Hunting: Minister says ban repeal vote 'not imminent'

Hunt Boxing Day hunts - following artificial scent trails - are getting under way across the country

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Moves 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.

'Animal cruelty'


The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is seen by those on the right of the Conservative Party as an authentic Tory who shares their instincts.

But Mr Paterson's comments show he is a mathematically astute pragmatist.

Yes, the coalition agreement sets out the government will give MPs a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act.

But the environment secretary has done his sums and concluded those in favour of overturning the law would lose.

Some Conservatives will also be very aware that reintroducing the debate on hunting at Westminster would open a whacking great dividing line with Labour.

Ed Miliband's party would argue pushing for a vote would prove the Tories are out of touch with the concerns of most voters.

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".

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed: "The coalition government pledged to put forward a motion to allow a free vote on the Hunting Act.

"This will take place at an appropriate time and if parliament were to vote in favour of repeal, the government would introduce a Repeal Bill in the House of Parliament in due course."

Responding to Mr Paterson's comments, Labour's shadow environment secretary, Mary Creagh, said "most people back Labour's ban on hunting wild animals with dogs".

"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," she said.

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.

The RSPCA's Gavin Grant said the organisation had "no arguments with people who want to ride their horses with their dogs in the glories of our countryside".

"But we're totally opposed - as are the vast majority of the people in this country - to anybody who's going out there, deliberately, to abuse animals and to tear them to shreds," he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, the BBC's Alex Dunlop says there has been a big turnout at some Boxing Day hunts across the country.

At the Thurlow Hunt - one of the oldest in Britain - dozens of riders set off as their dogs followed an artificial trail of fox scent.

Many supporters have also shown up in support of the tradition, according to our correspondent.

'Other priorities'

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.

BBC News spends a day with a hunt in the Foret d'Eu in France

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," investing £1m in recruiting new professional investigators and quadrupling frontline personnel working to catch people hunting illegally.

"Three quarters of people in this country want to see fox hunting stay illegal," he added.

But the Countryside Alliance says it has seen no slackening of support for hunting in recent years, and on the busiest day of the hunting season, members of hunts across the country will be out in force in a continued show of support for their sport.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, executive chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner said: "If you were going to go for some sort of repeal [of the ban] then it would probably take a... huge amount of parliamentary time at a time when the government and parliament's got other priorities.

"But I'm absolutely confident the act will be repealed and I think in the meantime the country people trust that the prime minister will deliver what he can."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Hounds rip the foxes up alive. This is barbaric. I'm a country girl and a farmers daughter so don't give me this 'city folk don't understand' rubbish. This is just cruel and there is no excuse. Foxes kill to survive. We hunt them for entertainment. If they need controlling using humane methods not barbaric ones. The reaction would be different if it happened to someone's pet dog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    I'd take being ripped to shreds in seconds over starving to death over days, caught in a trap any day...

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Yes, let's reintroduce hunting. And whilst we're at it maybe bring back workhouses, being obliged to give your local baron a night with your prettiest daughter, chopping off people's heads for slagging the king off and maybe chasing down the local oddball woman and ducking her in the nearest pond. We've lots of good clean traditions (bell-ringing, Morris dancing etc; others die for good reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    If all these people moaning about foxhunting on here really cared about animal rights they should get down the ;local curry house and demand an end to halal slaughter which is now STANDARD in school menus in many cities like Bradford! If you see foxhunting as antiquated, how about throat slitting ?
    I bet most anti hunt types will not give this a thought when out after a beer or two!

