With the latest opinion polls putting the Conservative Party’s lead over Labour at 13 points, supporters of hunting could be forgiven for thinking the repeal of the Hunting Act is a done deal.
But last week, after a meeting of hunting’s repeal committee on 14 January, the message was although the hunting community must continue to prepare for repeal, they must do so quietly.
The repeal committee, set up last June, includes the leaders and representatives of all hunting bodies and other influential figures from politics and the countryside.
The committee chairman, shadow justice secretary Edward Garnier QC, told H&H: “We can’t expect the public to be particularly interested in the Hunting Act right now, and we need to express ourselves with common sense and sensitivity.
“The public’s main concern, and that of politicians, is what’s going on in the economy,” he said. “Whether you are pro- or anti-hunting, the recession is the subject that’s keeping people awake at night.”
But Mr Garnier said the time is still ripe for getting the groundwork done in preparation for repeal — so when an election is called, the hunting community is ready to persuade the public that the Hunting Act is “an unfair and unworkable” law.
Vote-OK, the lobbying group that helped unseat 29 anti-hunting MPs at the last election, is building a network of communication with hunts and prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs).
It has produced a DVD, which is being sent to UK hunts this week, to raise awareness of Vote-OK and the case for repeal.
Lizzie Salmon from Vote-OK and chairman of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB) told H&H: “We’re hoping it will inspire people and motivate them to get involved — across the whole hunting spectrum, from coursing to foxhunting.”
Ms Salmon said the 20min film features key high-profile supporters of hunting, including William Hague and Edward Garnier — plus case studies of key hunts, outlining what they were doing at the 2005 election and what they are doing now.
Mr Garnier added that Tory leader David Cameron’s promise to offer a free vote on hunting still stands.
“There isn’t a Conservative Party manifesto to overturn the hunting ban, but there is a promise to allow government time for a free vote,” he said.
For a copy of the Vote-OK DVD, visit www.vote-ok.co.uk
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (22 January, ’08)