A fox hunting

THE BURNS INQUIRY

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The "Committee of Inquiry into the Impact of a Ban on Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales" (known colloquially as Burns) reported on 12 June 2000. Copies of its report and all evidence etc. are available at http://www.huntinginquiry.gov.uk      It fulfilled its purpose of informing the debate before the Government embarked upon drafting a Bill. The BURNS INQUIRY looked at the practical issues involved in hunting with dogs, how a ban could be implemented and what the consequences of a ban would be. It provided an opportunity for the facts about hunting to be properly considered. Also it examined the effect on the rural economy, agriculture and pest control, the social and cultural life of particular areas of countryside, the management and conservation of wildlife and animal welfare if hunting were to be banned.

Unfortunately the Burns Inquiry was not allowed to look at the ethics. A pity, since in the views of several eminent lawyers, bans should be to promote "the good order of Society" only; never to enshrine in law the dislike by one culture for a practice of another culture, unless that practice is counter to "the good order of Society", which fox-hunting is not.

The Inquiry was led by:

  • Lord Burns

    An eminent retired Civil Servant who rose to the top of The Treasury.

The Inquiry’s membership was:

  • Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior.

    A former professor of animal pathology at Cambridge University who was commissioned by the Countryside Alliance to review a report that concluded that staghunting with hounds was unacceptably cruel. The report had been compiled for the National Trust by Professor Bateson, professor of animal behaviour, also at Cambridge. Lord Soulsby found that much of Bateson's work was suspect and might well not apply to foxes. However, Lord Soulsby's criticisms of the Bateson report were not sufficient to persuade the trust to overturn its ban on staghunting on its land.

  • Dr Victoria Edwards

    Lecturer in land management and a research director at the University of Portsmouth since 1989. Dr Edwards, a chartered surveyor, is a board member of the Countryside Agency and Forestry Commission and a member of the advisory council of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester.

  • Prof Sir John Marsh, CBE

    Emeritus professor of agriculture at Reading University. He is a member of the Minister of Agriculture's independent advisory group; a former chairman of the Agricultural Wages Board and director of the Centre for Agricultural Strategy.

  • Prof Michael Winter

    Professor of rural economy and society at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education since 1993. He is member of the policy committee of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and a former director of the centre for rural studies at the Royal Agricultural College.

The Inquiry’s terms of reference were: "To inquire into: the practical aspects of different types of hunting with dogs and its impact on the rural economy, agriculture and pest control, the social and cultural life of the countryside, the management and conservation of wildlife, and animal welfare in particular areas of England and Wales; the consequences for these issues of any ban on hunting with dogs; and how any ban might be implemented. To report the findings to the Secretary of State for the Home Department". It is not to inquire into ethical matters nor make any recommendations as to whether hunting with dogs should be banned or not.

The inquiry took evidence from all interested parties.

MATTERS AS COMPLEX AS fox-hunting SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS "BLACK OR WHITE". THEY ARE GREY. THE "BURNS INQUIRY" EXPOSED THAT THIS IS TRUE OF fox-hunting. The motive for a ban is a belief that "Hunts terrorise foxes then rip them to bits". BUT Burns supported the fact that there are good reasons to believe that foxes are not in terror (although their "welfare" is degraded ) when being chased and that certain death under many hounds in seconds is preferable to a significant probability of wounding and slow death when shot at. Burns also supported the fact that people whose property is killed by foxes (Eg. Farmers and Gamekeepers) are going to kill foxes; however needless this may be in a macro-economic sense. Furthermore, they agreed that all methods, other than fox-hunting, have serious disadvantages.  Foxman concludes, therefore, that fox-hunting reduces the impact of these disadvantages while helping to satisfy the requirements of those whose property is at risk from foxes.

Foxman's more detailed reactions to Burns will be found throughout the site.

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