where foxes are no longer controlled as nothing has replaced hunting compared to those same birds maintaining steady or increasing populations in areas where controls are still practiced to support other growing activities. It is also a study that makes the important distinction between what happens to an individual animal and the long-term welfare of that species.
The work highlights the shortcomings of the ill thought-out Hunting Act and related legislation, it also warns against any further restriction. Instead, it sensibly advocates that if this bad law is replaced, then any replacement must be based on Animal Welfare NOT Animal Rights grounds.
Well-researched and easy to read and digest, with a long list of contributors, including us at Baily’s, this is a book that is a must-buy for anyone who is serious about promoting the cause of hunting with hounds based on facts and logic including the allied concepts of ‘utility’ and ‘welfare’, as a useful tool to counter emotional arguments based solely on the premise that ‘I don’t like the sound of that”
This work shows that hunting with hounds has a valuable if not wholly understood or valued place in wildlife management TODAY and meddling has doing little but compromise the fox.
In summary, the book is a digestible and valuable took in any countryman’s library and would be welcome addition to anyone’s Christmas present list.