Speculation about any near-term relaxation of the hunting ban in England has been laid to rest. The BBC reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron informed the House of Commons that there will be no change to the Hunting Act as passed in 2004. Expressing regret, Cameron said that coalition ministers had failed to reach agreement.
In the days leading up to that announcement, Conservative MPs warned Cameron that his plan, in concert with Environment Secretary Owen Patterson, would fail. (See earlier FHL report, "British PM Has New Plan to Ease Hunting Ban.")
Under the ban, in cases where the landowner wants foxes killed, no more than two foxhounds may be used to flush a fox to a gun. Cameron and Paterson proposed to amend that restriction, through a parliamentary device known as a statutory instrument, to allow up to forty hounds to flush a fox to a gun.
The proposed amendment was a response to complaints by Welsh sheep farmers of fox depredation on their flocks. Critics argued, however, that it was a “back door” attempt to reintroduce foxhunting. Cameron and Paterson were unable to garner sufficient votes, even within their own party, to bring the matter to a vote.
Click for more details of the doomed proposal as reported in The Guardian.
The plight of the countryside was well-expressed in the Mid Devon Gazette: "If you put the politics, the prejudice and the class warfare aside and focus on the practicalities of fox control in an efficient and humane way, the case for changing the rules on hunting are difficult to challenge.
"In essence farmers, particularly in upland areas of Wales where fox predation of lambs is a serious issue, wanted to be allowed to use a full pack of hounds to flush a fox from cover. They argue using just two, as the Hunting Act allows, doesn't work in many cases.
"The proposal has been scuppered, not because the vast majority against the measure have studied the facts but because they had long since made up their minds on this issue.
"The sad conclusion to this modest attempt to help farmers and sensibly amend a flawed piece of legislation – which would also bring the whole of the UK in line [Scotland allows what England is trying to achieve. -Ed.] – is that it is impossible to discard the baggage and talk sensibly about animal welfare, cruelty and efficient countryside management. That is a great shame and does a disservice to wildlife and to farmers."
Posted March 28, 2014
Updated March 29, 2014