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League Against Cruel Sports

League Against Cruel Sports
File:League Against Cruel Sports logo.svg
Founded Template:If empty
Founder Henry B Amos
Ernest Bell
Focus Animal welfare
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Key people
Professor John Cooper QC, Chief Executive
Joe Duckworth, Chair
Iain Blake-Lawson
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Formerly called
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The League Against Cruel Sports is an animal welfare charity that campaigns against questionable sports such as bullfighting, fox hunting and hare coursing. It also campaigns to ban the manufacture, sale and use of snares, for the regulation of greyhound racing and for an end to commercial game shooting and trophy hunting.[1] Famous supporters include comedian Ricky Gervais, Jo Brand, John Bishop, Sir David Jason and Gemma Atkinson.

The current President is Professor John Cooper QC.[2] League Vice Presidents include: Singer and TV Presenter, Alesha Dixon, Naturalist, Bill Oddie OBE, Actor, Annette Crosbie OBE, Adrian Sanders MP, The Rt Hon Baroness Smith of Basildon, Kerry McCarthy MP.


Original charter

In 1924, the League issued the following charter entitled "What We Stand For":[3][4]

  • Our Principle: That it is iniquitous to inflict suffering, either directly or indirectly, upon sentient animals for the purpose of Sport.
  • We Condemn: Fox-hunting, otter-hunting, stag-hunting, hare-hunting and rabbit and hare-coursing, because they are organized forms of cruelty for pleasure, and, therefore, prejudicial to the best interests of the State.
  • We Support and Recommend: All clean humane forms of Sport, such as football, cricket, golf, running, swimming, scouting, hill-climbing, etc., etc.
  • We Specially Recommend: Drag hunting as a substitute to hunting animals and we appeal to Hunts to adopt it. Also "hunting" Big Game with the Camera as Major Dugmore and others do.
  • Blooding Children: We protest against the insult offered in hunting circles, not only to the child-life of the nation but to the community in general, by smearing children's cheeks with blood from the brush or pads of a fox or other animal hunted to death, and we demand the cessation of this demoralizing custom.

We respectfully invite Religious, Education, Social Welfare, Humanitarian and any other allied bodies willing to participate, by passing resolutions towards this end, to co-operate with us to make our demand effective.

Key campaigns


Despite the passing of the Hunting Act in 2004, there is still a very strong pro-hunt lobby which seeks to have the Hunting Act repealed. The League campaigns to ensure that the Hunting Act is preserved. The League’s ‘Keep Cruelty History’ campaign [5] was launched in September 2009 and focused on highlighting the position on the finding of local candidates at the following year's general election. The League runs a Wildlife Crimewatch service through which members of the public can report any suspicious activity which may be in breach of the Hunting Act or any other wildlife legislation.[6] Members of the public call the Wildlife Crimewatch line several times a day to report suspicious behaviour.[7] This information is logged and passed on to police where appropriate. The League also coordinates a network of volunteers who monitor and record the activities of hunts.


Snares are thin wire hitches used to catch and choke the animal. The snares are set to trap any animal perceived to be a pest or threat. The design of a snare [8] means that it may strangle its victim and can lead to extreme pain and suffering, or cause the animal to die instantly.[9] Commonly used by gamekeepers to catch foxes, rabbits and stoats, many protected mammals such as badgers[10] and otters[11] plus livestock[12] and even domestic pets[13] are either caught, seriously injured or killed in snares. Despite being banned in most countries across Europe, snaring is still legal in the United Kingdom. The League Against Cruel Sports believes that snaring is cruel, indiscriminate, and wholly unnecessary and calls for an end to the manufacture, sale and use of snares in the UK.

