Right of Reply: Jackie Ballard

The MP for Taunton replies to our leading article opposing a ban on hunting with hounds

YOU ARGUE that a ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs is fundamentally illiberal. I'm a Liberal who represents the constituency with the largest number of hunts (fox and deer) in England. Not surprisingly, I've given the issue of hunting some thought. I believe you confuse liberalism and libertarianism.

Liberals do not believe that man is the only creature whose welfare is of importance. Some would argue that animals have rights, but whether they do or not most would agree that they should not suffer unnecessary cruelty. Why else do we legislate for the welfare of farm animals and domestic pets?

Is hunting, therefore, in the interests of the hunted animal? The Bateson Report showed that chasing a deer for up to six hours causes undue stress and suffering. How can that be justified by any liberal? It may give some men pleasure to chase the deer, it certainly doesn't give the deer any pleasure. This pain serves no useful purpose.

Deer and foxes need culling to control their numbers - few would argue about that, but even now the majority are controlled by shooting. Hunting plays a small part in keeping down fox numbers, in fact hunts have been reported breeding foxes especially to hunt.

Your editorial poses the question why should legislative priority be given to hunting? Because we can't do everything, does that mean we should do nothing? Of course the Government should tackle all the outstanding animal and human welfare issues - but while philosophers and commentators work out which should have the highest priority, nothing will be done. Neither the fox nor the deer are consenting partners in the pursuit. They need us to defend them.

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