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The Government has responded to an e-petition calling for the repeal of the Hunting Act, saying it is satisfied that the law is effective.

“The Government has no plans to repeal the Act,” says the response from The Prime Minister’s Office, three weeks after the e-petition signed by 43,864 people closed.

The Prime Minister’s comments were posted on 10 Downing Street’s website five days after a Crown Court Judge in Exeter ruled that the Hunting Act was “far from simple to interpret and apply”.

The e-petition asking the Prime Minister to repeal the Hunting Act was set up by Nic Onslow. It was for some months the most popular petition on the 10 Downing Street website, and when it was closed on 15 November had accrued some 43,864 signatures.

Even today, it would sit as the fourth most popular e-petition on the Government website.

The petition stated: “Petitioners know that The Hunting Act 2004: has done nothing for animal welfare; threatens livelihoods in the longer term; ignores the findings of Lord Burn’s Enquiry; gives succour to animal rights extremists; is based on political expedience following the Prime Minister’s unconsidered response on the television programme Question Time in 1999; is framed to persecute a large minority who support a traditional activity; does not command popular support in the country except amongst the uninformed and mal-advised.”

The Government responded: “The UK Government is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Hunting Act 2004, which bans all hunting of wild mammals with dogs, apart from the tightly-drawn exemptions set out in the Act. These exemptions are recognised as effective ways of dealing with specific pest control issues.

“The purpose of the Act, which the House of Commons passed by an overwhelming majority, is to end a practice that a clear majority of people across the country oppose on the grounds that it causes unnecessary suffering.

“The Hunting Act does not prevent hunts from meeting up or riding with their hounds, nor does it preclude legitimate and humane pest control activities. Since the ban came into effect, evidence has shown that the majority of hunts have continued to meet and ride within the law. The Government welcomes this, as it has meant that the economic, social and welfare problems predicted by opponents of the Act have not materialised.

“The Government has no plans to repeal the Act.”

10 Downing Street’s website