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Today’s fifth anniversary of the Hunting Act 2004, has caused another flurry of reports pro and against in the national press.

But repeal will only come following a general election and Labour is still to name the day.

An open letter from environment secretary Hilary Benn to Tory leader David Cameron today calls on the Conservatives to rethink their promised free vote on repealing the Hunting Act.

“David Cameron’s plan to repeal the hunting ban shows that beneath the gloss the Tories haven’t changed,” Mr Benn said.

“Five years ago, Labour banned fox-hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing because there is no place for animal cruelty in a modern, civilised society. Making animals tear each other apart is cruelty, not sport.”

He adds “It is also very hard to see why this would be a priority for a Tory government.”

“Because it’s bad law,” is the reply from the Countryside Alliance.

“Hilary Benn questions why hunting is being treated as a priority, yet has written a comment piece on the issue in a national newspaper about it, so is only stoking up that argument,” said a CA spokesman today.

“We would agree with him that hunting is not the biggest issue facing the countryside. Why, therefore, is the Defra Secretary, with flooding, farming and animal health issues within his brief, spending so much time and energy on this non-priority?

“It smacks of desperation that a Secretary of State feels the need to campaign on behalf of a law passed by his own Government: the surest sign yet that the Hunting Act is not working and should be repealed.”

A YouGov survey today puts Conservative popularity at 39 per cent, nine points ahead of Labour on 30 per cent, with the Lib Dems on 18 per cent — a two-point increase on a YouGov poll carried out at the end of January.