Hunts are buying birds of prey to try and side-step the ban on fox hunting with hounds, falconry experts warn. About 20 hunts have bought golden eagles and eagle owls in the belief they are acting within the law.
Using dogs to flush wild mammals for a bird of prey to hunt is an exemption set out in the Hunting Act 2004. The Hawk Board, which represents UK falconers, said some hunts were "behaving irresponsibly", but a hunting body said bird welfare was a priority.
The Master of Fox Hounds Association, revealing the number of hunts which have bought the birds, said it believed it had interpreted the legislation correctly. "We didn't draft this flawed bill. Our lawyers are clear this is an exemption," said its director Alistair Jackson. "It enables hunts to use full packs of hounds."
The government ban on fox hunting allows for falconry as a sport to remain protected. The law does not restrict the number of dogs that can be used to flush wild mammals for a bird of prey to hunt. But Jim Chick, chairman of the Hawk Board, said there were concerns about the practice. "This is bringing the sport into disrepute," he said. "Many of the hunts are using people to handle the birds who have just been on a short course. You are not competent to handle a large bird of prey after a short course. "Secondly, a fox is not a recognised quarry for a bird of prey. It is a large animal and cannot be easily subdued so there is a big ethical issue over whether they should be used. An eagle is possessive and once it has caught a fox it will not let go. If the hounds are then brought in they could attack the eagle and a hound could be blinded or killed." He added it was dangerous to have an eagle with a mounted hunt, as it could lead to a horse throwing a rider. "A small number of hunts are behaving irresponsibly," he said. "We feel very let down. We supported them and walked the marches and raised funds for them and now this is a slap on the face."
Act in 'chaos'
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said there had been complaints about the use of birds. A spokeswoman said: "In our view the falconry exemption does not allow the use of a token bird of prey to allow hunting with dogs to continue. But it is a matter for the courts to interpret the Act." Tim Bonner, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, which campaigned against the hunting ban, said the move showed the "chaos" of the Hunting Act. "The Act came into force less than a year ago but it has become increasingly clear that is impossible to interpret and to enforce," he added. A spokesman for the Council of Hunting Associations said: "The Hunting Act permits the use of hounds to flush a wild mammal to enable a bird of prey to hunt it and some people may wish to explore this possibility. "However, the CHA strongly advises that this method should not be used unless hunts have discussed their plans with the Hawk Board and the Hunting Office."
There has been a thorough outcry from the public and the League Against Cruel Sports after various sadistic, horse-whipping hunts within and around Don Henley-on-Thames, in Oxfordshire, England, with malice aforethought, rather than hounds, used tape recordings of that seventies plastic-cowboy bandit-biker band 'The Eagles' to drive multitudes of defenceless foxes out of their dens. The poor furry little wild nocturnal creatures have been pouring out of woodlands, meadows, hedgerows and holes in the ground in their high- hundreds, even thousands, after being ambushed, then subjected to the nightmare of amplified high-decibel renditions of mind-numbing FM-radio Adult-Orientated Rock staples such as Hotel California, Desperado, and Life In The Fast Lane.
At night, a howling, caterwauling vixen, in an obvious state of extreme distress, was seen to carry her four sweet pretty new-born cubs by the scruff of the neck, one by one, to drown them in a nearby shallow stream after a prolonged orchestrated ordeal of having to listen alternately to New Kid In Town, Lyin' Eyes and Take It To The Limit. She then ran into the Tequila Sunrise. Another fox, a male, ran out of the heath undergrowth and (undoubtedly deliberately) right into the path of a Massey-Ferguson tractor after a strangulated "driving musical medley" of Peaceful Easy Feeling, Doolin Dalton, Best Of My Love, Heartache Tonight, and Take It Easy was suddenly piped into his suburban garden habitat.
However, Mr Derek Fowlds, the Shadow deputy spokesperson for the Department of Sticking One's Hand Up The Backsides of Glove Puppets said: "It's a joke! Oh, how catastrophic! Ban it! Without doubt a bloody birdbrained, barbaric idea! Inhuman! In The Long Run, we can't continue falcon around like this...a wholesale political embarrassment! Pathetic." he whispered. To which his colleague Basil Brush said "Ha ha ha ha HA! Boom boom!!!".
The Shadow Minister for Broadcasting and Cute Furry Animals, Dr. Liam Fox, said: "I suppose One Of These Nights someone is going to get convicted of Glenn Affrey. As I understand it, though, if we continue at this rate, I guess all absurd be-denimed American Seventies bands which wear stetsons and sport vast droopy moustaches will probably be completely extinct within 20 years...I hope! Notwithstanding the fact that it's barbarous, unethical and unacceptable to use the music of that Joe Walsh chap and his cronies for such purposes...perhaps they should ride around hither-and- thither on horseback in bloodstained-red coats, and use hounds to chase unsuspecting foxes into submission, like with all the other heartless Home Counties British establishment toffs with whips. Whatever next!".
His daughter Samantha Fox was unfortunately unavailable for comment.
- Oh, for what it's worth (about £4.00, debatably) the CD "Eagles Greatest Hits Part 2" is available on Asylum Records. I'd recommend boycotting them, though.
Nominated in February 2007.
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