Posts tagged Parliament

Fox Tour finds another anti-hunting Conservative

From St Ives in Cornwall, we headed over 300 miles north to the Derby North constituency.

We were delighted to find another anti-hunting Conservative, together with a very clear commitment to the ban from the Labour candidate.

There are two days to go on the Fox Tour, and this afternoon Fergus the Fox will head to London to see the premiere of A Minority Pastime. The film of today’s Fox Tour antics will be online tomorrow.

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A changing debate

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

This election campaign has produced some seismic changes in the wider politics of the hunting issue. Speakers from the three main political parties have said that revisiting hunting is not a priority issue for a new Parliament despite all the efforts of the Countryside Alliance and Vote-OK to put the hunting issue on the political agenda.

Perhaps more interestingly still, speakers from all the major parties have during the campaign made it clear, albeit in different words, that they accept the general principle that when man engages with an animal he owes it a duty of care.

The fact that the pro-hunt lobby are going to have to accept that if the target animal suffers as a result of their activities, they will not be able to lawfully carry them out in future, is a massive shift in the political reality. Even where there is talk of repeal there is also acceptance that animal welfare must be safeguarded. Quite how this is to be achieved is less clear, but the principle and the need is an accepted political reality.

The pro-hunt lobby has found that its own issues are massively unpopular with voters of all political persuasions and have been doing their best to keep the hunting issue out of the headlines and the political debates and hustings. While some candidates have clearly said in their meetings with bloodsports enthusiasts that they will use any free vote to vote for repeal, for the most part they are not saying that in their election literature or voluntarily on the hustings, unless asked a direct question on the subject.

Where once the hunters’ and shooters’ help and support was seen by candidates as conferring electoral advantage on the candidates that they supported, now reportedly many politicians want to make it clear that they do not support the bloodsports lobby. By publicly raising the issues with candidates, voters are making sure the issues are aired in the public debates and that voters know where candidates stand on the issue.

For years the pro-bloodsports lobby have funded a massive campaign to protect and preserve hunting and shooting for sport. Millions of pounds have been spent on campaigning, on court cases and on organising opposition to the Hunting Act and any other legislation which curtails bloodsports. Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds have been given by bloodsports supporters to politicians who are known to be personally committed to repeal of the Hunting Act and other legislation which restricts bloodsports. Whilst this is allowed, if declared, it is a matter of concern.

Politicians of all persuasions can see a lost argument – like hunting and shooting for sport – and usually do not want to be publicly associated with a position which the majority of their own voters are not happy with. Of course individual politicians will and can take a personal stand on a moral and ethical issue on principle, and not because it is popular with their electors, but that is generally the parliamentary exception rather than the rule.

The problem that the Hunting Act really faces is not just the test of public opinion, it is the test of whether or not it does or can achieves the objectives that those who voted for it set out to achieve?

Those who oppose the Act and seek to repeal it claim that “it does not work”, that it “cannot work” and in some cases that “it is being widely disregarded” and that it therefore brings the law into disrepute.

One of the things that the passage of the Hunting Act has achieved is a public recognition that setting dogs onto animals for sport is wrong and that it is a crime. Even the most ardent bloodsports lobbyists are no longer trying to argue for the preservation of a bloodsport. Their arguments are now couched in terms of pest control allegedly being necessary and or hunting with dogs allegedly being the least worst animal welfare option. It is worth remembering that the bloodsports lobby used to lobby for their sport, now it seems that even they accept that their activities are no longer acceptable if their purpose is for sport and recreation. That change in itself is a massive move forwards. Score one to the Act: it has changed what people think about setting dogs onto animals for sport.

The next and obvious thing that the Act has achieved is that it has caused those hunts and hunters who obey the law to change what they do. For the most part that means and has meant a change to trail hunting. Those who want to break the law now know that every time they go out with that intent, they run the risk of prosecution. Even the most ardent law breaker does not feel comfortable breaking the law in full and public view. Where hunts are obeying the law, fewer wild mammals are chased and killed for sport. That too is progress brought about by the passage of the Act.

Then there are the claims that the Act cannot work, to which the short answer is over 130 convictions. The Act does work, and in fact works better than a lot of other legislation in the wildlife protection field. And yes there are problems, not the least of which is the relatively restricted access to land to monitor the activity of hunts and of those who plan to break the law.

It is true that the majority of convictions are of hare coursers and or huntsmen or other hunt staff and associates, rather than the masters of the hunts. But that is not surprising in that it is the hunt servants who are the active hunters, at their master’s behest. But nonetheless it is quite clear that if the evidence is compelling, the criminals are convicted under the Act. That too is progress brought by the passage of the Act.

