Opposition to fox hunting remains at an all-time high, a new survey has revealed, with 85 per cent in support of maintaining the current ban.
The poll, commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports and carried out by Ipos Mori, also found that 90 per cent were opposed to hare hunting and coursing.
The law, introduced by Labour in 2004, bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales.
The League Against Cruel Sports adds that opposition to fox hunting has steadily grown in Britain. In 2008, just over 70 per cent were opposed. And in rural areas support for the ban remains high, at 81 per cent.
It comes ahead of the annual Boxing Day hunts that tend to draw thousands across the country. Last year the pro-hunt Countryside Alliance said there were “at least 250,000” gathering in “huge crowds from Cumbria to Cornwall”.
But the contentious issue was highlighted this year after Theresa May used the snap election to include a free vote for MPs on repealing the fox hunting ban in the Conservative manifesto – a pledge that appeared to be scrapped following the loss of her party’s majority at the election.
“As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment ... to allow a free vote,” the Prime Minister said during the general election at a factory visit.
But the election highlighted the strength of feeling among the public on animal welfare issues – an area Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, has prioritised since he was appointed after June’s general election.
While the policy was not included in the Queen’s Speech, which outlined the legislative programme for the current parliamentary session of 2017 until 2019, it will be officially dropped in 2018, according to The Sunday Times.
A Downing Street source described the report as “pure speculation”, but added: “There is no vote that could change the current policy on fox hunting scheduled in this session of Parliament, which ends in 2019.”
Chris Luffingham, the director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “With 85 per cent of the public saying they do not want fox hunting made legal again, there has never been a better time to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring an end to the illegal persecution of wildlife still going under the guise of ‘trail hunting’.
“The realities of ‘trail hunting’ have been well and truly exposed this year and the extent to which foxes, hares and deer are still being chase and killed has really shocked people. Time and time again hunts are getting away with circumventing the law and that needs to stop.
“The Boxing Day hunt parades are portrayed as the celebration of a great tradition with huge public support, but the truth is very different. There is nothing to celebrate the chasing and killing of wildlife in the name of ‘sport’ and the polling figures have shown us, year after year, that the majority of the public clearly do not want hunting made legal again.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies