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May 13, 2019

A fox hunting conviction has been upheld in what campaigners have described as a ‘landmark ruling’.

George Adams, a former huntsman with the Fitzwilliam Hunt, appealed his conviction for illegally chasing and killing a fox, using what is known as the ‘falconry exemption’.

This loophole comes from a clause in the Hunting Act 2004, which was designed to ensure falconers did not get prosecuted if their birds killed a mammal that had been flushed out of cover by dogs.

According to welfare group The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), some hunts ‘exploit this loophole and having birds of prey accompany them on the day of their hunt’.

According to Adams, his hunting activity was legal, because his hunt carried a golden eagle with it on the day. But the judge rejected his reasoning – making this case the first instance of a fox hunt being successfully prosecuted while using the ‘falconry exemption’.

A spokesperson for pro-bloodsports pressure group the Countryside Alliance told Peterborough Today that the hunt was acting lawfully.

“We are clearly disappointed in the judgment but maintain the hunt was, to the best of their knowledge, acting within the confines of the Hunting Act,” they said.

“They were operating openly, as they have been since February 2005, and were confident that their hunting activities were entirely legal. We will assess the judgment and look forward to seeing the Fitzwilliam hounds out again in the autumn.”

“Hunts are using exemptions and loopholes in the law to cover up their fox hunting and we welcome the judge’s decision today to uphold the original conviction of George Adams from the Fitzwilliam Hunt,” Martin Sims, Director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.

“The decision to reject the hunt’s appeal shows how farcical the falconry exemption is, and sends a message to hunts across the country that the falconry exemption loophole will no longer wash. It is simply ludicrous anyway to believe that a falconer would release a valuable bird of prey to chase a fox when it too could be torn to pieces by the pursuing hounds.

“We need a proper deterrent to stop the barbaric activities of the hunts and we also need to close the loopholes that allow hunts to get around the law. We are calling for the hunting ban to be strengthened with the introduction of prison sentences for those caught illegally hunting. Hunts have a history of exploiting a variety of exemptions in the Hunting Act, which is against the spirit of the law. We hope that today’s decision will put a stop to the use of the falconry exemption as a cover for illegal hunting.”

According to LACS, when convicted, Adams was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge and £930 costs. In today’s appeal judgement, further costs of £11,323 were awarded.


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