The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) declared its intention to oppose any application to defer the implementation of the hunting legislation yesterday.
The move comes almost three months after three individuals filed an application for judicial review of the 1949 Parliament Act, following the forcing through of a hunting ban using the Parliament Acts. The league hopes to make legal representations in court and prevent an injunction delaying implementation of the hunting act beyond 18 February.
The first hearing of the Parliament Act challenge, which contends that the 1949 Act is invalid because of the way in which it was passed using the 1911 Act, is due to take place at the end of January, with a decision expected within a week or so.
If the challenge fails at the first stage, the Countryside Alliance (CA) is expected to apply for interim relief. The Attorney General confirmed two weeks ago that he would not oppose any such application, a significant step labelled by many as an attempt by the government to avoid any pre-election controversy.
Douglas Bachelor, LACS chief executive, clarified the League’s position saying: “Since the government has refused to defend its own legislation by opposing an injunction that would see the implementation of the Hunting Act delayed, this was our only choice.
“The government’s lack of enthusiasm for allowing a law of Parliament’s making to commence is deplorable, so it is up to us to defend the poor defenceless animals from the gratuitous cruelty of the hunt supporters,” he continued.
The LACS may have bitten off more than it can chew with such bullish statements, and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will even find themselves in a position to make any representations — their entitlement to be in court is at the discretion of the judge, and a variety of sources have indicated that such a situation is unlikely to arise.
However, the league is sticking to its guns, for the time being at least. Spokesman Mike Hobday explains: “Our solicitors are optimistic about our case. Our strengths are the issues of animal welfare and human morality, and for this reason we feel we need to defend the legislation where the government is not.”
A CA spokesperson responded to the news, stating that the league was “clutching at straws.”
“It has taken them a long time to respond to the Parliament Act challenge, and they don’t seem to have grasped the situation. Although we believe that the Hunting Act is unjust and unenforceable, the challenge to be heard at the end of January relates to the Parliament Act, not the Hunting Act.
“The League’s arguments are still based on fluffy creatures and animal cruelty, but the case has gone far beyond such arguments. The challenge to the Parliament Act is a constitutional issue, and the question of interim relief relates directly to this,” she added.
Whether or not the league is successful in its intentions, the government has failed to appease either side in the hunting debate, in spite of the draconian method in which the Hunting Act was introduced. The argument looks set to run and run, with Labour unlikely to avoid the nightmare they fear in the run up to the General Election.