THE BLOG

Foxhunting Is A Bloody Distraction

26/05/2017 12:05 BST | Updated 26/05/2017 12:05 BST
moodboard via Getty Images

I'm honoured to represent a party that has consistently and unwaveringly defended animals. Compassion for animals is in the Green Party's DNA. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with animal advocates across Britain as we face a challenging future.

The snap election campaign has revealed the gruesome heart of the Conservative Party, with Theresa May's bloodthirsty plot to bring back fox hunting enshrined in the Party's manifesto. This general election could signal the end of this hard-fought-for, if far from perfect, piece of legislation.

2017-05-22-1495460744-9497330-Theresa_May_Creative_Commons_US_Embassy_London.jpg

Hunting live mammals with hounds has been illegal in England and Wales since 2004. The ban has helped stop over 100,000 animals being subjected to this needless cruelty - including foxes, hares and deer.

But the battle to stamp out hunting completely is far from won. The ban brought in by Labour has a colossal weakness, it allows existing hunts to continue on the poorly enforced proviso that the fox hunters don't kill foxes. It only took one season with the ban in place for people to realise hunts across were choosing to ignore this proviso. As many still do.

The RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports do a fantastic job, the organisations, which receive no public funding, have successfully prosecuted 344 people for offences under the Hunting Act since it came into force.

Had the law been properly designed and enforced from the start, up to 2.8 million animals would have been spared an agonising and unnecessary death at the hands of hunters. Only the Green Party is committed to strengthening the Hunting Act. And we have the overwhelming backing of the British public too, four in five people oppose this barbaric pursuit .

2017-05-22-1495460510-4497666-Tim_Farron_Creative_Commons_Credit_Liberal_Democrats.jpg

Theresa May knows this. In 2015, the Tories attempted to weaken the Hunting Act via a statutory instrument, a move that could have brought back hunting by the back door. They abandoned the vote when it became clear the Government didn't have the numbers to push it through - despite the now Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron pledging to back the repeal. It is only thanks to an outdated voting system that a Conservative government could now return a sizeable enough majority of MPs, from just a minority of votes, to bring back this horrifically cruel spectacle.

Fox hunting has been tried in the court of public opinion many times and found utterly repellent to decent, compassionate folk on every occasion. The arguments put forward by proponents are tired, but worth knocking down for the umpteenth time.

Fox hunting first emerged in the UK in the 1600s and, in a minority of cases, it was a form of grossly indulgent pest control. In the 17th Century, some foxes were hunted to stop them killing livestock. But it caught on because the hunters got a taste for blood. Exemplified by the introduction of foxes to the Isle of Wight in 1845, for hunting.

It was an ineffective pest control method then and it still is today. The last survey of fox numbers concluded that a year of cancelled hunts had no significant impact on fox numbers and the average fox density had, in fact, declined slightly in most regions of the UK. It has never been about 'pest control'. Hunts have been caught capturing and raising foxes to hunt them.

And nobody buys the "townies don't understand the countryside folk" arguments anymore - nor did they ever. There's no decency code exclusive to England's rural idylls that excuses the brutal torture of a living creature in the name of entertainment. In fact, the same survey that found four out of every 5 British people opposes fox hunting also revealed 82% of "countryside folk" support the ban.

2017-05-22-1495460106-8651427-Horses_and_hounds_Wikimedia_Commons.jpg

The 'excitement' of the ride and the 'thrill of the chase' has attracted an often privileged minority who enjoy donning a red jacket for the costumed 'glamour' of watching a fox get mercilessly ripped apart by a pack of, often, badly treated dogs. This is the real reason the hunts flourished. It is also why lobbyists, out of sync with the British people by a good 400 years, want to revive the barbaric pursuit.

Fox hunting is clearly an emotive issue, to anybody with a shred of compassion, it is just instinctively wrong. But it is also a common sense issue; there is no appetite or reason to bring it back.

Theresa May is capitulating to a hunting lobby that represents a noisy but tiny minority of people in 21st Century Britain. In doing so, the Prime Minister is hoping we will be distracted from more pressing election issues, like the Tories' plan to lead Britain off an extreme Brexit cliff edge, or, say, the crisis in our NHS service - failed by almost a decade of deliberate Tory underfunding and rampant privatisation.

As Greens, we will fight tooth and nail to ensure this barbaric practice remains illegal. But we won't let Theresa May distract us from key issues facing Britain ahead of polling day.