Why hunt in the UK?

For most people outside of the small world of foxhunting on the British Isles, the question of how the sport functions in 2013 remains somewhat of a mystery.

Significant global coverage of the debate about the sport means most people are aware of the controversy around foxhunting and of the 2004 Hunting Act.

What perhaps is not so evident is how British hunts have adapted to life under the ban; why people can continue to enjoy hunting in England and (significantly in our business as a tour operator) why it still makes sense to come here to ride to hounds. In this piece, I am going to look at why we love foxhunting in England and why we think the sport has a brilliant future.

Why hunt?

A busy Boxing Day meet – a prime chance for people to rally behind hunting.

Perhaps the greatest surprise is that yes, most of Britain’s hunts continue to operate under the ban, and in terms of the day out on horseback we all enjoy, it is pretty much business as usual.

Hunts have worked hard to adapt to hunting under the ban: developing strategies to work within the law, investing in their countryside management and developing innovative approaches to providing a rewarding day out for riders, foot-followers and hunt supporters in general.

This widely has been a change for good and is reflected in growing support for hunts as a vital element of the rural and agricultural milieu. A recent study by the Countryside Alliance has shown that since the ban the UK’s foxhunts are enjoying a renaissance ‘with more riders than ever […] coming into the sport, more hounds being bred [and] more people being employed in the industry’.

It has also pulled once archaic institutions firmly into the 21st century. The post-ban hunt is a more welcoming place. Widening support is at the top of the agenda and so hunts embrace visitors, new-comers and children with wholehearted enthusiasm. These, after all, are the people that represent the future of the sport.

Greater efforts to expand the positive reach of hunting means improved relationships with the environment, farmers and landowners, pony clubs, ramblers and the racing world. This bridge-building places you – as a foxhunter – within a broad family of people who respect our countryside, conserve its customs and recognise the importance of balancing conservation with a robust rural economy.

Finally post-ban hunting is a much less confrontational pursuit than it once was. Yes, many hunts continue to be observed by professional or serious amateur hunt monitors, but the antagonism and animosity characteristic of the pre-ban era is largely forgotten as the debate moves from the political arena to the legal sphere.

There is a good article about how hunts have ‘beaten the ban and thrived’ on the Guardian website. A newspaper – it is worth noting – that wouldn’t typically favour the hunting community.

Act Facts

  • The 2004 Hunting Act outlaws the hunting of live mammals with dogs.
  • So far five cases have been brought to court via private prosecution.
  • Two of these cases have been acquitted at appeal.
  • The successful prosecutions have been against hunt officials from the Fernie Hunt (2011), Crawley & Horsham Hunt (2012) and the Heythrop Hunt (2012)

So despite the complexities of the law and the challenges of running hunts in the 21st century we believe that foxhunting plays a vital part in the cultural, social and economic life of Britain’s countryside.

That’s why we want to work in the world of foxhunting and that’s why we want to share it.

Foxhunting in the UK may have changed, but it is a living breathing world. It is a world of fun and friendship, challenge and excitement, beauty and tradition and a world very much worth exploring.