Then there is the charge that the law is being widely disregarded. That is clearly true but disregard for a law that offers society protection from cruelty to animals for sport, is not a reasonable justification for repealing that law. No one is seriously arguing that the laws with regard to the welfare of farmed and domestic animals should be repealed because some people are cruel to animals. Wild animals should also be protected by law from cruelty.

The real issue that has to be faced is why do some people choose to disregard the law and further what should society do about people who regularly and repeatedly engage in criminal activity? The answer is not to make the currently illegal legal again by repealing the Hunting Act, it is to enforce the law without fear or favour, and to bring cases to court where there is evidence of wrong doing. Only that way can society ensure that no animal should suffer for sport. Please do all you can to help.

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Hunting “certainly not” an important issue … says Chief Exec of Countryside Alliance

We always knew that talking to Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance and Parliamentary Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire would be a tall order – but we managed it.

Some people assume that because of the strong hunting heritage in the region, the majority of people there are pro-hunting. This just isn’t the case. We visited various towns and villages including Narberth, Carmarthen, Tenby and Whitland, and didn’t find anyone who supported repeal of the Hunting Act.

Simon Hart is the thought to be the only candidate in the constituency who supports repeal of the Act and despite his best efforts to avoid us, we did manage to track him down at an event hosted by the RSPB at Trinity College, Carmarthen. We tried to catch him afterwards, too, but he made a fast exit via a back door.

Interestingly, when we experienced difficulty in finding Simon, we called his employers – the Countryside Alliance – to see if they could help us track him down. They couldn’t. Instead all they managed was some glib remark about us “not finding many candidates” over the first three days of the Fox Tour. The truth, of course, is that it’s only the pro-hunting candidates who’ve been avoiding us and the glare of publicity we bring with us.

Today the Fox Tour heads back into England. We’ll reveal the constituency around lunchtime.

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Giving candidates a bad hare day

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

One of the duties that I have is to keep a watchful eye on our opponents and to see what arguments they are using which may need to be countered. As a part of that duty I read the Countryside Alliance Annual Report and Summary Financial Statements for 2009, which landed on their member’s doorsteps last week.

Kate Hoey MP reported to the Alliance members that as 2009 drew to a close, “there were no prosecutions in play under The Hunting Act”. Seemingly she was blissfully unaware that as a result of our monitoring work the position now is that nine cases are “in play” and these include cases against some of the best known hunts in the land.

Ms Hoey also makes some other remarks in her report to members which are difficult to reconcile with the polling information that we have. She says that the commitment to allow a government bill in government time on a free vote to repeal the Hunting Act is a “statement greeted with gratitude by the hunting community and respect and understanding by the wider world and the media”. Clearly it comes as no surprise to us all that many in the hunting world want to turn the clocks back to the cruelty and barbarism of live quarry hunting for sport. But to claim the respect and understanding of the wider world and the media seems somewhat rich to put it mildly given the clear evidence of the opinion polls.

The article titled “Tally Ho” in The Independent this week revealed the extent of the campaign by the bloodsports and hunting lobby to do what they can to get pro-repeal candidates elected to Parliament in the election. Now that the hunting season is almost at an end, the hunt supporters are being asked and encouraged to get out into the target constituencies and deliver leaflets and generally do what they can to support the candidates who have the Vote OK seal of approval.

Perhaps the scariest thing about this new ‘Barbour Cavalry’ as The Independent labelled them, is that they are not knocking on doors seeking to engage members of the public in a debate about the pros and cons of hunting, they are quite simply doing what they can to get certain candidates elected and to stop others being elected. Interestingly, while clearly supporting certain candidates, some of those candidates are saying to the wider public that they have not yet decided how to use any free vote they might have on the future of the Hunting Act. One can only wonder what they may have said to Vote OK to get them on board and to get their troops out in support.

The Countryside Alliance repeatedly trots out the assertion that the Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. They continually say that foxes die anyway, and that not a single fox has been saved by the Act. They completely miss the real point, which is that setting packs of dogs onto animals for sport used to be a legal activity and now it is a crime. It is a crime whether or not the fox, deer or hare is caught. If the primary purpose of the activity is sport and recreation, the activity is criminal, whether the fox, deer or hare gets away or is caught and killed. The law is all about what people do to animals for sport. It is not about what may or may not happen to the same animals at other hands in the wild.

Interestingly Kate Hoey says in her report to the Alliance members that the Hunting Act “could easily be altered by a future hostile government to close the gaping loopholes”. Now there is a thought that must have occurred to many a policeman, prosecutor and politician as well as to all of us. The phrase “bring it on” comes to mind.

Those who want to turn the clock back should be aware of the political consequences of asking for yet more legislation on hunting. Once they throw the ball with bad law written on it into the political arena, they cannot be sure where it may end up. The majority of public opinion is not on the hunters’ side and one of the consequences of their campaign that they seem not to have foreseen, is that day by day they are building a case for a review of the law, rather than for its repeal. The Independent editorial advised them to let sleeping dogs lie. By asking for yet more parliamentary time on hunting, the hunters are staking their all on one last throw of the dice. Clearly we all hope they will get their comeuppance from MPs of all parties when that happens.

