POLL: Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK?

Latest news dated 14 Jul 2015:

Ministers shelved Wednesday’s vote on relaxing hunting laws in England and Wales after the SNP said it would vote against the changes.

The party had previously said it would not vote on issues affecting England and Wales only.

Mr Cameron said the SNP’s position was “entirely opportunistic”.

Downing Street said it was “disappointing” that the vote had to be postponed, and said new proposals on the Hunting Act would be introduced “in due course”.

Members of the Old Surrey Burstow and west Kent hunt. Since the ban stopped with hounds, hunts continued with dogs chasing down a pre-laid scented trail, instead of a fox. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/REUTERS

Article published by The Guardian on 09 Jul 2015:

The government has published proposals to allow foxes to be hunted by packs of dogs in England and Wales again as long as it is “appropriate” for the terrain and done “efficiently” to protect other animals.

Ahead of a free vote on the issue next Wednesday, it is understood English and Welsh MPs are currently split almost equally on whether to approve changes to the law that would bring England into line with Scotland.

Given the likely closeness of the vote, the SNP will come under intense pressure from the anti-hunting lobby to break with tradition and vote against the changes, even though they only apply to England.

However, the Guardian understands the SNP is currently minded not to intervene, making a change in the law more likely. No formal decision has yet been taken by the SNP and it could change its position after studying the amendment, which was published on Thursday morning.

The statutory instrument, entitled Hunting Act 2004 (Exempt Hunting) (Amendment) Order (pdf), would change the law that currently only allows flushing out and stalking with two dogs.

It would only be allowed for the purposes of protecting livestock, game birds or wild birds and those hunting will have to provide written evidence within seven days that they have permission to do so on that land if stopped by an officer.

The proposals have been met with dismay by animal charities, including the RSPCA, which on Thursday accused the government of approaching an abuse of power with its efforts to bring back hunting by the back door.

David Bowles, the assistant director for public affairs, said: “The RSPCA believes any attempts to weaken the Act would not only give the green light to resuming hunting of foxes, and other animals, by dogs but would also be a backward step for modern society.

“Recent footage released by the League Against Cruel Sports showing fox cubs being reared in a barn close to the Middleton Hunt kennels explodes the excuse that hunters need to control the fox population by using packs of hounds.

“This attempt to reintroduce this brutal practice, that has rightly been consigned to the history books, would be a disaster for British wildlife and society as a whole.”

Pro-hunting groups, including the Countryside Alliance, are happy with the changes, which brings England and Wales into line with Scotland. MPs will now come under intense lobbying from both sides in the inflammatory debate, ahead of thevote.

David Cameron is likely to vote in favour and George Osborne, the chancellor, appeared to suggest that he would as well. Tracey Crouch, the sports minister, has said she is firmly against the change, and so is the Labour frontbench.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, indicated earlier this year that the party would consider voting against any repeal of the ban but its MPs are in a trickier position, given that government’s proposed changes simply make England mirror Scotland.

Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, accused the government of trying to deliberately wreck the Hunting Act. She also claimed some MPs had been flooded with lobbying efforts by pro-hunting groups before the amendment had even been formally published.

“Can you tell us why MPs were being inundated by emails from pro-hunting groups who clearly knew about the timing of this vote before the government had even announced it to parliament?

“Do you agree with the sport minister, your own sport minister, who said that the underhand way in which the government is behaving amounts to them relaxing legislation by the back door?

“Why won’t you allow more than 90 minutes for the debate and can you now confirm that it is indeed the government’s intention to wreck the Hunting Act using this back-door device because they don’t have the majority to repeal the Act itself or the guts to try?”

However, Chris Grayling, the leader of the House, said the changes were in no way a repeal of the ban. It was simply a response to the legitimate concerns and representations of upland farmers about pest control, he added.

“Since when has a statutory instrumentation in this House been a back-door device?” he asked. “And a 90-minute debate for a statutory instrument is the normal length for a debate on a statutory instrument before the House.”

This article was first published by The Guardian on 09 Jul 2015.

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