Shadow Defra Minister ‘live web chat’

Nick Herbert MP, shadow Defra Secretary of State, took part in a live ‘web chat’ on The Guardian’s website earlier today.

He was asked “What is the Conservative party’s stance on fox hunting? And if elected would it abolish the fox hunting ban?”, and replied:

In response to your question on hunting, the Conservative party’s position is that we would give parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time. I appreciate that this an issue which arouses strong feelings on both sides. However, in my judgment the Hunting Act has proved to be unworkable. In many cases, it is actually detrimental to animal welfare, especially when indiscriminate methods of control which aren’t outlawed are used instead.

I make no secret of my own position – I’ve hunted all my life, I dislike illiberal laws and I would personally vote for repeal. But you don’t need to be a supporter of hunting to think that the ban was a mistake. Jim Barrington, the former executive director of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Like a lot of people I was quite horrified by hunting and took the view that stopping it would improve animal welfare. But the Hunting Act has failed on every level, not least of all on animal welfare.”

I feel that there is a huge and important agenda to promote conservation of wildlife and habitats against a background of biodiversity decline and growing pressures from development and climate change. We must continue to enhance animal welfare and do far more to protect endangered species. I think we need to let the new House of Commons settle the hunting issue which is so divisive and has been a distraction from these frankly far more important natural environment issues.

Nothing new there, really. But it prompts us to mention a new grassroots organisation called Conservatives Against Hunting. We met with them earlier this week and it’s clear that there is a groundswell of Conservative supporters who, despite agreeing with most of their Party’s policy, vehemently disagree on the hunting issue. The organisation is set to develop rapidly in the next two months, so watch this space for news!

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    journosteve said,

    It’s clear that the election of a Tory Government in May will quickly result in the restoration of hunting with hounds. I’ve also spoken to the Conservatives Against Hunting group – who represent a large majority of Conservatives on this issue – but they acknowledge the same. For those floating voters who’ve looked into this issue, it’s cause enough not to vote Tory. It puts those of us who’ve had enough of the current, utterly incompetent administration in a dreadful situation. At a local level, the picture is even worse – almost all the Tory prospective parliamentary candidates are pro-hunting and will vote for repeal. I fear the biggest victory in respect for animals achieved in this country for decades will be wrecked by the end of the year.

  2. 2

    4honour said,

    Hasn’t history shown us now that as we vote one incompetent government out that we only get a ‘new’ incompetent government to take its place. But I cannot remember one other party hoping to form a government, intending so blatantly to ignore the wishes of the country for its own selfish aims in repealing the Hunting Act, showing us clearly that they have no respect whatsoever for democracy in this country and what a very ‘nasty’ government they will be.
    If the tories are elected and ‘hunting’ Nick Herbert is the new Defra Minister, I can see absolutely no difference in his morals from the two youths found guilty in Poole, Dorset for killing a fawn by jumping on it. Apparently there was uproar that the boys punishment was not enough – I do hope all those people who felt so much anger towards them for their cruelty remember the story on voting day.

  3. 3

    journosteve said,

    I agree with your assessment of the moral case against individuals like Herbert. Unfortunately, the Tory policy is stated – right from the top – Cameron tells us there will be a free vote in Govt time (this means, in a parliament with a large Tory majority, that the ban will go); William Hague, who will be No2 or No3 in the new Govt, is on record as repeatedly pledging repeal of the ban will be among the new Govt’s first steps. To hell with the bankrupt economy and all the other problems we have etc.. You rightly ask – why are they willing to ride roughshod over the view of the vast majority of people, townies or pro-hunting rural..? I’m not sure, but I think it’s about the Tory core rural vote; and the sort of people from whom they draw the strongest financial and political backing. That nexus hasn’t been broken, despite Cameron’s attempts at rebranding the Tory party. The man has hunted himself, for heaven’s sake – so he’s already broken the (a)moral barrier that, for the vast majority of people, stops them abusing and hurting animals for amusement. This is where I think LACS’s message is going badly wrong. There is going to be a Tory Govt in May, unless it can push harder, in a calm, reasoned way, to persuade people that this issue should be a decisive one in voting choice. Distributing daily images of (admittedly horrible) animal abuse just isn’t enough – and the sometimes puerile comments attached are counter-productive. As has been stated, the vast majority of Tory supporters and Tory voters are *not* in favour of hunting with hounds.

  4. 4

    Please remember, folks, that the League is a registered charity. That means we can’t support (or denigrate) any political party or individual candidate.

    What we *can* do, and are doing well, is ensuring the public are aware of the issue, and making candidates of all parties aware of the strength of public opinion on the issue.

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