Press release issued by the Registrar
Friend v. the United Kingdom (application no. 16072/06)
Countryside Alliance and Others v. the United Kingdom (no. 27809/08)
Unanimously: applications inadmissible
BAN ON HUNTING WITH HOUNDS; COMPLAINTS REJECTED
The first application was lodged by Brian Leonard Friend, a British national who was born in 1939 and lives in Axminster (United Kingdom). The second application was lodged by the Countryside Alliance, a non-governmental organisation and ten other applicants. The applicants claim to have been affected negatively by various bans on fox hunting and the hunting of other wild mammals with dogs in the United Kingdom.
Hunting with hounds has a long history in rural Britain. The modern hunt usually involves a pack of hounds, horseback riders and others who follow the hounds on foot. While traditionally dear, hare and mink were hunted, before the bans took effect, the main quarry were foxes. Over time, hunting evolved into a regulated and well-organised social activity minded and practised by the members of the hunting community across the country. It took place as often as twice a week throughout the hunting season which usually lasted between early autumn and spring.
In 2004, the Hunting Act (the Act) entered into force which banned hunting subject to certain exceptions. The applicants challenged the legality of the Act by way of judicial review arguing that it was incompatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular those protected by Articles 8 (right to private and family life), 11 (freedom of assembly and association), 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and Article 1 of protocol No 1 (protection of property). The High Court found against the applicants concluding that hunting with dogs was cruel and the bans were justified as they aimed at preventing disorder, protecting health and morals, and the rights and freedoms of others. The applicants appealed, unsuccessfully.
In addition, the first applicant brought an unsuccessful petition seeking judicial review of the Scottish Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
Relying on Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1, both applicants complained of the hunting ban in England and Wales. The first applicant evoked in that respect also Article 9 (freedom of thought and religion), 11 and 14. In respect of the ban in Scotland, he also relied on Article 17 (prohibition of abuse of rights) in conjunction with Article 3 of Protocol No 1 (right to free elections) and on Article 10 (freedom of expression and information).
The applications were lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 23 April 2006 and 28 May 2008, respectively.
Decision of the Court
The Court found that the hunting did not affect negatively the applicants’ right to private and family life. In particular, the Court held that not every activity a person might seek to engage in together with others was protected under that Article. Hunting was, by its very nature, an essentially public activity, and there was no case law of the Court which suggested that the right to private life extended to public activities. Further, the hunting community could not be regarded as ethnic or national minority, nor did it represent a particular lifestyle which was indispensable for a person’s identity. In addition, the concept of home did not include land over which the owners practised or allowed sport to be practised. No evidence had been provided that some of the applicants would indeed lose their homes as a result of the bans. Last but not least, the hunting bans had not created serious difficulties for earning one’s living, and therefore the Court rejected the applicants’ complaints under this Article.
The Court noted that the hunting bans in Scotland, England and Wales did not prevent or restrict the first applicant’s right to assemble with other huntsmen as he remained free to engage in many alternatives to hunting such as drag or trail hunting, which did not involve life quarry. The bans had been designed to eliminate the hunting and killing of animals for sport in a manner causing suffering and being morally objectionable. The bans had been introduced after extensive debate by the democratically elected representatives of the State on the social and ethical issues raised by that type of hunting. The Court therefore rejected the applicants’ complaints under this Article.
Article 1 Protocol 1
The Court recalled the extensive public debate which had preceded the 2004 Act. It did not find arbitrary or unreasonable the absence of compensation for the adverse financial impact of the bans on those whose businesses depended on hunting, given in particular that people had continued to gather for hunts, albeit without live quarry, even after the passage of the Act. Accordingly, the Court rejected also the complaints under this Article.
The Court rejected the complaints of the applicants under the other Articles.
The decision is available only in English. This press release is a document produced by the Registry. It does not bind the Court. The judgments are available on its website (http://www.echr.coe.int).
: 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Stefano Piedimonte (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Céline Menu-Lange (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
Frédéric Dolt (telephone : 00 33 (0)3 90 21 53 39)
Nina Salomon (telephone: 00 33 (0)3 90 21 49 79)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.