There’s no excuse for fox hunting

Last week was when the Conservative Government had hoped to unravel the 2004 Hunting Act, legalising the hunting of foxes with hounds in England and Wales, writes Steven Agnew MLA on 20 July 2015.

In their latest manifesto, they promised to “protect hunting” and to give Parliament a free vote on the repeal of the Act.

What they put forward instead were misleading “technical amendments” – supposedly intended to bring the Act in line with Scottish legislation.

In practice, however, these amendments would permit packs of dogs to rip apart foxes, hares and deer in the name of “pest control” and make the prosecution of those hunting for “sport” virtually impossible.

This devious attempt to legalise hunting through the back door shows just how little political, or public, appetite there is for the bloodsport.

The “pest-control” argument cynically employed to win back sympathy for hunting has been widely discredited, with the best evidence suggesting that culling foxes does not reduce their density or even reduce livestock predation.

Indeed, ironically, it is the hunters themselves that have often had to apologise for the injury, or death, of livestock and pets.

Although massive public opposition and the SNP’s intervention forced the Conservatives to shelve their plans, foxes continue to be hunted legally in the United Kingdom.

All powers on animal welfare are devolved to Northern Ireland, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the only remaining region in the United Kingdom where no restrictions on fox hunting exist.

In 2010, the Green Party attempted to introduce a ban via a Private Member’s Bill, but no other party was willing to support the proposals – one DUP MLA even went as far as describing the debate a “waste of Assembly time and resources”.

Ripping apart foxes with hounds is neither sporting, nor a necessary form of pest control. It is pure, unadulterated cruelty.

With the weight of public opinion behind banning the practice, it is time politicians across the United Kingdom recognised fox hunting for what it is and confined it to the dustbin of history.

This blog was first published in the Belfast Telegraph on 20 July 2015.

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