‘Ridiculous’ plan to scupper Festival of Hunting voted down by council

  • Peterborough city councillors have voted down a “ridiculous” motion against the Festival of Hunting, which one said would only have wasted money and time had it been passed.

    In a meeting on Wednesday (28 July), members voted 30-25 against councillor Ansar Ali’s motion which, if successful, would have meant the council writing to the East of England Agricultural Society to ask it to no longer host the festival at the East of England Showground.

    Cllr Ali’s motion read: “In 2020, this council resolved to ban ‘trail’ hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise on council land. This resolution is a clear reflection of members’ rejection of the facilitation of hunting for sport in Peterborough.

    “This council believes that Peterborough is no longer a suitable place to host the Festival of Hunting.”

    The festival, now in its 133rd year, attracted thousands of people last week (21 July), and hounds from kennels across the country took part. The showground is private land, so the event could not have been cancelled by the council, and the previous vote to which Cllr Ali referred was a narrowly won debate, after which it emerged that no land owned by the council was used for hunting.

    Before Wednesday’s debate, East of England Agricultural Society chairman Richard Bramley said: “The society is proud of its connection with the Festival of Hunting and the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show, which has taken place since 1878. No hunting activities actually take place throughout the course of the day of the show, it is simply an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the different types of hounds including beagles, basset hounds and foxhounds.

    “The society hosts a number of events on the showground, which in any normal year bring in excess of £20m into the local economy. There are numerous other associated jobs linked to the venue such as catering, hospitality, security, electrical installation, sound and light as well as many local event organisers, a large number of which are engaged for the Festival of Hunting too.”

    During the debate, council leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald told Cllr Ali: “ I have no idea why you would put this motion forward because it’s the same nonsense as the previous one about trail hunting…it’s political posturing about fox hunting and infiltrators trying to use this council to get their point of view across on something that is not for us to discuss. There are jobs and livelihoods at stake in country pursuits.”

    Cllr Peter Hiller, cabinet member for strategic planning and commercial strategy and investments, said the motion would achieve nothing, and that the council should maintain its strong links to the rural world.

    He said: “The Festival of Hunting takes place on privately owned land. It cannot be cancelled by a local authority, so even if the council votes to support the motion it will achieve nothing other than wasting officers’ time, taxpayers’ money and council resources that would be better spent helping Peterborough residents out of this pandemic. I’m not supporting what can only be described as gesture politics.”

    He added: “Mr Mayor, I think it is important to maintain the close association that Peterborough has had with our rural past and to support our vital rural economy. Therefore I cannot support this divisive and discriminatory motion.”

    Cllr Andy Coles said passing the motion would set an unwanted precedent.

    He said: “If you really want to ban lawful events, perhaps we should stop the dog show down there because it’s a companion animal and animal extremists don’t like the idea of companion animals because we’re obviously abusing them.

    “Or maybe we’d like to ban Truckfest because it might be environmentally unsafe to support people driving lorries. I’m sorry, but this is a ridiculous motion.”

    Countryside Alliance director of hunting Polly Portwin said the Alliance was pleased to see the “divisive and ill-advised motion” fall.

    “Although it would have achieved nothing in reality, it would have wasted council time and resources which would clearly be better spent on helping the local community,” she said.

    “We would like to thank our supporters in the Peterborough area for lobbying their representatives, as well as those councillors that took on board the points raised in our communication with them. Long may Peterborough be home to the Festival of Hunting.”

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