Animal lovers hail Conservative manifesto pledge to abandon revival of fox-hunting

Document is first since ban began to drop promise of free vote for MPs on overturning it

Jane Dalton
Sunday 24 November 2019 19:31 GMT
Hunting with hounds was banned under the 2004 Act, and the Tories had pledged to reverse the law
Hunting with hounds was banned under the 2004 Act, and the Tories had pledged to reverse the law (SWNS)

Wildlife supporters have welcomed Boris Johnson’s pledge to abandon Conservative efforts to make fox-hunting legal again.

The party’s election manifesto is the first since the ban on fox-hunting took effect in 2005 that has not included a promise of a free vote for MPs on repealing it.

However, fox-hunting supporters insisted the ban would still have to be reviewed in the future.

Animal lovers also hailed a raft of other pledges included in the document, suspecting that Carrie Symonds, the prime minister’s anti-cruelty-campaigning girlfriend, may have had a significant influence.

The commitments include banning “excessively long journeys for fattening and slaughter”, going further than previous pledges to end long journeys simply for slaughter, and closing what would have been a loophole in ending live exports.

The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) called the Tories’ reversal of their stance on fox-hunting “a significant step for the party and for the countryside”.

The manifesto promises that “no changes will be made to the Hunting Act”. In the 2017 general election, Theresa May’s promise of a free vote on fox-hunting was considered a factor in the party’s loss of popularity that cut her majority.

Andy Knott, chief executive of LACS, said: “While this pledge does not go anywhere near as far as Labour’s promises to strengthen the Hunting Act, it is nevertheless a significant step for the party and for the countryside.

Animal welfare is an issue that can bring a country back together, united against hunting and other forms of animal cruelty, and it speaks volumes when a party that has spent the last 14 years loudly promising to overturn the hunting ban changes its position in this way.”

Politicians are now competing for the animal supporters’ vote. Labour, which has a 50-point animal welfare plan, last week announced it would double the number of police officers responsible for enforcing the hunting ban and investigations into other wildlife crime.

The Tory manifesto also pledges tougher sentences for animal cruelty after a bill on sentencing was lost when parliament was prorogued; a crackdown on illegal smuggling of puppies; cat microchipping rules; new laws on animal sentience; a ban on keeping primates as pets; and a ban on all ivory sales – though antiques dealers are challenging this last one in court.

Recent YouGov polling commissioned by LACS showed cross-party support for jail terms for illegal hunting with dogs and for strengthening rather than repealing the 2004 Hunting Act.

There are 191 fox hunts operating in Britain, which, when asked, say they hunt using artificial scent trails and that any fox kills are accidental.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the hunt-supporting Countryside Alliance, said: “It is no surprise that with Brexit and the biggest changes to the countryside and farming for a generation on the agenda, hunting is not a priority for the Conservatives.

“We remain clear, however, that the Hunting Act has failed at every level and will have to be reviewed at some stage. The Conservative position does guarantee that hunting can continue in its current form during the next parliament, in contrast with the Labour party, which remains obsessed with the issue.”

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