Relief for foxes as Government confirms no vote on repealing the Hunting Act

Sometimes victory comes quiet as a whisper rather than a fanfare. That certainly was the case earlier this week when the government ever so quietly confirmed they would not be holding a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act for the next two years.

Minister Thérèse Coffey confirmed the new situation in a response to a written question by Catherine West MP, who was seeking clarification on the government’s stance on the future of the Hunting Act. As you will recall, the Conservative Party manifesto contained a pledge to hold a free vote on the future of the Hunting Act. Obviously this doesn’t rule out a vote in the future, but for now at least it gives foxes, hares and stags, as well as those of us who fight to ensure the safety and fair treatment of these animals, a slight reprieve.

This hasn’t come as a total surprise. The popularity of the Hunting Act is at all time high amongst the public; a recent poll put support for the ban at 84%. And we are so grateful to the hundreds of IFAW supporters who took the time to ask their local candidates about this issue during the election. We know of at least 17 candidates who were formerly in favour of repealing the Hunting Act, but changed their minds on the issue during the campaign – so your messages really made a difference!

We’ve heard from so many MPs and voters who were dismayed by the planned free vote.  A lot of people agreed this was not the time to be bringing up such a toxic issue. The BBC calculated that just 50 votes in four constituencies could have given the Conservative Party a majority -  and we do wonder how many of those 50 votes might have been swayed by the controversial issue of fox hunting? Certainly one poll during the election found that an incredible half of all voters said they would be less likely to support candidates who wanted to make hunting legal again.

Of course this news will not stop illegal hunting from continuing. As our Trail of Lies report shows, trail hunting is still being conducted across the country as a way of disguising illegal hunts. But as I explained last week, the courts may be starting to wake up to the reality of hunting, with the conviction of two illegal hunters last week in Scotland. Hopefully this is just the start of a real clamp down on an activity which outright breaks the law. The law is not there for anyone to pick and choose what bits they want to obey and what bits they feel they are above.

It’s high time those engaged in illegal hunts were held to account. Hopefully this commitment to keeping the ban, alongside the news from Scotland, is just the start of good things to come for the Hunting Act. 

--RH

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