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Sat, 20 April 2024

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Hunting could be used to stoke culture war at next election, charity says

League Against Cruel Sports

3 min read Partner content

Hunters are using what could be their final Boxing Day parades to stoke hatred in the countryside, says national animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports.

It says that, with a general election looming next year and the reappointment of pro-hunting peer David Cameron to front bench politics, hunting is already being used to stoke culture wars aimed at dividing the country further than it already is.

Hunting was banned in 2004 but was kicked back and forth between the Commons and Lords so much it is littered with loopholes, which tie the hands of the police and prosecutors whose role it is to uphold that law.

Campaigners from the charity have been lobbying Defra to strengthen the Hunting Act 2004, but with Mr Cameron’s return to the cabinet - and hunting recently dominating national headlines after an aside from Peter Mandelson on a podcast - their fear is that the subject will be used as a political football at the next general election yet again.

Chris Luffingham, deputy chief executive of the League, said: “Our worry is that this will be yet another excuse to launch a divisive culture war that this time uses hunting to pitch communities against each other.

“We must refuse to let hunting be collateral damage in yet another culture war. It’s not about urban versus rural, it’s not about class, it’s about animal welfare and preserving the countryside.”

Polling commissioned by the League and carried out by FindOutNow and Electoral Calculus in 2022 shows there is almost no difference in support for strengthening the Hunting Act between rural (76 per cent) and urban (78 per cent) voters.

Mr Luffingham added: “We are concerned that hunting will be back on the conservative party’s manifesto for the next election, given the return of David Cameron to the front benches and his elevation to the House of Lords.

“The only people who use divisive language about hunting are those who seek to overturn the ban and go back to hunting with even less risk of prosecution.

“Our position is clear: hunting is an issue about culture, not class. About the sort of place in which we want to live, not picking on people because of their background. It has been illegal for nearly 20 years, but illegal hunting still goes on. It’s time for change.”

The League has published statistics relating to the havoc caused in the countryside by hunts. A far cry from the seemingly genteel pictures of Boxing Day meets and parades through towns and villages. It instead shows a so-called sport that disrupts the lives of rural people with hounds running amok in fields and on roads; that impacts people’s livelihoods as hounds worry livestock and invade wildlife reserves and sanctuaries; that holds up commuters as hounds and horses trespass on railways; and that also – against the spirit of the law – chases and kills wildlife for fun, using a weak law to get away with it.

Chief Superintendent Matthew Longman, National Police Chief’s Council Lead on Fox Hunting Crime, was keynote speaker at the launch of a large coalition of charities and organisations campaigning to end fox hunting this summer.

As the most senior policeman in England and Wales charged with tackling this crime, he said at the event: “The Hunting Act is not working effectively and illegal hunting is still common practice.

“The simplest reason for the lack of prosecution is that the law needs revisiting.”

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