The Hunt For Mercy
This article discusses the English ban on fox hunting and examines if the ban more likely stems from compassion and mercy toward animals, or if the motivation is more “human-centered in spirit.”
Some protective animal laws are passed in a “self-reverential manner, banning violence primarily because of the anti-social ramifications on humans” where concern for the animal is of secondary importance. These theories are important to the overall question of whether “an animal can be an individual and can have both moral and legal standing and attendant rights” and until animals have legal rights, they will not “count.” The Hunting Bill was a foundational moment in animal law, and therefore the case study for this analysis.
The practice of fox hunting is described in the paper, followed by a summary of the Hunting Act of 2004, which prohibited the hunting of all mammals with dogs in England and Wales, with certain exceptions (specified in full article). This bill became effective in February of 2005.
According to the author, “mercy” represents concern for the individual foxes and the harm that comes to the animal during the hunt. “Human-centeredness” represents the harm that comes to humans and society as a result of the fox hunt.
The parliamentary debate about the bill was examined by the author, and about 84% of the lines of debate were categorized as mercy-related. In contrast, about 16% of the lines of debate were considered to be human-centered. This indicates that the Parliament was concerned with the fox as an individual creature. However, since the enactment of the bill, there is evidence contrary in nature, i.e. the UK still does not grant dignity to animals in its constitutional order (unlike Germany), and the lack of enforcement of the law.