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The Natural Chase A review by Katie Colvile, MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS
This review by one of our members is a joint publication with the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group which was launched at the House of Lords in January 2008. The review examines:
- How wolves hunting for prey for food has evolved into dogs hunting as an essential component of wildlife management;
- How natural predators can shape their environment;
- How such predation affects the behaviour of prey species and retains the fitness of a prey population;
- Why hunting with hounds can be considered a natural phenomenon.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, also one of our members and a former committee member of the Burns Inquiry, has written the foreword to the report.
- New evidence has been reviewed in compiling “The Natural Chase”. Over half the scientific literature referenced in the report was not available at the time of the Burns Report in June 2000.(Section 2)
- The method by which a pack of hounds hunts is not dissimilar to the method employed by a pack of wolves.(Section 2)
- Hunting with dogs can therefore be regarded as ‘natural’.(Section 2)
- Utilising such a natural ‘animal to animal’ interaction in wildlife management distinguishes hunting with dogs from all other artificial methods of wildlife population control.(Section 2)
- Predatory animals play an important role in shaping their environment through their influence on herbivorous animals, which can overgraze areas and thereby affect other species and their habitat. Bio-diversity is reliant on the predator prey relationship.(Section 3)
- The behaviour of prey species is affected by the presence of predators in that they are more vigilant and thereby more wary of other threats.(Section 4)
- Prey species have evolved different characteristics in response to predation pressure, such as detection of predators’ scent or sounds.(Section 4.3)
- The different responses of prey species to predators may be instinctive, learnt through experience or through ‘social learning’ with other older animals.(Section 4.3)
- Predator responses may be lost in the absence of natural predators, though this can be regained if predators are re-introduced.(Section 4.4 & 4.5)
- Prey species may change their behaviour towards humans if artificial methods of culling replace natural predation.(Section 4.6)
- Natural predators keep prey populations healthy by selection of weaker or sick animals. Such selective culling helps prevent the spread of disease.(Section 5)
- Archaeological evidence indicates that domestication of the dog evolved over 10,000 years ago and that the dog itself may have evolved over 100,000 years ago.(Section 7)
- The benefits of the man-wolf/dog relationship may have had a profound influence on human evolution.(Section 7)
“The Natural Chase” raises important issues in relation to hunting with hounds and the Hunting Act 2004. Conclusions and implications for hunting, wildlife, its management and bio-diversity have been drawn by the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group and the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management.