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A Critical Look at Contract 7 of the Burns Inquiry

 

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A Critical Look at Contract 7 of the Burns Inquiry

 

In the years since Burns reported there has been much work carried out in this area.
Contract 7 researched Animal Welfare and Cruelty but left many questions unanswered. The full text of the Contract 7 Report may be seen
HERE

Below you will find:
- A Critical Look at Contract 7 of the Burns Inquiry
- Extract from the Contract 7 report that identify areas where subsequent research has taken place
HERE

A Critical Look at Contract 7 of the Burns Inquiry.

There was no Incontrovertible Evidence to Support a Ban on Deer Hunting - The central Animal Welfare (Cruelty) Research was Incomplete, and the Conclusion Statements were widely misrepresented by anti-hunt sources, including Ministers and MP's.

Lord Burns shares my disappointment at the misrepresentation of certain statements in the report which were taken out of context - Lord Soulsby in the House of Lords - March 12th 2001.

1. The Burns Inquiry Contract 7 dealt with the central issue of Animal Welfare (cruelty), and was conducted by Professor Patrick Bateson and Professor Roger Harris. Lord Burns reached the conclusion that hunting makes a significant contribution to the management of the deer, but was unable to reach a conclusion on the issue of cruelty for the simple reason, that the welfare equation evidence was not properly assessed. Attempts to produce welfare equations are fraught with difficulty - Executive Summary Contract 7. It is clear that it was considered by Bateson and Harris that Contract 7 could not be completed, as more work would be required.

Burns Conclusions Paragraph 6.38 - It is clear that more work would be required in order to provide further scientific evidence about the welfare of hunted deer and how hunting compares with stalking. Bateson and Harris indicate that this would be needed in the following areas:

  • The fate of deer that escape during the hunt
  • Further investigations of the state of the deer during hunting
  • The accuracy of stalker's shooting
  • The relative impacts of hunting and stalking in terms of selection of the deer to be culled and the importance of selective culling to the long term health of the herd.

2. Lord Whitty in his letter of 26th of February 2003 to Lord King claimed that the incontrovertible evidence to support the prohibition on deer hunting in the Hunting Bill, lay within Paragraph 6.39 the Burns Report, and the two statements below.

He referred to discussions at the Hearings of the Evidence at Portcullis House, where support was given to Professor Bateson's claim that deer suffer as a result of being chased.

He then returns to the Paragraph 6.39 text manipulating the content and stating that; it is always possible for a competent marksmen to stalk an animal and kill it quickly while causing it minimal suffering (if necessary using one or two dogs under exemption in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill). This is the conclusion of the Burns Report.

The reality of the situation is that the conclusions of Lord Burn's Inquiry did not provide the incontrovertible evidence claimed by Lord Whitty. He has misrepresented statements made in Lord Burn's Report.

Paragraph 6.39 according to Lord Whitty is quite clear:

Stalking if carried out to a high standard and with the availability of a dog or dogs to help find any wounded deer that escape, is in principle the better method of culling deer from an animal welfare perspective. In particular, it obviates the need to chase the deer in any way which occurs in hunting.

3. However, Paragraph 6.39 is qualified not only by Paragraph 6.38 by also by the following Paragraph 6.40:

Paragraph 6.40 - A great deal depends, however, on the skill and the care taken by the stalker. It is unfortunate that there is no reliable information on wounding rates, even in Scotland where stalking is carried out extensively. In the event of a ban on hunting, there is a risk that a greater number of deer than at present would be shot by less skilful shooters, in which case the wounding rates would increase. Consideration should be given to requiring all stalkers to prove their competence by demonstrating that they had undertaken appropriate training.

4. The Hearings on the Evidence at Portcullis House did discuss Professor Bateson's claim that deer are liable to suffer as result of being chased. Also discussed was the pain of wounding and other injuries. The more solid conclusion reached was that pain and prolonged pain from wounding, or other casualty injuries or suffering, was a worse category of suffering, than the stress imposed by hunting.

