We have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way. The unnecessary and prolonged suffering of defenceless animals has no place in a civilised society. That is why I am proud of the Hunting Act, introduced by the last Labour government in 2004 and am committed to defending it. It is clear the overwhelming majority of the British public also support the ban on hunting with hounds.
However, the Conservative Party’s election manifesto included a commitment to give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote. The government announced in July last year that, instead of holding a vote on repeal, it planned to amend the Hunting Act to effectively prevent enforcement of the ban on fox hunting.
There is an exemption to the Hunting Act which allows farmers to use two dogs to flush out a fox before it is shot. The government proposed amending the Act to remove the limit of two dogs to flush out and stalk wild animals. This was due to be debated in the House of Commons on July 15 last year but the government postponed the motion when it became clear it would not win a vote to approve its proposals.
I opposed these proposals because they were designed to wreck the Hunting Act. They were not about controlling fox numbers in the countryside. Instead, I believe they were designed to make prosecutions impossible and that the Government made a sneaky attempt to bring back fox hunting by the back door. Despite clear opposition to the cruel practice of hunting with hounds, from people up and down this country, the government has confirmed it still stands by its commitment to hold a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, with a government Bill in government time.
The government’s plans to amend or repeal the Hunting Act distract from the real issues affecting rural communities such as low wages and a lack of affordable, and adequate, transport and housing. I believe the government should also be focusing on improving infrastructure and protecting public services. There have been over 430 successful prosecutions under the Hunting Act and the government should ensure that the legislation continues to be properly enforced.
I fully support the ban on hunting and will continue to oppose a return to this barbaric practice. I will vote against any further attempt by the government to weaken the Hunting Act and will do all I can to prevent it from trying again to sneak it back on to the parliamentary agenda.