The Prime Minister last week backed a vote to repeal the Hunting Act in the next parliament. Lorraine Platt, founder of the Blue Fox group of Conservatives Against Foxhunting, says he is out of touch.
Article by Lorraine Platt
The Prime Minister recently announced ‘A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government Bill in government time.’
Mr Cameron’s statement may be challenged by some who say he failed to implement his pledge to repeal the ban in the current Parliament. It is significant that the repeal of the ban has been blocked in this Parliament by none other than by the stronghold of anti-hunting Conservative MPs.
If it had not been for these Conservative MPs otherwise known as Blue Fox MPs standing their ground to protect the ban, hunting with dogs may have returned under the coalition Government. Most Lib Dem MPs are anti-hunting yet it is disappointing that their leadership agreed to include the pledge to hold a free vote within the Coalition Agreement rather than insisting that it was dropped.
Anti-hunting Conservative MPs have been the most active MPs in protecting the hunt ban under the coalition Government.
Conservatives Against Fox Hunting (also known as Blue Fox) co-founded by a Conservative Association chairman in 2010 has organised nine anti-hunting parliamentary and conference events to unite these Conservative MPs together.
Blue Fox has six Conservative MP Patrons and its joint co-founder won the International Fund for Animal Welfare Campaigner Award 2012 and the RSPCA Lord Erskine Award 2014 for work to protect the Hunting Act 2004. The group is also comprised of Conservative councillors, Conservative Women’s Organisation chairmen, Conservative Future members, agents, party activists and supporters.
No other political party has held anywhere near the same number of anti-hunting events to show support for the ban within this Parliament. It has been vital for these events to have taken place since the threat of repeal is coming from the Conservative leadership itself hence the need to oppose it strongly within the Conservative Party. It could also be said that these MPs have taken it upon themselves to represent the majority opinion against repeal which the Conservative leadership itself has failed to do.
Polls have consistently demonstrated that 80 per cent of the public do not want to see a return of hunting with dogs.
Many Conservative supporters have copied us in to emails to their pro-hunting Conservative MPs dismayed that they could not vote for their party at the last election because of the leadership’s support for repeal.
It is sad that instead of helping Conservative candidates to appeal to all voters in the vital weeks ahead, Mr Cameron has now caused them difficulties ahead as they will face accusations of the Conservative Party being cruel, nasty and out of touch on this issue.
Some of these candidates stand in rural constituencies and they should be mindful that polls show that there is as much support for the ban as there is in urban areas. Conservative candidates will be challenged on doorsteps on this issue as we have seen it in action for ourselves on the campaign trail.
Some candidates have contacted us saying that they have been approached by Vote OK – the hunt lobby group, several times offering campaign support in return for the candidates’ votes in favour of repeal.
We advise the public to contact their candidates and ask them for their stance on hunting with dogs. Remind candidates to support the ban. We have been forwarded emails from Conservative supporters to Conservative candidates saying that they will not vote for them if they support a return of fox hunting.
The public quite rightly wants to see politicians focus on the economy, education, the NHS and other important issues rather than hear of politicians wasting precious parliamentary time on repealing a ten-year-old ban on blood sports. The cynical may say that the real reason for the Conservative leadership’s obsession with repeal is to appease their friends in the hunt lobby who massively campaigned for candidates in the 2010 election in return for their pledge to support the repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs. Pro hunting MPs uniformly say that they support repeal since the ban has done nothing to help animal welfare. This excuse is utter tosh.
The claim that chasing a wild mammal to its death by being torn apart by packs of dogs is more humane than being shot beggars belief. Yet a whopping 85 per cent of Conservative MPs support a return of these banned sports. It is depressing to attend animal welfare parliamentary receptions where pro-hunting MPs announce their strong support for other nations’ wildlife such as elephants and tigers yet deny our own vulnerable wildlife their protective support even with the threat of the hangman’s noose of repeal knotted around their neck
Recently, nine Conservative MPs signed their name to a joint letter by Conservatives Against Fox Hunting and the chairman of Conservative Animal Welfare to mark the 10th anniversary of the ban. The letter calls for any pledge to weaken or repeal the ban on hunting with dogs to be excluded from the 2015 manifesto.
The Blue Fox Founders had a meeting with the MP for the Environment of the No 10 Policy Board in October 2014. It was pointed out that a 2014 YouGov poll for WSPA [now WAP] showed animal welfare to be one of the deciding issues for where people placed their vote. Animal welfare came directly behind defence and ahead of HS2 and same-sex marriage. MPs say that they receive more mail on animal welfare than on any other issue.
The Hunting Act 2004 is the most successful piece of animal welfare legislation and is supported by the majority of the public. Mr Cameron should take heed of this and not ignore the British public’s support for the ban with the general election a few weeks away.