5. At this point it is worth while introducing the Paragraph 3.1 Contract 7 Goals

The objectives of the study set by the Committee of Inquiry were as follows:

  • to review the existing scientific evidence relating to the effect of hunting with dogs on the welfare of deer;
  • to review the existing scientific evidence relating to the ways in which the welfare of deer is affected by other methods of control or as part of their natural life cycle;
  • to summarise the main findings, distinguishing those areas about which there is general agreement from those which are disputed;
  • to summarise, in layman's language as far as possible, what conclusions can reliably be drawn about the welfare of deer during, or subsequent to, hunting with dogs, in comparison with the effect on their welfare of other methods of control;
  • to record any existing scientific evidence relating to the effect on the welfare of foxes, hares and mink of hunting with dogs, in comparison with other methods of control or as part of their natural life cycle;
  • to suggest what further research would need to be carried out to clarify areas of dispute and to remedy significant gaps in our understanding of these matters.

Comments from the following three specialists, whose evidence was presented in the British Wildlife Management Submission to Lord Burns, but who were not invited to give evidence at the Hearings on the Evidence, is extremely important in context of the Contract 7 goals.

It must be appreciated that the term stress is used in physiology in a different sense to that in lay usage. I believe that physiological stress is any stimulus which elicits a physiological adaptation or response to changes in environmental needs or demands, this includes changes due to episodic feeding or to episodic energy requirements including those of short term or long term exercise. These are situations that are perfectly normal, and would be unlikely to be harmful.

Professor Michael L.G. Gardiner - Letter 10th September 1999 - Understanding physiological stress.

His most mischievous act was the failure to differentiate between physiological and emotional stress and to equate one with the other, a most unacceptable and clever ruse, which took in the lay public very effectively. Physiological stress is surely beneficial to the organism.

Dr C.J. Mitchell - Letter 26th August 1999 - Understanding physiological stress.

How can Bateson, Gripper or anyone know that the hunted deer experience extreme suffering on the basis of a single blood sample taken after death and compared, in a number of hormone and other biochemical assay techniques, with similar isolated samples collected from culled, stalked or farmed deer ? They can't was the conclusion reached by the majority of the scientists who attended the Bateson review meeting in Cambridge in June 1997.

Professor W.R. Allen - Organiser of the First Cambridge meeting June 1997 - We quote the extract above from the response to criticism of hunting from a fellow member of the veterinary profession - Veterinary Times.

I find Professor Bateson's research on hunting was biased from the outset by faulty assumptions about red deer adaptations and behaviour. His research strategy could not lead to anything but questionable, ambiguous results. No damage to red deer or their populations has been demonstrated. The evaluation of suffering comparing hunting and shooting is narrow and excludes the effects of stalking, a known form of damaging harassment.

Professor Valerius Geist in his submission to the Burns Inquiry.

The four above comments assist in demonstrating that the suffering or stress in hunting claimed by Professor Bateson, was challenged right from the start by other specialists who considered that: a. such situations are perfectly normal, and would be unlikely to be harmful. b. physiological and emotional stress is beneficial to the organism, unless damage can be identified. c. cannot know that the hunted deer experience extreme suffering on the basis of a single blood sample. d. faulty assumptions about red deer adaptations and behaviour were made and the evaluation of suffering comparing hunting and shooting excludes the effects of stalking, a known form of damaging harassment.

In a letter to British Wildlife Management dated 11th Nov 1999, Professor Bateson qualified his National Trust brief;

It is wrong to suggest that deer management was part of my brief: It was not. That had been dealt with by the Savage report.

The Savage, Southampton and Porchester Reports were all highly relevant in demonstrating and supporting the central utility or wildlife management roles of the deer hunts in the West Country. Lord Burns also reached the conclusion that: hunting makes a significant contribution to the management of the deer.

The past research on deer hunting over many years, mainly instigated and paid for by the National Trust, which fully supports the deer hunt roles, represents the most solid scientific and practical endorsement, which for the sake of the deer, should not have been cast aside for animal rights and political reasons.

In the West Country most deer become familiar with hounds over their lives before they are hunted, and therefore only put under any real pressure at the end of the hunt - Ref.

Lord Whitty has in addition ignored the important statements made by Lord Soulsby, qualifying the Burns Report's conclusions.

A compromise of welfare was found only in the terminal stages of the hunt - Lord Soulsby in the House of Lords - March 12th 2001.

Lord Burns shares my disappointment at the misrepresentation of certain statements in the report which were taken out of context. At no point did the committee conclude, or even attempt to conclude, an assessment of cruelty. Yet many bodies have erroneously - I repeat erroneously - quoted the Burns Report, stating that it clearly demonstrated that the practice of hunting wild animals with dogs caused cruelty. The report did not state that. - Lord Soulsby in the House of Lords - March 12th 2001.

