Hunting deer, foxes and hares with dogs was outlawed 10 years ago. A poll by Ipsos Mori, conducted at the end of last year, found that 80% of people in Great Britain think that fox hunting should remain illegal, 86% for deer hunting and 88% for hare hunting/coursing. These figures are about the same in both rural and urban areas (despite claims from the Countryside Alliance that only urbanites support the ban).
So why do an election focus on this issue? There can’t be much legislation that is so popular with the general public. But hunting has become an election issue, with pro-hunt campaigners actively supporting (campaigning for and financing) candidates for parties who promise to repeal the legislation.
Opponents of the Hunting Act claim that it doesn’t work, has done nothing to protect animals’ welfare, and restricts a countryside tradition. Supporters of the Act claim that it’s a highly effective piece of legislation, pointing to successful prosecutions of hunts breaking the law. Some anti-hunt groups argue that the law needs strengthening, or enforcement improving, as illegal fox hunting still continues in some areas.
So where do the parties stand on this issue? I’ve been looking into it, checking parties’ websites, emailing party head offices, and emailing the candidates standing in my constituency. I’ve only included parties standing in England, as there is different legislation in Scotland. Here’s what I’ve found.
Writing in the Countryside Alliance magazine (a pro-hunting lobby group), David Cameron said:
“The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative government will give parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.”
So a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a return to hunting foxes, deer and hares with dogs.
Labour has said it would not repeal the ban. Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, has already stated:
“Only Labour will protect the Hunting Act. Ten years ago the Labour party ended the cruel practice of hunting with dogs, because we believe that causing defenceless animals to suffer in the name of sport has no place in a civilised society. But just as we celebrate the Hunting Act, the Tories plan to repeal it. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major party committed to defending it. The hunting ban is a testament to the progress made since the days of bear baiting and other such barbaric blood sports.”
The Liberal Democrats haven’t responded to my emails yet, and I haven’t been able to find any policy statements about this on their website. However, it’s widely recognised that lack of support from the Liberal Democrats is the main reason why the current Coalition Government haven’t repealed the Hunting Act already.
If I hear anything from the Liberal Democrats I will update this post. In the meantime, you could ask the candidates standing in your constituency what their views on it are. The League Against Cruel Sport have an easy way to do this with their General Election Survey.
I couldn’t find anything on the UKIP website about this issue, so I emailed them. Here’s the response I received from Alan Bigwood of UKIP Headoffice:
“UKIP has absolutely no policy on Hunting, and the reason is simple. Those in favour of hunting and those opposed to it, are separated by a gulf that is in reality a chasm. There is no point in UKIP having an official policy on Hunting because it has nothing to do with pulling out of the EU, and even within UKIP itself some of the members are pro hunting and others are vehemently opposed, a mirror of wider society.
UKIP does not intend to bring hunting back even if Nigel Farage may take a different personal stance, which he has every right to do.
It is party policy to offer referendums to the public, and if enough petitioners were to demand a referendum on Hunting then a UKIP government would, of course, accede to that request… In such instances we feel that it is best to let the people decide, not an out of touch clique in Westminster, many of whom have never done a proper job in their lives.”
My Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate replied to my email, saying:
“The Green Party is committed to maintaining and strengthening the ban on hunting with dogs, and would extend this ban to all hunting of all animals for sport or pleasure.”
There’s lots more information about the Green Party’s position on other animal welfare issues, including snaring, shooting, dog fighting and greyhound racing on their website.
Watch the disturbing video below, then visit the League Against Cruel Sports website for more information, and to take action.