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Monday 14th Febraury 2005.

End of the Chase?

The ban on hunting with dogs comes into effect on February 18th but will it spell the end for the sport?

Since 1949 there have been many attempts to ban fox hunting and all but the recent attempt have failed.

The latest attempt came in 1999 after Tony Blair made a surprise announcement that he plans to make fox hunting illegal and if he can, he would do it before the next general election.

After much deliberation and with Home Secretary Jack Straw setting up an inquiry into the effect of a hunting ban on the rural economy, the House of Commons passed the ban with a majority of 179, but the Lords rejected it 317 to 68. After all this, the Hunting Bill ran out of time as the general election was called.

After Labour won the general election, the Queen promised MPs another free vote on whether to ban fox hunting and so ministers set out a timetable for a hunting bill.

Although both the House of Commons and Lords were asked to choose between one of the following options, they could not make a unanimous decision:

A complete ban, no ban or a compromise of licensed fox hunting.

The Commons chose a complete ban and the Lords chose a method of licensing it.

With neither House willing to give way to the other, Parliament was forced to use the Parliament Act to push the Bill through. As of the 18th February 2005, fox hunting with dogs, hare coursing and stag hunting will be banned outright in England.
The Countryside Alliance has vowed to fight on and contest the ban, however, their first attempt, which claimed the Parliament Act was invalid, was rejected by the court and the ban is still law.

The RSPCA welcomed the High Court's decision as "a watershed in the development of a more civilised society for people and animals".

Spokesman John Rolls said: "Despite this latest diversion from the Countryside Alliance, we look forward to the ban on their barbaric sport coming into force, as expected, on February 18."

The government said it had expected the ruling and welcomed future legal proceedings as they would clarify the legislation on hunting. 

Speaking outside the court, Countryside Alliance chief executive Simon Hart vowed to fight on.

"This is the first of three rounds and everybody in the hunting community was quite clear that in the divisional court they did not expect necessarily to come away with success," he said.

"We go to the Court of Appeal confident that we have a very good case."

The alliance is also going to mount a challenge to the ban on human rights grounds, which could end up in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Click here to email us with your views on whether fox hunting should be banned.

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