Our difficulty was that there was insufficient evidence about wounding rates - Lord Burns in the House of Lords - March 12th 2001.

5. Lord Whitty in his letter to Lord King also made following claim to support the prohibition of hunting deer:

What is clear is that the nature of deer - their size and their browsing habits in particular - is such that it is always possible for a competent marksmen to stalk an animal and kill it quickly while causing it minimal suffering (if necessary using one or two dogs under exemption in paragraph 1 of Schedule I to the Bill). This is the conclusion of the Burns Report.

6. Alun Michael in the Commons debate, made a statement supporting the utility argument for deer hunting in managing deer over what we now know are more than 830 individual land holdings in the wider area of Exmoor and on the Quantocks. A valid conclusion on cruelty in favour of deer hunting could have reached, if the welfare equation evidence and conclusion, available to Lord Burn's team and the research contractors, had been used. The two key duration parameters of an average maximum of 15 minutes suffering in hunting, and a best case scenario of 5% walking wounded in stalking, cannot be credibly challenged.

Within the executive summary of Contract 7, we find the following key statement: Any judgment on the preferred method must also allow for the effects of that judgment on the overall management of the whole deer population.

Once the degree of suffering and the many other related welfare benefits of hunting methods are factored into the equation the incontrovertible evidence rests in favour of deer hunting.

Summary

Contract 7 was not completed by the Burns Inquiry because important evidence on deer behaviour, stress and wounding rates was not properly considered, or even received by Professor Bateson and Professor Harris - Burns para. 6.38 - It is clear that more work would be required.

Lord Whitty has taken statements in Burns para. 6.39 out of context. He was wrong to describe such statements as incontrovertible evidence to support the prohibition of deer hunting.

A formal complaint was made to Alun Michael regarding the showing at the Hearings on the Evidence of a false and fabricated video, purporting to claim that soft temperament scent hounds attack deer.

He took no action on this matter, despite the fact that a version of the same video had been shown widely over several years, to Labour MP's and members of the public, who were therefore being deliberately misled by the Animal Rights organisations. I quote Burns Contract 7 para. 3.2: At the end, the hounds will surround the deer, but very rarely bite it, and the deer is killed with a shot gun or a pistol at close range.

Other Ministers have made no attempt to seek the truth on the crucial wildlife welfare and management issues and continued to misrepresent the Burns Inquiry Conclusions.

Research by Urqhart and McKendrick and others, now confirm that the higher wounding rates (Burns Contract 7 para 3.3 15% walking wounded) presented to Lord Burn's Inquiry by Edmund Marriage of British Wildlife Management, which were dismissed as unreliable, were in fact realistic and far more likely than the very low figures claimed.

The reality is that no research, organisation, or individual, has made a credible case against the deer hunting roles on the grounds of utility or cruelty, or effectively challenged the evidence presented with in the completed Welfare Equation.

Savage Report commissioned by the National Trust endorsed the crucial role of the hunt. The main text is attached.

What is clear from the crucial behavioural evidence is that suffering levels increase when the hunted animal is not allowed to follow the route of its knowledge and choice. In consequence the hunted animal should be allowed right of passage as was the case within in common law.

Current Situation - Comments on the further research required.

1. The fate of deer that escape during the hunt - There are no credible recorded problems.

2. Further investigations of the state of the deer during hunting - There are no credible recorded problems, beyond a tiredness factor lasting an average of 7 minutes in the terminal stages of the hunt. If the hunt is disrupted, and the deer cannot follow the route of its knowledge and choice, additional stress or suffering may be inflicted. Disrupting the hunt should therefore be made a criminal offence.

 

3. The accuracy of stalker's shooting - There are serious problems involving accuracy, achieving instantaneous death, and the ability of stalkers to follow up wounded and find casualties. These issues were deliberately covered up at the time by certain elements within the shooting lobby.

 

4. The relative impacts of hunting and stalking in terms of selection of the deer to be culled and the importance of selective culling to the long term health of the herd - Selectivity and the long term health of the herd has only ever been satisfactorily achieved by hunting methods.


Extracts from Burns Inquiry - Contract 7 - Animal Welfare/Cruelty

Full text

NB. Important points, which are now subject to more accurate analysis and conclusion are marked in bold print - Edmund Marriage November 30th 2004.

