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Hunting community await human rights decision

[Friday 24 March 2006]

For Britain's hunting community it is now a case of waiting, as the latest legal challenges to the Hunting Act drew to a close in the Court of Appeal yesterday (22nd March).

The human rights case saw the Countryside Alliance joined by other interested parties in arguing that the Hunting Act breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. The claimants also argued that the controversial Act is illegal under EU law, insisting that it breaches trade law and restricts employment and trade possibilities between EU states.

Hunting community await human rights decision
Hunting community await human rights

Heard over five days, the claimants case, represented by Richard Gordon QC, argued that as a result of the Hunting Act, they may lose their homes, their jobs and their livelihoods; as well as asserting that It threatens their lifestyle and deprives individuals of their property or controls it in such a way as to render it virtually useless.

The Government argued that the case should be dismissed as, to date, there has been little, if any, adverse effect on the lives of those involved in hunting. Richard Gordon responded by saying that if the Government were right, "we would have to wait until irreversible damage is done for any claim to be legitimate." He explained the belief of the claimants as being that current activity is sustainable only so long as a 'sensible' legal or political conclusion is considered possible.

A major aspect of the Appeal hearing related to the aim of the Hunting Act. The human rights claimants argued there is no justification for the ban on the grounds of animal welfare, and along with the EU claimants said that in any case it was not a proportionate measure if its aim really was to improve animal welfare.

Richard Gordon concluded that the "Hunting Act has a series of disparate and inconsistent aims" and that "the ethical opposition to killing for sport cannot apply."

The Government, supported by the RSPCA, argued that it was better to have a ban than a piecemeal registration system - which Ministers initially supported whilst the legislation was going through the Parliamentary process.

A previous challenge under human rights laws was rejected by the lower courts, but an appeal was allowed with the Judge saying that elements of the Human Rights Act are certainly engaged by the Hunting Act.

Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the Countryside Alliance insists it is determined to continue working to overturn what it calls a "widely discredited" law.

A judgement is expected within the next few months.

What do you think?

Should the hunting ban stay, or is it an infringement of human rights?

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