Breaking the Hunting Act is “fine” says Avery


The Wild Justice Director Mark Avery has given qualified support to disobeying the Hunting Act. He believes that it is “fine” provided that:

  • you must say you are doing it
  • you must say where you’re doing it and then take the consequences

I’m going to assume this is also the position of the campaign group to which he belongs. And I think this is a reasonable position to hold.

I’d like to give qualified support to Avery’s qualified support of hunt crime. I don’t fully agree with his position as it stands but with some adjustment I think it is a notion that we can all build on. I aim to develop his idea further and transform it into a mutually agreed justification for breaking the law that we can all live by.

Firstly, I’d like to express a certain distaste at people standing on the sidelines and encouraging criminal activity which they aren’t prepared to undertake themselves. If you aren’t prepared to put skin in the game then you should keep quiet. Avery should only encourage such crime if he’d do it himself. Maybe he would.

Secondly, I very much oppose people going out with packs of dogs and using them to kill foxes. Whether one is pro, anti or indifferent, it’s clear that Parliament wished to ban that. Doing it openly doesn’t make it OK. Nor, for example, would openly persecuting or messing around with a goshawk be acceptable. The wrong is still a wrong, harm is perpetrated and the criminal perp, when caught, should of course be prosecuted.

So, when is breaking the law justified?

In his essay on civil disobedience, the writer Henry Thoreau provides one answer:

The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

I agree with Thoreau, we should be obliged to do what is right if and when laws such as the Hunting Act conflict with that, then we should be prepared to break them. The important thing is whether the operation of the law is just.

The American civil rights activist Martin Luther King elaborates on this in his letter to fellow clergymen written from Birmingham City Jail:

One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly … and with a willingness to accept the penalty.

This I think is where Avery gets his stipulation that the Hunting Act should be broken openly. I don’t fully agree with that either. If and when the Hunting Act is unjust, it’s fine to break it privately. There need be nothing “sordid” about that. Just look at unjust laws from the past. Homosexual relations used to be illegal. This was clearly an unjust law.

So how does all this apply to the Hunting Act?

I’ve already stated that taking dogs out and killing a fox with them would be wrong. My answer to this is to point to one of Mr Avery’s blogs Don’t Shoot. This blog clearly points out an established part of the Hunting Act, which I feel and I am sure Wild Justice would agree with, that it is “fine” to break. When we flush wild deer with our dogs (and we surely will) we should be free to do what we believe is right. In my case this involves not shooting them.

Whether one should break an unjust law publicly or privately should in my opinion be entirely up to the perpetrator.

I’ve already checked with the authorities, and they will not prosecute for the use of dogs to ‘flush out’, ‘drive away’, or ‘chase away’ wild mammals. This is because there is no public interest in these activities being made illegal. They accept this regardless of what Parliament might or might not have thought.

There is nothing sordid about refusing to kill animals when a law nonsensically requires them to be killed. Moreover, in my view the law is not even particularly clear.

We should do what is right regardless of the law and if people disagree it’s up to them to get the crimes detected and prosecuted. Furthermore, it’s abundantly clear that the authorities are not prepared to enforce this aspect of the Hunting Act, so why trouble them?

I asked Avery some time ago if Wild Justice would accept enforcing the Hunting Act if enforced in this manner. His reply was “we have better things to do”. So have the police and the CPS, so why trouble them?

The right thing is not to comply with the absurd and flawed Hunting Act.

Giles Bradshaw is a farmer from Devon.