Northern Ireland remains the only part of GB & NI where hunting with dogs remains legal. England, Wales and Scotland already have bans in place. We are lagging well behind. Hunting does not have public support; most people are either opposed to or ambiguous towards this so called sport. The arguments against a ban are based on tradition or pest control. It is the USPCA view that the cruelty involved far outweighs any supposed benefit.

Hunting dogs will kill any companion animals they come across and hunt members simply shrug off these incidents as ‘collateral casualties’. Tame deer are ‘carted’ into the countryside and released in order to be persecuted by dogs, an activity that is already illegal. The farming community is surviving in economically challenging times; disease control in animals and crops is a priority. Many farmers, acutely aware of the need for bio-security, are less than happy at the hunt crossing their land and have banned them from their land.

It is a priority to get a Hunting Bill before the Assembly and establish the depth of support for a ban that would bring us into line with our UK counterparts.