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Attempts to produce welfare equations are fraught with difficulty.
  • Any judgment on the preferred method must also allow for the effects of that judgment on the overall management of the whole deer population.

3.2 The effect of hunting with dogs on the welfare of deer

  • It is widely agreed that they need to be culled in one way or another.
  • If killing of diseased and injured animals is included, hunting with hounds accounts for a quarter to one fifth of the total red deer cull.
  • At the end, the hounds will surround the deer, but very rarely bite it, and the deer is killed with a shot gun or a pistol at close range.
  • However, it is clear that hunting with hounds would not be tolerated in other areas of animal husbandry, if husbandry were the only issue. In practise, population management, social interests and economic issues may affect the making of decisions.

3.3 The effects of other causes of mortality on the welfare of deer

  • On the more critical issue of how many deer escaped with wounds, the records of the stalkers showed that none escaped wounded.
  • Similar surveys in other parts of the country gave a wounding rate of 2.4%.
  • If an unsupported estimate of 15% of the deer shot by stalkers wounded were correct, at least 50 deer with rifle shot wounds should be found on Exmoor each year.
  • Welfare problems arising from other causes such as road traffic accidents, entanglement in fence wire and natural causes cannot be easily assessed. However, most of these deaths do not involve intentional acts by humans and are therefore outside the moral equation that must be brought into play when hunting with dogs is compared with stalking.

3.4 Consensus

  • Many of the physiological characteristics of deer at the end of a hunt resemble those of a human or horse involved in a prolonged bout of continuous or intermittent intense exercise.
  • Most if not all of the scientists agree that deer are likely to suffer in the final stages of hunting.
  • Some suggest that rising effort and fear will be in the final 20 minutes.
  • Taken together with the physiological effects of hunting, it is clear that hunting with hounds would not be tolerated in other areas of animal husbandry, if considerations such as sporting interests and population management were ignored.

3.5 Dispute

  • The evidence that a tiny fraction of deer wounded by stalkers escape is disputed.

3.6 Comparisons between hunting with dogs and other methods of control

  • Attempts to produce welfare equations to compare the culling procedures are fraught with difficulty and usually depend on information that is not available.
  • However, the picture is less clear when the duration and qualitative aspects of the suffering are taken into account, as well as the location and dispatch of deer casualties.
  • In the event of a ban on stag-hunting, the fate of the red deer population in the South-west is uncertain. No scientific attempts have been made to assess the selectivity of either method in culling individual deer or the importance of such selectivity to the health of the deer herd over a long period of time. Furthermore, it is possible that, if a ban on hunting deer with hounds were implemented, the economic concerns of farmers would no longer be tempered by their sporting interests.
  • A fraction of the small proportion of deer that are wounded by stalkers escape and these deer may suffer for several days.

3.7 Effect on the welfare of foxes, hares and mink of hunting with dogs and other causes of mortality

  • It is not possible, however, to go beyond opinions held by the lay public at present.

3.8 Research needed to clarify areas of dispute

  • On the quality of stalkers' shooting, further research is needed on how consistent is the evidence for low rates of wounding by stalkers in different parts of the country as well as in those areas where hunting is practiced. How many escaping deer are wounded by stalkers in such a way that suffering occurs?
  • Studies could be undertaken to examine the selectivity which is practical with both hunting and stalking on Exmoor and the Quantock hills, and the importance of selective culling to the long-term health of the herd. Investigation is needed into the extent to which farmers and landowners may be encouraged to use humane and effective methods of deterring deer from taking their crops and damaging trees and hedges, as well as their tolerance of such damage with the present financial state of agriculture.
  • The welfare aspects of all methods of culling foxes, hare and mink need studies comparable to those already carried out on deer.

4. THE NATURE OF DEER HUNTING

  • In some cases this may result in a lead over the hounds of several km and up to one hour. . . hunts may be more spasmodic with deer able to recover to a degree between individual chases.
  • fewer rivers provide less opportunity for deer to use watercourses for escape, respite or defence.
  • Deer escape from the hunt for a number of reasons including poor scenting, hiding successfully and by movement into sanctuaries where the Hunts are not permitted to follow. In addition, deer resort to a number of stratagems with the apparent aim of confusing the hounds.
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