Earlier this week I attended a breakfast briefing for MPs and candidates of all parties, held in the House of Commons. The discussion was interesting. There was a very clear consensus that while there were clearly diverging views amongst the public, politicians and candidates of all parties with regard to how they would or should use any free vote on fox hunting, there was very little public or political support for any change in the law that would bring back hare hunting and coursing and stag hunting.

By wrapping up all the bloodsports in the same protective Countryside Alliance-led cloak of repeal, the bloodsports lobby have put their supporters in a quandary. They are asking people to support the return of hare coursing. They are asking people to support the return of hare hunting, and they are asking people to support the repeal of the ban on stag hunting, which even the staunchly traditional National Trust membership found to be beyond the pale and banned from their land years ago.

Any supposedly simple bill to repeal the Hunting Act would bring with it repeal of the ban on coursing and stag hunting and it would even bring with it the return of legitimate interference with badger setts. If all that the MPs who support a repeal of the ban on fox hunting for sport want to do is bring back fox hunting, they cannot do that with a one line bill repealing the whole of the Hunting Act. They will need new legislation and that will take hours and hours of parliamentary time.

The time has come to ask candidates of all parties the “bad hare day” question. Do they or do they not support the return of hare coursing for sport? Will they use any free vote to bring back hare coursing? Will they vote to bring back stag hunting with packs of dogs for sport? A very few will say yes, most will say no, of course not!

Now is the time to be asking the candidates of all parties the hare and deer questions. The vast majority of the voting public are against the return of hare coursing and stag hunting for sport. Make sure that you know what your candidates think about cruelty to animals for sport, and even more importantly, make sure that they know what you think! Always remember politicians of all parties want your vote and some will be prepared to make you promises in the hope of getting your vote. Ask for what you want and make it clear what you are against, that is my advice if you want to Keep Cruelty History.

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Parliamentary Briefing – March 2010

Our monthly Parliamentary Briefing has been published today, and send to all MPs, Peers, and Prospective Parliamentary Candidates.

Download the Parliamentary Briefing – March 2010.

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Snaring Motion in Scottish Parliament

Irene Oldfather MSP yesterday tabled the following motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Northern Ireland Committee Votes to Ban Snares: That the Parliament congratulates the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Environment Committee for taking decisive action to end the suffering to animals caused by snares; welcomes that the Committee has voted to ban snares under the new Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, and in doing so has taken a policy decision based on the clear evidence that snares cause suffering, and the overwhelming public support for an end to the use of these cruel, indiscriminate traps; therefore congratulates the League Against Cruel Sports for its efforts in raising awareness of the issue and presenting evidence of the cruelty of snaring to support this decision.

The Parliament is currently in recess and so other MSPs can’t sign the motion until they return next week. But, if you live in Scotland, that doesn’t stop you writing to your MSP now to ask them to sign it when they get back!

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Newspaper reveals hunts in “utterly desperate attempt” to secure return to bloodsports

The League Against Cruel Sports has described plans by hunts to support pro-hunting candidates in the election as the “final, utterly desperate attempt” to bring back hunting.

According to today’s edition of The Independent, the newspaper has seen leaked papers which confirm plans by a grassroots hunting organisation called ‘Vote OK’ to organise a ‘Barbour cavalry’ of hunters to try and unseat anti-hunting MPs in marginal seats. Vote OK, which claims to be politically independent, is focusing only on ousting anti-hunting Labour MPs, and is supporting only Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates.

The League, which campaigned for eighty years to secure the ban on hunting with dogs, said the Vote OK plans were misguided given the strong public opinion in favour of the ban.

“In Ipsos-MORI polling in September, 75% of people said they support the ban on fox hunting. 84% support the ban on stag hunting. 85% support the ban on hare hunting. There is simply no public appetite for a return to the cruelty of hunting,” said Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League. He pointed to a poll commissioned by the Countryside Alliance in December which found that only 19% of people support repeal of the Hunting Act. “No recent poll says anything other than “keep the ban”.”

The League Against Cruel Sports says that the Hunting Act is working well and that there have been over 130 convictions in the last five years. “In just the last few weeks the Crown Prosecution Service have begin prosecutions against a huntsman of the Quantock Staghounds, and a terrier man linked to the Ullswater Foxhounds,” said Mr Batchelor. “We have a number of other cases in progress and we are confident of more convictions as the year progresses.”

Details of how Prospective Parliamentary Candidates say they would vote on repeal of the Hunting Act have been published on a dedicated website for the League’s ‘Keep Cruelty History’ campaign at www.keepcrueltyhistory.com.

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