Tim Bonner: It’s time to stand up and be counted [H&H VIP]

  • The arguments against the Hunting Act 2004 are straightforward. There was never any justification for the ban in the first place and it was no more than a misplaced attack on the rural community by Labour MPs. It has done nothing for wild mammals or their welfare, and even Tony Blair has admitted it was one of his biggest mistakes.

    There are many who are willing to voice their views on hunting from a position of total ignorance, but there is also a quiet army of us who know that the ban is wrong. That quiet army has a real commitment to hunting and to the countryside.

    So much so that in 2002, more than 400,000 of us came from all over Britain to march on Westminster in opposition to the ban. Support for hunting is just as strong now.

    Now, for the first time since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005, we have a Government that has been elected with a manifesto commitment to a vote on the repeal the Hunting Act. We can be almost certain that ministers will bring forward proposals to lift the ban, but hunting has always been a free vote issue for MPs (rather than a whipped vote), so the focus now moves on to lobbying MPs to ensure we win.

    We must stress three important points to those MPs. First, it is unacceptable that some hunt staff and masters are being dragged through the courts on the basis of vindictive allegations, while the rest are constantly looking over their shoulders.

    Second, the police are being forced to waste thousands of hours investigating pointless Hunting Act allegations which could be spent tackling real crime; and third, that the courts are spending weeks sitting on senseless cases that, in the rare example of guilty verdicts, see people fined a few hundred pounds.

    The current situation is not a fudge or a compromise. It is an unjustified and illiberal attack on a rural minority based on nothing other than prejudice.

    We all want to see this issue resolved for good, but that must be on the basis of principle and evidence, not an irrational prohibition.

    Our aim is simple: properly conducted hunting activity as conducted prior to 18 February 2005 should be legal, and no one hunting in a legitimate manner should be looking over their shoulder concerned about criminal prosecution. There can be no compromise on that.

    Commitment of a community

    Hunting has never shied away from debates about proper wild mammal welfare legislation and regulation. The Government is aware of this and we will look at any proposals it brings forward and discuss them with the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA).

    In addition the CHA has developed a detailed proposal for self-regulation through a “Hunting Regulatory Authority” should that be required. There is a clear will to resolve this issue once and for all, and an understanding that just repealing the Act, while leaving a vacuum, would be unlikely to achieve that.

    To help achieve a positive outcome for hunting and for our hunt staff, we need to act now. We need every single person who opposes the illiberal and illogical Hunting Act to contact their MP and let them know their views.

    You can send an email to your MP from the Countryside Alliance website
    (www.countryside-alliance.org), but please don’t stop there, encourage your friends and family to act as well. We need you to lobby and to write, and to join as members of the CA both to support our work financially, and to show the size and commitment of our community.

    Together we can send the strongest possible message to Westminster that the Hunting Act must go.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 4 June 2015