On 18th November 2004 the Hunting Act was passed which controlled the hunting of wild mammals with dogs and prohibited hare coursing in England and Wales. The Hunting Act 2004, which came into force three months later on the 18th February 2005, is not an absolute prohibition on the hunting of wild mammals with dogs and permits some types of hunting if an exemption applies. The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 pre-dated legislation on hunting in the rest of Britain by two years.
The Hunting Act was the culmination of many years of campaigning by the League Against Cruel Sports, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) along with other groups and individuals. The latest polling from Ipsos MORI, conducted in 2017 on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports showed that 85% of people think fox hunting should remain illegal, 87% of people think stag should remain illegal and 90% think hare coursing and hare hunting should remain illegal.
Claims that the Hunting Act 2004 is unworkable and unenforceable are erroneous and the number of convictions under the Act compares favourably to the number of convictions under other wildlife legislation. In addition to the 460 convictions under the Hunting Act recorded and published by the Ministry of Justice since 2005 to 2016 a further 53 people were convicted under the Hunting Act as a result of private prosecutions brought by the RSPCA, the League and IFAW making a total of 513 convictions since the Act was passed. A further 36 people have admitted an offence under the Act to the police since 2005 for which they received a formal police caution as an alternative to being prosecuted in court. For the same time period the Ministry of Justice recorded and published 236 convictions and 30 formal police cautions under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and 31 convictions under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.
This website has been produced for police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service as a means of sharing the wealth of expertise that has been built up during the enforcement of the Hunting Act.