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July 7, 2010
Foxhunters in Britain are backing plans for regulation of hunting by an independent authority in return for an overturn of the despised 2004 Hunting Act.

Hunt supporters have proposed creation of a Hunting Regulatory Authority (HRA) which would demand a strict code of practice to eliminate unnecessary suffering of the fox and to ensure that hunts respect animals, property, land, and crops. Flouting of the code could result in prosecution in the courts and, for the guilty, fines and disbarment from hunting. Hunters with hounds operate under a similar system in Northern Ireland.

Prior to the recent election, Conservatives had pledged a free vote in Parliament on the Hunting Act. However, because the party failed to win a majority and was forced to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats—no friends of hunting—the Conservatives' pledge for a free vote was severely compromised. Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, while sympathetic to the hunting community, has been warned against risking a free vote in Parliament at this time.

Senior Labour peer Lord Donoughue, who has championed the proposal for a regulatory authority, is expected to chair the HRA. He is said to have the backing of both Tory and Labour MPs and peers. The hunting community appears to be in agreement that there can be no return to the situation before the ban—that hunting people cannot simply turn back the clock.

"We are trying to put forward a more moderate compromise approach," Lord Donoughue said. "We need to achieve a proper balance between the needs of animal welfare, the need to avoid deliberate cruelty, and the rights of the countryside to pursue its sports such as hunting."

More details by Deputy Political Editor Melissa Kite are available in The Telegraph.

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