Not just cruel to foxes

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The Independent Online

This newspaper was almost alone in supporting the view of the majority of the electorate, the majority of MPs, the majority of the Cabinet and that of the Prime Minister himself, that hunting with dogs should be illegal. Now, at last, it is. It is no use hunt supporters trying to re-open arguments that have been fought and lost over the past eight years. "The law is wrong because it is difficult to enforce", is the cry this first cruelty-free weekend. With all due respect to the passionately held views of the minority, MPs knew of the difficulties when they voted, overwhelmingly, for a ban. They rightly judged that the problems of enforcement did not outweigh the likely benefits of legislation.

This newspaper was almost alone in supporting the view of the majority of the electorate, the majority of MPs, the majority of the Cabinet and that of the Prime Minister himself, that hunting with dogs should be illegal. Now, at last, it is. It is no use hunt supporters trying to re-open arguments that have been fought and lost over the past eight years. "The law is wrong because it is difficult to enforce", is the cry this first cruelty-free weekend. With all due respect to the passionately held views of the minority, MPs knew of the difficulties when they voted, overwhelmingly, for a ban. They rightly judged that the problems of enforcement did not outweigh the likely benefits of legislation.

It is true that it will be difficult to make sure that no foxes are chased and torn apart by dogs, although it will be easier to make sure that hares are not coursed and stags are not hunted. And it is true that monitoring the activities of former hunts should not be the priority of any police force in the country. Fortunately, it does not have to be. The point about hunting is that there are thousands of private citizens who feel so strongly about ending the cruel so-called sport that they will give their own time and energy to helping to ensure that the law is observed.

The other rearguard action of the liberal wing of the pro-hunt lobby is to point out that there are many more important issues of animal welfare in intensive agriculture. So there are. The conditions in which pigs and poultry, in particular, are reared ought to be the object of more concern and legislative activism than hunting. But that does not make it wrong to ban hunting. We welcome the ban. If, as they say, the vast majority of hunt supporters are respecting a law properly and democratically expressing the will of the people, we welcome that too. Now let us turn our attention to other cruelties to animals.

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