Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the League Against Cruel Sports (G12)

  1.  The League Against Cruel Sports campaigns for legislation to end cruel sports and in particular for a resolution to the hunting issue. This response is submitted by the League Against Cruel Sports.

  2.  The League welcomed the formation of DEFRA as signalling a new approach to managing the full spectrum of countryside issues.

  3.  Executive Summary:

    (i)  the League welcomed the formation of DEFRA and the transfer of some responsibilities from DETR to DEFRA;

    (ii)  the League feels that the hunting issue needs to be speedily resolved, to best establish a new vision for countryside policy and to promote new attitudes to conservation, preservation and prevention of cruelty and care for the environment;

    (iii)  the League is concerned that institutionally DEFRA is still dominated by Agricultural, Forestry and Fishing interests. Recommendations for change to address these concerns are made;

    (iv)  the League believes that DEFRA has missed a major opportunity to kick start the new Countryside Agenda, by failing to resolve the hunting issue by facilitating the passage of the existing hunting Bill in the current session of Parliament;

    (v)  the League recommends that the hunting Bill be returned to Parliament in time for it to complete its passage in the current session, with the assistance of the Parliament Act should that prove to be necessary;

    (vi)  the League commends the new start made by DEFRA and in particular commends the work done by the Countryside Agency to provide factual information on Countryside issues; and

    (vii)  the League commends the commitment made to bring forward a new Bill in the next session of Parliament which Mps will be able to amend and see through to the Statute Book with the use of the Parliament Act should that be necessary.


  4.  The League supports the Vision set out for DEFRA but feels that the real problem faced by Government is one of an institutionalised mindset with regard to the Countryside, dominated by Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing interests.

  5.  Approximately 24 per cent of the population live and work in the Countryside. Less than 7 per cent of that rural population is engaged in fishing, agriculture, forestry, or any related industry.

  6.  Over 40 per cent of the population have expressed a desire to live in the Countryside and over 300 million day visits are made to the Countryside every year.

  7.  The Countryside is of concern to the vast majority of the population, who see it as an asset under threat from pollution, and from intensive production. The public are concerned that all too often the so-called guardians of the land and waters are intent on minimising public access and enjoyment while maximising public subsidy. The balance of activities on the DEFRA regulatory reform activities action plan confirm the institutionalised concentration of focus on the 7 per cent of the Countryside as opposed to the 93 per cent not engaged in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing.

  8.  The flaws inherent in the institutional bias towards the 7 per cent of the Countryside issues were made clear for all to see when the Countryside was "shut down" because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. It was weeks before the scale of the damage to the non-agricultural rural economy was realised and by then it was too late for many of the businesses affected.

The League recommends that:

  9.  Further changes are made within DEFRA to facilitate a more holistic approach to Countryside management:

    (viii)  to establish a public access and Countryside recreation directorate; and

    (ix)  to move the work currently done on rural businesses from the DETR to DEFRA, thereby ensuring that all Countryside business issues are dealt with in the one Department.


  10.  The League is concerned that because of its institutional history. DEFRA is still too heavily focused on the minority of rural businesses and of those people who live in, work in, or visit the Countryside.

  11.  The League appreciates that it takes time to make changes of the magnitude needed and that the Government has already made a good start by forming DEFRA and establishing a new vision for it.

  12.  The Government has also made a good start by making it clear that Agricultural and fisheries subsidies should be drastically reduced. A phased move to relating payments to environmental/conservation objectives, which address public concerns, should be made sooner rather than later.

The League recommends that

  14.  Policy and funding priorities within DEFRA are changed to facilitate a speedy move to more environmentally friendly policies:

    (i)  the recommendations of the Curry Report should be phased in over the next five years, with the funding made available;

    (ii)  DEFRA Divisions should be tasked with matching all grants and subsidies to Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, to conservation and environmental management objectives. Extensification should be rewarded and intensification actively discouraged;

    (iii)  there should be provisions within all environmental/conservation grant schemes for grants to be made for conservation activities that are not, agriculture or silvicultural, such as provision for sanctuaries and reserves;

    (iv)  DEFRA should make it a condition of all grant aid, that public access is facilitated and that any refusal may lead to the withdrawing of grants.


  15.  The League welcomes the moving of the two divisions to DEFRA because it facilitates a more integrated approach to Countryside policy making.

  16.  The League is however concerned that DEFRA's work in wildlife protection is currently limited to endangered species and dangerous animals.

  17.  The recent Government decisions to bring forward new legislation with regard to hunting, suggest that further changes to this area of DEFRA will be required.

The League recommends

  18.  A further strengthening of the Wildlife Directorate to address the work and issues arising from the implementation of the new Hunting Bill.


  19.  The League recognises that the work done by the Countryside Agency has made a significant contribution to the rural affairs debate.

  20.  The League welcomes the fact that the Government, through DEFRA is at long last facilitating a resolution of the hunting issue.

  21.  The League believes that a resolution of the hunting issue is an essential part of and a precursor to redefining public opinion with regard to land management policy and economic support for rural businesses of all types.

  22.  The work done on "Rural Proofing" policies and on developing indicators to research areas of rural concerns has been very important and provides a sound basis for policy development.

The League recommends that:

  23.  The Hunting Bill is fast tracked to ensure its passage at the earliest opportunity.

  24.  The Countryside Agency is asked to include within its remit, publication of reports on visitor and resident attitudes to environmental and Countryside issues, such as access, environmental concerns, social inclusion/exclusion and recreational activities.


  25.  The League welcomed the formation of DEFRA and the introduction of the Hunting Bill as clear moves by Government to redefine attitudes to and the management of the Countryside.

  26.  The League is concerned that having started the process of change with a clear vision, the Government is in danger of getting stuck in the mire, by a combination of the institutional inability to change and the political resistance to change.

  27.  In revolutionising public attitudes to the Countryside, the League urges the Government to have the courage of its convictions and to enable Parliament to speedily resolve the hunting issue.

  28.  The League believes that the decision to drop the existing Bill was a serious mistake. It has led to a two-year delay in resolving the hunting issue, which will only serve to delay attitudinal change. The delay will lead to two years of unnecessary cruelty to wildlife for sport, and to increased levels of violence, havoc and intimidation in the run up to the inevitable ban on hunting and coursing with dogs for sport.

  29.  The League believes that the Government should, even now, bring back the Hunting Bill. The Bill could be passed by the end of the current session of Parliament and thereafter DEFRA could move on with the rest of the rural agenda, confident in the knowledge of massive public support for a new era of cruelty free, environmentally friendly Countryside policies.

May 2002

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