Dog Fighting

Despite being made illegal in Britain in 1835, dogfighting has been gaining ground in some communities in the UK.[14] Dogs are trained to be violent by being starved and beaten. Those that seem too weak or fail to show enough aggression are killed.[15] If a dog they use for fighting does not die from their wounds, losing dogs may be electrocuted, drowned, or hanged.[16] The League campaigns to raise awareness of the prevalence of dog fighting in the UK. In April 2010, the League launched a new telephone line through which members of the public can report suspicious incidents that they think might be related to fighting dogs.[17]


Millions of game birds are shot every year. Over 35 million pheasants and 6.5 million partridges are reared for shooting in the UK each year.[18] These birds are often reared in battery cages, according to the League’s website. The League's website also states “the misery doesn't end there - all kinds of wildlife suffer at the hands of the shoot, in the name of predator control.”[19][20] The League campaigns for the shooting industry to be brought within the scope of the animal Welfare Act. It also conducts investigations to highlight what it alleges is cruelty within the industry and highlights concerns about teaching children to kill for sport and recreation.


The League Against Cruel Sports seeks a complete end to bullfighting anywhere in the world and lobbies regional and local governments to put an end to bullfighting internationally. The League discourages big businesses from associating with or sponsoring bullfighting[21] and generally raises awareness of the cruelty and suffering involved in bullfighting. The League also promotes the Worldwide Anti-Bullfighting Pledge,[22] in which signatories pledge never to visit a bullfight anywhere in the world.

Racing animals

The League is not fundamentally opposed to greyhound racing but believes there is a much darker side to this sport. Thousands of greyhounds go missing every year, many put down, others dispatched with a bullet to the head or a brick around the neck.[23] The League campaigns for a number of changes such as; independent regulation of the greyhound racing industry; the set-up of one single regulatory authority tasked with establishing and enforcing welfare rules; and a compulsory levy from bookmakers to fund welfare improvements.[24]

Trophy hunting

Trophy hunting is the stalking and killing of wild animals for sport. The League says this multi-million pound international industry is causing an irreversible decline in some of the world's most threatened species and campaigns to see it abolished. The League focuses on exposing British travel companies who promote trophy hunting. The League has also conducted numerous investigations into trophy hunting around the world.[25]


  • 1923 – The League began in Morden, (now a suburb of London) after Henry Amos raised a protest against rabbit coursing; he was successful in motivating support and managed to achieve a ban. This encouraged him to organise opposition to other forms of blood sports and so, along with Ernest Bell, he established the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports. Although many blood sports such as bull, bear and badger baiting and cock fighting had already been outlawed at the time, animal protection laws only applied to domestic and captive animals. With the RSPCA unwilling to take action against hunting, Amos and Bell identified a clear need for an organisation which would campaign against what it classified as cruel sports.
  • 1927 – The organisation had 1000 members.[26]
  • 1932 – Bell left the organisation due to a difference in tactics. He went on to found the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (NSACS).
  • 1948 – Actress Yvonne Arnaud became the League's President until 1951.[27]
  • 1960 – League patron, Sir Patrick Moore, introduced an anti-hunting motion to the RSPCA's AGM but it was defeated.[27]
  • 1967Reverend Lord Donald Soper became President of the League a position held for 30 years, until his death in 1997.
  • 1975 – An anti-hare coursing Bill, supported by the League, passed through the House of Commons, but failed in the House of Lords.
  • 1978 – The League helped establish legal protection for otters, which numbers were declining, by making it illegal to kill them.
  • 1989 – As part of a "Safe Setts" campaign, the League joined forces with the RSPCA, WWF, RSNCTemplate:Disambiguation needed and NFBG to push for further protection for badgers. The previous legislation covered the actual animals, but not the setts, which were said to be still being destroyed.[28]

In 1999 the League appointed Douglas Batchelor as Chief Executive, with a mandate to modernize the organisation and achieve the long sought after legislation on hunting and coursing for sport. Douglas Bachelor's background was in farms and estate management, business consultancy and IT systems and services for agriculture. The League Committee decision to bring in rural issue and countryside management experience to the campaign proved crucial in the run up to the eventual passage of legislation on hunting and coursing in Scotland and in England and wales.

The League worked with the SSPCA (the Scottish Society for the Protection of animals) in Scotland together with IFAW, (the International Fund for Animal welfare) on assisting MSPs to bring forward a Private Members Bill banning hunting and Coursing in Scotland for sport. The bill became an Act in 2002.

