The Conservatives will hold a parliamentary vote on repealing the fox hunting ban if they win the next election, David Cameron has said.
The Prime Minister, who has previously ridden with the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire, said he believed in the “freedom to hunt” and wanted fox hunting legalised.
Writing in the Countryside Alliance magazine, he criticised widespread negative attitudes to the illegal animal killings.
“There is definitely a rural way of life which a born and bred Londoner might struggle to understand," he wrote.
“I have always been a strong supporter of country sports. It is my firm belief that people should have the freedom to hunt, so I share the frustration that many people feel about the Hunting Act and the way it was brought in by the last government
“The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government Bill in government time.”
The practice of fox hunting involves setting a pack of dogs on a fox and then chasing it on horseback, usually in traditional dress.
Conservative MPs will get a “free vote” on whether or not to keep hunting with dogs illegal, meaning they will be allowed to vote against it if they choose.
Labour has said it will defend the ban. Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, said in a statement last month:
“Only Labour will protect the Hunting Act. Ten years ago the Labour party ended the cruel practice of hunting with dogs, because we believe that causing defenceless animals to suffer in the name of sport has no place in a civilised society.
“But just as we celebrate the Hunting Act, the Tories plan to repeal it. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major party committed to defending it.”
Campaigners from the League Against Cruel Sports also vowed to defend the anti-hunting legislation with a cross-party campaign.
"The Hunting Act is the most successful piece of wild animal welfare legislation in history and it is supported by 80% of the British public,” its executive Joe Duckworth said.
“No government, regardless of the party they represent, should ignore such strong public feeling. The Hunting Act is a testimony to the fact that we are a nation of animal lovers and we have an international reputation for our hatred of cruelty in the name of sport.
“We will campaign with MPs from all parties to defend and strengthen what is a very successful and popular piece of legislation.”
Late last year anti-hunt Tories voiced worries that Mr Cameron would try to repeal the ban.
More than two dozen Tory MPs gave their backing to the Conservatives Against Fox campaign which works to challenge the pro-hunt lobby’s influence within the party.
Polling by YouGov conducted in January this year found that 51% of the population supported the current fox hunting ban, with only 33% opposed to it.
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