There has been much talk about the threat to the Hunting Act, and expectation that the government's promised 'free vote' on repeal would be mentioned in the Queen's Speech. It wasn't. Does that mean the Hunting Act is safe?
No, it doesn't.
There are a couple of potential reasons as to why it wasn't mentioned. The first is that repealing an existing Act is not seen as the kind of material that should be included in a speech of this magnitude. The second, perhaps more likely, is that mention of the free vote was quickly scribbled out of the speech following the mass of opposition that has made itself clear over the last couple of weeks.
The Queen's Speech included many important issues, such as the economy, education, the NHS. It talked about 'one nation', about empowering the north and the devolved nations, and about working on the global stage. Perhaps repealing an act that stops huge amounts of animal cruelty on behalf of a vocal minority didn't really fit in.
But don't think for a second that the issue has gone away. In some form or other, the vote to repeal the Hunting Act will be proposed. It may happen quickly, or it may be delayed for a more opportune moment, but it will happen.
And when it does, it'll be a real slap in the face for democracy. Around eight out of ten people in this country want hunting to remain illegal. The opposition to hunting stretches across both rural and urban constituencies, giving lie to the pro-hunt claim that it is supported only by 'townies' who know nothing about rural affairs. People in the countryside don't want hunting either.
My personal opposition to hunting is both subjective and objective. I have a personal loathing for animal cruelty of any kind, but as a scientist I also need to know the truth. And in this case, the undeniable truth is that hunting is cruel.
Suggestions that hunting with dogs leads only to 'wounding actions' by the dogs has been disproved many times. Nor are foxes dispatched by a single nip to the neck. Autopsies have shown the bodies of foxes ripped apart by bites, but without evidence of a bite to the neck.
There's nothing natural about 'the hunt'. It is not natural for example for foxes to be chased by a pack of hounds trained to cover long distances and supported by riders on horseback and quad bikes. Deer are chased to an exhausted standstill. Hares forced to take part in coursing events are released to be chased by two dogs, which will often catch it then rip it apart in a gruesome tug of war.
Science clearly shows that chased animals suffer, whether or not they are eventually killed. The stress they endure during such an unnatural chase causes damage to their muscles and blood cells which is extremely painful.
I could go on, but the message is clear. Hunting is cruel. 80% of the British public understand that hunting is cruel. There is no justification for hunting with dogs, no pest control or wildlife management reason. The Hunting Act is doing a good job, with over 400 successful prosecutions to date. At the League Against Cruel Sports we feel it could be strengthened to ensure the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law is upheld, but basically it's a good piece of legislation. Repealing it will be a disastrous backwards step for a One Nation government.
If you would like to contact your MP about how they will vote on repeal of the Hunting Act, you can take this simple League Against Cruel Sports action.