Theresa May abandons vote on overturning fox hunting ban in face of overwhelming opposition

'I think there was a clear message about that and that's why I say there won't be a vote on fox hunting during this parliament'

Theresa May says now she will not allow vote to repeal foxhunting ban

Theresa May has been forced to bow to the inevitable and abandon her pledge to give MPs a vote on whether to bring back fox hunting.

The vote was shelved last year after the Conservatives’ general election disaster – a reversal partly caused by the Prime Minister’s surprise backing for the repeal of anti-hunting legislation.

Now Ms May has told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that she had received a “clear message” on the controversy on the doorstep and confirmed she will not return to it.

“As Prime Minister, my job isn’t just about what I think about something, it’s actually about looking at what the view of the country is,” she said. “I think there was a clear message about that and that’s why I say there won’t be a vote on fox hunting during this parliament.”

However, the League Against Cruel Sports urged the Tories to go further by ruling out any move to overturn the hunting ban in a future parliament. “Hunting is a barbaric practice which still sees British wildlife being torn to pieces by packs of hounds,” said Chris Pitt, the League’s deputy director of campaigns.

“Recent polling showed that opposition to hunting in the UK remains at an all-time high of 85 per cent, so it’s clear that this pledge will be popular with the public.”

The Hunting Act, introduced by Labour in 2004, bans the use of dogs to hunt foxes and other wild mammals in England and Wales. The Tories had pledged in their manifesto to hold a free vote on a bill in Government time to allow Parliament to decide the future of the act.

Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly criticised Ms May for saying she was in favour of fox hunting on the campaign trail and opinion polls suggested the move was hugely unpopular with voters.

Significantly, since the election – and the return of Michael Gove as Environment Secretary – the Tories have sought to stress their commitment to animal welfare issues. Mr Gove killed the controversy over recognising animal sentience after Brexit – whether animals are capable of feelings and pain – and promised tougher sentencing for animal cruelty.

But Mr Pitt noted that Ms May had said she still personally supports fox hunting, adding: “We also hope that this isn’t a tactical political move designed to win votes.”

And he said the public would be “horrified” if it knew how often hunts were flouting the existing ban. “If the Government truly wants to reflect the people’s will on fox hunting, they need to tackle the routine illegal hunting still taking place every day across the country under the cover of ‘trail’ hunting.”

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