June 21, 2010
British foxhunters are encouraged by signs of improved relations between government and hunting. It was not only what was said, but where it was said that raised hopes.
Jim Paice, the new minister of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), last week reiterated the coalition government’s commitment to a free vote in parliament on the repeal of the Hunting Act of 2004. What's interesting is that Paice made the statement at the Annual General Meeting of the Masters of Foxhounds Association—the first time in memory that a DEFRA minister has attended that event.
Paice cautioned sportsmen and women, however, that were the ban to be lifted, it would not mean a return to business-as-usual. MFHA Chairman Steven Lambert agreed, referring to the organization by the hunting community of a Hunting Regulatory Authority (HRA) that would provide scrutiny, ensure hearings for complaints, and administer justice and penalties when appropriate. Lambert took the occasion to announce that Labour peer Lord Donohue would be the first chairman of HRA. The plan is to activate HRA upon repeal of the Hunting Act.
“Lord Donohue is a highly distinguished politician and acknowledged as a champion of animal welfare and wildlife management,” said Lambert. “His presence as chairman of the HRA will reassure the media and the public that by voting to repeal the hunting act, parliament will not be voting to turn the clock back.... A strong system of independent regulation will be in place to ensure that hunting remains fully accountable and well managed."
As Nigel Peel, MFH of the North Cotswold (UK), said at the Virginia Foxhound Show in May, “We have learned humility. When the ban is repealed—and it will be—we must not repeat our past mistakes.”
Horse and Hound hunting editor Catherine Austen has more on this subject.