The arguments surrounding hunting with dogs have raged for decades and numerous bills have been brought before Parliament in attempts to ban one or all of the activities known as the ‘hound sports’.
In the last Parliament, the Government brought forward its own Hunting Bill which contained three distinct options, one being to give a degree of statutory backing to a self-supervision scheme, another seeking to ban hunting with dogs and the third proposing statutory regulation for hunting by forming a Hunting Authority and a licensing scheme – the Middle Way. Though the House of Commons voted for a ban and the House of Lords voted for the self-supervision scheme, the Middle Way proposals received a significant amount of support, which included Government Ministers from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Of the total number of Parliamentarians who voted on the issue in both Houses, 32% voted for the Middle Way. Less than half, 48%, voted for a ban. The Hunting Bill failed to reach a conclusion due to the 2001 general election. Following accusations of being too bureaucratic and costly, the Middle Way Group embarked upon a complete review of the proposals and formed the Middle Way Development Committee, comprised of MPs and Lords.
The Committee received written submissions from a range of organisations involved in the hunting debate and held two oral hearing sessions. An important addition to the Middle Way option is the inclusion of an amendment to the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996, originally put forward by Lord Donoughue in the House of Lords in the last Parliament. The revised proposals are now less bureaucratic, less costly and far better for animal welfare.