The majority of British adults are firmly behind the laws on animal baiting, but a significant proportion of the public are at a loss as to what these laws actually are, finds a survey conducted for the League Against Cruel Sports.
92% of British adults believe dog fighting should be illegal; 89% think badger baiting (where a dog and badger fight) should be illegal, and 78% feel the same of terrier work (where a dog is set on a fox underground).
However, only 76% of the public say they think dog fighting is illegal, and a mere 66% think badger baiting is wrong, despite the introduction in Britain of the Cruelty to Animals Act - the world’s first legislation of its kind - in 1835. And a third (33%) believe terrier work is illegal in Britain, despite the high profile Hunting Act of 1994, which outlaws terrier work in all circumstances bar those meeting strict conditions.
Perhaps the most interesting result from the survey is that which concerns the supposed ‘urban/rural divide’ said to thwart any discussions of hunting in parliament. In fact, there is no area of the country whose figures differ significantly to elsewhere.
If a geographical distinction can be made, it isn’t the one you might first think: Londoners are less against blood sports than anyone else in the country. 87% of Londoners think dog fighting should be illegal compared to 93% on average for the rest of the country; 84% feel badger baiting should be illegal compared to 90% for the rest, and only 72% think terrier work should be illegal versus 79% elsewhere. This would suggest that the debate over the legality of blood sports is certainly not as simple as rural support versus city condemnation.
In the run up to General Election on May 6th, the results will be of especial interest to those who hope David Cameron will hold the promised free vote on fox hunting. On April 1st Cameron expressed his opinion that the current Hunting Act is too hard to enforce and ventures into areas that should not be dealt with by criminal law. However, with a huge proportion of the population supporting legislation against blood sport in general, and the terrier work used in fox hunting in particular, it seems more likely that Cameron’s vote would deliver tighter rather weaker anti-blood sport laws.