In two days’ time, one of the most contentious laws in the recent history of Britain comes into force. From this Friday, it will be illegal to hunt and kill foxes with dogs throughout England and Wales (it already is in Scotland). In the past year, foxhunters and their supporters have done almost everything they can think of to stop the law taking effect. There have been violent demonstrations outside parliament, even a brief invasion of parliament and, since the law was passed, attempts to stop it in the courts (for example, by arguing that it is an illegal law). In a show of solidarity, to emphasise their absolute opposition to this law, all 250 ‘hunts’ are planning to meet this coming weekend. As a result, some of the most eminent people (including judges and lawyers) and some of the richest people (for example, accountants and financiers) in the land risk becoming criminals.

But perhaps not. If their previous attempts to thwart the law have failed, it may be that simple practicalities will come to their aid. They will try to make a mockery of the law by using loopholes in it. For instance, it is not illegal to shoot foxes, so they could shoot a fox beforehand and then drag it around the countryside for hounds to follow its scent. Or they could use hounds to flush out a fox and then shoot it. Or they could claim they were really chasing unprotected species such as rabbits or rats and… “oh dear, that fox just happened to get in the way and confuse the hounds”. The possibility of this latter tactic has risen since it became clear from the comments of several senior police officers that they will be taking a low key approach to enforcing the law. They will not be using undercover surveillance or CCTV cameras or attempting to follow each hunt to see it behaves properly. In fact, the only possible chance of convictions for any of these well-heeled lawbreakers is when animal welfare groups, who intend to monitor the hunts, catch them at it and then pass on their evidence to the police.

brief: kort. to confuse: in de war brengen. contentious: controversieel. to flush out: uit dekking jagen. hound: jachthond. hunt: jacht, maar ook jachtgezelschap waarvan iemand lid wordt na het betalen van lidmaatschapsgeld. loopholes in the law: mazen in de wet. to thwart: tegenhouden. well heeled: rijk.

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