Only one in 10 people supports Theresa May’s plan to bring back fox hunting, according to a poll for The Independent.
The survey of voters, conducted by ORB, found that 64 per cent disagree with the statement that the ban on fox hunting should be reversed, and a very high proportion (46 per cent) say they “disagree strongly”. Just 11 per cent agree with the policy, and a quarter (25 per cent) neither agree nor disagree.
The Tory manifesto, published on 18 May, promised a free vote in Parliament on a bill to “decide the future of the Hunting Act”. That legislation, passed in 2004 by Labour under Tony Blair, outlawed the hunting with dogs of foxes and other wild mammals.
Some Conservatives believe the Prime Minister is out of touch with the public on the issue – a feeling that will be reinforced by ORB’s findings. They will argue that legislation on hunting should not be a priority at a time when the complex Brexit process will require a raft of new laws. But supporters of the ban fear that it would be overturned in a free vote if the Tories win a big majority on 8 June.
Earlier this month, Ms May said that she had always personally been in favour of fox hunting, although she had never taken part in a hunt herself. She said: “This is a situation on which individuals will have one view or the other, either pro or against... We maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote. It would allow Parliament the opportunity to take the decision on this."
According to ORB, only 16 per cent of people who voted Tory at the 2015 election want the ban to be reversed, while 50 per cent of former Tory voters disagree with that position.
Of 2015 Labour voters, 8 per cent believe the ban should be lifted and 77 per cent do not. Some 10 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters in 2015 want it overturned but 73 per cent oppose the idea.
Men (13 per cent) are more likely to think the ban should be reversed than women (10 per cent). Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds are slightly more likely to back the lifting of the ban than other age groups.
Ms May’s claim that hunting is a more humane way to control the fox population than other methods has been challenged by the League Against Cruel Sports. It said the Act had prevented up to 100,000 wild mammals being “killed, chased or disturbed by the sporting activities”.
Brian May, the Queen guitarist who opposed plans to relax the ban during the Cameron Government, has vowed to fight the Conservatives’ latest proposal. Writing on his website, he claimed Ms May is “a disgrace” for advocating a change in the law and called for a backlash to stop her winning a landslide at the general election.
Dismissing her claim about the fox population, he asked: “Tearing foxes apart with packs of dogs wouldn't be cruel, would it? Does anyone swallow this evil nonsense? How can we allow this duplicitous and pitiless woman back into power?”
ORB interviewed 2,095 adults across the UK on 17–18 May.
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