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    One policy I do agree with Labour on, it takes a sick mind to take pleasure from the tearing apart of a defenceless animal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    MPs who waste parliamentary time on this are :-

    "The Disreputable backing the Disgraceful on behalf of the Disfunctional"

    Family Guy 2012

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    @261 Blythkeith, I am not your 'mate' and the hutches I bought were from a very well known large pet chain, they were top of that particular range and were supposedly capable of protecting the rabbits. The fox ripped the doors off and killed all the rabbits in it. Not for food, for fun. Best way to protect these pets would be to kill the fox but wait, we can't do that. Cute Mr Fox mustbe protected

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    " If you follow this stupid logic of banning everything, then fishing should be banned,"

    A complete non sequitur

    The same argument used by the vile Countryside Alliance back when the hunting ban was first being introduced, and yet - as is evidenced seen by all the angling shows available on TV these days - people CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE.

    Angling and hunting with dogs have NOTHING in common.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    By all means give us a vote on repealing the ban, but make sure that it includes all barbaric animal-torturing sports, like cock-fighting, bear-baiting, etc., rather than just those favoured by the horse-riding elite.

    But of course, we won't get a vote on it, and my MP has already made it clear that he will vote according to his own feelings on the matter (pro-repeal, for career reasons).

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    A farmer friend used to have a couple of families of foxes in the woods on his property. The Local hunt would take a couple a year, so he lived with the attacks on his chickens,lambs etc. Cue BAN, he got in the Pest Controller who shot them with shotguns, NO MORE Foxes on his land.How does that help wildlife?, This was a METRO ban on a RURAL pastime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Makes me laugh, the country is falling apart and some people are more worried about foxes !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    All the present government appears to want to do us drag us out of the 21st century and back into the 19th. While the rest of the world, well, much of it, goes forwards, Britain returns to the wonders of class distinction, the filthy-rich at the top and the rest downtrodden and punished just for not being wealthy.

    Hunting anything with dogs is beneath contempt, bit like the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    If you’ve ever met anyone who takes part in hunting, supports hunting, or associated activities such as shooting wild birds, you’ll know that they’re always angry. Angry with those that disagree with them and just angry with the world generally – e.g. they’re typically the same people guilty of road rage incidents in rural areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Fox hunting is barbaric and, as a method of control, totally ineffective - particularly since most foxes seem to have joined the urban drift in recent years. However, if people on the lower tiers of social pretension wish to be seen as barbaric, who am I to deny them? On any scale of barbarism, it's certainly well below inventing cluster bombs or, even worse, using them - both inexplicably legal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    It shouldn't be called "hunting" as that puts it in the same boat as one on one attempts to capture and kill something in order to further survival.

    Hoards of over wealthy people on horses with crowds of dogs lynching one animal to death is totally unneeded. Its not done for food or survival its pure enjoyment to these people. maybe one of them would like to play the part of the fox.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I absolutely do not support fox hunting in any way shape or form. Notwithstanding this, I concede that I struggle to see the difference between hunting foxes with hounds and someone who keeps a domestic cat they allow to roam free – both slaughter wildlife inhumanly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    The RSPCA rightly brought a prosecution against organised and systematic law-breaking based on the law as it stands today.

    What is disgusting is

    (1) it took the RSPCA to bring this case rather than the Crown Prosecution Service.

    (2) the costs awarded against the plaintiffs did not reflect the true cost of bring this case

    (3) the CPS stood back against organised crime

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    I abhor the hunting to exhaustion and grisly death of intelligent, sensate animals. Fox hunting, imo, is a blood brother of badger baiting, pig sticking, and dog fighting. The vast majority of people in this country agree with those views.
    The problem for the Conservative side of the government is that to try to get elected, they made all sorts of promises to their countryside friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    This is a important matter,will the government pursue these people with the same gusto that they pursued the rioters,Conservatives are no longer the party of law & order they pick & choose which laws to obey,Conservatives once stood for preserving the British way,which backbone was the fairness of the law,they have drifted to a fascist state,exactly what we fought against in the last war

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    The pro hunting lobby is as irrational as the pro gun lobby state-side. As for the "Townies" and spite argument the same could be said for the Conservatives and its sadistic streak when it comes to dealing with the Disabled and poor. If you want ignorance and Malice just look closer to home and to the Tory papers like the Sun and The Daily Mail (A paper that supported Hitler).


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