Sport and leisure


Sadly, some people in our society consider it acceptable to exploit and kill animals for fun. In February 2005, hunting with packs of dogs became illegal. This means that hunts cannot encourage a pack of hounds to chase and rip the fox to pieces. However, hunts are allowed to send two hounds into a wood to ‘flush out’ a diseased fox into the open, or terriermen can ‘digout’ a fox who has gone to ground, and shoot the fox dead. Unfortunately, however, the law is often not enforced, and suspected breaches go unreported, so many hunts continue to hunt illegally. Mink and stag hunting have also been banned, as has hare coursing, but according to the League Against Cruel Sports, illegal hare coursing still takes place and accounts for 27 per cent of UK wildlife crime.

‘Gamebird’ shooting

Every year the recreational shooting industry breeds around 50 million pheasants and partridges so that people can blast them out of the skies.  See our shooting campaign section for more information.

Horse racing

Behind its glamorous façade, the horse racing industry has a dark side. Around 200 horses die on British racecourses every year, and about the same number are killed in training or because they fail to make the grade. See our horse racing campaign section for more information.

Angling (Fishing)

Far from being the gentle, environmentally-friendly pastime that it is made out to be, angling causes suffering not only to individual fish, but also to birds and other wildlife.

Impaling fish on metal hooks and dragging them out of the water to suffocate in air is cruel (whether they are put back or not). The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) acknowledges that fish experience fear, stress and pain when removed from water, and that the physiological mechanisms in fish for experiencing pain are very similar to those in mammals.

The non-biodegradable nylon line used for angling often becomes tangled in trees or other vegetation, so it is often cut and left on riverbanks, where it is a great threat to wildlife. Birds and ducks frequently become trapped, often fatally, in the discarded line, and many swans have been found with anglers’ hooks embedded in their throats and stomachs from swallowing discarded tackle.


The image that many people have of the circus is of a spectacular and wondrous world full of colour, music, glitter, fun and excitement. Harmless family entertainment, you might say? Unfortunately, there is another side to the world of the circus that you are not supposed to see. Animals forced to perform often endure brutal training regimes, are confined inside tiny enclosures when they are not in the circus ring, and are deprived freedom, comfort and anything resembling a natural life. Some animals spend more than 95% of their time confined or tethered.

Horse in stall at circus
Horse in stall at circus

To make animals carry out acts that are totally unnatural to them (for example, walking on their hind legs and jumping through hoops of fire), they are often trained by being beaten or bullied into submission, or by being deprived of food. Undercover investigations into the circus trade have brought to light disturbing evidence of terrible cruelty, including trainers hitting the animals with sharp, pointed hooks and repeatedly shouting at them as they cower in terror.


Dogs performing at the Shriner's Circus. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
Dogs performing at the Shriner’s Circus. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals


Zoos claim to be acting on behalf of the animals they keep, but studies show that animals in captivity have a much poorer quality of life than their wild counterparts. They often exhibit abnormal behaviour, brought on by a lack of freedom and disruption of their normal social interactions.

Amur Leopard in Twycross Zoo. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 Nigel Swales
Amur Leopard in Twycross Zoo. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 Nigel Swales