The League Against Cruel Sports (formerly abbreviated to LACS) is an animal welfare organisation that campaigns against all blood sports including bull fighting, 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. Famous supporters include vegetarian Sir Paul McCartney.
Scottish actress Annette Crosbie OBE has been the President of the League since 2003.
The League is a membership-based charity
that depends largely on legacies and direct mail packages to raise funds.
In 1924, the League issued the following charter entitled "What We Stand For
- 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 organised 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 demoralising custom.
We respectfully invite Religious, Education, Social Welfare, Humanitarian and allied bodies, by passing resolutions towards this end, to co-operate with us to make our demand effective.
- 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.
- 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.
- 1960 - League patron, Sir Patrick Moore, introduced an anti-hunting motion to the RSPCA's AGM but it was defeated.
- 1967 - Reverend 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, RSNC 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.
- 2001 - The Sunday Telegraph reported that one of the League's then press officers had previously been arrested for violent disorder at Hillgrove Farm which bred cats for scientific research. More than 1,000 protesters converged on the farm and many, including this person, fought pitched battles with 400 police, some in riot gear, drafted in from five forces. He had been sentenced to three months imprisonment for his actions. Also in 2001 controversially, Graham Sirl resigned his position with the League, saying that he no longer believed a complete ban on hunting was in the best interests of wildlife. Sirl stated: "I now believe hunting with hounds plays an integral part in the management system of deer on Exmoor and the Quantocks."
- 2003 - Actress Annette Crosbie was named President of the League. In a January 10, 2003 interview with David Edwards, Crosbie told the Daily Mirror that she felt the human race to be "the nastiest species of animal on the planet". In the same interview she describes herself as "impatient, intolerant, judgmental, tactless - I'm not very nice, I'm really not. And if you don't do it my way, by God you'll be sorry.
- 2005 - With the commencement of the Hunting Act, fox 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.
- 2006 - A huntsman with the Exmoor Foxhounds, was found guilty of illegal hunting in a private prosecution taken out by the League. The League continued to monitor hunts so that evidence of law breaking could be brought before the courts.
- 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.
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 now owns around 40 wildlife reserves, the first of which it set up at Baronsdown, near Dulverton
. In 2002, they faced accusations by hunt supporters and the British Deer Society of poor practice in wildlife management
. A League spokesman said: "With its close links to field sports organisations, it comes as no surprise to the League that the BDS has chosen at the behest of its members to attack an organisation that does not support their principle of management by killing." In 2005 the League conceded that the Baronsdown deer
were infected with bovine tuberculosis
and agreed to stop feeding the 300-strong herd in winter to decrease overall numbers.
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 fox with more than two dogs, but allow the use of two dogs (England) or a pack of dogs (Scotland) to flush a fox out of its lair to be shot. 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.
The League is currently campaigning against commercial breeding
of non-native game birds
, and against hunts that it believes are continuing to hunt wild mammals contrary to the 2004 ban.
It also campaigns to extend hare coursing/fox 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. The first prosecution led to a conviction, but this was overturned on appeal, and the second conviction was upheld in the Crown Court.
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 wildife 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. James Barrington 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.