The League worked with the RSPCA (the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals) and with IFAW in England and Wales to help secure the passage of the Hunting Act through Parliament in 2004. The campaign was contested throughout by the Countryside Alliance and the Middle way Group who challenged it at every opportunity in Parliament, in the House of Lords and in Court, losing on each occasion.

  • 2005 – With the commencement of the Hunting Act, hare coursing, fox hunting, deer hunting, and hare hunting with dogs became illegal in England and Wales. "We are delighted that 80 years of peaceful, legal campaigning has paid off and that hunters will not be permitted to inflict suffering on wild mammals for their entertainment," a spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports told BBC News.[29]
  • 2006 – A huntsman with the Exmoor Foxhounds, was found guilty of illegal hunting foxes with dogs in a private prosecution taken out by the League. (In 2009, the huntsman's appeal was upheld by the High Court, and the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to contest that ruling.) The League continued to monitor hunts so that evidence of law breaking could be brought before the Magistrates' Courts.[30][31]
  • 2007 – A second successful prosecution was brought by the League against two members of the Quantock Staghounds after they were filmed chasing a deer for more than an hour.[32]
  • 2008 – the League is successful in a third Hunting Act private prosecution.[33] The League moves from London to new offices in Godalming.[34]
  • 2009 – announced a new campaign against dog fighting, amidst news reports that there is an increase in dog fighting in London.
  • 2010 – the League rebrands and launches a new image and new logo "to better equip [it] for the campaigning challenges ahead."
  • 2011 - Joe Duckworth was appointed Chief Executive following Douglas Batchelor's retirement. Joe, who has a long and distinguished background in public services, was appointed through an open recruitment and selection process.
  • 2014 The League celebrates 90 years of campaigning against cruelty to animals in the name of sport.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that there have been 341 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004.


The League began buying land in 1959 to provide a safe haven for hunted animals. Concentrated around Exmoor and the Quantock Hills in the West Country, the League at one time owned around 40 wildlife reserves, the first of which it set up at Baronsdown, near Dulverton.[35] In 2002, they faced accusations by hunt supporters and the British Deer Society of poor practice in wildlife management.[36] A League spokesman said: "With its close links to field sports organizations, it comes as no surprise to the League that the BDS has chosen at the behest of its members to attack an organization that does not support their principle of management by killing."[36] In 2005 the League conceded that some of the Baronsdown deer were infected with bovine tuberculosis and agreed to stop feeding the deer herd in winter to decrease overall numbers.[37]

Recent activities

The League supported the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, passed in 2002 by the Scottish Parliament, and the Hunting Act 2004. Both laws make it illegal to chase a mammal with more than two dogs, but allow the use of two dogs (England) or a pack of dogs (Scotland) to flush an animal out of its lair to be shot.[38] Both laws allow the use of one terrier at a time below ground to flush a fox to be shot, if the owner of the terrier has written permission from the land owner or occupier to reduce fox populations in order to prevent or reducing serious damage to game birds or wild birds being kept on the land. The Hunting Act requires that the terrier is fitted with an electronic locator collar.[39]

The League is currently campaigning against commercial breeding of non-native game birds for shooting, and against hunts that it believes are continuing to hunt wild mammals contrary to the 2004 ban.

It also campaigns to extend hunting legislation from Scotland, England and Wales to Northern Ireland. Between 2006 and 2008, it successfully undertook private prosecutions against four hunt officials under the Hunting Act, because the police would not take action, and argued that this showed that the Hunting Act was clear in its meaning.[40][41][42] The first prosecution led to a conviction, but this was overturned on appeal,[43] and the second conviction was upheld in the Crown Court.[44]


In the late 1980s, League Executive Director Richard Course was fired from the League after he expressed views divergent from the League's mission. He had begun to spend some time with the mounted fox hunts as an outgrowth of his work. After a period of time talking with professional wildlife managers and hunt supporters, he concluded that: "I find it repugnant that some people will kill another living creature for recreational purposes" but said that the dogs easily outpace the fox within a minute or two and kill it within a second or two and that how the fox is located is "totally irrelevant" to animal welfare considerations. Richard Course has since denied that he supported hunting as a humane method of culling foxes. James Barrington, an ex hunt Saboteur then assumed Course's position within the League. Barrington later resigned stating that he concluded that an absolute ban on hunting was not in the best interests of animal welfare; he later joined the Countryside Alliance as an Animal Welfare Consultant.[45] Barrington admits that he did not fully understand hunting and therefore could not fully condemn it.

