We are writing to request your leadership in introducing legislation to prohibit exposing children to hunting activities – including trail hunting, which is often used as a smokescreen for killing wild animals. This request is in accordance with the new General Comment No 26 from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK has ratified.
As you will know, general comments provide definitive guidance and clarity as to how nations must act in order to comply with the convention and meet their legal obligation to protect children’s rights. General Comment No 26 states, “Children must be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence and from exposure to violence, such as domestic violence or violence inflicted on animals.” In light of this authoritative guidance on the legally binding human rights charter, we call on the government to protect children by enacting the aforementioned legislation.
Animals killed for fun by hunters have the same capacity to suffer and feel pain as the dogs and cats we share our homes with – indeed as humans do. Watching wildlife being terrorised, gunned down, or otherwise slaughtered is inarguably traumatic for children to witness. It can be psychologically scarring for young people, most of whom have a natural empathy for animals. What’s worse is that it teaches children that animal’s lives are not valuable and that it is acceptable – even enjoyable – to inflict pain and torment on others. This is especially concerning when you consider that sociological studies have determined that violent and aggressive criminals invariably started out abusing animals.
Certain hunting groups start grooming children as young as 4 to chase foxes to their deaths. While the official line may be to allow over 12s to use guns, some parents start teaching kids to shoot as young as age 3. In 2023, an 11-year-old boy was shot in the hip – leaving him with potentially life-changing injuries – during a hunting trip in Sussex. In 2021, a 2-year-old girl was fatally injured during a fox hunt in Newcastle.
As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recognised, to help young people thrive it is essential that we take measures to protect them from witnessing acts of casual violence against animals. May we please hear that you will follow the committee’s guidance and ban children from participating in hunting spectacles?