Tom Quinn, Campaigns Director for League Against Cruel Sports

Hunting has been banned for more than a decade and public and political opposition to this cruel ‘sport’ has never been higher

So it may come as a surprise to learn there’s still a tiny but vocal minority of blood sport fanatics trying to bring back fox hunting.

But according to the latest Ipsos MORI polling most people – over 8 out of 10 (83%) - want the hunting ban to remain. And the same recent research shows that people in rural areas (84%) feel as strongly as those living in towns (82%) that hunting should stay illegal.

This widespread disgust for hunting is hardly surprising. Once people learn about the cruelty, they see through the pageantry. Hunted animals suffer fear and exhaustion from being pursued, often for hours. The fox may escape the hounds but die slowly from its injuries. Those that are killed by the hounds may be torn apart while still alive.

But still the hunting world tries to legitimise its cruel pastime.

Tying themselves up in contradictory knots, they claim foxes must be hunted for pest control reasons. But as more reports emerge of hunts storing up live foxes, feeding and even building artificial sets for them, it’s clear that rather than keeping the fox population down, they are more interested in securing a plentiful supply of foxes for their next hunt meet.

Let’s be clear – traditional hunting has never been about fox control – it’s all about bloodsports.

You’ll also hear the hunts claim they’re trail hunting – an activity which the hunting world adopted only after the hunting ban came into force.

Not to be confused with drag hunting (which is a harmless pursuit using only an artificial non-fox scent such as aniseed), in a trail hunt, fox scent is laid down – or pretended to be laid down - for the hounds to follow. If the scent of a real, live fox is then picked up and the hounds kill it ‘accidentally’, the lack of a ‘reckless’ provision in the Hunting Act provides hunts with a convenient loophole to escape prosecution from what is essentially pre-ban hunting with dogs.

The hunting world frequently trots out the illogical argument that because in their eyes, there have been few convictions for illegal hunting, then the Hunting Act must not be working properly. But if, as they claim, they are only hunting within the law, then a low level of convictions proves that the Hunting Act is doing its job and acting as a deterrent.

In truth, the Hunting Act is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in England and Wales, outperforming all other wild mammal legislation. It has both the highest number and rate of convictions since it was introduced. Many of these are directly related to registered hunts or coursing clubs, but even when they are not the Act is still doing what it is designed to: stopping cruelty in the name of sport, regardless of the perpetrator.

But recent reports of fox kills at hunts show there are still those that flout the law, using loopholes to muddy the water and avoid conviction. Because of this, the Hunting Act needs some minor tightening up. But the answer to making a good law even better is to do exactly that – not get rid of it!

A final nail in the coffin for the hunting world is that even the Conservatives, historically supportive of hunting, are turning against them. Analysis of MP voting intentions shows that there are now so many Conservatives who say they would vote against bringing back hunting, that SNP votes – though welcome – would not be needed to protect the Hunting Act

The writing is clearly on the wall. Hunting is a tradition that no-one but a small minority wants, needs or cares about any more, and those doing the hunting need to accept that and move on.