Fox hunting: Opposing lobbies get ready to do battle over vote to weaken ban

No shortage of muscle or motivation on both sides as hunt vote goes to the wire

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Indy Politics

Pro-hunting campaigners have launched an intensive lobbying effort ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote to weaken the ban on the bloodsport next week – while opponents are promising major protests and increased sabotage.

Both sides are drawing up their battle plans after David Cameron announced a vote on whether to allow packs of hounds to be used for pest-control purposes by flushing out foxes to be shot.

Opponents have accused the Prime Minister of trying to sneak hunting in through the back door, offering hunters a cover for illegal activities by amending the existing ban.

The hunting fraternity dismisses these claims as “patent nonsense”, and say it still wants a full repeal of the fox hunting ban introduced in 2005 – but has welcomed the proposed amendment as a significant step forward.

Both sides are working furiously to influence the outcome of what is expected to be a very close vote on 15 July.

“Just because the Government has announced these amendments it is by no means certain they will be passed… We need you to act urgently to lobby MPs,” Lord Mancroft, a hunting partner of Prince Charles, and Hunting Office director Tim Easby wrote in a call-to-arms email to hunts across the country.

The message calls on everyone connected with the hunts to participate in a giant “e-lobby” and to fill in and send the “lobbying postcards” that have been delivered to the hunt masters. It also instructs them to “organise for two people to travel to London to lobby MPs from each constituency associated with your Hunt”.

But opponents are also redoubling their efforts to block fox hunting. Some of the highest-profile opponents are traditionally associated with protecting badgers, such as Badger Trust head Dominic Dyer who sees no difference between fox hunting and badger baiting, which became illegal in the UK in 1830. Mr Dyer plans a mass protest outside Parliament on 15 July and is in discussions with groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the RSPCA and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to attract as many protesters as possible.

The League Against Cruel Sports, meanwhile, is co-ordinating a big lobbying exercise to persuade MPs to vote against the amendment, which would let hunters use an unlimited number of hounds compared to just two now. But opponents fear it will allow illegal hunting – which they say already happens frequently under a loophole which allows for hunts to chase after an artificially-laid fox scent – to become far more widespread. Jay Tiernan, the country’s most high profile animal rights activist, is promising strong action to deter hunting. “It’s an easy prediction to make that the hunts won’t be finding it as easy as they have in previous years to carry out their heinous acts undeclared,” he said. “We are becoming more sophisticated in our methods of surveillance and social media has been an incredible boon... to give us information on the hunts’ activities,” said Mr Tiernan, adding that he plans to name and shame farmers involved in breeding fox cubs for hunts.