Political links

The League as a charity is politically neutral. Complaints from opponents attacking the League's neutrality have all been dismissed by the Charity Commission. Several League staff have previously had political links. The current Chief Executive Joe Duckworth is a former trade union leader. Former CEO Douglas Batchelor was at one time a Liberal. Labour MP and ex hunt saboteur Chris Williamson is a member of the board of trustees League Against Cruel Sports (2013) Board of Trustees, whilst several other board members are Labour Party members. Lorraine Platt, organizer of 'Conservatives Against Fox Hunting', is a member of the Conservative Party. Vice-Presidents include Labour politicians Robert Evans, Kerry McCarthy, and Lib Dem Adrian Sanders. The current President Professor John Cooper QC, once stood as a Labour party candidate.

See also


  1. ^ League Campaigns League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 28/09/07
  2. ^
  3. ^ Archives in London and the M25 area Retrieved 28/03/08
  4. ^ Original declaration of principles League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 28/03/08
  5. ^ "Keep Cruelty History website"
  6. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports Website"
  7. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  8. ^ "Types of snare"
  9. ^ "The Case for a Ban on Snares by the National Federation of Badger Groups" p6
  10. ^ "Badger cub found in snare"
  11. ^ "Otter in 'terrible' snare death"
  12. ^ "Snaring in Scotland: A Scottish SPCA Survey of Suffering" p2-3
  13. ^ "Cat maimed in illegal trap"
  14. ^ "New RSPCA Figures Show Shocking Rise In Dog Fighting On Our Streets"
  15. ^ ASPCA Dog Fighting FAQ
  16. ^ "Panorama: Undercover dogfighting investigation"
  17. ^ "Dog Fighting Crimewatch"
  18. ^ "The Game Drain, Animal Aid report" p2
  19. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  20. ^ Robinson, Peter: "Pheasant Shooting in Britain: The Sport and the Industry in the 21st Century" p9
  21. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  22. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  23. ^ "National Assembly for Wales All Party Group for Animal Welfare: The fate of racing greyhounds and working lurchers in Wales"
  24. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  25. ^ "League Against Cruel Sports website"
  26. ^ 1927: The League had 1000 members League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 28/09/07
  27. ^ a b Developing Campaigns League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 29/09/07
  28. ^ Legislative Victories League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 02/11/07
  29. ^ Ban on hunting comes into force BBC, Retrieved 05/03/08
  30. ^ Huntsman guilty of breaking ban BBC. Retrieved 28/03/08
  31. ^ "Prosecutors drop huntsman appeal". BBC News Online. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009. 
  32. ^ Deer hunts in danger as pair found guilty of flushing out with dogs Guardian, Retrieved 05/03/08
  33. ^ "Minehead Harriers duo admit Hunting Act breach". Horse and Hound. 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  34. ^ "''League's new head office''". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  35. ^ League Sanctuaries League Against Cruel Sports, Retrieved 28/03/08
  36. ^ a b Deer society presses for inquiry into sanctuary Telegraph, Retrieved 02/11/07
  37. ^ Stag stabbed to death at deer sanctuary The Times, Retrieved 02/11/07
  38. ^ Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 HMSO, Retrieved 28/03/08
  39. ^ Code of practice for hunting with dogs below ground Retrieved 28/03/08
  40. ^ Rethink ahead as huntsman is fined for breaking ban The Guardian, Retrieved 29/09/07
  41. ^ Pair guilty of hunting with dogs BBC, Retrieved 02/11/07
  42. ^ Guilty plea after hunt pair do a deal with the League Western Daily Press, Retrieved 28/03/08
  43. ^ Huntsman conviction appeal upheld BBC, Retrieved 13/03/08
  44. ^ Hunting duo appeal is turned down BBC, Retrieved 02/11/07
  45. ^ Ex anti-hunt chief joins Alliance Countryside Alliance, Retrieved 09/03/09

External links