Foxes Still Killed in Boxing Day Hunts Despite Ban, UK Activists Say
A controversial tradition persisted in England and Wales this Boxing Day as around 250,000 people gathered for annual fox hunts around the country, BBC News reported.
Traditional fox hunting, in which hounds both chase and kill a fox, was banned in England and Wales 2004, but hunting groups replaced it with a practice called "trail hunting," in which the dogs follow a pre-set trail of animal urine. Now, animal rights groups say this revised practice can still lead to the death of foxes if the trail is set close to fox habitat. Charities said there had been dozens of reports just this year of foxes being chased and killed since the hunting season started in November, The Guardian reported.
What is trail hunting? www.youtube.com
"Wild animals – including foxes, hare and deer – are still being chased to exhaustion across the British countryside before being torn to pieces by packs of trained hunting hounds," League Against Cruel Sports Deputy Director of Campaigns Chris Pitt told The Guardian. "With over 85% of people opposing all forms of hunting with hounds, there is strong support for British wildlife being given robust protection from those who kill for sport. How can we call ourselves a civilised nation when those who gain entertainment from attacking wildlife continue to go unpunished by the law?"
Responding to claims like these, shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman of the Labour Party said her party would consider toughening up the 2004 Hunting Act if it gained power. New measures could include jail sentences for illegal hunting that are equivalent to the penalties for other wildlife crimes. Another could be the addition of a "recklessness" clause to prevent trail hunts being used as a cover for animal killing, ITV News reported.
"Labour's 2004 Hunting Act was a key milestone in banning this cruel blood sport, but since then new practices have developed to exploit loopholes in the legislation," Hayman said.
Labour is calling time on those who continue to defy the law on illegal fox hunting. Our proposals today form part… https://t.co/AiXPz3yNYV— Sue Hayman (@Sue Hayman)1545813730.0
The direct action group Hunt Saboteurs that works to disrupt hunts posted a picture on Twitter of at least one fox killed this Boxing Day, whose body the group had recovered. They reported that clashes at two hunts between saboteurs and hunt supporters had led to saboteurs being injured. At a hunt in East Kent, one hunt supporter was arrested after landing a saboteur in the hospital with a potential broken eye socket, the group said in a press release.
Hunt supporters and counter-protesters also clashed in Bassaleg, Wales. At one point, noise from the confrontation spooked a horse, who backed up into the crowd, The South Wales Argus reported.
"I have been coming here every year to show I am against the traditional hunt," teacher Ruth Griffiths told The South Wales Argus. "It was shocking to see one of the huntsman lose control of a horse - it ended up going into a crowd of people - which was quite scary."
Chief Executive Tim Bonner of the pro-hunting group the Countryside Alliance told BBC News that the Labour Party's focus on fox hunting was out-of-touch.
"The Labour Party continues to focus on a narrow animal rights agenda, rather than issues that really matter to rural people," he said.
However, a recent poll from the League Against Cruel Sports found that only one-sixth of 1,072 rural residents surveyed thought the sport reflected country values. The survey also indicated that animal-friendly activities like wildlife watching and hiking were more popular with country dwellers.
New polling shows exactly how popular hunting is among people in the countryside... https://t.co/VdUZAGDVw1— League Against Cruel Sports (@League Against Cruel Sports)1545842940.0
In Scotland, meanwhile, where fox hunting has been banned since 2002, politicians are also calling for tighter controls.
"The so-called ban has failed and urgent action is needed to close the loopholes that allow foxes to be chased and even killed by hunts," Green Party Member of Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone said, BBC News reported.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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