Kate Hoey

Why Labour needs to step back from the hunting debate and look at the facts

The public can always tell an election is near when the photo opportunities start to increase. Just such an occasion occurred on the 10th anniversary of the Hunting Act in November, when the Parliamentary Labour Party office invited MPs to have a photograph taken, ‘with a large fox holding up a sign saying “Back the ban”.’ Needless to say, I did not attend.

In his book Last Man Standing, Jack Straw says with regard to hunting:

‘To me, banning it was a nonsense issue for a serious party making a determined bid for government after 18 years in opposition. It was best left alone.’

Ten years after the Hunting Act was passed, Jack has been proven to be right. Right, not because it is fine to be cruel to animals, but because a simplistic measure like banning hunting with dogs could never properly address the wider issues surrounding wildlife, its management, its welfare and its uses and abuses by humans.

Now we see a campaign to strengthen the Hunting Act, and the groans of those who spent 700 parliamentary hours the first time around are almost audible. What should not be forgotten is that there was a large majority of anti-hunting MPs in the House of Commons at that time, taking advice from anti-hunting organisations. There was also a majority of anti-hunting MPs during the committee stage too, so the final result is entirely the work of anti-hunt campaigners.

Unlike many police officers, veterinarians, legal experts, senior civil servants and politicians (including Tony Blair), all of whom have criticised this legislation, those who were instrumental in drafting the Hunting Act now blame everyone else for its failings and seek more parliamentary time to fix the unfixable.

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