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COUNTRYSIDE residents have overwhelmingly rejected the idea that hunting with dogs reflects their values and spend more time watching wildlife than killing it, a survey a found.
The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) revealed that 91 per cent of rural residents think that observing nature reflects countryside values, while only 16 per cent believe hunting with dogs reflects countryside values.
Very few people living in the countryside took part in the hunting of foxes, deer and hares with packs of hounds.
Only 4 per cent said they ever participate in hunting, compared to 63 per cent who observe wildlife at least once a month.
Other popular activities included walking or hiking, running, cycling, horse riding and visiting pubs.
LACS campaigns director Chris Luffingham said: “Hunting is claimed by a minority to be a cornerstone of country life.
“Modern day countryside values are based around respect for nature, not the abuse of nature for entertainment. This polling confirms that we are a nation of animal lovers and that hunting needs to be consigned to history.”
The figures were released on Boxing Day hunt meets, which are under increasing scrutiny by local councils and campaigners concerned about the targeting of wildlife.
Despite hunting with dogs being banned by the Labour government in 2004, the LACS has had over 100 reports of suspected illegal hunting since the beginning of the season in November.
Labour has promised to toughen the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales, saying it will consult on jailing those caught breaking the law.
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman said jail terms would put penalties on a par with those for other wildlife crimes.
Currently the most severe punishment available is an unlimited fine.
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