Theresa May has cemented the Conservatives’ commitment to bring back fox hunting by pledging a free vote for MPs if the Tories secure a majority in the General Election.
The commitment would allow MPs to repeal the Hunting Act 2004, which bans fox hunting in its traditional form.
David Cameron attempted a similar move in 2015, but had to abandon his hope of bringing back the controversial bloodsport after SNP MPs vowed to vote against it.
Now the Conservative manifesto, which was launched on Thursday, confirms her commitment to hold a free vote on the issue.
“We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act,” the document states
The League Against Cruel Sports said there was “no justification for attacking a law that has helped stop cruelty to so many animals”.
Eduardo Gonçalves, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “If the Hunting Act is repealed, weakened or replaced by a weaker law, then the number of animals being helped would be zero.
“That’s the stark reality. If people and our election candidates, of all parties, genuinely care about animal welfare then we ask them not to be bamboozled by those who want to hunt animals for fun and are desperately trying to justify it.”
No timescale for when the vote will take place has been announced.
Earlier this month a leaked email from the chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations, Lord Benjamin Mancroft, revealed hunt masters were being encouraged to “mobilise supporters” and campaign for pro-hunting Conservatives in marginal seats.
“This is the chance we have been waiting for,” Mancroft wrote, according to the Daily Mirror.
Mancroft, who is a Tory peer, told supporters that May’s lead in the opinion polls presents a “seminal moment” for their campaign to bring back fox hunting.
Fox hunting in its traditional form was banned in England and Wales 12 years ago.
Yet every weekend hundreds of men and women place themselves between huntsmen, hounds and wildlife, fearing that the animals are still being killed.
The hunting lobby claim the Act “lies in tatters” and say it should be revoked, while anti-hunt campaigners believe the legislation is “one of the most successful laws of its kind in the country” and say it should be strengthened.