British PM Theresa May promises fresh vote on fox-hunting ban
By AFP | Published: 18th May 2017 11:46 PM |
HALIFAX: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday promised a parliamentary vote on the country's fox hunting ban if she is elected next month, reviving a bitter debate.
Her Conservative Party manifesto gives lawmakers a chance to vote on repealing the 2004 Hunting Act, which was introduced under Labour prime minister Tony Blair and has long been opposed by right-wingers.
The ban has public backing, with a Comres poll in July 2015 putting support at 74 percent, and critics say it is a cruel, unneccessary and outdated practice.
"We're disappointed," said Eduardo Goncalves, head of the League Against Cruel Sports campaign group.
But a determined minority in Conservative-supporting rural areas insist the use of dogs is a natural and humane method of managing wild mammals -- and say the ban is an assault on traditional country life.
May herself does not hunt, but voted against the legislation at the time and says MPs should have a chance to express their views.
Both sides acknowledge the limitations of the fox-hunting ban, not least that it is difficult to enforce.
Farmers can still use dogs to "flush out" foxes to be shot, as a means of pest control or wildlife management.
Hunts can also use dogs to pursue a false trail.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance lobby group, said repealing the law would "relieve the police and courts of a substantial burden" in trying to enforce it.
He added: "The Hunting Act never had anything to do with foxes but was a misplaced and prejudiced attack on a group within the rural community."
But critics said it would be a waste of parliamentary time, particularly as Britain heads into negotiations on leaving the European Union.
"Britain is a facing a tough, tough future and Theresa May things fox hunting is the panacea!" tweeted Labour lawmaker Barry Sheerman.
Critics have also pointed out that while the Conservatives have accused Labour of seeking a return to the 1970s with promises to raise taxes and renationalise key industries, they themselves are hailing a more distant past with fox hunting.
A cartoon in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper showed May on a horse in a top hat and red riding jacket shouting "No Return to the 1970s!" and "1830s or death!".