A motion to ban trail-hunting on land owned by a council that may not actually own any land on which hunting takes place has been both roundly defeated, and described as “bonkers”.
Green councillor Ian Middleton put forward the motion, which was discussed at a full meeting of Cherwell District Council on Monday (14 December). It stated that hunts would “not be permitted to cross public or council-controlled land or cause a nuisance on public highways within Cherwell, and that we will expect any such encroachments to be prosecuted”.
Cllr Middleton said: “This is not intended to be a debate on the rights or wrongs of fox-hunting,” citing the ban, but then went on to claim that the “vast majority” of people do not support hunting, and that “trail-hunting has long been viewed with suspicion” by saboteurs and some animal welfare organisations.
He cited concerns of the League Against Cruel Sports and the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and accused hunts of breaking the law, adding that “many” organisations have banned trail-hunting on their land, or are considering this.
But there was confusion among Cllr Middleton’s colleagues as it was unclear whether any land owned by the council is used by hunts.
“Cherwell owns mainly play areas, grass verges, car parks and shopping malls — over which the only hunting that takes place is for bargains!” one councillor pointed out.
Another councillor, who voted against the motion, added: “The hunt would never cross council land because we haven’t really got any worth talking about. It is not illegal for them to trail-hunt.”
Cllr Reynolds asked why the council’s valuable time was being spent on discussing the motion.
“Is it not time that we stopped using this council to do all sorts of things that are not our responsibility?” he asked. “It seems to be that the name of the game nowadays is to get this council to take on responsibilities that aren’t ours. We have enough problems at the present moment with what we are doing”.
He added: “I do not take lightly to being threatened by other councillors.
“There is no need whatsoever in debate to threaten other councillors by whipping up stories whether they are true or false in order to try and change the way honest people outside are going to vote.”
Cllr James McNamara reminded colleagues of another recent vote, at Peterborough City Council, to ban trail-hunting on its land, as it emerged that no land owned by that council was used for hunting.
The proposal to ban trail-hunting on National Trust land was voted against at the charity’s AGM
“We (the council) don’t have any swathes of countryside. When did a hunt last hunt through Castle Quay?” he asked. “I mean, it’s completely bonkers. Peterborough Council has passed this motion and opened themselves up to ridicule.”
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “There appears to be a running theme here in that where there is an accountable body of decision-makers, there is always considerable opposition to meaningless, time-wasting, grandstanding political gestures that have no real basis in reality. Rightly, opponents to motions which attempt to curtail trail-hunting, point out that council time and resources should be spent dealing with local matters that matter to local residents. Cherwell councillors were right to vote this motion down.”
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