The Burns Inquiry (or Committee of Inquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales) was a Government committee set up to examine the facts in the debate in the United Kingdom about hunting with hounds.
In December 1999, the then Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, announced the establishment of a Government inquiry into hunting with dogs, to be chaired by the retired senior civil servant Lord Burns. Its terms of reference were:
The committee commissioned a range of scientific research, undertook a series of visits to hunting events and held a number of evidence hearings. The committee did not seek "to address the ethical aspects of the subject".
- Lord Burns
- Dr Victoria Edwards OBE
- Professor Sir John Marsh
- Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
- Professor Michael Winter
The committee's most reported conclusion was that hunting with dogs "seriously compromises" the welfare of the quarry species. In line with its remit, the committee did not, however, draw any conclusion on whether hunting should be banned or should continue. In a later debate in the House of Lords, the inquiry chairman, Lord Burns, also stated that "Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel... The short answer to that question is no. There was not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty. It is a complex area."
Following the publication of the Burns Inquiry report, the Government introduced an 'options bill' which allowed each House of Parliament to choose between a ban, licensed hunting, and self-regulation. The House of Commons voted for a banning Bill and the House of Lords for self-regulation. After further inquiries, the Government introduced a further Bill, which was amended to become the Hunting Act 2004.