UK Politics

Lord Mancroft says only hunting groups care about foxes

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Media captionHunt master: We're the ones who care about the animals' welfare

A Conservative peer says the two hunting associations he chairs are the only groups with "any interest" in the welfare of foxes.

Lord Mancroft made the remark as peers debated the fox hunting ban.

The government has shelved its pledge for a free vote on whether to repeal the ban for at least two years.

Labour's Baroness Jones said Theresa May's support during the election campaign for hunting had proved "massively unpopular on the doorstep".

Tony Blair's Labour government introduced the Hunting Act, which bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and wild mammals in England and Wales, in 2004.

During questions in the Lords, Baroness Jones called for a guarantee that any attempt by the Council of Hunting Associations to reintroduce the "cruel, inhumane and ineffective" practice would be rebuffed.

But Lord Mancroft, the association's chairman, said she was showing "absolutely no interest in the welfare of the quarry species who were supposedly the object of this Act".

He said the numbers of foxes and hares had both declined since the hunting ban.

Image copyright PA

He added: "I am happy to declare my interest as chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations and chairman of the Master of Foxhounds Association which... are the only two organisations clearly which have any interest in the welfare of the animals concerned."

Before the general election, a leaked email from Lord Mancroft said Mrs May's poll lead was "the chance we have been waiting for" to overturn the ban.

But the Tories ended up losing their Commons majority and the government has said it will not bring forward a vote in this Parliamentary session.

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Media captionTheresa May was asked about her views on fox hunting during the election

Government spokeswoman Baroness Vere acknowledged the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate.

She said she had watched her first hunt earlier this year and had been "amazed" at the diversity of people there, "from all walks of life".

Labour peer Baroness Mallalieu, president of the Countryside Alliance, was critical of the current legal methods of controlling foxes, which included snaring and night shooting.

She called on the government to come up with "a method which is stable, which is acceptable on both sides of the argument and which puts animal welfare at the forefront, which I don't believe this Act does".

Baroness Vere said said no methods of control were "without difficulty".

She added: "The entire framework of wildlife legislation will be looked at once we leave the EU and are able once again to take control of those laws."

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