No Hunting Vote as Hunters Will Lose

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fox2Moves to repeal the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales may not happen in 2013, a minister has said.  Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson appeared to rule out a vote next year.  But he insisted it was still the government’s intention to give MPs a free vote on lifting the ban. More than 300 hunts are to hold Boxing Day meets, a week after the RSPCA’s first successful prosecution of a hunt for operating illegally. It has been illegal to use dogs to hunt animals in England and Wales since 2005, and in Scotland since 2002. Mr Paterson told the Telegraph: “At the moment, it would not be my proposal to bring forward a vote we were going to lose.” But Mr Paterson insisted it was still the government’s intention to have a free vote “but we need to choose an appropriate moment”.

‘Animal cruelty’

Responding to the comments, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Mary Creagh, said the public did not support an end to the hunting ban.  She said: “Most people back Labour’s ban on hunting wild animals with dogs and accept there is no place for animal cruelty in a civilised society.  People are worried about their incomes falling, prices rising and losing their jobs, yet this out of touch Tory-led government wants to bring back hunting.”

‘Illegal hunters fined’

The RSPCA prosecution of two members of the Heythrop Hunt has led to claims illegal hunting is still going on.  The hunt’s Richard Sumner and Julian Barnfield admitted unlawfully hunting with dogs on four separate occasions.  Heythrop Hunt Ltd also pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates Court on 17 December to four counts of the same charge.  Sumner was ordered to pay a £1,800 fine and £2,500 in court costs, Barnfield was ordered to pay a £1,000 fine £2,000 in costs and Heythrop Hunt Ltd was fined £4,000 and £15,000 in costs.

‘Only 15% of people want to scrap the ban’

Hunts are no longer allowed to use dogs to chase down foxes, but are instead supposed to use techniques such as drag hunting, where dogs set off on the trail of a scent laid about 20 minutes in advance by a runner or rider dragging a lure.  Animal welfare charities, including the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), have commissioned research which suggests that only 15% of people want to scrap the ban.  Joe Duckworth, LACS chief executive, said the organisation was “intensifying our campaign against illegal hunting.  Three quarters of people in this country want to see fox hunting stay illegal,” he told the BBC.

For details of local hunts see the Hunt Watch website.

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