A Bill designed to prevent wild mammals from experiencing undue suffering in any circumstances was brought to a standstill in the House of Commons on Friday by anti-hunting MPs.
Lembit pik, MP for Montgomeryshire and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Middle Way Group was using his Private Members ballot Bill to introduce the Wild Mammals (Protection) (Amendment) Bill in the Commons.
The Bill, which seeks to improve protection for wild mammals, is considered by many to be an alternative to a possible ban on hunting. Cases of alleged cruelty to animals in any activity could be heard in court in exactly the same way as cases involving domestic animals are heard.
Lembit pik hoped to achieve a second reading for the Bill last week, but failed as front- and back-bench anti-hunting MPs “took the Bill out”, highlighting their desire to get hunting with dogs banned at the expense of improvements to animal welfare.
Although the Bill has been promoted as being about general cruelty to animals rather than about hunting, the debate never really got beyond the hunting question.
Ann Widdecombe, Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald and a vocal anti-hunting campaigner, urged the Prime Minister to “get on with it and introduce legislation” for a ban on hunting. She was supported by Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon, who encouraged Mr Blair to use the Parliament Act if necessary.
The Bill ran out of time and there was no vote. The debate is to be resumed on the 5 March, but Lembit pik expressed his disappointment at the outcome of Fridays reading.
He said: “This was a test of sincerity for MPs and a significant number of anti-hunting MPs did state that they supported my Bill. Unfortunately, others have placed their feelings about hunting, and the people who do it, above a genuine animal welfare measure.”
He also expressed his concern at the lack of support for his Bill from animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, saying that this “raises a serious question about their true aims”.
Lord Donoughue, a former Labour Agricultural Minister, has introduced the same Bill into the House of Lords. A similar bill passed all its stages in the Lords in the last session of parliament.